As you go down the road today, you see a lot of big trucks. Lately there seems to be no shortage of news stories about those evil truckers. We are a dangerous, fatigued, run unsafe, filthy, fat, out of shape, littering bunch of rejects of society. We chase the dollar so hard that we put everyone else on the road in danger. At least that’s the image the media and safety advocacy groups seem to portray. What I would like to do is tell the story from a trucker’s point of view.
The trucking industry is indeed the place that every down on their luck person can go to find employment. It’s not a job for everyone but it is a job for anyone who is willing to work hard and learn and maybe sacrifice a little to have a future. When you look in that window of a truck as you go by, what is it you see? Do you see that person the media says is so out of control? Let me introduce you to the majority of who those people really are.
I am a member of an association called Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). We just finished the fall board meeting. In that room is a collection of drivers both current and retired. Almost all have at least 2 million miles accident free. Most of those drivers have even more experience. They are men and women from all over the United States and Canada. I had the opportunity to get to know a very special driver there that just retired. He had over 6 1/2 million accident free miles! He has been driving over 60 years. Hats off to you Mr. John Taylor! All around the table there is the best of the best.
With that said, you may think that doesn’t represent the truckers you see. So, who are they? They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles and friends. They are people that have wanted to drive truck all their lives. They are people who never thought they would be driving trucks. They are people who have the same hopes and aspirations that you do. They want to provide for their families. They want to send their kids to college. They want reasonable healthcare. They want to retire some day. They would like to take a short vacation once in a while.
I’ve met people driving trucks that come from all nationalities and just about any occupation you can think of. The one that tops the list is probably former military people. The very ones that fought for our country. Also you will find some that come from professional careers like lawyers, accountants, and doctors and teachers that decided for some reason or another to change their profession. Some have PhDs. Some drivers are high school drop outs. Some completed high school and went to work. There really isn’t a typical truck driver.
There is one thing that every driver on the road has in common. No one wants to die and no one wants anyone else to get hurt. A far cry from the image painted of drivers today. In fact you might be surprised to know that many of those drivers have been honored by various groups for saving the lives of other motorists. They are the Highway Angels and Highway Heros. With that said, there are many more that carry out good deeds everyday that receive no recognition what so ever. They help others out of their own kindness. You will also find that truck drivers are some of the most charitable working people on earth. Truckers are involved in so many charities that I can’t even to begin to name them. Truckers are always ready to help those down on their luck. They are some of the first to organize to provide aid in the case of a natural disasters. The image emerging now should be somewhat different than where we started.
The average truck driver drives about as much in one year as the average car driver does in 10 years. The average driver at OOIDA has over 2 million miles. That’s 200 years of car driving. In the October 2014 edition of Land Line Magazine, Managing Editor Jami Jones has an op-ed piece titled Lauer. Lawyers. Lies. that lays out very clearly the true accident rates of cars and trucks. That piece points out that 75-80% of fatality accidents that involve trucks were not the fault of the trucker. In 2012, while there were 3,921 deaths in crashes involving large trucks, there were 29,156 people who died in crashes that did not involve large trucks. If cars drove the same miles that trucks do that would equate to approximately 291,560 deaths in cars versus 3,921in trucks.
Yes, the people in that truck may annoy you at times but above all, they are by far the safest drivers on the road and deserve the respect of the motoring public and the media. Now, please take another look in the window of that big truck.