After working hard and steady for several months, I couldn’t make my schedule work out to minimize my time off around Thanksgiving. So I decided to take the whole week off and pick up after the holiday. After all, it was a much needed respite. It was nice spending time with family and friends. During my holiday, I did a considerable amount of driving the four-wheeler. During that time, I made some observations that are the foundation of this post.
Being in the four-wheeler (car) with my family, and
having experience as a truck driver caused me to make some observations, “from the other side of the picture”. Many in our industry lament about how we should get more respect for what we do. I totally agree, BUT… That is where the story begins.
While driving in our car, I began being critical of those truck drivers that I shared the road with. I noticed that many didn’t use a signal to change lanes. They seemed to be quite aggressive with their speed and cut in front of the cars at times. Sometimes, even somewhat tailgating the cars they followed. Having the understanding of driving a big truck, I know why they did most of what they did. Yet, it was imprinted in my mind what the car driver’s experience of driving around a big truck was like. If I was a regular car driver, I could see why many people are not really fond of trucks.
After the holiday I had to go back to work. My critical observance of truck drivers continued. After being out of the truck for a week, I felt good about going back to work. As I left the house and started on the road for another week, my frustration with truck drivers continued. I started to notice things that caused me to ponder the whole respect and courtesy issue.
I think here is where I acknowledge that the actions of a few don’t define the lot. An example of this is where one bad cop doesn’t define all law enforcement. One lazy kid doesn’t define all youth. I have run into some real pricks that were cops but most are pretty reasonable. I’ve encountered some kids that have had it pretty easy and don’t seem to know the value of a dollar, but most kids really only want to know what is expected of them so they can meet the grade. Truck drivers aren’t really that different. Most of us are really safe and considerate. We are just trying to make a living for our families. The problem seems to start with what is expected.
Today, drivers are taught by schools and hired by self-insured carriers where they are taught only what that company wants them to know. Courtesy doesn’t seem to be one of those things. This lack of courtesy isn’t limited to the big company drivers. It seems to be fairly common across the board. The only common factor that I see is that most of these drivers are not self-employed. What that says, I’m not sure. I can speculate but that isn’t fair to those that I would be wrong about. What I can say is that we need to take a long hard look at ourselves before we start asking others to give us respect.
There are many things to point to that could be improved. One such thing is to briefly turn your lights off and back on, instead of flashing your bright lights, to signal the passing truck to pull back over. Another is when you catch up to another truck on cruise control, pull out to pass and they speed up. Yet another is the infamous “elephant races” that take place when under- powered trucks try to pull a hill and refuse to move over to clear one lane for passage. I can’t count the times that I have witnessed a truck pulling out in front of a car that causes the car to hit his breaks when a little patience by the truck driver would have allowed that car, or a few cars, to pass without really changing the truck driver’s driving time. Each of these moves causes an adverse opinion of the truck driver.
It matters not only how you present yourself on the road but also how you present yourself when you stop. I have experienced trucks parking in the fuel island with no regard for other drivers. I understand this when it is slow and there are plenty of open pumps. I don’t understand the blatant disregard for the needs of other drivers that you are familiar with. Drivers also do other disgusting things like leaving the bathroom without washing their hands. Having a conversation on the phone while using the stalls. Leaving trash and paper in the areas they use for someone else to clean up. Even wearing T-shirts that don’t cover their guts and presenting themselves as slobs.
The real topper to my week was watching a C R England (blue) truck pull up along the front of the parked trucks at the Loves truck stop in Lost Hills, CA. Right there, he jumped out with a screwdriver to steal a steer axle hub cap from a parked truck and put it on his own truck! When I asked the guy why he stole the cap he responded that he would never do that.
On my return trip home I pondered all that I had experienced and observed over the past week and pondered why these things had become so prevalent. What I came up with was as follows.
In the last 20 or so years, driver training has taken place in truck driving schools and at self-insured carriers. Seldom does an old seasoned driver ever train a new driver. Newbies are only taught what they need to know to operate the machine. They are not taught the knowledge of experienced drivers. They are not taught courtesy or respect. That seems to be an after thought.
Part of pointing out a problem is to offer a solution to said problem. My solution is to promote standardized minimum training requirements for new drivers. Take a look at TruckersForSafety.com. That is a site that has some real guidance for driver training. The second part of my solution is to repeal the self insurance provision for large carriers (Click here to learn more about self-insurance). That would require all drivers be insured equally. No longer would large companies simply look for a warm body to fill the seat. They would be looking for someone to stay around. Someone that is safe and well trained.
It is up to us. Before we can ask for respect from other people, we have to make sure we are worthy of that respect for ourselves. The challenges of our industry must not only be met, but led by our most experienced drivers. We all have a part in the future of trucking. Your question is what are you going to do?