By: Allen Smith
Trucking companies continually advise that they are interested in hearing what truck drivers have to say.
They want to know their thoughts, ideas, opinions and solutions as they relate to the state of the industry.
Motor carriers especially, are always relaying the message that they care about what drivers have to share, in order for them to build a better, more driver-friendly business.
It is not difficult at all to hear what drivers are saying about their careers and the industry. There are driver comments all over the world wide web through personal blogs, trucking forums and discussion groups, all with comments by both rookie and veteran truck drivers.
And, to be fair, it is not all bad. New drivers, especially can learn a lot about life on the road from advice given by veteran drivers in some of the trucking forums that are available:
“Many things on the road are so different than your own home especially for the ones just starting out. The list is endless. This lifestyle takes a lot of getting use to. I get asked a lot mainly by the customers how can you live in your truck? Heck, it’s easy as long as you keep truck clean and organized. I sleep better on the road than at home. I have my laptop, DVD player, CD player, yep life on the road is good, I love it out here.”
(Source: Truckers Forum)
However, most often, motor carriers are only wanting to hear the “good” as they continue to suppress the “bad.” But is it not the “bad” that they can learn from?
Are they really concerned with what many professional CDL truck drivers are saying? For them, I provide these few examples:
- “You can think that all those “safety” advocates care about you but you would be lying to yourself. They all say they worry about tired truck drivers but have any one of them pushed for programs to take care of the drivers who have to spend their ten hour break at noon in Barstow, CA with no air conditioning in their trucks? Yeah you can’t leave a dog in a hot car but you can sure leave a trucker there.”
- “How would you like to spend 4 weeks on the road and get 3 days off? Until these carriers start treating people like human beings they will always need to fill those empty trucks sitting along the fence.”
- “This is one of the few industries that pay less, in real dollars, than they did in the late 70’s. Real wages have gone up everywhere else, except for drivers.”
Trucking companies will draw in new drivers by using cliche advertising statements such as: “We’ll treat you right!” and my personal favorite: “At XYZ Trucking, you’re part of the family.”
I really like this one. It makes me feel all warm and cozy inside; like I’m sitting in the warm waters of the Bahamas, under a Tiki Hut and enjoying a drink with a really cool name, like . . . “fuzzy navel” and there is Bahamian music playing and the native islanders are dancing all around me singing a song about family values.
And what about those radio advertisements where the announcer or the make-believe truck driver is talking in a slow, drawn-out cowboy twang? After all, that is how truckers talk . . .
If the industry really is concerned with what drivers have to say, they just have to look. Truck drivers have never been shy about voicing their opinions:
- “The ATA uses the high driver turnover numbers of its members to support the driver shortage theory. The 2005, ATA commissioned study, The U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecasts, states that driver pay is one of the largest factors in high driver turnover. Yet there has been no appreciable difference in the pay rates offered by carriers. Although the industry is experiencing turnover in excess of 100%, carriers don’t seem to have any problem finding newly licensed drivers to fill the empty seats. If retention issues were the cause of a driver shortage, driver wages would increase to encourage retention. The actions of these carriers are contrary to an effort to stem the flow of drivers leaving the industry, or to an effort to attract and keep experienced drivers.”
(Source: Bring Back Trucking)
- “No parking, Pee-Bottles, rude cashiers at truck stops, Pain in the azz DOT/Scales. No friends, No Life, No Future, Bad Health, Bad Kidneys, Bad Back, Sitting with no pay. Who the hell wants to drive a truck?”
. . . and of course, there are always comments that can be received via email, if only they would ask drivers what they would like to share such as these email examples:
- “The ATA is in tight with Washington lobbyists and is only concerned with the carriers. They have a good routine going, pretending to be in opposition to the government on many issues, but don’t be fooled. The ATA and government are closely connected.”
- “With the ATA always in favor of over-regulating the industry, one must only “follow the money trail” to see where it leads, and my guess is right back to the ATA.”
There are many various positions within truck driving other than OTR and even with all of this said, the new driver to the industry can still have a career in truck driving, but it just will not come as easy as you are led to believe. For most, it will take two to three years of hard work, sacrifice and paying your dues. You will have to learn how the OTR industry thinks and operates, and determine whether or not you can survive 2-3 years of rhetorical nonsense. Most importantly, you will have to discover if you are able to survive a lifestyle that few can endure.
Industry practices will have to change drastically in order to bring any form of respect to a CDL driving career. Practices such as described in an email recently received where the gentleman was planning on giving up his current job, grossing $40,000 per year with full benefits and looking to get his CDL and run over the road when the recruiter told him that he could make over $40,000 in his first year and then $60,000 to $70,000 per year thereafter.
Trucking companies say that they really want to hear from drivers and what they have to say about the state of the industry. Well . . . are you listening?
© 2012, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.