Line One
Downshift
One #*&% of a way to solve a @$%# problem

By Bill Hudgins
columnist

 

Once my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe decided to toss his “chickenmobilin’ ” cap into the 2008 presidential race ring, it didn’t take him long to ask me to sign on as his speechwriter. We started talking about driver pay and treatment – and things got heated pretty fast. We’re still working on the final draft. Here’s the work in progress.  

What do ya think?

Everybody’s talking about finding an effective, efficient (aka cheap) way to reduce driver turnover. Pay, of course, is where the rubber meets the road for truckers, as it does for suits. However, for years we’ve been told that improving morale, not pay, is the key. I bet no suit ever bought a Mercedes with morale.

So we have seen morale and image programs march across the bumpers and vans of America. These aren’t cheap, but they’re peanuts compared with better rates (that’s CB slang for a living wage).

Now, I read the other day about a morale-building tool that should fit right in with this pattern: A study in Britain says that swearing on the job can help. Swearing? You mean, just saying %&$@?

Just think, this is something most of us already know how to do. The researchers said it would take some training on when to swear – not in front of customers or the boss, nor in a “negative, abusive way.”

I’ve had this training already, and I bet you have, too. I’d say: “You’re not giving me enough @%$# miles!” and my driver rep would come back with: “Don’t take that @%$#ing tone with me!”

I can just hear the comments about this training: “Yeah, I gotta come into the terminal and get some $#&% training from the HR person who handles $*&@!$%#.”

You can also imagine the new bumper stickers and T-shirts, as the trucking industry seeks to turn what had been perceived as a negative into a positive: “If you got it, a #$%@ trucker brought it,” for example.

Which brings me back to what I said earlier about image, morale, driver turnover and how to deal with it.

I’ve got news for the industry – Americans understand that if they got it, trucks brought it. They know that trucks bring good stuff, and they also know too many of those trucks wreck each year, spilling good stuff all over the highway or worse, injuring or killing people, including the poor truckers.

These image campaigns say non-truckers should think more about the people at the wheel – although I notice that slogans like “Trucks bring good stuff” and “If you got it, a truck brought it,” credit the vehicle, not the driver.

But all the image campaigns and cute slogans in the world cannot offset, cannot overcome, a primary law of economics: You get what you pay for.

Those image campaigns, in fact, are not aimed at the public as much as at the drivers themselves: You should feel good about what you do and accept the conditions of the job. If you don’t, see ya, bye, go be someone else’s problem for a while. There’s more where you came from (and even more farther south). And if you’re an owner-operator who takes cheap freight and runs noncompliant to try to make it pay, you’re part of the problem.

Which leads to a conclusion that should make you all very uncomfortable: Turnover is a headache with a silver lining for motor carriers. As long as drivers accept being treated like a cheap commodity, the carriers have got a steady supply of aspirin. The perception of doing something is more important than actually curing the headache. And that’s something to #%&@ing swear about.

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL

 

Bill Hudgins may be reached at billhudgins@earthlink.net.

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