By Gordon Alkire, OOIDA life member, Riley, KS
Wow, have I really been trucking for 40-plus years? I don’t like nearing the end, but that’s the way it goes.
I have learned to do many jobs in trucking, and I never felt any of the learning was a waste. I have learned to do vans, flatbeds, lowboys and tankers. I have pulled oversize loads other drivers said they couldn’t.
I have seen sunsets and sunrises that most people never see. I have seen nature’s beauty and also her wrath. I have driven from 100-degree heat to snow-covered roads in the same day. I have hauled rebuilding supplies for tornado/hurricane-stricken towns and hauled Christmas trees for Boy Scouts. I have hauled medicines for the sick and armament for our military.
I have learned to be a semi (play on words here) mechanic, a travel agent, a negotiator. I have learned to control my emotions when needed, but wished I was a paramedic or a doctor when I came upon an accident. I have seen things while traveling down the road you just don’t tell your family about.
Trucking will bring out emotions that were kept hidden or you did not know you had. It will change how you look at people and how you do things. It will give you a new perspective on life and force you to re-evaluate your priorities and abilities.
The new era in trucking is not for me. It is going to take the individualism and the search for personal growth out of the equation. It seems all they want anymore are robots.
It seems that far too many of the new drivers couldn’t do factory work and think that trucking would be easy. Some say it is because they don’t have a boss watching over their shoulder; that’s BS. Many new drivers are into trucking because the professional drivers make the job look easy. They think that anyone can do it.
They have a rude awakening coming.
After the newbies have a situation that is beyond their ability to handle, many will jump ship. Too many drivers do not know how to say “no” to a dispatcher. Far too many are the robots the carriers want. But the carriers will pay for it when the driver is told to continue even when in a white-out blizzard.
Far too many of today’s drivers have little personal pride, lack personal hygiene, have a potty mouth and show no consideration for others. Camaraderie is lacking.
I cannot blame the new drivers 100 percent. A good portion of the driving schools are graduating less-than-qualified drivers. They don’t teach them enough or anything about the real world of trucking and how the transportation industry works. Simple things like sliding the tandems to assist them in getting into tight spots without worrying about the school bus overhang taking out a fender or hood. Teaching them to back and how to do a logbook is not what it is all about.
Trucking is going to need many new drivers with the will to conquer, the ability to forge ahead, the ability to learn and a willingness to teach by example. We need to take drivers who have pride to teach how to achieve pride. We need drivers who are willing to be mentors to teach, demonstrate, and to admonish when necessary.
Pride is the one ingredient that puts the pros on top and separates the wheat from the chaff.
It will also take carriers that want drivers to have pride in themselves and in the carrier to help reclaim our coveted position of professional.
Trucking is a complicated industry. It is not simple and straightforward. It is a tough and lonely life, but one I have enjoyed for the most part. I’ve made many friends – some lasting and some fleeting. Most important, I have earned a good living and done a good job supporting my family. LL