Featured Article: Trucker network
An over-the-road guide to the social media landscape
When Arrow Trucking folded in December, one of the first and most organized efforts to assist the drivers stranded across the country with Christmas fast approaching was a Facebook group called “Support for Stranded Arrow Trucking Drivers — Coordinate Efforts Here.”
More than 7,500 people — nearly twice the number of trucks Arrow Trucking had running at the time of its closure — joined the group in an effort to get these drivers home for Christmas. The page’s “wall,” a message board where group members can post messages for the rest of the group to see, filled with people offering rides and passing along information for drivers stranded in various locales.The Truckers News Facebook and Twitter pages were flooded with drivers posting information, links to Web pages offering assistance and stories of those trying to find a way home.
In many ways, the situation with Arrow Trucking demonstrated the power of the Internet and social networking. Whereas 10 years ago stranded drivers would likely have needed to make multiple phone calls to find a ride or possibly even rely on the kindness of strangers at a truckstop, when the Arrow situation arose, an online community was born instantaneously, made up of drivers and other industry professionals eager to help out however they could. Some companies even immediately took to the online airwaves to offer new jobs.
The quick rise of online communities — via Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, just to name a few platforms — has made the world a smaller place. Many within the trucking industry have used this to their advantage, from companies recruiting on Twitter to drivers bringing attention to industry hot topics through Facebook groups.
Following find a few of the folks who have used social networking to create an ever-expanding online trucking community.
Beginner’s Guide to Social Media
For those unversed in social media but interested in learning more, here are a few terms that might come in handy.
Blog: Short for “Web log.” An online journal that is chronological and frequently includes links to other sites. Can cover a variety of topics from personal thoughts to news to entertainment and more.
Twitter: A website that allows registered users to “microblog,” or post notes to the Web that are 140 characters or less in length, optimized for use with mobile phones. Users can follow other users and see those users’ “tweets” in a reverse chronological timeline.
Facebook: A website where users can interact through personal profiles. Users can become fans of products, people and services; join groups based on mutual interest; play games; participate in online chat; send e-mails via Facebook’s messaging system; and more.
YouTube: A video-sharing site. Users do not have to be registered to view videos but must sign in to upload.
Forum or Message Board: A moderated website where users can discuss topics.
What started as a hobby for Con-way driver Paul Stallibrass has turned into a multi-company trucking message board with more than 800 members.
Stallibrass has been with Con-way for 15 years, but he’s best known in the online world by the handle Crocodile (he’s Australian), proprietor of Top Driver Boards. “Truck drivers used to use a CB radio, and that was the preferred method of communication,” Stallibrass says. “Today the radio has degraded into something I don’t like anymore … because of the bad language and the arguing that goes on. Today, truckers are connected. On a site like mine, drivers can learn about changes at the company level all the way to federal regulations, and they can discuss them.
“These are conversations that used to be heard on the radio, and now they’re on the Internet.”
Even though the site was strictly for Con-way drivers in the beginning, now it’s open to everyone, with forums dedicated to 14 trucking companies, as well as general trucking forums and off-topic forums where drivers can share funny stories, pictures of their grandkids or anything else they want to discuss.
“These are conversations that used to be heard on the radio, and now they’re on the Internet.”
Stallibrass says his involvement with the boards has been an “extremely valuable asset. Getting involved in that conversation, I think, has helped me grow. I don’t know everything, and I’m willing to learn. I’m an old dog, but I guess I can learn new tricks.”
Finding time to put together and maintain the site has been fairly simple for Stallibrass, who says he frequently uses part of his 10-hour break to participate in the online community, contributing to the lively discussions ongoing there. “This is what I like to do,” he says. “It challenges me, it gives me headaches and nosebleeds, and I love them all.”
With more than three decades of over-the-road experience, Weston Transportation driver Sandy Long decided in 2005 it was time to pass on some of her expertise. She started a Yahoo! group called “TrailerTruckinTech.”
“It’s dedicated to the education of new and prospective truck drivers,” Long says. “We’re about 780 members, and it’s strictly moderated and pretty well focused on education. We help people make the decision to become a truck driver, and we help fill in the gaps in their education, so I’m pretty proud of that group.”
On its heels, Long started another Yahoo! group called “Truckers are People 2,” dedicated to discussing federal and state regulations affecting the industry. “The human factor has been taken out of regulations overwhelmingly against us drivers,” she says. “So I’m trying to encourage people to get a little organized and political.”
Both groups also have a presence on Facebook, with the TrailerTruckinTech Facebook group geared more toward women drivers. Long, a member of Women in Trucking’s Driver Advisory Committee and a life member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, wrote a column called A Woman’s Perspective for Layover.com for five years, and she has posted these articles with tips for how to succeed as a woman in business on the Facebook page.
“The human factor has been taken out of regulations overwhelmingly against us drivers. So I’m trying to encourage people to get a little organized and political.”
“Being in the industry as long as I have,” Long says, “I know that women face some challenges that the guys don’t, and I wanted to assist them with my knowledge and with my experience so that they could have maybe an easier way in than having to fight and struggle like what I had to when I first went over-the-road.”
After nine years’ worth of combined over-the-road, flatbed, tanker, hazmat and piggy-back experience, Jason Cox was something of a trucking veteran. But that didn’t mean he was impervious to the perils of the job.
“I was unloading a set of trucks in a storm with lots of wind, and a 75-pound hood slammed shut on me, striking me across the upper back and neck,” Cox says. “I was off work for two years and could not return to that type of work. I forced myself back to work driving, until I was injured again in April ’09. Due to my injuries to my back and neck, and also I have hearing loss, I am unable to drive anymore.”
Though he can’t be on the road, Cox maintains a tight connection to the trucking industry via the Internet. He started a free blog in 2007 to take a look at trucking industry news, and in January 2009, that site blossomed into Truck Driver News.
“The concept behind Truck Driver News was to have a site that contained all areas of the trucking industry in one place and be able to write about anything I wanted, without having to ask someone if it was OK to write about this subject or not,” Cox says. “I try and put out hopefully useful information. One thing: I will never sugarcoat anything. I always tell it like it is. My blog is not corporately sponsored, so I can write about anyone or anything I wish to.”
“I will never sugarcoat anything. I always tell it like it is. My blog is not corporately sponsored, so I can write about anyone or anything I wish to.”
Cox also uses Twitter to promote the site, which he says is “for truck drivers. I am not in it to make money, as I don’t charge for links from other trucking industry and drivers’ sites. My involvement on Twitter is to just search for the latest trucking-related news and put it out for truck drivers so they don’t have to waste valuable time searching for it.”
Cox’s site also features a section dedicated to Women in Trucking.
Allen and Donna Smith
If you’re looking for the “Truth About Trucking,” Allen and Donna Smith may be a good place to start.
The drivers for Pipeline Transportation started the Truth About Trucking website in 2004, with a purpose of focusing on students and new drivers breaking into the industry, Allen says. “Before our site, there was nothing on the net talking about the major problems within the trucking industry,” he says. “There were a few trucking forums here and there but nothing really going public about some of the overall problems that CDL students and new drivers face and really giving the overall grid of OTR trucking. So we kind of broke ground on that, because, like I said, they didn’t exist.”
Out of the Truth about Trucking site grew Ask the Trucker, a site where Allen Smith and others answer questions received from drivers by e-mail and where Allen blogs about trucking industry topics. Allen also hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Truth About Trucking Live, which he says was the first trucking show on the site. “It’s done real well, and I just saw that as another way of giving people who were interested in the industry a chance to call in and talk to me,” he says. “Not that I know everything, but you know, some kind of guidance since they didn’t really know where to go [for answers].”
Allen Smith says some of his favorite shows he’s broadcast include one with information about DAC reports, one providing information about Jason’s Law that featured Congressman Paul Tonko and another that featured a representative from Trucking Careers of America discussing how unemployed drivers could go about finding work.
“That’s really what it’s all about for me, is really helping all these people that are having so many problems,” Smith says. “That’s probably one of the best feelings out of this is helping people who needed to find a job. … I’m really glad we could play a small part in it.”
“That’s really what it’s all about for me, is really helping all these people that are having so many problems.”
Donna Smith handles the couple’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, including a Twitter account for Ask the Trucker, Facebook fan pages for Truth About Trucking and Ask the Trucker and a personal page for Allen. The couple also created the TRUCKER iPhone application, which was featured in the Exit Only column in Truckers News’ June 2009 issue.
The speed with which a message can spread via social media can be astounding, and in the case of those advocating for the passage of Jason’s Law, this has proven to be advantageous.
Hope Rivenburg, widow of Jason Rivenburg, who was killed in March 2009 due to, many feel, a lack of safe truck parking, has utilized social media in her efforts to see legislation passed to improve the parking situation for drivers. Rivenburg and family members met with United States Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bill on April 28 of 2009, but the movement picked up steam when it began to be mentioned on Facebook and Twitter.
Trucker Desiree Wood was one of the proponents of the bill on Twitter. A newspaper story on Virginia rest area closures that Wood was quoted in got more attention than Wood or the writer expected, and Wood subsequently found a link to Jason Rivenburg’s story, which she posted on the newspaper’s website. Then she got to work on Twitter, utilizing her online network to spread the word to residents of Virginia about the proposed rest area closings.
“We just started like a little revolution on Twitter,” Wood says. “Next thing you know, they were calling us, VDOT Media Communications was calling us to be on [Allen and Donna Smith’s Blog Talk Radio show] about it.”
Funnily enough, Hope Rivenburg says it was this radio show that got her on Twitter to begin with. “I believe that night [Wood] was on a talk show, so I quickly created a Twitter page to tell her what was what, and it went from there.”
Rivenburg says the Twitter and Facebook pages that were subsequently started for Jason’s Law have “honestly helped a lot. We’ve gotten a lot more support through the Facebook and the Twitter pages.”
Individual drivers are not the only ones getting in on the social media action. Companies are now using tools like Twitter and Facebook for recruiting and keeping in touch with current drivers. One such company is Con-way.
“We’ve been using both YouTube and Twitter for a long time,” says Con-way Vice President of Communications and Chief Marketing Officer Tom Nightingale. “We use Facebook. We have two blogs, one for our LTL company and one on broader issues of freight, public policy and sustainability, both of which have developed a really nice fan base.”
“We’ve been using both YouTube and Twitter for a long time.”
— Tom Nightingale
Nightingale says the company’s use of social media allows it to be more personable, fun and engaging for its employees and customers. He says the company also uses the YouTube site for recruiting by having “some videos out there that really give you an idea what it’s like [working for us]. We send drivers out on the road with little flash video cameras to record what life’s like on the road.”
The company also has some fun internally with its YouTube channel. “Vice President of Safety and Recruiting Randy Cornell told some of our drivers, ‘If you hit these metrics for safety, I’ll jump out of a perfectly good airplane,’” Nightingale says. “And he did” and had the video posted on YouTube (www.youtube.com/conwayinc).
Other sites of note
Truckers News also has a presence on the Web, and we’d love for you to join us. You can find us at www.twitter.com/truckersnews and www.twitter.com/fitfortheroad. If you want to follow Senior Editor Todd Dills, visit www.twitter.com/channel19todd. On Facebook, search Truckers News. We are also on YouTube at www.youtube.com/truckersnews. You can also participate in our online forums at www.truckersnews.com/forum.
If you want to read more from our Truckers News writers, check out our blogs at http://www.truckersnews.com/blogs.
Aggregating the video work of truck drivers from around the world is the catchall site www.youtubetrucking.com, launched by James “Tex” Crow, a Texas hauler. Find different featured videos there each week, plus links and information about the growing community of vid-happy drivers on the road today.
For this story, we solicited blog addresses from our Twitter and Facebook followers. Here are a few we liked:
One Girl Trucking: http://www.onegirltrucking.com
Ty’s Log Book of Random Crap: http://www.xkegxkillerx.blogspot.com/
Bobert Reefer: www.twitter.com/bobertreefer
Also, Twitter users like to participate in a couple of different traditions that share with others the Twitter accounts they feel are worth following. Those traditions are called Twitter Trucker Tuesday and Follow Friday. Here’s our own version of those traditions with a few of our favorite, most faithful Twitter followers: @blczz999, @SemiGuy, @RoneDog1, @flightless_sky, @912Truck, @gabsatrucker, @truckinwife. If you are on Twitter, show these folks some love. There are so many more we would like to mention, but not enough space on this printed page. Check out our Twitter feed weekly for more recommendations.