Channel 19

Todd Dills

More O/O challenges: Image, health, parking…

| August 16, 2012

When I was gathering perspectives on potential operational, regulatory and other solutions to the top challenges for owner-operator businesses today, in addition to the top five challenges already reported on here — which you named via Overdrive polling — I asked each source to further propose fixes to a sixth industry challenge of their choosing. Below find extended excerpts from what they had to say on drivers’ professional/public image, training for new drivers, industry unity, health concerns and more.

And join me tonight with two of the sources from the reporting, owner-operator Jeff Clark and small fleet owner Tom Blake, at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight on the Truth About Trucking Live online radio show. You listen in direct online here. To call in and listen/participate in the discussion, dial 347-826-9170.

The show, as longtime Channel 19 readers will be well aware, is hosted by another of my sources for the challenges reporting, Allen Smith (pictured), who’s noted that the ultimate path toward solutions to the problems owner-operators and drivers face today is to look to the real source of any problem, rather than its effects. “Both drivers and the industry in general must be informed and be able to listen to one another,” he said. “Many times people get so stuck on the effect of the problem — they don’t look at the source. I believe by uniting people who truly want to make positive changes, who listen and want to be informed, and then taking away that info in order to determine solutions and strategies, we’ll make a big step in a positive direction for many of the industry concerns. Next, by revealing to the general public the truth behind many of the issues, including safety, more support for the professional driver will arise. At that point real solutions will evolve to resolve the problems and concerns effectively.”

Small fleet owner Tom Blake
While image didn’t figure in our general polling on the top challenges, our sources had plenty to say about it. Blake, particularly, offered a prescription for professionalism, which he viewed would take operators a long way on the path toward profitability.

I’ve been out here a long time – since before we had cell phones and we used to talk on the CB to each other. If someone broke down on the side of the road years ago, someone would stop and help them get going. We’re missing that today. Drivers and owner-operators need to someday realize that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. It’s better to stay put somewhere longer and build your relationships — whether with dispatchers or brokers or whoever — and it will give you so much more power.

Drivers have to get more professional. When I walk into the truck stop today, I see drivers with greasy-grimey t-shirts — we need to clean up our own image. A $15 truck-stop shirt with skulls on it is not appealing to anyone. Buy a polo for about the same money and it will project a much different image. Present yourself as a professional — we get paid to do this, and we ought to be professional about it and take care of ourselves, and maybe the perception of us will change.

If you go to a roadside scale and reek like you haven’t taken a bath in a week, and then another guy comes in clean, you’ll see a definite difference in that DOT officer’s attitude.  

In his container-freight business, he added, a lot of the buyers I deal with are from China. They came here and wanted to meet me and explain the laws to them about weight in a container. I walk into a meeting dressed how I dress, and a supervisor at the company was wearing a t-shirt with no sleeves and a ponytail. The Chinese customer was asking me all the questions, even those that pertained to him, because of how I presented myself.

Advocate/driver Allen Smith
The Public perceptions of professional drivers and the lack of truth “fed” to them by the media is a huge problem. Why? Because this dictates the direction of the industry and ultimately what happens to drivers because of it, including the continuing onerous regulatory proposals. 

Public perception has led to over-regulation of drivers as the general public is told that if we control/regulate drivers more, we will improve highway safety and have fewer accidents. 

Smith cited the public’s belief that large trucks cause a majority of on-highway deaths and other such myths as in dire need of widespread dispelling. If we can accomplish this, then the propaganda will stop. There should more education given to the general public regarding how to drive and share the highways safely with large trucks, too. 

  • Linda Caffee

    Todd great show tonight with lots of good info! I really enjoyed listening to Tom Blake

  • Todd Dills

    Yes, Linda, Tom’s a good guy and knows his business — the key to success, don’t you think? strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.