Revenge doesn't pay

| May 31, 2007

Damage, steal or abandon the boss’s equipment, and unemployment might be the least worry.

“What guys don’t realize is that this is all regulated by the federal government,” Birdseye says. He says that means the United States Department of Transportation, or other federal agencies, might handle the crime.

“You can do hard time,” Birdseye says, telling of a gasoline tanker driver who drove into a swamp, opened the drain valve and left.

“He called them up and said, ‘Here’s your truck. Come and get it,’” Birdseye says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in with a big shoe.

“Now he’s doing hard time at the federal penitentiary in Arizona,” Birdseye says.

And you’re probably not the only driver your actions will impact. A driver who quits and causes problems only makes the employer more cautious in the future. Having been “tutored” by malcontented drivers, company owners find ways to control, minimize and finally solve the problem. For example, new hires sign contracts during orientation, thereby agreeing not to abuse the equipment.

Also, consider that it’s not the dispatchers and company owners who clean up the mess you leave – it’s usually other drivers.

Imagine this scenario: first day on the job in a rainy, dark, cold, deserted lot. First delivery is at 7 a.m. the next day, but it’s just a few hundred miles: no sweat. But the assigned truck’s previous driver vandalized it to punish the employer. The cab and sleeper are a disgusting mess: rotting food, dirty laundry and trash everywhere, including a bottle of urine. There’s damage, too. Most notably, wipers are broken off, headlights are smashed, and running lights are gone, so the truck’s not legal.

The freight must get through. The new driver respects that, so he makes repairs, cleans, disinfects and finally moves in. But now his schedule is skewed; he’ll get short sleep that night and have to find time to make it up the next day.

Meanwhile the company owner, dispatcher, safety chief or whomever angered the quitting and destructive driver is warm, dry and sleeping soundly, unaware that he’s being punished.

Drivers who cause trouble when quitting also hurt other drivers in more general, long-term ways.

“It’s like a black eye to the industry as a whole,” Chapman says. “It seems like there are always a few who will mess it up for everybody.”

“There has to be an attitude change – not just with the drivers, but with everybody,” Chapman says. “If we want respect from all the people, we have to show respect for ourselves and each other first.”

That means not stooping to revenge or bad-mouthing.

“My grandmother says you always walk tall and hold your head up, no matter what anybody says or does,” says Birdseye, who grew up trucking with his father, a driver for 47 years and counting. Even with all this experience, Birdseye respects those with more.

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