View: Fleets can lead way toward renewal of respect and honor for driving profession

| June 23, 2014

Friday, Overdrive Equipment Editor Jack Roberts asked fleet readers of CCJ magazine a prescient question: “When did we, as a society, transition from holding drivers in high regard to regarding them as people who drive trucks because ‘they can’t do anything else?’ “

There was a time, of course, in the early days of the truck, that “being a driver was considered a highly skilled trade,” he writes. He runs through some of the history below. For his full post — in which he suggests it’s “time to set a marker: so many accident-free miles and you’re something special” — follow this link.

The automobile was brand-new. And given the mysterious and cantankerous nature of cars at the time, a “driver” was typically understood to be a mechanic as well. In other words, someone so attuned into the intricacies of the machine, he could wring the most out of it both under the hood and behind the wheel.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker in France

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker in France

This was such an ingrained concept 100 years ago that, when America went to fight in France in World War I, General John Pershing selected Indianapolis 500 winner and racing legend Eddie Rickenbacker to be his personal driver.

It wasn’t a job Rickenbacker held long. His reputation as a driver was such that he was able to use it as his resume to get accepted to flight school in France (which was his real goal from the minute he’d joined the army). Eventually, Rickenbacker became the American Air Service’s highest scoring fighter ace in the war.

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The point, though, is that a century ago, a driver was recognized as a highly skilled and valued individual. Someone special. Someone who could be trusted to take new technological marvels out on the road and operate them safely and efficiently.

Of course, all that eventually changed. Cars and trucks became more commonplace, and increasingly easy to operate. As automobiles transitioned from exotic playthings to everyday transportation, the mystique disappeared. And so too did the status of a driver as a person to be respected.

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That’s too bad. Today, there are a multitude of “mysterious” trades out there with practitioners who are regarded as highly skilled craftsmen who command – and deserve – high pay for the jobs they do. I’m talking about plumbers, electricians, stonemasons, crane operators and any number of people who work at highly skilled professions.

And yet, that distinction doesn’t apply to truck drivers, does it?

Read Roberts’ recipe for starting to repair the problem via  this link.

  • guest

    Fleets have always treated their drivers and the motoring public like Garbage….they only want profit…..they hire easily replaceable morons…who run over people and crush them year after year….the record is clear on this….is it supposed to Change??? The public despises trucks, truckers, trucking companies..for good reason….trucking has been the Bottom of the Barrel for a long time. PROFIT is King for the Shareholders and Owners of Fleets……Integrity of a DRIVER has never been thought of…..only Low Paid Chumps to make these greedy Pigs Rich…..lol

  • guest

    The title of this piece says Fleets Can Lead The Way to respect for drivers?? hahahahahaha that is NEVER going to happen…they only want MONEY!!!!! They dont give a damn about ANY truck driver…once you understand THAT…you are living in the real world. lol…..Why would they even TALk about respect for chumps they Abuse and rip off?? The driver is only Part of the income equation for them..a factor of production……to heap VALUE on the chump is rediculous….Praise the chump?? You have Got to be kidding…actually the Undermine the Chump/driver…they work to LOWER the drivers self image, self esteem, and expectations of High Living…..thus the driver becomes complacent and satisfied with low pay and a life of Abuse….alot goes into Psych warfare against their SLAVE…slowly eroding his self image…and Manipulating the driver to accept Abuse….Fleets will NEVER go along with anything that does not fatten their Wallets. They have only Contempt for their slave/drivers……..

  • Kenneth A. Richards

    It all started to change in the early 80s when to start driving trucks all one had to do was go to a truck driving school. No more were the old ways of driver training being used. When I started I had to get an older driver to take me on as a relief driver. For the first year of my career I basically worked for expenses to learn the trade. Now you pay $5 or $6 thousand dollars for your license then spend 6 weeks training then you are a truck driver.

  • Zehnhund

    We have several serious issues throughout the trucking industry. This is one affected by several factors in the industry and several outside it.
    The general driving population not only no longer respects professional drivers as professionals , for a multitude of reasons, they no longer respect the truck! The vast majority of amateur drivers behave in ways around trucks that would give them nightmares if the trucks turned into horses and they were afoot. They seem quite willingly oblivious to the deadly risks involved when in their cars and around trucks, as if they’d think nothing of running with the bulls in Spain or Portugal. I literally had 60 – something and his wife drive into the side of me when I was in Freightliner Classic condo with a 53′wagon in DE on DE 13. He had 4 MILESTONE of warning that his lane was ending and yet…. He told me and later the trooper that he KNEW commercial vehicles HAD to yield the right of way to passenger vehicles. His assumed knowledge was his justification for colliding with an object 5 times his size and 12 times his weight. In his mind the truck AND/OR the trucker are his lessers. Not equals. Untermensch.
    While work on the industry from within we need a serious focus on those outside it. We need DC to get behind a national radio and TV safety campaign with spots that air frequently on major networks during peak hours.
    First we address the safety angle with such seemingly mindless parallels as “Running with the Bulls” and “Running with the Trucks”. The spots should be graphic with the pertinent facts and figures and, if on tv, pictures. The ads should close with a message from the trucking industry on our goal to be safe but we can’t do it without everyone’s understanding the realities of trucks and working together.
    Then we start on the poorly trained drivers allowed to drive and those that have the truck stops looking more like garbage dumps.

  • steve

    Deregulation brought all of our troubles, it is not corporate trucking greed, when you do not know your rate is 1c less or you calculated less miles you can easily produce a lower rate, it just tumbled from there. shippers took the lower rate

  • Steve LaFleur

    My 2 cents. Respect and honor starts at a personal level. It’s not 100% the “fleets” fault, nor the companies that we refer to as “bottom feeders” who have blatant disregard for highway safety by turning under qualified people loose in an 80,000 lb. vehicle. It’s how the individual driver sees it and conducts him or herself accordingly.

    I started driving 35 years ago, obtaining my Class 1 a few days after my 18th birthday. I had family in the business, so I was able to do quite a bit of practicing so that I could pull that off. Was it against the law? Sure. But I spent an entire year practicing, riding along, driving once in a while, and backing into docks so when it was time to take my road test, I had more hands on experience than what I see on the highways these days.

    You had to be good, or you didn’t drive anything. We WERE a brotherhood, and that’s gone too for the most part. We made good money, because it was still regulated back then, and deregulation was the worst thing that could have happened to this industry. We had pride. I still do. If I was treated like garbage tomorrow, I would set the keys down on the desk and never look back. Fortunately, my employer doesn’t follow that model, and we are treated like the highly skilled people we are. I’m a bulk food grade hauler and I take all aspects of it seriously. My freight goes on your plate.

    If you want respect, act respectable. Keep a clean face, a clean truck, and a clean record. If you get treated poorly, vote with your feet. If every driver looked in the mirror and said, “I’m a professional …..” and acted accordingly, the industry would right itself eventually.

    My non-trucking friends are completely fascinated with what I do for a living and appreciate it. It’s what you make it to be.

  • MissKitty

    Before 1980 total deregulation,
    Smokey & The Bandit, CW McCall’s’ famous “Convoy”, truckers, were the shining knights of the road. The image, that these songs and movies gave the public a bad image of truckers being lawless, CB trash talking, speed demons. Unfortunately, many drivers over the years made this myth into a reality.
    I found it interesting, that before I had read any of the other remarks, that my first thought was “deregulation”.

    Back when I was learning how to drive (a car), my grandpa (a retired CHP), told me if I had car problems – flag a truck down, I would be safe with a truck driver, and to eat, where the
    trucks stop – well, he WAS right on the helpful-safe part, the food, well…I found that out different when I started driving a truck (you can’t park a big truck at Denny’s).

    When a professional person, be it, doctor, lawyer, nurse or teacher, they usually have one thing in common – they dress, talk and walk like the professional they are. The truck driver, not so much, so go into most truck stops and you will see, sloppy, scroungy, and lack of hygiene – dental and medical, flying swear words, drivers.

    Drivers who want to be treated with respect, but yet, have little to no respect for themselves. Show me a driver who cares for his/her appearance, one who shows up on time, ready to work, properly dressed and rested, and I’ll show you a driver who more than
    likely, has a good to great driving and employment history. The driver who is lacking professionalism, is probably driving a dirty, unkempt truck ( we aren’t talking running in bad weather dirty), a driver with a poorer than average safety record, and driving record, multiply employers in a short period of time – always looking for greener pastures type driver.

    A driver has to respect him/herself, before a company or public will respect them.
    Drive respectfully and professionally, act and talk like a professional. One of the things I heard my entire trucking career, was, “you don’t look like a truck driver.” I always asked them what a truck driver looked like…See above describtion at truck stops. I always that it was a pity that was people thought about drivers…
    It starts with one driver, and it can be changed…one driver at a time -

  • Ed Maloney

    This attitude happened when President Bush changed the employment category “profession” of Truck Driver to General Labor.

  • stinky truckers

    Have you looked at truck drivers at all. Coming from a respected field to trucking I can see why outsiders look down on truckers. They look like crap from wearing torn clothing to mismatched shirt and pants. Some haven’t showered in a week. Then you have those who speak so little English it isn’t funny ie Russians, Mexicans and so on. Both shippers and mechanics will tell you the problems with guys who cant understand simple commands. Then if you ever listen to the cb there is mostly rude and sexual stupidity on it. Why most of the time I leave mine off. Then you have the old time guys who think they own the world because they are 4,5,6th generation trucker so they ride on your tail down the road in there long nose pete’s. Then you have pee bottles, trash all around the parking lots and none in the trash can. Last thing I will say is the trucks with so much garbage on the dash that I wonder how they even see out the window, can only imagine what the rest of the truck looks like.
    And to the comments about govt doing this to truckers is BS. They complain all day about politics being the reason for everything. If they started to changed the things I listed first it would be a vast improvement.

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    It would help if the head of the FMCSA would actually do the job she was hired to do and come up with the mandated *by law* comprehensive new driver training standards.

    This is something that could actually change things starting at the very beginning, teaching new prospects how to actually be safe, qualified and professional truckers, not teaching them how to pass the CDL exam.

    For some reason or another, Ferro has willingly kicked that can down the road.

    For years now. Years.

    Other proposed rules get spit out in short order, but no one at that agency seems to know what to do about new driver training standards.

    The Megafleets do. not. want. anyone to make it more difficult for them to find “qualified” drivers, they want to keep things as they are.

    If carriers have to compete to find actual professionally trained drivers instead of hiring anyone with a clean drug screen and a shiny new CDL, driver pay will rise and they know it.

    Then also, the type of person attracted to this industry will be of better caliber.

    For now, it’s easier for fleets to run or ally themselves with diploma mills that are graduating people who get into trucking because they really did run out of options in life, and bow howdy it shows.

    Some of the tales told to me by new hires as to why they chose trucking are truly enlightening.

    And not in a good way.

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    You started out on the docks.
    Then you were a hostler. You might have changed tires and oil for a bit, too.
    You went out as a driver/helper.
    Then you got to drive.

    By the time you took that wheel for yourself the very first time, you already knew what trucking was all about, you weren’t flipping burgers six weeks before.

  • guest

    I agree Stinky truckers……the new Norm is the above mentioned. Trucking has become a Joke actually. It is Depressing enuff for sure. These jack asses are your “colleagues”, contemporaries….if you will. How hilarious…and Embarassing….never tell anyone you are a truck driver….they will immediately think you are Pathetic.

  • Viki

    ummm. Gal, sounds as if u had my driver trainer (was his 2nd student(& female & he drove garbage truck b4). Nick ‘hotshot’ B was not a nice guy; his closed P bottle fell on my head & out of Top Bunk one time. He had another driver trainer who had full body case of Shingles roll around in bottom bunk & company insisted finish 4 weeks with him or else be long time b4 get driver trainer back out where I lived. Shingles was very painful but I managed to hang in there.
    However, Nick didnt/doesn’t thankfully represent vast majority of professional drivers. Plus, it’s that 14hr sand clock preventing drivers from getting a shower on daily basis bcaus they get stuck wherever & not trkstop.
    Plus plus fact that many companies do not reimburse driver nowadays for shower & add that to only permitted to fuel one brand of truck stop for volume agreement reduced price per gallon… & you get a situation where trucker has to use bottled water to wash hair. And they want to hike fuel tax!?!?
    Some fellas fast jump in/out shower fuel lane.

    Stinking new rules hav every1 heading 4 shower same time.

  • Viki

    ?Wld it help to require CDL holders to be BONDABLE? ? No more VISA CDL? ? Camera & security alarm system SOLAR POWERED mandated for all trucks by 2015? ? Why are Truckers expendable ‘canary in hole’ doing CTPAT? Why Shld I have to deal with ire & complaints from illegal driving CDL types because my true ELOGS makes theirs suspect? Heck why hav paper log either. I can recall some Slowest Wagon In Fleet company drivers getting uglier than ugly in my face for logging driving just as & how it happened. Before logs folks used ‘common sense’. Maybe in a hi-tech/science R&D driven world, CDL Drivers must be given sleep deprivation testing for having a psychobioorganism/body that will accommodate driving all kinds of hours?…
    ? How about If Driver CDL can’t hack irregular driving hours then they get CDL Restricted & can’t drive OTR & MUST get shift driving within small delivery region & home at night? VISA Divers (if continued) shld/must be in this category!

    ?Another group less at issue with sleep deprivation gets home once a week?

    And how about give folks who pass sleep deprivation testing with flying colors the green light for OPEN ROAD LONG HAUL OTR TRUCK? YEAH give OTR LONG HAUL driving b a c k to native born USA drivers for reasons of National security… especially as it relates to hauling HAZMAT & OVERSIZE loads!

    And we need 2 discuss CSA & HOS Rules not distract from real concerns with a rant about… oh, let me guess… your ‘ex’?

    If am wrong, ok, but plz. how about that CSA & those HOS related comments?…
    Little over day left.

  • viki

    Agreed

  • v

    Agreed.
    Cars drive death wish crazy around rigs all too often. Find turning camcorder LIGHT on even day time & rotating it so aggressive driver SEEs CAMCORDER & COMPREHENDS fact he will demonstrably be evidenced as being AT FAULT works really GREAT!

  • Viki

    Apprenticeship… Yup. Bring it back.

  • ironage

    When you pay shit wages…you get shit people. Simple as that.

  • Sheri Hoffman-Sautter

    Trucking school was only 3 weeks for some