Quality vs. Quantity

A Mississippi trucker who drives for a major fleet called a couple of months ago to relay a story about a driver who drove his truck while he was away from work. He said his company regularly hires drivers from a temp service when someone has to be out for sickness or vacation.

He said the driver who had spent a couple days in his truck had left his log book in the sleeper – the sleeper where he had logged the same hours driving and asleep. “Heck, he even logged 29 hours of driving at one time,” the puzzled full-time driver reported. “I can send you his log book.”

While he never sent the log book to us, he seemed sincere about his concerns even though he was laughing when he recounted his discovery.

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t call Truckers News to register a comment about the lack of quality drivers in the trucking industry. Many truckers take it personally when other drivers – through their inexperience, words, actions or lack of common courtesy – cast any kind of shadow over their profession.

Whenever the driver shortage comes up, the focus almost always seems to be on quantity. But truckers put their emphasis on quality, not warm bodies to fill driver’s seats. It’s because they have a vested interest in the profession. The roadways, shipping and receiving docks and truckstops are their workplace. Trucking is their livelihood.

It’s an age-old problem that transcends trucking, and a concern in every profession in the world: There are always going to be a certain number of people in any field who are the weak links. Most are quickly weeded out through a lack of job performance.

The remainder who perform at less than par and escape the survival of the fittest, unfortunately, are the ones you most often hear about. They drive dangerously and show disrespect for authority and others on the roadway. They are the ones the general public and the media often point to as the “stereotypical” trucker.

Fortunately, flaws like inexperience – as long as they don’t endanger the lives of others – usually take care of themselves in time. A quality person will learn from mistakes and use them to build character.

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Problems with people’s attitudes are harder to correct, but showing fellow drivers how to act more professionally is time well spent. Lead by example. There are several trucking companies with driver-mentoring programs that have shown positive results.

Still, there are more “quality” truckers out there than “bad” truckers. Flip through any issue of this magazine and you’ll find a wealth of stories about drivers who go the extra mile to do a professional job, help others and promote a positive image of trucking.

Of course, there are always going to be a few people who lack the motivation and work ethic to bring integrity to their job and themselves. But those people are not limited to the trucking industry. It’s the law of averages at work.

Most people have redeemable character traits. It’s up to all of us to help those around us to build upon those traits.

While the temp driver mentioned earlier was no doubt in over his head, he did have at least one thing going for him. The caller said that when the young trucker-wannabe finally got his load to its destination, he asked the receiver to back the tractor-trailer up to the dock for him. “I didn’t do very well at alley docking in truck driving school,” he said.

Well, at least he’s honest.