If it looks like a polished turd, it’s probably a polished turd

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One of the best parts of our public interactions with the trucking industry is being able to encourage and direct young drivers towards good resources for education and information. We’re always happy to help anyone of any age who is willing to dive into this sea of crazy, but we really try to promote the positive to the younger drivers – because we’re going to need them to be the ones mentoring in a few years when all us old folks have dropped dead from the stress of mentoring and promoting the positive in a sea of crazy.

I kissed a truck editSee how that works?

We had the opportunity to speak to a young driver at a recent show we attended, a 24-year-old baby-face kid who was prouder than hell to tell George he got an offer with a “major carrier” to do a “dedicated” account. Notice the quotations. This sounds like a great offer for a kid right out of driving school, until I fill in the “blanks” with vague information like “the major carrier has lots of red trucks” and “the dedicated account includes roll-tainers and midnight blindside backs from two lanes in places you never knew existed, much less required a discount store.”

And when I mentioned “roll-tainers,” pretty much anyone with more than a year of experience is screaming in their head, “Don’t do it, kid! You’ll put your eye out!”

For the unaffiliated, or those who use the correct term for the thing and have no idea what I’m talking about, a roll-tainer is a medieval killing machine on wheels, designed by Satan to make unloading a truck even harder by dodging 40,000 pounds of dollar-store items in giant metal cages on wheels that never stay locked.

It just so happens that George had some personal experience to share with the young driver, because he was just as happy to be offered the same dedicated account, by the same major carrier, when he was brand-new out of driving school. Unfortunately, no one had any personal experience to share with him about it, so he took the job actually thinking it was what the recruiter told him it was – an excellent opportunity to put a little more work in and make a lot more money. (Again, the veterans are screaming in their heads, “Don’t do it, George!”)

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I have heard him tell the story of showing up at the DC for the first time, and it never gets old. You have to understand that he doesn’t exaggerate much, he leaves all that up to me. So when he tells this story, he’s telling the truth.

He says he got a bad feeling when he walked inside and about 80 percent of the employees in the dock were bandaged up in some way, shape or form. He said he noticed a lot of broken arms, a lot of people on light duty, pushing brooms and doing things they make you do when you’re busted up, but not bad enough for disability. He blew it off, went into the office to grab his paperwork, and hooked up to his loaded trailer.

First stop is a blindside back off a two lane on the side of mountain in West By God Virginia. No problem – hits it and is feeling pretty good about things. Runs into the store to make contact before docking, and notices once again – nearly everyone there is bandaged, limping, or casted on one of their extremities. He jokes with the manager about everyone at their DC being on light duty, and gets a dirty look. He gets his paperwork settled, goes out to open the trailer doors before backing all the way in, and is nearly killed by a loose roll-tainer.

OK. Maybe I exaggerated that a little, but he immediately realizes why everyone he’s come into contact with is injured. He also immediately realizes “a little more work” and “a lot more money” are totally subjective ideas and that he had probably been talked into taking the polished turd account because he was a newbie and eager to succeed.

George kept the account for three months without losing any vital parts of his person, and he’ll tell you to this day that he did some of the most insane backing he’s done in his career on the account. He learned and matured as a driver enough to know when it was time to go into the office and tell his dispatcher he wanted off the account, because it wasn’t what they said it was. When they told him they didn’t have anything else, he put his keys on the desk, thanked them for the opportunity and told them he was leaving. Amazingly enough, they found him another account to work, and he went on the to fabulous fun of hauling liquor, which is another story entirely.

It’s hard to tell someone so excited about something the truth about it, but the industry would be retaining a helluva lot more new drivers if they did. And instead of screaming, “Don’t do it, kid!” it’s probably better to tell him to go ahead and do it, but prepare the poor kid for it a little so he or she doesn’t get smashed by a roll-tainer on their first run out. Everyone has to start somewhere, even if it’s with the polished turds. It’s learning the difference and sticking with it that helps create professional drivers. Invest in your future by helping them get there.