Don’t go toward the light, Carol Ann

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Remember the movie “Poltergeist,” from way back in the ’80s? (Quick synopsis: Little Carol Ann climbed into the television at the behest of a ghost, and her momma went swimming with a bunch of skeletons and a tiny medium, which in retrospect is pretty hilarious, forever changed the meaning of the phrase “This house is cleeeean,” right after Carol Ann went towards the light and climbed out of the ghost-y TV.) It was scary stuff for 30 years ago.

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You know what else is scary? The ’80s were 30 years ago. And you know what else was happening? A guy named Dan Baker was a decade into his trucking-specific speaking career. Mr. Baker is still using his abilities as a poet, storyteller and singer, to impart the idea that the driver is the most important part of any trucking equation, be it a small business or large fleet, and has worked as an industry consultant for more than 40 years now.

But let’s get back to 30 years ago, when Mr. Baker was speaking at an ATA event, attended and remembered by Transport Topics op-ed contributor Joe Chandler in a recent post. Chandler said Baker’s stress on the message “that we needed laser-like focus on taking care of drivers because they do the work the rest of us get paid for” remains the same today, even though it has been largely ignored by industry executives, who have continued to pay themselves more and more, while stagnating wages for their carriers.

Mr. Chandler goes on to extol the virtues of making the drivers the focus of every operation, and his well-written, yet somewhat wheedling opinion reminded me very much of the tiny medium (I giggled again) coaxing Carol Ann toward the light.

“Pleeeeease Carol Annnnn, pleeeease come back to usssssss. Go toward the liiiiiight Carol Ann! Weeee loooove yooooou!”

Except Mr. Chandler’s tiny medium (in my head) had the audacity to openly admit the industry executives paid themselves before they paid the drivers, even when they knew it was wrong, for 30 dang years. Besides the wheedling, he kind of acted like it was really no big deal, but, we really need you, Carol Ann, please, we love you, come towards the light.

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With all due respect, sir, I sincerely hope Carol Ann puts her foot in your rear end on the way out of this particular television.

If it has taken 30 years of hemorrhaging drivers to snap into the realization the eternal well is drying up for real — the very fleets who have participated in the practice of paying their executives well while drivers are once again forgotten are about to feel a whiplash of epic proportions they are fully unprepared for.

You might want to stick around and see just how bright that light gets before you crawl on out of there, Carol Ann. It may be worth the wait.