Driver appreciation, year-round

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Western Express driver Derek Dorsey

You spend two of your hours of service searching for an address that doesn’t seem to exist. You’ve called the agent three times, because the phone number on the bill of lading is wrong, and it’s fairly evident the address is, too. After waiting at an unmanned gate that bears the address the agent has given you, trying to get someone inside to answer the phone to the only other number the agent has — which happens to be an office contact, and it’s way past office hours — a security guard finally comes over to tell you no truck parking is allowed and ends up informing you the warehouse you seek recently closed and the new warehouse, the one waiting for what you have on your trailer, is across town.

You not only get the load there on time, you get unhooked and parked for your break and you do it legal. This all happens after you’ve driven a 500-plus-mile day, through cities and mountains and inattentive four-wheelers.

Just “one of those days” to a trucker. Hurry up and wait, get here, no, we really mean there. Mind reading would be a skill recommended on a realistic list of duties required to successfully navigate the career of truck driving. The hours are long, the work is hard and it’s a complete misconception that trucking is easy money.

September 14-20 is Driver Appreciation Week, and while those of us in the industry are aware of the impact it has on our lives, the general public still seems to have a problem connecting those big, scary trucks with everything on the shelves they need and want.

One of the keys to being appreciated is to appreciate yourself. Having pride in what you represent isn’t out of the question – just because you don’t have a boss breathing down your throat doesn’t mean you don’t work for someone. A tie isn’t necessary, but something as simple as a collared shirt and shoes that actually cover your toes go a long way in the public perception of truckers.

There are a lot of people out there doing it right. There are a lot who aren’t, but that’s true with any profession. The ones doing it right will always do it right, they’re professionals who take each experience as a learning tool and hone the skills they use to make a living. They would do it right if they were a garbage man or a brain surgeon, they’re dedicated to their chosen profession. We can only hope that at least some of those out there making everyone look bad by driving like idiots and leaving pee bottles all over the place will eventually either learn to act professionally or quit.

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Driver Appreciation Week is nice — it’s nice to be recognized, even if it’s pretty much exclusively within the industry. It makes more sense to develop a Trucker Appreciation Life, since we depend on trucks to make our journey here in the mortal coil such an enjoyable experience. The scope of things that wouldn’t work efficiently without the trucking industry isn’t even imaginable to most people.

Trucking isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It should be chosen as carefully as choosing to be a lawyer or a banker – not as “a job to do because there ain’t nothin else.” Behind the wheel of a loaded truck in traffic, a driver has just as much responsibility and commitment to protect human life as any nurse or EMT, and a much higher probability of outside interference while trying to do so.

Here’s to a deep and sincere appreciation for all the truckers out there doing it right, every day of the week, every month of the year. Your commitment and sacrifice keep people who don’t even think about what you do comfortable and safe. There’s a lot to be said for that, and it should be said every day.