Being such a youthful driver, I easily acquired the handle early on of “The Kid” or “The California Kid”. Youth can be a great thing, but I have also embraced the struggle that comes with it as well. I wanted to work harder than anyone else in the industry that was my age, just to prove I was not just another “Kid” lost in the “sea of driver turnover”. I always found myself fighting to show that I was not to be compared to the stereotypes that my generation had acquired through its sense of entitlement and privilege.
The entire trucking profession has developed its own set of negative stereotypes in the eyes of many people out there. I was once asked what I thought was one of the biggest problems in the trucking industry and I answered, “I think the negative public image of our industry affects every aspect of trying to do business and be successful.” If you think about it, there are negative public images out there for almost everything we do as drivers; our appearance, what we eat, and even the way we drive.
One major aspect of this image is a driver’s personal appearance when in the public eye. I am not necessarily saying that you have to wear a suit and tie, although the tie does work well for some of my other fellow TRS Pros, but at least make yourself presentable. Believe it or not, the picture here is an example of what I see all too often at the warehouses I frequent. I do not know when this became the acceptable dress code for a professional driver while conducting business, but it needs to end now!
If I could wear a tie while driving my truck I would, as I love clean up every once in a while. With the scorching summer heat and the amount of drop and hook greasiness I encounter, it is not quite practical in my application. The following picture is an example of an acceptable work uniform that conveys a much better message than the previous picture. As you can see, this outfit says “How can I be of service?” rather than “Which way is the nearest shower and bed?”
Of course, the way we dress is only a small part of the equation to end a black cloud that hangs over the head of our industry. The way we drive affects how those on the road around us view us as either professionals or “crazy 18-wheelers”. When we drive, it is important to share the road with smaller vehicles, including motorcycles. Although they do not always show us the same courtesy, we should treat them the way we would want them to treat us.
Some other things that contribute to the public image of truckers are our “parked” activities. Leaving “bottles” lying around the truck stop or “bags” of “surprises” is not an acceptable way to dispose of personal waste. Truck stops are not the only places this type of activity happens in either. You can see bottles like this tossed to the side of the road and I even witness it from time to time at my carrier’s secure yard. It is not my favorite thing to have to dodge these “land mines” while searching for empty trailers in the dark!
It is images such as these mentioned that affect how we are treated from those both on the inside and outside of our industry. With just a small amount of extra effort and a little common sense, we can overcome this perception that has become “the norm” for the trucking industry. It is not a good thing that a lot of my new customers are often shocked to see a presentable, well-spoken driver when I get there to pick up or drop a load. Qualities such as this should be the norm for a professional driver and not the exception! We must continue to fight the negative stereotype and rise above to a new, more positive one for the good of the industry.