1. a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art.
synonyms: likeness, resemblance
2. the general impression that a person, organization, or product presents to the public
synonyms: persona, profile, face, identity, front, facade, mask, guise, role, part;
If I asked each of you what your image of the professional truck driver is, most would say they were hard working, intelligent, courteous, professional individuals who were providing for their families and country. For the most part this is true.
BUT IS THAT HOW THE PUBLIC SEES US?
Sitting at a counter at a truck stop you will hear about the sacrifices we make out here on the road, as well as the encounters we had with the motoring public in general. The conversation at the truck counter will almost inevitably turn into a complaint session about how we are given such little respect as professional truck drivers, how the motoring public just doesn't understand how a big rig works, and how much goes into safely driving down the road in a 40 ton piece of machinery.
Many believe we are uneducated, unprofessional, pill-popping, unshowered, wreckless , law breaking outlaws who only care about ourselves. Talk to someone who isn't familiar with the trucking industry and they may think we just sit all day and look out the windshield, enjoying the sights. This couldn't be further from the truth, but we have to ask, where did the public get this image of the professional truck driver?
ONE BAD APPLE SPOILS THE WHOLE BUNCH
Newspapers and TV stations love to show the big rig crashes because of the carnage. It doesn't matter that trucks aren't usually responsible for the wreckage. In the eyes of the public, if there is a truck involved, it's the truck driver's fault. Those images can affect one’s perception.
The average person driving on the highways comes into contact with more commercial vehicles than they probably realize. With millions of trucks on the roads, it is easy to overlook them. Little thought is given to them until something happens that makes them stand out. That something is usually not how courteous the driver was, or how well they were managing their space. It is more than likely because a truck cut them off even though they were hanging out in our blind spot. Perhaps a big truck was in the way as someone was in a hurry to get to work because they left home late.
Maybe a big rig was riding inches off of their bumper, trying to intimidate them out of the way. We complain people don't understand how long it takes to stop a 40 ton machine, but would you believe it if you saw a truck doing this? I would think they could stop on a dime, after all, if a professional truck driver can ride that close, it must be safe, right? That one bad interaction is the only thing they will remember, even though they came into contact with dozens, possibly hundreds of trucks doing the right thing.
Possibly they went into a truck stop and got in line behind a driver that was a little "ripe". That driver may have just finished tarping a load in 90 degree heat with 95% humidity. We all know showers are expensive, but most of the public doesn't. All they know is that driver stinks, and their clothes are filthy. Forget the fact there are other drivers there, that one is the one they will remember.
It could be they heard a driver cursing someone out on a dock or in the office because the driver wasn't getting loaded or unloaded fast enough (we've all been there), and decided to take it out on the nearest person.
WE CAN OVERCOME THESE PERCEPTIONS
Be courteous, on the road and off. Perception is reality. If we act like we can stop on a dime, or that we own the road, that is how we will be perceived. Giving someone the right of way when safe to do so, even though we had it, may not only be the safe thing to do, but it may change someone's perception.
Stay as clean as possible. While this is most definitely difficult sometimes, it is worth the extra minute it takes. Body wipes, deodorant, and clean clothes go a long way and the people next to us will appreciate it.
Praise in public, criticize in private. Losing one's temper usually doesn't resolve the issue, and typically winds up with lines being drawn and each side digging in. This is difficult as well, but killing them with kindness works more often than not.
I don't mean for this to sound preachy, I know we are all out here working hard and doing the best we can to be safe and provide for our families. Nor do I think we should all wear ties and uniforms like they did in the 50's and 60's, (the tie thing does work for Team Run Smart Pro Henry Albert though, so maybe...?) but if each of us does our part to let people see how awesome Professional Truck Drivers really are, the image they have of us may change, and that's a good thing.