We have an image issue….and we are to blame

Powerful loaded classic big rig white day cab semi truck with vertical exhaust pipes transporting wire rolls on the flat bed semi trailer running on the multiline wide highway road

The image of the Trucking Industry is one of those topics that have been discussed by those inside the industry as long as I can remember. When I first started driving 28 years ago the CB chatter was full of talk about the image of the driver, how it wasn’t like it was in the good old days, that drivers were not as good as they used to be, and how no one respected the job a driver did.

This topic, along with the “driver shortage” is one that never seem to go away. I have presented my view on the driver shortage many times before, so I wont rehash it again in this article. The image in general however, why is it what it is, and how can we change it? Perception is reality as they say, and if the profession of a driver is considered a job of last resort to those who are outside of the industry, to them, that is reality.

Some of the reasons for this image, are of our own doing and have to do with the way some companies in our industry treat drivers, and the way they operate their business. We have heard for years how drivers will get to a shipper or receivers’ location and not be allowed to use their facilities, and in some instances, there is not even a porta potty for them to use. Good carriers who respect their drivers will never allow this to occur and will ensure the issue is resolved or stop doing business with them.

We all know there are carriers out there who encourage their drivers to break the HOS rules to get a load delivered on time, and those same carriers are the ones who will not pay their drivers for waiting time or any other time the wheels are not turning. Why? They undercut bids of a compliant carrier and try to make ends meet by placing the burden and sacrifice on the drivers to make the load profitable. These same type of business practices are also what keep rates down, and in turn keep profit down for carriers and pay down for drivers. Currently we have an explosion of the Driver Inc. Model. Let’s be blunt and call this what it is, you can try and pretty this up any way you want to make it sound legitimate, but we all know the majority of the examples out their today using this model are not legitimate.

If the company owns the truck, pays all the bills for that truck, supplies you with all your work and directs your every move, you are an employee, plain and simple. To say you are an independent contractor just because you incorporate yourself is bull and we all know it. It is just an illegal scheme to avoid paying taxes by the carrier and the driver. This practice must be stopped, and we all need to be part of stopping it. If you know of a carrier using it illegally, report them. There are some in the industry justifying using it by saying that is the only way they can compete…if this is your tagline, you are part of the problem, not the solution. Breaking the law is never justified, if that was the case, we all can come up with justifications as to when we will and won’t follow the rules, and this is not acceptable. If these problems exist inside our industry, and we know about it and talk about, these issues and concerns will make it to those outside our industry, and it is our job to correct these problems.

As a driver, it is your job to act professional, respect yourself, your fellow driver, and the Industry. If you work for a carrier who doesn’t stand up for your rights, leave. There are plenty of carriers out here who will treat you right and respect you, help them stay in business, not the non-compliant ones. If you are the majority of the carriers out there who do things properly, follow the rules, respect your drivers andstand up for their rights, advertise it and use it as part of your recruiting, both inside and outside of the Industry. There are to many great people in this industry, and to many great Fleets and drivers in the industry to let ourselves get dragged down by the minority who have no respect for the rest of the industry. Let’s weed them out, take ownership of our Industry and make sure the general public knows how great a career path this industry can provide for them if they choose wisely when they enter.

Mike grew up on a beef farm in rural Southwestern Ontario in Huron County and began his career in the Trucking Industry in 1990 at the age of 18. Mike spent three years working for a local carrier Hauling Livestock and bulk agriculture products. At the age of 21 Mike went to work for a long Haul Refrigerated and general freight carrier and spent 5 years hauling freight in all 48 US Mainland States and 6 Canadian Provinces. The Carrier then opened a Certified Driver Training School in 1998 and Mike came off the road to become one of the Schools First Certified Driver Trainers. In 2000 Mike Transitioned into Safety and Compliance for the Fleet, while still working part time as a Trainer for the School. In 2002 Mike moved over to a Private Fleet and became the Safety, Compliance, Maintenance and Training manager for the Hensall District Co-operative’s Commercial Trucking Fleet. Mike spent the next 12.5 years with Hensall and oversaw the Fleets as it grew from 40 Trucks in 2002 to over 160 in 2015. In January of 2015 Mike moved into the Trucking Association business and was named the President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, where he remains in his current role.