I'm dedicating this article to my father-in-law, Harold O. MacDonald, who worked in the trucking industry for more than 30 years, and retired with a good pension plan which continued from his retirement at age 65 until his death at age 93 in 2002. He spoke very often and with great fondness of the people he worked with and how highly he regarded the company and its attitude to their employees.
Should you ever find the time to sit down with an "old timer" truck driver and listen to the tales of "the good ole' days" in trucking, you just may be surprised at how the industry has changed.
You will hear stories of how drivers worked together and created the "brotherhood" between the professional trucker; tales of camaraderie and respect as well as pride in their chosen profession.
In those days, there were no barrier between the driver and motor carrier. The trucking company and truck driver worked as a team with each one valuing the other and sharing the same respect. They understood that each needed the other and worked together for both of their success. The driver asked for an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, and the carrier delivered on their promise. As difficult as it is to believe, in day's past, the truck driver and motor carrier were actually friends.
In those days, the trucking company knew the driver by name, understanding that they had bills to pay and a family to support and the company did its best to "take care" of their drivers. In "the good ole' days" of trucking, there existed an unspoken bond between trucker and carrier, each realizing their dependence on each other and even more so, appreciating with each had to offer.
As deregulation hit the industry, the shared respect slipped away and the brotherhood began a slow descent toward extinction. Customer service meant nothing as the industry fought for survival and money became the primary focus. Mega-sized motor carriers formed and for many, the truck driver was transformed into nothing more than a pawn as one truck driver shared his thoughts on today's trucking career:
"The industry has destroyed driver's rights and wages, perpetuated market corruption, and let insurance companies dictate policy. The industry is weakening families with unnatural and damaging work schedules."
As the U.S. trucking industry became a "dog eat dog world", many motor carriers distanced themselves from their former practice of honesty, integrity and character. Understanding that a business is in business to make money, they took it one step further by discarding such values and their primary objective evolved into doing whatever it took to grow larger and more powerful, all off the backs of the hardworking truck driver.
Government truck driver training subsidies, ranging between $50,000 and $222,000 led to the practice of starving out drivers and money-making programs such as the trucking company lease purchase became the newest transportation discovery. CDL truck driver training schools and so-called "company paid training" programs evolved into a multi-million dollar business within a multi-billion dollar industry, all with the promise of an exciting, high paying career.
Potential new drivers to the industry became nothing more than a dollar sign and the formation of cheap freight led to the downfall of the spirit of entrepreneurship for an unknown number of truck owner operators. Trucker Joe Jones is now known as driver number 265443 and recent CDL graduates are expected to work for .25 cents per mile. Veteran drivers have seen truck driver pay go virtually unchanged for nearly 30 years and the bond between motor carrier and truck driver has diminished into retaliatory games such as the DAC report.
All of this and more having been thrown upon the back of the professional truck driver by an industry which largely continues to regard the CMV driver as nothing more than "unskilled labor." Although some motor carriers still strive for excellence and understand that drivers are their greatest distinction, far too many fail to follow their lead.
I contend that trucking companies do not move America, but truck drivers do. I understand that motor carriers are very much needed by way of providing jobs to millions of Americans, but I would recommend providing careers, not "jobs."
Understand that truckers can move on to other jobs and even though you may have built a successful business ... without truck drivers ... you would have no business.
There is no contesting the fact that without truck drivers, America stops.
Copyright 2012, Allen Smith. All Rights Reserved.