Copyright Sandy Long
The definition of anachronism is: a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially: one from a former age that is incongruous in the present. Old hand drivers like me are becoming the anachronism of trucking; we no longer fit the industry.
The image of the old time driver; that of being strongly independent, able to make decisions on their own, able to work without constant supervision was true and necessary to the way trucking used to be. Truckers had to be independent and able to make decisions and work without supervision because there was no technology around to do this for them.
We were the captains of our own ships and had no one to hold our hand except for the occasional call to dispatch or to the shop if we broke down and could not fix the problem ourselves. That occasional call was not from a cell phone or satellite communication device either; to find a phone, one often had to hitch hike or walk then stand in line for an available pay phone.
What made us icons that were featured in movies and glorified us and the trucking industry is now our down fall. No longer is what made the old time driver special or unique now wanted or necessary; we old hands have to adapt now or leave trucking itself.
Where once individual independence was looked for in a driver, now drivers who can fit into a business model of cookie cutter drivers who all drive the same, use the same technology and who can fit into a mold are wanted. Today’s generation of drivers are trained to use satellite systems that tell them where to load, fuel, and stop to sleep and where and when to deliver the load. The only individuality that is overlooked is that of what a driver wears or how they look. Companies no longer care much about those things as they once did except now if one is too fat or has a too high BMI, some will not hire the driver.
Today’s drivers at most companies cannot talk to a dispatcher and develop a relationship with them. Dispatch is just the fingers on the keys of the computer and the driver is just the person in the seat. If there is a problem serious enough for a driver to have to call in on a landline or cell phone, there is no personal touch anymore. Lord help the driver that tries to stand up for what is right and tries to speak to the higher ups in the company about it. They are automatically DAC’d or worse as ‘not complying with company policy’ or some other such black mark.
Instead of taking a real look at the driver in a personal way; the personnel office looks at a DAC report and decides whether to hire the driver or not. Get too many bad reports on DAC and you do not work for the company; no one asks what your side of the story is as they did in the past. Computer reports cannot lie or be wrong can they?
Back in the day, a long time driver was looked for and one that had longevity at a company was offered top dollar to come to work for another company. This year, a friend of mine with 20 years at one company and a clean record was told by 5 other companies when he was looking for a new company to work for, “you are too set in your ways to learn ours’ and was not even considered for a job.
Within the next year or so, black boxes will likely become standard equipment on trucks. These boxes will include electronic logging features. Drivers will become even more scrutinized than ever before with every stop questioned and recorded and they will be told where and when to do everything by an impersonal computer run by someone that doesn‘t know the driver.
In no way do I think that today’s and the future’s drivers are or will be bad; just different than we old hands are. That may or may not be a good thing; it depends on who or what a person is and thinks. Today’s drivers will perhaps have an easier time than we did in the past driving trucks with all the bells and whistles of modern technology. I sure hope so for their sakes.
I am not adverse to change if done for good reasons, but the changes go deeper in the near future of trucking. The changes coming go into who and what I am and how I am made as they do other old hand drivers still driving after years of service to the trucking industry. We could not have survived the early days of our careers as truckers by being other than what we are and how we are made. I wonder if we old hands will be able to survive and adapt to the new world of trucking as it comes or if we will be anachronistic icons only remembered in old movies as the strongly independent, unique individuals we are with the look of far horizons in our eyes. It remains to be seen.