By Sandy Long
When someone decides to become active in issues whether by writing a representative, attending a listening session with the FMCSA or being interviewed by a reporter, they have to guard their words carefully and rein in their anger. If someone does not get their point across clearly and concisely, or attacks the person they are trying to influence, two things happen; 1) what you are trying to accomplish will not be listened to correctly 2) the person who you are trying to influence will shut down due to going on the defensive or becoming angry.
Case in point, at one of the listening sessions with the FMCSA it was repeatedly stated by drivers that they could not make any money without running illegally. Now you or I would understand as drivers that it is not about the money as much as about what is expected of us. I doubt the FMCSA heard it like that though, they only heard run illegally. In addition, the attitude of some of the drivers speaking was hostile towards Anne Ferro. Now to be honest, I am as frustrated as the rest of you, but know that people do not pay attention to what is being said behind the anger or frustration, the message is lost.
While we are speaking about the listening sessions, the issue of flexibility kept coming up in regards to the HOS. While being able to take a shower or nap during the day is important to us drivers; we drivers also know that it is more about safety than anything else, yet that did not come across clearly. Few talked about how much safer we would be, and the highways would be, if we could park up and wait out rush hours, sunrises/sunsets, weather etc., since the FMCSA touts safety, that would have been a better way of approaching the issue of flexibility.
How to get your point across clearly is fairly simple; make a list of the main topics you want to cover in depth before you get to the event, listening session or interview…or write that letter. Remember that most of the people you will be addressing might know a little about the industry as a whole, but have never driven a truck in their lives. They are also not familiar with trucker speak, so you have to be totally clear and concise. Be prepared to answer questions that someone might ask.
As far as the anger and frustration goes, take this little test. Remember when someone, it might have been a parent, a spouse, significant other or boss, yelled at you about something. Then remember how you felt and reacted. You might have reacted with your own anger or you might have gotten emotional and cried or wanted to cry, but you did not listen to what they were saying beyond their angry words or attitude. People do not learn in a hostile environment nor do they listen closely to the message you are trying to impart if they are negatively confronted.
Times are tough in the industry and there is a need for people to stand up and speak out, but to do so effectively, not to shoot themselves in the foot while doing so. Those wounded foot types might get a pat on the back from other rambos, but in reality they do more harm than good.