By Sandy Long
An old proverb reads, ‘you reap what you sow’; too bad some companies and the government did not read proverbs 30 years ago before they started the systematic destruction of the American truck driver’s image. What they sowed is sure coming back to bite them in the backside.
Article after article tells of a serious driver shortage in the trucking industry. Even the general media got into the act with stories about thousands of trucking jobs going unfilled because Americans no longer want to enter trucking to drive truck. There are studies being done saying that young people do not want to drive cars much less become truck drivers though anyone who looks at the traffic on the roads would have to question that supposition. Companies are running around wringing their hands wondering how they are going to meet their contractual agreements if they cannot hire drivers. There is already some talk about future shortages if drivers are not found to keep things moving. Well, just what did they expect?
Truck drivers are made out to be the most ignorant, dirtiest, nastiest, foul-mouthed people in the country and unsafe to boot. In addition, truck drivers are said to be pedophiles, serial killers, rapists, predators, thugs, whoremongers, thieves, and every other evil negative thing one can imagine. These labels are advertised by lawyers, public safety groups, and the government and yes, even an association that supposedly supports the trucking industry and its companies.
The above must be true due to the government passing regulation after regulation spinning statistics and studies to support the above claims of a truck drivers terrible behavior; at least one has to infer that from the newspaper articles and such stating the government’s position that truckers are the cause of so many deaths a year. If the government says so, it must be true.
The general public has fallen for the rhetoric about truckers being such bad people. Mothers guide their kids away from being near drivers in truck stops and it is not unusual to hear them tell their kids not to touch anything because ‘those nasty truck drivers come in here.’ Truck drivers get more single finger salutes now than a kid pumping their arm to hear the air horn toot. A new warehouse wants to come to town; the citizens come out to state they do not want all of the truckers in town; and reporter after reporter are amazed that people do not want to become truck drivers?
Those citizens are raising the next workforce, it would not compute for them to encourage their kids to become truck drivers. Today’s kids want a good paying job, where they can have a life and have some pride in their job choice; not to be looked down on from the government to the companies they work for. Kids from trucking families might know differently, but not kids in general; they read the papers and listen to the news too.
Truckers have watched this occur for decades and while it hurts because truck drivers are basically good human beings; some have turned to humor to deal with the negative connotations that go with the job. Several years ago, a bumper sticker was seen on trucks that said, ‘if you meet my parents, tell them I am a piano player in a whorehouse, not a trucker.’ Bet everyone thought they were joking.
Between the disrespect, the overwhelming unfair regulations and attrition, experienced truck drivers are leaving the industry in droves. One has to laugh a little when the companies scratch their heads and cannot seem to understand why their trucks are sitting empty…uh duh, what just exactly did you expect? You can only beat a dog until it dies and you can only demonize a workforce for so long before no one wants to be in that workforce. Another old proverb the companies and the government should have heeded, ‘be careful what you wish for, it can backfire and bite you in the arse.’