By Sandy Long
Recently the question was asked, “Why do drivers get so defensive?” The thread where this was asked was about how some in social networking pages and forums get hot under the collar so quickly during discussions. This question struck me as funny in a way because the asker should know the answer. So, I decided to answer the question publically.
Truck drivers are most likely some of the most opinionated, strong willed people in the world. We put our lives on the line daily by the minute and just in that, we cannot be anything other than strong both physically and mentally. We are isolated in our jobs for the most part and many of us, over time, lose some of the social niceties required in polite society.
Our lifestyle and our financial living hang on the mood of the officer stopping us, the actions of those around us and our companies who are running scared in the increasing regulatory world of trucking. Companies have not lost the idea that drivers are a dime a dozen while talking about driver retention and driver shortage yet not getting us home for regular hometime, setting up road blocks to our receiving fuel and safety bonuses and getting enough miles to survive. On the other hand, companies expect for us to deliver just in time freight while under the microscope of e-logs or screaming about ‘running legal’ after sitting for 6 hours at a shippers pulling the rabbit out of the proverbial hat to make sure ‘contractual agreements’ are met.
Because of the lack of good training regulations, companies have jumped on the bandwagon of the training companies, read the mega companies, and taken everything down to the lowest common denominator no matter what the driver’s experience level is; they treat even safe, experienced drivers as if they are the newest student drivers who need to be micromanaged. Satellite tracking, electronic logs, micromanagement of time and maximization of hours all combine to a driver having to account for every minute of their workday down to explaining why they stopped for four minutes to urinate.
Truck drivers have become so hated by the general public through sensationalistic reporting by the media and misstating of statistics by the government that the trucker while in a truck stop has to hear people saying things like a friend related. She was in the restroom and heard a mother say to her child, “Now you make sure you don’t touch anything, those nasty truck drivers use this bathroom.”
I have been waiting in line at truck stops and hear non-trucking people complain about us truckers being there in the first place, at a Pilot a lady said, “I do not know why you allow those dangerous truckers in here!” At a Flying J a man said, “I wish these ‘effin’ truckers would go someplace else!” My favorite from a fuel desk manager at the J in Des Moines, “I would rather deal with 100 tour buses than you truckers any time, this is a travel plaza not a truck stop!” Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it.
Even though we do a public service for our country by delivering goods needed by all, our own country is out to get us through overwhelming regulations even though statistics show that we are the safest drivers on the road. Part of the reason for this is the impact of special interest groups who have the sympathetic stand of losing someone in an accident with a truck no matter who was at fault. Part of the reason for this is the need for more money to flow into municipal, state and federal coffers and the rest is to improve big business’s bottom line.
Through increasing regulation, the government appears to expect us to be robots who do not need any contact with anyone while driving, do not need to eat or drink, use the bathroom, or do anything other than sit in the seat, look straight ahead yet have total control over the actions of every other vehicle around us. God forbid someone else screws up and causes an accident anywhere in our vicinity, we will be blamed for it, chased down and ticketed, then sued by the people at fault who will win. We are not humans any longer, but just meat in the seat.
Compare prices of food in a truck stop against food in other comparable restaurants. Truck stops will charge more for a fast food burger than non-trucking stores. You notice I do not use a different type of food, no, truck stop chains have figured out that they can make more money renting space than having restaurants themselves so we can get a sit down meal. Yet we are blamed for being fat and lazy because we gain weight as truckers due to the prevalence of fast food and pre-packaged meals. That brings up another factor…our health.
Trucking is hard on the body being the ninth most dangerous job in the country. Occupational hazards include stress related issues such as heart problems, digestive problems, hypertension, diabetes and mental health issues. Then there are the structural issues such as hearing and vision problems, bad backs, arthritis and limps caused by hours of using the same leg to push in the fuel pedal. Let’s not forget those injuries received from falls, kidney problems and skin infections from both sun exposure and sitting on vinyl for too long. All of these issues happen to truckers after awhile, now there are plans afoot to take away our livelihood if we have these types of issues.
So, why do truck drivers get defensive so easily? It might be because we are under attack from all sides, by people with special agendas, even by our companies, which are only to our detriment. It might be because we are totally off balance due to our jobs, the ways we are treated and the economy. It might be because by the time we have time to get online to try to relax, we get fed up quickly with finding the same sort of attitudes against us even there, where we are in control and can express ourselves freely. It is a safety valve of sorts in some ways and in other ways, the only way we can feel we can fight back.