Just like the 1960s TV comedy created by Mel Brooks, the trucking industry need to ‘Get Smart’ about the media and its dealings with our industry and its people. There are plenty of agendas out there, and pretty much every single one of them is anti-truck.
The agendas are characterised as being anti-truck, but from the point of view of those involved in trucking, the agenda seems to be anti-trucking, against the people of the industry and the job they do.
We can’t go out there and go knocking door to door talking to the general public to convince them the trucking industry is populated by nice people just like them, this is the 21st century. Perceptions these days are developed and created by the media people consume, whether it’s social media or the more traditional kind.
So, the answer is easy, get into the media, engage with everyone online, and get the message out there – we are not all evil, drug taking, polluting and aggressive. The optimistic view of the world would be to try and appear in the media and show a good public face often enough and the incremental process of changing the hearts and the minds of the general population, one by one, will get there in the end.
Not gonna happen! At the core of the fear and loathing of trucks and trucking is something much more visceral, a fear going back to ancient times which is more like instinct for many people. It is in using this basic discomfort, which the usual beat-up of truckies on shows like A Current Affair creates its impact.
Trucks are big, very big, and loud too. Ancient man, hunting on the plains of the ancient world learnt to stay out of the way of the mammoths that roamed there. They were to be feared. Then the hunters learned to cooperate, working in a group to follow, surround and spear the mammoth, bring it down and eat it.
Standing on a suburban pavement with a toddler and a stroller, a truck passing by can be pretty daunting. There is an immediate increase in anxiety, just from the sheer size of the thing, coming from an instinctive response. It is this initial response on which the media attitude to trucking feeds.
The general media know there is this element of fear, so it’s really easy to use this in a sensational story and pull in the viewers, using trucking as the big bad baddie. TV and mass media journalists don’t necessarily have a dislike of trucking, but they know a good button to push when they see one and terms like ‘monster trucks’ are hot buttons, which elicit an immediate visceral reaction.
How do we get over this? How can we stop this instinctive reaction? We can’t change history, we can’t make the trucks smaller. We can engage better with our community on every level. There are going to be a lot more trucks on the road in the next 30 years the trucking community has to actually work on its image, and work on it professionally, not in a series piecemeal, but limited, initiatives.