The well-worn expression telling us to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water has never been more relevant to the trucking industry than it is today. We have moved into the 21st century, and the old ways of doing things are no longer possible. There has to be a culture of safety and accountability throughout the industry sector, but let’s not let all of the past behaviours get thrown out.
One of the reasons many people stay in the trucking industry for so long is not because they are getting well paid or have a cushy job, it’s because they are a member of a community. When I joined the community back in 1977, there were plenty of things wrong with the industry and some of the work practices we used would get you shot in the current climate.
Nevertheless, the community spirit was there and once you proved yourself capable or willing, or both, there was an acceptance and a fellowship which came along with it. This fellowship took the form of someone pulling up and jumping on the bar to help shift a sticky wheel nut, or holding the corner of the tarp on a windy day until it was secure.
This also happened at the business level. Yes, there are always cutthroat deals going on and some crazy undercutting when times are tough, but there is a certain – unwritten – code and if you break the rules, forgiveness is hard to find.
Rose-tinted spectacles and the candy-coated memories of a truckie past his prime? Perhaps, but the code is still out there, it can be heard every night in the common courtesies on the UHF radio between drivers all trying to get the job done and home safe. It is there in the tireless work of many individuals running convoys and truck shows with a community spirit and charitable intent, which is highly commendable.
The 21st-century world is a lot more cynical and there is a much more self-centred philosophy prevalent throughout society. Even though society has changed and individuals are more litigious and happy to blame others for issues, there are still some charitable and gallant instincts remaining strong and vibrant in the trucking community.
We have to be careful we don’t lose this; it’s one of the things which make working in trucking a bit special. We don’t have the luxury of hoards of young people banging on the doors trying to get into the industry.
We need every able body we can get, as all of these rose-tinted spectacle–wearing, ageing truckies drop off the perch. We need anyone who has felt rejected in broader society, or is a bit of an outsider, uncomfortable in less-welcoming professions, to feel welcomed into a real community.
There is room for some real human warmth, even in the non-stop, over regulated, productivity- and safety-driven modern industry we now inhabit. If we don’t keep some of those older values we are just the same as every other industry and will continue to lose the battle to get more young talent working in trucking.