My editorial, ‘Just a Thought’ in the latest issue of Diesel Magazine seems to have hit a nerve. There has been a lot of reaction to my call for a campaign to improve the public perception of drivers in the trucking industry. The negative stereotype of trucking means we are hamstrung when lobbying to get improvements for our industry.
This week has seen a prime example of just I was talking about, with well known writer Nikki Gemmell using her column in The Australian to lay out all of her misconceptions and prejudices about the truck driving community.
Nikki has written a number of well received novels tackling difficult issues about which she feels strongly and thinks deeply. However, when it comes to truckies, it all comes down to talking about ‘bully boys’, ‘mad truckie’ and ‘demented tactics’. She continues to stereotype us by mentioning the use of ice and trucks driving over the speed limit.
Trucking people’s first reaction is to point out how she is wrong. Her speedo probably reads 100 at 94 km/h, she insists on traveling in the middle lane at this speed and, apparently, only has two points left on her license, why?
To react in this way is to miss the point. If we just need to convert Ms Gemmell, just get her to ride in the passenger seat of a truck for a couple of days and she will understand just what is going on. The fact is, Nikki’s article is just an indicator of what is going on in the heads of car drivers around our trucks, and informing their voting decisions on transport issues.
The need to change this whole way of thinking is a massive issue for everyone involved in the trucking industry. We need the general public to respect trucks and truckies, to understand the issues involved in traveling on the same road as a truck. This is not going to be easy, real respect has to be earned.
We need to work hard on the media front. The only stories which make it onto the daily news are negative ones of ice addicted nut-jobs. When they occur, there is not a credible source, in which the TV crews are interested, able to grab some screen time and put the opposite point of view in an easy-to-understand and entertaining way.
We do have some who are doing their very best, like Rod Hannifey who sometimes gets on TV and manages to sound sensible and genuinely committed to road safety around trucks. He is out there, doing it all on his own, with little or no institutional support busting a gut to balance the story.
The trucking industry does have the ATA Safety Truck, which does sterling work in getting the young people coming through, on board with a positive trucking image. The message is good, but another lone voice in the wilderness.
These initiatives are all well and good, well intentioned and effective on a small scale. How are we going to turn around the millions of Nikki Gemmells out there? We need a way for trucking to get the message out, and improve road practice by getting rid of the rogues, which cuts through the fog of ignorance which surrounds us. Any ideas? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org