We are always looking for this problem or that among the industry’s workforce, but perhaps we should be looking for self esteem among the truck drivers of Australia? Every year the pages of our magazines and websites are filled with stories about industry problems and the search for solutions.
Perhaps there are multiple problems constantly bugging everyone in and around trucking, but, perhaps, there are some underlying issues which feed into the mix and make problems greater and less tractable.
Having now spent 43 years working with and around trucks, I look back on my time behind the wheel and remember the good times and the chances to travel to places I would never have got a chance to see. This is all positive.
Then thinking about it a little longer I recall all of the times I tried to get out of trucking to try and make a go of it doing something else. From my secure position now, it is difficult to fathom why despite loving the job, we try so hard to get out of it. There must be something dysfunctional, either with us or the way the industry is organised.
When I eventually came off the road full time and lucked into a job where I wrote about trucks, tested them, but wasn’t working at the coal face all of the time, I relaxed about a lot of things.
What had changed? What was the difference between being pressured to meet deadlines by trucking customers and being harassed by a red-faced editor to get my story and pictures in immediately? Was there something in the culture which made this pressure worse?
What had changed was I wasn’t being put down all of the time, I wasn’t being treated as a second (or third class) citizen all of the time. yes, I was under pressure, but I was getting treated with respect.
This kind of bad treatment is not simply something which can occur just within an operation. It also comes to the fore with many of the people and organisations the driver has to interact with every day. In every situation, the truck driver is beholden and completely dependant on the whims of the person they are dealing with.
The loading situation depends on the freight being loaded on properly and in a timely manner. If you, as a driver, say one thing out of turn, the loading takes longer and is done with less care. At the other end the driver may sit in an interminable queue without access to simple things like toilets and food.
There is also a culture of leaving the driver in the dark about when and if they will be loaded or unloaded. Then there is the game of getting the load signed for, usually by someone hiding behind a small window in an air conditioned office, looking in the opposite direction.
Car drivers out on the highway hate truckies and blame them for many issues caused by the car drivers themselves. Roadside services can be dire for a truck driver, who will soon get the message they’re not wanted, when they can’t park there or use the facilities.
Then back out on the road, everyone is out to get you. The police are always looking for, and seem to enjoy, a chance to catch a truckie out, and the roads authorities, or a cohort with their ranks, were certainly very unpleasant in the past (although the NHVR assure me things are getting better).
All of this treatment can have the effect of creating low self esteem in the trucking workforce, where the endless put downs do exactly that, put you down. Low esteem generally depresses the psyche and the body.
This week this email has stories about improving mental health in the trucking industry and working with the problems of fatigue out on the highway. Is the way people in the industry are treated a major contributing factor to these issues? Should we be looking for self esteem and ways to improve it amongst the workforce?