Driver Ambassador: Where Do Truckers Go to Have a Voice in Decisions?
by Kellylynn McLaughlin, on Jan 31, 2022 4:17:31 PM
Take a listen to the podcast version below.
As those in the trucking industry know, the Post-Trip Inspection is a time to check and see if anything has changed with your equipment since you began your trip and if there are any items that need to be addressed before continuing on down the road. It’s a time to reflect, assess, and plan what’s next.
Recently, I was driving down the road getting my windshield time in and I found myself reflecting on an interaction I had with my state trucking association several years ago. Naively, I had contacted my state’s trucking association and asked how I could become a member. I was looking to build my professional network, learn more about my state’s supply chain and who the “players” were, and basically get involved.
I checked out their website and didn’t find a link to join as an individual so I just called directly. I was told that membership was only offered to corporate entities and if my employer was a member, then I might have an avenue open to me to participate in the trucking association. That was not the answer I expected, and I was a bit shocked, but mostly confused.
Curiosity killed the cat they say…and I just had to find out if this was standard practice. I contacted the trucking associations of all 50 US states and found one (1) that offers an individual membership for professional drivers. A big shout out to the Louisiana Motor Transport Association for including the voices of their professional drivers! So I began wonder again — where do truckers go to have a voice in matters that affect our profession?
I’m not really one to just let compelling questions go unanswered…it’s just not in my nature and training. I have a long history of working at the grassroots level and with disenfranchised groups.
I happen to believe that information is good and we at WIT are a proponent of using data to support our goals and initiatives. I also believe that when more perspectives are included in decision making, the better the outcome will be. What do you think would happen if state trucking associations included drivers into their membership? Would the industry collectively move towards higher retention rates or be able to more effectively represent all the stakeholders at the decision making table? Granted, I know the answer is not that simple.
I do believe that I have a voice in the industry — as all of you do — mainly due to my own efforts. I have worked very hard to build my network, educate myself on the issues, foster professional relationships, get involved where I can, and found organizations to work with that value and encourage communication. As members of such a massive industry, I venture to guess most truck drivers do not feel like they have an avenue to have their voices heard. Social media is a tool which a few professional drivers have proven to be adept at using and have become Influencers. How often do social media posts translate into effective change or positive action?
I was quite lucky to have landed with a carrier that has an open door policy all the way up to the top. Company culture was not something that I thought to ask about during my interview. Of course my carrier doesn’t necessarily just do whatever or everything I suggest, but at least they are willing to listen and I have an avenue to voice my perspective. I have noticed that if enough drivers say the same thing, eventually that does translate into action…albeit sometimes slowly, but big ships change direction slowly.
There are so many facets of the freight movement industry that I find rewarding and wonderful — and I will be the first one to stand up and shout that I love my job! Still, I am constantly thinking about how to make this industry even better for our professional drivers. Not that I think I have all the answers but some things just strike me as obvious … like paying drivers for all of the work they perform (not just rolling miles) or how about CDL and onboarding training conducted in a quality learning environment (which to me means trainers that are excellent teachers, safe equipment, paid training, 100% supervised training, and zero tolerance for harassment).
I am honored to have been able to be part of and included in so many important industry conversations, panels and presentations. A Professional Company Driver Association does not yet exist for us to join, so finding a place for your voice can be a bit challenging. We truck drivers have a strong work ethic and handle challenges everyday…we can do this!
If you are a driver, I encourage you to not just sit around and hope for change. Be proactive — do something, say something, participate in your company’s driver surveys, write a letter, make a phone call, schedule a visit with one of your company’s decision makers, get involved in professional organizations like WIT, be the best member on the team. Share the positives about our industry while working to break down those unfortunate stereotypes that surround our industry. There is so much to be proud of and shout out!
If you are not a driver and work in other sectors of the industry, I challenge you to have a conversation with a driver, take a multi-day ride-along, pin a picture up at your desk of a driver that you know (or want to know) and keep them in the forefront of every decision you make. Think outside the box to make long lasting positive improvements to the industry: not just for today’s professional drivers, but for the future generations of drivers as well. Why not create a professional membership association for professional drivers that do not have their own authority? Or as a member of your state’s trucking association, consider joining together all the voices of transportation as Louisiana has done?
This is such an exciting and great time to be in the industry. Lots of attention is focused on us, technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, our current national administration’s attention is focused on us, so many smart problem solvers are tackling the complicated problems, and the opportunity for change is ripe!
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