Here’s an interesting question for you: Why become a truck driver if you had to convince a group of young people why it’s a good profession? If you were in this position, what would you tell them? We’re surrounded by so much negative minutia that some of us never take the chance to truly appreciate what we do for our livelihood.
I’m going to start it off, but I encourage you to share your reasons for pounding the highway. Before we get started, just an FYI, my transportation career began with 10 years on the road doing long-haul, over a million miles accident free I might add, even though that was some time ago, so my reasons to get behind the wheel are dated, but I think they still apply today.
1. The opportunity to see North America while being paid for it, I realized it was an opportunity that not many get, and I loved it. I was barely out of school at the time, so my lifestyle was all about when the next paycheck was coming. By the time I was in my mid 20’s I had seen most of North America and enjoyed each new destination.
2. Not having someone looking over your shoulder for me was a huge benefit. I had done a couple of years of factory work and barely tolerated it. It was like treading water. I never felt like I was getting anywhere when I punched the timeclock. I was not too fond of it. I started driving because of a lack of work; things were slow back then, in the mid-’70s. Once I got into trucking, I was never laid off for lack of work again. My dad was a professional driver, so I had some idea of the lifestyle, so other than years spent learning the trade’s intricacies, I was a truck brat from the start. Today of course the technology that allows communication to those at home also closes the gap that existed in my day. Did we lose a little independence because of it? Yes, but I’ll take that trade any day.
3. After a few years, I recognized the actual options in this industry, call it a career path; call it what you want. If you’re a person with some ambition, the driver’s seat is a great way to propel yourself into many different careers in this industry. You can become an owner-operator if that’s the path you choose. Most drivers would be amazed at how many of today’s many thousands of fleets were started by one person, one truck. Operations are loaded with ex-drivers, as is safety and sales in most companies. Many of the industry’s top trade suppliers have ex-drivers working for them. The list goes on and on.
4. I am sure that many people hear about this industry’s high turnover, but in reality, the proper term is churn, not turn. Of those drivers who stick it out for more than a year, stats show that few of them leave the industry. I have made it a talking point when I speak to groups who are considering becoming drivers. I warn them that once this thing called trucking gets under your skin, you’ll be hooked, and you won’t be getting out anytime soon. I recently had a friend who is a long-time owner-operator stay with me for a couple of days in Florida after we traded a few dollars on the golf course, all going his way by the way, and we shared a couple of cocktails. Pete tells me that he’s hanging it up this summer; enough is enough, he says, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
5. I cannot believe the great people I have met over the years. Despite the rouges and the scoundrels, I have met so many class acts that have taken the time to mentor me for no other currency than a friendship. I have always been humbled by how generous this industry truly is. I have close friends all over North America, and to this day, at its core is still run by people who started with one truck and a dream.
6. I have seen how more raw materials and finished goods, from production to movement through this economy, than most people could only dream of. Sure, the drivers usually at the shipping or receiving door, but I always got a charge out of learning how things work and what people did where I picked up from or delivered. If you ask them, they will usually tell you. What’s the number one thing people like to talk about most? Themselves! Try it sometime but be careful. I asked too many questions once at a dock in London, Ontario, and ended up marrying the tow-motor driver. I couldn’t help myself; she was gorgeous!
7. And lastly, I touched on it earlier, but I have never been out of work since I got into trucking, and I don’t foresee that changing. We have an aging workforce but guess what? So does every other sector other than high tech. High schools have pushed our younger generation into university with the mantra that anything less was a failure. Our local college’s single most increased enrollment stream has been the university for the past number of years. Why? Because a 4-year degree from a university will today in most cases get you bupkiss. The world needs plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and truck drivers. Job security, decent wages, advancement opportunities — we got them for you, in aces!
Do we have issues to overcome? You bet. Name me a sector that doesn’t? This industry has been very good to the Haight family over the years and many of you reading this, I know, feel the same way. I speak with confidence when explain the opportunities we offer in our industry for younger people, we need than and I think they need us more than they might know.