"The Road Home" Podcast

Episode 10: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

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Episode 10: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

Terminal Rats are miserable drivers who tend to hang around in groups at trucking terminals and truck stops complaining the day away. The problem is that their conspiracy theories and embellished tales of mistreatment and abuse are poisoning the minds of incoming drivers. It's causing new drivers to take the wrong approach and have the wrong attitude toward their new career, derailing their chances of success and happiness in the industry. Let's see if we can understand this vicious cycle and break it before it derails your career.

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Transcript: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about a subculture of people within the trucking industry that we refer to as 'terminal rats' here at TruckingTruth and the potentially devastating consequences they can have on your trucking career.

Now 'Terminal rats' are nothing more than miserable drivers who tend to hang around in groups at trucking company terminals and truck stops from coast to coast. We've all heard the expression 'misery loves company' and that's exactly what you'll find with terminal rats; they love nothing more than to hang around in groups, especially with their own kind, and complain the day way. There isn't a person or a company or a regulation in this great nation that these drivers can't find fault with.

'Well so what?' you might wonder. You'll find complainers everywhere you go, right? Well that's true. But in this case we're dealing with a rather unique problem. The problem is that these terminal rats feel with great conviction that they have discovered some underlying truths about how the trucking industry really operates and they feel compelled to share this information with others so that others won't be taken advantage of by these evil empires.

And who is most likely to believe these conspiracy theories and tales of suffering at the hands of the evil trucking industry? That's right - rookie drivers who are just trying to get their trucking career underway. So it's common to find some of these rats hovering around the students and new recruits coming in orientation, hoping to warn you about the perils that lie ahead and recruit you over to their way of thinking.

See, these terminal rats genuinely feel they're right and that what they have to offer is both honest and helpful. The problem is they're completely wrong about all of it and they don't realize that their own career has been derailed because they believed and acted upon the same lies and the same misinformation that they're now spreading to others. Let me give you an example of how this happens.

A student shows up for day one of their new career. They're getting ready to start school at a company-sponsored training program. They walk into the terminal and find there are drivers hovering around all over the place. They spot a somewhat animated conversation going on amongst one group so they go over to see what the fuss is all about. What they've stumbled upon is a rat's nest full of terminal rats complaining about everything under the sun.

So this student, bright eyed and bushy tailed and quite excited about this new adventure, is suddenly appalled after hearing one horrifying tale of failure and abuse after another. They're told that companies are being paid by the government to hire students and then fire them right away. They're told the only reason the company wants you to sign a contract is because they're going to take advantage of you and they don't want you to be able to leave or do anything about it. They're told most people fail out of these schools because the company is setting them up for failure.

Well after about thirty minutes of hearing their company's current drivers spin conspiracy theories and issue ominous warnings, the new student is horrified at the perilous position they seem to be in. And from the student's perspective you can't help but wonder why would these drivers lie, right? They're current drivers. They must know this stuff is true, don't they? I mean, what would they have to gain by intentionally misleading me?

So the student falls for it hook, line, and sinker. They now believe they have to protect themselves from the evil empire they're about to go to work for and they go on high alert for any signs that the company is attempting to manipulate them or exploit them in some way.

This completely changes the attitude, the expectations, and the performance of this student. This student showed up with every intention of putting in his best effort, but now feels it's probably wise to hold back a little bit in case the company is just taking advantage of him. So he doesn't demonstrate the work ethic that top tier drivers possess.

This student had every intention of approaching the company staff and driver trainers with a friendly and respectful demeanor, but now the student is now rather put off by the staff and begins to eye them with suspicion and hostility. He doesn't demonstrate the professionalism that the top tier drivers possess, nor does he demonstrate the eagerness to learn his trade that the best students possess.

This student also had every intention of staying committed to his first company for one full year. He was going to prove himself to be a safe, hard working, reliable professional in order to earn the high pay, great equipment, great miles, and special favors the top tier drivers get. But now he feels like he should move on at the first sign of trouble because the company isn't committed to him and will likely take advantage of him anyhow. So he doesn't demonstrate the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, nor the commitment to the company's success that the top tier drivers have.

Now you have a huge problem.

See, everyone in the trucking industry knows that most new drivers don't last very long. Trucking demands a level of commitment that few people possess. You really have to be a special breed to survive and thrive as a trucker. Most people either don't have what it takes or aren't interested in putting forth that level of commitment.

So while the company is watching this student to see if he has what it takes to make it in trucking, the student, because of his poor attitude and expectations now, is showing very few encouraging signs. He's not putting in the effort, he's difficult to get along with, and he's already threatening to leave the company for a long list of petty and frivolous complaints.

So now the company has its doubts. They decide it's best to focus their attention on the more promising students and the proven drivers that they already have. So the better students and top tier drivers get better miles, better treatment, better equipment, and make more money. Our poor, misguided student gets exactly what he deserves for his poor attitude and poor performance; lousy miles and a little bit of bad attitude in return.

Before long the student begins to see what he believes is evidence that the conspiracy theories he was told by the terminal rats are indeed true. The company has him under contract but he's not getting good miles, so they must have put him under contract so he couldn't leave no matter what they did to him. When he complains, nothing gets done about it, and he figures that's probably because the company is just taking advantage of him anyhow and doesn't care how he feels.

The reality is that the student is getting exactly what he has earned and what deserves at this point, which is very little. He's a rookie driver who is lacking in every way. He isn't putting in the work he should, he isn't listening to the trainers, he isn't getting along with staff, and he does nothing but complain and threaten to leave the company on almost daily basis. It would now appear from the company's perspective that this student has very little chance of being successful in this industry, and it now appears from the student's perspective that everything he was told by the terminal rats was true.

So what does this driver do the next time he gets to a terminal? That's right - he seeks out the new class of incoming students to warn them about the evil and insidious nature of the company with one horrifying tale of failure and abuse after another. The student has come full circle and is now the terminal rat who is going to derail the promising careers of the next class of incoming students. It's a vicious cycle that has gone on for decades and has caused the demise of countless careers over the years.

So what you have here is referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true. In this case, the student started his training expecting the company to treat him poorly so he decided not to put forth his best attitude or performance. When the company saw that the student was underperforming and showed little interest in becoming a true professional they decided to give their best pay, best miles, and best equipment to their proven drivers and most promising students instead.

So in the end, the student's beliefs lead to his poor performance which in turn lead to the poor experience he had with his company. He believed he was going to have a poor experience, he acted on those beliefs, and those actions in turn caused the very treatment he expected. It’s kind of like if you were convinced that ice cream was going to melt no matter what you did so you left it out on the counter and when it melted you said, “See, I knew it was going to melt”, not knowing you caused it yourself.

You have to understand that trucking is a performance-based career. If you want the miles, the pay, the equipment, and the treatment that the top tier drivers get then you're going to have to prove to your company that you can perform at that level. No one gets a free ride in this industry because companies would go broke in a hurry if they allowed underperforming drivers to disrupt their operations. So they count heavily upon their best drivers to do the bulk of the work and they throw the leftover scraps to the underperformers. It's kind of like a wolf pack. The top performers get the spoils while the weaklings hover around in the background complaining and starving.

In the end you’re only going to get the best miles and the best treatment if you perform at the highest level. So ignore the terminal rats and give it everything you’ve got so in the end, when the work is done, you can sit back and relax and enjoy The Road Home.

I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we’ll see you next time.

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