"The Road Home" Podcast

Episode 21: This Driver Let One Tiny Problem Spiral Into A Career Changing Ordeal

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Episode 21: This Driver Let One Tiny Problem Spiral Into A Career Changing Ordeal

This is a story about a driver who let one tiny little problem in an ordinary day spiral out of control into a major ordeal that changed his career forever.

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Transcript: This Driver Let One Tiny Problem Spiral Into A Career Changing Ordeal

Hey folks this is Brett Aquila with Trucking truth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast the road home where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road

People always wonder why there's such a big turnover in trucking. People often wonder why companies don't just raise the pay if they need more drivers? This makes sense on one level, but it's not at all the root of the problem.

One of the big reasons the turnover is so high is because so many people get into Trucking that really don't belong there. Maybe they don't have the personality for it, or maybe trucking simply doesn't fit well their goals in life.

Another reason for the high turnover is that so many people fail to understand what a long and difficult process it will be to establish yourself in this industry and they don’t dedicate themselves to seeing it through.

Getting started in trucking can be a roller coaster ride. There are a lot of ups and downs, and everyone hits some rough patches along the way. You have to understand this going in and prepare to work through the difficulties patiently, knowing that any tough times you must endure will soon pass.

Today I’m going to read a message that a driver left on his company's Facebook page after he quit his job over a very minor incident that never should have been a big deal at all. It was a simple, everyday misunderstanding that could have been worked out in a few minutes with a quick message or phone call to dispatch.

Instead, this driver blew the situation completely out of proportion, let his frustrations build, lost his temper, made a big mistake, and eventually quit his job. Then, of course, he went to Facebook in an attempt to blame his company for his mistakes and tried to humiliate them publicly, which is the classic move that Knuckleheads like this always make.

There are quite a few important lessons to be learned from this simple incident and we'll talk about those after I read through this driver's Facebook message.

Here's the message he left on the company's Facebook page:

So after three months of grueling training and almost a month by myself behind the wheel I resigned from your company because of your failure to inform me and my classmates of the per diem issue as well as an incident that I had with your security in Green Bay that wouldn't let me out of the Operations Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with a trailer that I was assigned to on my tablet. The incident stemmed from when I had to perform an unsafe act by backing up while two other tractor-trailers were staged behind me.

As I was backing up I had to maneuver my rig around a snowbank. While doing so I hit said snowbank while moving forward causing extensive damage to my front bumper. Safety decided that this was a preventable accident and my dispatcher told me I had to take a skills test and a road test with an instructor.

I explained this was not my fault and that the situation would never happen if I was allowed to proceed through the gate. My dispatcher stated that taking the skills and road test is the company’s policy.

So, since the company decided to violate at least three of their core values, safety, integrity and Excellence, I will never ever work for this or any other trucking company again. You should be ashamed of yourself at the way you are treating new drivers coming into your company.

I'm curious oh, did your security go through any type of retraining or skills test to correct their incompetence?

That's the end of his statement.

So basically what happened was this driver was assigned a trailer but the security guard wouldn't let him leave the yard with the trailer. In the process of returning the trailer to the yard the driver ran into a snowbank and damaged the truck. The driver was told that as a safety precaution he would have to take a skills test and a road test with an instructor. After being informed about this the driver decided to quit his job instead.

So let's break this down a little bit and look at some important lessons to be learned here.

Communication Is Critical

The first lesson is that communication is critical in trucking. Everyone thinks of trucking as being a solo job where you're isolated in your truck, working alone. But in reality you’re part of a large and diverse team of people who are working together to make your company operate. You have salespeople, customer service, human resources, load planners, dispatchers, operations managers, mechanics, recruiters, the IT department, safety personnel, higher level executives, and more.

It turns out that people skills are a very important part of being a successful truck driver. Not only do you have to communicate well with dispatch, but you will come into contact with a wide range of people throughout your journeys whom you've never met and who have complete control over the situation you're in.

This incident we're talkin about is the kind of thing happens all the time. It's a simple miscommunication somewhere along the line. Maybe dispatch gave him the wrong trailer number. Maybe the security guard wasn't given the information yet. Maybe that assignment was removed from the driver but he hadn't been informed yet.

Regardless of why this happened, it's a simple everyday situation that every driver will face a thousand times in their career. You must handle yourself like a professional and communicate the situation well with dispatch.

If this driver would have been patient, remained calm, and simply communicated the situation with this dispatch it would have all been resolved in a matter of minutes. Without good communication skills you're never going to get anywhere in trucking.

Don’t Overplay Your Hand

The second lesson here is never over play your hand.

As a truck driver you almost never have any authority over anyone. You're always at the mercy of someone else. You will have load planners that assign your loads, dispatchers relaying information, DOT officers doing inspections, safety managers making company policies and reviewing incidents, shipping clerks and dock workers loading and unloading your freight, and of course you're surrounded by other drivers on the highways all the time.

As a truck driver you don't have authority over any of these people, nor are you in control of any of these situations. The only thing you can control is how you handle yourself and what actions you decide to take.

One of the worst things you can do is act like you have authority when you clearly do not. Hang around truck drivers for a little while and you'll regularly hear them screaming threats and demands at dispatchers or dock workers when things aren't going their way. You would think they would have enough sense not to scream at police officers, but believe it or not some of them will even do that. It's not hard to imagine how badly these situations tend to go for drivers who handle themselves poorly.

It's critical that you maintain your professionalism, stay calm, be patient, communicate well, and treat people with respect. You can’t strongarm anyone into cooperating with you when you have no authority.

Your best tactic when you have no authority is to be likeable. Be the type of person that someone wants to do nice favors for and cooperate with. It makes people feel good to help others. They want to help others. But at the same time they want to be treated with respect, just like you do. If you disrespect someone who has authority over you in a situation they’re almost certainly going to remind you of who's really in charge at the moment, and things are going to spiral downward for you.

The driver we’re talking about here broke about every rule of professionalism there is. He communicated poorly, he lost his temper, he ran into a snowbank, quit his job, and then tried placing the blame and someone else. Good grief! It's like dealing with a five-year-old.

This is a classic scenario that happens about a thousand times a day in the trucking industry. A driver will find themselves in a very simple situation, they handle it all wrong, they act completely unprofessional, they quit their job, and then do all they can publicly to place blame on the company and make the company look bad. They never take any responsibility for their own actions or behaviors. With this type of person it's always somebody else's fault.

Which leads me to the next lesson here….. Take Responsibility For The Outcome Of Your Endeavors

Take 100% personal responsibility for the outcome of all of your endeavors. I like to say that everyone fits into one of two types.

Type 1 takes full personal responsibility for everything they do and they feel like they’re completely in control of their own destiny. They feel as if their failures could have always been avoided if they would have handled things differently, and every failure teaches critical lessons which they’ve used to make themselves better. They tend to be very humble and they’re thankful for every opportunity they get to learn from others.

Type 2 will gladly take credit when things go well, but never take the blame when things go poorly. Bad outcomes are always someone else’s fault. They always have an excuse. This type also tends to act arrogant or overconfident. They always think they’re the smartest person in the room but never seem to realize they’re the only one who thinks that. They’re constantly talking about how much they know about everything, even though their knowledge is usually very limited at best.

One of the key ways that I use to determine whether or not someone has good character is the way they handle personal responsibility. I like to listen to people tell stories of their past to see which approach they take.

Are they Type 1? Did their failures teach them the best lessons in life? Are they humble about their accomplishments and thankful for their opportunities? Are they always focused on what they could have done better and what they will do to get better in the future?

Or are they Type 2? Was every failure someone else's fault? Was there always an excuse why things didn't go well? Are they always focused on what everyone else should have done better?

Once you’ve judged the character of the person you can follow the next lesson we’ll cover...

Don’t Take Advice From The Wrong People

One of my golden rules is to never take advice from Type 2 people, the complainers and blamers. To apply this to trucking specifically, make sure you take advice from people who are both happy with their career and highly accomplished. Never take advice from anyone who is unhappy with their career or hasn’t reached and maintained the highest level of success. Don’t listen to anyone who blames, complains, and criticizes when things didn’t go well.

The basic premise is simple - if they haven’t found the road to happiness and success in this industry then don’t ask them for directions on how to get there. They obviously don’t know.

This driver has already begun his public campaign to make his company look bad and the trucking industry as a whole. This type 2 character will do everything in his power to spread the message that his company treats drivers poorly and that the trucking industry is a lousy industry to be in. Unfortunately these scare tactics work on a lot of people. I’m not sure why anyone would take advice from someone who hasn’t found happiness and success in their lives, but it happens all the time. Don’t be fooled by the Type 2’s out there. The trucking industry has plenty of happy and highly successful drivers that are willing to help you get your career underway.

Don’t Let A Little Incident Grow Into A Huge Mess

The next lesson is also very critical. Never let a small incident grow into a huge mess. We've all had days where something little didn't go well, then another little thing didn't go well, and as our frustrations grew we became distracted by these issues. Before long we start making even more dumb mistakes and cause even more problems for ourselves.

Finally, at the height of our frustration and distraction we end up making a very serious mistake, and now we have a huge problem.

In trucking you're faced with a constant stream of challenges throughout the day. There are an infinite number of variables that can affect the outcome of almost everything. You’ll have bad weather, heavy traffic, Terrible Weather, breakdowns, problems at home, confusion within dispatch, and delays at customers.

Unfortunately at times it will feel like the Gods are conspiring against you and a bunch of these variables will go the wrong way one after another. Your day will start out badly and continue to get worse without mercy. It's critical for you to keep calm, stay focused, and don't let your emotions get the better of you.

In the incident we’re looking at today this driver became frustrated with a simple situation and Instead of remaining calm and professional he almost certainly let those frustrations get the better of him, causing him to run into a snowbank. With his frustrations reaching the boiling point he was told he would have to go through a skills test and a road test to verify that he can safely handle the truck and that was the breaking point. He decided to quit his job and begin his public smear campaign against the company.

At this point he has forever changed the trajectory of his life. It doesn't mean that his Trucking career is over, but he does have a blemish on his safety record, his employment history will look bad, and the time it will take to change companies and start again from the bottom is going to cost him a ton of money. He had even mentioned the possibility of quitting trucking altogether.

Then you have to wonder how many career has he's going to affect with his public smear campaign. How many people would have had a fantastic career in trucking or would have worked for the same company this guy worked for but now will instead decide to do something completely different. How many lives might be changed simply because this one clown couldn't act like an adult and handle a simple situation with a little bit of integrity?

All of this over a simple miscommunication regarding a trailer assignment. How dumb is that? It's amazing how such a tiny, insignificant moment in an ordinary day can become life-changing for so many people.

There are also a couple of lessons to take away from this incident about the way training is done in the trucking industry and the advice we give for new drivers.

Stick With Your First Company One Full Year

We always emphasize that you should stick with your first company for one full year no matter what. This incident is the perfect example of why we say that. There will be times that you'll be home sick, exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Trucking is a really tough profession and the lifestyle is very demanding. It gets the best of all of us sometimes.

There will be times you're going to want to quit trucking, especially during that first year. you have to understand that this is completely normal. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to get frustrated. You going to learn some hard lessons along the way.

New drivers tend to think that it's the company's fault when things don't go well, when in fact it's often the driver's fault or it's just something ordinary that happens all the time to every driver at every company. It takes some experience to learn the difference.

You also need to build strong relationships within your company so that you have people to turn to when you need some help, and those relationships take time to build.

Stick with your first company for one full year so that you don't alter the course of your career because of a simple incident or a misjudgment on your part. Put in the time it takes to build those relationships and have the strength and courage to push through the hard times early in your career. Trucking is never easy, but it will become a little easier once you get some experience.

Your Company Will Test You During Training

When it comes to truck driver training, most people don't realize that your company is going to test you to make sure you have the personality, the nerve, and the dedication to make it in this industry. Trucking is an extraordinary career for extraordinary people, but unfortunately it attracts a lot of people that simply don't have what it takes to make it out there. When you begin your training your company is going to test you at times to see if your personality is right for the job and if you're truly dedicated to making a career out of this. They don't want to invest their money and time and equipment training somebody that's going to quit right away like the guy were talking about in this incident. Obviously he doesn't have the personality or the professionalism to handle even the simplest of everyday situations, and he certainly wasn't dedicated to being successful at his first company. In fact, he's talking about quitting Trucking all together so maybe he wasn't dedicated to this career at all.

So there's going to be times that you'll be tested during training but you won't realize you're being tested. They might push your buttons a little bit to see how you react. Maybe they'll suddenly change up your schedule. Maybe they'll put you in a completely different situation than you had been told you would be in. Maybe they'll tell you that you only have one or two more chances to get a tricky maneuver right or you'll be sent home.

You'd be amazed at how many people quit Trucking right away because they're not dedicated to making this career happen, they don't have the personality for it, or they underestimate how challenging it's going to be. You're going to be tested a lot throughout your career, and that includes your time in training. They're not going to hold your hand and baby you through the process because the type of people who need that aren't going to be around for long anyhow. So they want to figure out right away if you have what it takes to make it in trucking. So be prepared to demonstrate that you do.

Never Make Decisions During Emotional Times

The final lesson I want to talk about is another policy I've always had. Never make important decisions during emotional times.

Like I said, Trucking can be brutal sometimes. You're going to have some really bad days once in awhile. It's really important to keep in mind that even the toughest times will be over soon enough. Before long the Sun is going to shine, you're going to be relaxed and happy, and the scenery will be beautiful.

The driver in this incident obviously let his emotions get the best of him. He got frustrated when he couldn't get out of the gate with the trailer, he made a mistake and ran into a snowbank, and then he quit his job altogether. Finally, using his real identity on Facebook he decided to publicly blame his company for his own mistakes and try to make them look bad. In the future, any job he applies for is going to do a background check on him which often includes searching social media to get a better understanding of who he is. If he doesn't remove this rant it's probably going to cost him the opportunity for a lot of good jobs in the future.

If I'm thinking of making a major decision in my life I always wait until things are going really, really well. I wait for a sunny 70 degree day where I'm feeling like a million bucks and life is just grand. I'll eat a nice big meal, check out some beautiful scenery, and think things over really well. If life is going great and I still want to make that decision then I go for it. But I never make major decisions during emotional times, whether the emotions are very positive or very negative. I want to make sure I'm on an even keel, I'm thinking logically, and I’m making deliberate decisions with a clear mind.

A Lot Of Lessons From A Simple Incident

So as you can see there's a lot to be learned from this one little incident. This driver let a tiny, insignificant moment in an otherwise ordinary day become a life changing ordeal for him. But if that wasn’t bad enough he’s now going on a public smear campaign to try to influence the lives of others and damage the company who gave him his first shot in trucking with lies and scare tactics. It’s shameful and embarrassing to all of us in the trucking industry when these clowns perform poorly, behave badly, and then make a public spectacle of themselves.

For new drivers entering the industry it's really important to understand situations like this so you can see why there is so much negativity directed at trucking and how the major carriers wind up with a bad reputation in some circles even though they're the elite companies in this industry with many of the best opportunities you’ll find anywhere.

To sum it up quickly:

  • Communication Is Critical

    You must be able to communicate will with the people around you, both within your company and during your everyday travels.

  • Don’t Overplay Your Hand

    You do not have authority over the situations you’re in or over the people you’re involved with. The best tactic you can use it to be likeable. Be the type of person that people want to cooperate with and do favors for.

  • Take Responsibility For The Outcome Of Your Endeavors

    People who are most successful in life take full responsibility for the outcome of their endeavors and believe they control their own destiny. Don’t make excuses and don’t blame, complain, and criticize when things aren’t going well. Handle yourself with integrity and professionalism.

  • Don’t Take Advice From The Wrong People

    The premise here is simple. If you want to be happy and successful in life then follow the guidance of those who have found happiness and success in their own lives. Don’t let the complainers scare you away from something you want to do with your life. Surround yourself with the right people, take their advice with gratitude and humility, and fully dedicate yourself to making it happen no matter what.

  • Don’t Let A Little Incident Build Into A Big Mess

    It’s easy to get frustrated by something little and then become distracted from what you’re doing, which is only going to lead to even more mistakes and more frustration. Don’t let the little things bother you. In trucking there’s going to be a lot of little things every day that have the potential to spiral out of control. The best drivers know how important it is to keep a clear mind and stay positive.

  • Stick With Your First Company One Full Year

    It takes time in trucking to learn the skills, adapt to life on the road, and develop strong relationships within your company. It's also easy to misjudge circumstances or misunderstand how things work within your own company. Dedicate yourself to sticking with your first company for one full year and establish your career on solid footing. Once you do that there's an excellent chance you're going to be extremely happy right where you're at.

  • Your Company Will Test You During Training

    Trucking companies spend an enormous amount of time and money and resources training new drivers. They don't want to waste their time and money and resources on drivers who don't have what it takes or aren't dedicated to becoming top-tier professionals. Consider anything that happens during training to be a test of your resolve and your professionalism. remember that your company is always watching everything you do. if you want to make it in this industry you have to prove you're willing and able to handle the pressures and responsibilities of life on the road. Nobody is going to hand it to you. You’ll have to earn your place in this industry.

  • Never Make Decisions During Emotional Times

    Life on the road is filled with ups and downs. It's like a rollercoaster ride and it's at its most extreme the first year of your trucking career. I've watched more people than I can count throw their career in the trash before it ever even got started because they made bad decisions during emotional times. Stay the course your first year in trucking. It takes time to develop the skills and adapt to the lifestyle. You really won't know if Trucking is for you until you give it an honest go. when you are pondering a major decision make sure you wait until life is pleasant and stable before pulling the trigger. You want to make sure you're thinking clearly and making deliberate decisions that will pay off for the long-term.

Trucking is a tough career, but it’s incredibly rewarding for those who love it. Work hard, be humble, and stay the course so that one day after a long spell on the road you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

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

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