New Truck Drivers: Beware of Rocking The Boat

by Brett Aquila

Recently I heard a story of a truck driving student who was on the road with a trainer and discovered that the trainer was smoking pot in the truck while the student was driving. Without a doubt the world has its share of unbelievably scary people. But it also has its share of gray areas, unwritten rules, and realities that aren't always right or fair. Sometimes being right isn't good enough. Sometimes things don't always work out in ways that are fair. The trucking industry, and life at any large company in any industry, has its share of subtleties and complexities that are difficult to understand and deal with at times, especially for new drivers.

Doing The Right Thing

One word of caution - be very careful about being the new guy ratting out company veterans. In this case, the student had to do something - that's just insane for a trainer to be smoking pot in the truck with a student.

However, a lot of trainers have been with their companies for quite some time and know a lot of important people. If you're going to rat somebody out, you better be d*mn sure it's warranted, and understand that people inside of companies that have known each other a long time tend to stick together. If you start ratting on people, it may just become you against everyone.

You Against The World

For instance, most companies have policies about bringing pets. If your trainer brings a puppy dog with him and says "Don't tell anyone, I'm really not supposed to have him with us" - do you really want to start going behind his back and trying to rat him out to the higher-ups? Say you happen to tell the operations manager about it, with whom your trainer happens to be very good friends. You are now the rookie who is coming into an established company and jeopardizing the careers of veteran drivers and putting powerful managers in a terrible position.

I learned the hard way when I was young how the offices in big companies work - and believe me, the most important thing you want to keep in mind is not to rock the boat unless you absolutely must - because you're in the boat with them. Office personnel tend to stick together - they have to - they work together day in and day out. They want their jobs to go smoothly and they want to protect their careers. They don't like people who rock the boat.

Try to put up with whatever they throw at you - especially when you're new. In this case, letting someone know was obviously warranted. But even in this case, if you had told somebody who happened to be close friends with that trainer, then a decision has to be made by the manager - fire his good friend, or fire the student because he knows too much and try to cover up the incident by making the student out to be the troublemaker with a personal vendetta against the trainer. At that point, the burden of proof lies with the student. What if you had no proof to back up your allegations? Now you have an experienced trainer and a powerful manager looking at you as public enemy #1 - and either they go down, or you go down. Guess who's likely going to lose this battle, their job, and possibly their career? That's right - the student.

What's Fair and What's Right

Listen - this isn't about what's fair. It isn't about right or wrong. It's about reality. As I've said about the trucking industry:

There are a lot of gray areas and unwritten rules that govern the trucking industry that have a profound effect on your job and your career - Brett Aquila

The fact that office personnel, and friends within companies, tend to stick together and protect each other is a good example of that. There are a lot of politics and subtleties involved. For drivers and companies to make as much money as possible there are a lot of rules and laws that get bent, gray areas that get stretched, and unwritten rules that get followed. Before you jump into a new career with a new company and start rocking the boat, be aware of the fact that you're in the boat with them - and if it gets serious enough that somebody must get thrown out of the boat, make sure it isn't you that winds up in the ocean. People will protect their jobs and careers with relentless cut-throat tactics. You start making it an all-or-nothing game, make sure you're dead serious about it, and make sure you aren't going to be the one to end up with nothing.

That was a horrible situation for this student to be in. You can be sure word will spread quickly throughout the company about this incident - so he should probably just try to lay low and do his own thing. In this case he obviously did the right thing by letting somebody know, but you can be sure there are a lot of people in his company that know what he did was right, but are wondering if he's going to rat on them if given the chance. They'll be cautious with him, and they likely won't trust him with "privileged information".

Such are the complexities of life in the trucking industry.

by Brett Aquila

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