Every year thousands of people sabatoge their truck driving career before it ever gets off the ground. They come into the trucking industry with bad information, the wrong attitude, and the wrong approach. They're doomed to failure before they even know how many wheels are on an 18 wheeler.
Then to make matters worse, they turn around and sabotage the careers of the next wave of new drivers by spewing the same awful rhetoric they mistakenly believed themselves. I've watched this vicious cycle take place time and time again for years now. It's sad and frustrating to watch. But thankfully you're here reading this now and hopefully it's not too late to prevent you from making the same mistakes that so many have made before you.
There are some unfortunate truths that we have to face right now if we're going to understand the problem we're dealing with here and avoid it:
So how do these tie together? Let me explain what's going with the trucking industry.
To be honest, I'm not sure how the trucking industry developed such a bad reputation in the first place, but it's had it for a very long time. Decades in fact. When I announced I was going to become a truck driver back in '93 my ma wanted to jump straight into her grave. My friends mocked me. My neighbor said the best thing I'd get out of it was hemorrhoids. I wish I was joking about any of that, but I'm not.
How bad is the industry's reputation? Imagine if a high school guidance counselor recommended that a student become a truck driver someday. OH MY GOD! That counselor would lose their job that day. Seriously, they would. You wouldn't dare recommend truck driving as a career. It would be considered an insult.
And yet I loved my 15 years on the road! Not only did I make a good living but it was filled with great adventures, endless challenges, beautiful scenery, interesting people, and weekends in Vegas, New Orleans, Miami, and all kinds of great places. And hey - what's cooler than driving a big rig, right???
So why the bad rap and where did it originate? I don't know. But that's the reality of it. Our society looks down a truckers and has for decades. That's lead us to a huge problem...
If becoming a truck driver is looked down upon in our society as a low-class career, what type of people do you think it will attract? You guessed it - the wrong people. So does that mean that I'm a "wrong people"? Heck no! I'm a great people! And so are a lot of drivers out there. Some of the most intelligent and interesting people I've ever met were truck drivers. They carried themselves like true professionals with pride, integrity, and kindness.
But, my God you should see some of the others. It's shameful, but truck drivers as a whole have earned their horrible reputation. The industry has its share of smelly, nasty, foul-mouthed, obnoxious jerks who walk around cussin', spitting, and threatening people as part of their everyday routine. And I'm not about to make excuses for this level of unprofessionalism. There's no place for it in any industry.
What I can't understand is why trucking companies would allow this type to run around the country with the company's name on the side of the truck. Nobody would want someone like that representing their company. All I can figure is that they look down upon truckers the way most people do in our society. They don't seem to think they can find enough drivers that are capable of being respectable professionals to keep their fleets rolling.
Where do they find these people anyhow?
The Internet is no different than your typical bar or neighborhood - people gather in places where they feel comfortable. They like to be where they can find others with a similar personality, attitude, and outlook. TruckingTruth has always been a very positive and optimistic website where people encourage and support each other. We refrain from unhelpful rhetoric aimed at each other, trucking companies, or truck driving schools. We try to stick with the facts.
But at the same time we're very real about it. We know there's always room for improvement in each of us as individuals, in the trucking industry, and everything around us for that matter. It's not a perfect world. But we prefer to be constructive in our criticisms, and helpful above all else. And people who take that approach like to gather here.
Not everyone takes that approach to life. Some people love to criticize, humiliate, and blame others for their shortcomings. There are plenty of websites that will allow you lie, cuss, insult, humiliate, and blame people all you like. They're basically "The Jerry Springer Show" of the Web. And there's no mystery in the type of people they'll attract.
Well we all want career advice from people who will help us be successful. People we can trust. And what is the most common quality that separates successful people from the rest?
That's right. There are many qualities you'll find in successful people that you won't find in failures, but there's one quality that to me stands out above all the others - personal responsibility. People who are successful in life get there in large part because they admit their shortcomings and try to improve in every way. They take the blame when they screw up and try to make sure it doesn't happen again. They firmly believe that their fate lies in their own hands.
But we've all known plenty of people who always seem to screw everything up, and yet somehow it's never their fault! Bill Parcells, the former NFL coach, once said:
My father used to have an expression for things like that, you know. He used to say, "Hey Parcells, it's never your fault but you're always there!"
Isn't that how it seems to be with those people? They always wind up in a mess but the only place they never point the finger is at the person in the mirror.
Doing research into the trucking industry will inevitably lead to these "Jerry Springer" sites at some point where all you hear is negativity. Every trucking company in America is being blasted from every angle for taking advantage of drivers, lying, cheating, stealing - everything under the sun. Every driver that was kicked out of a company-sponsored training program or was fired from their company did absolutely nothing wrong (just ask 'em!). It was 100% the company's fault.
There is even a website that at one point a few years ago had the word "scam" on the homepage 17 times!!! I counted 'em! Swear to God. They've changed their tune dramatically since then, probably because it made it hard to sell the $27 CDs they were trying to sell at the time with advice for future truckers :-)
So what's happening out there? Well, people want to get their trucking career underway so they begin doing their research. Of course they come across TruckingTruth, but they come across the bad neighborhoods as well. Unfortunately a negative, scary message tends to resonate with people far more than a positive one.
It's nice to hear us say, "Hey, get out there and do an awesome job. Be a true professional. Work hard, be kind to people, stay safe, and you'll do great in this industry!"
But then it's terrifying to go to the bad neighborhoods and hear people say, "I went to their company-sponsored program and they kicked me out after a week and told me I still had to pay even though I did everything right! Stay away! It's a scam!!!"
So now people become very skeptical. I mean, there's a lot of these stories about every trucking company in America. Are they true? Is the industry one big scam? Are trucking companies looking to take advantage of people???
Unfortunately these people with bad attitudes - the skeptics, the cynics - they show up at company-sponsored schools or at orientation with their first trucking company ready to protect themselves. They think, "Well, we'll see. I'll give this company the opportunity to show me they're legit and if they do then I'll do a good job for em."
Doomed to failure. You've got it all wrong. You're the one who's new to this industry. You're the one expected to prove yourself first. If you're not willing to do that, you're going to get kicked to the curb.
And many do. There's one key aspect of trucking that many new drivers don't understand.
Trucking is "performance-based." The best drivers get the bulk of the freight. Companies have to take care of their customers if they want to stay in business, so they put the bulk of the workload on the drivers that have proven themselves to be safe, hard working, and reliable. If you go in there with a negative attitude and you're not willing to pay your dues as a rookie, you're doomed to failure. You'll never get the great miles, the gravy runs, the special favors, and the fair treatment that the top-tier drivers have earned for themselves. You're going to be miserable. You're going to be sitting around at truck stops an awful lot wishing you had it better. You won't last long in this industry. I promise you that.
So now these "bad apples" wind up getting out of the trucking industry. Maybe they got sent home from a company-sponsored program. Maybe their first trucking company wouldn't give them the miles they wanted so they took their bad attitude someplace else and found the same thing kept happening. Maybe they just got kicked to the curb.
But regardless of their story, you now have someone whose attitude toward trucking is worse than ever. They believed all of the negativity, went into the industry with a bad attitude, got sent packing or quit altogether, and now guess where they're heading?
That's right. They're going back to the "old neighborhood." The same place that instilled in them the attitude that doomed them to failure in the first place. They feel compelled to tell the next crop of drivers that it's true - stay away from trucking - you'll be treated like garbage and it's all one big scam. They'll tell the story of how they did such a perfect job - everything that was asked of them - and yet they were used and abused. Nothing was their fault. They did everything right, but there's no way to win because the companies build turnover and failure into their business models. That's how they make money. That's why you'll fail, too.
Now a whole new wave of recruits will be mislead into thinking the same garbage as the previous recruits. They'll make the same mistakes and suffer the same fate. It's a vicious cycle of failure that perpetuates itself time and time again. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
The concept is simple. Trucking companies make money by taking care of their customers and keeping their trucks moving safely and efficiently across the country. It's not rocket science.
But make no mistake about it - from a driver's perspective, trucking is a very difficult and dangerous profession. It requires a tremendous amount of patience, focus, dedication, and sacrifice to be one of those top tier drivers. The truth of the matter is most people are not cut out for it. Either they don't have what it takes to handle life on the road, or they simply aren't motivated enough to do what it takes to be a safe, productive driver that will take care of a company's customers over the long haul.
Trucking companies are going to expect a rookie driver to prove themselves. They're going to test you. They have to. This is serious business. If you're not going to put in the effort or you don't have what it takes to handle life on the road, they need to figure that out before you cost the company big money or cost someone their life. The stakes are high for all involved.
If you go out there and prove you have what it takes and you're willing to make the commitment, you'll do well in this industry. Give yourself the very best chance at success by giving it your all and having a great attitude. Prepare for some tough times. Getting your trucking career underway is a roller coaster ride for everyone. It full of hard lessons and you'll have to make some big adjustments in your life.
Whatever you do, don't let yourself be persuaded by the naysayers. Some people are just failures. Some didn't belong in trucking in the first place. Some are just lazy. Whatever their problem was, let it be their problem. If you listen to that garbage and go into it with the wrong attitude, their problem will become your problem. Their failure will become your failure.
Now strap on a smile and buckle up because it's going to be one hell of a ride. Nothing in this industry comes easy. But in the end, there's nothing in the world like driving a Big 'Ole American Big Rig! Do you have what it takes? There's only one way to find out :-)