The Web Of Lies And Misinformation

by G-Town
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"Over me, over you, over everybody,
too much information running through my brain…
too much information driving me insane."

- The Police

Growing up in the 70s, I was a huge fan of the band called The Police. They were a refreshing adjunct to conventional rock & roll, providing a splash of ska-infused rhythms and edgy drumming. Music like theirs helped me to tolerate the disco scene and all of its - ahem - trappings. Gordon Sumner, aka "Sting," wrote, recorded and released the song called "Too Much Information" on the 1981 Police album "Ghost in the Machine." I believe he was, innocently enough, a prognosticator - a clairvoyant of sorts with no real clue that he was describing the tip of a ginormous future information iceberg. That song was released years before the Internet existed, when the term "web development" was a literal reference to the industrial artwork of a spider. Little did we know that a vintage song could easily be a contemporary sign-of-the-times anthem. We live in an era of information overload, a saturation that seems to drive our very existence, compromising sensibility without moderation. We all know the battle cry of the sane among us: "Put down your damn phone and drive."

Information Overload

Many of us have likely experienced information overload as a result of researching a topic on the Internet. I know I have. Almost anything is possible on the Internet. It’s been with us now for almost 30 years, amassing a vast universe of facts, figures, truth, opinions, nefarious activities, and of course, opinions loosely disguised as gospel. The most obscure, mundane topics imaginable have terabytes of digital content stored, just waiting for a set of eyes willing to unlock the secrets of darn near anything, written by darn near anyone. Can this information be trusted? I think it depends. "Sometimes" is my guarded answer.

But for the inexperienced, specifically on trucking topics you must double down on the self-advocate approach. Unless you know the context, the site itself, and the source, reader beware. No checks or balances should ever be assumed. If they exist at all, controls of that nature lack consistency and process. Anything and everything is subject to the optimism, skepticism, or agenda of the masses posting the information. Was it fact checked? Do we know the underlying motivation for putting it there? Not usually, at least upon a cursory glance. There seems to be a de facto dynamic of - "If it’s on the Interweb, it’s gotta be true." Right? After all, that’s where we go to get educated now.

What about the Internet when it comes to trucking? How reliable is the information? In my experience, it can be rather twisted. If you don’t know what you are doing, one can become quickly tainted and swayed into a false belief that trucking is an "awful way to make a living." Consider this thought. How is it that complete strangers with zero experience enter the Trucking Truth forum with a preconceived notion of negativity on the industry, bias for or against a particular company, and conduct themselves as self-appointed experts? The answer is: the Internet.

The Internet makes all of us experts, as if we studied the trucking topic from an encyclopedia, or so it would seem. Although there are other forms of information delivery, including my personal favorite - a well-meaning friend - arguably the Internet accounts for 95% of the bad information available on trucking. It’s no wonder folks come into our forum bewildered with their head spinning. I must constantly remind myself of this to better ground and temper any advice I offer.

Case in point: During a recent “level setting" type of exchange with a new, very active member, his reply concluded with the statement, "Cussing you, Brett or anyone else out, is the furthest thing on my mind, because I know you only have the best intentions in helping me and other." True that. How refreshing. Was happy to read his reply. "He gets it," I thought, as the chorus of angels rejoiced in my head. His response was in reference to a tongue-in-cheek, tough love statement that I made: "You might cuss at us now, but you’ll thank us later." Interesting concept, tough love, isn’t it? Not much of that around these days with political correctness and the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality. So why does our new friend know and trust the Trucking Truth forum? What sets us apart?

What Makes Us Different?

The simple answer without too much thought is: integrity. Yes, integrity. The Internet generally, and specifically trucking websites, lack it - sometimes by design. Any modicum of conduct that demands dissemination of factual information is limited and at times rebuked. Translation: there is no established BS filter. Almost anything goes. Reminds me of a Hollywood set - a superficial representation of reality, a facade. Walk behind the set and there is nothing behind it, lacking any and all depth. If it’s on the Internet, well then it must be true, especially if it’s dedicated to trucking.

An avenue for venting is what many trucking websites represent and allow. Nothing of substance supports the claims of corporate injustice inflicted upon the poor, unsuspecting rookie driver. Yet many new folks come into our forum proclaiming all kinds of false assumptions from reading the information posted on employment and/or trucking websites. I don’t have the statistics because it’s rather a subjective evaluation, but I’d guess we invest at least 30% of our time on this forum correcting and undoing the results of bad information. Sometimes we are successful. Sometimes … well, let’s just say cases of popcorn have been eaten during the dramas started by the misguided and uninformed who eventually packed up their war chest and moved on to destinations unknown.

Questionable Surveys

My favorite example of questionable Internet information is surveys - trucking surveys in particular. I despise them because in the truest sense of the Hollywood set comparison, they lack depth and are just an illusion of the truth. Surveys can be found on sites catering to the general public seeking employment or specific trucking information. For instance, a survey conducted of employees from a mega carrier reports that most of the people surveyed are unhappy for a variety of reasons.

The problem with this information?

First of all, they usually place every employee or former employee into the same bucket. It’s virtually impossible to summarize the collected data into the driver category unless each and every individual response is reviewed. It’s also next to impossible to determine if the individual surveyed is still, or ever was, employed by the company they are critiquing. Is any of this information checked? Not likely. The most telling indicator is the total number of surveys collected, aka the sample size. Typically found in the small print, it’s a whispering footnote requiring a more thorough examination. Good luck finding it among content sensationalizing the claims of "trucking company crimes against humanity."

I clearly recall a newbie from a couple of years back referencing a survey he read - a "well-known" survey about Swift that painted the company in a very negative and unpleasant light. "What’s new about that?" I thought. "Enlighten us." Swift has, conservatively, about 17,000 truck drivers … The actual number of people responding to the Swift survey was 287. That’s a sample size of less than 2%. And, as a side note, those weren’t all drivers. Is that a good representation of what’s really going on there? Clearly not. "Heck yeah, I’m definitely avoiding that company because they are really bad, says so right here in the survey." Read the fine print. It’s all disclosed, but really hard to read in size 2 font. Just a Hollywood set lacking depth, offering an illusion of complete chaos and total incompetence. Not reality, but easily delivered and accepted as fact.

One parting thought (shot) on surveys. Who has the time and motivation to respond to a survey? Think about that for just a moment. I am not a mind reader, but I believe most employees who are relatively happy with their job and company, especially truck drivers, do not have the time or motivation to respond to a survey. The former employee, terminated for multiple safety infractions, policy violation, accidents, or just a basic lack of work ethic are typically the people with both the time and motivation to respond to a survey. "Lawyer-up, let’s take down the evil trucking empire!"

Many Trust The Negative But Question The Positive

So it begs the question, "Do we want to believe everything bad that we read?" I honestly think many people place a higher degree of value on embellished negative information than on something positive. Clearly it’s more interesting. However, that’s rather sad if you seek the truth and nothing but it. At what point did we become so incredibly jaded that we’ll unconditionally believe the folks spewing forth negative trash, yet when confronted by the inverse, relentlessly interrogate and belittle individuals describing the exact opposite review of a particular company or situation. Where does the truth end and the fiction begin? As a general society we have become reliant on a medium of information that cannot always be trusted for truth and fact. It all comes down to us, individuals checking the source of the information. If that’s not possible, then by all means heavily discount both the validity and the credibility, and certainly do not pass it on as truth. In fact, I’d go further and suggest ignoring anything at all that cannot be checked.

The difference… the question I posed a few paragraphs ago: "What sets Trucking Truth apart?" I think it all starts with the people. Great people like Brett, Old School, Rainy, Daniel, Errol, and many, many others who built the content and maintain a presence on the forum. We are significantly blessed with a large representation on this forum of knowledgeable, sincere, talented, passionate professionals willing to invest their free time for the benefit of helping others, and as a side benefit, elevating the integrity of our profession. Trucking Truth also has a documented purpose. That purpose is carried out by a vision, a charter of sorts that we put forth a highly concerted effort into complying with and moderating accordingly. As penned by Brett, it goes like this:

TruckingTruth was started back in January of 2007 because I (Brett) wanted to help new drivers understand the trucking industry and get their career off to a great start. I loved my years in trucking, but getting started in this career is daunting to say the least.

The trucking industry is truly a misunderstood industry. I wanted to give new drivers a true picture of what a career as a truck driver is all about and a straightforward strategy for surviving that first year of their career.

There was a lot of finger pointing and blaming and misinformation out there which I didn't agree with at all so I wanted to set the record straight. I wanted people to know that trucking can be an awesome career for the right person and it's totally doable if you work hard, keep a great attitude, and have a solid strategy in place.

- Brett Aquila

Compounded by the Internet, misinformation on trucking is unfortunately the norm. Trucking Truth is clearly the exception, the gold standard for useful information. We self-check and hold members accountable to a much higher standard of truth and accuracy. The drivers who are regular contributors to the Trucking Truth forum, the moderators and of course Brett, all have a common goal in mind: to enthusiastically and passionately carry out the charter by helping anyone interested in this profession to get a good start, set realistic expectations, and build a foundation of accurate knowledge.

Our satisfaction is obvious. We can see the results … success stories in the TruckingTruth forum are documented every day.

We'd love to hear your comments. Join us for a discussion of this article in our forum: Forum Discussion: The Web Of Lies And Misinformation

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