Without truck drivers, there wouldn’t be a supermarket with Chilean seabass and Alaskan crab. Without truck drivers, there wouldn’t be the perfectly wrapped packages of Barbies and Hot Wheels under the tree. Without truck drivers, there wouldn’t be life-saving medical supplies delivered in times of need.
Truckers are truly our everyday heroes without capes.
Truck drivers are the nameless, faceless workers that keep the United States of America going. That’s why it’s such a shame that truckers have been given a negative reputation.
These everyday heroes that keep our country up and running have suffered over the last few decades by negative connotations and bad press. First of all, why do truck drivers have a bad reputation, and secondly, what can we do to fix it?
Why Do Truck Drivers have a Bad Reputation?
Several decades ago, truck drivers were thought of as “good ole’ American boys” – the western image of a hard-working man exploring our vast country came to mind.
Today, truck drivers are thought of as criminals, druggies, and low lives – and the majority of truckers are quite the opposite. Where did this negative imagery come from?
Sex Trafficking and “Lot Lizards”
Truck stops have become hot spots for sex trafficking. The remoteness of truck stops along with the “transient” customer base has made these locations perfect for traffickers seeking to profit from victims (National Human Trafficking Hotline).
The trafficking is generally advertised through CB radio, used by truckers.
The victims, or girls who are forced to be in the sex trade, are known as “Lot Lizards” in the trucking community (Shared Hope International).
While there’s an unfortunate group of truck drivers who participate in this vile crime, there are more truckers who are fighting to stop it and bring justice for these young women.
The New York Times reports that truckers, often seen only as potential customers, are now using their closeness to the sex trafficking to help the victims.
Drugs to Stay Awake
Reuters reported on a study completed in October 2013 where about 3% of drivers admitted to using cocaine while driving. This study was not just of the United States – it covered many other countries like Thailand, Brazil, and Norway.
It is said that cocaine can help drivers get through a shift, helping them stay on the road longer, which ultimately helps them make more money.
In any industry, you’ll have the select few that try to get ahead in any way they can. Take college students, for example, who take Adderall to stay up all night and study (Futurity.org).
Even though truck drivers are required to pass drug testing in order to be on the road, the general population hears stories of Meth-LSD-coke addicts on the road, and these select few put a bad name on the rest of the honest drivers.
There are dozens of stories of truck drivers being convicted of or being accused of being serial killers. From Bruce Mendenhall in 2018 to Samual Legg in 2019, it seems that every time you turn around, a new story emerges of a trucker on a killing spree.
The FBI concluded that the trucking profession is a convenient one for serial killers, who can easily pick up victims and throw them out along their long-haul journey to another state.
Because trucking is so convenient for killers, it attracts them, and this sheds a negative light on the rest of the hard-working truckers who are trying to make an honest living.
Disrespectful Driving Habits and Accidents
While sex trafficking, drug use, and serial killers have all shed a negative light on the trucking industry, many truckers have adopted disrespectful driving habits that everyday people experience for themselves.
Whether it’s cutting off a car to switch lanes, speeding up and slowing down, or swerving in and out of your lane, driving without being mindful of the cars around you gives all truckers a negative reputation.
Beyond disrespectful driving habits, accidents also play a huge part in the public perception.
Every 15 minutes, a person is seriously injured or even killed by an accident caused by tractor-trailers.
Many large trucking companies have truck driving training program, and after truckers finish, they are generally employed immediately. This is a large percentage of truck drivers with little to no professional driving experience, and this accounts for many of the accidents.
Negative Appearance and Manners
When many think of a truck driver, they have an image of a driver they saw at a gas station once. Many conjure up ideas of a smelly, overweight trucker with a potty mouth.
It’s easy to figure out where this public perception comes from – taking care of yourself while being out on the road for extended periods of time is difficult. Plus, some truckers spend much of their day chatting with other trucks over the CB system.
You put a group of men together for an extended period of time, and it’s not hard to imagine the potential topics of conversation.
In fact, Urban Dictionary even has a definition for “Trucker Mouth,” which is defined as “A person who uses foul language.”
It’s similar to the old saying “curse like a sailor,” which came about because sailors often resorted to swearing and spending money as ways to compensate for long days and monotonous time aboard a ship.
In sum, it’s easy to let yourself go and lose some respect for yourself when it requires more effort to do the opposite.
Trucking As a Skilled Profession
Finally, the public perception of truck drivers has fueled a terrible cycle. 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.
Many people think trucking isn’t a skilled profession, because it doesn’t require a high level of education. However, trucking does require a specific set of skills, and not everyone has them.
Drivers must be knowledgable in mechanics, they must be able to drive in concerning conditions, they must be a skilled driver to navigate difficult situations, and they must be able to tackle tough situations like hooking and unhooking a trailer in 20-degree weather… in the dark.
It’s a shame that truck driving is looked at as a “less-than” profession when some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg were college dropouts.
Why Should Truck Drivers Work to Improve Their Reputation?
If you’re a trucker who is feeling discouraged at this point, all is not lost. Even though there’s a bad reputation out there, there are reasons to improve it – and know this: your reputation can be fixed.
More Positive Attitude Among Everyday Civilians
It’s no secret that there is excessive litigation in the trucking industry. In fact, a 2018 Florida Justice Reform Institute Report estimated that Florida loses more than 126,000 jobs each year due to too many lawsuits.
Part of the hostility of everyday civilians seems to be the “they need to pay!” and “let’s go after them!” mentality. This mentality is fueled (no pun intended) by this negative perception of truckers.
It may be a stretch to say this, but it’s possible that a more positive attitude towards truckers might actually have an effect on the litigation trends.
Take soldiers, for example. If a soldier does something wrong, the kneejerk reaction is, “Well, but they served our country” – not “let’s go after them!”
If we could change the perception of truckers, it’s possible that the desire to slap truckers with a lawsuit at every turn would subside.
Better Insurance Rates
To keep that thought going, if lawsuits started to decline, insurance rates might actually be affordable!
If you’re a truck driver, you probably realize that today, insurance rates are at a staggering all-time high. In fact, insurance rates for owner operators can range from $10,000 to upwards of $15,000 per year.
David Owen, President of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies shared with Overdrive Online, “Ambulance-chasing lawyers are sucking the blood out of trucking. They’re taking absolutely frivolous lawsuits and running into settlements because of the system. It’s cheaper to pay the fraudulent claim than to fight it.”
More Interest In the Trucking Profession
If trucking was looked at as the important, respectful career choice that we believe it is, there would be more respect for this profession. That means there would be younger individuals looking to become drivers – and perhaps women would come on board, too.
In our recent article 13 Reasons Why You Should Become a Truck Driver, we explained a few shocking statistics about the trucking industry:
- The average age of truck drivers is 49 – many are retiring, and no one new is coming up to fill their place
- There is a very low percentage of women truck drivers – women account for only 5.8% of all truck drivers
The American Trucking Association says that currently, the trucking industry as a whole is about 48,000 drivers short of what is needed (latest numbers as of 2015). That number is expected to grow to nearly 175,000 by 2024.
More Respect For You And Your Career Choice
An obvious benefit to a better public perception of truck drivers is more people would respect and appreciate your career choice.
The days of people trying to slam on their breaks in front of truckers might finally be gone. The days of raised eyebrows and concerning looks when you announce your truck driving profession would be over.
Instead, people would congratulate you on your new endeavor and thank you for providing such a valuable service to this country.
How to Fix the Negative Reputation of Truckers
So, there is a negative reputation of truck drivers, and there is plenty of reason to try to restore it. But… how?
Improve Your Own Attitude About Trucking
How can we ask others to respect trucking as a profession if we don’t respect it ourselves?
If you see your career as an important part of this country’s economy, you can start to develop a pride for it. And when you really care about your career choice, your attitude – and your outward behavior – starts to change.
For example, perhaps you’d start to dress a bit nicer. While you do have the option to drive in sweatpants and a hoodie, a driver who covets his job will choose to show up for work in slacks and a polo.
That outward appearance might seem small, but it immediately starts to change the public perception of what it means to be a truck driver.
Put Effort Into Your Public Image
Improving your attitude and taking pride in your trucking job does transfer over to your appearance as we mentioned above.
However, going a step further and keeping top-notch personal hygiene and even speaking more professionally can have a big impact.
We have drivers who show up every single day wearing professional clothing, smelling fresh and clean, and speaking respectfully to customers. Those customers start to request these drivers by name, which not only makes drivers feel important – which they are – but it’s job security and even better rates.
When you can show the public that you’re just as important as that fancy-dressing doctor or lawyer, your reputation starts to change.
Focusing on DOT Violations
Not getting DOT violations allows you to work with some of the best trucking companies in the country, and those companies have you and the industry’s best interest in mind.
At Freight X, we like to think we are one of those companies. We won’t put a driver on the road that we don’t feel is safe.
One of those indications is how well he takes care of his equipment and how safe he drives.
You spend a lot of miles on the road, and being a safe driver not only protects your life, but it protects your livelihood and the perception of truckers in America.
Drive Courtesouly On the Road
The devil is in the details. By being a courteous driver and putting safety and respect first, the general public will start to shift their opinions about the trucking industry.
For example, instead of trying to pass a truck that’s going 1 mph slower than you – and causing a big buildup of traffic behind you – respect the other drivers and wait to pass until the traffic dies down.
It’s the little things that people notice, and when you make an effort to drive more courteously, it not only affects you, but it affects the reputation of all drivers.
Truckers Are Important!
Truck drivers are part of the foundation of this country.
Truck drivers deliver goods during times of crisis. They deliver Christmas gifts to families. They make sure those in need get life-saving drugs and medical equipment. They supply us with everyday items for our survival.
Truck drivers trudge through terrible weather conditions to keep the economy going, all while sacrificing family time to provide for the ones they love.
Truckers truly are our nameless, faceless everyday heroes. Thank you to all of our drivers here at Freight X, and I hope this inspires you to come together and make an effort to fix the reputation of truck drivers across our country.