The wide world of trucking is surprisingly small. If you get out at all in public, and if you own up to a connection to the trucking industry, you’re going to run into folks. Almost always, you're going to learn something new.
So it happened that, with Friday afternoon chaos seizing the DFW operations of a certain regional airline (which flies under the colors of a global brand that apparently isn’t paying enough attention), I wandered from one gate to another, one ticket counter to another, with the mistaken belief that the next reissued boarding pass would get me home.
Instead, after the six or so hours that would have been enough time to drive home, I found myself at the airport shuttle stand waiting for a ride to some mystery motel where I would spend the night and hope for morning flight the next day.
As folks who share a recent trauma will, a gentleman also waiting for a shuttle and I compared complaints about our situations. Turns out he was truck driver who had flown in from Oregon to relieve a driver in Amarillo whose wife had gone into labor. Except his flight from Dallas had been cancelled. And his bag had been checked.
But his concern wasn’t for a fresh change of clothes—truckers, of course, often must make do. (Although a dying smartphone and an unreachable carton of smokes were something he’d need to address.) Instead, he worried quite reasonably about the mounting anxiety of his fellow driver.
My first thought was of the would-be dad as well, and I then quickly imagined how this would play out: Frustrated driver gets upset that he was promised he’d be home for the birth of his child—but he was lied to. Again.
And I thought this would be unfair. The company had, after all, gone to the trouble and expense to fly in a replacement.
As if he could read my mind, and knowing I’d just visited Peterbilt’s facility in nearby Denton (so I'm an auxiliary member of the trucking club), the trucker asked if I’d ever heard of Abused Driver Syndrome, and if I’d seen the YouTube video.
I had not, but it was easy enough to google and I found it quickly. Instead of the somewhat humorous take I expected, or even an angry rant, the video is an earnest seven-minute presentation by a carrier boss who apologizes to every driver on the road today, says drivers have been “systematically abused,” and that their behavior—so often maligned by carriers and shippers—is simply a response to that abuse.
The bottom line is that carriers need to treat drivers as if they were the customer. The driver at the airport, in addition to saying the analysis was spot on, also said the trucking executive wasn’t just talking the talk. That’s the company he works for, and he’s glad to be there.
Is this a message worth spreading, or at least considering? You be the judge.