Last year I had the pleasure of appearing on Allen Smith’s “Truth About Trucking” blog talk radio program. The show’s topic was about Professionalism in Trucking. You can listen to the archived show by going to www.blogtalkradio.com/truthabouttrucking (go to the archives and look for the August 11th, 2011 show). The show lit a fire in me that I just had to let burn. As a guest on the show, I was asked what I believed a professional driver was. Well, I gave a solid answer, but I’m going to take this opportunity to expound upon that answer.
To me, a professional driver is someone who takes pride in their appearance – they are clean and well-groomed. In essence, they practice good personal hygiene. They wear clean clothes, take care of themselves physically, even if it’s just walking a few times a week, and they watch what they eat. I’m not saying they are health or fitness nuts, but they aren’t slobs either. Most drivers forget that they are a representative of not only themselves or the company they drive for, but, most importantly, the entire trucking industry.
A professional driver isn’t just someone who has good personal habits – they practice professionalism every mile they drive. Every time they speak with a customer, or even when they speak with the clerk behind the counter at the fuel desk, they don’t let the lifestyle of their industry get to them. The industry is hard enough as it is. With the foolishness that occurs with traffic and customers, let alone the interesting things that happen out on the road by other drivers, it can be easy to lose your cool and act unprofessional.
A professional driver knows that the best way to avoid the junk on the C.B. radio is to only use it when absolutely necessary. The C.B. is a tool – an extension of the driver. It in itself is not responsible for what is said using it. A professional driver will simply turn it off instead of becoming involved in the hash slinging contests that are so common, let alone being the cause of the encounter.
A professional driver takes pride in both themselves and their truck – they try to maintain the appearance of their vehicle because it is a reflection of them. That is not to say that trucks don’t get dirty and that sometimes it’s not easy to get them washed regularly, but it is to say that the mirrors, windows and windshield are kept clean. The inside of the truck is also as neat and clean as possible – they aren’t ashamed to have someone inspect their house on wheels. The bed is made and, in general, the interior is as well-maintained as possible.
Professionalism is an attitude – it’s a way of looking at oneself and the work environment that the professional is in and knowing what separates the professional from the gear jammer or steering wheel holder. The professionals know who they are, and they know those that aren’t. A professional driver uses four-way signal flashers when necessary, and they use turn signals to indicate their intentions – they don’t just merge or change lanes without warning. That is not to say that they don’t on occasion have to do so in a rush or that they never forget, but the occurrences are few and far between. A professional driver will always flash their lights to thank someone when they’ve merged in front of them. It’s called “the code of the road” and true professional drivers don’t just practice it, they live it.
Respect in our industry is hard enough to get from other people, drivers included. It’s grudgingly given, but always has to be earned. A professional driver knows that and doesn’t mind earning the respect of their fellow drivers and peers. Is that to say that a professional driver never has a bad day? No! It is to say that a professional driver deals differently with a bad day than someone who is just out there on the road for a paycheck. Being a professional in any industry starts with attitude – it starts with you – and trucking is no different. Trucking isn’t just a job or a career, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s not for everyone. There is way too much bitterness and resentment in our industry, and too many drivers like to play the blame game, which just doesn’t help.
Professionalism in trucking isn’t gone, but it is fading fast. And if it goes away completely, the only people we can blame are ourselves. The only one that can save us is us. Come on, drivers, let’s put the “PRO” back in professional driver, before it’s too late!
~ In an ocean full of sharks and negativity, Toby “The Truck-Writer” Bogard proves day in and day out that both professionalism and camaraderie do still exist in trucking. Author of the books “On the Big Road” and “Semi-Aware” as well as the founder and owner of Toby Bogard Enterprises, LLC and developer of the Body Furnace Fitness & Nutrition System for Truckers (available summer 2012), Toby approaches every day with the same “no excuses” attitude. His website www.truck-writer.com (which is currently being re-designed) is one of the most informative sites for drivers today. His Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages offer a plethora of information for drivers of every experience level, and his blog is considered to be one of the most no-nonsense blogs available online today. Toby also does spokesperson and promotional work for Cobra Electronics and is closely affiliated with several non-profit organizations, like Truckers Against Trafficking and Missing Trucker Alert. When he does get a chance to slow down, he enjoys nothing more than simply being at home with his three remaining children and just being Daddy. Toby is a 12-year driving veteran that has logged over 1,000,000 safe miles in the last eight plus years of his trucking career with the 6th largest trucking company in North America.