The art of appreciation could be defined as the act of gratitude given freely to someone else for a contribution that had value in your life. I have been reminded this week how many blessings have been presented in my life. It’s something many of us take for granted. I received a “Thank You” card in the mail this week from an organization I do business with, 10-4 Magazine. Normally, I would not have even noticed it, except it was hand-written and addressed to me personally. When did we lose that person to person interaction?
I had been putting in some long hours all week and didn’t get the mail until around 10:30 p.m. on my way into the house. After a quick meal consisting of a cold sandwich and potato salad, I sat down to read the mail. This time of the year I receive as much junk mail as everyone else, so most of the non-bills go into file 13 – the trash.
I probably would have passed this note off to my wife EXCEPT the note was addressed to me in a hand-written envelope. That definitely caught my attention, so I opened it. The note was thanking me for doing my job, can you imagine that? In the card, they wished me a wonderful “10-4 Day” (a trucker’s holiday) and thanked me for being part of our industry and their publication. I was blown away by their actions. Note to self here: send out some thank you cards to people who make a difference in my life. Not an email or a Facebook post, but a real hand-written note.
Back in the olden days, that time before the internet, people had personal contact with one another. Friendships developed by working with colleagues over the course of time. We looked at them face-to-face or we talked on the phone. If someone had a bad day, you could tell by the inflections of their voice. When good things happened, they often shared it with others, and you could tell they were being genuine.
In this fast-paced world we call trucking, the folks working for brokers change jobs and their positions more often than some drivers change their socks. Now, there’s a mental image you can’t wash out with Tide! The reality is we don’t develop longtime attachments to those we do business with anymore. In the days before deregulation, a driver had to cut a contract or lease for a trip leased load. That was every load that didn’t get doled out by your carrier. There wasn’t any of this faxing copies or sending emails to save time. If a driver wanted that load, then he or she (there weren’t many she’s then, but sometimes one crossed your path) had to go to the broker’s office. The broker then gave you door signs and the load info.
Outlaws have always been part of our industry, and even back then, some drivers would haul a HOT load. That was a term used to mean there was no lease and often no proper paperwork. If you did enough loads with any given broker, you could keep a contract on file and reuse the door signs. That was a common practice since most drivers ran the same areas every week and could develop “friendships” with their brokers and customers. The occasional reward didn’t hurt either – seems like an extra ham or two would get left on the trailer, and everyone was happy.
Back then, we all carried a little black book filled with numbers. The longer you were on the road, the more numbers you had. When you were empty or knew when you would be, drivers would start calling everyone they knew to get that return load. We were more selective about who we did business with, too. Everyone has a reputation, and a good one has always been priceless. Back when your word was your bond, everyone guarded their actions and paid special attention to the job they did.
Today, over-the-road drivers are at a true disadvantage when it comes to developing relationships. When you bounce around hither and yon, there is little time to get to know someone, since every day is a new shipper and new loaders. When was the last time you ran across a driver who has been with his current carrier for 20 years or more? That’s a rare thing these days, since everyone is jumping from this company to that one, in a non-stop trail of tears, until they go broke.
In times past, the lease carriers would guide their operators through the up and down cycles of their freight. As much as everyone wants to believe us “old hands” know all there is to know about trucking, it’s not true. We don’t now, and we surely didn’t back then. Just learning to be a good driver takes years but acquiring the knowledge to run a full-blown trucking operation, now that is a full-time commitment! Only a few of us are really prepared for that when we first get started.
The point I’m trying to make here is that none of us can do this job on our own. People make things happen, and to all the folks who have helped me get as far as I’ve made it, THANKS! I truly do appreciate all your help and I understand those long hours come at a price. That price may not have a dollar sign attached to it, but I understand that to clear the slate I too must play it forward and lend that helping hand to others.
I do not believe I will ever get that debt repaid in full, since there are still kind people helping me today – you know who you are – and I appreciate all you do. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so start it out right by letting someone know they make your life just a little easier. Also, let me be the first to wish you a happy “10-4 Day” (October 4th). If you decide to take the day off and make a holiday out of it, none of us would be upset, but that is up to you and your boss (if you are the boss, then give yourself a day off). Til we meet again, I’m waving a big “thank you” hand at ya from my side of the highway, 10-4!