I’ve been using you tube more frequently to retell my story to a new audience as the “alleged” driver shortage has reemerged with a vengeance and I have begun contributing to other trucking sites such as the “Life on the Road” blog with an introductory piece about being referred to as a “Trucking Whistleblower”. I am also working on some other non-trucking related endeavors.
Over the past few months I have been frequently contacted about this blog and other blogs where I write about truck driving issues for women, student driver issues, crimes against truckers and a multitude of other topics. It’s not been easy for me to keep up with it all because after all I am just one person. I do the best that I can but I think it is important for others who are as frustrated as I was when I began this writing to understand that one person with a semi reliable Smartphone, a annual income of $35,000 or less which was my case for most of 2010 can have a very long reach. What I accomplished could be accomplished by anyone, even if they are driving full or part time. That was part of my social media experiment, to prove that people outside of trucking would care about safety and training issues if someone could effectively tell them what was going on. This is what has not been done by any organization inside trucking who claims they care about highway safety and driver retention.
When I first began this project and started on twitter there was an ex-truck driver/wannabe blogger who has since named himself a “watchdog” for the industry. This person put a great deal of effort into inserting himself in the center of the jealous flames wars that later ensued but one day he blurted out how he hated activists. It was really an odd comment because most of the links he expected me to “ReTweet” for him were trucking issues that required some sort of action from drivers or concerned citizens. Wouldn’t that be considered “Activism”? Here was a guy that was unemployed, unable to drive any longer and had tons of time on his hands. An ideal person to help participate in worthwhile issues who already spent hours on the internet looking up trucking news but unfortunately he was not interested in teamwork. His main motivation was merely jealousy which can actually be an effective tool to spur a competitive spirit but I will write about that another time.
I had not considered myself an activist, watchdog or anything or the sort. I do consider myself a concerned individual and even though I have very little financial means, I did have something to give which was time and ability. A person with time and ability is just as valuable to a cause as a person who donates money but cannot donate time or ability; both require action as opposed to inaction. That is called teamwork. All the money in the world cannot solve a problem if it is not applied effectively, if the resources never make it to the intended recipient it is only waste.
We need only to look at how our ineffective government runs to realize this problem is not isolated to trucking. In fact, it is clear that often an intentional façade is created to make it seem as if something is being done to correct a problem but actually it is only a PR campaign to settle down the “Activists”.
I believe more drivers are beginning to wake up and I encourage them to become involved in Facebook group discussions, letter/email writing, making phone calls and developing a virtual community through social media. There are so many worthwhile projects that need a few good men and women to help contribute knowledge.
If you are a problem solver type personality like I am walking by the 800 pound gorilla in the center of the room that represents a potential solution and having the “rule makers” ignore and disregard it becomes intolerable. After all, the supply chain consists of people who are theoretically trained to efficiently solve problems, correct?
Part of the problem has been overcoming the negative image of truck drivers. Some of this poor image has been cultivated by the industry who are responsible for who they recruit and provide the keys to their 75 feet of equipment. The industry has enjoyed playing out the “rogue driver” image for the public when it suits their needs while parading the “trained performer” like a circus treat for special events and recruiting tactics. These hand selected neutered drivers know better than to introduce sensitive topics for discussion to top industry brass. The job of these hand selected “voices of the industry’ is to give carriers a money shot ad and lead the public to believe everything is hunky dory, one big rootin tootin party with belt buckles and tattoos for everyone.
Outrage was what drove me to write and take action. It seemed like everywhere I traveled in the truck I saw a signs that said “Speak up Desiree”.
One of the places I had to pick up from occasionally was in Delaware and I tried to plan my schedule to pass through Washington D.C. in the evening when there was less traffic. Ironically, my 1st husband, a retired Army Major resides in this area so upon crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge I often thought how different my life may have been had I not left him. Since I was a young teenager he used to tell me how I could never survive without him, that I would never amount to anything, no one would ever love me, hire me or permit me to be admitted into a university. He was the only stability I had in my life up to that time and it was never easy to take action and leave but I could no longer tolerate his violence.
There are many people who look down on truck drivers but I had never felt so proud and patriotic as I had felt when I operated my truck and delivered my load safely and on time. I felt a deep sense of achievement I had never felt before that was related to performing my job. My self-worth was increasing and it was not attributed to how I looked or who I was in a relationship with. I fought back because I loved trucking and I felt like I wanted to live again. I knew there were other people who felt like they were drowning in this screwed up training system too.
The roads in Delaware become very narrow and there are few street lights so it is dark and difficult to see upcoming crossroads. It’s easy to miss a turn and stressful knowing you may get lost on a delicate farm road. I remember driving very slow through a township, and I saw a sign that said “SLOW Blind Child” on a yellow placard sign. I had never seen such a sign but I knew that unique signs existed in different areas. For instance, in Southern California there is a sign with a picture indicating a “Surfer Crossing” and I think most of us have seen the one with the image of the duck crossing or deer.
It was past midnight and even though I was already driving slowly, when I saw the blind child sign I slowed down further and laughed at myself because why would a blind child be out on the street in the middle of the night. A few miles after that I saw another sign that said “SLOW Deaf Child” and again, I did the same thing. The signs not only made me take immediate action, they made me think about what kind of community I had just entered.
This was not a heavily populated area but it was a town that cared and took action. For me, those signs represented a concerned community who took action to correct a problem.
My Mother once said to me “Desiree, why do you care about all these things, don’t you realize people are not like you? You always get your feelings hurt thinking they will care about things like you do!” It made me upset when she said this and I’m afraid at 47 years of age I finally understand that most people are not like me and really do not give a shit and that makes me even sadder.
What makes me happy though is that I am able to say “MOST” which means “NOT ALL” people and it is those who care about being better human beings that I take the time to share my experiences. Activism is how issues are raised for awareness and when food, water and public safety are at risk.
I invite those who want to raise the low standards in truck driver training to become more active, more vocal and demand truck driver training carriers be held accountable to the taxpayers who help fund truck driver training programs.
I will be writing more on the topics of activism on the “Life on the Road” blog, “Real Women in Trucking”, and sharing stories I hope will inspire you take action and stop waiting for things to happen by themselves or from phony organizations that use drivers for a showpiece to keep the heat off of them.
Community is what is lacking in trucking and leadership. This year has been a turning point because of social media activism in trucking. I encourage drivers and concerned citizens to do their part by becoming involved in Facebook groups, Twitter, You Tube, LinkedIn Discussions and start speaking up. Raising awareness to issues outside of the industry and changing the perception of who truck drivers are. This requires your action, your activism.