Now & Then
Can we get back to those old-time trucking ways?
By David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
I’m still trying to grasp why National Truck Driver Appreciation Week has moved from August to November. No matter, it’s nice to have a special designated time for companies, customers and the public to show their appreciation and honor professional truck drivers.
Sadly, I’ve come to realize that today’s truckers are often lacking in their appreciation of each other, much less demonstrating it. When did it become the norm for truckers to be so disrespectful of themselves and others with their appearance and behavior on the road? I’m very concerned. It seems professionalism among truckers is doomed to a slow extinction.
After mostly local and regional work, I recently had the opportunity to do some long-haul trucking again. Things have changed considerably from what I experienced not all that many years ago.
Traffic congestion has increased and caused driver behavior to worsen. Erratic maneuvers and rude gestures seem to be the rule. The use of turn signals is uncommon, as is courtesy waving.
Very few truckers, never mind four-wheelers, make room for a truck to merge. The flashing of lights by truckers as a thank you, or to warn of a dangerous situation or speed trap ahead, seems to be a dying practice. And when did it become standard procedure for a vehicle to speed up when you try to pass?
I also discovered that more and more drivers are using cell phones, navigation devices, other wireless telecommunications devices and computers while behind the wheel. All of that in spite of the extensive research that proves the dangers of distracted driving,
A study by Harvard University in 2003 estimated that cell phone distractions alone cause some 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries. More recent studies show that drivers overestimate their own ability to safely multitask, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it.
I know there is typically no dress code for truckers, other than for those that work for companies that require uniforms. But please, can’t more drivers look at the very least presentable?
Perhaps someone can tell me why a driver would want to walk around wearing baggy pants that constantly threaten to fall down. Does it have to do with comfort? Maybe, but isn’t it awkward to keep pulling them up? I just don’t get it.
Then there’s the matter of footwear for truck driving. I don’t believe the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has any regulations that address this matter. However, common sense would dictate not wearing sandals, or flip-flops in particular. Such loose footwear could interfere with the safe operation of the throttle, brake and clutch pedals. Besides, parking lots, truckstops and warehouses often have dirt, chemicals and other substances lying about that could come in contact with the skin. I was shocked to see several drivers who drive barefoot.
I guess I’m just a fuddy-duddy. I always wear work shoes while driving. I make sure I am neat and clean. And I always dress to look professional and act professionally.
Regardless of the apparent current trucker trends, I will continue to do so.