Thursday, May 28, 2015

No One Should Live In A Truck


The trucking business began when someone needed a large amount of products delivered.  It actually started in the farms and fields out of a necessity.  The farmers needed to get their produce from the field to the market.  These old trucks had barely any comforts.  Many of them were equipped with a milk crate for a seat.  These were not the kinds of trucks that people wanted to spend much time in.  If the driver wanted to take a break and catch some shut-eye, he (hardly any women were doing this work at this time) would carry a hammock and string it under the trailer or the bed of the truck.


Fast forward to 2015.  Today's trucks are equipped with air suspension, Bose-Ride seats that absorb practically all vibrations from the road, air conditioning, televisions, refrigerators, power steering, automatic transmissions, and soon: auto-pilot for those long boring stretches of highway.  The progress that has been made in transporting freight is very remarkable.


That said, although these trucker comforts are nice, they're no replacement for a home.  As nice as these trucks are, they are still trucks.  Truck manufacturers are consistently behind the times as compared to the 4-wheel vehicle market.  The main focus in truck manufacturing is to make a reliable vehicle that will simply make deliveries possible, every time, without failure.  Driver comfort has never been a priority.  As time passes, finding a driver for that seat has become more difficult to satisfy.

In the nineties, truck manufacturers started focusing on driver comfort as a way to bring more drivers into the industry and to help minimize fatigue.  Driver comfort also became important to the drivers themselves because the available labor pool was mostly older people who were retired from various industries, who just wanted to see the country and make a little money in the process.

As the price of freight dropped, the trucking business was having trouble finding people to do the work for what they were willing to pay.  The industry is actually its own worst enemy in this respect because as each freight carrier undercuts the other, the rates drop.  This is simple capitalist market competition.  When the price drops too low, there's barely enough money to be made for a person to run a business.

These are only a few factors that have contributed to the design of the modern semi-truck.  Truck comfort has replaced a paycheck.  Company controlled drivers are now looking at having a new truck with all the amenities as though it were some kind of compensation for their time.  If you provide a comfortable environment for the driver, he or she will not need as much money to be happy.  I disagree with this completely.  I do appreciate a comfortable environment, but it doesn't mean I will take less money.  I'd rather drive a 1950s truck with a milk crate for a seat, no air conditioning, and no power steering, while making top dollar, than deal with a shiny new truck and make a mediocre salary.

The best situation is to have all the comforts AND make top dollar for your time.  This is usually only an option for the owner/operator.  It seems as if one of the by-products of truck manufacturers producing trucks to satisfy the lacking company driver supply problem is that now, owner/operators are driving those very same comfortable trucks.

The goal of any truck driver should be to make as much money in one week of work to satisfy one month of expenses.  Regardless of how many La-Z-Boys a truck manufacturer tries to cram into the sleeper of a truck, it's not your home.  It's still a truck and the goal is to make a living so you can go back to your actual home and enjoy it.  So if you are looking to work at a trucking company, try to see past all the amenities the truck offers and look at how much money you are keeping when the day is done.

If you aren't making enough money to walk away from the truck and live your life, in my opinion, you are not only screwing yourself, but everyone in the trucking business.  Therefore, you are the problem with trucking, and you alone.  Unfortunately, the entire industry is so big that it sort of takes on a life of its own.  And with drivers who won't organize to turn this industry in the direction that it could and should be going, things will just stay the same.   

No one should be living in a truck.  It is bordering on inhumane, regardless of how nice the truck is.  Typically all trucks do not have bathrooms, sinks, showers, or a water supply.  They are not living environments.  They are simply a more comfortable way to exist in a parking lot until the freight is delivered.  It's not a safe environment, and offers very little protection from outside forces such as vehicle accidents, theft, bodily harm, and even death.

It seems as if the trucking industry doesn't want people to focus on the making-a-living part when they're trying to woo more people to sit behind the wheel.  They want you to be so dazzled by the truck you're getting that you forget they're not paying you enough to make a living.  The reality is, if you're driving one of these 80,000 lb. plus vehicles at 65 MPH within inches of other traffic on the nation's highways, it really doesn't matter if you're in the most brilliant truck that ever came off the assembly line, you are still in a truck. 

Make sure your time is being valued.  If it isn't, walk away.  Do it for yourself and everyone else in the business today, and in the future.  Do it for the truckers. 

Monday, May 18, 2015