By: Jack Porter, TPP Managing Director & “The Trucking Activist”
Professional as described by Wikipedia: “A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity. Some definitions of “professional” limit this term to those professions that serve some important aspect of public interest and the general good of society.”
It seems to me that the present day essential truck driver meets that criteria to a tee. However, in society, the truck driver is considered a worker. Let us examine the current pandemic. The role of essential workers during this 100-year crisis has been obvious, understandable, and well deserved. The media started to notice and thanked these workers, government spokespeople acknowledged their great work, and a grateful country thanked them in many ways. The acknowledgements started with doctors, nurses, EMTs, and all first responders, all highly regarded professionals serving the “public interest and for the good of society”. Early on I yelled at my TV, “what about our professional truck drivers?” I wrote about it in these columns and posted on social media. Then the truck driver, as an essential worker, gained traction, however, not as clearly or predominantly as medical professionals. Their acknowledgements came as a secondary awareness and were added to the narrative along with delivery drivers, dock workers and grocery workers. America, where does the truck driver fit in your mind, are they workers or are they professionals?
Most truck drivers do not have a college degree, their education came from the “School of Hard Knocks”. However, in my 40 years of serving the trucking industry, I have met plenty of college graduates, master’s graduates, and some PHD’s. The difference is this industry and the truck driving profession does not discriminate with those that do not have a four-year degree. In many cases it embodies the American dream where a person can work hard and dream of owning their own business without any restrictions to education, age, race, creed, or color. A rather important message during the current protests in America. The truck driving profession is made up of workers and small businesses. Those small businesses, referred to as independent contractors, are a key component of this essential community. Almost all are family owned, small businesses of a diverse background. Many are leased on with trucking companies that supply their freight, give them access to capital, offer network support for their expenses and supply a limited amount of business training.
However, in order to fully embrace the time tested business practice of independent contractors, trucking companies must certainly respect the “independent” aspect of the model. While onslaughts like California’s AB5 law will continue to threaten these small businesses, our nation should respect the notion that truck driving, independent contractor or company driver, is a profession, and an essential one at that. If anything, our professional truck driver, should be supported by government action, not threatened by its intervention.
The truck driver, like an airline pilot or train engineer, is fulfilling similar duties. The pilot and engineer are considered transportation professionals, yet we continue to question whether truck drivers are viewed in the same light. Does the American public consider an airline pilot an essential worker supporting the public good? It is obvious to me that America is starting to understand that the professional truck driver is certainly supporting the public good. As awkward as it seems to accept the fact to the American media, and I dare say the American public, the truck driver is a very important professional, and the images we have of that profession should be changed forever! If I ask the unsuspecting American on the street, what their first image of a truck driver is, it should not be the 1977 film “Smokey and the Bandit”. In turn, it should be the many images, stories, and heartfelt thanks bestowed to our professional truck drivers during this time of need, #thankatrucker.
I hope this new normal for our professional trucking community will continue, and as the self-appointed “Trucking Activist”, I guarantee you that I will continue to push the narrative. From a very grateful American staying at home and not worrying about the supply chain that feeds my family, I am very grateful to this community of professional truck drivers!