Here is an interesting question for you, why become a truck driver? If you had to convince a group of young people why it is a good profession, what would you tell them? We are surrounded by so much negative minutia that some of us never take the time to appreciate what we do for our livelihood. I am going to start it off, but you are more than welcome to let me know some of your reasons for pounding the highway. Before we get started, just an FYI – my transportation career began with ten years on the road doing long-haul; over a million miles accident-free. Even though that was some time ago and my reasons to get behind the wheel may be dated, I think they still apply today.
Here are a few.
- The opportunity for me back then was to see North America while being paid for it, I realized that it was an opportunity that not many get, and I loved it. I was barely out of school at the time, so my lifestyle was all about when the next paycheck was coming. By the time I was in my mid 20’s I had seen most of North America and enjoyed each new destination.
- Not having someone looking over your shoulder was for me huge! I had done a couple of years of factory work and barely tolerated it. It was like treading water. I never felt like I was getting anywhere when I punched a clock and I was not very fond of it. I started driving because of lack of work; things were slow back then in the mid-’70s. Once I got into trucking, I was never laid off for lack of work again. My dad was a professional driver, so I had some idea of the lifestyle; I was a truck brat from the start.
- After a few years, I recognized the actual options in this industry; call it a career path; call it what you want. If you are a person with some ambition, the driver’s seat is a great way to propel yourself into many different careers in this industry. You can become an Owner Operator if that is the path you choose. You would be amazed at how many of today’s fleets of many thousands of power units were started by one person: one truck. In most companies, Operations are loaded with ex-drivers, as is Safety and Sales. Many of the industry’s top trade suppliers have ex-drivers working for them. The list goes on and on.
- I am sure that many people hear about the industry’s high turnover but in reality, the proper term is churn, not turn. Of those drivers who stick it out for more than a year, stats show that few of them leave the industry. I have made it a talking point when I occasionally speak to groups thinking about becoming a driver. I warn them that once this thing called trucking gets under your skin, you will be hooked, and you won’t be getting out soon. I recently had a friend who is a long-time Owner Operator stay with me for a couple of days in Florida. After we traded a few dollars on the golf course, all going his way, we then shared a couple of cocktails. Pete tells me that he is hanging it up this summer; “enough is enough”, he says. I’ll believe it when I see it.
- Along with the rogues and the scoundrels, I cannot believe the great people I have met over the years. I have met so many class acts that have taken the time to mentor me for no other currency except for friendship. I have always been humbled by how generous this industry truly is. I have close friends all over North America and to this day, at its core, the industry is still run by people who started with one truck and a dream.
- I have seen more raw materials and finished goods produced and moved through this economy than most people could ever dream of. Sure, the drivers are usually at the shipping or receiving door, but I always got a charge out of finding out how things work and what people did from where I picked up or delivered. Ask them and they will usually tell you. What’s the number one thing people like to talk about? Themselves! Try it sometime but be careful. I asked too many questions once at a dock in London, Ontario, and ended up marrying the tow motor driver. I couldn’t help myself; she was gorgeous!
- I briefly touched on it earlier by saying I have never been out of work since I got into trucking, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. We have an ageing workforce but guess what? So does every other sector other than high tech. High schools have pushed our younger generation into university with the mantra that anything less was a failure. Our local college’s single most enrollment stream has been from the universities for the past number of years. Why? Because today, a 4-year degree from a university will in most cases get you zip, zero, nada. The world needs plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and truck drivers. Job security and decent wages are climbing higher every day as well as advancement opportunities; our industry has got them for you, in aces!
Do we have issues to overcome? You bet! Name me a sector that doesn’t? This industry has been very good to the Haight family over the years, and I know that many of you reading this, feel the same way. I speak with confidence when explaining the opportunities that we offer in
our industry for younger people. We need them and I think, they need us more than they might know.
Ray J. Haight
Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.