Copyright Sandy Long
Truck drivers are many things; mathematicians, physicists, geographers,
mechanics and freight movers. These skills are used every day in one way or
another to do the job. We use math to figure mpg, running miles, rates, fuel
surcharge, HOS, service data and pay due us. Physics are used to figure load
placement and in the use of proper additives to oil, fuel and water. Geography
is used to check routes, elevations and where one is at any given time.
Mechanical knowledge is used to listen to the engine and troubleshoot any
problems. Many drivers are required to have knowledge of the use of pallet jacks
or pallet tie to load and unload freight. One area of expertise that isn’t
talked about much is the public relations aspect of the job.
The company may own the truck we drive, tell us where to go and when to be
there, and fund the running of the truck, but we are at the forefront of the
public and customer’s view. We are the ones that can make or break a company by
our attitudes and we are who deals with the customer face to face. Furthermore,
our public relation skills can make our jobs easier or harder to do.
What is the first thing the customer or public sees when we are near, the
truck. Company drivers sometimes don’t have much to do with the appearance of
the truck’s exterior, but they do have everything to do with what is in view of
the people looking. If a driver has written/printed signs/bumper stickers
showing that have sexual connotations, the public automatically regards him/her
as a pervert or deviate. We know that many of these types of things are just for
fun, but the public doesn’t. Say you have a big sign in your window that
says…”show me your hooters” and the lady shipping clerk is looking out the
window and sees that sign as you park. Do you think she is very comfortable in
working with you? Probably not, she will be on guard for what you might say to
Our personal appearance is seen too; if we haven’t combed our hair, taken a
bath, changed our clothes, then we promote the stereotype of being dirty
truckers. Good hygiene is sometimes hard to maintain on the road, but there are
some things that can be done to keep up your appearance. Baby wipes work in a
pinch if you cannot get a shower, the use of deodorant and a change of clothing
also is also encouraged. The type of clothing you choose is of vast importance.
You don’t have to wear designer, high priced clothes, but one should make sure
that clothing fits and is clean and not ragged.
The most important parts of public relations are attitude and people
skills. You cannot control how someone acts towards you directly, but you can
perhaps change their attitude with your own. Most people react to pleasantness
with the same pleasantness. If you go into a customer’s building with a smile on
your face, most likely you will get a smile in return. Even if you have been
there for hours, if you go in with a bad attitude to check on why you have to
wait, you will most likely be met with a bad attitude and have to wait
Recently I had to stop at a truckstop to have a fuel filter changed. The
service desk person was swamped and told me it might be a little while before
they could get to me. She was startled that I reacted to that with a smile and
by saying ‘that’ll be fine’. Looking up, she told me that a driver that was
there to get a tire changed had just went out the door after cussing her badly
about having to wait their turn for a mechanic. I told her a quick funny joke
and went to my truck to wait, leaving her smiling behind me. She thanked me for
brightening her day and it wasn’t very long before my filter was changed and I
was on my way.
If a driver goes into a customer’s establishment with a bad attitude and is
hateful, it can cost a company thousands of dollars in lost business. Freight is
a cut throat business and customers base carrier changes on pennies at times. It
might just be your people skills and ability at public relations that carries
the day for your company in keeping that customer. Customers remember that neat
looking equipment and the nice, clean, neatly dressed driver and may be more
inclined to pay a little more to get that driver back again.
Being polite doesn’t cost anything but a little effort on a driver’s part.
I would much rather be remembered for my courtesy and professionalism than as a
real pain in the neck…wouldn’t you?
Ya’ll be safe!