Overdrive Magazine: OOIDA’s Spencer: Driver treatment a key element in ‘driver image’

By James Jaillet

In making the push for his group’s joint effort to build a new trucking and driver image initiative, Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said while dealing with the issue of “driver image,” the industry as a whole needs to “deal honestly” with issues that impact drivers’ negatively, like pay and treatment by shippers and receivers.

Driver image is a two-sided issue, Spencer said: Part of image, he says, in addition to what the public and trucking outsiders think, is also what truck drivers think of themselves.

And how drivers think of themselves stems from how they’re treated by others in the trucking industry, like carriers and shippers and receivers, Spencer said.

“These are challenges that the trucking community itself has to be honest about and has to deal with,” Spencer said March 26 at the Mid-America Trucking Showwhile introducing a new industry-wide image campaign called Trucking Moves America Forward. “A lot of what makes drivers feel good about themselves is how they’re treated in the industry they work in.”

Trucking Moves America Forward will be part advertising blitz and part grassroots growth brought by social media presence and exposure through things like trailer wraps, said some of the spokespersons for the group at the MATS-held event.

The goal of the campaign is to build an image of drivers — as a means to attract new workers to the industry and change negative public perception — as working professionals in an industry that plays a huge role in the U.S. economy.

Spencer, who was one of about five speakers in a lineup that also included two drivers, talked about the key points of the theory behind the campaign (truckers are the foot soldiers of the industry that drives the economy), but he also took a more pointed approach in his address, pushing the American driver as the most important piece of trucking’s — and in many ways, the economy’s — puzzle.

Spencer didn’t offer specifics, but he did say carriers should consider how they pay drivers — either amount or structure — as a key pillar to showing drivers appreciation and helping boost their own self-image.

“Those behind the wheel [are] clearly the most important people in trucking. Without them we are absolutely nothing and without them this industry doesn’t exist,” he said. “If you want somebody to feel good about themselves and want them to make [driving] their future, give them a reason. Make them know they’re appreciated.”