TCA President Chris Burruss stated at our annual convention in San Diego, CA, that truck drivers are no longer perceived as the “knights of the highway.” Further confirming his thought, we know that all too often, people tell stories of truck drivers operating in an unsafe fashion or portraying an image that certainly does not uphold that “knight” persona that we would like. Rest assured though, you are not alone — as fleets across the country struggle to deal with this very issue every day.

Not all is lost, however, as we find ourselves at the very beginning of the summer season, which provides an opportunity to yet again put forth our best impressions on a public that consistently recalls the negative — not positive — aspects of trucking. Our drivers will be operating around vacationing families and kids playing in the street, so be sure to stress the importance of safe driving and operations, as well as courteous and friendly attitudes.

As an industry dedicated to providing professional, safe and courteous truck drivers, the summer months of driving can be especially important. Faced with ever-present delays due to construction zones for improving our nation's highways to just plain old everyday congestion, drivers are often faced with the added stress of operating in a crowded and hectic environment fraught with risk. The way a driver handles that risk is oftentimes the determining factor in the stories that will be told and the image left behind.

With that in mind, now may be the best time to challenge drivers to make another positive impression. While the world may frequently be called a rat race, be sure to remind drivers that there really are no winners in that race. Challenge drivers to exemplify the profession and truly focus on the issues that made their predecessors the original knights of the road. Remind them that the highway traveler is not as well trained as they are and remind them especially to remember that when driving. Encourage them to leave ample following distance, pay attention to surroundings, and watch their speed. Not only will this go a long way in reducing the aforementioned risk that your drivers are certain to encounter, it will help lessen the negative stories being told.

Fleet managers and owners should take advantage of state and national programs as a way to share success stories. Driver of the year award programs are virtually offered in every state and through your national trucking associations and consistently report the positive images that you are trying to project. Special event programs such as the Highway Angel award recognize a driver's “good deeds,” which can range from simple acts of kindness (such as fixing a flat tire) to heroic life-saving efforts (such as pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR).

In other words, never miss an opportunity to remind drivers how important it is to operate in a safe manner and exude a positive image. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort to reverse the effects of one bad apple. But if every driver strives to become a better ambassador, the knights of the highway perception will be revived in no time.


David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to Safety411@truckload.org.