When I was training drivers I tried to make an impression that you, the driver, are the creator of attitudes about your business. Think of any transportation business out there. Generally speaking, there is somebody at the top, a Chief Executive Officer. Then there are Middle Management, accountants, clerical people and sales staff.
Unless they were wearing some sort of uniform would you know which company they represented? By just seeing them, would you be able to form an opinion about their company?
You may think of yourself as a lowly driver but you are probably the most important person in the company. Let me show you.
Let’s imagine you are in the position of hiring one driver for your business. Two applicants show up. They are exactly the same age, size and, gender. They both are very pleasant, very polished looking, and both have twenty years’ experience driving commercially. Matter of fact, the only difference between them is that one has driven a local taxi for twenty years and the other, a Greyhound Bus. Has your comparative impression of the candidates changed any from a moment ago?
Most people do at this point. As drivers go, the name Greyhound has created an impression on most of us and therefore, we are more likely to look at their driver favourably. Absolutely nothing is different but our own pre-formed opinion. So, where did that judgment come from? It was created by watching the majority of Greyhound buses on the highway, in the news and by word of mouth. It’s called “perception”.
Here is the opposite. Without giving you the name, there is a particular trucking company from Phoenix, Arizona that currently has the worst driving reputation in North America. If you are aware of the trucking industry to any degree, you likely know that name and make jokes about their drivers along with the rest of us. That kind of bias may have been created just because people with cameras might have been in the right/wrong place at the right time. I would not want my name associated with that company and because of their reputation, I doubt you would either.
The message that I tried to get across to our drivers was that you are driving a “billboard”. Every move you make as a driver is being watched, observed and, photographed by the general public and because the vehicle is marked with your company’s name, an overall impression is automatically being formed and shared.
Does it matter? It sure does! Who do you think the “general public” is? From the Prime Minister right down to a six or a seven-year-old kid who will probably someday become, or not become, a customer just because of his or her impression.
What you do as a driver can provide a whole industry with a reputation – good or bad. Go ahead, think for yourself. Do you have a picture that comes to mind when you generally think of taxi drivers, car parts delivery services or car rental jockeys at airports? The size or style of the truck may make a difference or the type of business like a specific courier or aggregate service.
Certain things that a professional driver has done in-front-of us stick in our brains whether we are conscious of it or not. Attached to my memory is a particular large US moving company name. On a tied-up four-lane Interstate somewhere in the mid-west USA, you could see traffic for miles ahead at a near stand-still. In the distance, you could see several lit-up traffic control arrow signs directing traffic from the left to the right lane. Whatever the cause, we knew it had been there for some time.
This particular moving company driver had taken it upon himself to become a traffic director positioning himself straddling the lanes, trying to squeeze traffic behind him to the right lane. As he did that, a lady in a four-wheeler in the left lane behind him would attempt to go out around him on the left because there was a half mile of empty space ahead of him. As she did, he would yank the wheel to the left and cut her off. This happened two or three times. She just wasn’t catching on.
Finally, when she did it a fourth time, he popped it into neutral, hit the button, jumped out of the cab and aggressively started trudging back toward her with a tire-thumper in his hand. Every driver there was ready to jump out themselves to pound on him.
When we finally reached the bottleneck, several miles down the road, two tractor-trailer drivers had died in a fiery crash on the median. He probably knew about this a long time before we did through his CB contacts and reacted. I will never forget the name of that internationally known moving company. He created a really bad impression for that hauler in the minds of a lot of people on that highway that day.
You cannot control what is going through people’s minds or how they look at situations but everybody has an opinion. How you are perceived as a driver of a marked vehicle can make all the difference for many years to come.
Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.
THINK SAFETY ……… EVERYWHERE ……….. ALL THE TIME
About the Author
Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions
Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.
As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.
Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council