We don’t get enough opportunities in this industry to hear from real, live, workaday truck drivers and get a feel for the lifestyle they lead and the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This is especially odd when you consider that we all reap the benefits of their hard work. Every time you buy a Maine lobster in California, an avocado in the middle of winter, or just about anything else you can find on a store shelf these days, somewhere out there is a trucker you need to thank for making that possible.
Because of all this, it was especially rewarding to listen in on one of the latest episodes of Supply Chain Now, featuring Wayne Cragg, a professional owner-operator currently driving for Trucker Wayne. In his 6+ years in the trucking industry, he’s driven dry van, reefer, flatbed, intermodal and more — just about everything except tanker and hazmat.
In addition to being a long-haul trucker, Wayne is a US Navy vet, as well as a practicing wilderness photographer with more than 200 framed photographs in various locations around the world. You can check out some of his work on his Facebook page, Wayne Cragg Photography and Adventures. Below are a few of my favorite moments and biggest takeaways from Wayne’s guest appearance with Jeff Miller and Jamin Alvidrez.
We’ve said this before: Truck driving has never been more important than it is today. At the same time, it’s hardly ever been more stressful. We’re struggling with an incredibly high turnover rate in trucking today, at the same time that companies are scrambling to find people to fill open positions.
All of this is happening at the same time that the industry is having trouble finding available capacity and shippers are struggling to transport critical loads. Taken together, all of this means that the conditions are only getting more stressful as pressures mount on all sides of the equation. In many ways it’s a vicious cycle, and drivers who don’t find ways to insulate themselves from the emotional stresses of this profession are setting themselves up for burnout and hardship later on down the road.
All of this is why one of the first things Wayne talked about on this episode was a focus on self-care: making sure that you’re getting enough exercise, choosing the right eating habits, and having something to distract yourself with when your hours of service are up.
“I’ve been saying this, especially since coronavirus: You have to have a hobby, or this trucking will beat you up,” Wayne says. “If I didn’t have a hobby, if I didn’t get out and hike or do anything, I’d basically be in the truck doing what? Doing nothing. And so I think it’s so important to be able to get out of the truck, have a hobby that gets you out of the truck. You can have hobbies outside the truck, but get out.”
Long story short: Find something to focus on outside of the driver’s seat. Whether it’s going for hikes, throwing a bike on the back of the tractor, or just doing a few laps around the truck stop parking lot, find something to do to get you out of that seat or the long hours, the stress and the alone time are going to slowly eat you alive.
The other side of the coin here is the professional side of things. Truck driving is not just a lifestyle; it’s a business, as well. And nowhere is this more important than for all the owner-operators out there. So how do you take a difficult, demanding profession and start to make it work for you? Wayne had some answers for that, too.
One of the first steps is to just choose the right shippers to partner with. Like Wayne mentioned, the bad shippers became worse during COVID. But the good shippers got better. We’ve seen this on our end as well, here at FourKites. It’s been inspiring to see how many of our shipper customers have doubled down on things like ePOD, better safety for drivers and dockworkers, more efficient yard management, and more.
Things like these enable safer, quicker and more efficient usage of pickup and delivery facilities, making it easier for drivers to get in, get out, and get back on the road without wasting time or risking their health and safety. It’s really not difficult at this point to figure out which companies are placing a priority on driver time and safety, and that presents an opportunity for drivers to form strong relationships with shippers who truly have their best interests at heart.
“I think the visibility of truck and trailer lets people know what’s really going on without calling me…I think the visibility of the trailer and the truck lets everybody know if I’m not doing my job.”
– Wayne Cragg, Professional Owner-Operator, Trucker Wayne
I was delighted to hear Wayne mention his views on supply chain visibility as well, saying that over the past few years every single one of his company’s 2000 or so trailers has been equipped with an onboard GPS unit.
“Personally, I like it,” he said of the greater level of visibility available throughout his organization. “I’m not quite sure where the old-school truck drivers have a problem with visibility, but I don’t want people calling me and bothering me. And that’s just my personality. I’m doing my job. If I’m doing my job correctly, then why are you calling me? And I think the visibility of truck and trailer lets people know what’s really going on without calling me…I think the visibility of the trailer and the truck lets everybody know if I’m not doing my job.”
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There’s no doubt about it: It’s a tough time to be a truck driver right now. But it’s great to hear voices like Wayne’s coming up and shining a light on the positive sides of the industry as well.
If you want to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here, and to all the truckers in our audience: Drive safe!