What The Public Thinks Of Truck Drivers (And How We Can Change That)

Trucker with Blue Hat and Plaid Trucker Shirt

Trucker with hat and vest open and no shirtThe Image Of The Truck Driver Has Changed (And Not In a Good Way!)

The image of the professional truck driver has changed over time.

In the past 20 years or so, the public image of the trucker has deteriorated.

There was a time when the free-spirited driver was thought of as a cowboy of the highway.  

Maybe even a hero to some.

The public was in awe of the skills of those truckers who wheeled big rigs out on the open highway.

They envied that freedom and independence.

Truckers were thought of as the good guys who helped out broken down drivers and gave directions to lost travellers.

Generally, the public image of the North American professional truck driver was positive.

Trucks then were slower and less complicated. 

Loads were smaller, rules and regs were fewer.

There were no cell phones, less traffic, and expenses were lower.

Big rig truck

In The ’70’s

The ’70’s truck driver population made the use of the CB radio.

They used the CB as a tool to communicate and help each other.

It wasn’t unusual for non-driving individuals to set up a land-based radio, to communicate with the heroes of the highway.

It was pretty exciting for them, to talk CB talk to the truckers on the road.

CB Radio CB Lingo

Professional drivers enjoyed the freedom of the open roads and big money in the ’70’s and the ’80’s.

They didn’t work any harder than today’s drivers, but the higher wages made up for the rugged lifestyle.

And the best part, truckers were respected and loved a lot more than they are today.

The trucker public image used to be strong and if there was a stereotype, it was that of a hardworking driver.

When Did Truckers Develop Bad Stereotypes? 

In the early 90’s, the public image of the trucker began to slide downhill.

Truck drivers were sometimes thought of as bad guys, cheaters, thieves and even serial killers!

It wasn’t unusual to pin the guilt on a long haul trucker for unsolved serial murders back in those days.

After all, their roaming lifestyle, fit the criminal profile for a murderer perfectly.

The Media Is Partly To Blame 

What caused this deterioration in public image and the creation of hurtful stereotypes? The media may have done their part to destroy the respect for the front line workers of our trucking industry.

Trucking television shows, movies, music and trucker lingo came about for sheer entertainment and fun.

To a certain degree, the media’s portrayal of this group over the years may have caused some permanent damage to the reputation and image of the professional truck driver. It wasn’t long until some very hurtful stereotypes began to develop around this industry.

Everything from horror movies to comedies has represented the trucker as either an apathetic maniac or an uneducated, overweight jerk

Even old trucking movies that depict truckers in a fun and exciting way such as White Line Fever, Smokey and the Bandit, Black Dog, Duel and Convoy, may have also contributed to the negative public image of truckers.

After all, the main characters in these movies are law-breaking reckless individuals.

It’s hard to say.

Another possibility is that deregulation of the trucking industry led to a flood of inexperienced truckers.

The number of North American truckers grew in leaps and bounds.

More trucks than ever were running on our highways. 

The brotherhood of drivers fell apart as drivers formed their own groups for their own causes. 

The unity of truck drivers disappeared and pride in their profession vanished also.

The 5 Trucker Stereotypes

I’d say that some trucker stereotypes have an element of truth to them while most are a case of “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

It is important to remember that there is no single type of truck driver.

Truck drivers come from a variety of backgrounds, education levels, ethnicities, ages, and personalities.

Stereotypes are hurtful but we can take efforts to change them.

Here are the 5 basic trucker stereotypes that we are tired of seeing.

1. The Dirty, Overweight Trucker

The stereotypical trucker? Overweight, stinky, dirty, and unkempt.

They rarely shower, never change their clothes, don’t bother to tidy up their truck, and eat a terrible diet. Sadly, that’s what a large percentage of the public think of the North American trucker.

While there are definitely those who don’t tend to their hygiene the way they should, this doesn’t represent truckers as a whole.

Many truckers aren’t held to a standard for their professional appearance and some take full advantage of that.

Eating a healthy diet can be a challenge on the road. Also, any career that has you sitting for 8-10 hours can result in some weight issues.

There are truckers that deal with weight issues but that doesn’t represent the trucking industry as a whole. Nor should any person be told that they “don’t look like a trucker” because they take care of their hygiene and their health.

This is a stereotype that needs to go and fast.

2. The Foul-Mouthed Trucker

The CB radio isn’t helping this stereotype.

A once very useful device, it is now used as a channel for bored and frustrated truck drivers to cuss, yell and vent about everything.

Keep in mind, truckers are often parents.

They aren’t all womanizers and scoundrels.

You will have just as much of a prevalence of well-mannered truckers as ones who are rough around the edges.

Related >Big CB Radios – An Important Part of Trucker Culture

Trucker with Blue Hat and Plaid Trucker Shirt

3. The Illicit Behaviour Trucker

This is the trucker who does drugs, drinks on the job or solicits prostitutes or “lot lizards” at truck stops.

Most carriers require drug and alcohol testing on their drivers so this stereotype doesn’t hold a lot of weight.

As far as prostitution, this can happen but it isn’t any more prevalent in this industry than any other.

4. The Road Hog Trucker

Some truckers don’t respect the road.

Then again, many drivers in four-wheelers don’t either.

For professional truck drivers, safety is a top priority.

Driving the speed limit, being cautious in poor weather conditions and giving ample room between the haul and any surrounding vehicles is incredibly important.

Most truckers are doing their best to deliver their cargo safely so the road hog stereotype is a needlessly negative one.

Related > 9 Critical Things Truckers Should Know About Tailgating

Convoy of Big Rigs

5. Male-Only Industry

While women only constitute a small percentage of truck drivers, they are still just as capable and proud of their jobs.

They are breaking into the industry in strides and luckily get paid about equal wages which is not so common in other professions.

It may be a male-dominated industry but it still has its share of proud trucking women.

Woman Truck Driver Getting into Black Big Rig

Are The Stereotypes About Truckers Actually True? 

There is an element in the industry who fits each stereotype exactly.

But, there are both good and bad employed in this profession, just like any other.

I’d like to think these are few in number. 

There’s a large element of professionals who are honest, dedicated hard working people, who want to do their job well, be paid and go home to their families.

One thing for sure, the public image of the professional truck driver has seriously deteriorated.

Perhaps the public has just cause for this negative view.

Perhaps professional truck drivers are guilty of declining standards.

If the majority of truck drivers presented themselves and acted more professionally, it would improve our public image as a whole.

It would also be a positive thing for truck drivers as a group.

We could then perhaps better interact with each other in a more positive way and strengthen our sense of mutual respect for other drivers on the road.

Related > Do Today’s Truck Drivers Deserve Respect?

trucker in van trailer leaning with arms folded

How Can Truck Drivers Change These Stereotypes? 

How do we in the trucking industry uphold the reputation of the professional driver and win back the respect of the public? There are four cornerstones to breaking down truck driver stereotypes and improving the public image of truckers.

1.  Appearance

Your appearance as a professional trucker starts with your truck.

Before you ever step out of your vehicle, you should maintain your truck. A clean truck shows you have respect for your profession.

When a driver steps out of his truck, he presents an image.

This image is portrayed to other truck driver, shippers, receivers, customers, dispatchers, company owners.

It is important to be seen a professional rather than someone who doesn’t care about the way they appear nor care about their job.

Wear clean clothing and shower often.

Sweat pants and untidy appearance can reflect poorly on a driver as well as the trucking company he represents.

Attitude is projected by personal appearance.

When customers, the public and fellow drivers see a trucker dressed in wrinkled, dirty clothes, and not having showered for days on end, this presents a pretty negative image…. people who don’t know the driver have no other way to judge the driver, than the way he/she presents themselves.

Whether we agree with it or not, people judge others at a glance, by their personal presentation.

Clean, decent clothes and appearance go a long way and reflect self-respect and pride in the job.

Related > Gentlemen of the Highway – Truckers of Days Gone By

2. Attitude

I can’t stress enough the power of a positive upbeat attitude.

We grow so weary of the incessant grumbling and complaining out there in this industry. There are always issues that need resolving in any job.

But it shouldn’t prevail to the degree that it lowers the standards of the profession.

Having good manners, especially when speaking with customers and your company, can go a long way in improving how others view truckers.

Likewise, how we talk to one another could use some improvement.

It’s sad how the CB radio has become such a sewer.

It’s a cheap communication tool that’s pretty darned handy for drivers to help one another. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to use it again for that purpose?

Your attitude communicates through the way you speak. Try to maintain a positive outlook and be patient and polite when you can afford it.

3. Drive Like a Professional

Safety should always be your number one priority. Professional drivers should not be racing along the highway.

Aggressive driving should never be allowed. Take things in stride.

Keep a safe following distance by not tailgating other vehicles and be respectful of both 4 wheelers and other trucks on the road.

Check everything going on around you when driving and anticipate what may go wrong.

Putting other drivers in jeopardy with aggressive driving is not the sign of a professional truck driver.

Related Article > 5 Things Professional Drivers Should Never Do

Truck Driver Leaning on his Truck

4. Show Respect To Your Fellow Truckers

Even with all of the tough regulations and volatility in the industry, there’s still plenty of opportunity for kindness and respect for a fellow driver.

If truckers are to be treated with respect, they need to look respectable as well as act and drive like the professionals they are. Perhaps then, the trucker nation will fully regain the respect and reputation they so deserve for one of the hardest, under-appreciated jobs out there.

Never ever will all truckers be on board, but that shouldn’t deter the good drivers who want to make truck driving their career and who truly love their job.

Showing self-respect and for each other, and pride in the ride and the job, is the most important step to a ONE TRUCKER NATION and the return of the brotherhood of professional truck drivers.

Improving Our Reputation

Many of the old school experienced truck drivers are leaving the industry, due to lack of professionalism, lack of respect and lack of decent pay.

As professionals, we need to be paid as professionals in our field deserve to be but I feel that part of the reason companies feel they can pay us less is because truckers aren’t demanding respect, nor representing themselves well.

In order to be treated with respect, we must earn that respect.

We need to look the part and act the part.

An increase in the level of professionalism would go a long way to helping truck drivers achieve what we want most from our trucking careers.

Professionalism and a little more care in how we present ourselves is the only thing that will help destroy truck driver stereotypes.

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