The general public has a negative view of trucking as a low status career. People rank truck driver alongside “undesirable” jobs such as filling station attendants, janitors, longshoremen, and bus drivers. It’s interesting to note how many jobs considered to be low status are directly involved in moving people and produce across the country, but that’s neither here nor there. Tell a stranger you’re a doctor and they respect you. Tell someone you’re a trucker and, well, you’ve probably seen the response firsthand.
Part of the problem is the public’s perception of truckers, which is largely driven by Hollywood portrayals. At best, truckers are seen as good-natured rednecks with little education and more heart than brains. At worst, truckers are portrayed as fat, smelly, foul-mouthed jerks who drink too much, abuse stimulants, hire prostitutes, and neglect their families. (After all, if they cared, surely they wouldn’t be away from home so much, would they?)
It’s a tired old stereotype, but it’s one the industry needs to actively combat. The trucking industry is short almost 40,000 drivers nationwide according to the American Trucking Association. Attracting young drivers is proving difficult, in part, because the stigma scares people off.
So the industry needs to work to change public opinion on trucking, but even with a concerted effort, change will take time. Public attitudes on what constitutes a low status job have remained relatively unchanged for decades. Interestingly, the occupations with the most prestige, according to a Harris poll, are those people believe help other people. That’s why doctors, firefighters, and the military rank highest in terms of prestige.
And there, perhaps, lies the key in changing the stigma of trucking as a low status occupation. If the industry can get across the fact trucking helps provide people, businesses, and the nation with the products they need, we might be able to slowly change people’s minds about trucking and truckers.
It’s worth a try, because it’s well past time the stereotype of the crude, fat trucker was replaced with a more positive view of the men and women who work so hard to keep this country moving.