The Stigma of Truck Drivers – How to Change the Stereotype

The American truck driver, polished, presentable, well-mannered and considered a hero to all. What? Does that not align with what you think of when you think of a truck driver? Truck driver stigma is universally recognized and hard to beat, which in turn compounds driver experiences.

Let’s take it back to the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s where truck drivers were considered the cowboys of the open road, assisting the occasional stranded driver, chatting with locals over the CB radio, the all-around good guy. So, what happened?

Some time around the 90’s the shift of public perception of the truck driver was driven by an increase in crime surrounding drivers as well as movies, media, and public opinion. Thanks to the rash of crime in the 90’s, movies came out based on them, one after another, depicting truck drivers as murderous, road-raged men that became unhinged and couldn’t be stopped. Just like movies do, they inflamed an already declining assumption about truck drivers.

By the early 2000’s truck drivers were seen by most of the public as unhygienic, drunken, foul-mouthed individuals that could easily pass as the bottom-of-the-bucket work force. Was this true? Does this mean every driver fit this image exactly?

Definitely not. There a more truck drivers out there today than aren’t that are proud of the work they do and make sure to go above and beyond for an honest day’s work. But even so, truck driving is generally seen as a low status career.

Transporting goods across cities, states, and the country safely, timely, and reliably is no small feat. But no one understands the struggles and stressors of the job until you put yourself in their shoes. Navigating adverse weather, bad drivers, road construction and maintaining their cool when dealing with hot-headed individuals is all part of the job. Yet drivers are met with audacious stereotypes that pigeonhole them into a box the public has made it hard to break out of.

How do you break out of that box?

The first thing that a driver can do is to not get hung up on what others think. Whether you’re a company driver or an owner operator, your job is to take care of that freight and get it to where it needs to be. Not only do you not have time to worry about what others think of you, you probably shouldn’t care either.

That being said, most truckers these days have become more conscientious of their appearance and take pride in presenting themselves and their trucks well as a form of self-respect and organization. Doing this easily helps blur the lines of that box. Companies these days have also leaned into a more professional driver look with uniforms and clean truck policies.

Looks are one thing, but what about an attitude check? Have you ever come across a fellow driver that didn’t care to give you the time of day or worse, disrespected you for no real reason? That’s just fine. One sure-fire way to change that stereotype is to brush it off and walk in the other direction. Or, as Miss Dolly Parton says – “If you see someone without a smile, give’m yours!”

The only real way to break the stigma of a truck driver is to take it upon yourself and choose how you would like to be seen and heard, every day. An extra step forward would be to have civil conversations with those that seem to fall for the images they’ve been shown on TV and give them a peek into your world, you never know where a little communication could lead.

All in all, truck driver image has improved in recent years especially alongside the pandemic as their jobs were deemed essential (we already know that now, didn’t we?) and they became the ones that kept going when the world stopped. Pandemic or no pandemic, at Meadow Lark we know drivers are the backbone and need to be treated as such.


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