Choosing a Trucking Company: Myths, Mires and Birds of a Feather

Choosing a Trucking Company: Myths, Mires and Birds of a Feather

Over a decade ago I had a conversation with an operator who was bragging about the company he worked for. This is usually a good thing since loyalty is sometimes essential to a good operator-company relationship. However, this situation was unique. I’ll have to change a bit of information in order to protect the innocent/guilty.

The operator boasted about how smart the owner of his company was and how he wouldn’t work for anyone else. It seems his “boss” bought and divested numerous other trucking companies. During the course of this activity the owner had a pattern of accessing sensitive information (for nothing) observing and utilizing critical data/personnel and then dumping the deal (to varying degrees), basically buying reneging and dumping. This is not peculiar to the trucking industry and even has a term somewhat associated with it, “corporate espionage”. There are parasites in every industry.

What struck me as odd was that this operator admired the owner’s tactics. Or more precisely he assumed his position was immune from unethical treatment.

This operator’s loyalty was based on broken logic. Just because a thief steals from a stranger doesn’t mean they won’t steal from a friend. The operator believed there was at least some honor among thieves. In certain circles several examples could support this theory, provided people stay friends for life. However, relationships often cool and thieves aren’t exactly known for their honor.

In choosing a trucking company ethics are everything. Anyone can write anything on a piece of paper and even have it notarized. However, paper is just paper, it doesn’t guarantee scruples on scoundrels. Ethics are a matter of conscience, head and heart not pen and paper (not to say paper isn’t important).

Comparing trucking companies requires a summary course on ethics. If a magnifying glass could be focused on the personal lives of all trucking company owners and decision makers choosing would be much easier. For instance, have they carried their lives in a matter worthy or respect? Have they personally retained honor with friend, customer and even adversary? Nobody is immune to criticism or even failure, but to which side does the scale balance?

Evaluating owners or decision makers is not an exact science and appearances can be very deceptive. Fancy cars or impressive features are too often a diversion from customer service and industry respect. Try to measure a person by their consistency to principles of generosity, honesty and humility.

I remember an event where an owner cut in front of one of his own trucks and caused a highway accident. The driver (who didn’t know it was his boss) tore a strip into him. The owner never said anything more than apologies. The driver never knew it was his boss until some time later. He could have had the guy fired but instead took his well deserved lumps.

How well does the owner treat the employees around him? What does the owner tolerate, or more importantly what does he NOT tolerate? Does he allow staff to insult drivers behind their back? Does he publicly humiliate employees? When times are tough how logical or principle based is their cost cutting? If you see or hear of anything you don’t like its better to research more first before making any leap. In the end trust is the bases of all solid business activities.

I don’t know what ever happened to that operator who valued the thief. However I’m fairly certain he would have fallen into the category of: “birds of a feather flock together”.

Robert Scheper

Robert D Scheper has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is the author of two books, “Making Your Miles Count: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes” and "Making Your Miles Count: Choosing a Trucking Company".

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