I am an abused American

As a woman, I have dealt with multiple traumas in the past. Not surprising when you look at the statistics regarding violence against women in America. As a member of “the weaker” sex, too many of the female population can share their own personal horror stories about being at the receiving end of a bully.

There are various forms of abuse, it does not always have to entail hitting or beating. Emotional abuse can be nearly as bad, whereas the victim is always being denigrated, demoralized, made to feel “not worthy” of anything better. After a while, the victim begins to believe this is true. Oftentimes, they become afraid to leave the abuser, feeling as though they are worthless and not deserving of better treatment.

Over the past 15 years in my trucking career, I have seen the transportation industry become “the bully” toward the professional driver. Our status has fallen from “Knights of the Road” to “slave labor”. We are now The Last American Sweatshop, whereas our skills, time and labor are not given the respect or the salaries that we are deserving of.

We are constantly being battered when laws get passed that totally disregard the health and safety of the professional driver. Anti-idling laws are a prime example. Drivers have frozen to death in their bunks, trying to obey unethical, immoral, and unconscionable laws . I am sure that there will be drivers across the States that will suffer from heat exhaustion, fatigue, and worse, the life threatening condition known as heat stroke, due to extremely high temperatures in their bunks if they are unable to idle their trucks to remain cool, and to get the proper rest needed in order to perform their jobs safely and effectively. There were States that would allow idling if you had a pet on board. The unspoken inference was “your life does not equal the value of a dog”.

That, my friends, is emotional abuse.

When you are delayed at a shipper or a receiver, and you are not compensated for your time from the moment the shipper/receiver lets you “bump the dock”, then you are being told that, “Your time is worthless”, “You do not matter”, and just like an abused woman, over time, something deep inside you begins to believe this heartbreaking and terrible lie. Again, this is emotional abuse, and the slow eroding of a person’s feeling of self-esteem and self-worth. How ironic that men, who comprise the majority of drivers in the transportation industry, are actually getting a taste of their own ‘medicine’, so to speak, since over the centuries, it has been men who have traditionally been the abusers against women, statistically speaking.

When a driver is sent to another Country, Canada or Quebec, for instance, and left to hang out to dry, unable to cross the border, and not being compensated for the hours that they are forced to sit, and miles lost, again, the non-verbal message is:

“You do not matter”. “You are not a human being”. “You are worth less than an animal”. “We don’t care what happens to you, there is always another driver to replace you”. This, again, is abuse!

The transportation industry, working in conjunction with the FMCSA, have conspired against the professional drivers, men and women alike, to divide us, to keep us “off balance” with the constant barrage of new “laws” and standards that they expect us to adhere to, totally disregarding the fact that we are human beings, with the same needs, wants, and issues that any other human being has.

Thanks to many rest areas shutting down, and two hour parking limits at service plaza’s, again, the non-verbal message is, “We don’t care if you’re tired and need to sleep. You have no value”.

Salaries have not kept up with the rate of inflation, and many of us make less than half what we did 8-10 years ago.

Companies are now hiring experienced drivers at an insulting pay rate of .30 cents or less a mile! In desperation for even a BAD job, a driver has usually no choice but to take what is offered, joining the fast growing ranks of the working poor.

15 years ago, trucking companies would attempt to lure drivers into their employ with the promise of a beautiful truck equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, and free satellite radio. Now, we get trucks without APU’s, told we can’t idle to maintain our body temperatures, and given a cheap, plastic truck that will most likely kill us when the outside temperatures reach 85 degrees and higher come summer time. Forget about a refrigerator, you will have to try and keep your food from spoiling in two days with a small cigarette lighter plug in cooler. And since you cannot idle your truck to stay warm/cool, you cannot watch your small television, or use your laptop without the truck batteries dying in 10 minutes. Can someone say, “Solitary Confinement”? Is trucking a job? A worthy career? Or is it punishment?

For a few years now, the industry has tried to perpetuate the rumor of a “driver shortage”. Nothing could be further from the truth! CDL schools are garnering new recruits with the promise of high wages and a satisfying career in transportation, and pumping them out at an alarming rate. Trucking companies hold orientation classes twice a week, that are filled to capacity. If you decide to quit your company, there will be five drivers to replace you in a day.

All trucking companies know this, and so, they will treat you like garbage, like an abused woman, and if you don’t like it, just find another profession.

To me, that’s like saying, “You don’t like being married to an abusive man? OK, than don’t ever have a relationship again”. Not much of a choice there, now is it?

Think hard before you decide to become a professional driver! KNOW what you are getting into! Try to do your homework on the trucking boards and forums regarding any company that you are considering working for.

I know that I tried to “do my homework” before I got involved with some abusive men. Yet, in the beginning of the relationships, I did not see the “warning signs”. Over time, the small things became big issues. And this is the same problem that we professional drivers are dealing with now.

Can you deal with being told every single day that you are, as a professional CDL driver,that you are worthless?

You are quickly and easily replaceable.

Every time that you get behind the wheel of your “big rig”, your life is in danger. You will not even find safety while in the sanctuary of your bunk if you cannot maintain a safe temperature or find a safe haven in which to park to take your federally mandated 10 hour rest break. You will not be treated with the respect that you are deserving of. You will not be paid a fair and equitable wage for the hours that you work. Most likely, you will be told where you can fuel, which will impact whether you will get a shower every five days, or every other day. You will not be able to eat healthily if you cannot keep perishable foods in your truck, and be able to cook a decent meal.

And if you have a dog, or a cat, you are being told that the animals life has more value than you do.

This, my friends, is abuse. The transportation industry has lowered itself to this level. The only way that this can be changed is to utilize the power of the internet by social networking, and banding together to affect positive changes.

There are many people, besides myself, who have the desire to make this happen. IT CAN BE DONE!

I highly recommend Allen and Donna Smith, who run http://www.AskTheTrucker.com/ and http://www.TruthAboutTrucking.com/. I also recommend Heather Pontruff of http://www.thetruckersvoice.net/ These are just a couple of the many people who are advocates for trucker’s rights. Also, you must join and get active with http://www.truckingboards.com/forum/forum.php and again, there are many other trucking social networking sites. Go to http://www.ripoffreport.com/ and type in the name of any trucking company that you are considering working for.

Better yet, do not bother entering the trucking industry! I would like to see an ACTUAL “driver shortage” across this whole Country. When the industry cannot find anyone who is willing to be continuously emotionally abused, and financially battered, earning less than minimum wage, perhaps then our true worth and value of our profession will finally be realized.

So many of us take so much pride in Moving America, we value safety, road courtesy and customer satisfaction for on-time deliveries and pick-ups. The bullying and abuse, however, has to stop!

Can anyone say “Unionize”?

PS: You do not have to be a professional driver or even in the transportation industry to become an advocate for the unsafe and unethical working conditions that the professional driver endures. All you have to have is compassion, and to care about the things that are unfair and unjust, and willing to try to make a difference. And for that, I will thank you in advance for your support of us.

Christy Kuppler

member of http://www.Women In Trucking.org/

member of http://www.ooida.com/


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