Over a year ago, around the time that I was enrolled in the Flashpoint program at Georgia Tech, I was doing some research for MyLumper when I ran into a truck driver at the Petro truckstop. I approached him to ask a couple questions, and he was more than happy to sit down and share his story.
Oh ya, hey?
He started by telling me his name was Marc Laurent* and that he was from Canada, though the accent beat him to it. He was the quintessential Canadian: modest, friendly and in a great mood to talk. I first asked him, “Why did you become a trucker?” He responded, “I did not become a trucker, I became a traveler.” I must have had a puzzled look on my face as I asked him to explain. Marc went on and told me that he always had yearned to travel all over the United States and Canada, but didn’t have the bank to support such an endeavor. Then one day he saw a semi truck drive by with a huge American flag on it. To him, that wasn’t just a flag on a truck, but rather it was a symbol of freedom in every sense of the word.
He could suddenly see himself navigating through some of the most scenic roads, bustling cities and rolling hills of North America. Free from anyone telling him what to do in a traditional office setting, while still making a good living.
“… I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
That was when he decided to enroll into a program that would teach him how to drive a truck. He said, “Throughout the whole process, it never crossed my mind that I was becoming a trucker; to me I was becoming a traveler who could roam free. I’d tour around in a beautiful rig with a sleeper, making some deliveries of the products that people needed to go about their daily lives – and get compensated for it.” He said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
In my conversation with him I noticed a couple things. He never used the words ‘work’ or ‘job’. If that was his alternative reality, then that’s something I would like to see more of in the trucking industry. Marc was happy, excited and loving the experience. For a guy who has been driving almost 20 years, he was still in the honeymoon phase of his profession.
“I love what I do, but …”
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask him to tell me about any bad experiences. After all, I was there to find out how we could add value to the trucking industry and to help hard-working people like Marc.
I asked him, “As a refrigerated driver, what has been your experience dealing with lumpers?” He then started gushing about how those men and women make what he does so much better. He went on to say, “I love what I do, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as much if I had to worry about taking thirty to forty thousand pounds of anything off my trailer on a regular basis. I wouldn’t have the time to enjoy my own down time!”
He also told me about a bad experience he had. He was making a delivery in California when he was asked to pay his lumper fee. Since he never had any issues getting reimbursed before, he went ahead and paid for it after trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with his dispatcher. He assumed everything would be okay in the morning once he sent in his receipts. He told me he was shocked when his dispatcher said that he would not be seeing a reimbursement because he didn’t have prior authorization. For a calm, well-mannered guy, I could tell he was furious even recalling the story. He continued, “Since then, I’ve stopped working for that particular company and actually had to take them to court. In Canada, the law in such a situation is very favorable to Truckers like me because I’ve kept my receipts.”
Our “Raison d’être” Moment
It was my turn to tell him about what we were building and how the new technology at MyLumper solves this very problem. No longer will truckers have to call dispatch for their lumper fee payments or keep track of all those paper receipts while on the road. He right away extended his encouragement to me and I could see that I had struck a chord.
Maybe this insight can enable Trucking companies to present themselves in such a way to better recruit great people who possibly never thought about becoming a professional truck driver before. People who instead see themselves more like Marc – a traveler with a desire to explore the open road of this great country, knowing they have the technology to avoid previous delivery ‘roadblocks’, making for smoother travels.
*(not Truck Driver’s real name)