In social psychology, a stereotype is a fixed, oversimplified and often biased belief about a particular group or class of people. It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group. For example, a truck driver does drugs and doesn’t take a bath. Or girls should play with dolls and boys should play with trucks.
I have heard and read so many negative and false stereotypes of truck drivers in my career.
Here are just a few:
- Truck drivers have poor hygiene.
- Truck drivers use foul language, are loud and rude.
- Truck drivers are overweight and lazy.
- Truck drivers are uneducated.
- Truck drivers do drugs and abuse alcohol.
- Truck drivers are out to get you with a truck.
And my all time head shaker:
- Only men are truck drivers; women should stay at home in the kitchen.
Can you imagine being faced nearly everywhere you go with the stigma that you really aren’t wanted and that you are placed on the bottom shelf of life?
Since 1896 when the first truck was built, truck drivers have been the backbone of America. The life of a truck driver isn’t just a job, it is a lifestyle — a totally different lifestyle from anyone else’s. It is one that is individually chosen and it isn’t for everyone. Many people don’t understand why we choose the long hours, days, weeks and months away from our families and friends — days that turn into nights at any given time, working 70-plus-hour weeks and sacrificing what most believe is a “normal” life.
Truck drivers come in every age, sex, gender identity, size, shape, color, ethnicity, religion, culture, background and country. They are nurses, teachers, lawyers, psychologists, veterans, doctors, personal trainers, business owners, retailers, fast food workers and stay-at-home parents. The knowledge and education doesn’t come from books or a university. A truck driver’s educator is another truck driver. The career and lifestyle of a truck driver earns its own degree. With that degree comes a stronger sense of practical education through trial and error, hands-on experience, years of progressive learning and through those who came before them.
The stigma hurled at truck drivers is one that isn’t projected at any other profession in our country. To stereotype anyone is unacceptable and especially toward the 4.3 million Americans who serve each and everyone’s needs — it’s heartbreaking. America can do without many things in life, but without a truck driver the country would stop.
And I will throw this in as a reminder that when the world did stop, truck drivers never did. We were heroes and lifesavers and the stereotyping and stigma seemed to be lifted — until many didn’t feel we were needed anymore.
I will leave you with this, something I contributed to back in 2013:
Do you want to know about the life of a truck driver?
Take a closer look before you think we only drive our life away.
- Yes, the wages are good.
- Yes, we provide for our families a comfortable lifestyle, a nice home, cars and education.
- Yes, we give not only to our families but to help those less fortunate and in need.
- Yes, the financial rewards are blessings.
- Yes, trucking gets in our heart and soul and our blood.
- Yes, we see the country and we get to meet so many amazing Americans (most times at 70 mph)!
But ask yourself: “Do you realize the lifestyle a truck driver chooses?”
- We miss births, birthdays, reunions, parties, barbecues, weddings and funerals.
- We miss anniversaries, celebrations and life achievements.
- We often aren’t home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
- We may not get to see our children or grandbabies’ first breath, first steps, first day of school, first swim or first bike ride or be there to read bedtime stories.
- We miss sporting events, presentation nights, school plays, parent/teacher conferences and graduations.
- We aren’t always there during times of a family crisis and we feel totally helpless being miles away.
- We miss saying goodbye to family members, loved ones and our closest friends.
- We spend limited time at home — when we get home.
- We miss family and loved ones — horribly!
- We face strained relationships, many pushed to their breaking points — resulting in many broken relationships and broken homes.
- We spend days wishing our life away when we are away!
- We lay awake at night sometimes wondering: “Why do I do this?” and “Is this really worth it all?”
We always answer all of this with a resounding yes. Our lives are full and productive for our families, friends and millions we don’t even know. The ones who matter do understand our sacrifices and our choices. Our lifestyle is our normal.
So before you stereotype a truck driver, recognize the guts and courage to work crazy long hours away from home — day after day and week after week to make a better life for themselves and their families. Remember, the American truck driver sacrifices over two-thirds of his or her life being away from loved ones and what most call a normal life, hoping to make others’ dreams come true and making life easier for all.
Thank a professional truck driver, because everything you have at some point has been moved by a truck driver.
Until next time, from me to you, drive safely, be somebody’s smile and don’t forget your prayers!
Read more from Ingrid Brown