Is being “Pet Friendly” an answer to the driver shortage?

Updated Oct 10, 2013

photo[1]The little guy on the left is Tucker. And the little guy on the right is Pepper.

This picture was taken during football season. So, of course, they have their University of Alabama Crimson Tide jerseys on.

They’re not my dogs. Although Tucker almost was.

My ex-girlfriend Kellie got Tucker for me for Christmas a few years ago – after I specifically told her not to get me a dog for Christmas. (She doesn’t like to be told what to do.)

But, as it happened, she and Tucker fell in love with each other on the long drive back from Mississippi: Long story short, I ended up with a range-finder for Christmas and Tucker, and his brother Pepper, are living the good life with Kellie to this day.

The word on the street is Cocker Spaniels are dumb. But that’s mainly due to puppy mills cranking them out with questionable breeding practices. For many years, cockers were the most popular breed in the United States; so the demand was high. Case in point, the famous Coppertone pup, as you can see here, looks an awful lot like Tucker or (1)

As it happens, but “The Boys” are very intelligent. Tucker is so smart, I was certain that I could train him to retrieve ducks. Until his Mommy informed me in no-uncertain-terms that her baby was not going to spend his days covered in mud, splashing around in ice-water listening to shotguns pop off all around him.

We always had dogs growing up. And I’d have one now if I didn’t travel so much. First was Curl. He was a mutt: half cocker and half poodle: A cockapoo, if you will.

I paid $2 for him in 1975. We took him to Japan and back. My Dad ran into a burning house to save him when the guy next door fell asleep smoking a cigarette on night.

22743_276863947462_6105602_nThen we had Goldie, who you see sitting with me in my Pontiac Firebird back in the ‘80s. She loved to go for a ride with the T-Tops off.

Both Curly and Goldie died of old age. I suspect Tucker and Pepper will finally die from all-consuming love and being spoiled rotten. Although their Mom will probably disagree.

A story this week in the New York Times tell us that scientists now think dogs have a level of emotional sophistication on par with a human child. This isn’t news to dog-lovers. They’ve known for a long time that dogs are part of the family. And, I suspect, cat-lovers feel the same way.

This month, Overdrive is holding its “Most Loved Pet” contest – open to truck drivers around the country who cruise the highways with a pet at their side. By it’s very nature, trucking is a lonely profession. It’s not as bad as it used to be, thanks to cell phones, email, social media and face-time. But technology is a poor substitute for a actual compadre sitting in the seat beside you.

For owner-operators, the choice to take a pet on the road is a simple one. For fleet drivers, it depends on company policy. And any fleet manager will tell you keeping truck cabs clean is a major headache.

But, with CCJ reporting this week that large fleet turnover is approaching 100 percent and the driver shortage getting more acute by the day, maybe No Pet fleets need to reconsider: Or at least reward safety and seniority by allowing trusted and proven drivers the option of taking their furry friends out on the highway with them.