The United States House of Representatives June 6 reintroduced a bipartisan bill entitled the Trucker Bathroom Access Act. My personal response to this is that I am thrilled that Congressman Troy Nehls, a Republican from Texas, and Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, are standing up for the needs of our drivers.
At the same time, I am mortified that it must take an act of Congress to provide such a basic human necessity for the men and women who move the nation’s essential goods every day.
As an industry, we have spent decades talking about driver shortages and the challenges of attracting and retaining drivers. But if our strategy is to rely upon the government to instill the value of human decency and provide access to bathrooms, then we are likely in big trouble.
Our nation’s drivers are amazing people. They have families. They have stories. They make sacrifices every day. They experience triumphs and heartbreaks, and they deserve our best efforts. So, what can we do as an association and an industry to better advocate for this group?
Access to bathrooms is a start. The preference would be that the shipping community would do this voluntarily. Before we get to the point of listing which shippers allow access and which shippers don’t allow access, we need to issue a challenge to all our shippers and consignees to open their doors and be a part of the solution.
Truck parking is also an important start. This is both a national and a local problem. Nationally, we need to unlock funds to make sure existing parking capacity is open and functioning. We also need funds to develop new parking capacity. Locally, we need to address zoning laws that allow massive warehouses to be built without any consideration for truck parking. Construction permits for warehouses should not be approved without planning for adequate on-site truck parking. Forcing our drivers to just go and figure it out cannot be acceptable any longer.
Our fleets also have a lot of work to do. One of the things that has surprised me throughout my career is how many fleets don’t allow drivers access into the dispatch area or back office. Many fleet terminals have a wall that forces drivers to speak to office workers through a small sliding glass window.
Each of us can set the example for change by giving drivers access to interact with those that manage them. We can do so much more for our drivers. Providing opportunities for meaningful personal interactions and creating a driver-friendly culture that goes beyond words is critical.
Our drivers are the heroes that helped this nation endure a worldwide pandemic. We would each gain valuable insight by putting ourselves in their shoes. We could do something as simple as walking through our facilities, asking ourselves what could change that would benefit these men and women.
The shipping community, the government and our fleets all have a role to play in not only going beyond the basics of human decency, but also in truly moving the needle and making a difference. There are obviously many more areas that need to be addressed, but maybe, just maybe, there will be a day when we can make the job so attractive and rewarding that we will never have to mention the words "driver shortage" ever again.