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Truckers’ demonstrations: A deeper dive

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What started the Russian Revolution? Bread riots in the capital, Petrograd (today back to its original name of St. Petersburg), on March 8, 1917.

Those riots themselves didn’t bring down the tsar’s regime, which fell for a huge number of reasons. Volumes and libraries have been written on the subject, tracing causes going back for centuries.

All of this comes to mind when I read about the great truck driver demonstrations in Canada.

What effect these demonstrations will have in the long run, I don’t know, but I’m forced to wonder whether the truckers’ complaints have to do with a great deal more than compulsory vaccination. When you’re starting with working conditions that aren’t great to start with, it only takes a little to set you off.

That’s why I was curious to look into a recent survey of truckers’ attitudes in 2021, conducted by Workhound.

It’s pretty comprehensive, reflecting 68,000 comments from over 21,000 workers at 104 companies.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the survey’s findings:

“In 2021, 29% of comments were positive, 35% were negative, and 36% were neutral. Negative sentiment has grown, and burnout is high. Top categories associated with burnout include pay, logistics, and communication. WorkHound also identifies critical comments, such as, ‘I’m so mad, I’m going to quit, ’ which can highlight a need for immediate intervention. In 2021, 16.5% of comments were deemed critical. The top critical comment themes were pay, logistics, communication, equipment, and people.”

Comments on today’s favorite subject were all over the place:

• “All is always good. My only concern is what is the company policy on this new vaccine mandate. Y’all really need to let us know. Some like me will not take the shot. And we need to know where we stand. It’s only fair we need to know what to do next.”

• “It’s a great company to work for. I wish they would not enforce the vaccine, but I will take it because I don’t want to lose my job.”

• “No information on vaccine mandates.”

• “I am very worried that my company won’t support the president’s vaccine mandate.”

Actually, pay was the top concern. Here “half of all pay comments received were negative,” the report comments. “Driver pay at many fleets increased in 2021, but drivers reported problems with pay being confusing or a need for additional communication to ensure drivers understand their pay.”

Sample comments on benefits:

• “Criteria for attaining bonus always changing without letting drivers know before supposed to be getting paid bonus.”

• “Tell your employees that you cannot request PTO [paid time off] or even a day off for a special event is bad taste for business.”

• “Being promised by recruiters that I will have my weekends off and now my operation managers telling me I cannot request off, well, that makes two strikes.”

• “Why do you discriminate against your drivers? We want a paid vacation and paid holidays.”

• “What you offer is a joke and an insult. It tells us exactly how little you think of us, and you don’t appreciate us in the least little bit.”

I’m not an employer. But if I were—in trucking or produce or any industry—and I even half suspected that some of those complaints could be leveled at me or my company, I would not rest comfortably.

Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.