C.B. Rambo’s, Electronic Media and the Loss of Civility

Regardless of how you parcel-out these issues and find one word to explain it all – “disingenuous” keeps coming to mind. Let’s review the recent events I’m talking about:

1.) A call for FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro’s resignation and a letter from a group of owner-operators opposing the effort;

2.) a push in the U.S. Senate to relax the 34-hour restart provision,

3.) an almost total lack of honesty by the trucking media in communicating what a related Senate Bill contained; and

4.) a horrific truck crash on the New Jersey Turnpike seriously injuring comedian Tracy Morgan and killing another. All unconnected events but how they were communicated and commented on by truckers in particular, showed an ugly side of an industry desperate to be taken seriously by the public and politicians, yet once again becoming its own worst enemy.

Big bucks are being spent by a coalition of organizations under the banner of “Trucking Moves America Forward” intended to change the public perception of trucking – which has hit some new low water marks after a series of sensationalized truck involved crashes. Pilot-Flying J recently donated $1.25 million to the PR campaign effort. Hmmm… you’ll have to excuse my cynicism about “the J” donating money to this image campaign after having fleeced ($160-million and counting) from their own trucking customers – on fuel rebates. Personally, I think this is all pouring money down the proverbial toilet and simply putting “lipstick on a pig” because it avoids the biggest reason for the trucking industry’s image problem – self-identified truckers’ themselves posting the most hateful and thoughtless rants to all sorts of internet sites, especially major media sites like Facebook and XM/Sirius radio.

The old adage, “You will be known by the company you keep” is really the appropriate phrase to describe what is ailing the industry. Instead of shutting down the “haters,” this industry elevates them. Never mind the crass way some national associations used recent tragic crashes to grandstand with the national media and “shape-shift” dialogue into promoting their own narrow political agenda’s for the industry, when truckers post-up the most outlandish comments to websites and social media sites for everyone to read, it gives the entire industry an immense “black-eye.” Truckers are always the first to cast blame on a fellow driver after fatal crashes. Nobody really knows what actually happened, but that doesn’t deter the mob from piling on with their own uniformed two cents.

Worse, when reputable organizations and trucking media seem to refuse and police their own sites for conduct and comments that would only be appropriate at a rally of the Klan, “Houston we have a problem,” and as quick as those same sites are at finger-pointing and assessing blame, they instead ought to be doing some serious internal soul searching about how their business methods are degrading the industry.

I’m not talking about censorship of points-of-view; I’m talking about members of our industry displaying publicly their very ignorance by posting completely racists, sexist, hateful comments and “shouting down” others – the modern day equivalent of the old C.B. Rambo’s.

Where All the C.B. Rambo’s Went

Cell phones have mostly replaced C.B. radio’s as the main means of in-cab communications between truckers – just try and get someone to tell you whether a scale is open and the silence is deafening. Channel 19 is pretty quiet today compared to years past, however, the rabble rousers, those who used to install “50 million gigawatt” amps so they could “step-on” anyone within 50 miles and dominate the airwaves still exist. The “C.B. Rambo’s” have all taken their game to another venue – the internet and unfortunately, to a wider audience of “average American’s,” to spew their brand of ignorance.

Madison Avenue advertising gimmickry to improve “trucking’s image” can never overcome the disgusting mob mentality of actual truckers posting off-the-chart vile comments that pervade nearly every trucking website or social media site. Want to post a thoughtful comment yourself on some topic that dares to disagree with the “group-think” pervading the industry? Be prepared to get attacked in a way that is exemplified by an attitude of self-righteousness, sanctimoniousness and condescension that only the anonymity of the internet can provide. Actual knowledge of a particular issue or the political process is close to nil and helped along by a chorus of industry “Pied Pipers” intent on making everyone who holds a CDL think they are being subjected to a vast conspiracy purposely designed to victimize truckers.

I monitor many websites and social media sites and frankly, it’s appalling what the owners of those sites allow to be – and stay posted-up. Absolutely hate filled (and worse) comments by people claiming to be truckers. I’m certain many are truckers, some I personally know. The damage they are doing to the industry cannot be understated.

A reporter at an obscure Pennsylvania newspaper wrote a not-so-friendly article about the trucking industry which would have died a quiet death from lack of attention until a few trucking media sites gave it a national prominence by linking to the article on their websites and ginning up trucker rage. Truckers besieged the reporter’s inbox with enough boorish comments that it gave him fodder to write another article describing truckers as basically uneducated hicks – and that article found a wider audience. All thanks to a trucking media intent on playing to this growing sense of victimization that has come to permeate the industry.Electronic media probably once held the promise of being able to expand people’s knowledge and understanding of our industry, not by what I see on a daily basis. Unless the owners of websites begin to insist on minimum standards of decency – which many won’t because they perceive a “pot-o-gold” in advertising revenue (or membership) awaiting them from pandering to the basest of elements, we can expect more of the same indifference and apathy from the public about the issues faced by the industry. If we cannot show respect for one another, why should anyone outside the industry show us respect or endeavor to understand our issues?