Thanks to huge followings on LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok, Wayne Cragg has become one of America’s best-known truckers. He is famous for not holding back his deep well of opinions, no matter the response, as well as for working to put drivers’ health, especially mental health, on center stage. We talked to him about his own health journey back in August 2021.
Jenni Ruiz, co-host of the Transfix Take Podcast, caught up with Wayne to get his take on the current state of the industry, as well as what he sees happening — and what he hopes will happen — in 2022. Not surprisingly, he was forthcoming, honest, and maybe even a little controversial.
Jenni Ruiz: From 2020 to 2021 and, more specifically, in Q4 of 2021, we watched Issues such as port congestion and driver retention get worse. These challenges came in addition to COVID and persistent bad weather, exacerbating growing concerns around driver wellness. Give us your biggest take on what could help with the driver retention problem.
WC: I’ve talked about my solution on social media on detention, which has been rejected, but it would work. If drivers were paid directly through Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, immediately after one or two hours.
In my nine-year career, I could have gotten detention maybe 50 times; I received it about three times. When I did get it, I had to fight for it. We’ve got enough going on, then we’re held back, and we’re expecting a certain amount of detention pay that doesn’t come. In fact, with the driver shortage, you see a lot of advertisements from trucking companies now saying, “We’ll pay you detention.”
JR: Speaking of the driver shortage, some people are encouraging an influx of teenage drivers. I’m curious to know how you feel about that and if you think it is going to help.
WC: I was in the Navy. People are saying, if an 18- to 20-year-old can join the military, why can’t they drive a truck? Absolutely. 100% agree.
But the military is extremely structured. It’s a totally different environment. These kids are going to come into a dysfunctional industry, and if adults 21 and older are leaving and can’t handle the dysfunction, what makes any of us think an 18- to 20-year-old could?
I had a great debate with someone on LinkedIn. He said that if we can get these young people in here, we can train them. But we don’t do that. Take a journeyman and an apprentice pipe-fitter. The journeyman works with that apprentice for a year or two, whatever time it takes for him to become a pipe-fitter. He has that hand to hold. He’s making good money as they go, and then he becomes a journeyman. We don’t do anything like that in the trucking industry.
Then people say, “Oh, we’ll make sure they have a tenured driver.” Tenured drivers don’t exist like they did even just five years ago. And drivers are already stressed enough without having to have someone sitting next to them, stressing them out in an already stressful situation. We’re going to be bringing 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds into a system that is broken. It bothers me, and it worries me a lot.
JR: You’ve made significant strides in speaking about stress and mental health issues for drivers. How can these things be addressed better?
WC: We’re in a pretty dangerous occupation to begin with. You have to eat right. You have to exercise. But the mental side is so important. I think every trucking company should have two or three people who do nothing except call up truck drivers and ask them how they’re doing that day. We need to talk about mental health and reach out more.
JR: You’ve really been trying to do that with your social media outreach.
WC: I did a poll on LinkedIn maybe a year ago. I asked, “Could one person change the trucking industry?” I think 89% of the people said no. We’ll see. I’m going to keep plugging and see if one guy can change things.
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