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18 wheelers

By Bob Rutherford*

Lately, I’ve been wading through LinkedIn conversations with the enthusiasm of a cat at a dog show. One theme keeps cropping up — the collective dismay over the training, or lack thereof, in the trucking industry. Now, let me clarify. In this grand arena of logistics, everyone insists on calling themselves a “professional”, particularly the drivers and logistics folks. Yes, I said “folks,” because “Logistics Professional” is the highfalutin title they’ve collectively chosen.

From these spirited discussions, I’ve deduced that we’ve cultivated a nation of “Untrained Professionals” cruising down our highways of ineptitude. This revelation isn’t mine alone. I owe it partly to the sages of history and, of course, to my wife, who coined “untrained professionals” while we were on our way out of a medical clinic, freshly jabbed with our Covid booster shots. We have been seeing TV advertisements for various vaccinations for this and that and asked the clinic personnel what would be covered by our Medicare plan. The professional responded she was NOT TRAINED on answering our questions and that my wife and I should call Medicare. Wait a minute; shouldn’t a professional be making the calls not the patients? To quote Tom Nichols in his book, “The Death of Expertise”:


Sun Tzu, the ancient military strategist, put it succinctly, “The skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible.” To me, this means they’re well trained because they’re constantly training. They don’t wait for the battle to start figuring things out. Sun Tzu further illuminates, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and seek to win.” They rehearse; they don’t wing it.

Fast forward a couple of millennia and Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the modern management guru, echoes this wisdom, “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” Deming drives home the point that proper training and understanding are prerequisites for effectiveness. He adds, “The job of management is not supervision, but leadership. The goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.” This underscores that management’s role is to provide the training and leadership necessary to harness everyone’s potential.

Both Sun Tzu and Deming, from their vastly different epochs, converge on a simple truth: preparation and training are indispensable for success, whether you’re waging war or running a business. And in our case, navigating the chaotic roads of logistics with an army of untrained professionals requires more than just hope and a GPS.

In the vast, tire-marked expanses of America’s highways, where eighteen-wheelers rule the asphalt and logistics is the pulsing heartbeat of commerce, we find a curious creature, the untrained professional.

This noble beast roams from sea to shining sea, unburdened by the fetters of education or experience, yet entrusted with the nation’s most precious cargo – our consumer goods.

God bless their soul. The logistics and trucking industries are prime habitats for untrained professionals. Picture a scenario where a man’s knowledge of routing systems is eclipsed by his expertise in microwave burrito preparation. In these industries, this isn’t a rarity; it’s practically a job requirement. Somewhere between the warehouse and the Wal-Mart, someone figured that training was just an unnecessary luxury – like adding gold leaf to a Big Mac.

Let’s start with the drivers, those intrepid knights of the road. In the old days, becoming a trucker was akin to entering a monastic order. Apprenticeships and grizzled veterans were passing down wisdom over campfires (or at least CB radios). Nowadays, we are wondering about online certifications. Just a few clicks, a quick multiple-choice test, and voilà – you’re handed the keys to 80,000 pounds of hurtling metal. It’s like giving a toddler a flamethrower after they win a game of Simon Says.

These drivers, our untrained professionals, bring a certain quality to the roadways that can’t be described. Their maneuvers are almost artistically unpredictable, turning merging into an interpretive dance and parallel parking into a performance art piece. The unpredictability keeps everyone else on their toes, which is excellent for cardiovascular health, if not for life expectancy.

Then there are the dispatchers, those unseen puppeteers orchestrating the ballet of deliveries. One might assume that such a role requires intricate knowledge of geography, time management, and basic human decency. However, in the spirit of the untrained professional, the position often goes to anyone who can operate a telephone and has a rudimentary grasp of English. The results are predictably unpredictable. Truckers find themselves routed through the scenic landscapes of gridlocked downtowns or sent on detours that would make a Lewis and Clark expedition look like a Sunday drive.

The warehouses are no better. These are the breeding grounds for untrained professionals, where the mystique of logistics is boiled down to the simplicity of loading a truck like a game of Tetris played by a cat. Forklifts are driven with the precision of a drunk uncle on a riding lawnmower, and inventory management is often left to the keen instincts of someone whose previous job involved asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

But let’s not be entirely cynical. The beauty of untrained professionals lies in their resourcefulness. They navigate the chaotic, pothole-ridden world of logistics with a certain devil-may-care attitude. They’re the human equivalent of duct tape – not pretty, often infuriating, but somehow, against all odds, they get the job done. They might take the scenic route through incompetence, but eventually, they deliver.

The untrained professional embodies the true spirit of the American workforce – the notion that anyone can do anything, regardless of skill, preparation, or common sense. In an era obsessed with efficiency and expertise, they are a comforting reminder that sheer determination (and a dash of recklessness) still have a place.

So, next time you find yourself cursing at the absurdly parked truck blocking your driveway or wondering why your urgent package took a detour through six states, tip your hat to the untrained professional. They’re out there, redefining the logistics industry, one glorious mishap at a time.

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