When my school had Career Day, my dad was the hero and for me, he still is. My dad is a retired OTR truck driver for 40 years. He just retired this year, so it’s only fitting that when he exited trucking, my career stepped in.
My name is Melissa Harrison and I’m a Customer Success Manager at WorkHound. I speak with customers on a regular basis to advocate for the anonymous feedback their drivers have submitted. Professionally, I’m well-equipped for this role, having earned a B.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology with several years of customer support experience.
After seeing trucking through my dad’s eyes, it’s no surprise that industry-wide turnover has climbed above 95 percent. In addition to my academic background, my dad’s insight means I know a thing or two about a truck driver’s perspective. On National Driver Appreciation Week, I wanted to share why and how I appreciate my favorite truck driver.
Growing up, some of my favorite family memories revolve around my dad’s truck. Dad was an owner-operator for several years, piloting a green Freightliner with gold stripes and a silhouette of his face on the side over his CB handle: “Two-Gunner.” Every Sunday, my family washed the truck in the driveway, with very precise and perfect detailing of the wheel walls and a pristine interior before he hit the road every Monday.
Occasionally, I got to travel with dad when I was out of school for the summer. We started those days at around 1 or 2 a.m. to avoid the brunt of traffic between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and although I usually fell back to sleep in the cab, my mom would prepare a thermos of hot chocolate for me to match my dad’s coffee thermos. I also always wore my favorite pair of overalls to be prepared for some hard work. I tried hard to keep dad company, but sleeping in the back was pretty exciting for a 5 to 9-year-old.
I did this routine of traveling way before the sun came up, sleeping in the back, waking with the sun so frequently that I eventually needed a noisemaker in my room because the growl of the truck and conversations on the radio soothed me to sleep.
Sometimes I got to pull the horn, and of course, dad installed his own horn that was extremely loud. I even got to talk and sing on the CB. My dad would tell the other drivers on the radio that “Marshmallow” was driving, the name I went by as his plus one on the road.
I wasn’t allowed to be at ports when dad would make his stops in Savannah and Charlotte, and so I would hide in the top bunk and color in coloring books and spy out the window in the cab. I always thought it was so fascinating to see from this perspective and could feel the big machine pulling the trailer off the truck.
Sometimes this would last for hours and occasionally, our boxer, “Chance” would come along, too, and together we would hide and spy together. He always kept me busy. I still love thinking about Chance sitting in the front seat, watching the world pass by.
When I was allowed to get out of the truck with dad while he hooked up the trailer, he would put on his gloves and I had my own to match. Though I’m sure I occasionally got in the way, he always made me feel like his helper.
My dad and I have always been super close and I loved being with him knowing that if I wasn’t, he was out there alone and that’s when I especially missed him. My mom worked hard while my dad was away and always put us to bed. He was adamant that he could make it home in time to come in and say “Good night,” and the companies he worked for were great at getting him there.
Because he got to be home on the weekends, time together was always intentionally shared. We woke up early to go to the park and I always made sure to help when dad wanted to take care of the house. He only had so much time to do it, but he worked hard and still made sure to spend time with my younger brother, sister, and I.
When my mom was pregnant with my brother, she went to the doctor and my dad and I were away on the road, and I recall him running so hard to get home early. Mom revealed his gender with an “It’s a Boy!” trucker hat as a surprise. I can still remember dad being distracted on the ride home because he was so excited to hear the news.
My dad tried hard to make it to as many of my softball and basketball games as possible, but sometimes his schedule just didn’t work. It sucked that he couldn’t be there during the weeknights, but it meant so much more for both of us when I could see him cheering from the stands. Even though my dad wasn’t able to be there as much as other parents, he gave so much effort in showing how much he cared for our family. And he did everything in his power to keep us together and happy, even after busting his butt on the road all day long.
Career Day was a touchy subject when school started out for me. On the one hand, my dad was my hero, but on the other, I knew it wouldn’t be possible for him to join our class. It seemed every dad was able to be there but mine and I remember coming home sad.
Sure enough, the next year I caught a glimpse of a green truck passing the school window and minutes later, our class was alerted about a special guest. Now my dad was EVERYONE’s hero! He brought his truck to school and made sure each of my classmates got to have a seat behind the wheel and honk the horn.
As you can see, driving success for customers at WorkHound is personal. I believe empathy is the most important attribute to achieve success with worker feedback because as a family member of a driver, I witnessed just how hard drivers work. Dad worked for some employers that made his day-to-day extremely difficult and he hated bringing his concerns home, but that was the only place he felt like he could talk safely to get things off his chest.
This is why being able to help frontline workers is a passion of mine. I know what it feels like to be a sounding board, and although I couldn’t do something about it for my dad, I hope I’m able to help the families who are affected by life on the road now.
WorkHound gives someone else’s dad or mom a platform to safely share their frustrations or praises. While Driver Appreciation Week is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to drivers, why not consider extending that appreciation year-round by raising the voice of your drivers? Give WorkHound a call to learn more about how my teammates and I are working hard on behalf of your hard workers.