Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

My mandate with this column is to write about the tools that keep our trucks rolling, the hardware and software and operational tricks that make the difference between earning a buck and going broke. But if you think about it, people are one of the most important tools you can have.

Somebody asked me the other day what draws me to another person and makes me hang around. Of all the things I value in other people, civility is the one I crave most. And it’s one that I see pretty rarely these days.

I was reminded of how I found a perfect example of that sought-after quality several years ago in an odd place – the unpaved back 40 of a fleet’s yard. It surprised me at the time, but I later realized it was actually typical of that particular outfit’s “corporate culture,” to use a terribly worn phrase.

First off, what do I mean by civility?

It’s the act of being civil. Of being polite, considerate, though not necessarily kind in a warm and fuzzy way. Of being able to relax the darn ego for a minute or two – deliberately – in favor of someone else’s best interest or psychic comfort. In some people, the truly civil, it’s not a deliberate act at all, rather an instinct.

So how did I find civility out in the back 40? I was visiting a fleet manager, himself a picture of civility, and he wanted to show me an interesting trailer at the back of the company’s huge acreage, so we went walking through the dusty unpaved yard.

I heard a diesel cranking to life and then saw the nose of a T600 poke out of a row of trailers and turn toward us. Most of the way through its turn, and 100 feet beyond us, the truck suddenly stopped and the driver shut it down.

My friend muttered, “Good. See that?” See what? I just figured the guy in the Kenworth had some sort of problem. Not so.

We soon drew up to the side of the truck, and a wide-smiling driver rolled his window down. He and his boss exchanged friendly pleasantries and I was introduced. A little small talk ensued and then we were walking away. A moment later the truck’s engine started and it moved off. It was pretty obvious that there hadn’t been any difficulty.

Things became clear when my friend explained that his drivers are told not just to stop, but to shut things right down when there’s a risk of blowing dust over people nearby. Clearly, the lesson had been learned. I said, “Wow!”

That’s civility, on two levels. First, the company had obviously expressed the wish that its employees should be civil, and it clearly gave more than lip service to the idea. That’s a rare thing. And second, the driver understood that wish and followed through. As you can tell, I was impressed.

Lest you think I’m soft in the head to be writing 550 words about this little incident, ask yourself if you like to be treated in a civil way like that. You probably don’t expect it any more, but you’d be a rare bird if you said “no.”

Now ask how often it happens.