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Driver Lifestyles

I Chopped Down the Cherry Tree

By Sandy Long
Posted Jul 2nd 2014 11:24AM

George Washington is credited with confessing to chopping down a cherry tree when he was a child. While historians cannot verify that story, the concept of taking responsibility for one’s actions is a valid one. If one does something wrong or messes up, it is always better to admit to it than to lie about it.


Honesty is the best policy is something that everyone has heard throughout their lives, and for the largest part, true. There are socially acceptable ‘little white lies’ though. For instance, you are given a gift that you hate, you do not say you hate it; you say thank you and smile, then later throw it away or give it to someone else. Little white lies should not enter the business realm though much less big lies.

It is human nature to want to avoid confrontation over an error made no matter the size of the error. Admitting to a mistake can cost money, loss of prestige, or even the loss of a job. However, money can be remade, prestige can be regained, and unless it is a very major mistake, most employers will appreciate your honesty.

Jerry was assigned a new truck and trailer. First trip out, not only did a rock fly up and chip the windshield, but a construction barrel flew off an overpass in high wind and hit the side of the sleeper scarring the paint. Neither was his fault, but he hesitated calling the owner and reporting the damage. Finally, he did so. The owner was not happy, but was understanding that stuff happens.

Two weeks later, Jerry was going to make a right hand turn onto a two-lane street. A car was there waiting at the stop sign, Jerry, being late for an appointment tried to make the turn. He curbed a tire tearing out the sidewall. Jerry called the owner offering to pay for the tire telling exactly what he had done. The owner schooled him a little about waiting to be able to make the turn safely, but never did charge him for the tire.

Bill, a newer driver at the same company as Jerry, tore up three tires in a month. Each time, it was never his fault, but something or someone else’s fault. Since the owner required the tire carcass to be brought in, he clearly saw that Bill’s stories did not fit the damage. The owner tried to talk to Bill about just telling the truth and about being more careful. Sure enough, within the next month, another tire was damaged. Again, the story did not match the damage. The owner charged Bill for the tire and told him one more and Bill would be fired; Bill got angry and quit.

Sometimes, being honest pays off. When I pulled flatbeds, driving a red Freightliner Classic XL, I took rolled roofing into a huge corporation’s business complex. There were several other trucks waiting to be unloaded while I was unloaded and the guard told me exactly where to turn around when I was done; he even watched me do so. I went on and reloaded. The next day when I checked called, my employer told me to tell him exactly what had happened the day before at the complex, step by step. He would not tell me why.

After giving him step by step, almost minute by minute replay of the day before, he said, “were you the only red truck there? I replied, “no, there was a red Freightliner FLD there, older truck.” Only then did he tell me that the lawyer for the corporation had called earlier that morning and said I had done $20,000 damage to the curbing and landscaping when I turned around to leave.

My employer had told the lawyer that I always admitted if I made any sort of mistake so he knew it was not me, before he even spoke to me about it. Since I had remembered the name on the doors of the other red truck, he called the lawyer and gave that to him. Later my employer heard again from the lawyer, that yes, it was the other truck not me; my employer replied, “I knew that.” If I would not accept responsibility as I do, my employer might not have believed me, and that deal could have cost me thousands of dollars.

There are times when some judicial omissions need be done to the whole truth. These times are usually covered under company policy and concern accidents/wrecks. For instance, most companies tell a driver not to admit to fault in a wreck to the officer or to the others, if any, involved in the wreck. This is so the officer can make an unbiased investigation and the others involved do not get angry on the side of the road. Save the admission for the boss and your insurance company. Some companies also have the policy that when a load damage claim is made on the docks, to not admit to anything and let the dispatchers handle it with the customer.

With warning tickets now showing up on federal records, it is a moot point whether to confess to speeding, being behind on logs or dobbling across the line when one is pulled over. However, to me, it is better for me to just admit to it and take my licks. At least the warning ticket will not cost me any money, or points on my CDL. It is part of my own policy to be as honest as possible and I have to live with myself.

However, when I am invited to someone’s house for a meal and they serve me recap rubber and diesel fuel, I will still say when asked if I enjoyed the food, “What an interesting combination of flavors, you must have spent hours in the kitchen!” In addition, I will reply when told we will have to have you for dinner again, “Next time will be MY treat!” I am not really lying, just not insulting someone and protecting myself from possible food poisoning in the future.

The main benefit of being honest is that one does not have to remember very hard to keep one’s stories straight; this is especially true in the cases concerning tickets, accidents or misadventures with the company or on the job. Hopefully, you will not have to go to someone who cannot cook’s house very often enough that remembering what you told them the last time is hard. Of course, that will not have the penalties that lying to your company, the insurance adjustor or the judge would have. Lying to them just might have old George taking his ax to your CDL career.


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