31 December 2019

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is marking its centenary in 2019 and as part of the commemoration has launched a photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience” to document the working life of people across the United States. UN News joined the ILO on a visit to the southern US state of Louisiana.  

As a boy, Zack Martin’s school teacher told him, he couldn’t get paid for staring out of a window, but the former marine says he proved the teacher wrong by becoming a truck driver and building a successful heavy-load trucking business, Crawler Haulers, in the city of Lafayette in Louisiana. 

“I joined the US Marines when I was a young kid and it really made me who I am, as I was taught right from wrong, responsibility and having the focus to do something. The mentality of a Marine is to adapt and overcome. I found it challenging when I left and became an executive sous-chef in a restaurant as I realized that other people, civilians, did not have the same focus to get something done.  

I realized I wanted to be a driver in my early twenties, as a way to be by myself. I fell in love with the job after moving a couple of big loads and then bought a couple of big trailers. My teacher told me I couldn’t get paid for staring out of the window, but that’s what I made career out of; I listen to the radio and stare out of the window and I really enjoy it. I get to travel and see the world. 

My customers recognize my work ethic and appreciate that I do things right, without cutting corners. I am patient and I also have to look outside the box, as I have to get a lot of crazy loads into crazy spots.  

Many people would say “man that’s impossible”, but there is always a way, you just need to figure it out. 

Truck drivers are really good time managers; they have to work out food, bathroom and refueling stops and if that is timed wrongly, it can cost a lot of time. A driver is paid for the miles driven every day, so making multiple stops will cost time and money. 

Now I have a great family of 11 employees, it’s a team which works well together and the business keeps on growing. I feel a strong responsibility towards my employees as I feel I’m providing jobs for them which support their families. As long as I can feed them and their families, I am happy. 

Technology has made this job easier and safer. When I started in 1997, I had a pager, there were no mobile phones, so when I was paged, I had to take a roll of quarters and search for a payphone and find out what was going on, whether I need to change my plan. We also only had paper maps, there was no Google Maps for planning routes for finding rest stops, for example.  

ILO Photo/John Isaac
Zack Martin says he always wanted to be a truck driver.

Electronic logging devices (ELD) in the trucks means drivers are also taking rest breaks. In the future, I think driverless trucks could operate on dedicated lanes, say between Houston and New York, or between retail distribution centres. But I don’t think that will happen for a very long time for local trips or for what we do, the heavy loads. 

I no longer drive, I wish I did; I run the logistics side of the business. I look to my drivers to tell me what they think about a particular situation; for example, can you make this turning with this load?   So, teamwork is important, you need to trust other people. I started off driving because I wanted to be alone and now, I have learned to manage a team to listen to the problems of my employees and to understand people."

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

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The International Labour Organization is marking its centenary in 2019 and as part of the commemoration has launched a photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience” to document the working life of people across the United States. UN News joined the ILO on a visit to the southern US state of Louisiana.   

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