A Snake on the Glass

truck driverWe’ve all heard of a snake in the grass, but have you heard about the snake on the glass? Or, the windshield, to be more precise. I’m a little late to the party, but I just learned about this story and I wanted your opinion.

Last year, trucker Brian M. Wilds was driving down the highway when he noticed a huge snake slithering across his driver’s side window and windshield, trying to find a way inside the truck.

Wilds grabbed his phone and filmed it, then posted two videos on Facebook, intended for his small circle of friends. To his surprise, the videos went viral, garnering millions of views and thousands of new Friend requests. Even more surprising to Wilds, his employer also saw the videos and fired him for using a handheld device while operating a commercial vehicle.

The day after he was let go, Wilds updated his Facebook status. Here’s an excerpt:

“….I want to warn my friends especially my brothers and sisters who are Professional Truck Drivers. I was fired yesterday from job because of the videos. Yep, operating a hand held device while operating a Comercial (sic) Vehicle. I never thought when I pulled out my phone to video my experience that 2 million people would see it. Just my circle of friends. Who knew that a snake on your hood would go viral? The safety department didn’t think it was cute. Not looking for sympathy. What I did was dumb being a “professional” driver….”

Now, in my mind, this was a cut and dry situation and I agreed with the firing. Not only do I run a business where such behavior would never be tolerated, I’m a “law and order” kind of guy. Wilds did something reckless and irresponsible – he even admitted it! – so he should have paid the consequences for breaking the rules. He put himself, other drivers and even the poor snake in unnecessary danger.

truck driverWhy didn’t he pull over to film? Or, even better, why didn’t he pull over to help the poor snake? Imagine the accident that could have been if the snake had been thrown from his truck onto another driver’s windshield….

But as I read the comments – many from other industry professionals – I was surprised to see a wide range of opinions. Here are a few popular themes that emerged:

“I would have been fired as well BUT for a totally different reason!! I would have seen the snake, wrecked the truck, wouldn’t have a photo and no one would ever have believed what happened!!”

“I feel bad for him but I can understand why they did it! A three-day suspension would have been plenty though! Good luck…” (Interestingly, there were many people who shared a similar opinion. Some truckers even started a network to help Wilds find a new job.)

“Hell, he drove better holding his phone than 99% of y’all holding a wheel with two hands…”

“The company probably thought that FMCSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation would get their hands on the video. The FMCSA or DOT could impose a fine of $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple offenses.”

“You had to use your phone to take a pic of it just in case you got bit..”

It is true that I see dozens of drivers per day talking on their cell phones and doing other things that qualify as distracted driving. And, it’s also true that video or no video, a snake on your windshield is a big distraction in and of itself. Finally, if a regular driver had posted this video would anything have happened other than fifteen minutes of internet fame? Am I right to think this guy deserved his walking papers? Or is it wrong to hold professional drivers to a different standard than others on the road?

I’d love it if you email me your take before you:

Enjoy thissssssss weekend,