“Don’t put up with everything!”

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: private

Many truck drivers work in difficult conditions. Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales, who has been in the profession himself for three decades, is a strong advocate for his colleagues - through his work in associations and interest groups, but also on a personal level.

“I want us truck drivers to be seen by society and by the companies we work for,” says Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales. He has been a truck driver on Europe’s roads for around three decades – and in his free time he is committed to improving working conditions. “I go to events such as trucker meet-ups and talk to the drivers about their issues and problems,” says the 53-year-old. “We talk about what needs to be changed.” The most important issues are well-known: Wages, parking, sanitary facilities and dealing with the workers at the ramp.
Garcia Rosales passes on these wishes – or rather: these legitimate demands – to decision-makers through his involvement with commercial driver associations in Germany. He is the chairman of one of these associations for the southern Baden region. He is the first chairman of the shipping and logistics unit in the southern Baden branch of the ver.di trade union. He is also a member of the union PROFI – Pro Fahrer-Image e. V. and sits on the driver advisory board there. In all of these functions, he also educates truck drivers about the rights they are already entitled to: “Many don’t even know what rights they have, or when they can tell the boss: ‘No, sorry, I’m not doing that – because I don’t have to!’.” Among other things, he calls for policies in which unloading time is not counted as break time: “I’m still working during that time, how can a freight company demand that I pause the tachograph? Such practices make the days longer and longer for us drivers. It’s simply not fair.” In Spain, for example, it is now illegal for truckers to do the unloading themselves. “The union achieved this together with the government. Why doesn’t Germany have a law like this yet?”

Passion runs in the family

Even as a child, it was clear to him that he wanted to be a truck driver. “As soon as I had the opportunity to get my driver’s license, I started the process,” he says. When Juan Pedro was a child in the 1970s, his grandfather, who was also a professional truck driver, often took him along on his routes during school holidays. He always drove from Almeria to Zaragoza to pick up fruit and vegetables from the wholesale market there. During the approximately 750 kilometres of driving, Juan Pedro regularly sat in the passenger seat, watching the Spanish landscapes flowing past him through the window. He particularly likes to remember how much prestige the profession still had back then: “When we stopped at a rest area, it felt like a red carpet was being rolled out for us,” he recalls. “My grandpa was served fresh coffee and everyone was very nice to us. Back then, truck drivers were still held in high esteem – everyone knew how important the job was.”

»Many don’t even know what rights they have, or when they can tell the boss: ‘No, sorry, I’m not doing that – because I don’t have to!’.«

Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales, dedicated truck driver

Before Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales emigrated to Germany in 1997, he had followed in the steps of his grandfather and spent many years loading fruits and vegetables – driving them not only through Spain, but through all of Europe and to Morocco. “My native Almeria is a well-known agricultural region and I love to make Temperature-controlled transport: Being on the road with Refrigerated trailer is just a lot of fun.” Today he specialises in consolidated freight and commutes the approximately 650 kilometres between Freiburg and Linz in 24-hour shifts, mainly for Dachser.

Improving working conditions

His working conditions are good, and he knows how fortunate he is in that regard. All the more reason to strive for conditions in which all of his colleagues can say that about their jobs. He often advises young trainees: “Don’t put up with everything! It’s okay to compromise from time to time, but you don’t always have to do what you’re told!” In his experience, employees of German descent are more likely to demand their rights in this day and age. “But workers from abroad are afraid they will lose their jobs if they complain. That’s not the only reason why union work is so important.” He is also aware that he cannot do much as an individual, but that the collective is important. “We can only do it together,” he says. And: “It’s simply a matter of getting started. Also to ensure good prospects for those who are starting their training today. As the elders in this profession, we can pave the way – change has to come with the new generation.”

»Don’t put up with everything! It’s okay to compromise from time to time, but you don’t always have to do what you’re told!«

Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales, dedicated truck driver

Small gestures with a big impact

Juan Pedro Garcia Rosales also places a high value on small gestures: As part of his “Christmas campaign”, every year on 25 December he and other supporters distribute small gift bags with a card to truck drivers who have to spend the day alone at rest stops on the Offenburg – Basel route. “I know how it feels when you can’t be at home at Christmas but have to sit alone in your truck,” says Garcia Rosales. “It’s wonderful to witness the joy on my colleagues’ faces when they see our little gift – it shows them that they’re not alone.” At the weekend, he often drives to rest stops and offers drivers to take them to the nearest supermarket where they can get fresh food – cheaper and healthier than at the rest stop.

You can find more articles on the topic of truck drivers here.

Despite all the challenges, he enjoys his job: “I have truck driving in my blood, it’s my passion. I just love being on the go all the time.” Of course, the job sometimes annoys him, for example after a stressful week. “But I can’t imagine doing any other job.” He hopes that everyone who feels the same way has the opportunity to work in good conditions.
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