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September 25, 2019 10:15 AM, EDT

Perspective: Appreciating the Journey as Chairman

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One of the things I’ve learned about trucking is you need to appreciate the journey. It was a lesson I took to heart at 18 when I started my career in this industry as an owner-operator, and one that served me well in my time as American Trucking Associations chairman.

As the industry prepares to gather in San Diego for the annual ATA Management Conference & Exhibition, my chairman’s journey is nearing its end. It’s a good time for me to look back on these past few years.

My journey started with my time as an owner-operator, and eventually led to becoming president and CEO of my family’s trucking company, Pottle’s Transportation. Along the way, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as chairman of the Maine Motor Transport Association and the Truckload Carriers Association, two experiences that gave me the foundation for the work that awaited me as ATA chairman.

ATA Chairman Barry Pottle

Pottle

In fact, it was five years ago in San Diego when I was asked to serve as an ATA vice chairman, setting me on the path to the chairmanship. I had no idea just how transformational the next half decade would be for our industry, and the federation. In just the past two years as chairman and first vice chairman, I have visited nearly two dozen states, which has given me the chance to talk to countless drivers, executives and shippers — all of whom love this industry and are working for its success.

It’s an industry that has seen tremendous change in technology, the political landscape, the regulatory situation and the business environment. As part of that change, we at ATA brought in a new leader, President Chris Spear, and a new team to help guide our industry.

The result has been a more active ATA that is energetically fighting on behalf of our industry. It’s pushing to make sure our voice is heard on critical issues like infrastructure, highway safety and hours of service, workforce development and safe, smart adoption of technology. This is due in no small part to Chris and the ATA staff, but also a reinvigorated ATA membership.

It was the voices of ATA and its members that helped resolve our issues with California’s meal-and-rest break rules. Our collective voice helped advance the debate on funding needed for infrastructure investments through our federation’s first paid media campaign on this critical issue.

We have made a strong case on the importance of trade to our industry, and on the need to recruit, train and retain younger drivers to help ease our persistent driver shortage.

That last point is special to me. I started in trucking behind the wheel as an 18-year-old. I know that with the proper training and supervision, young people can be a tremendous addition to our industry. Right now, when men and women become truck drivers, it is increasingly as their second or third career. But if we can allow them past the gate, these young people may flourish and grow from drivers, to managers, to entrepreneurs, to CEOs. I know that path exists because it is the path that I walked.

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When I began my career 41 years ago, I could never have predicted the places it would take me and people who would be part of my life because of it. No one ever gets to make a journey like this alone, and I’m no exception. I’m grateful to my lovely wife Suzanne for her support and understanding this year as I’ve spent so much time on the road. I also owe a tremendous debt to my daughter Chelsea, my stepson Matt and all of my colleagues at Pottle’s who have stepped up and allowed me to take on these extra responsibilities.

I also would like to thank the ATA staff, the state executives and my fellow ATA members for their support in allowing me to be their chairman this past year. The year I’ve had since we last gathered in Austin has been the greatest honor of my life.

My challenge to you all is to continue the journey we have undertaken together. ATA and our industry can only move forward successfully with your involvement and your voice. Whether it is with TMC or the National Truck Driving Championships or Call on Washington — your participation is important to telling our story and shaping our industry’s path forward. And it will be important to my successor, Randy Guillot, as he takes over. I want to take a moment to wish him not just good luck, but I hope he experiences the same support and enthusiasm for trucking that I have this past year.

A safe end is part of a successful journey, and now that I’m reaching the end of this journey, I want to thank you all.

American Trucking Associations is the largest trade federation in the trucking industry and has headquarters in Arlington, Va., as well as affiliated associations in every state. ATA owns Transport Topics. Pottle also is CEO of Pottle’s Transportation, a truckload motor carrier based in Bangor, Maine.