October 30, 2018 11:00 AM, EDT

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam Defines the Qualified Candidate for Truckers

Tennessee Gov. Bill HaslamHaslam by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

AUSTIN, Texas ­— Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had some advice for truckers on the type of candidate to vote for in the midterm elections — but he didn’t name any names.

Haslam, also the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, advised that the qualified candidate must understand how jobs are created, be knowledgeable about workforce development, understand budgets and have the ability to raise expectations.

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He spoke Oct. 29 at American Trucking Associations’ 2018 advocacy luncheon during its Management Conference & Exhibition here in the Texas capital city.

He said there are 36 governor races across the United States that will be decided on Nov. 6, and that about a third of them are so close that they could go to either party.

“Too many folks running for office today don’t understand how jobs are created,” Haslam said. “You know that jobs get created when people put capital at risk. That’s the only way jobs really get created.”

As a governor, Haslam said his job has been to create an environment that “makes you want to put capital at risk.”

During his tenure, Haslam said his administration attempted to create that environment through tort and tax reform, workers compensation reform and keeping state taxes and debt low.

If you don’t engage, others will. If you’re not at the table, you’re being served.

Bill Haslam

Realizing that in Tennessee there was a need for job training, Haslam said he aimed workforce development at making it easy for workers to learn new skills. In the trucking industry workforce development is about finding truck drivers, he said.

“Any resident of Tennessee can go to two years of community college or any technical school free of charge,” Haslam said.

Haslam, who is the brother of Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam, also said the ideal candidate should have a fundamental concept of how a budget works. “You would be shocked how many people in this business [government] have no clue about any of that,” he said. “You’re used to living in a world about sales and budgets, and you know how much it cost you per mile, exactly what’s your labor cost.”

Because nobody in Washington has to balance the budget, they don’t have to pay attention to any of that, he said. “The beauty of state governments is that we have to balance our budgets.”

Haslam encouraged people to “vote to hire” people who understand the vital role that infrastructure plays in the United States.

Haslam said Tennessee is one of three states with no road debt and in the top 10 states for road quality.

“That’s about the same thing as saying you have the best sushi of any gas station in Alabama,” he said. “Being in the top 10 of road quality is really nothing to brag about.”

He told truckers that they have no idea how important they are. “If you don’t engage, others will. You're either at the table, or you’re being served,” Haslam admonished.

“Elect people who really will be about raising expectations. The hardest thing to change in government is just like the hardest thing to change in your business.”