This story appears in the March 6 print edition of Transport Topics.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Glen McDonald, the new chairman of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council, can’t be summed up as just a man who oversees the maintenance operation of a 700-truck fleet and 70 shop employees.
McDonald drove a truck when he was in high school, was a dock foreman turned freight salesman at 22, opened a company terminal at 24, and owned his own trucking company for 13 years.
Last week, McDonald, maintenance director at truckload carrier Ozark Motor Lines of Memphis, Tennessee, was elected TMC 2017-2018 general chairman and treasurer during the organization’s annual meeting here.
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“This is really the pinnacle of my career,” McDonald told Transport Topics. “But I take it very seriously — what we do to move the council’s agenda forward. I just strive to be a good representative.”
McDonald, director of maintenance for Ozark since 2003, said the changes he has seen over the years have been challenging. “We came through all the engine mandates — the 2004 [EPA], ’07, ’10, greenhouse gas 2014, now 2017, all the electronics and the technology,” McDonald said. “It’s really exciting times right now. Everything’s moving so fast.”
“Glen has been a model TMC member and an example of the type of professional standard our council strives to set,” said TMC’s executive director, Carl Kirk.
He’s also a father of two daughters, has two grandchildren and is the man who swept his wife, Susie, off her feet, lifting her away from small-town America.
When Susie first met Glen in 1983, she said he really seemed like a “sweet guy.”
McDonald wouldn’t necessarily agree that he’s a sweet guy — especially at work. Instead, he thinks of himself as a firm, but fair, boss.
Those who know him would agree.
Tommy Higginbotham, CEO of Ozark Motor Lines, said he’s known McDonald since he was 17.
“He’s very well-versed, a passionate guy about maintenance,” Higginbotham said. “He’s friendly, outgoing, never meets a stranger. That type of person.”
Randy Patterson, senior field engineer for Bridgestone Americas, has known McDonald for more than 20 years.
Patterson was the man who first introduced him to TMC many years ago. Ever since that day, McDonald has never looked back, becoming active in TMC.
Patterson said McDonald is laid-back and a good listener.
“Glen has passion, but he wants to do a good job. He’s very inclusive. He doesn’t cut anybody off, and people respect him for it,” said Patterson. “I’m sure he’s done it, but I’ve never seen him blow his stack and yell at somebody.”
Robert Braswell, TMC’s technical director, said McDonald has been very active in the organization’s council for more than 10 years.
“He came up through the study groups,” Braswell said. “He’s a very even-tempered, a very even-keeled kind of a person.”
And McDonald’s known as a consensus builder.
When he’s TMC chairman, his talent for building organizational support on a number of issues will be put to good use, Braswell said.
Those challenges include educating TMC’s membership on how to adopt advanced technology, exploring solutions to a tech shortage and growing TMC’s membership base, Braswell said.
“There’s going to be a huge sea change in trucking,” Braswell said.
McDonald said his focus will be on “building this bridge to the next generation of leadership. We’ve got to get these young people coming to TMC and get them involved.”
He said leading by example has always worked for him. “What’s also worked for me in my career is to surround myself with good people. That’s pretty easy here because you’ve got a big pool to pick from. So I will rely on the leadership group that got me to the chairmanship.”
Ozark does its own maintenance, and McDonald oversees the company shops not only in Memphis but also in Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and North Carolina.
And Higginbotham said McDonald “goes above and beyond” what is expected of him at the company.
Doug White, the outgoing chairman of TMC, agreed. “He’s always willing to share his experiences and information. He’s going to make an excellent general chairman for us. I’m glad he’s coming into the seat. He’s earned it.”
White’s advice to his successor: “Be committed and enjoy what you’re doing.”
He continued: “The job is working together with our peers, and in some cases even your direct competitors when we walk out the door. But when we walk in here, we’re a team that collaborates to get things done, regardless of who we work for. That’s what makes TMC what it is today.”
These days, McDonald and his wife said they have downsized and settled into a smaller condo in Memphis and call themselves mostly “homebodies.”
For more than 30 years, they’ve worked for the same company (Susie’s currently Ozark’s office manager) but say they have no problem separating work from home life.
“We ride to work together, we eat lunch together and we ride home together most of the time,” McDonald said.