December 16, 2014 2:00 PM, EST

Trala CEO Thomas James Dies Suddenly at 51

Thomas James, CEO of the Truck Renting and Leasing Association since 2009, died unexpectedly Dec. 15.

He was 51.

Jake Jacoby, Trala’s vice president of government relations, said the cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

“He died at his home in Arlington [Virginia] last night,” Jacoby told Transport Topics on Dec. 16. “He didn’t have a long-term illness or anything like that. We certainly did not see this coming.”

James, first named the association’s vice president of government relations in 2002, had spent his career in a range of public- and private-sector positions working on legislative and regulatory issues.

Prior to joining Trala 13 years ago, James served as senior vice president of the Furman Group and represented clients on a wide range of issues, focusing on infrastructure and natural resources, Trala said.

Although he worked on a variety of issues for Trala, he was best known for his advocacy efforts that culminated in the nationwide elimination of vicarious liability for owners of rented and leased vehicles, Jacoby said.

“He was just the most full-of-life guy in the world,” Jacoby said. “He walked into a room and had the whole room in the palm of his hand within five seconds. He just was so upbeat, so positive.”

“He was sort of the quintessential D.C. guy,” Jacoby said. “You could see why he was a lobbyist for so many years.”

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, Trala is a voluntary, nonprofit national trade association working as a voice for the truck renting and leasing industry. Its membership includes more than 500 leasing and rental firms and 120 suppliers that make up nearly the entire truck renting and leasing industry.

A reception will take place Dec. 21 starting at noon at Clyde’s Tysons Corner, 8332 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, Virginia, 22182.