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April 7, 2014 4:45 AM, EDT

Trucking Kicks Off Campaign to Burnish Industry’s Image

Combined Transport’s Mike Card — John Sommers II for TT
By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the April 7 print edition of Transport Topics.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Several industry groups launched a campaign here to educate the nation on the importance of trucking for the economy and to help recruit a new generation of desperately needed drivers to keep freight moving.

Top officials of American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, ACT 1 industry suppliers and some of the industry’s top drivers kicked off “Trucking Moves America Forward” at a press conference before the start of the Mid-America Trucking Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

“We have to think about how to get more people into this industry. This is way overdue,” Kevin Burch, vice chairman of the Trucking Moves America Forward campaign and president of truckload carrier Jet Express, said at the March 26 press event.

They then assembled at a larger public event on March 28 during the show outside the center.

The campaign, initially announced in October, will use radio, television and print advertising, opinion columns, social media and murals on the sides of trailers to spread the message.

Mike Card, past ATA chairman and president of Combined Transport Inc. in Central Point,Ore., attended the kickoff event and said he was pleased to see the industry getting behind the effort and hopeful that funding could be raised to ensure its long-term success.

“This image movement is going to change the way trucking is looked at across the country,” he told the hundreds of show attendees.

The event included captains of America’s Road Team and other professionals from industry segments.

Card told Transport Topics one of the clearest signs of a new spirit of unity was that OOIDA and other groups such as ATA were standing together, even if they do not necessarily agree on every issue.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said at the March 26 press conference that trucking has a great story to tell but has not done enough to do so.

“We pay a dear price for not singing our own praises,” Spencer said.

Veteran drivers also came to the press conference to voice their affection for the industry.

“I love what I do,” said Allen Boyd, a company driver for Wal-Mart Transportation, who also has been an owner-operator.

Similar sentiments came from Herschel Evans, a driver for the Holland division of YRC Regional Transportation who spent 25 years in the industry, including working as a technician. He said he enjoys the technology on modern trucks and is proud of the vehicles’ improved environmental performance.

Although economic forecasts for trucking were generally positive at MATS, the driver shortage was a recurring caution. That’s because ground shipping needs are expected to increase in coming years beyond the current rate of more than 9 billion tons a year, and a lack of qualified drivers to move it all means trucking companies would have a harder time expanding and truck sales could be restrained.

The nation’s roster of truck drivers stands at 3.1 million. ATA has estimated that 1 million more will be needed over the next decade.