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October 30, 2018 6:30 PM, EDT

Trucking Legends Encourage Industry Unity

Industry Unity Hodges (left), Bowman, moderator Dustin Koehl of Total Transportation of Mississippi, Weinrich-Lucht and Sculley discuss the trucking industry. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

AUSTIN, Texas — The relationship between state organizations and American Trucking Associations is solid and should continue to grow, according to a longtime member of the industry.

Four “industry legends” spoke before a crowd of trucking executives at ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition here Oct. 30.

Industry Unity

Bowman (top left), Sculley (top right), Weinrich-Lucht (bottom left) and Hodges (bottom right).

The panel consisted of Don Bowman, chairman of D.M. Bowman Inc.; Tommy Hodges, chairman of Titan Transfer Inc. and former ATA chairman; Robert Sculley, president of the New Hampshire Motor Transport Association and executive director of the Vermont Bus and Truck Association; and Donna Weinrich-Lucht, president of Weinrich Truck Line.

“The relationship between state executives and ATA is a strong one. When we can, we go out and supply the grassroots work,” Sculley said. “There’s a lot of respect that goes back and forth between the states and ATA. The team [President] Chris Spear has has been a good one for us to foster relationships with.”

MCE has been characterized by a theme of unity and teamwork. During his state of the industry address Oct. 29, Spear expressed intent to strengthen partnerships with state association leaders, law enforcement officers and independent contractors.

The legends commended Spear’s message of partnership. Sculley, who presides over associations with many small carriers, suggested that executives and big operators continue to consider input from smaller carriers in the future. Hodges said the industry used to be more of a “good-old-boys club” and praised the shift toward hearing from all members of the industry.

“We’re sympathetic now to everybody’s voice at ATA, and that’s so important,” Hodges said. “I love this association. I love you folks.”

The legends also agreed that the industry looks vastly different than it did when they entered the business, particularly with regard to technology. Weinrich-Lucht, whose son-in-law serves as her company’s IT person, said the technological shift has been one of the most dramatic differences.

“My technology was an electric typewriter, a calculator and a phone you had to dial. You’d probably have to go to a museum to find those now,” Weinrich-Lucht said. “You don’t have to be smart at everything. Just hire the smart person. So that’s what I did.”

Looking toward the future, Sculley indicated that the labor shortage will remain a pressing problem. At an Oct. 29 MCE session, Elizabeth Lotardo, vice president of project management for McLeod and More, said the shortage is expected to surpass 63,000 drivers in 2018. The shortage once again ranked No. 1 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s critical issues report, which was released Oct. 29.

“The driver shortage is everywhere,” Sculley said. “I think it’s going to remain a major issue in New Hampshire and Vermont at least in the next decade.”

Industry Unity

Burch presents Sandra Conkin with the S. Earl Dove Highway Award in honor of her late husband, John Conkin. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)    

Prior to the panel, Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express and former ATA chairman, honored John Conkin with the S. Earl Dove Highway Award. Conkin, former ATA chairman and managing director at BMO Transportation Finance, died June 3 after a battle with cancer. He was 62.

Named for former ATA Chairman and former owner of AAA Cooper Transportation S. Earl Dove, the award is the association’s highest honor.