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Industry-wide image campaign “Trucking Moves America Forward” officially launched at MATS

“Those behind the wheel, those that do the work … without them, this industry doesn’t exist because that’s really what it’s all about,” said Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff

3/27/2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With $500,000 already raised, a consortium of trucking groups officially launched at the Mid-America Trucking Show its $1 million-a-year image campaign called “Trucking Moves America Forward.”

“Those behind the wheel, those that do the work … without them, this industry doesn’t exist because that’s really what it’s all about,” said Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Surely if we don’t see the importance of what we do and recognize it, it’s not surprising the public doesn’t either. We’re kind of at a crossroads. It’s time for us to get out and lead the charge, basically sing our own praises.”

The campaign was announced first last October at the ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition in Orlando and was kicked off with a $100,000 donation by the Allied Committee for Transportation (ACT 1). Throughout the next five years, the campaign hopes to raise $1 million annually.

Trucking executives at the news conference, including Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and ATA Vice Chairman, said promoting positive images of the trucking industry through digital/social media, Youtube.com, radio, T.V., print advertisements as well as companies using the “Trucking Moves America Forward” logo as a wrap on tractor-trailers, will help not only change the often negative public perception of the industry, but attract younger drivers to the workforce.

At least three trucking companies have signed on to put the campaign truck wraps on some of its tractor-trailers, including Baylor Trucking, Jet Express and Garner Transportation.

“As we all know, we have a driver shortage. It’s a perfect storm with an aging workforce,” Burch said to the media. “We’re trying to build excitement in this program. We need one million truck drivers over the next 10 years. How do we get people in the industry? It’s important that the media takes hold of this,” campaign to help draw in more drivers.

However, Spencer was quick to point out that this campaign is not a cure-all, but a move toward improvement within the industry.

“Image is an issue that impacts trucking in a lot of different ways. To kind of cut to the chase, probably kids like we were aren’t really the kids we have today. One of my son’s buddies said, ‘Isn’t that a boring way to make a living?’” Spencer said. “There are challenges that the trucking community itself has to be honest and deal with. How they’re treated, addressing the issues with drivers, shippers and receivers. If you want somebody to feel good about themselves then give them a reason to. It’s about how you pay them, the opportunities to make this a career. It’s what we really need to do.”

In addition to marketing tools, the campaign aims to attract professional drivers to get involved. Elisabeth Barna, ATA vice president communications and public affairs, told The Trucker after the news conference that the campaign plans to send out materials for truckers to share, including “Share the Road” curriculum for local school systems, and to reach out more to local and federal lawmakers on industry concerns. It also plans to recognize drivers for achievements, such as a million safe miles driven and share the stories of industry veterans.

“We’re going out to reach the new driver,” Barna said, encouraging drivers who want to get involved in the campaign to “sign up on the website right away,” at www.truckingmovesamerica.com. “We want to humanize this industry. It’s not just a hunk of steel coming down the road.”

Amos Snead, with the public relations firm Story Partners handling the campaign, said it will be able to monitor the response within six months regarding visits and sign-ups on the website and social media.

Incorporating the driver-side of things started with truckers Allen Boyd, who drives for Walmart, and Herschel Evans, driver for Holland Inc., speaking to the media at the MATS news conference.

“As a driver, people ask me a lot of questions … but one of the biggest questions I get is why in the world would you want to be a truck driver?” Boyd said. “I love seeing the United States and I take pride in my job. I make dreams come true. Dreams for business owners,” bringing freight on time to build their reputation, adding, “Or for the child, I may be delivering their first bike. And you know what the most amazing thing is? I’m only one of three million trucking professionals.”

For Evans, who has been in the trucking industry for 25 years, letting the public know about the safety and technological side of the industry is important.

“Over the last decade, large truck crashes with fatalities have declined,” Evans shared with the crowd. “It’s an exciting time to be paying attention to the technical side of trucking … with trucking making these types of [safety] improvements, everybody wins.”

Burch was quick to point out that “this is not a fluff movement,” but an aggressive image campaign that has been in the back of his mind for some time. After the news conference, Burch showed The Trucker a photo of a driver standing next to his flatbed hauler which displayed the words: “This truck helps build homes for our troops.” The driver hauled construction materials.

Burch said he happened to see the truck while filling up at a gas station. When Burch asked the driver if he could take his photo, the response was simply, “Why would you want my picture, I’m only a truck driver?”

“I said, ‘No, you’re a professional,’” Burch said, adding this campaign encourages involvement from all professional truckers, both union and non-union. “We build up fences in this industry and it’s long overdue that we knock them down. We need to say, ‘We appreciate you as a professional driver.’”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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