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Trucking community reacts to ‘serial killer’ trucker ad in Maxim magazine

The ad shows a red big rig with the tagline “Serial Killer” above it. Below, the ad states, in part: “3,561 people died on America’s highways last year. Another 2.36 million were injured. You need a law firm you can Trust. You need Experience. You need Strength. You need Villarreal & Begum. …”

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff

6/5/2014

UPDATE:

June 5 statement from Maxim magazine staff —

“In the June 2014 issue of Maxim a legal firm ran an advertisement about truckers that was offensive. The ad in Maxim does not reflect the beliefs or opinions of the people at this magazine, which recently has begun operating under new ownership. New procedures are being implemented so that no such negative advertisements or editorial content will ever run in Maxim magazine. Maxim is aware of and appreciates the wide readership of truckers. Maxim is taking aggressive action to remove the aforesaid advertisement. To illustrate, the ad has been removed from its digital copy and is being replaced with facts about truckers and the trucking industry. Maxim will find many avenues to continue supporting the industry. A new day now flourishes at Maxim, and we will show steadfast support for the very industry that carries our magazine to newsstands and readers around the world.”

Editor's Note: The Trucker newspaper will run a full story on the ad in it's June 15 edition and a follow-up in the July 1 edition.

An ad by Villarreal & Begum Law Firm appearing in Maxim magazine depicting truck drivers and their trucks as serial killers went viral on The Trucker social media sites as well as other trucking forums, causing major truck stop chains to remove the magazines from their shelves.

The ad shows a red big rig with the tagline “Serial Killer” above it. Below, the ad states, in part: “3,561 people died on America’s highways last year. Another 2.36 million were injured. You need a law firm you can Trust. You need Experience. You need Strength. You need Villarreal & Begum. …”

The law firm is based in San Antonio, Texas, with additional branches in Laredo and McAllen.

The Trucker reached out to the law firm, who said a legal representative will be contacting the newspaper. Instead, The Trucker received an emailed statement from the firm:

“Please be assured that it was never the intent of the Villarreal & Begum Law Firm to disparage the hard working Americans that drive tractor-trailers for a living. Our intent was to reach out to those individuals who have been involved in catastrophic accidents as a result of irresponsible drivers. The ad was in-artfully created and we could see how it may have caused our message to be misconstrued. We recognize the service that truck drivers provide to this nation and acknowledge that most truck drivers are safe and responsible drivers. There are, however, few drivers that do not always live up to the standards promulgated by state and federal agencies and end up hurting innocent people who, in turn, deserve adequate representation. It is the victims of catastrophic trucking accidents that we intended to reach and not our intent to offend law abiding citizens that drive tractor-trailers for a living. We apologize that the wording of our ad has offended you and your family. In response to your and others’ objections, we have instructed our marketing department not to use that ad in the future.”

Daniel Murray, vice president, research at the American Transportation Research Institute, said it is proven data that four-wheelers are responsible for about 75 percent of fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers and other vehicles. In addition, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute analyzed injury and property damage-only accidents and found that the four-wheeler was still responsible in at least 60 percent of those cases, Murray said.

After receiving several calls and emails from drivers angry about the ad, truck stop chains TravelCenters of America/Petros and Pilot Flying J pulled the Maxim edition from their stores.

Tom Liutkus, vice president of marketing and public relations for TA/Petros told The Trucker, “All of our sites have been notified to pull the issue and destroy all remaining copies.”

Pilot Flying J Communication Manager Anne LeZotte said, “Pilot Flying J is pulling all current copies of Maxim Magazine from the shelves at its more than 650 travel centers and travel plazas across North America because of an ad that the company does not believe accurately depicts professional drivers. Pilot Flying J is proud to serve professional drivers and grateful for the important work that they do.”

Elisabeth Barna, vice president of communications and public affairs of the American Trucking Associations, shared with The Trucker that the company that owns Maxim, Biglari Holdings (www.biglariholdings.com/subsidiary.htm), also owns First Guard Insurance Company, which is dedicated to truckers. Barna said the association has been reaching out to ATA’s members about the ad.

The following are statements from trucking organizations in response to the ad:

 “TCA is proud of the immediate action from truck stop retailers who pulled from their shelves the current issue of Maxim magazine, which features an ad depicting the trucking industry as ‘serial killers.’ One in 16 Americans work in jobs within or related to the trucking industry. The editors and staff of Maxim need to know that we are their family members, their neighbors, their friends. When we are on the road, we look out for them as we would our own children. And we will not let this mischaracterization go unanswered. The ad strikes an emotional chord for the trucking industry. We encourage everyone to take a moment to collect their thoughts and craft a well-reasoned message to Maxim about why this ad was wrong and how the magazine can make things right for the hardworking men and women in our industry.”

    Truckload Carriers Association, Vice President Debbie Sparks

“It defames an occupation in the millions that perform a critical service to the nation and is one of the most offensive injury attorney advertisements we’ve ever seen. We can only imagine what ads like this would look like if minimum insurance requirements are raised.

— Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Spokesman Norita Taylor

The American Trucking Associations sent the following letter to Maxim Magazine, as well as to Biglari Holdings Inc. and a representative at First Guard Insurance Company

“Dear Editors: As a representative of the more than 7 million professionals in the trucking industry, we are horrified that your magazine would publish an advertisement that depicts the professional truck driver as a serial killer (advertisement by V3 Villarreal & Begum Law Firm).

The advertisement, and the fact you would choose to publish it, is absolutely appalling and outrageous. We are asking for Maxim magazine to issue an apology to our vital industry and afford us complimentary space in your next issue to run a truthful advertisement about the industry that safely serves America 24/7.

The trucking industry is the backbone of the American economy and is vital to our everyday lives. Without trucks, how would you publish Maxim magazine? For instance, the machines, paper, ink, desks, chairs….everything is delivered by truck. In fact, how do you think your magazine is delivered to the outlets and homes that your industry serves? Of course, by a safe professional truck driver!

There are over 3.1 million professional truck drivers who are highly trained and are dedicated to safety on our nation’s highways. These professional truck drivers are members of our communities and care deeply about the people and corporations they serve.

The American Trucking Associations, along with the entire trucking industry has a deep commitment to improving safety on our highways. Our industry has been at the forefront of new safety technology, endorsing slower speeds, more active traffic enforcement and educating drivers of all vehicles how best to share the road safely.

Every fatality on our nation’s highways is a tragedy, and we all have an obligation to improve highway safety, but our professionals that serve America are certainly not serial killers.”

    ATA President and CEO Bill Graves

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

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