Sustaining the momentum: Industry must be passionate about retaining PR gains made during pandemic

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trucks in front of the white house
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao honored truckers with a special ceremony on the White House lawn in April. (Official White House Photo/Joyce N. Boghosian)

Ed Nagle was talking with a reporter about trucking and the lack of respect shown to the industry and especially its drivers, who are the face of the industry.

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“I’m a little biased, OK?,” he said.

The voice of the president of Nagle Toledo is filled with passion.

“I’m an outspoken advocate for drivers and the honorableness of their profession. So, if the conversation starts to go awry with respect to that person’s perspective of the industry and especially the drivers, I correct them quickly. I don’t even give them the opportunity to go down the wrong path before I start educating them,” he stated.

“I can tell you that for the past 30 years we’ve been competing with farming every year for the lowest job status in the country because people take us for granted. People said we were an inconvenience to them,” Nagle exclaimed.

Nagle was speaking in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in grocery shelves being stripped bare by Americans who feared they might not be able to find food to feed their families and stock their homes with necessities of life — especially toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

It didn’t take long for the average citizen’s attitude toward trucking to change dramatically.

Instead of constantly reading about trucks being involved in wrecks and causing road congestion, trucking was treated to headlines extolling virtues of the industry.

“Truckers step up as coronavirus pumps demand for necessities…” read a March 28 headline in the influential Washington Post.

“Truckers brave coronavirus outbreak to deliver goods: ‘If we stop, the world stops,’” was the headline in the nationally distributed USA Today.

“‘Risking My Life’ to ‘Truck In Milk, Wine and Hand Sanitizer,’” read a headline in the New York Times touting the story of trucker Joseph Morales, who puts on a mask and gloves while making deliveries but worries about coming in contact to an unmasked person who coughs on him.

“Now all of a sudden you were starting to see news stories, Facebook and Twitter posts. People were highlighting the virtues of trucking. People were making lunch bags for drivers who couldn’t find a place to eat,” shared Nagle. “It was really nice to see people really start to wake up.”

Even the White House took note, holding two events extolling the heroes of trucking.

“In the war against the virus, America’s truckers are really the foot soldiers that are carrying us to victory,” President Donald Trump said at a gathering in mid-April. “Truckers are playing a critical role in vanquishing the virus, and they will be just as important as we work to get our economic engine roaring.”

The industry was even hoping that the rising public opinion of trucking might slow the growing number of “nuclear verdicts,” those large jury awards against the industry that have been increasing in both frequency and size.

While in 2006 there were only four cases with awards in excess of $1 million, in 2013 there were more than 70, according to a published national trucking research report. There was a 235% increase in cases with verdict sizes of at least $1 million between 2005 to 2011 and 2012 to 2019.

From 2017 to 2018 alone, the average size of verdicts grew by 483%.

Unfortunately, people tend to have short memories, said Nagle.

kids in front of a truck with trucker buddy
Nagle Toledo President Ed Nagle says the industry could benefit from more public outreach programs like Trucker Buddy International. (Courtesy: Trucker Buddy International)

“Once the supply crisis passes, and I think it’s almost to this point now, people are getting back to taking us for granted,” he added. “They fail to recognize how important trucking is to our way of life. A month ago, they were singing our praises. Now they’ve forgotten about us.”

How can the industry build on the “positive press” it received in the early weeks and months of the COVID-19 crisis — which has now extended to almost half a year — and keep trucking front and center?

Promoting the industry has to become a way of life regardless of the medium or venue, said Nagle, who admits to being the biggest cheerleader for trucking.

He encourages those that have the financial resources to do so consider paid promotion. Don’t focus on how much money a driver can make, but rather emphasize the humanness of the industry by pointing out how important trucking is to the quality of life in America.

Nagle likes the idea of more community outreach efforts such as Trucker Buddy International.

And, he said, it’s going to take everyone involved in the industry working collaboratively to promote trucking and thus sustain a momentum of positive imagery.

“You don’t have to go around citing a bunch of statistics,” he said. “Just proactively talk about the benefit of trucking to our way of life and our standard of living. It’s not that hard.”

Unfortunately, many in the industry are just “doing a job” and don’t care much about promoting the industry, he believes.

“But when you are passionate about trucking because you believe in the value of our industry to our way of life, then you should jump on it and don’t ever stop,” he stated.

“It has to be on our consciousness 24 hours a day, whether you are sitting in your office or whether you are playing golf with your buddies,” he said. “If a derogatory statement comes up about trucking, jump in there and defend the industry and put a stop so such talk.”

And do it passionately, he quickly added.

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Lyndon Finney’s publishing career spans over 55 years beginning with a reporter position with the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1965. Since then he’s been a newspaper editor at the Southwest Times Record, served five years as assistant managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and from November 2004 through December 2019 served as editor of The Trucker. Between newspaper jobs he spent 14 years as director of communications at Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest healthcare system. In addition to his publishing career he served for 46 years as organist at Little Rock’s largest Baptist church.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

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