By John Schultz / www.supplychain247.com / October 1st, 2015
A new trucking advocacy group is trying to buff up and modernize the image of the 7 million Americans involving in the domestic trucking industry.
Kevin Burch heads the “America Advances Through Trucking” initiative that seeks to emphasize the importance, essentiality and safety of the industry that moves 70 percent of America’s freight.
Its slogan and Website is “Trucking Moves America Forward.”
Industry officials need to get further involved, Burch says. Nearly half of all Americans know someone who works in the trucking industry.
With about a 70 percent market share by value of freight hauling, Burch said trucking is absolutely essential but fights an antiquated view of its image with no unified voice.
“We have done a pathetically poor job of telling America what we do,” Burch said. “We’ve been too concerned with what we’re doing. We are truly the rolling inventory of America’s freight.”
Burch said industry officials and workers need to tell their stories better, put a human face on the industry, show how vital trucking is to the economy and try to bring new, younger people into the industry.
With 97 percent of trucking fleets 20 trucks or less, trucking is a grassroots industry that needs to emphasize its roots in every community in the country, Burch said.
“We have 3.4 million people holding Commercial Driver’s Licenses,” Burch said. “Does it matter if they’re union or non-union? Does it matter whether they are truckload or LTL? No. What’s important is we tell elected officials and everyday Americans how essential we are to the country.”
Burch spoke at the 29th annual meeting of the North American Transportation Employee Relations Association (NATERA). Burch is co-chairman of the 18-month-old “America Advances Through Trucking” coalition and is second vice chairman of the American Trucking Associations.
That coalition is dedicated to improving trucking’s industry-wide image as it faces capacity challenges and productivity limits through increased scrutiny of the federal government.
Burch is president of Jet Express, Dayton, Ohio, which hauls much of its freight for General Motors and suppliers of the auto industry. He is a past chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association. But he has his feet on the ground, and is a holder of a Commercial Driver’s License, joking that he has logged “910 safe miles” during his truck driver career.
Trucking needs to improve its national image, which he says has deteriorated from its “Knights of the Road” persona from the 1970s when drivers were hailed for their service to other motorists in distress on the highways.
But sometime after that, the industry’s image suffered through tales of drug use by drivers, the perception of unsafe and fatigued drivers and the fear of automobile drivers to share the road with 18-wheelers.
Burch is urging trucking industry executives and drivers to take greater pride in what they do and what the essentiality of its services. Burch is enlisted the help of American Trucking Associations (ATA) but other interests as well - individual carriers, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Associations, the TCA, shippers and other advocacy groups.
Burch approached the Teamsters union, but has not gotten involved. “They’ve elected not to get involved, but they’ve also elected not to say anything negative about us,” Burch said.
Burch is also very positive on the impact of the rail industry on trucking. With rails increasing their share of intermodal freight, they effectively are partners with the trucking industry even as the industry’s trade association, the Association of American Railroads, occasionally clashes with the ATA on some policy issues.
“Railroads increasingly depend on us to move their freight,” Burch says.
The American Advances Through Trucking initiative is making tools available to industry officials to tell everybody what we do through advertisements, social media and other vehicles to tell trucking’s story in a positive way.
“We are trying to put a face to the industry,” Burch says. “It’s long, long overdue.”
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