Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trucking lost one of the good guys

There are people in your life whose mere existence is so profound that it’s hard to find ways to come to terms with the fact they are no longer here. That they have died.

This has turned into an ongoing struggle for me ever since I learned of the death of David Mike Pennington. He died of a heart attack on Friday, Dec. 5, at the age of 64. If you knew him, you know what I mean about trying to process this. If you didn’t, I’m going to do my best to explain.
Mike Pennington. Photo Courtesy of Meritor.

Mike has been involved in the trucking industry for years, since 1972 to be exact. For the longest time he worked with Meritor in marketing and public relations. That’s what he was doing when I first entered trucking journalism some 15 years ago and met him. Once you met Mike, you didn’t forget him.

There was never a time when you interacted with Mike that you did not feel as if you were the most important person in the room. His infectious smile and kind heart made us all feel a little bit better.

Mike had a passion for the trucking industry that many would say is unparalleled. His press conferences were visionary. I mean who else could get a bunch of ink-stained wretches to sit in uncomfortable chairs for an hour.

He was always quick with support and a word of encouragement to the newbies, like I was, in the industry. He was the guy you could count on, no matter.

He was a founding member of Truck Writers of North America. Journalists and associated members like PR folks came together to network, to support each other and to, in general, raise the level of professionalism in the trucking journalism community.

I’m chairman of the board of that group. We’re going through a transition right now that is not necessarily comfortable. But, you can bet at every turn Mike was there, ready to lend a hand, offer a word of encouragement, or just tell me “Hang in there, kiddo.”

But Mike wasn’t just about journalists. He was about the truckers, too. More than you will ever know, really.

He recently embarked on a new adventure – being instrumental in the formation of Trucking Moves America Forward. He believed in what we all do and, more importantly, believed in the men and women behind the wheel, out on the road every day. The people we all work for.

He wanted truck drivers to be respected by the public. He wanted to promote professionalism within the industry so there wouldn’t be as many of those who give truckers a black eye. He believed we could all work together and make that happen.

Trucking Moves America Forward is still in the growth stage. And if they stick to the mission as Mike saw it, his legacy will live on in the trucking industry in so many ways.

I think everyone hopes to leave a mark on life here on Earth when we depart. But the profound impact that Mike had on the lives of so many of us, is something that I’m sure he didn’t realize. He was humble like that.

We will miss Mike Pennington. We will miss what he meant as a leader, mentor, friend and kind soul.

This sort of loss cannot be summed up easily. It can only be honored in striving to raise the bar and be the kind of professional and person that Mike Pennington was.

Editor’s note: The Celebration of Life will be held Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 at 11a.m. at, The Amelia Island Club, 5 Ocean Club Drive, Amelia Island, Fla. The Omni Hotel at Amelia Island is offering villa rates for those wishing to stay overnight. Contact Romi Woodin at (904) 491-4700 to make arrangements.