Thursday, March 31, 2016

OOIDA's Spencer: Change the industry? Value the drivers

Embarking on the third year of a movement to improve the image of truck drivers, both inside and outside of the industry, Trucking Moves America Forward panelists spoke about the good and bad in the industry.

The event is a time to see diverse groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations share a common cause of improving respect for the men and women in the industry.

"This movement from the start was about showing that truckers are not only great people, but essential to the fabric of society," OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said in starting off his remarks. "When a plane, train or boat doesn't show up, it's not really noticed. When a truck doesn't show ... we're talking major, major problems.

"As critical as what we do is, we don't get the credit ... the appreciation," Spencer said.

That echoed the points of Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express and first vice chairman of American Trucking Associations.

"Truckers get things done," Burch told the press. "But we are terrible at talking about it."

Burch said it's truckers who save the country in bad times, help it grow in good time, and are the silent backbone of the industry.

"We need to speak up," Burch said.

While Spencer agreed wholeheartedly that truckers "have a story" and "need to tell it" to the public to improve perception of truckers, his remarks turned to the internal boost the industry needs.

Spencer talked about the pressures and challenges that truck drivers face on a daily basis, striking hard at the lack of safe and secure parking for truckers to comply with regulations, find a place to rest and relax, eat and just get off the road.

While he acknowledged the efforts of the truck stop supporters of the Trucking Moves America Forward, he said that it's going to take more than just truck stop operators to solve the problem.

"All across the country, shippers and receivers are largely indifferent (to the plight of truck drivers) -- unless they are economically affected," Spencer said.

Then he turned his focus to the treatment of truck drivers by motor carriers, brokers and others in the industry.

"Clearly, pay is an issue. Inside trucking we need to be honest with ourselves, and seriously address it," Spencer said. "Everyone should be collectively behind it to put value on the drivers' time and pay them. That will improve the image of the industry (by reducing driver turnover)."

In addition to discussing the challenges facing the industry, the campaign touted its successes in reaching out to the masses via trailer wraps, social media, press releases and media coverage.

Trucking Moves America Forward has amped up its image campaign portion of the movement by adding an e-commerce store to its website where truckers can by shirts, hats, etc., to promote a positive image of truckers and the industry as a whole.