Restoring the industry’s image

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By almost every measure, we are stronger and safer as an industry than we’ve ever been. And yet the popularity and the image of our industry is not what we would like it to be, nor is it what it should be.” –Chris Burruss, president, Truckload Carriers Association

Normally, on this day, I write a post dedicated to my favorite saint, as today is of course the day set aside to honor the memory of Saint Patrick and how many of his characteristics – especially his willingness to go forward in his mission despite the dangers and the odds being stacked against him – are shared by those working in the trucking industry.

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While I won’t be writing such a post today (though you can certainly read my past paeans on this subject by clicking here) I would like to share with you part of a speech given by Chris Burruss, president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), at that group’s annual convention this week.

Just by way of background, Burruss is no Johnny-come-lately to the trucking business – or to the kinds of rigors those working in this industry must undergo.

A former Marine, Burruss spent eight years as vp of the Missouri Motor Carriers Association, then five years as president & CEO of the Tennessee Trucking Association, before becoming TCA’s president in 2004.

Here’s what Burruss had to say about how the trucking industry’s poor image is completely at odds with the vast improvements it’s made in safety and professionalism.

This is a theme Burruss has expounded on before, notably right from the outset of his TCA captaincy almost seven years ago.

“Many times, perception is reality, and when it comes to trucking much of the public has a very negative image of our industry,” he explained during a speech before the 14th annual McLeod User Conference back in 2004. “For example, for the last 20 years, we have told ourselves about the good job we are doing in terms of safety — but we haven't told anyone outside the industry. That has to change.”

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He believed then – and now – that the industry really needs a 10-year “aggressive” image campaign to counteract the negative stereotypes that are out there. In addition to telling people about the sustained efforts to improve safety, the industry also needs to explain the critical role trucking plays in shipping raw materials and finished goods.

“We need to get members of the media into truck cabs with our drivers to see what it is really like our on the road,” Burruss said. “This is important to help change the way we are perceived by the public.”

Important, yes, but will the public – and perhaps more critically, the policy makers – be willing to listen? That’s a tough one. But just like Saint Patrick of old, trucking is well versed in facing down tough challenges.

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