People from all walks of life find their way to the trucking industry. For Karen Rasmussen, president & CEO of HELP Inc., it was a job with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Dept. of Public Safety that led to what would become her passion in life: truck safety.
“I have a great love and passion for the industry,” she says. “My biggest passion, though, is for truck safety.”
Serving in a public relations role, Rasmussen had the opportunity to work with the Oklahoma Trucking Assn. Through that work, she developed an appreciation for the truck industry’s safety focus and also met Vince Robison, who was president of the Oklahoma Trucking Assn. When Rasmussen decided to move to California, it was Robison who suggested she contact Tom Schumacher, a long-time executive with the California Trucking Assn. (CTA). In the fall of 1984, Rasmussen was hired to handle communications for CTA.
Eventually, over a 13-year career with CTA, Rasmussen worked her way up to vice president. She eventually moved on to work at Ryder System, again focusing on safety programs as director of government relations as well as on tax and environmental issues. While at Ryder, she was part of an internal Ryder group, serving as vice-chair of the Ryder Women’s Management Assn. from 1999-2000.
All of that was a precursor to her next career stop, which was as president & CEO of the Arizona Trucking Assn. from July 2001 through November 2012. During this time, Rasmussen was named the winner of the President’s Award for Outstanding State Trucking Association Executive in 2005.
Leading the Arizona association indirectly led to her current position at HELP Inc., a nonprofit public/private partnership organization dedicated to industry safety.
“Part of my job in Arizona was to be the representative to the private sector with the HELP board,” Rasmussen relates.
She has led HELP since November 2012, guiding strategic and business planning for the organization, which has seen its PrePass product grow to be active in 32 states and at over 300 sites. Rasmussen has also remained active within the industry, serving as a member of the American Trucking Assns. Safety Policy Committee and Communications & Industry Image Committee as well as on the Arizona DOT Freight Planning Advisory Committee. In addition, in 2013 she was appointed to the Research Advisory Committee of the American Transportation Research Institute and is a member of the board of directors of ITS America.
Throughout her career, Rasmussen has seen quite a change for women in the industry. “Women have come a long way as a group,” she says. “When I got involved in the industry, it was not unusual for me to go to a meeting and be the only woman in the room.”
She also reflects on one of her mentors. “I learned more about trucking from [Schumacher] with all the experience he had,” Rasmussen says. “He taught me a lot about the industry, and he taught me a lot about advocacy.”
And now it is Rasmussen that is serving as an example for the next generation of great trucking leaders.