You know who you are, but do you know who we think you are?

The only way to put out an effective magazine is to develop an accurate picture of your readers and their interests. That idealized reader - or Reader with a capital R - becomes the touchstone in choosing topics for coverage, in developing angles for stories, and even in designing the layout and graphics for each issue. Everything we do at Fleet Owner starts and ends with the question: "Where's the value for the Reader?"

With over 100,000 issues of Fleet Owner being mailed to subscribers every month, how do we come up with a composite Reader that reflects your specialized information needs and interests? After all, trucking is a diverse business, with private and for-hire fleets and many subdivisions within those two broad categories. On top of that, it's an industry that's changing rapidly in both its operations and business philosophy.

The first, and most important, step is staying in personal contact with as many of you as possible. Nothing takes the place of direct interaction, and every writing editor on this staff spends a major portion of their time speaking to fleet managers just like you. We visit terminals and offices to talk to you about both general and specific trucking topics. We go to dozens of meetings where managers from all types of fleets gather. We spend days every month interviewing industry executives, as well as fielding e-mail and phone calls from readers. In general, we take every opportunity to immerse ourselves in trucking.

As deep as our commitment may be, there's only so much time in the day, and we can't talk to everyone who reads Fleet Owner. Also, trucking is not just a diverse industry, but it's also a decentralized one, which can make it difficult to find many of you when we need a fresh source for a story or a new perspective on the important issues.

In order to back up and reinforce our personal knowledge of your businesses, we also conduct research into your opinions, responsibilities, interests, and other related issues. In the last nine months, for example, we've commissioned a survey to give us an updated profile of our readers, as well as a reader satisfaction study that was designed as an internal quality audit of our editorial effectiveness.

(If you're one of those subscribers who received either of these surveys, many thanks for taking the time to fill them out. Not only were the answers valuable, but even the high response rate to both tells us a great deal about our ongoing relationship with you.)

So what did we find out about you? The most important thing is that you're highly satisfied with our coverage of the issues you rank as most important. I know it sounds self-serving to say that, but that's what the research showed.

Both projects also reconfirmed our basic assumptions about Fleet Owner's readers. As diversified as this industry may be, you all have important traits in common. You are experienced managers concerned with maximizing the productivity and efficiency of commercial vehicles. Issues involving the management of people are occupying more of your time. Information technology is changing the way you interact with customers and conduct your business.

The most gratifying finding is that you rely heavily on Fleet Owner to give you the information you need to meet those challenges.

It's always satisfying to hear independent verification that you're doing an important job well, but those studies also remind us of our responsibility to, not just the Reader with a capital R, but also you the individual reader with real, not idealized problems and information needs.

Everyone on the staff of Fleet Owner takes that responsibility seriously, and we're going to use the things you've told us to do an even better job of living up to it. This spring you're going to see some major changes in the way this magazine brings you the information you need to be an effective manager.

Next month I'll tell what's changing and why.