Symposium savvy

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The 16th annual Randall Trucking Spring Symposium, hosted by CCJ and sponsors, was a big hit this year. It’s always a fantastic opportunity to network with fleet executives, sit in on panel discussions by experts about the top issues in the industry, and kick back and enjoy playing host to more than 400 attendees. Here are the top 10 things I learned from this year’s Symposium:

10. People outside of Alabama remain fascinated by Paul “Bear” Bryant. At his museum in Tuscaloosa, you can view clips from historic games, see the legendary coach’s plaid hat and learn all there is to know about Crimson Tide football.

9. Keynote speaker Newt Gingrich advocates new engine technology. “A hydrogen engine changes the whole economy. It wipes out all the problems of the Kyoto accords, because its only byproduct is water. It eliminates our dependence on the Middle East. And when it happens, it’ll happen in trucks first.”

8. Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, predicts plenty of freight in the coming years, but no relief from rising fuel prices or an increasing driver shortage.

7. Drivers don’t leave for better pay, according to Sherry Bass, CRST Malone; Kevin Burch, Jet Express; Jill Larson, Marten Transport; and Paul Williams, Wooster Motor Ways. The panel discussion about driver recruiting and retention focused on keeping the good drivers you have and aggressively wooing more of them with benefits packages, lots of miles, home time and training.

6. How to escape from Iraqi insurgents, in case your truck convoy is ambushed on your way to Fallujah. Former hostage trucker Thomas Hamill told his harrowing story of courage.

5. How to manage through the delicate process of mergers and acquisitions, presented by a group of experts: Duane Acklie, Crete Carrier Corp.; Ken Adams, Southern Cal Transport; Ed Brown, Highway Transport; and Miller Welborn, Transport Capital Partner. “If you are buying a company, the worst thing to say to the employees is that nothing is going to change,” Brown says.

4. Steve Williams, CEO of Maverick Transportation and chairman of the American Trucking Associations, said there’s a growing recognition that electronic onboard recorders are inevitable.

3. Every speaker should know one good lawyer joke.

2. Newt Gingrich may run for president in 2008. Or he may not.

And the No. 1 thing I learned from putting on the Symposium is that without our sponsors, there wouldn’t be one. Thanks to Caterpillar, Comdata, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, International Truck and Engine, Maddocks Systems, Parker Hannifin Corp.’s Racor Division, Pegasus TransTech, PeopleNet, Roadranger, Shell Lubricants and TravelCenters of America.