Carl P. Tapp, CDM/E
Vice President Of Maintenance, P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc.
By his own admission, Carl Tapp, vice president of maintenance for P.A.M. Transportation Servies, Inc., is most comfortable working behind the scenes to move both the Tontitown, Ark.-based company and the trucking industry as a whole forward. But throughout Tapp’s long and varied career – first as a U.S. Army electronic maintenance specialist and noncommissioned officer, then as a trucking owner-operator, mechanic, shop foreman and finally as a maintenance executive with a national reputation as a technology leader, TMC task force chairman and Silver Spark Plug recipient – he has stuck steadfastly to his core values in the face of seemingly insurmountable personal and professional challenges. In the process, he has taken his accumulated years’ of knowledge and helped transform P.A.M. from a small regional carrier to the one of the largest truckload fleets in the United States and an acknowledged leader in cutting-edge maintenance practices.
It was in the Army that Tapp first began to develop the professionalism and philosophies that would define his career. Placed in charge of a team of electronic maintenance specialists, Tapp would load his people into Air Force transports and fly all over Asia to troubleshoot sensitive electronic warfare systems in helicopters, aircraft, tanks, jeeps and trucks. “Someone was depending on the job you did. Do it wrong, and you could easily wipe out a whole platoon of soldiers,” Tapp says.
Here, for the first time, Tapp began to place an emphasis on not just his own attitude, but the attitude of the troops he was leading. “If you’re the leader, when you come to work in the morning, you have to set the pace – for everyone,” Tapp says. “If you come with a bad attitude, everybody else is going to get a bad attitude. You can’t let everybody know you’re having a tough day. Your attitude makes a difference. And if you have the same drive every day, no matter what’s going on, that’s contagious in an organization.”
Before joining P.A.M. in 1995, Tapp had accumulated nearly 20 years in trucking and fleet management – from his own small trucking business based in Kent, Ohio, to progressively more responsible stints at Rollins Truck Leasing and Ryder Truck Rental, both in the Houston, Texas, area.
Like all previous Career Leadership Award recipients, Tapp has worked steadfastly to give back to the trucking industry that has served him so well over the last 30-plus years. “Arkansas is a huge trucking state,” Tapp notes. “We’ve got Interstate 40 running the width of the state. And I think something like every thirteenth person in Arkansas depends on trucking to make their living.”
Given that reality, it was only natural that Tapp first made his mark working with other Arkansas fleet directors on the state level. An early victory was the establishment of the Arkansas Maintenance Council. Working with Mike Jeffress, vice president of maintenance for Maverick Transportation in Little Rock, Tapp helped found Arkansas’ first statewide technician rodeo in 2003 and parlayed that experience and knowledge into the successful launch of TMC’s SuperTech Competition in 2005.
Despite Tapp’s career successes, it hasn’t all been easy for him. In 2002, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a cruel disease that slowly robs its victims of the use of their bodies, and a harsh blow to an active man like Tapp, a former paratrooper and avid outdoorsman. Still, he says the disease has, if nothing else, given him the opportunity to practice what he preaches.
“Never give up,” he says. “Dare to soar. And do whatever it takes. Those are things that I’ve lived with. This disease is tough, but you can’t quit. So I just keep on pushing every day.”
In his spare time, Tapp is an avid hunter and has a passion for BBQ, winning several competitions and building his own towable BBQ pit.