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Individual image efforts can benefit the entire industry

Kevin Burch, crop on shorter dude with his left hand on water] Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, sparked an initiative that has delivered 340,000 bottles of fresh water to Flint, Mich.

Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express (left), sparked an initiative that has delivered 340,000 bottles of fresh water to Flint, Mich.

As a fleet owner or fleet manager, how you conduct your operations reflects not just on your own company but also on the trucking industry as a whole. Whether that projection is positive or negative is completely up to you.

On the flipside, another carrier’s actions can impact the public perception of your company. After all, to a large majority of the motoring public, a truck is just a truck, no matter whose logo is slapped on the side of the tractor door or trailer. If those actions are negative – dangerous driver practices, damaged or dilapidated equipment, etc. – it reflects poorly on everyone.

There are a number of industrywide efforts to promote the positive aspects of trucking. Trucking Moves America Forward and the Truckload Carriers Association’s Wreaths Across America come to mind, as does the American Trucking Associations’ America’s Road Team. Even if you’re not involved in either TCA or ATA, you still reap the benefits of their respective image campaigns.

At the state level, image campaigns are also underway. Last month, the Arkansas Trucking Association began airing a 30-second commercial promoting trucking’s role in our nation’s economy, healthcare system and food supply chain. The association’s message currently is running for eight weeks on networks statewide as well as social media.

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“Truck drivers are our friends and neighbors, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters,” said Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association president. “And yet, we often forget they carry the weight of our economy – not to mention our food, medicine, books, computers, everything – on their trucks.”

While not everyone has the resources and capital to create highly visible image awareness programs, individual trucking operations still have opportunities to participate in furthering the industry’s message.

Such a project by Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express shows the impact one fleet can have on an entire town. Sure, the company’s president, Kevin Burch, is also ATA first vice chairman and co-chairman of Trucking Moves America Forward. But he saw a need and acted independently to help the citizens of Flint, Mich., a place he used to call home, a place currently besieged with a contaminated water crisis so bad that residents have nowhere to turn but to outsiders for help.

“I went to the local media, both television and print, and was able to get the grassroots story out to the citizens, churches, businesses, our vendors and even the City of Dayton to donate cases of water,” says Burch, whose plea for help was heard immediately. The first day, Jet Express collected more than 17,000 bottles of water.

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Since the efforts began, Jet Express has received support from other carriers, including Pottle’s Transportation and Garner Trucking, and even two truckloads from America’s Road Team. To date, Jet Express’ initiative has delivered 340,000 bottles of fresh water to Flint residents.

“I got the idea from the fact that truckers are the first responders to many disasters,” says Burch. “It was the right thing to do.”

Burch challenges fleet executives sitting on the sidelines to get involved in their local communities to help the industry’s image. “If our leaders don’t talk about what we do and only take rather than give back, then we will continue with the motoring public having a bad attitude about trucking – not to mention the driver shortage,” he says.

Whether or not you’re involved in a state or national association, you too can impact the trucking industry’s image in your community – or another community in need.

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Jeff Crissey is the Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. In his role, Crissey is responsible for maintaining the excellent print editorial product, improving online audience development and increasing CCJ readers' knowledge of business and safety-related industry issues. Crissey holds a Bachelor's Degree from Auburn University and has been a member of Randall-Reilly Publishing's editorial staff for 14 years, where his coverage of industry topics has earned numerous regional and national awards over the years.