Perspective: Connecting the Trucking Industry
Perspective: Connecting the Trucking Industry
The business of moving freight is all about connection. The connection between shipper and carrier, between driver and vehicle, between technician and engine — all of these are critical.
As an intermodal carrier, I see these connections in practice every day. Living in that space between the port and the railhead or highway and distribution center is part of the rhythm of my daily life.
As I take up the responsibility of being American Trucking Associations’ chairman, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the importance of connections. We have important connections — to our fellow members, to our state associations, to our affiliates — and those connections help us raise our collective voice to connect to lawmakers, regulators and law enforcement to move our industry forward.
To me, it is those connections that make our federation strong. They allow us to, when we work together to strengthen them, effect change. Just look at what we have been able to accomplish since we gathered last in Austin: We were able to secure critical relief from onerous state meal-and-rest-break rules; we changed and shaped the conversation on infrastructure; we made the case for sensible hours-of-service reform, resulting in a proposal to provide flexibility for our drivers.
Our industry, despite our differences and diversity, faces the same challenges — finding and keeping good drivers; congestion; proliferation of tolls; over-regulation; and increasing threats from an aggressive plaintiff’s bar that sees our trucks as rolling piggy banks.
As chairman, I plan to spend the next year working to bring our industry even closer together to make progress on as many fronts as possible. Despite the uncertainty that comes with a national election, I firmly believe we can do so much if we work together.
It would be easy to throw our collective hands up and walk away, put our feet on the desk and wait to see how things shake out next November. But that’s not in our DNA as truckers.
Most of us have been in this business our whole lives. Growing up, my family vacations were with my father to see customers. Delaware, Michigan, California, Tennessee … we would hit the road to see the country, but also to connect with shippers.
From those earliest days, trucking has been part of my life. When I was 13 I learned to type so I could work in the billing department. I worked my way through the business as I went through school — dispatch, safety, sales — connecting with as many parts of our trucking company as I could.
I even, for a short time, drove a truck for our company. That brief experience taught me a lot about trucking — notably, that while I can drive a truck, I am not a good truck driver. Certainly not when compared to the million-mile champions on our America’s Road Team or at the National Truck Driving Championships. It gave me a real appreciation for what the men and women who literally make our industry go do on a daily basis.
That knowledge inspires me to work on their behalf to improve this industry. To bring more of our resources to bear on issues like developing our next generation of drivers and finding new, young, energetic men and women to drive our trucks. To safely and responsibly integrate technology into our industry. To ease pressure on those drivers with the hours-of-service by working with FMCSA to safely bring flexibility to their daily lives.
These goals are achievable if we work together, and that is my challenge to you. Come together. Deepen our connections to each other and to this federation. Share your time and your talent with your fellow executives by joining ATA or coming to a Call on Washington, or reaching out to your representative on the issues critical to your business.
Being at the table is important — not just to ATA, but to your businesses. From personal experience, I can tell you the connections you make as part of this federation can serve not just the larger industry; it will benefit your company.
Through my work at ATA and the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, I have been able to participate in some great undertakings on behalf of trucking: The rebuilding of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, the founding of the North American Chassis Pool Cooperative and, now, it has given me the privilege of serving as ATA chairman.
It was my connection to trucking, to my colleagues in ATA and LMTA, to our customers, to our friends in the industry, that allowed these things to happen.
Those connections are important, and I encourage you to join me in deepening and developing those connections this year.
Guillot is president of Triple G Express Inc., an intermodal motor carrier based in the New Orleans area. American Trucking Associations is the largest trade federation in the trucking industry and has headquarters in Arlington, Va., as well as affiliated associations in every state. ATA owns Transport Topics.