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Reputation is Everything

Posted By John Hausladen, Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Updated: Friday, July 11, 2014
Earning Reputation One Mile at a Time – Recent high-profile media stories have reminded me of a foundational truth: truckers earn their reputation one mile at a time. What truck drivers do on the road each and every day set our industry up for either success or failure in our advocacy efforts. And, it only takes one bad actor to great set back our efforts.

Tracy Morgan Crash Felt Everywhere – When comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured in a crash caused by a truck driver, it became both a national and local story. The criminal complaint alleged that the truck driver had been awake for 24-hours prior to the crash which also killed one of Morgan’s associates. Suddenly, the topic of truck driver hours of service (HOS) went from industry inside baseball to something average drivers were hearing about.

Local media outlets rushed to offer a Minnesota take on the story. I had two television stations, KARE-TV 11 (NBC) and WCCO-TV 4 (CBS), in our parking lot at the same time. Both reporters wanted to know: What are the truck driver regulations and are they working. If you want to see how two stations cover the same topic in very different ways, check out www.mntruck.org.

Crash Impacts Congressional Debate – This terrible crash could not have come at a worse time for the trucking industry. Just days prior to the crash, the Senate Appropriations Committee had voted to stay two restart provisions of the hours of service rule until a study was completed. This was a huge win for the trucking industry, and one the MTA and others worked hard to pass. However, the media positioned the crash against the backdrop of industry attempts to “rollback” truck driver regulations. It paints the incorrect picture that trucking is not safe. Doing so put our friends in congress in a bad position publicly.

HOS rules are complex, even for trucking professionals. Trying to explain to a reporter – or constituent - how going back to the June 2013 HOS rule might actually be safer is difficult. It doesn’t translate easy into talking points or short conversations. Yet we know that putting more trucks into morning traffic actually increases crash risk, something the Federal Motor Carrier Administration did not account for when restricting use of the restart provisions.

Truck Driving Championships Provide Sharp Contrast – Do things like holding a State Truck Driving Championship (TDC) really matter? You bet! We were able to contrast the actions of one bad driver with the efforts of nearly 90 accident-free drivers. We were able to leverage the event into positive coverage also on WCCO-TV. Using events like the TDC, Driver of the Year, and our Fleet Safety competitions provide us great examples of drivers and companies doing it right. Thanks to the MTA Safety Council, TDC Committee and Roadeo Champions Club for executing a great event.

It Happens on the Road – Our best defense against negative media coverage is to just do our job: Deliver each load safely, on time and without defect. If we each do our jobs well, the reputation we desire as an industry will be there despite what any individual does.

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