By Tom Kretsinger, Jr.
For as long as I have been involved in industry associations — whether on a state or federal level — folks in the industry talk about improving our image. Mostly we talk to each other, an audience already holding a positive image of ourselves. That takes little convincing.
Yet what do most people outside of the industry think of when they think of truckers? The lyrics to “Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed from the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”? Or maybe the song by C.W. McCall named, “ Convoy” which glorifies breaking the law? How about the song “Six Days on the Road” by David Dudley?
While many know these lyrics by heart, do they really know the lengths we go to be safe, legal and professional?
What are people’s personal experiences around big trucks? The wind and shake when passed by a big rig? The blinding splash of water when passing or following an 18-wheeler in the rain? Or the large grill with teeth on it tailgating them down the road when they have kids strapped in the back of the car? It takes so much to improve our image and so little to tear it down.
Why does our image matter? Because “perception is reality,” as the famous quote by Lee Atwater states. A bad perception is a costly reality.
The preconceived ideas that jurors have affect the number and size of verdicts. Plaintiffs’ lawyers know that they can grab the brass ring if they can get a jury to personalize a case and feel a need to “send a message” to the industry. I just read about one such case that resulted in a $150 million verdict. It is impossible that the plaintiff’s damages — sad as they were — could even vaguely approach this figure, but the jury was sending a message … to us.
Perception shapes public policy. Have you noticed the increasing tendency of state, local and federal legislators and regulators to micromanage without any reasonable cost/benefit analysis the smallest details of our work? Though they know little of the industry, they feel a need to do something. Why? Because they perceive that we are unsafe, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
Perception is trumping reality. Automobiles are far less safe, but do we see the same efforts to regulate and legislate cars? No. Do we see the same verdicts on car crashes? No. Do we see as many attorney advertisements for car wrecks as truck wrecks? No. Image matters — it matters greatly.
What can we do about it? We not only have a big job to do, but an important one and a necessary one. We need to communicate a positive image to those outside of our industry. This can be accomplished only if everyone gets involved. There is strength in numbers. It is time we tapped into our strength.
The Truckload Carriers Association has a fantastic image program known as Wreathes Across America. Whether or not you are a member of TCA, you can do your part to help. Learn more about the program and the many different ways you can participate by going to www.truckloadofrespect.com.
Wreaths Across America Day — Dec. 14 — is rapidly approaching. Will you help us raise funds to place fresh wreaths on veterans’ graves? Will you provide a truck or a dispatcher?
In an effort to educate the public, media and government about the trucking industry, TCA produced the above video that showcases the compassion and patriotism of our industry. I urge you to watch this powerful message.
The video focuses on the role that many of TCA’s members play in Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that oversees an annual weeklong campaign to honor fallen veterans. Each of them volunteers to escort wreaths from Maine to more than 800 veterans’ cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, every year.
The commercial contains a strong, powerful and positive message about trucking. Along the way, their convoys stop at various schools and veterans rallies as part of Wreaths Across America’s mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve in the military and teach children the value of their service.
TCA encourages its members to air this commercial, customized with your company logo, on local television, as well as in local movie theaters. TCA staff can work with your company to create the customized commercial in two business days.
Imagine the image we can deliver if all of us — members and nonmembers, truckers and industry suppliers — run this commercial in movie theaters and on television each Christmas. If we work together and everyone does his or her part, we can do this.
Will you help us get the message out? Contact Debbie Sparks at 703.838.1950 to get involved.