What’s in a name? Truckload Authority covers TMAF, its history and current state of the brand in the June/July issue.
There’s 32 million trucks traveling our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels each day. The professional truck drivers behind the wheel work tirelessly every day to complete their deliveries safely and on time to ensure that our communities are stocked with the goods that we all rely on.
But, time, weather and lack of investments in our roadways are quickly giving way to aging infrastructure in America. If policies don’t change to support new roads and bridges, the trucking industry won’t be able to safely do our job, threatening the flow of our economy.
Across America, more than 80 percent of U.S. communities rely solely on trucking for the delivery of their goods, which keeps our local businesses thriving and our economy moving forward. The industry is a huge contributor to the economy. Trucks move more than 70 percent of our nation’s freight and stimulate economic activity in every sector of the American economy, including the healthcare, agriculture, finance, and retail industries. Overall, the industry provides over $739 billion in revenue each year and supplies over 7 million jobs.
Infrastructure Week is a series of events and educational advocacy efforts aimed at highlighting infrastructure as a key policy issue nationwide. The effort is being supported by a new message that includes a Twitter hashtag, “The future won’t wait. Neither can we. It’s #TimeToBuild.”
In a blog post for Infrastructure Week, TMAF co-chairman and president of Jet Express Kevin Burch wrote that crumbling infrastructure was preventing the trucking industry from delivering goods in a safe and efficient manner and solving the problem through investment was vital to keeping the $739 billion industry moving forward.
“Strong infrastructure is critical to the success of the trucking industry and economic security of all of America,” said Burch. “TMAF is proud to unite with a diverse coalition of transportation and infrastructure groups to bring awareness to the role that infrastructure plays in our daily lives, especially as the President and Congress work towards passing an infrastructure bill. Closing the nation’s infrastructure investment gap must be a top priority.”
By Klint Lowry
Quick quiz: We’ve all heard of the company IBM, but do you know what the letters stand for? How about CBS? Or CVS, as in CVS Pharmacy?
Chances are good you didn’t know all three. Over time some entities become so well-known by their acronym that it replaces the full name – KFC, anyone? In a few rare cases, the alphabet can disappear altogether and a logo becomes all a company needs to be identified, like those golden arches you see hovering over the next off-ramp.
In Trucking Moves America Forward’s case, the name is the logo. But more people in trucking are starting to recognize “TMAF” and what it stands for, and that’s good enough for TMAF co-chairman Kevin Burch and executive committee member Elisabeth Barna.
“The branding has been established, and now it’s starting to resonate to the point that people understand what we are doing,” Barna said at the Mid-American Trucking Show in late March.
It was four years earlier at MATS that TMAF was born, created to accentuate and project a positive image of the trucking industry. Every year when MATS rolls around, TMAF marks its unofficial birthday by releasing their annual report, which this year was titled “The Many Faces of Trucking.”
Prior to MATS, Burch, Barna and other TMAF officials held a press teleconference to highlight some of last year’s successes.
They pointed to the organization’s trailer wrap program, which spreads positive images and information about the trucking industry on the sides of tractor-trailers around the country. It grew to 184 trucks in 2017. Each truck is seen by an estimated 16 million sets of eyes on the highway.
The wraps, Barna said, “they’re like rolling billboards.”
An actual billboard campaign during National Truck Driver Awareness Week generated another estimated 17.4 million impressions.
TMAF’s presence on social media grew in 2017, they reported. The group’s Facebook page now has over 13,500 followers, a 17 percent growth. Twitter followers rose by 32 percent, LinkedIn followers rose 39 percent, and Instagram followers more than doubled. TMAF also launched a blog on Medium, an online publishing forum, which is already closing in on 100 followers.
TMAF’s profile got a big boost when Burch and others from the group were part of a contingent headed by the American Trucking Associations that visited the White House last spring and invited President Donald Trump to climb up inside a cab to see what today’s truck looks like.
And, of course, 2017 saw the debut of Safety Sammy, TMAF’s mascot and goodwill ambassador. Officially named at last year’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, the anthropomorphic truck has been touring the country, drawing attention to TMAF and its mission.
About midway through MATS, Burch and Barna sat down to talk about how far TMAF has come in raising its profile and getting out its message.
“It’s amazing to think of how much progress we have made,” Burch said. Both he and Barna acknowledged that when TMAF began they knew that improving trucking’s image was going to take time.
“Let’s face it, we didn’t get to this situation overnight,” Burch said. Trucking’s lived with an image problem for decades. He recounted an incident 15 years ago when that was made bluntly clear to him.
He’d been asked to speak at a high school career day. Two days before the event, he got a call from the principal, who apologized and told him that several of the parents had looked at the list of scheduled presenters and asked that both trucking and tool and die be pulled from the career day itinerary.
A big part of trucking’s problem is that much of the public’s perception is frozen in some decades-old stereotype. This is why so much of TMAF’s strategy to improve trucking’s image is with imagery, they explained.
TMAF conducts polls on a regular basis, Barna said. They have found that the more someone knows somebody in the trucking industry, the better their perception of the industry is. But even if it’s just on a billboard or truck wrap, adding a picture of a truck driver, especially with their family, up there with a few bullet points improves viewer response.
The same study that determined every trailer wrap generates 16 million views also found that 97.5 percent of vewers were left with a positive impression of the industry.
The expansion of the visual campaign and the increased social media presence give TMAF officials reason to celebrate because it indicates the organization has entered a new phase in its long-term strategy.
From the beginning, Barna said, the belief has been that the best way to improve trucking’s image is to first improve its self-image. That’s why for the first few years of its existence TMAF focused most of its efforts within the industry.
“There are so many times, you’ll hear someone say, ‘well, I’m just a truck driver,’” Barna said. “Just a truck driver? Do you know how important you are to everyone’s everyday lives? It goes back to having respect for what you do yourself, and then you gain respect from everyone else.
“If you’re proud of what you do and you gain respect for that, you’re a much better driver and a much better ambassador for the industry.”
Every year TMAF does a callout, asking people in trucking to send in photos of themselves and their trucks. The response grows every year. “It’s exciting to see people that want to get involved,” Barna said.
Having a good feeling about the trucking profession – this is where Safety Sammy comes in. Burch recalled he was at the National Truck Driving Championships a couple years ago and noticed they had a big duck mascot. He started thinking, “Why don’t we have a mascot?” Sports teams have them, and they become symbols for fans to rally around.
Sammy presents the friendliest of images for trucking. And, of course, he’s a kid magnet, which hopefully will have long-term benefits.
The industry is going to need a million new drivers in the next 10 years, Burch said. It will be a lot easier to convince young people to consider a career in trucking if they have a positive impression of the industry from a young age.
In the shorter term, TMAF is doing what it can to show people who are already driving age that trucking is a lot more appealing than those old stereotypes. Truck drivers today might be your next-door neighbor. They’re raising families, going to your church. They sleep in the same bed every night, Barna quipped, the only difference is that bed moves around the country.
While you were sleeping, a unique act of heroism took place overnight along I-696 in metro Detroit.
A line of 13 trucks with assistance from Michigan State Police, created a wall on the I-696 freeway near the Coolidge exit to prevent a man from jumping off the overpass.
Chris Harrison, who claims to have been part of the “trucker wall” in a Facebook post on the Twisted Truckers page, said the act of heroism took place between 1 and 3 a.m. Tuesday, starting with one truck.
Harrison, in replying to other Facebook users, said the cops waved 6 or 7 of the truckers through on the eastbound side of the freeway, then did the same thing on the westbound side.
With a commercial truck driver shortage looming, a high school in Patterson, Calif., decided to take a proactive approach by creating a truck driving school program dedicated to bringing new drivers into the industry.
The area surrounding Patterson High School has become a mecca for distribution centers the past several years, bringing in companies such as Amazon, CVS, Grainger, Kohls and Restoration Hardware. Superintendent Dr. Philip Alfano saw an opportunity and created a “Supply Chain and Logistics Management Program” at the high school that trains students for entry-level positions at these facilities. Two years ago I approached Dr. Alfano with the idea of starting a truck driving school and the process began to create one of the first high school truck driving programs in the nation.
Three northwest Indiana companies were among the 44 honored today by Governor Eric Holcomb with the Governor’s Century or Half Century Business Award. The awards recognize each company for its longevity and service to its employees, community and the state, and nearly 15-hundred Hoosier companies have been recognized during the 27-year history of the award.
“Today we honor Hoosier business leaders who have been creating jobs and running their businesses in Indiana for more than 50 or 100 years,” said Gov. Holcomb. “I’m excited to celebrate this year’s award recipients and extend a sincere thanks for the role they play in making Indiana one of the nation’s top destinations for business.”
Locally, family-owned DeMotte Mercantile & Sell It Again was a Century Award recipient. Austgen Electric Inc. in Lake County and Robert Tylisz Appliance in La Porte County each received Half Century Awards.
Since its inception four years ago at the Mid-America Trucking Show, TMAF has raised more than $4 million.
During a press conference Wednesday, in which the group announced its 2017 accomplishments, TMAF executive committee member Elisabeth Barna said the group raised money at the National Truck Driving Championships last year, as well as through the sale of Christmas ornaments and other efforts throughout the year.
The money was used to run billboard campaigns throughout the year that were seen by 17.4 million people, as well as radio advertising that was heard by 26.6 million people during the year, and online advertising seen by more than 500,000 people.
TMAF is providing an online awareness and educational campaign to run throughout the month of January during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The goal is to help raise awareness of the human trafficking national crisis; to highlight the unique position that truck drivers are in to take action, and to provide a list of the warning signs of trafficking and the hotline for drivers to identify and report suspects.
TMAF is utilizing its social media properties — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn – to educate throughout the month with facts and information on the widespread, national crime and how the industry can help.
“Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery taking place in every state across the country,” said Kevin Burch, co-chairman of TMAF and president of Jet Express, Inc. “With 3.5 million professional truck drivers on America’s roads, the industry and truck drivers are in a valuable position to help identify and report possible human trafficking cases. It’s important that drivers and all members of the public know the warning signs for trafficking and are empowered with the knowledge on how to report suspicious behavior.”
“The trucking industry and individual truck drivers are invaluable in the fight against human trafficking,” Elisabeth Barna, COO of American Trucking Associations and a board member of Truckers Against Trafficking. “Truckers are the eyes and ears of our transportation system, which allows them to close the loopholes that traffickers exploit for their own personal gain. We appreciate that TMAF is helping to raise awareness and educate truck drivers on the important role they can take in stopping human trafficking.”
This holiday season, trucking’s message resonated throughout the country from TMAF members. Below is a sampling of editorials and appearances in the news from national cable television programs to local weekly newspapers.
You can view full media stories by clicking on the bolded links.
In early December, Larry Spiekermeier, the owner-operator of Montana-based Whitewood Transport who delivered the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, highlighted the importance of trucking’s role in our economy and holidays in a Fox News op-ed and through interviews on Fox News and Fox Business News.
Manuel Perales, a professional truck driver for Pilot Flying J, authored an op-ed that ran in the San Antonio News-Express discussing how the trucking industry keeps communities running and local economies growing throughout the holiday season — as the Modern Day Reindeer.
Last week, professional truck driver Nate McCarthy of ABF Freight based out of Wyoming authored an op-ed in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle where he talked about how trucking makes the holiday season possible.
And, in Maryland, pro driver Bob Weller with Hahn Transportation brought attention to the major effort behind moving all holiday goods in his piece published in the Carroll County Times.