At 6 a.m. Dec. 8, Todd Spencer and I cranked up the new Pete and set out on a trip.
We were heading first to Atlanta, GA, for a major press conference event with Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Annette Sandberg and other industry trade association representatives. The purpose of the event was the kickoff of DOT’s new initiative to encourage greater attention to safety-belt use among professional drivers.
We then drove from Atlanta up to Cincinnati to spend Tuesday night (or rather Wednesday morning) on the Truckin’ Bozo Radio Show.
We decided to take the truck on the trip partly to polish up on our long-dormant and rusty truck-driving skills, and partly to reconnect with all of you and some of what you experience out on the road. Admittedly though, the main reason was we both just still miss driving those damn trucks, and we thought it would be great fun to get out of the office and spend a few days on the road.
It was very enjoyable for us. For most of the time, I was driving; I don’t think you could’ve wiped the grin off my face with a 2-by-4. The trip turned out to be much more than that for us though, and I promise I will never again let so much time go by without getting back out there with you to recharge my batteries and stay connected to your world.
Obviously, in our three-day trip we only experienced a very small sample of what you all are faced with on a constant basis. We didn’t have to deal with shippers, receivers, carriers or brokers burning up our productive time or ripping off our profits. Our two-hour session with DOT in Atlanta and four hours on the Truckin’ Bozo show in Cincinnati was nothing like what you experience at shipping and receiving docks or the many other obstacles you are required to deal with.
We did get a little taste, though, of the split speed limits, the numerous weigh station stops (wondering at each one what type of hassle we might be faced with), and the obstacle course our nation’s highways have become. We experienced the impossible challenge of finding a safe place to pull in and park the truck or at times even to stop briefly to use the restroom. We heard the sewer mouths that hang around the truck stops spewing their garbage over their pumped-up CBs. We had to listen, like you do, to the racists and other antagonists spreading the poison that constantly contributes to keeping so many of us divided, but we also heard the vast majority who stayed quiet rather than to contribute toward the perpetuation of that garbage. We heard the sincere concern of other drivers warning of potential problems up ahead or wishing you a good trip and really meaning it. And we were able to experience a little bit of the true fellowship that exists among the vast majority of professional drivers.
In the past few issues of Land Line, we wrote a lot about the association’s 30th anniversary and some of the sacrifices made in getting to where the association is today. This trip reminded me that those sacrifices were nothing compared to the sacrifices and hardships you face day in and day out to fulfill your responsibilities and keep this nation moving.
I must confess that while I have never forgotten what I am here for or how great my responsibility is to provide you with the quality of representation you need and so justly deserve, I think I had forgotten (or at least let slip to the back of my mind) exactly why it was that I got into this in the first place.
Thirty years ago, I made the decision to commit the rest of my life to the work of improving conditions for the professionals in the industry I loved but felt could and should be much better. Over that 30 years, as the association and its resources have grown, I have found myself more and more wrapped up — or maybe even more appropriately, engulfed — by the day-to-day operation of the business.
My work day is filled with developing and managing the strategies of building and growing the association and its power and ability to improve its effectiveness. It’s about developing and administering benefit programs to save our members money. It’s about strategically using the legal resources we have available to create the most effective impact on abuses that hamper our members’ ability to earn a decent living. It’s about current and prospective regulatory and legislative initiatives that may impact professional drivers.
At the risk of sounding a bit too mushy, this trip made me remember just exactly why I’m here and what made me stick with it during the hard times. It’s because I truly do love all of you for who you are and for what you do. Nothing I know of deserves my commitment and best effort more than you do. I know my driving skills have slipped a bit over the years and were no match for yours, but it really was a pleasure being one of you again, even for that short time.