Jim Hebe is to the trucking industry what William Shatner is to television. Like Shatner’s evolution from Capt. Kirk to lawyer Denny Crain – Hebe is back in a new starring role.
Hebe returns to prime time with the same company with which he began his career in 1971 in Boston. Company officials from Navistar International Corp. announced this week that Hebe will rejoin the company as senior vice president of North American sales operations.
What made Hebe jump back into the fire? He told Land Line Magazine on Tuesday, April 14: “Sometimes you just can’t say no.”
Hebe, 59, has commanded the spotlight in a variety of roles in the trucking industry and has seen his share of controversy. He served as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Freightliner for nine years. During that period he led the truck builder’s plan to give guaranteed buy-back deals to large fleets, deals that contributed to a glut of used trucks when the economy turned sour in 2000.
In the late 1990s, Hebe announced that Freightliners would have “on-board recording devices.” That prompted a roar of opposition from owner-operators. OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston challenged Hebe, and a war of words ensued, which was chronicled in the pages of Land Line Magazine.
Hebe backed off finally, admitting that while he still believed truck safety was critical, if a majority of the industry didn’t want the black box technology, it did not make sense for Freightliner to pursue it.
After leaving Freightliner in 2002, Hebe became head of Seagrave Fire Apparatus, LLC in Clintonville, WI. He returned to the trucking industry in 2006 when he became dealer principal of Co-Van/Cascadia.
In his new role, Hebe will have responsibility for North American sales, dealer operations and central sales administration.
Hebe told Land Line he plans to relocate from Portland, OR, to Warrensville, IL, home of the company’s corporate offices.
– By Sandi Soendker, managing editor