Trucking Just Might Become “Sexy” After All

 

Having just returned from my twenty third American Trucking Associations MCE conference I am struck by the sense that trucking is right on the edge of becoming a cool, hip (or as I like to say, “sexy”) industry. We’ve got a perfect storm of technology, youth and new leadership mixed with industry veterans and all I can say is if we (the collective “we” of trucking) continue on the same path I witnessed this week then I can almost all but guarantee that by my 30th MCE, trucking will no longer have an image problem.

At my first show in 1993 I was the “youth” and GPS and OBC were the new buzzwords. The show floor held trucks from every OEM along with parts and accessories, some service companies and a small little sprinkling of these new onboard computer “Big Brother” companies. Technology was breathing new life into the industry. Truck drivers were testing all this cool new technology that would eventually go mainstream (they were texting and using GPS guided routes while the rest of us were still using pagers and map books).

All in all I would say it was an exciting time for trucking! Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s we saw an incredible number of technology companies entering the market. Flip through an exhibitor list from back then and you’ll see what I mean. Some of those companies made it and are still with us today, but many did not.

But then we stalled and the show floor was just “same old thing, different day.” On the exhibitor list you’d maybe see a handful of new names, and at the show there might have been a couple of new devices on the market but nothing really exciting and cool. Even the general sessions, which were informative, were not really “buzz worthy”.

But not this year! This year the buzzwords are “autonomous” and “connected vehicle”. There were at least 20 new companies, a handful of brand new technologies and a new ATA Executive Director who strongly believes in technology and wants to make sure we are part of the conversation - developmentally, socially and politically.

Also important for our industry there was youth! Silicon Valley, tennis shoe wearing, technology using, speak-up and share millennials were present in record numbers. There were a lot of new faces at the Image Committee meeting, wandering the show floor and attending the sessions. They listen and ask questions and they participate.

So the next time you see one of these young new start-ups take a moment to say hi, ask them questions and answer theirs, invite them to the table and help educate them on our industry. We need their intelligence, vibrancy and the technology they bring with them to go from an oft ignored and bad-mouthed industry to a hip, cool and “sexy” industry. Odds are once we get them hooked they will become equally passionate about our industry and will likely never leave (just like this California girl who just two years out of college found herself explaining the meaning of GPS to a room of truckers and twenty three years later is still here and has no intention of going anywhere else).