Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m turning 50 tomorrow and have been in the trucking industry for nearly half my life or that I learned that trucking industry legend RJ Taylor president and founder of United Safety Alliance passed away last week but either way, it’s a cause for reflection. No real point of this post other than a trip down memory lane and to just say “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”
1993 I attended my first ATA tradeshow. I think I was perhaps 1 of 5 women at the opening reception. I was 26 years old and probably half the age of the average person in the room. I’ll admit, I had to run up to my room to tap into the minibar in order to pick up the nerve to even enter the ballroom. Little did I know at the time how much I would absolutely fall in love with this industry and the people in it. Oh and I really liked the fact there was never a line for the restroom! Although the industry is still male-heavy, it’s becoming more balanced with each passing year!
I remember my first National Truck Driving Championships. It was held in New Orleans in a very diesel filled arena. Prior to joining QUALCOMM (which led to my entrance into trucking) I worked for the US Canoe and Kayak Team as they prepared for the ’92 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Needless to say this competition was a far cry from what I’d been experiencing the previous years of my life. I’ll admit, I stood in the middle of that arena watching trucks move in and out of cones while trying to avoid a rubber ducky and silent tears of “oh lord, what have I done?” streamed down my face! I now love those championships and everything they stand for!
I mourn the loss of my dear friends Mac McCormick (I remember EXACTLY where I was standing when I got the news). Mac was one of a handful of industry veterans that encouraged me to start LaunchIt. Mike Pennington was another one. As was Mike Russell. I miss these amazing men often.
I remember finally being invited to my first Freightliner concert extravaganza! It was Neil Diamond and he actually came off the stage, put his arm around me and we sang Sweet Caroline together. At the time (still in my 20’s) I wasn’t that thrilled it was someone “old” like Neil Diamond. Today, I’m just stoked I had that moment in time!
I remember the first SuperTech competition. It was held in the parking lot of a hotel with a truck, a few tables and an EZ Up tent. Look at it today!!
The first Women in Trucking reception. As one of the founding board members I stepped up to host a reception at TCA. $500 is all I could really afford. We had ice tea and cookies! It amazes me to see what Ellen Voie and WIT have accomplished in only 10 years.
I’ve answered questions from very distraught truck drivers about whether wrapping oneself in tinfoil could stop “Big Brother” GPS from tracking them and I’ve had to face a very sad and grief stricken group of Parents Against Tired Truckers and explain to them that Electronic Hours of Service will become a standard in all trucks in no time at all (that particular presentation was 19 years ago and is perhaps the reason why I’m so passionate about mandating the use of ELDs – give a presentation in a room filled with pictures of children and young adults killed by a tired truck driver and I think most people would have my same passion)!
The next 25 we will see so much change in our industry (shoot, the next 5 years we’ll see change) but my hope is that no matter how many new players and new technologies come into our industry we will still be an industry that puts human relationships first. My hope is it will remain an industry where a handshake is as good as a signed contract. Where a round of golf or a barstool conversation is valued more than Social Media. An industry where we still bless our meals at annual conventions and honor our flag. I’m sure this practice is so not “PC” and probably not done in many, if any, other industries but I hope we always hold our stance and say “if you don’t like it, then don’t come.” My hope is that no matter how much change is thrown our way the trucking industry will remain the representative face of good old fashioned American values!!
So on this eve of turning 50 (damn, how did I get this old?!) I say, “We’ve come a long way baby and I’m so proud to be a part of this incredible industry!”