ORLANDO, FL -- Gary Salisbury spoke his mind during his last speech as Truckload Carriers Association chairman Monday morning, exhorting the trucking industry to knock off the pettiness and roll up its sleeves and do something to improve trucking's image.
"As a lot of people that know me realize, I'm a little hard-headed," said Salisbury during the opening general session of TCA's 74th Annual Convention. He started out as an owner-operator and today is president and chief executive officer of Fikes Truck Line of Hope, Ark.
"I was born a square-headed country boy that didn't know anything but get it done. There was no excuse; in the dairy business you never called in and said, 'I'm not going to milk those cows because it's Christmas day and it's not fair.'
"There's no fairness in the world. One thing my father instilled in me are emotions have nothing to do with it; it's all about determination and stepping it up and making it happen, no matter what obstacles are in your way."
Salisbury said it's time trucking adopted that attitude. "It's very important, and I'm very passionate about it, that we must start becoming the industry and the association of 'yes.' We can't say 'no,' and 'that's not going to work,' and 'that's going to kill us.'"
Not, he said, that he means the industry should simply lie down and say yes to everything that comes along. "We've got to be proactive, whether it's hours of service, whether it's EOBRs, whether it's independent contractor issues. We've got a lot of people, innovative people, that can figure out how to ship anything." But, he said, it seems that when it comes to dealing with some of these other problems, "frankly we just kind of get stupid."
"You've got people implementing these rules that know absolutely nothing about trucking," Salisbury said.
"I thnk it's time for this industry to step up, to stand up, to put up, or shut up," Salisbury said. "Whether it's TCA, ATA, the food shippers, all of the associations that are involved in transportation, we've got to put down the pettiness. Let's pick up the tools, roll up our sleeves, and get to work."
One of the key places Salisbury believes the industry needs to roll up its sleeves is improving the trucking industry's image. It was his main mission during his year in office.
"If we don't start the process, we will never change the minds of people," he said. "My goal was to take hold of the steering wheel of our industry and put us back in charge instead of outsiders holding the wheel for us."
He referred to the many speeches he had made during his year as chairman, as well as to several important TCA image-related campaigns:
* Highway Angel program, which recognizes drivers for the kind and sometimes heroic things they do to help other motorists on the road. Last year marked the debut of a music video of the Highway Angel song by country artist Lindsay Lawler, who addressed attendees via a prerecorded video, thanking the group for helping to launch her career.
* The Wreaths Across America program, which coordinates wreath laying ceremonies on the second Saturday of December at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. Many TCA fleets volunteer trucks and drivers to transport the wreaths. In 2010, the association debuted a TV ad aimed at the general public to highlight trucking's involvement. Last year, 13 trucking companies bought ad space with their local TV stations and ran the ad with a customized logo at the end. "We estiated we reached 1.5 million people that saw another aspect of our industry, and a good aspect," Salisbury said. "This coming season I hope you will consider airing the ad or volunteering a driver or truck to bring wreaths to a participating cemetery."
* Health and wellness initiatives. Last November, the New York Times ran an article about drivers and fleets working toward healthier drivers. TCA worked with the reporter to help make sure the artile was accurate and balanced. Now the group is in the third week of its Weight Loss Showdown, where 11 trucking company teams are competing to see which can lose the most weight, with the coaching of the Lindora Clinic and its "Lean for Life" program. After week two of the 10-week competition, Salisbury said, 1200 pounds has been lost so far by all 11 teams. Brian Kurtz Trucking is in the lead, followed closely by System Transport and Prime Inc.