Kent Powell, the man who conceived Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, died on Aug. 27 in his home in Southern California. He was 93.
Powell was a Seattle Times journalist in the 1960s when Western Trucking, a small regional publication, was struggling. He was hired to manage it, and by 1968, he took the publication national with a new name (Heavy Duty Trucking), a new circulation criteria based on that name, and a fresh editorial philosophy.
A key element of Powell’s expansion plan was subscriber qualification. To receive HDT the subscriber must be involved in managing at least one heavy-duty truck (rated 26,000 pounds or more gross vehicle weight). The reasoning: These readers were the people who specified the many components on heavy trucks. No other publication used that criteria at the time.
"Powell preferred to avoid the spotlight,
but was the power behind it all."
Powell built on his new approach over several years and it worked. Competitors in the East and Midwest first referred to HDT as "that cute little book out West." But the magazine began beating the competition with major editorial breaks and features. Readership boomed, and it became the industry leader in advertising pages.
Much of that success was due to Powell's abilities to attract top-notch talent, from advertising sales and marketing professionals to internal staff, to editors who set industry records in journalism prizes.
HDT's success led to creation of new marketing and editorial products including truck stop posters, a truck beauty pageant, and publications like Truckers News, Roadstar and Truck Sales & Leasing — all under the corporate banner of Newport Communications Group. Bobit Business Media acquired Heavy Duty Trucking from Newport Business Media in 2012.
Powell preferred to avoid the spotlight, but was the power behind it all. He was an icon with a talent to succeed in business, and had a deep understanding of good journalism. But he will likely be remembered by most for his sense of humor and quick wit, friends of Powell wrote in his obituary.
Powell was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1929. He is survived by his daughter Andrea, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and was preceded in death by his son Curtis (2021) and wife Patricia (1951). He met his wife at Roosevelt High School and they were married for nearly 67 years.
More about Kent Powell's life. He:
- Attended the University of Washington.
- Served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1952 to 1959 as a Sergeant.
- Started his journalism career working for the Seattle Times at the age of 14 as a “copy boy.” He worked his way up to covering sports, focusing on horse racing.
- Moved to Orange County, California, in 1963 as publisher of what is now HDT.
- Served as a Board Member of the Bowers Museum in Orange County.