ATA Chairman Kevin Burch, left gave President Trump an "I (heart) Trucks" pin. Photo: ATA

ATA Chairman Kevin Burch, left gave President Trump an "I (heart) Trucks" pin. Photo: ATA

If you see President Trump wearing an “I heart trucks” lapel pin, thank Kevin Burch.

Ever since I first met Kevin, president of Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express, he has impressed me with his passion for telling trucking’s story to the general public, to the press, to legislators and regulators, to schoolchildren …. and recently, he got to help tell trucking’s story to the president of the United States.

Burch is chairman this year of American Trucking Associations, and several weeks ago, he was among a group of ATA leaders and a contingent of America’s Road Team Captains who visited the White House in late March for a conversation about issues affecting the trucking industry, including infrastructure, tax reform, and health care.

Chances are you saw the photos and video of President Trump hamming it up in the driver’s seat of one of the ATA trucks parked on the White House lawn. They quickly went viral on social media. Although Burch gave me a heads-up the night before about the White House visit, between my schedule and Burch’s schedule, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about it for a few weeks.

At the discussions inside the White House, Burch was able to present to the president an “I [heart] Trucks” lapel button (after some discussion among Secret Service and other handlers). “He wore that button through the whole meeting.”

“It got a lot of publicity,” he told me. “You can tell by the photos, he wore that button through the whole meeting. It just goes to show you, he’s a down to earth person."

America's Road Team drivers at the White House. Photo: ATA

America's Road Team drivers at the White House. Photo: ATA

While the meeting was billed largely as a discussion about health care to coincide with the effort to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, Burch told me that infrastructure also was a big focus of the meeting. ATA has formed a highway funding task force, and they were there to let make sure President Trump knows that trucking needs to be part of the infrastructure funding discussion.

Iin addition to the policy discussion, Burch said, Trump spoke extensively with the drivers, asking about their jobs, where they were from, and getting a guided tour about the technology in the truck cab.

"He wanted to hear the stories," Burch said. "We had over 10 Road Team members, and he wanted to find out how many [safe] miles" each had. "It started out with 1.4 million, one gentleman had 3 million, and every time it got larger the president just could not believe it.

“When the president said, ‘You mean to say you haven’t had an accident?’ he looked over to [Vice President] Mike Pence, who was also in the room, and said, ‘Can you believe what these ladies and gentlemen have done?’ He’s for the working person.”

As was widely reported, Trump said about truck drivers, “No one knows America like truckers know America. You see it every day. You see every hill, and you see every valley and you see every pothole in our roads that have to be rebuilt.”

ATA's Share the Road truck was pulling a trailer provided by Jet Express featuring the "Trucking Moves America Forward" imaging campaign. Photo: ATA

ATA's Share the Road truck was pulling a trailer provided by Jet Express featuring the "Trucking Moves America Forward" imaging campaign. Photo: ATA

He also was fascinated by the technology in the truck, Burch told me. One of the Road Team drivers later reported that he spent about five minutes answering the president’s questions about technologies such as lane departure warning and anti-rollover systems, as well as some of the gauges. “He didn’t have to do that; he had the Affordable Healthcare Act [vote] that day,” Burch says.

While the vote did not go the way the White House wanted, it seems like the highlight of the President’s day was getting to experience the big trucks. He certainly looked happier than he has at many official functions in his first 100 days in the White House.

The publicity, Burch says, has been good for the industry.

And so has that lapel pin. With headlines like “Donald Trump Wears I Love Trucks Button and Honks Truck Horn” (NYMag.com), “‘I (Heart) Trucks' Day at the White House” (People). In his travels following the White House meeting, he says, three times in a single day total strangers noticed the lapel pin and asked if he was part of the trucking organization that had the president in the truck tooting the horn.

“It’s a conversation piece,” Burch says.

Get your own "I (heart) trucking" lapel pins via the ATA website.

Parked on the White House lawn were ATA’s Image Truck, Interstate One, and ATA’s Share the Road Truck. Photo: ATA

Parked on the White House lawn were ATA’s Image Truck, Interstate One, and ATA’s Share the Road Truck. Photo: ATA

From the HDT archives: 7 Ways to Improve Trucking's Image

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

View Bio
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