It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago this summer that I began working for Heavy Duty Trucking, but there comes a time when you need to hang it up. After two decades on the editorial team in various capacities, the last three-plus covering business and the economy, I’m departing to pursue other opportunities and interests.
I leave you in the extremely capable hands of HDT Editor-in-Chief (and still my wonderful wife) Deborah Lockridge. But before I do, here a few of the many things I’ve learned in that time — some about trucking and the economy, some not:
1. Economic analysis isn’t an exact science; it’s an art. Just like two artists can paint two distinctly different pictures of the same landscape, what’s in the numbers can be interpreted in different ways.
2. The government is not [automatically] your enemy. It’s easy to vilify the government, especially when it comes to trucking. But just like regulations setting standards for food, medicine, or nearly anything else, the purpose of trucking regulations is to keep people safe — though sometimes the results are mixed.
3. Don’t expect perfection in anything, including yourself. Sometimes you have to accept standards that are lower than you’d like, but that doesn’t mean something is bad.
4. “Business friendly” can be an oxymoron. A policy may show immediate financial benefits for some businesses, yet can have negative consequences for customers, the public, and for that business or others further down the road. Tax reform comes to mind, as do tariffs.
5. There is more to covering the news than just writing up stories. Deciding what to cover is influenced by a host of factors as long as my arm, from impact on readers to the amount of time it will take to write.
6. Associations are inherently biased. Trucking, like any business sector, has an alphabet soup of associations. If they are speaking out on something you are for or against, keep in mind that they are representing a specific membership group whose interests may or may not coincide with your own. And they could be playing politics or feeding raw meat to their base.
7. Social media can be a curse. Until we come up with a way to keep trolls from hiding behind a cloak of anonymity (or at least behind their keyboards), online interactions will continue to have the potential for nastiness and the spread of inaccurate information.
8. Quarterly earnings reports and news releases about them can be full of crap. How can a company report a bigger net loss and say with a straight face that “things are improving” for them? Same for reporting adjusted earnings. I could produce a financial report that shows I’m a millionaire if I made similar caveats.
9. If someone says, “Let me ask you something,” chances are they are not going to be interested in your opinion if it doesn’t match their own.
10. People who write columns are expressing an opinion. You may or may not agree, and most writers value feedback either way. However, just because you disagree with someone, don’t call and leave a threatening voicemail telling them they need to read the U.S. Constitution. (True story.)
11. Treat people how you would want to be treated. People rarely leave where they are working strictly over money — and this definitely includes truck drivers.
12. Being on the radio is overrated. It sounds glamorous, but it’s not. Trust me on this one.
It’s practically impossible to thank people for reading anything you’ve written, so I will do it here. Thank you and be safe.
Evan Lockridge covered business and economic news for Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. A freelance writer, he has been covering the trucking industry in print, online and on the air since 1991.