Photos circulated widely last week of President Trump at the American Trucking Assns.' (ATA) visit to the White House. What many may not have seen — or didn't realize they were seeing — was a major ATA effort to raise the profile of trucking with the American people and motoring public.
Now three years in the running, ATA's Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) program designs attention-getting trailer wraps intended as "moving billboards" promoting the trucking industry and the role of drivers in keeping the supply chain and economy — and everyday life — moving.
"These moving billboards, as we call them, are a great educational tool for the motoring public," said Elisabeth Barna, ATA's chief operating officer and a member of the TMAF executive committee, at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville. "They paint a picture that truck drivers are just like you and me — moms, dads, sisters, brothers — diminishing the notion of large trucks simply taking up space on the highways and instead, demonstrating the value that trucks deliver."
She noted that at the time, ATA had sold 149 of the TMAF trailer wraps nationally and is now "well on the way to reaching a goal of 200 wraps on the road by the end of the year." Barna also unveiled a round of new trailer designs at the show. The new designs, she said, "really bring what we carry and haul on those trailers to light, and these trailer wraps show how we make an impact on everybody's everyday lives."
In addition to the trailer wraps, the TMAF program also looks to engage the media in writing about trucking and connect with the public via social and digital media and marketing campaigns. The White House meeting last week was a big step in those efforts.
At the meeting, Barna explained, ATA was able to bring two trucks. One had a trailer with a U.S. flag, "and the other truck we decided to bring was one with a TMAF trailer because we thought it was so important to showcase Trucking Moves America Forward."
"These two trailers were right outside the Oval Office on the South Lawn, which was a first," she added. "And one of the reasons we were excited to be at the White House wasn't just about ATA, but our entire industry. We were able to showcase what trucking is all about."
One of ATA's goals is to engage and work with President Trump and his administration on issues like infrastructure funding that affect the trucking industry, according to ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. The group also wants to emphasize trucking as an essential cog in the wheel of the U.S. economy, which the new administration is focused on growing, and see that any changes to trade agreements like NAFTA — which also clearly would affect the U.S. trucking industry and many other businesses — are made with all due consideration.
But raising the profile and awareness of trucks and trucking among the American people is also part of the plan. It's no small task, with many among the passenger car portion of the motoring public unaware of trucking's critical contributions to the economy and exposed to trucks and trucking as more of an "us vs. them" situation as they encounter and perceive them out on the road.