Rebecca Brewster is president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), which conducts transportation research. She received the 2013 Influential Woman in Trucking Award, given by the Women in Trucking Assn. and Navistar. In 2010, Brewster was recognized by the 50 state trucking associations for her service to the industry with the J.R. “Bob” Halladay Award. She serves on the CMU-Penn University Transportation Center Advisory Council.
Brewster is a nationally recognized expert in traffic incident management (TIM), with more than 20 years of experience in TIM research, education and outreach. Throughout the 1990s, she served as director of the National Incident Management Coalition.
She also currently serves as principal investigator for the U.S. DOT’s Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) Opportunities initiative, which includes development of a white paper and primers that facilitate more meaningful, productive engagement of priority stakeholders in advancing ICM.
While both trucking and research are traditionally male-dominated fields, Brewster says gender has never been an issue in her career.
“It never occurred to me that it would not be an appropriate industry for me to look for ways to succeed,” Brewster says. “I absolutely love providing the opportunity for young people—men and women—to get started in this industry because I think that’s one of the challenges, that we’re not doing a good enough job selling ourselves and showing young people the opportunities.”
Brewster’s career in transportation, research, and policy began with her first job out of college when the English major went to work auditing truck driver logs at a large private fleet. The fleet’s transition to an early electronic recording system provided the opportunity to analyze driver performance data and to improve safety and performance through coaching.
“It was a real hands-on introduction to the trucking industry,” she says.
Her next position, as director of public and governmental affairs for the Cary (NC) Chamber of Commerce, allowed her to analyze and make sense of public policy, and also to work with members on taking leadership roles in the community.
Then, on a whim while visiting Atlanta, she came across a job opening for the ATA Foundation, supporting the research needs of the state trucking associations in the Southeast. Brewster also stepped in to take over the foundation’s research contract with the Federal Highway Administration, which introduced her to traffic incident management.
“Essentially, they wanted someone who had trucking industry experience and understood policy analysis, which was a combination of the two jobs I’d had,” Brewster says. “I’m the liberal arts college dream: Take that education and turn it into something.”
Brewster has been with ATRI since 1993. She holds a bachelor of arts from Wofford College and is a Fellow of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership.