Truck engineer nominated for Automotive Hall of Fame's Distinguished Service Citation
This industry has always been brand-focused. For truckers, names like Kenworth, International, Freightliner, Mack, Volvo, Peterbilt, Western Star, Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, and dozens of others call up whole catalogs of associations, stories, and opinions. Together they create a rich tapestry against which the business of the industry takes place.
Trucking has also always been very people-focused. Circulate through any conference, for example, and the names of key individuals will float over the room like a chant - steady, earnest, insistent. There has never been the slightest doubt about how the hard daily work of the industry gets done or how the great benchmarks and milestones are achieved. People make it all happen.
Unlike the brand names, however, the names of most of the individuals that comprise the trucking business come and go more quickly. Even the longest careers probably don't stretch much past 40 years. And few individuals have talented teams of people working to maintain their personal "brand name image" across multiple generations.
Now and again, however, someone comes along who makes such an extraordinary contribution to the industry that his or her name, like the great brand names, becomes permanently woven into the very fabric of the industry - a single, bright thread that alters the whole design. One of these rare people is my friend Larry W. Orr of Kenworth Truck Co., who has recently been nominated for the Distinguished Service Citation of the Automotive Hall of Fame.
The citation "recognizes men and women who have contributed to the motor vehicle industry in some significant manner, through either sustained superior performance or a specific important achievement." The general criteria list for nomination weeds out even many stellar performers by requiring that nominees, among other things:
* Be recognized as innovative
* Be recognized as a risk-taker, generally characterized by "establishing a new direction or developing a position not popular at the time."
* Have made contributions outside the automotive industry
* Have a longstanding affiliation with the automotive industry
n Be of high moral character
Orr scores high marks in every single category, according to his many business colleagues, admirers, and friends. In his formal nomination document, Mark Pigott, chairman and CEO of PACCAR Inc., calls Orr "the father of the aerodynamic truck" and credits him with leading the team that designed and developed Kenworth's T600 model truck, "the industry's first aerodynamic heavy-duty truck introduced into production."
For that effort, Orr and his team were already awarded the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Award for Advancement of Motor Vehicle Research and Development in 1995. The medal honored the group for "significantly changing the motor vehicle industry in the areas of safety, energy savings, and reduced environmental impact," notes Pigott.
During a career that is presently at the 34-year mark, Orr has also been awarded seven patents, including ones for the T600A truck cab and aerodynamic retarder; published numerous articles and technical papers; and given more speeches on more subjects than he'd probably like to think about.
Virtually anyone who knows him will tell you that Larry Orr is a modest man, vastly preferring work to basking in any lime-colored shade of light. His talents, enthusiasm for the industry, and generosity of spirit, however, attract attention everywhere he goes. "At SAE meetings, everyone wants to stop to talk to Larry Orr," observes fellow editor Jim Mele, "and he always takes the time to visit."
While trucking cannot celebrate everyone who deserves its praise, it is fitting that we honor Larry Orr, together as an industry, recognizing him for exemplifying in a single individual the qualities that are best about all the people who work to keep trucking the vital industry it has become.