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Reshaping the perception of trucking for a new era — Taking the Hire Road

Safety and compliance can help overcome bias

On this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road, Jeremy Reymer, founder of DriverReach, is joined by Chris Woody, director of safety at The M&W Logistics Group.

Woody is a distinguished veteran of the industry, having been named the Tennessee Trucking Association’s Safety Professional of the Year in 2021 and having helped M&W to win the American Trucking Associations’ President’s Trophy in 2022.

Yet, like many within the trucking industry, Woody relates that he fell into this line of work “by accident.” More than a decade ago, he began working with M&W in its payroll department. Over time, however, he began to involve himself with multiple aspects of the company, garnering interest as well as notice.

By the time M&W’s previous director of safety decided to retire, Woody was an obvious choice to replace him.

Part of what made Woody such a viable candidate was his obvious passion for defending truckers, both against regulatory snares and in the court of public opinion. “I despise injustice,” he states, “and I feel that the reputation that trucking has — the inherent bias that the public has against us — affects so much down the line.”

Woody defines his mission at M&W as twofold. First, he seeks to inform the public about the central role that truckers play in our economy and, by so doing, undo some of the negative biases associated with the industry. “Everyone needs to know what these men and women do,” he argues, “and how they put their lives on the line just so we can enjoy the very comfortable lifestyles that we have.”

Second, Woody appreciates the countless risks intrinsic to truck driving. “No matter how good your safety record is, no matter how many bells and whistles you have on your truck, or how good your drivers are, they are in danger every time they get on the road.”

Being so uniquely vulnerable, then, truckers need someone to watch their backs. The regulatory environment surrounding the industry is confusing, constantly changing and, given the aforementioned public bias, exposes drivers to nuclear verdicts when accidents occur.

Yet even though driver safety and regulatory compliance are important issues, they tend to fall by the wayside when markets are tough, as priorities shift to finding loads and keeping the lights on.

While such a change in priorities is understandable, Woody points out that it is ultimately shortsighted. “Carriers should be asking themselves: ‘What am I going to look like when I come out on the other side? Will I be in total shambles or, when everything takes off again, am I going to be in shape to run?’”

When the market’s momentum inevitably swings back to favoring carriers, it is vital that fleets be prepared to take advantage of it. 

“I think the right move for everybody is to continue to hire, have those trucks filled up and understand that this cyclical stuff always happens,” Woody advises.

Click here to learn more about The M&W Logistics Group.

More from Taking The Hire Road:

Sleep smarter, drive safer

Lesson on reaching trucking’s next generation

Lessons from across the pond

Michael Rudolph

Michael Rudolph is a research analyst at FreightWaves and is a former freight broker. Prior to entering the logistics industry, Michael worked in academia. He holds an MA from the University of Chicago.