Jodie Teuton has served as chair of American Truck Dealers (ATD) since her election in March.
“I’m the first woman to hold the position in the history of the organization, and I was elected by men to do it. I’m pretty proud of that,” Teuton said at the Women In Trucking Association’s Accelerate! Conference & Expo in Dallas last week.
“I grew up in the dealership business. I started on the wash rack washing cars and trucks when I was 13, which is what you do when you’re in a family business,” she said.
She left to get a business degree. “After that, I wanted to make my own way. Nobody was going to tell me what to do. I got a law degree, practiced law for a number of years because I wanted to show my family that I certainly didn’t have to work with them,” Teuton said.
But later she decided to join the family business, which consisted of auto and truck dealerships.
“At the time, I felt I wanted to be an auto dealer, but the truck business called, and I wound up working with my father, who had a different brand than I do,” Teuton said. “In 2004, I was blessed to be selected by Kenworth to represent the Kenworth brand.
“That was just before Katrina. Katrina hit in 2005. All hell breaks loose. We sell tons of trucks, and we haven’t stopped since. We’ve got eight locations throughout Louisiana. Since 2004 we’ve grown to be the only Kenworth dealer in Louisiana,” she said.
Teuton now has about 325 employees and a leased fleet of around 900 units.
“I love this business,” she said. “Our front line is about a quarter of a mile long. Some mornings when I’m driving by and I see the trucks one after another, it just makes my heart go pitter-patter.”
Teuton isn’t worried about autonomous trucks taking away her business.
“I think assistive technologies are good. Has automation affected the business? No. It’s improved safety,” she said. “I get a lot of questions about autonomy and autonomous trucks. There’s always the worry with disruption, but there are autonomous trucks already out there. I’ve seen them. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be on the roads. The truck driver job, I believe, is here to stay long after I’m gone.”
She said many technological gains need to be made before the roads are filled with autonomous trucks.
“But I think we would be remiss not to open our minds and our eyes to it,” Teuton said. “I can’t say that I fear autonomy. Just welcome the technological advances that are coming down the road.”
She has welcomed the visibility her role at ATD has provided her. “When you are a figurehead, people can visualize possibilities,” Teuton said.
“This past year I had young women who came and ran up to me at a convention after I spoke and wanted a picture with me and were all excited about the possibilities that were in store for them. Oftentimes they’re dealer daughters. Since I started my role at ADT, I’ve had more than one dealer come to me and say, ‘Because I’ve known you and seen the work that you’ve done, I’ve reconsidered my succession plan and I’ve chosen my daughter over my son.’
“That is so exciting because what we bring to the industry is just that different perspective that’s needed,” she said.