Booths showcasing the latest in tires, truck beds and water-pressure sprayers lined the perimeter of the Columbia EXPO Center this weekend, standing small in stature to the 18-wheeled dump trucks that stood on display.
The 34th Annual Missouri Dump Truckers Association held its convention for the fourth year in Columbia, where dump truck owners and vendors gathered to browse, sell and discuss industry issues.
“The economy’s picking up since last year; everyone’s more optimistic,” said Kathy Foster of West Plains. Last year, less people bought and sold goods than they did this year, she said.
“We want people to see them as small business owners,” said Richard McIntosh, a registered lobbyist working for MDTA. The association has more than 200 members from across the state who range from small operators to the nation’s largest Mac-Kenworth dealer.
“I think the public perception of truckers is that his potbelly’s worse than mine, he’s got a chain-wallet on and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth,” said Tom Grimes, who owns a four-truck operation in Sedalia. Grimes was one of the co-founders of MDTA 34 years ago.
“We want to be seen as gentleman,” said Mike Katschman, president of MDTA. Katschman owns four trucks and has been a member of MDTA for 27 years.
Since deregulation of the motor carrier industry started in the 1970s, the MDTA’s role has been to lobby for issues such as worker’s compensation reform, keeping state sales tax off trucks, and Missouri House Bill 1437, which would make safety audits voluntary.
“One thing the association does is educate our politicians so they can make educated decisions, so passing laws would not cost our industry more money and us passing that on to the consumers,” said Randy Potterfield of Monroe City. Potterfield owns G.C. Potterfield Trucking; he inherited it from his grandfather and father, who started the business. Potterfield’s sons now work with him.
“Dump truck operators are more active because they’ve learned what happens in Jefferson City affects them on a regular basis,” said McIntosh. And membership has steadily climbed, Katschman said.
Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, is sponsoring bill 1437.
“I’m happy to provide a tool for the businesses in trucking and MoDOT to promote safety,” Sutherland said.
The issue will go to a committee this week where the bill will be debated.
“We’re audited once a year. You shouldn’t have a problem; you just have to keep your nose clean,” said Alan Barnes of S-S-S, Inc., a company that owns 40 trucks that run the gamut of size.
While the industry has many rules and regulations, it hasn’t stopped drivers and owners from staying in the industry.
“We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t enjoy what we did,” Grimes said. “It put food on my family’s table, put my two daughters through high school, college, and they got married. It was my choice.”