Viewpoint: Nice guys finish first

By Michael Levans · November 1, 2012

I’m pleased to announce that the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) and Logistics Management (LM) magazine are presenting Bill Graves, former Governor of Kansas and current president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, with the 2012 McCullough/NITL Executive of the Year Award.

This honor, which recognizes an individual for achievement and leadership in the logistics and transportation industry, is co-sponsored by NITL and LM and is named after John T. McCullough, a former chief editor of Distribution magazine, a predecessor of LM. I will be presenting the award to Gov. Graves on Monday, November 12, at the opening ceremonies of the 105th Annual Meeting & TransComp Exhibition in Anaheim, Calif.

During a time when the nation is suffering through one of its worst periods of hyper-partisanship, it seems quite fitting that a leader like Gov. Graves is being honored with this year’s award. While there’s a long list of achievements during his service in trucking that could have earned him this award, there’s an even longer list of intangibles that characterize a true leader: a mediator, and a listener who takes the time to “hear” what you’re saying regardless of what side of the aisle you’re sitting on.

After reading Schulz’ portrait of Gov. Graves (page 26), one quickly learns how the roots of his character took hold early. As a youngster he began working on the docks at Graves Truck Line, a company that his family operated for 70 years out of Salinas, Kan. “The first year I paid into Social Security was 1966. I was 13,” Graves tells Schulz. “So, that would have been the first year that dad had me doing something, probably sweeping the freight docks.”

But that was just the beginning of his many life lessons. At the age of 41, Graves was inaugurated as one of the youngest governors in Kansas history. He would end up serving two terms, winning re-election (1998) by the largest margin in the history of the state as a moderate Republican.

After he completed his second term, capping off 22 years of service to the citizens of Kansas, Gov. Graves’ life came “full circle” when he took the reins at the ATA—the federation of 50 trade associations that lobbies Congress, federal agencies, and presidents on behalf of the $700 billion U.S. trucking industry.

While he’s had the wheel, Graves has pushed for stronger safety regulation, a national speed limit of 65 mph, and greater drug and alcohol testing of the 3 million long-haul truck drivers operating in the U.S.

Graves is even pushing for an increase in the federal tax on motor fuels to help pay for much-needed infrastructure reinvestment—an initiative that may fall on deaf ears until early next year.

And while his list of achievements would go on for pages, Schulz says what really defines Gov. Graves is the affable, endearing way in which he goes about meeting the needs brought on by a diverse community.

“ATA has about 3,000 members—from UPS to small mom-and-pop truckers,” says Schulz. “Some are union, some are non-union. There are LTL carriers, TL carriers, and everybody in between; and on some issues, ATA’s stance has to conflict with at least a few of its members. Yet he manages to keep all the balls in the air through his quiet nature and desire for compromise.”


About the Author

Michael Levans
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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