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The Last Word

Eyes Wide Open: The Big Rig Dilemma

By Tom Ricciardone, Guest Writer

On February 5, the day after an icy, wintry mix hit Central Arkansas, the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette featured a four-column wide photo of an over-turned tractor-trailer. The bold type headline: “Rig Flips on I-30 Exit Ramp.”

Just days later, after another blast of weather, Sunday’s Page 1 headline read: “Woman Missing After Leap Into River to Avoid Hit By Rig.”

Imagine, with no advance warning, you have five minutes to address a room full of colleagues from throughout the state. Your task is to present a short bullet-point wish list for “marketing” the Arkansas trucking industry within the state and beyond.

As an industry insider, with a unique vantage point, what would you tell them?

This brief column can only scratch the surface, highlight a few “wish-list” items that might resonate along with some essential points of context to consider.

1: The Big Rig Dilemma

A number of challenging issues impact the industry’s image, but perhaps none more so than what I call the Big Rig Dilemma, or the common media image, not to mention the ubiquitous highway experience of Big Rigs as intimidating annoyances at best and life-threatening dangers at worst. The references above are prime examples.

You can’t outspend it; you can’t out-finesse it; you will never completely escape it. Clever ad campaigns and catchy slogans will at best serve as momentary diversions. You shouldn’t ignore this reality. Own it, accept the Big Rig Dilemma for what it is and deal with it. In this challenge is born great opportunity.

2: What’s In A Word: Respected vs. Liked.

I often hear the talk of the widespread desire to improve the industry’s “likeability” factor, but it would be of more strategic value to focus on the “respect” factor.

Gaining tangible improvement on the respect meter should be key, tied to advancing both reputation and image, and by extension, likeability. It’s an important distinction.

3: Crisis Response: Development Of A Crisis Communications Plan With A Designated Response Team.

While some of our state’s larger trucking companies have an internal crisis response plan in place, how prepared is the statewide industry to step up with a response for any and all scenarios?

The mindset about the need for this should be: It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” This should be recognized as a strategic imperative, with some urgency attached to it.

4: Tell The Story. It’s A Great One.

The Arkansas trucking industry has a rich and compelling story to tell.

That story is deeply connected to the power of the American story. Its far-reaching impact into families, communities, in the quality of life and the sustained progress of our state and its people at an emotional level is compelling.

In this multi-faceted story are the seeds of greater respect, and, with that, an improved image, even against the wind of the Big Rig Dilemma.

Tell that story, in all its richness, in a way that resonates at the emotional level.

The strategic value of communications planning and purposeful execution is undeniable. Marketing is all about context and success is in the details. It is trucking’s responsibility, collectively, to proactively create their preferred future. Executing a sound, disciplined, multi-faceted external communication strategy should always be an industry priority.

Tom Ricciardone has a 20-year track record as a strategic communications consultant for corporate and trade association clients. In 2012, he co-founded Bespoke Video Production and Multi-Screen Media Strategy. He can be reached at 501-626-7770 and

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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