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The Last Word

My Final Mile

By Gwen Moritz

A few years ago, I sat in an audience of business publishers as our keynote presenter offered a tip on extemporaneous speechifying. If you ever find yourself called upon to speak to a trade group, he said, you can't go wrong with this opening: "No industry has experienced more change in recent years than yours!"

Those of us in the audience instantly suspected that we were not the first trade group audience to hear his speech about speaking to trade group audiences. "Totally meta," as the kids would say. But he was right: Virtually every industry has navigated so much change that anyone with even a few years of experience feels that surely no one outside their industry could possibly appreciate how much they have had to rethink and relearn.

I was invited to write this "Last Word" because I stepped down at the end of July as editor of Arkansas Business. I'm doing other projects for Arkansas Business Publishing Group — my new title is "contributing editor" — but it's now Lance Turner's job to keep an eye on the people and businesses that make up our state's business community. I had the same job title for 22 years, and my responsibility for delivering a quality product hand-crafted from scratch on time every week remained constant. But the way the staff and I did our jobs changed so much during that time that it never felt static.

I'm pretty sure the same is true for readers of Arkansas Trucking Report. You might have the same title at the same company and the same ultimate goal, but the way you are doing it is different than it was last year or five years ago. And if you have been at it for decades, you may think back on the beginning of your career in the transportation industry the way I think back on the IBM Selectric typewriter on which I wrote my first news stories for the Pine Bluff Commercial.

My time at the Commercial taught me this much about the transportation industry: If I was late to work, I had to wait for a train to pass. I'm sure I never gave much thought to how my worldly goods arrived at the store until I went into the business news niche. And I'm certainly no expert on your business, but I started to understand the difference between truckload and less-than-truckload and to appreciate the tragedy of an empty trailer. Logistics as a business started to make sense. After retiring from the Air Force, my sister's husband became a long-haul driver, and conversations with him were eye-opening as well.

I watched your industry figure out how to roll with wild fluctuations in fuel prices, with well-intentioned but poorly crafted regulations and with a highway funding formula that suffered from better fuel efficiency. Like you, I saw the annual report card on substandard infrastructure and I hoped for some kind of political breakthrough. (At this writing, a deal has been announced, but I'll believe it when I see it.)

Meanwhile, the destination for delivered goods made a sea change. I'm not sure when you started talking about "final mile," but it entered my consciousness about 10 years ago. The rise of ecommerce has literally changed the color of our residential waste stream as more cardboard boxes started arriving at more American homes with increasing frequency. My husband and I made more orders from Amazon in 2020 than we did from 2001 to 2011 combined, and we're e-commerce amateurs compared with my 91-year-old father-in-law.

I avoid making predictions — about anything — because I'm almost always wrong. I don't know whether the pandemic will result in long-term changes in U.S. manufacturing or global supply chains or workplace occupancy. But whether paper needs to be delivered by the ream for an inkjet printer in someone's spare bedroom or on giant rolls for the web printers that newspapers use, I know how it's going to arrive. 

Gwen Moritz was editor of Arkansas Business from August 1999 to July 2021.

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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
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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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