901 Tower Drive Suite 420
Troy, Michigan 48098
Without revealing any secrets, can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
The biggest stories right now all relate to federal regulations. By December 2017, all trucking fleets and owner-operators must use electronic logging devices (ELDs). On top of that, a new “speed limiter” rule is due at any point in the next month or two that will limit the road speed for tractor trailers, probably to somewhere around 63 mph. Finally, new food transportation safety rules go into effect March 2017 that will layer new responsibilities upon shippers and motor carriers, more than likely raising costs.
The biggest ongoing story dominating the industry: the truck driver shortage. It’s becoming more and more acute as many within the current pool of drivers reach retirement age, while fewer and fewer young people are willing to choose truck driving as a profession. That’s creating lots of change to pay packages, to route formation as fleets seek to get drivers home more often, to truck specifications as fleets seek vehicles that are easier to drive (no more manual gear shifting) and cab interiors sporting all sorts of creature comforts.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
Every truck reporter dreams of going on true “long haul” freight trips: coast to coast across the U.S.; taking the Alaskan highway; crossing the Australian outback in a road train; rolling from southern France up to Moscow in Europe. Those are journeys packed with all sorts of sights and sounds; opportunities to sample “roadside culinary cuisine” in truck stops, diners, plus other unusual eateries; and to really dive deep into the human side of trucking, gathering stories from drivers and other trucking-related workers (truck stop waitresses, dispatchers, load planners, warehouse personnel, safety inspectors, mechanics, etc.) along the way.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you’ve written.
I got a chance to spend an entire day at Germany’s famed Nurburgring race track in the pits ahead of a truck racing event back in 2013 – talking to the drivers, the pit crews, mechanics, OEM representatives, and even got to take two laps at full speed as a passenger in one of those machines (and never regretted anything more in my life!) That visits generated several stories and a couple of photo galleries. The day ended with the reporters sitting down with the pit crews to eat dinner and share all kinds of stories.
What is your top pet peeve with PR people?
Mine is when PR folks think they are “the only ones in the room” so to speak; unable to realize that the company/product they represent has to compete for limited copy space among lots of other companies, products, breaking news stories, etc. The worst is when they call repeatedly to find out when a story will be published; understanding the time pressures reporters are under, especially in the fast-paced digital age, would remove this irritation.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, favorites, background, etc.)
I’ve been married for 20 years and have three daughters, all teenagers, with one about to go to college; my alma mater as a matter of fact (Virginia Tech). I grew up in Northern Virginia (20 miles south of Washington D.C.) and came back after college to live and raise a family. For recreation I coach youth soccer; all three of our girls are involved in the sport, too. Favorite family fun is going to the beach and to theme parks such as Busch Gardens, Disney World, Universal Studios, and the like. That never gets old!
Finish this sentence: People would be surprised to know that …
… my degree is actually in history, not journalism, with a focus on U.S. Civil War history to be exact. Thus all my knowledge regarding muskets, cannons, cavalry, plus steam-driven ships and locomotives provided a most unusual foundation for my career reporting on diesel engines, tractor-trailers, asphalt-paved highways, and the like.
Follow Sean on Twitter at: @trucksatwork