Exchange New Ideas through Conversations

Photo: NATSO Chairman Bob Wollenman connects with Congressional staff during NATSO's Day on Capitol Hill.

Conversations. What does the word mean? A dictionary says it is a plural noun. This plural noun is a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which new ideas are exchanged.

We gathered at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in February for three-plus days of great events during NATSO Connect. There were 81 first-time attendees within the terrific group of operators who registered.

Conversations that I have been engaged in with others since NATSO Connect include highway infrastructure, state motor fuel tax increases, biodiesel/Renewable Fuels Standard activity, the rapid growth of e-sports on college campuses, who our next presidential candidate is going to be, and where is the stock market headed, just to name a few. One morning at breakfast one person brought up autonomous trucks.

The person mentioning autonomous trucks was concerned about the wellbeing of his family. How could the government permit such things to happen? I suggested that the conversations and seminars that NATSO Connect provided us with advanced a timeline that was governed explicitly with a safety model first and foremost. I went on to say that autonomous cars would be the first to be introduced in broad numbers well before autonomous trucks.

Before the arrival of autonomous trucks, I suggested we will be exposed to trucks running in tandem. We will see four or five trucks separated by mere feet rather than yards. This practice, known as “platooning,” is being considered by many state governing bodies. Interestingly I have a book titled, "Crouch Brothers: MidWest Trucking Pioneers.” In the book, Arthur Crouch is quoted saying, “I didn't have the ‘guts’ to outrun the Nighthawks though. The Nighthawks added bumpers on the back of their trailers even with the bumpers on some of the trucks, then they would get together and play train, with two pushing and the one in front watching where they were going. They would pass without even looking first. I couldn't take that.”

Mr. Crouch mentioned the year was 1946. This was a time when the vast majority of roads were two-lane and narrow ones at that! President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. The Nighthawks were operating their “platooning” activity 10 years in advance of the proposed Interstate Highway System! A side note, history shows that Missouri, Kansas and Pennsylvania claim to be "first" to embrace the interstate system. Each of these states advocate based on differing formation.

Conversations is where I started this letter. I return to conversations to emphasize the importance of your attendance to NATSO Day on Capitol Hill. The conversations attendees have with their respective legislators are to encourage NATSO issues critical to our members success. Conversations needed are about properly funding the highway trust fund, stopping the effort by many states to convert rest areas into commercial fueling sites, biodiesel/ RFS tax credits and other essential activities that are impacting our membership. I hope you were able to attend this important event.

I close with, “Chet Riley, rest in peace.” He was a long-time NATSO supporter, a great friend and mentor.

Photo credit: Charlie Archambault 

Bob Wollenman

Bob Wollenman is Managing Partner of Deluxe Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Mo. With 40+ years in the petroleum industry and 35+ years in the truck stop industry, he offers the single unit operator perspective and believes he works well with others. Bob is active with NATSO, participating in numerous Day on the Hill events and the Government Affairs Committee. Bob sits on the Progressive Community Services Board, the Hillcrest Transitional Living Board and the South St. Joseph Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment Plant Board. He has served on the United Way Board, (including as Annual Fundraising Chair) and on the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce Board, currently chairing its Board Development Committee. Bob has been married to Connie for 44 years. They have three children and four grandchildren. Their son Nick is engaged in Deluxe Truck Stop’s operation. Bob and Connie attend Brookdale Church and are Missouri Western State University.More
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