Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association – Featured State Trucking Association
NOTE – We continue our ongoing series examining state trucking associations and the people who lead them with this feature on the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association (PMTA) and Kevin Stewart, PMTA president and CEO.
Retired CVE Official Turned PMTA President Sees Value in Cooperation
When Kevin Stewart’s grandfather took him to the Reading Railroad train yard where he worked as a truck driver, little did he know his young grandson would choose a career in commercial vehicle enforcement a decade later.
Nor could he have known that Kevin would eventually become a leader in the trucking industry, after retiring from a 33-year career in commercial vehicle enforcement, nearly a half century later.
Choice of Second Career Continues Legacy of PMTA President’s Grandfather
But that’s what happened. As he turned 17 and became old enough to work in 1979, Kevin considered an employment opportunity with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT was looking to significantly expand its commercial vehicle enforcement program and a friend of Kevin’s father was involved in managing the program. The program needed to fill a variety of jobs including assisting enforcement officers with inspections, filing paperwork and other assignments.
“He asked my dad if he knew of anyone interested in that line of work,” says Kevin, who gave the job serious consideration. With that job, Kevin says he saw how he could have a secure job with good benefits right out of high school.
“It was a great opportunity since it could also lead to other jobs with the state, which was a good thing since I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated,” Kevin says.
Eventually, that position with PennDOT’s commercial vehicle enforcement program led to a 33-year career in commercial vehicle enforcement. First, Kevin served as an enforcement officer and in various positions for PennDOT in its Motor Carrier Division. Then in 2005, the commercial vehicle enforcement program was re-assigned to the Pennsylvania State Police as part of the governor’s state agency consolidation plan. Kevin became the new division’s program administrator.
That experience eventually led to a second career in trucking. Following retirement from the Pennsylvania State Police in 2013, Kevin became director of safety for the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. Three years later he was promoted to president and CEO when Jim Runk retired after 44 years, the last 25 serving as PMTA president.
PMTA Assistant General Manager Recruits Kevin Stewart
Kevin says when PMTA assistant general manager Dean Riland asked him if he would ever consider becoming the association’s director of safety after retirement, he gave the idea long, hard thought. After two years, Kevin decided: why not?
“Some people have asked me why a career commercial vehicle enforcement officer and administrator would ever want to go to work for the trucking industry,” he says. “But for me, it seemed a very logical step.”
“In my commercial vehicle enforcement roles, I had met a lot of people in the trucking industry who genuinely care about moving freight safely and professionally,” he adds. “After all, their parents, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters and friends all travel on those same roads. And they want them to be safe when they do. I’ve found they take great pride in their work and want everyone in the industry to be held to the same standards.”
Drawing on his commercial vehicle enforcement experience, Kevin says he’s been able to help those in the trucking industry better understand why enforcement does what it does. He’s also put the legislative experience he acquired and the relationships he developed with legislators while working for the state to work for PMTA. Through Kevin’s leadership, the association has taken a more proactive approach in pursuing its legislative goals and addressing challenges.
For example, PMTA sought a change in state regulations – ACT 165, eliminating semi-annual inspections of motor carrier vehicles with a gross combination weight in excess of 17,000 pounds and replacing them with a regimen of annual inspections.
PMTA Successfully Lobbies for Regulatory Reform
“By going to annual inspections, the Legislature reduced burdensome regulations on the industry, but with no impact on safety because now commercial vehicle inspectors aren’t having to rush through their inspections in order to get them all done,” Kevin says. “The motoring public benefit because the inspections can be more thorough and the industry benefits because they don’t have their operations interrupted every six months.”
Through Kevin’s leadership, PMTA has also:
- Played an active role in lobbying Congress for regulatory reform and increased funding, plus a long-term funding fix for critical transportation infrastructure needs;
- Worked with local and state officials on lifting a travel restriction on trailers wider than 8 feet from travelling on certain secondary state routes where lifting the ban made sense;
- Partnered with the Pennsylvania Bus Association – http://pabus.org/ on issues that impact the trucking and passenger carrier industries. The two organizations maintain a reciprocal membership agreement allowing fleets to become members of both associations;
- Lobbied the FMCSA and Congress to establish an apprenticeship program giving young people 18 to 21 years of age an opportunity to gain experience driving trucks on interstates in order to obtain a CDL. Kevin says it makes little sense that an 18-year-old can haul a load larger than 10,000 pounds hundreds of miles across the state, but can’t haul it 3 miles from Philadelphia to Canton, New Jersey.
At PMTA, Kevin has also continued the work he started to address the truck parking issue in Pennsylvania while serving as commercial vehicle enforcement program administrator at the Pennsylvania State Police. While at the state police, Kevin served on the Pennsylvania State Transportation Advisory Committee’s task force, which studied the problem of truck parking in Pennsylvania. In 2007, that task force released its final report, which identified significant truck parking issues on the state’s major trucking corridors during peak hours.
“During a typical night approximately 1,100 trucks are parked along shoulders or ramps of Pennsylvania highways,” the report concluded. “This occurs for several reasons, lack of parking capacity being the most significant.”
PMTA President Sees Collaboration As Way to Solve Parking Shortage
Kevin says in the intervening decade since that report was released, the parking problem has only gotten worse. Not only has truck traffic increased significantly, but also so have land values to the point where it has made the siting of new truck stops in otherwise suitable locations impossible for developers, he adds.
The problem is particularly acute in a 1,700-square-mile region in south central Pennsylvania, which includes Harrisburg and Carlisle. Forty percent of the U.S. population lives within a one-day’s drive of this region, which is also known as the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study region.
Kevin took part in a year-long study to update the region’s freight plan as a member of a technical advisory committee for PennDOT.
Representing the trucking industry and PMTA, Kevin says he made sure the committee examined the problem of truck parking as part of the comprehensive study. That study examined a variety of issues, including pavement quality and conditions, truck crashes, bridge conditions, and the movement of freight by truck, air and rail.
“The committee looked closely at the reasons behind the lack of truck parking and considered some steps the industry in partnership with local and state governments could take to help alleviate the problem,” Kevin says. “With so many needs to fulfill, and so many challenges to overcome, government and industry can’t solve the truck parking issue on their own. It must be accomplished through collaboration.
“For example, through joint public and private partnerships, public roadside facilities closed due to the lack of funding necessary to update or install adequate restrooms, could be rehabilitated and re-opened instead of sold to private developers,” he says.
Too often, it can be easy for the public and community leaders and elected officials to forget or not recognize just how important trucking is to the state’s economy, Kevin adds.
PMTA Gets Involved and Stays Involved under Kevin Stewart’s Leadership
Under Kevin’s leadership, PMTA has also:
- Worked to address an increased reliance among truck drivers on turn-by-turn GPS apps, which are typically not designed for trucking operations and don’t offer warnings of low-clearance bridges;
- Monitored and participated in legislative efforts to build infrastructure that meet the needs of vehicles powered by alternative fuels. For example, when the Pennsylvania Legislature considered House Bill 1446, the Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act in 2017, Kevin testified at a public hearing held by the Transportation Committee.
“It’s vital for the trucking industry to participate in the legislative process, to engage community leaders and elected officials and to help shape public perceptions about the industry,” he concludes. “I think that’s why the work we do at the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association is so important.”
AT A GLANCE
State trucking association: Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association
Address: 910 Linda Lane, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
How to join: To join the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, visit pmta.org, call 717-761-7122, or Tom Hoffman, membership/marketing director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership: 1,400 company members
Primary functions: Here are the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association’s primary functions:
- Work with the Legislature and regulatory agencies to foster, promote and preserve a strong economic climate for trucking in the Commonwealth.
- Partner with the enforcement agencies to develop and support safety initiatives that protect the motoring public.
- Provide a forum for continuing education through seminars, workshops and conferences.
- Disseminate positive industry information to the press promoting the industry.
- Support members through personal assistance whenever the need arises.
President and CEO: Kevin Stewart
Industry’s biggest challenge: “Biggest challenge really depends who you ask,” Kevin says. “But I think there are three that stand out: driver shortage, lack of truck parking, and current hours of service rules.”
Favorite trucking movie: “I guess with respect to trucking movies having grown up at the height of CB radio popularity, there really are only two movies that come to mind, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and ‘Convoy.’ Looking back, it seems that truckers were viewed differently during that time than they are today. That’s unfortunate as we have some of the most talented, safety conscious professionals there are behind the wheel of our trucks.”