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Talking the trucking industry with Joe Butzer, interim president of the Pa. Motor Truck Association.

About Joe Butzer

Joe Butzer, 60, was named interim president of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association in May, following the sudden passing of its president, Kevin Stewart. He had served on the PMTA board for six years, the past year as first vice chairman, and opted to take the interim president position rather than the 2020 chairmanship. He is the former president and CEO of Advantage Truck Leasing, Inc. in Lititz, and has more than 35 years of experience in the industry.

Butzer is a graduate of Reading Central Catholic High School.

He and his wife, Beth, live in Hummelstown. He has two daughters, Megan and Kyra, and a stepson, Kyle.

You were to become PMTA chairman in May, but instead stepped in to serve as interim president after Kevin Stewart’s passing. What made you decide to do this?

I was really looking forward to becoming chairman and working with Kevin to assist him in growing PMTA and improving our service to our members. When Kevin passed, and with everything happening in the world with COVID-19, I was asked by quite a few PMTA members to step in right away. I care very deeply about our industry and all our members who keep America moving. Seeing there was an immediate need for PMTA to become “virtual” to better communicate with our members in the age of COVID-19, along with me being at a point in my career where I could devote the time necessary, I decided to give up my chairmanship and serve as interim president.

What is your vision for the trucking industry in Pennsylvania, especially as we move into various phases of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?

PMTA’s mission statement states, “we pledge to assist member companies in managing change in the trucking industry and to enhance the professional and economic growth of its members.” Well, we’ve all had more change in our lives and businesses in the past three months than ever in the past, unwanted change for certain. Over the next few months, communication about reopening Pennsylvania will be the key to beginning a comeback. Most of our members lost revenue during the past couple of months, some as high as 35 percent.  Anyone that’s ever been in trucking knows how hard it is to make a profit, and losing a few months of revenue certainly lessens the possibilities of profit. Our members will definitely have a difficult year, but we’ll be poised to help any way we can. PMTA will begin to hold virtual trainings and meetings over the next few months to keep our members apprised of any changes or requirements.

Are there ways for PMTA and others in the industry to work with workforce development organizations to encourage qualified people to move into truck driving jobs, particularly now with high overall unemployment?

We certainly don’t hear very much about a driver shortage right now. With revenue being down due to COVID-19, some drivers are waiting to be called back to work. However, once our nation is back up and running at full capacity, the driver shortage will certainly be in the news again. We need Congress to pass the DRIVE Safe Act which would permit 18- to 20-year-old CDL truck drivers the ability to cross state lines. Current regulations permit an 18-year-old to obtain their CDL and drive from Philadelphia to Erie and back but that same driver couldn’t drive from Philadelphia to Trenton, N.J., which is right across the river. Current law just doesn’t make sense. Offering younger drivers the ability to make an average annual wage over $ 50,000 without a college education would be a great start to eliminating the driver shortage.

What is your favorite trucking-related movie, show or book?

“Smokey and the Bandit” is my favorite because the movie, besides the obvious plot, also showed how truck drivers look out for each other on our nation’s roadways and always did their best to get the product to its destination on time. Safety, back when the movie was released in 1977, was not the major consideration that it certainly is today as it should be; but let’s face it, even if it’s not a truckload of beer like in the movie, if you wear it, eat it, drink it or use it, a truck brought it safely to its destination. The trucking industry is vital to America — and has been well before 1977 — and will be vital to our nation well into the future, thanks to our nation’s truck drivers.

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