Combined Transport keeps on trucking

Combined Transport keeps on trucking

BY STEVE WARGA

0513 Tactics 01
// Photo by Jamie Lusch

Think trucks are smelly, polluting dinosaurs crowding the nation’s highways? Think again, says Mike Card, president of Central Point-based Combined Transport. “I don’t believe the general public understands how important the industry is to commerce,” says Card, a second-generation owner who presides over one of the largest Oregon-based trucking outfits. Card says 85% of the state’s communities are served exclusively by truck: no air, no pipelines, no rail. “The most efficient way to do business today is to have low inventories resupplied by timely and affordable deliveries via trucks,” he observes. “Otherwise you have to increase inventory costs, which means [raising] prices.”

Thanks to a one-year turn as chairman of the American Trucking Association in Washington, D.C., Card, 54, has an international platform for spreading the gospel that trucks move the world. But he’s quick to say the trucking lobby needs to do a better job of getting that message across. “People see our trucks as impediments on the highway,” he says. “That’s a shame. We need to change our industry’s image.”

One by one, Card addresses prevailing industry myths and realities. Theoretically, trains can haul more freight with less pollution than trucks can, he says. “But anytime you want to replace trucking with rail, you can’t do it. Rail doesn’t go to the grocery store or the gas station, and it never will.” Except for bulk commodities like coal or grain, trucks are the only form of transportation capable of delivering life’s daily necessities, Card insists. “The toilet paper and the T-shirts you buy? They all got there by truck.”

0513 Tactics 02

Combined Transport

President: Mike Card

Employees: 550

Annual revenue 2012: $127M

Factoid: 85% of Oregon communities supplied exclusively by trucks

As for his industry’s contribution to pollution, Card acknowledges that many trucking companies still gripe about emissions reductions imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. “But I think [the rules] have been great,” he says. “I tell people that the air coming out of our trucks running in Los Angeles is cleaner than the air going in for nitrogen oxide, sulfur and particulates. It’s good for the industry that we cleaned up our engines.”

Card’s advocacy dates back to the 1980s, when his father, Richard, joined the ranks of “deregulation babies” who seized the opportunity to establish their own trucking companies after President Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which opened the industry to more competition. Card and brothers David and Jon, plus stepbrother Ron Moore, worked with Richard to build Combined Transport into a company that now has 550 employees operating 450 trucks across North America and into parts of Mexico.