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COVER STORY


on hand, and he was always there for us. And I’ve got to say, I can’t ever say that I ever had an argument with the association. If I had a problem they always helped me, and I was not a big carrier. We were just a little outfit.” The next couple of decades would


see important challenges and victories, including an agreement reached with the state’s workers’ compensation fund whereby the MCM was granted a percentage of each motor carrier’s premiums. The money enabled the association to hire safety representatives who would perform compliance audits for carriers that


helped them prepare for Department of Transportation audits. Ironically, the MCM did such a good job of improving safety that carriers’ premiums fell, reducing the amount available to the association and requiring a reduction in the safety staff, according to Curt Laingen, owner of Curt Laingen Trucking out of Billings. Laingen worked full-time for the association for eight years starting in 1989. During this time, the state authorized the


use of triple trailers – no easy feat, because as Havdahl described it, “We were constantly bombarded by certain organizations and


groups that didn’t think the trucking industry should have those big trucks in Montana.” The process


Laingen


required two legislative sessions. Laingen said the Legislature first passed a law giving carriers the right to


pull triples, but with strict safety criteria and a sunset provision that ended the privilege after two years. That meant the association had to return to the Legislature to try to win the fight again. The railroads, who were opposed to the privilege, funded a nonprofit group, Citizens for Reliable And Safe Highways, or CRASH, that lobbied against the motor carriers. The day the legislative committee was to hear the bill on triples legislation, the railroads encircled the Capitol with trailers, the point being that approving the bill would result in clogged interstates. But that morning, a train derailed in East Helena with such force that the railcars nearly ran up on U.S. Highway 12. In his comments to his committee, Laingen recalls testifying that “CRASH” should have a new meaning: “Counting Railcars As they Strike the Highway.” The Legislature approved the bill. “I have to say that the Montana


association has always proactively you might say ‘led the charge’ for improved truck efficiency in the West,’” Laingen said. Efficiency, of course, did not necessarily


mean “speed.” Montana famously repealed daytime speed limits in 1995, replacing a numerical amount with one requiring drivers to drive at speeds that were “reasonable and prudent.” When the Montana Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutionally vague, the MCM helped fashion a split plan – 65 miles per hour for trucks and 75 miles for passenger cars on the interstates. Havdahl retired at the end of 1998 to


become a consultant with the Multistate Highway Transportation Agreement, a consortium of 10 Western states that established common standards for interstate movement. Looking back, Havdahl said of his tenure, “There was never a dull moment in the industry over the years, and I enjoyed it very much.” At that point, the association had enjoyed


remarkably stable leadership with only two directors since 1951. That would not be the case over the next few years, however, as the next two directors, Brian Cavey and Dave Galt, former director of the Montana


14 ROADWISE | ISSUE 4, 2014 | www.mttrucking.org


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