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Blevins at helm of statewide trucking group
Mountain Valley Express President Scott Blevins poses with a truck at the companys headquarters in the Manteca Industrial Park. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Trucking creates jobs.

And Scott Blevins can prove it.

“If you bought it a truck brought it,” noted Blevins who is doing double duty these days as president of both Manteca-headquartered Mountain Valley Express and the California Trucking Association.

Mountain Valley Express alone employs 440 people at 10 locations throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon.  About half of that number is truck drivers. The rest fill jobs ranging with IT support and billing to mechanics and loaders. Mountain Valley’s fleet consists of 180 trucks and 365 trailers.

Blevins noted that it is next to impossible for items that you consume not to have been transported at one point by a truck.

And while rail has picked up a growing chunk of long haul movements Blevins noted there will always be a need for trucks as you’re not going to see railroad spurs “built at the back of every store.”

Part of the CTA effort in Sacramento is to emphasize the critical role that the trucking industry plays in the economy.

Blevins noted that many of the jobs Mountain Valley offers provide head-of-household incomes for families.

“Not all of our jobs are head of household but a lot are,” Blevins said.

There are more than a dozen trucking firms located in the greater Manteca area along with a healthy dose of independents. Trucking jobs support a number of other transportation-related employment especially in distribution centers such as Ford Motor Co., Millard Refrigeration, Home Depot, and West Pac to name a few. The location of Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy and Stockton within 100 miles of 18 million consumers makes the area ideal for logistics and distribution. That niche of the regional economy would be impossible to support without trucking.

There are 3.5 million licensed trick drivers in US

Nationwide, the American Trucking Associations notes that one out of every 13 people working in the private sector is employed in trucking-related jobs throughout the retail, public utility, construction, service, transportation, mining and agricultural sectors. Nearly 9 million people help move 11 billion tons of freight annually in the United States.

Among that number are about 3.5 million commercial drivers that average $50,000 a year.

Blevins concedes that a lot of people take the role that trucking plays in the economy for granted.

“It (trucking) is what keeps things rolling,” Blevins said.

A prime example is the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont. Mountain Valley had 50 employees dedicated to moving parts to assemble vehicles from various locations in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the Fremont assembly plant. Not only that, but how efficient the trucking firms working with NUMMI were able to make deliveries was critical to their on-time system that kept inventory low but always had the parts on hand needed to keep production going.

NUMMI’s  closing was looming as a big blow for Mountain Valley to absorb. But several weeks before the closure, Mountain Valley was asked to join the Reliance Network that provides a cross-country association of medium-sized haulers to move goods. Joining the Reliance Network has allowed Mountain Valley to grow business by 25 percent after absorbing the blow of losing work from NUMMI.

Mountain Valley typically handles “overnight” or day trips moving goods from terminal to terminal.

As such, they can provide more tailored service than major carriers that often require full loads instead of handling smaller shipping needs over relatively shorter distances that are less than a load.

Given the economy you might think it is easy to fill trucking jobs. Blevins indicated the opposite is the case despite Manteca’s 13 percent unemployment rate.

Blevins said there are two reasons why. First, someone who is laid off working for a software company isn’t in the mindset to make a living as a truck driver.

“It’s a big change in their thinking,” Blevins said.

The other reason is Mountain Valley Express like other California trucking firms have a high bar that potential drivers have to clear in terms of driving records and passing drug tests.

Blevins has been with Mountain Valley Express for 28 years moving up the ladder. He got into trucking because of his love of mechanics. Prior to working at Mountain Valley Express he was employed by Bill and Don Cabral at their auto dealership.

Mountain Valley Express was founded by the late Charlie Giles in 1976. How he got the company started is legendary in local trucking circles. Giles had been repeatedly asking Dana Corp. - a major auto parts concern that was once located where BF Funstein is today at South Main and Industrial Park Drive - for hauling business.  The company finally gave him a call. Giles showed up with a small, U-Haul style truck to pick up the load. That impressed Dana’s management enough that a determined man like Giles backed up a small tuck to the loading doors next to semis that it started a relationship that allowed Mountain Valley to take root and grow.

Blevins today still heeds much of the advice given to him by Giles.

Among that advice is keeping his truck driving license current.

Blevins noted that Giles always told him “you can fall back on that” and drive truck when all else fails.