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Photo provided by PRIME TRUCKING
Photo provided by PRIME TRUCKING

Five Questions: John Hancock

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John Hancock, director of training and recruitment for Springfield-based trucking company Prime Inc., began a two-year term Jan. 1 as chairman of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Board. Hancock, who has been involved with the chamber for nearly 15 years, manages Prime’s legislative advocacy as well as driver training and recruitment.
 
Primed for the Position
I’ve been here about 25 years. I started in a night operational function and did various functions in the daily operations for the company for about 10 years. The last 15 years or so, I’ve been involved in training and the driver recruitment side. We have a group of employee drivers and independent contract drivers – 5,000 or so of those guys out there. The main portion of my job is making sure we are staffed. And I’m involved in shaping things statewide, too.

Legislative Fight Card
The chamber has more than 3,000 business members that represent 450,000 to 500,000 employees. There will be three basic focuses this coming year: employment law reform, workers’ compensation reform and tort reform. With tort reform, the way it is presently, if one of my employees was conducting illegal actions without my knowledge, it is possible the courts in Missouri could hold me liable. I think that’s wrong. In the area of workers’ comp, there are several things that need to be addressed. In (one case), the court decided if you and I were co-workers and you were negligent and I got hurt from that, (I) would get workers’ comp, and I could sue you personally. In the past, I’d just get workers’ comp. And with unemployment law, if I discharged someone because of a prohibited state or federal violation, it is possible with the way things are being interpreted that they could receive unemployment benefits. Well, what’s the impact of those kinds of things? They just escalate costs.

Shaping Policy
I do enjoy shaping policy. In my role here at Prime, this is part of my deal. I represent our interest. … You have to have your voice be heard. How do you do that? You can personally become very engaged. You can hire a lobbyist to work on your behalf. Or you can do what most people choose and be a part of a trade association such as the Missouri chamber, and collectively, you and other like-minded companies put their voice forward.

What About Jobs?
Anytime you can create jobs that are good jobs, that’s good for our economy. That’s good for our region. If you can just get money moving around out there, some of it is bound to stick to you and me. It would be great if the state had even greater economic incentives to attract corporations and businesses, but the truth is that the money isn’t there, so each of those dollars that’s invested needs to be done so wisely. They need to provide a return.

Driver Demand
Really, there’s a shortage of people to become qualified drivers, and there has been a shortage building for several years. The collapse of the economy that we saw through the recession almost camouflaged that for a couple of years. You have that baby boomer age group retiring, and the recession pushed some of them out earlier than they planned, as most trucking companies cut their staff by 8 percent to 20 percent. There are some industry projections that say we are going to be a few hundred-thousand drivers short in the near future. It’s kind of amazing that we have this level of unemployment and … there are jobs available in trucking. People don’t always seize that.
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