Don't forget to check your rearview mirror

The truck and trailer business may be on a rough stretch of road right now, one that requires us to look as far ahead as our headlights will let us. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't ever check our rearview mirror.

Especially after 50 years of driving.

This is 2009. It's the beginning of the 50th year that Trailer/Body Builders has been serving you as your industry magazine. With a half century of reporting about commercial trucks and trailers behind us, it's a good time to look back over the decades that we have spent with you and your predecessors. And it's a good time to have some fun along the way.

The history of commercial trucks and trailers is rich, filled with fascinating people, innovative products, and important milestones. It's going to take a lot of time and space to show it. We certainly won't be able to fit it all into a single, commemorative 50th edition of Trailer/Body Builders. We are going to need this whole year to get it done. And we are going to need all the tools in our toolbox — print and electronic — to do it right.

So as 2009 continues to unfold, expect to see things in Trailer/Body Builders and on our Web site (www.trailer-bodybuilders.com) that either you haven't seen before or you haven't thought about in years.

But this isn't going to be just our project — we want it to be yours, too. We want you to help shape it by giving us your ideas, your opinions, and your funny stories.

If this were 50 years ago, giving us your input would have required writing us a note by hand or typing it on a manual typewriter, then sticking a four-cent stamp on it (up from three cents in 1958). Another option would have been to give us a call on your rotary telephone. Or we could have talked about it face to face at an industry convention. But keep in mind that there was no NTEA, NTDA, or NATM back then.

Today, letting us hear from you is a lot easier. You can still give us a call, even if your telephone dial doesn't rotate anymore. But here's what we are hoping you will do:

Starting in February, we will have a new poll on our Web site (www.trailer-bodybuilders.com). Each poll will remain on the site for about a month, and then another will take its place. The poll will be about as short as it possibly can be — usually just a single question. But with your participation, we will be able to tell you things that we never have asked you before. For example:

Who has been the most influential person in your segment of the industry over the past 50 years?

What has been the single most significant event that impacted your segment of the industry?

What is the product that had the greatest effect on commercial trucks and trailers?

We also are leaving room for less cerebral things. Remember those photographs of people that Trailer/Body Builders took at conventions? Well, the pictures haven't aged a bit. And maybe you haven't either.

Over the next few months, we will blow the dust off some of those old photos and get them where you can see them. Look for a special section of www.trailer-bodybuilders.com and see for yourself. You might even see yourself.

During this 50th year of serving this industry, we would like to get a sense of what has happened to this industry during the time we have been around. We would like to portray where your industry came from and where it is going. Along the way, we would like to pay tribute to those who have made it possible for us to have the jobs and the livelihoods that we have today. And we want to have fun doing it.

Throughout this year, Trailer/Body Builders will be offering a look at our industry's history, but we will still deliver today's news and a look at what might be coming tomorrow. In today's market, we can't afford to take our eyes off the road — no matter how interesting the past may be.

We have shared some great times together, and we want to take a look at them with you. But as has been the case for almost 50 years, we will need to hear from you. As those simple poll questions appear online, please give us your thoughts. We need your participation. After all, the product that Trailer/Body Builders produces for you can never be better than the information we receive.

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