Cat CEO calls for investment in infrastructure, education, free trade
DAVID ZALAZNIK/JOURNAL STAR
Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman opens the Mid-West Truck & Trailer Show Friday at the Peoria Civic Center. He spoke about a number of things, including the need to invest in the nation's infrastructure.
Caterpillar Inc. may not be producing truck engines as they once did but they’re not abandoning the truck game entirely.
Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman pointed out the virtues of Caterpillar’s CT660 heavy-duty truck at the opening of the Mid-West Truck & Trailer Show at the Peoria Civic Center on Friday.
“I regret leaving the truck engine business,” said Oberhelman, explaining that Caterpillar opted to focus on off-road vehicles, mining equipment and power generation instead.
Caterpillar started making the heavy-duty trucks on a limited scale three years ago, he said.
“They’re made in Texas now, soon to be made in Mexico,” said Oberhelman, suggesting that show visitors check out the bright red Caterpillar trucks displayed by Altorfer, the company’s area dealer.
The Caterpillar chairman also addressed a subject close to the trucking industry when he called for infrastructure investment across the United States.
“Our infrastructure is in tough shape. I don’t have to tell you who drive on the roads every day,” he said.
“For the last 40 years, the United States has spent less and less on infrastructure while countries like China and India are investing more and more.
“I go to Beijing Airport that’s one of the most modern in the world. I get right through to do my business. Contrast that with JFK Airport in New York which is a national disgrace,” he said, referring to occasions when people have to stand in line for hours to go through customs.
Oberhelman also touched on two other subjects he’s often cited in the past: the importance of free trade and education.
“We had great success with trade agreements last year,” he said, pointing out that trade pacts level the playing field between U.S. companies and foreign competitors.
“Six of (Caterpillar’s) 10 largest export markets are in Latin America. We don’t have U.S. competition there but we face Japanese and European competition in mining equipment.”
The Caterpillar CEO lamented that 60 percent of applicants for jobs in this country are rejected because of a failure to pass reading, math or drug tests.
“We’re spending $700 billion on education in this country K to 12. Does that mean that we’re wasting 60 percent of what we allocate for education?” he asked.
Oberhelman, on the subject of state finances, said that the economic situation in Illinois was now “beyond politics.”
“We are fighting for survival. Other states around us are moving ahead,” he said.
Illinois must make some hard decisions to fix its pension crisis, said Oberhelman, noting that the private sector has long since altered medical and pension plans offered to employees.
“The state hasn’t done that,” he said.
“We ask a lot of our politicians. No one wants to say no to anybody but it has to happen.
“I’ll give the governor credit. He understands the depth of the problem,” he said, referring to Gov. Pat Quinn.
Cutting pensions won’t be popular, said Oberhelman.
“It’s going to be ugly and painful but that’s what the state is facing here,” he said.
Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter.