'He was the billionaire and I was just a reporter'

HDT's Tom Berg reminisces about an interview with Overnite founder J. Harwood Cochrane back in the late 1980s. Overnite's rigs had horizontal exhaust systems rather than vertical stacks, and were notoriously dirty.

During our conversation I thought of his smoky rigs, and that the tractors. I asked Mr. Cochrane why.  

“You don’t know?” he retorted.  

“No,” I don’t,” I said. 

“Public relations!” he said forcefully. “With those vertical stacks, the exhaust smoke leaves big smudges on the front corner of the trailers. The low exhaust keeps the soot away from up there and out of the public’s sight!” 

Unless the public is a guy on a motorcycle who gets to breathe in that smoke, I wanted to say, but didn’t. He was the billionaire and I was just a reporter.