Inventing something brand new is not easy to do. The only thing possibly tougher is reinventing something old, making it fresh, vital and new again. As attendees at the recent Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) meeting will tell you, however, that's exactly what the association has done.
During the upbeat conference, TCA showcased one new program after another for its members, demonstrating at every turn that last year's split with the ATA has energized and focused its efforts, not left the organization becalmed in a trade association backwater. “The really good news is that the ATA and TCA are working together, and we're more defined than we ever have been in our roles in the industry,” observed Bob Hansen, TCA chairman and president of Janesville Jet Center.
“We look to ATA to do our advocacy and take on our issues in Washington, and we encourage our members to belong to ATA and support them,” he noted. “TCA's own strategic mission is to educate, train and bring information about better ways to run their businesses to our members. People at the conference are enthusiastic because they can see that the association's focus is on helping all the members.”
“There's a new clarity of purpose and it's enabling these new initiatives,” added Robert Hirsch, TCA president. “It's creating an ideal climate for constructive action. And we're really just beginning.”
This year's meeting was indeed just a beginning, but one of which any trade association could be proud. For starters, TCA is already moving ahead with its benchmarking project, following the recent approval from the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ). The project is designed to allow truckload carriers to identify the lowest cost or “best practices” solutions in a variety of areas, such as worker's compensation or safety. The results of the study will be available in aggregate form for purchase by all participating parties, with discounts for TCA members.
The 2001 conference also marked the launch of the first joint Careers in Trucking Job Fair. It was spearheaded by Ronnie Dowdy, chairman of TCA's Driver Recruitment and Retention Management Panel, and produced in cooperation with Alamo Workforce Development Inc., SER Jobs for Progress of San Antonio (Texas Workforce Center Operators), and the National Council of La Raza to give job candidates the opportunity to meet and interview with recruiters from many of the country's top carriers.
“The Job Fair was an outstanding event,” noted E. Nancy O'Liddy, director of public affairs and marketing for the TCA. “About 500 people came to the fair actively looking for jobs. It was such a success that we hope to stage similar events in other TCA conference cities.”
“Such a success” also applies to many other ongoing TCA initiatives, like the Truckload Academy, which introduced its first interactive training module, the “Daily Dispatch Challenge,” last fall. The Professional Truck Driver Institute, supported by TCA, has also been ticking off new successes, most notably the standards for tractor-trailer driver finishing programs.
For TCA members and non-members alike, watching all this progress, accomplished in the midst of the current spirit-dampening economic downturn, is energizing and instructive. It also raises an unavoidable question: If a trade organization, with all its attendant issues and complexities, can reinvent and reinvigorate itself now, what else might the rest of us accomplish during this sluggish springtime before the market thaw? That implicit question and the example of at least one good answer may be TCA's best gift yet to the industry it serves.