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Heller: A trucking education too good to pass up

Nov. 2, 2023
North American Transportation Management Institute is a closely guarded trucking industry secret designed to help industry pros understand constantly shifting regulations and enhance their safety knowledge.

Well, it's official, I'm old. My son is touring colleges in his quest to decide where he will go next year and what he'll do with the rest of his life. The "old" part comes in because time flies, and you usually think you have enough of it until you don't. That said, there certainly has been a transition in the ranks of safety leadership in our industry. Yes, I have been doing this for a while, and many of the people with whom I have gotten my feet wet are coming up on retirement or are already there.

So, what does an industry demographic transition and my son's search for a school have to do with safety? I'm aiming in the general direction of one of our industry's most closely guarded secrets, the North American Transportation Management Institute. In the interest of full transparency, NATMI is a subsidiary of the Truckload Carriers Association, a partnership that continually focuses on providing our industry with more opportunities to educate those who work within it.

NATMI also provides a place for any safety or other carrier professional to go for a better understanding of the regulations they and their fleets face in their jobs and begin the process of networking with fellow safety professionals dealing with similar issues. It certainly is an institute for higher learning—if I say so myself.

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NATMI exists to improve the performance and productivity of the industry professionals directly responsible for effective fleet and driver performance—risk managers, safety and security directors, maintenance managers, and commercial driver trainers. When there are so many people coming into the ranks of safety professionals, the spotlight is more on whether these specialists can transition to the experts that fleets hope they are and authorities that often appear in litigation.

It's often said that our industry is the most regulated of any "deregulated" industry in the U.S. NATMI courses minimize lectures and maximize involvement to ensure student engagement and knowledge retention. NATMI training is also designed for the student's work environment and is "application-oriented"—by the use of case studies, practice exercises, and projects that result in students being able to take valuable resources back to their companies. More importantly, the classes are taught by instructors who have walked in the students' shoes. Industry professionals teach industry professionals at NATMI: a win-win proposition.

The reality is our industry faces dramatic change almost annually. We deal with a revolving door of regulations related to equipment, procedures, and drivers—and that isn't going to change. A program such as NATMI's that emphasizes safety, maintenance, and training allows students to take the next step in their careers and creates a professional workforce that continually keeps abreast of these changes that freight-hauling faces.

See also: Is there a better way to govern HOS?

A survey of safety directors who have attended NATMI and received their certifications indicated that they have lowered their company's accident rates, achieved lower occupational injury rates, controlled their costs associated with accident litigation, and improved their fleets' compliance with regulatory requirements. Make no mistake, the benefits for fleets shouldn't go unnoticed, either. Even maintenance-specific areas of focus have demonstrated an ability to control costs associated with vehicle maintenance and develop effective fleet safety and maintenance programs, policies, and procedures—essential tasks, to say the least, in improving the performance of key fleet people.

As an industry, we are consistently challenged by the ability to locate and transition new people to our business. NATMI continues to demonstrate the rare ability to do just that. With a continued focus on performance improvement, it makes perfect sense to expose anyone in your fleet to this avenue of higher learning. While I toil away with my son in seeking to further his education, NATMI works as an important part of an industry that's already done the hard work for you.

Advice from this OG: Take advantage of this resource.

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs.

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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