Truckload Carriers Association
TCA 2022 Safety Meeting

Heller: Gathering with people who face the same problems, leads to solutions

June 9, 2023
There’s a caveat to the value of in-person meetings: You get out of them exactly what you put into them. Answers don’t come gift-wrapped; they only arrive by involving yourself in discussions with those you know and ones you don't know.

"You're on mute" is a phrase that every industry stakeholder is very aware of, as remote-meeting culture ruled much of the past few years. But there's nothing like being in person with the men and women of this industry. Judging by my travel schedule, meeting season is indeed upon us, which is great news for us all. It's a chance for me to share more information in person, and this is a chance for people in trucking to surround themselves with their peers.

Person-to-person contact has reached a level I have not experienced in my tenure in this industry—and safety personnel are reaping the rewards. Video interaction is a wonderful innovation. But this shameless plug encourages everyone in trucking safety to attend Truckload Carriers Association's Safety & Security Meeting in San Antonio, June 11-13. The realist in me pleads that this endorsement isn't entirely shameless.

Surrounding yourself with people who face the same problems is a classic way of finding solutions. This is truck safety, after all, and odds are others are seeking the same answers from people who have found them. For those new to the safety community, I assure you there are no secrets to be kept.

As of this writing, it's only early spring, and we've already seen changes to the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, proposed revisions to Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), and an emphasis on the National Roadway Safety Strategy by the Biden administration. We also continue to discuss the safety performance possibilities of younger drivers, an active legislative process that would inject more dollars for much-needed truck parking spaces, and the confounding exclusion of hair testing as an alternative U.S. Department of Transportation drug-testing protocol. We are not even halfway into 2023, and information and insights into fleet safety operations continue to grow—and the list undoubtedly will grow longer by the end of the year.

See also: Heller: Wading into the weeds of CSA 2.0

There's a caveat to the value of in-person meetings: You get out of them exactly what you put into them. Answers don't come gift-wrapped; they only arrive by involving yourself in discussions with those you know and ones you don't know. Dialogue about driver training, technological growth in our industry, and safety out on the road is almost always open-ended, and the discussions cater to willing participants. In this safety environment, the answers are almost always available to those who seek them. Just be ready to engage with others.

I would sound arrogant if I said TCA's Safety Division is the only game in town. There are others, of course. A return on investment in any association membership depends on being involved. I would say the opportunities are endless at both the state and national levels, and the conversation goes both ways. Helping to prepare your fleet for impending rules and regulations is one thing, but I benefit from these interactions in ways you may not realize. Every one of my conversations can lead to dialogue with Congress or information that makes its way into comments that TCA submits to regulators. Face time helps TCA staff get the carrier perspective about how new rulemaking might impact their operations, enabling us to turn around and be their voice and advocates for our drivers.

See also: The detention time toll deserves a solution

These meetings always allow time for conversation on safety topics but don't discount the education component, either. Educational sessions, with active time for questions and answers, are real chances to glean quality information. As part of TCA's planning process, we know that we can't possibly cover every topic, but we do try to plan for the most relevant issues that everyone is facing.

While my hope is to see you in San Antonio, my wish for everyone reading this is for you to get involved in improving our industry's accident numbers. The road is rough sometimes, but it has been paved for you. We hope you follow it and find the opportunity that awaits you … in San Antonio or anywhere, there's a gathering of safety stakeholders with the answers you and your fleets need. 

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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