According to Georgia Motor Trucking Association (GMTA) Chairman Jim Messerly, the most important thing any association can do for its membership is to gather information and listen to members' needs.
“Our members are going to be the companies and their employees, the drivers, the people that are on the road every day,” Messerly said. “And making sure that when we understand and hear what their needs are, that we're being an advocate for that membership, and all of our processes and everything that we do each and every day is for the association.”
One state away, Rick Todd has been advocating for trucking companies since 1988 as president of the South Carolina Trucking Association (SCTA). He remembers how the deregulation of trucking in the ‘80s made a huge impact on the industry and took away the constraints holding associations back from positive growth. He noted that members are still working to change some of the old processes.
“Finally Realized and Appreciated”
“I'm proud of the passionate, resilient and determined people who are integral to making our supply chain work and like getting into the fray to solve problems and make our government work better,” said Todd. “Never before has our supply chain, particularly trucking, been at the forefront of our challenges and it is very satisfying to see that finally realized and appreciated.”
Todd said he enjoys how rewarding and fun it can be to lead advocacy and be a strong supporter of trucking. He indicated a few older issues that still exist, including:
- the political seesaw
- policy and regulatory pendulum
- lack of transparency and sharing of data
- fear of nuclear verdicts when accidents happen
- crazy distracted car drivers
- heavy traffic and roadway dynamics
“Our public policy officials have realized you don't mess with the truck,” he said. He indicated that right now, companies that want to be more successful and profitable need to focus on changing the culture of their workforce.
“It takes work and dedication of resources, but it pays off,” Todd said. “Adopting continuous improvement and using technology is a must. That makes us safer, more efficient and ultimately more productive.”
According to Arkansas Trucking Association (ATA) President Shannon Newton, transportation is in a period of revolutionary advancements in terms of safety, sustainability and reliability. She said Arkansas is well-positioned to take the lead in driving the trucking industry forward.
“With the pandemic seeming to push public opinion of trucking to an all-time high and a long-term infrastructure funding finally in place at the state and federal level, it feels like we’re entering a golden age of trucking,” Newton said.
“We need to pat ourselves on the back for the way our industry has been able to demonstrate trucking’s essentiality during the pandemic, and truly transform public opinion. We are now in a position to truly elevate the profile of trucking.”
Positive Industry Trends
Messerly said GMTA is very active in the political front and strives to help with positive judicial changes. He said the staff is dedicated to attending important networking events and spending time making sure the interests of their membership are being protected for all throughout the state of Georgia.
Todd is glad to see more employers becoming “employee-centric,” from an operational and cultural standpoint. He believes it’s essential to accommodate the driver and their needs because it results in more productivity and a better working relationship.
“The trucking industry is not really one industry but an eclectic mix of industries, all having that truck and the driver in common,” he said. “And because we haul practically everything, trucking is everybody's business.”
Newton offered a prime example of how trucking can foster new partnerships that benefit drivers, such as ATA’s recent collaboration with the Arkansas State Police to streamline the backlog of delayed CDL skills testing. She said those types of relationships are key to addressing major industry issues.
Still on the Mend
According to South Carolina’s Todd, all the work behind being an advocate leads back to the number-one pain point: finding, developing and retaining serious-minded professionals and qualified workers. And, though it may be tough, identifying growth opportunities for your team is also important.
Newton said the lack of available trained drivers and technicians, lack of new equipment, aging infrastructure and lack of truck parking are some of the biggest issues affecting members.
“The driver shortage is further driven by the strength of the US job market overall with truckers and would-be-truckers having their pick of jobs and along with it, wages and benefits, forcing carriers to offer competitive wages to attract talent,” she said. “The same goes for technicians. With more trucks on the road, there’s a greater need for people who are trained to keep them in service.”
Newton’s stats from the Federal Highway Administration show for the roughly 3.5 million truck drivers in the US, there are only about 313,000 truck parking spaces. In Arkansas, there are only about 66 to 83 parking spaces per 100,000 daily truck vehicle miles traveled.
State Trucking Association: Standing Up for Trucks
Todd said SCTA is focused on using all channels possible to get attention and visibility.
“Our opportunities for growth rely on our ability to get people's attention, refine our preferred prospects list and methodically approach them,” he said. “Those we really want the most won't just come to us. We've got to get in front of them. We have to be assertive, get out of our comfort zone, be more visible, be proactive, continue to be straight shooters using common sense, and get in front of the right, influential and powerful public and private players.”
Messerly said while networking with carriers, he learns more about the struggle with driver retention and why finding new talent is difficult. In return, it gives him new insights into how to combat the ongoing issue of labor shortages in the industry.
“Being able to share best practices and understand what they're going through, and maybe even ideas and solutions they put forward for their company,” said Messerly. “Being able to put those practices into what we do in our lives each and every day trying to find drivers will be a live example of that. Better relationships.”
Newton, Todd, and Messerly all noted that they are proud of how far the industry has come and how associations have stepped up to generate positive change. Though there still may be work to do, they are all optimistic about what the future holds.
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