We’ve all probably seen those old-fashioned photos of newsboys, wearing short-billed caps and standing on the street corner during a time when newspapers were the primary source of news. Newspapers were distributed either in the morning or the afternoon — but if a major news story broke during the day, papers would print an “extra” edition and hire these boys to hawk the special edition on downtown streets. This issue’s Chat With the Chairman is an “extra” edition of sorts as Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Chairman Jim Ward deviates from his normal routine of primarily addressing issues involving the trucking industry. Instead, Ward is devoting this Chat almost exclusively to reporting on Truckload 2021: Las Vegas, TCA’s annual convention, which was held recently at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort. We think you will enjoy what the chairman has to say.
Mr. Chairman, when TCA members read this Chat, you will have completed almost three-fourths of your term. It certainly has been a busy almost-nine months. During your term, you’ve spent a lot of time traveling. What are your travel plans for the remainder of your term?
Traveling has been part of the job my first six months. At the end of October, I attended the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition in Nashville, Tennessee.
In early November, I plan to attend the TC-06 Benchmarking meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the eve of November 16, TCA and D.M. Bowman will be co-hosting a whistle stop, a free and public event, in my town of Williamsport, Maryland, to welcome the 2021 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, an 84-foot White Fir. Next up, I plan to travel north for TCA’s Fifth Annual Bridging Border Barriers event in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Finally, I look forward participating in the Wreaths Across America events the weekend of December 18 in Arlington, Virginia. I’m eager to join Pilot Flying J’s Wendy Hamilton in personally thanking the commercial vehicle operators who are transporting these truckloads of respect.
TCA’s annual convention, Truckload 2021: Las Vegas, was held six months past its normal time frame last month in late September. For this Chat, let’s depart from our normal pattern of responding to general questions about the trucking industry and focus solely on highlights of the convention. First, from your point of view share with members the overarching highlights of the meeting.
First and foremost, I think it is important to remember that this is really the first overall opportunity for our entire membership to convene and reconnect since our last convention in March 2020, and it was an absolute pleasure to finally be able to renew some acquaintances that I haven’t seen since then. I think it is important to note that when we set out to plan these conventions, our goal is to provide our members with the correct answers to the following questions:
- Who did I meet?
- What did I learn?
- Was it worth my time?
My hope is that, as we reflect on this convention and what our membership may have brought home from this event, is that they have received some positive answers to these questions through the various educational sessions and networking events that will encourage them to carve out time on their schedule to reconvene back in Las Vegas for Truckload 2022 in March.
Because of its stature in the business community, TCA is able to attract well-known personalities to keynote the convention. This year it was Daymond John, a businessman, television personality, author, and motivational speaker best known as the founder, president, and CEO of FUBU. He also appears as an investor on the ABC reality television series “Shark Tank.” What were the key takeaways in Daymond’s remarks?
Daymond John certainly brought a presentation that attracted everyone’s attention. I, for one, was looking forward to hearing the message that he brought to our audience. I think the key message of his discussion was that opportunity only comes along so often — and when it does, it is important to make sure you are prepared to take advantage of it. His message was certainly one that applied to everyone in the room. Judging from the size of the audience, his message was well received, and it certainly related to every carrier and associate member that was in the audience.
As usual, the second day’s general session featured a motivational, self-help speaker. This year it was Jim Kwik, who for the past three decades has taught his learning and memory techniques, designed to help people get the most out of work and life, to students from universities such as NYU, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and Singularity, as well as to executives and employees from companies like Nike, GE, Zappos, SpaceX, and Virgin. What do you remember most about Jim’s address?
Jim Kwik’s address was pretty incredible. For those who aren’t aware, while growing up, Jim had a traumatic brain injury, so he developed new strategies to learn better. One statement he shared during the address was, “There is no such thing as a bad memory, just an untrained one.” I’m confident attendees walked away from his presentation with newfound tips for unleashing a greater power, as well as how to BE STRONG:
B – Believe.
E – Exercise.
S – State of Mind.
T – Teach.
R – Retrieval and Review.
O – Observation.
N – Note taking.
G – Growth, Grit, Giving Back, and Gratitude.
A key component of any association convention is the executive panel discussions. There were three such presentations at Las Vegas. “The View of the Industry: The Executive Perspective from Across the Border” included executives from both the United States and Canada who shared insights on critical issues impacting cross-border trucking. What were the key points of the panel discussion?
I think it is important to note as we look back on this conversation that just because trucking operates in two different countries, the border divide does not really separate the issues. The challenges of finding drivers, dealing with independent contractors, and even technology make this industry universal when it comes to the problems we deal with. Often, I think the border that divides the United States and Canada may silo the industry into the belief that the world of trucking deals with entirely separate issues. The reality is that the industry is faced with the same challenges, regardless of its geographic location.
We all know the pressures carriers face with liability insurance, especially with attempts to significantly raise the minimum requirement. A second executive panel discussed “Navigating Insurance Pressures in the Trucking Industry.” What were attendees able to glean from this panel?
I enjoyed serving as the moderator for this discussion and being amongst a knowledgeable panel of carriers and insurance executives. We discussed how to best navigate the greatest insurance challenges facing the industry, with particular attention given to lawsuit abuse as well as the contributing factors to increased rates, and how carriers can position themselves and be better aligned with risk management strategies.
The final executive panel offered insights into the future of trucking in a session entitled “The Executive Vision: 2021 and Beyond.” What were some of the topics this panel discussed that will help members successfully navigate the coming months and years?
You know something? I have come to realize that when we place some industry legends on stage to speak about their business practices and acumen, people really just want to sit back and listen. Robert Low, Kevin Knight, and Mark Seymour did a fantastic job of providing their input on the challenges we face every day. Their thoughts on capacity, drivers, and equipment resonated with everyone in the audience and provided practical knowledge, based upon their experience, that everyone found to be beneficial. Of course, the topic of drivers certainly played into the conversation. Being deemed “essential” has been great for the industry. The improving image of our professional driving force was one this panel wanted to emphasize. We need to continue to promote that positive growth.
An extremely popular and important component of the convention has — and will continue to be — the Trucking in the Round breakout sessions that cover topics involving finance, human resources, leadership, legal contracts/insurance, operations, recruitment and retention, and safety and compliance. Share what members learned in three of those topical sessions, starting with “Benchmarking — Turning Data into Action,” which focused on performance indicators and measurement tools.
As the majority of readers know, the TCA Profitability Program (TPP) is the industry’s premier performance improvement solution designed specifically for TCA’s carrier members. The best practice groups are wildly successful and sought after. In this workshop, TPP Program Manager Shepard Dunn and Managing Director Jack Porter shared their insights from years of experience, including critical data points to capture and monitor; key performance indicators being used to chart the path into the profitable future; the importance (and strength) of the composite as a business performance measurement tool; and well as best practices and ideas for sustaining profitability. This is always a sought-after workshop, as you can imagine.
Second, share your impression of “Cybersecurity and the Transportation and Logistics Industry,” which focused on one of the most severe threats to the trucking industry.
Where do we begin when it comes to cybercriminals and threat actors who are taking advantage of our industry? Cybersecurity Consulting Partner Kevin Villanueva delved into ransomware — the most prominent cyber threat — as well as why T&L companies are targeted and what could be lost if they are under attack. He also shared data-security concerns in a work-from-home scenario (which is super timely); cyber threats on electronic logging devices (ELDs) in vehicles and how to navigate risk; and what “best-in-class” transportation companies are doing to address cybersecurity.
Thirdly, tell us about “Implementing and Defending the Independent Contractor Model,” which we all know is coming under fire in states such as California.
The independent contractor business model is not just under fire at the state level. The presence of the PRO Act on Capitol Hill represents a threat equal to, if not greater than, California’s AB5 — and it covers the entire nation.
These threats are becoming more prevalent in our industry for those businesses that have employed this particular model. That being said, our industry must position itself in a manner to successfully operate in an environment where these challenges exist. By stating the obvious, this session was one that provided counsel and advice to carriers whose businesses are supplied by ICs and who want to continue to thrive in a setting that is facing an uphill battle in the months and years to come.
Turning to other topics: Once again, the exhibit hall was sold out and was a beehive of activity with 114 industry suppliers participating. What attracts some of the country’s most highly respected associates to the convention?
The truckload industry has been developed on the backs of hardworking business owners since its inception. Knowing that the relationships built over time with these decision-makers and company owners certainly provides an opportunity for our associate members to interact, network, and even introduce to those in our industry the services and products that they are providing within our industry to help improve the operations of our members’ trucking companies.
Safety improvements, technology, equipment, and human resource needs are just some of the areas our vendor partners continue to develop and showcase so that our members can continue to develop their fleet operations in a manner that is forward thinking and technologically advanced.
Much of the success of TCA is the work of its Board of Directors and its committees, including the Carrier/Shipper Relations Committee, the Highway Policy Committee, the Recruitment and Retention Human Resources Committee, the Regulatory Police Committee, the Independent Contractor Practices Policy Committee, the Communications and Image Committee, and the Membership Committee. All of these committees met in Las Vegas. What outcomes can you report with respect to some of those meetings?
I think it goes without saying that our committee work is the backbone of the association. Membership involvement in our committees is key to developing proper positions to communicate on Capitol Hill, improving the image of the professional truck driver, and developing quality programs that will continue to allow the association and its members to thrive. While the conversations at the committee level remain relevant to the direction in which the association travels, the discussions always remain part of the committee themselves.
Having served as a member of several committees over the course of my time as a TCA member, I can say that I value these agendas and opportunities to discuss the industry and effects certain regulations have on our businesses, and the continued emphasis our association places on the professional truck driver. I would encourage everyone, if they can only attend one thing, to make it the committee work our staff and members continue to undertake.
An important part of a TCA convention is the presentation of various awards, among them the Company and Owner-Operator Drivers of the Year, the Fleet Safety Awards, the Best Fleets to Drive for Awards, the Highway Angel of the Year Award, and the Past Chairmen’s Award. Share with members the importance of rewarding excellence within the industry.
Acknowledging the success of our industry is pertinent to setting goals within your own company. Time and again, these programs are annually rolled out, and our carrier members continue to place themselves in a position to compete amongst their fellow members. Placing a spotlight on the performance of our professional drivers and fleets themselves allows our carrier members to benchmark their own operations so that they too can achieve a level of success that the carriers and drivers on stage have experienced.
The successes of the past year were never more apparent than during Tuesday night’s Closing Banquet, where the winners of the 2020 Driver of the Year and Fleet Safety Awards were revealed. Of course, the safety of our people and our nation’s roadways has always been the top priority for this industry so it was incredible to see the representation from the 19 company finalists across six different mileage categories cross the stage, and watch as they were recognized for being some of the best in the business. A special congratulations to our Grand Prize winners — FTC Transportation, Inc., of Oklahoma City, and Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
More than any other year in recent memory, the Driver of the Year Contests held such a special meaning against the backdrop of a pandemic that has seen our drivers gain recognition as the essential workers we always knew they were. During the banquet, video interviews of each of our finalists were played on the big screens to give our audience an introduction to these incredible drivers — Glen Horack, an owner-operator leased to Prime Inc.; Douglas Schildgen, an owner-operator leased to Warren Transport, Inc.; Bryan Smith, an owner-operator leased to Tucker Freight Lines; Dennis Cravener with Givens Transportation; and Betty Aragon with Wilson Logistics, Inc.
Reading your responses to the questions in this Chat, it is easy to see the value of meeting in person and as one body focused on the success of the truckload segment of trucking. Looking ahead, Truckload 2022: Las Vegas will be held at the Wynn hotel March 19-22, 2022. How important is it that TCA members make plans to attend?
I can tell you that the TCA staff is already hard at work planning for an event better than the one we just attended. It is unprecedented in terms of its timing — we have never had two conventions, scheduled so close together, that the membership showed such a great desire to attend. Obviously, the unenviable task of planning a second event that not only comes close to the success of the first event, but surpasses it is the goal that we, as officers, will have to face. Networking will always be top notch at this meeting, but the content will continue to improve. We are currently vetting keynote speakers that are of the same caliber as Daymond John and Jim Kwik. I know it’s a tough act to follow, but this goal is one we are determined to achieve. All of this is to say that if March 19-22 is not on your calendar as a reader of this Chat, it should be. By the time the event is planned out, we will have timely committee meetings lined up with challenging and relevant topics, as well as speakers that will make our members think and add to their business and entertainment. I believe Truckload 2022: Las Vegas is one that many will classify as “must see.”
You’ve often talked about the importance of participation. Share with members why they should enjoy the TCA experience by becoming a member of a committee and becoming involved in events such as annual division meetings, the transporting of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s The Wall That Heals, taking part in the annual Capitol Christmas Tree celebration and lighting, and transporting wreaths as part of the Wreaths Across America initiative in December.
I think it goes without saying that decisions are always made by those who show up. There is a reason why the mantra of #TruckloadStrong is proving itself to be a success; it is because of member involvement. We cannot do anything without the involvement of our members and highlighting our image programs, honoring those who fought for our country and even involving themselves in a manner that directs the association to new heights. Involvement is a necessity for an industry that craves and desires leadership. The TCA experience and #TruckloadStrong environment calls for this kind of participation to better our association in an environment that needs it.
I can’t let you go without addressing this. John Lyboldt recently announced his decision to retire as president of TCA. Share with readers what John has meant to the association and how he has contributed to its success.
It has been a pleasure working alongside John and getting to know his wife, Lynne. They are a wonderful couple, and John has provided TCA the guidance and direction needed to navigate some very challenging times during his tenure as president.
The loss of our dear friend and associate Bill Giroux created a significant void in our meeting and event planning, and John and his team stepped up to successfully produce an annual meeting that delighted all in attendance. Managing through the pandemic brought forth a completely new set of challenges, and John and the TCA team persevered. They came out on the back end of it financially strong and even saw a significant growth in membership.
So, to say John was the right person for the job at the right time is an understatement. We wish John and Lynne the best, and we know we are a better association today because of John’s leadership!
Mr. Chairman, on a personal note, please take a minute to share with members what the upcoming holiday season means to your family, and offer a word of greeting to TCA members.
Starla and I embrace people of all religious beliefs and love to learn how they celebrate their holidays.
As for us, we enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on God’s faithfulness and goodness to our family and our nation. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and reflect on the love God has shown us by providing a savior. We always attend Christmas Eve church service and love spending Christmas Day with our family. Our goal is to make every Christmas special and magical for our grandchildren. We are so blessed to have family and friends to make lasting memories.
May each of you have a blessed merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year!
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Lyndon Finney’s publishing career spans over 55 years beginning with a reporter position with the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1965. Since then he’s been a newspaper editor at the Southwest Times Record, served five years as assistant managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and from November 2004 through December 2019 served as editor of The Trucker. Between newspaper jobs he spent 14 years as director of communications at Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest healthcare system. In addition to his publishing career he served for 46 years as organist at Little Rock’s largest Baptist church.