It has been over a year since the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) last met in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
TCA hosted its virtual Spring Business Meetings at its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, giving its membership the opportunity to join via Zoom.
“Addressing the membership with tacit knowledge of our association is no simple endeavor,” said TCA’s President John Lyboldt. “So, to explain the past year in terms of organization operations must be done in a manner best described as ‘pulling back the curtains’ and revealing the inner workings of a business wholly dedicated to serving its membership.”
He added that TCA’s “operations were primed for the virtual Spring Business Meetings, to accommodate an unrivaled membership experience in an environment totally new to everyone involved.” TCA’s goal at the onset of the pandemic, when the association was compelled to close its offices, was to provide uninterrupted service, basically performing in a manner that its membership assumed that TCA headquarters was fully operational.
“While the halls of TCA were eerily quiet, our virtual environment created a culture of performance that proved our staff could demonstrate a work ethic and commitment of those 10 times its size,” he said.
Lyboldt said the TCA staff was faced with providing an atmosphere that simulated its very real, brick-and-mortar counterpart. A prime example was the pivot to creating a virtual Safety & Security Meeting to replace the usual in-person event last June.
“The membership embraced this evolution, to the tune of over 1,200 registrants compared with 200 for the last in-person safety event, and the success didn’t stop there,” said Lyboldt. “Our educational platforms excelled, consistently garnering 600-plus registrations on meaningful topics important to carrier and associate members alike. In essence, in the middle of a global pandemic, at a time where even staff was denied face-to-face contact, we are proud to have produced valuable information with timely speakers in a manner that our membership has fervently supported.”
TCA’s daily COVID briefs were not only noticed but also acknowledged for their timeliness, reliability, and fact-based content, commented Lyboldt.
“The opportunity to provide information to the members that needed it became a daily driven duty that staff worked tirelessly to create and maintain, on top of the other routine parts of their jobs,” he said.
Over the past few years, the TCA government affairs department had developed a plan for constant contact with senators and members of the House of Representatives. The pandemic required a change in plans for contacting lawmakers and forced the cancellation of the annual Call on Washington during which TCA officers, members, and staff usually visit in person with lawmakers.
Lyboldt added that even today, Capitol Hill offices remain closed until further notice, with many informing TCA that Labor Day can be viewed as a limited target date in which some will be allowed entry in to the hallowed halls of Congress.
The closures, however, didn’t impact the nature of TCA’s ongoing contact with lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“TCA has transitioned to virtual visits, using Zoom to organize visits with congressional staff and representatives to tell our story, message our policies, and quite frankly, inform our elected officials of the ramifications that potential legislation may have on our industry,” said Lyboldt. “I can attest that our positions do not fall on deaf ears. Our message has been heard, and TCA is being recognized as an organization willing to help and eager to assist.”
As a regular part of the truckload story, TCA opinions and viewpoints are consistently recognized in comments filed with the DOT. Also, Lyboldt noted that Vice President of Government Affairs David Heller was recently appointed to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety Advisory Committee.
“It’s a role I am confident that he will succeed in,” added Lyboldt.
Lyboldt said a recent addition to TCA’s communication with its members is Capitol Recap, a vehicle designed to educate members on the undertakings of the government affairs department and the positions that members have determined through the association’s sound policy committee work and dedicated involvement.
Included in the e-newsletter is a podcast feature that captures unscripted dialog with staff about the critical discussions being undertaken on Capitol Hill.
“This government affairs endeavor can pivot to be reflective of issues that may require, from time to time, your immediate attention,” said Lyboldt. “Breaking news, member involvement on an actively moving piece of legislation, and even an opportunity to contact your representative has made this a vehicle of member involvement like no other.”
In closing, Lyboldt called for member involvement in the association.
“Our mission of success does not get better unless we have members who are vested within the association,” said Lyboldt. “Oh, and welcome to the end of the tunnel.”
Lyboldt recently completed his fifth year at TCA president.
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.