Stepping up to the challenge: Attendance boomed as TCA’s Safety & Security Meeting took virtual format for 2020

virtual safety conference
While the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual Safety & Security Meeting was presented through an online venue, the event was attended by about 1,200 people representing 733 organizations. (Courtesy: TCA)

Like so many other conferences and events since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Safety & Security Meeting, held June 23-25, was moved to an online venue in an effort to protect the health of the Truckload Carriers Association’s membership and staff.

While attendees were disappointed about not being able to participate face to face, TCA Vice President of Government Affairs David Heller shared that the number of registrants exploded. The in-person event virtual safety conferencenormally draws about 200 participants — but registration for the three-day virtual meeting captured more than 1,200 attendees representing 733 organizations.

“Truck safety is one of those issues that doesn’t ever go away,” noted Heller. “As our professional truck drivers travel down the road, safety has to be at the front of everyone’s minds. We’re not giving up on safety just because we have a global pandemic.”

Revamping a three-day conference into an online event was no easy task for TCA staff. “We took about a six-month process and crammed it into less than six weeks,” explained Heller. “TCA staff worked overtime on this one just to make sure all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed. It was important to us. Just because we’re in a COVID-19 environment, it doesn’t mean we’re not here to support our membership.”

To allow participants more flexibility in their schedules, TCA scheduled online events during the afternoon, leaving the mornings free for attendees to tend to other business matters. Each meeting began at noon with participants exploring the Virtual Vendor Showcase, a set of microsites devoted to the supplies and services provided by sponsors of the event.

Day 1: Tuesday, June 23

At 1 p.m., TCA Safety Council Chairman and Maverick Transportation Vice President of Safety and Driver Training Dean Newell welcomed attendees to the first general session.virtual safety conference

“While the virus has hampered our ability to travel, changed the nature in which we interact, and prevented the personal touch that is the very foundation of this meeting, it will not limit us in exchanging the fundamental idea that has helped the meeting thrive — and that is improving upon truckload safety,” noted Newell.

The capstone of the first session was a panel discussion by trucking-industry executives, moderated by TCA President John Lyboldt. Panelists included TCA Chairman and Cargo Transporters Inc. President and CEO Dennis Dellinger; TCA Past Chairman and Doran Logistics Services President Dan Doran; TCA Treasurer and Knight Transportation Executive Vice President Dave Williams; and TCA Officer and Nagle Toledo Inc. President and CEO Ed Nagle.

This distinguished panel offered insightful views on a variety of topics relevant to safety within the trucking industry and fielded numerous questions from meeting participants. Of course, COVID-19 remains a primary point of concern for safety professionals, and the panel shared valuable information about how they and their companies were dealing with the unique challenges presented by the pandemic — from remote working options, the use of technology to facilitate communication between support staff and drivers, and outlooks for moving forward post-pandemic.

Other topics included the new hours of service (HOS) rules, the Crash-Preventability Determination Program, the potential effect of autonomous Class 8 trucks and platooning on the industry, and more.

virtual safety conferenceDellinger opened the day’s second general session with remarks noting the value of partnership and the role of the trucking industry in the current crisis.

“As you know, our drivers have come to represent our nation’s army of first responders, delivering the much-needed freight that kept our stores stocked, our doctors and nurses supplied with PPE, and emphasizing once again that, ‘If you have it, a truck brought it,’” he shared.

The session also featured a Second Annual Fireside Chat with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Acting Administrator Jim Mullen and TCA’s Heller, moderated by SiriusXM Road Dog Trucking Host Dave Nemo. Nemo set the tone for the casual question-and-answer session, which featured questions from meeting attendees on topics ranging from HOS to emergency waivers, the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, insurance liability minimums, and broker transparency.

When asked about the speed with which FMCSA enacted emergency declarations and waivers during the COVID-19 crisis, Mullen responded, “It came straight from the White House. President Donald Trump made it known that he expected all of the agencies to be responsive to the pandemic and to the emergency that we are confronted with. … We just wanted to be as supportive as we could.”

Heller noted the importance of communication, adding that the pandemic hit just as TCA’s Annual Convention wrapped up in early March. “The members wanted to know what was going on. Our drivers were still driving, and freight was still being delivered. While people were shutting down and municipalities were closing off things, the drivers were looking for information. Kudos to Jim and his staff, because information started flowing.”

Day 2: Wednesday, June 24

Wednesday’s general session featured remarks by  Dellinger, the presentation of this year’s TCA Safety Professional of the Year — Clare C. Casey Award, and a presentation by Daimler Trucks North America’s Kary Schaefer on the future of heavy-duty trucks.

Dellinger praised TCA’s leadership and staff for their efforts in presenting this year’s meeting, saying, “A special thanks to each and every one of you for your drive, commitment, and passion. Our Association would not be where it is without each of you.”

Next, he turned to TCA members. “COVID-19 has dictated a portrait of our membership that represents the best this industry has to offer,” stated Dellinger. “We lead by example. We practice what we preach. We will leave no stone unturned in our endless effort to create an industry highlighted by the very best examples of what we have to offer in our vital role to the sustainability of this great country.”

Following the general session, attendees participated in two workshop series. The first series offered a choice of topics including Proliferating Marijuana Problems, Safety Perspectives on Insurance Purchasing, and Safety Craves Culture Change. Among the options during the second series were What to Expect at Roadside, Changes to C-TPAT, and COVID-19 and the Workforce Challenges Today.

Day 3: Thursday, June 25

The final day of the meeting wrapped up with two general sessions, round-table discussions, and open-deck sessions that covered flatbed cargo securement and FMCSA updates, as well as open-deck cargo risk mitigation.

During the day’s first general session, Colorado State University Associate Professor of Systems Engineering Jeremy Daily discussed data security and how to spot and correct security flaws that could enable hackers to take control of electronic devices and data.

The final general session of the three-day event touched on a topic that’s front-of-mind for many in the trucking industry: Nuclear jury
verdicts. Porter Rennie Woodward and Kendall LLP Outside Counsel Clay Porter discussed the overly litigious environment facing motor carriers. He provided insights on how safety technology can be a double-edged sword in a lawsuit, as well as the role of safety protocol in the hiring process as seen through a legal lens.

Not able to attend the event? Recordings are available. Email [email protected] to access.


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Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.
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