Many industries have advocacy groups, and there are many reasons for joining. The Truckload Carriers Association, however, has sweetened the deal with its TCA Profitability Program (TPP). The first line on the program’s webpage sums it up: The TPP “is the trucking industry’s premier performance improvement solution, fusing TCA’s popular best practice groups and the powerful inGauge online benchmarking platform.”
One of the most difficult parts of managing a business is gauging how an operation stacks up, both against the competition and in terms of lost income potential. TPP helps answer those questions so that management teams can identify where improvement is needed and maximize operational efficiency.
“We’ve been members of TCA for 55 years. From my seat as president of D.M. Bowman, TPP is the greatest educational tool that is offered by any trucking association to its members,” said TCA Chairman Jim Ward.
“For me, it was the best advice I could get from anybody,” said TPP Program Manager, Former President and CEO of Bestway Express, and Past TCA Chairman Shepard Dunn. “I got more out of these meetings than anywhere else.”
TPP Managing Director Jack Porter agreed. “The benefits are immense,” he said. “If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to go from good to great, TPP is a great program to get you there.”
In-person meetings form the base of the program, but the real benefit is the sharing of information.
“After each meeting, we determine the topic for our next meeting based on our discussion,” explained Ward. “We explore disciplines common to each company such as safety, maintenance, human resources, employee welfare and development, and operations.”
Selecting topics in advance helps participants prepare for each meeting. Participants are encouraged to bring team members who manage the specific business disciplines being discussed.
Dunn described the process. “A lot of what we do is sit around the table and talk,” he said. “We obviously don’t talk about rates and protected stuff, but things like best practices and successful strategies.”
“We send out a monthly composite that shows key metrics, ranking them from best to worst. It’s very confidential,” emphasized Porter. “Leaders can share the information with their teams and identify what areas to work on. (They) can quickly see, is their benchmark moving in the right direction?”
Dunn explained that sharing is a necessary part of the process. “Group members become advisors and friends,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re giving away the recipe for the ‘secret sauce,’ but you’re making friends that you can bounce ideas for people and processes off of.”
Pottle’s Transportation’s President and CEO, and Past Chairman of TCA Barry Pottle commented, “Trucking companies often think they are the best at what they do and don’t want to share their information. Here you find out you aren’t the best, but there is a lot from the groups that you can take back and learn from.”
Porter summed it up this way: “The No. 1 litmus test that the business owner has to accept is that no owner is perfect; every owner will do something wrong. The owner must have an open mind and be willing to share current results so that others in the program can offer meaningful guidance.”
Meetings aren’t the only place that “meaningful guidance” can be offered. The networking opportunities provided by the program have proven to be valuable to members who don’t want to wait for meetings to discuss issues.
“Pottle’s has benefited from the groups and made many friends through the groups. The networking is priceless,” added Pottle.
Ward echoed that sentiment, and noted there’s “a great deal of value in having a network, being able to pick up the phone and call a friend and peer who has dealt with the same issues.”
“It gives you the chance to seek counsel with other people in the industry, peers, associates, people you can pick up the phone and discuss areas where you might need help within your company,” remarked Dunn.
Ward’s team at D.M. Bowman takes networking beyond phone calls. “We periodically do visits to each other’s facilities,” he explained. “We might send an entire team to spend two or three days. Normally, we break up into groups, go through the various disciplines in their organization, and bring back what they’ve learned. We also share back with them our observations, so both companies benefit from the experience.”
Knowledge is only helpful, however, when it’s applied. “Don’t take the things you’ve learned and stick them in a drawer. Take action; create a plan,” suggested Dunn.
Porter narrowed it down. “Go back to your organization and apply what you have learned,” he said. “Don’t try and take 10 things back. Identify one or two things. Then, set a goal and create action items to reach it.”
When asked for examples of improvements seen by carrier participants, the answers varied.
“I think there’s money on the table in maintenance,” shared Dunn. “Usually, there’s a huge spread, as much as 15 to 20 cents per mile between carriers.”
Ward emphasized cost. “If you continually look at operating cost per mile and compare yours to others, you can learn from carriers of all sizes,” he said.
Porter spoke about cost as a percentage of revenue. “The revenue world in trucking is almost mandated by the shipping community, so our success depends on how we manage that revenue.”
Participate. Share. Plan. Implement. Profit. All are steps that can make the TPP work for just about any size carrier.
More information about TPP is available at truckload.org/about-tpp, including recent webinars and cost for the programs.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.