Association increases outreach, communication efforts to keep members up to date
In these uncertain times, people lean on family and friends. Trucking associations have always considered their membership part of the family, so it is no surprise that carriers are relying on the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) to help guide them through the uncertainty the COVID-19 coronavirus has brought upon the world.
“We do need to emphasize that we are dealing with — and I never really understood this phrase until now — a very fluid situation in terms of what’s going on,” said David Heller, vice president of government affairs for TCA. “It seems like the last few days, even daily, every hour and even every minute, something has popped up that needs clarification.”
The organization’s staff, most of which is working remotely, has been busy trying to answer questions for its members, none of whom has ever operated through a situation like what the industry is facing today.
“TCA is triaging a lot of those questions,” Heller said. “Things such as CDL renewals, what is declared freight, how do you log it — these are all questions trucking has.”
Heller noted that even something obvious like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service waiver for moving essential goods has led to numerous questions, as have rest stops closing, restaurants offering only drive-thru service and many more issues.
“We want to be an information conduit,” Heller said. “Our membership has asked a lot of questions and we’ve kind of morphed into this role, but it’s on a case-by-case basis because each question is different. We’re supplying answers where we can, and vocalizing those questions up the flagpole at FMCSA.”
TCA has started more proactive outreach. Thursday morning, the association sent an email blast to members with critical information and answers to the most frequent questions the association is getting. On the TCA website, a newly setup resources page includes contact information and links to updates from truck stops, FMCSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of Truck Stop Owners, the World Health Organization and industry partners such as the American Trucking Associations.
Heller said TCA is working hard to ensure the information on the resources page is accurate and if something is perceived as a rumor, TCA staff is trying to track down the facts before linking to it.
“It’s a new world with what this virus and situation has put upon this industry,” Heller said. “I think we’re at the point where no 20-minute increment is the same; you are changing on the fly.”
That point was made by Dennis Dellinger, TCA chairman and president and CEO of Cargo Transporters in Claremont, California. In a letter to membership posted on the TCA website Thursday, Dellinger noted the challenges the industry is facing.
“With the rapid deterioration of the prognosis for this recent pandemic, it is important to reinforce the value of the trucking industry to the globe’s critical infrastructure,” he wrote. “Like healthcare workers and the producers of medical and life-sustaining goods, trucking is an essential service. This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve encountered before. This time it’s different.
“I am writing this article today to reinforce many things you already know, but also to remind you that in order to see our way through this challenging time, the nation requires the trucking community to sacrifice and stretch ourselves,” Dellinger added, before listing several suggestions that might help decision-making, including not being afraid to put your business strategy on hold for now, and reassuring staff and helping them identify what is important and mission-critical.
Heller said all TCA members should be encouraged to reach out with questions.
“When something like this happens, we automatically change [TCA’s mission], this is a national emergency,” he said. “[Members] shouldn’t feel there is no question that is unanswerable and there are no dumb questions. Call us. There is a lot of unverifiable and inaccurate information out there, so call us.”