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ATA: In The Eye Of A Storm

March 7, 2000

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Debate, uncertainty and controversy surround the American Trucking Assns. as the federation pushes ahead in its quest to unify trucking interests in Washington.
The debate: Whether the giant Truckload Carriers Assn. should integrate into ATA. It will be settled at TCA's Orlando convention March 22, when results of the membership's vote are announced. If the vote is a "yes," TCA members will have to join ATA--and pay higher dues--before they can become TCA members.
Letter writing campaigns, both pro and con, are underway. The officers of TCA have recommended a vote for integration, but it's not a sure thing; 55% of its current members do not belong to ATA.
The uncertainty: Whether ATA will make any concessions to The Maintenance Council, which it owns, in an attempt to maintain TMC's membership strength.
TMC's annual meeting this week in Nashville produced the most fleet participation in TMC history: 553 fleet members compared to 522 in 1999.
Associate member (suppliers) are down slightly 1,453 vs. 1,488 in 1999. The meeting has been upbeat, but storm clouds continue to loom over the TMC/ATA relationship.
Paid TMC membership has fallen dramatically from a year ago as many fleets and suppliers sit on the sidelines to see if ATA will alter its policy of mandatory membership in ATA and a state trucking association as a condition for joining the Council. Overall, TMC membership is down to 2,160 vs. 3,192 a year ago.
Specifically, fleet membership has fallen to 886 from 1,233 in 1999. On the associate side, membership is now at 1,233, down from 1,891 a year ago.
ATA president and ceo Walter McCormick attended the TMC board of directors meeting to discuss the future of both organizations. He, and many others, are concerned about the dwindling membership. In years past, TMC has contributed over $2-million annually to ATA's bottom line.

At the TMC Town Meeting on March 7, TMC General Chairman Ken Johnson, president of KJ Transportation, said in a prepared statement that McCormick has agreed to meet with TMC leadership in late April or early May and has asked for a TMC proposal for changes in the current relationship.
Johnson said that the results of that meeting, and any proposed changes in the relationship, will be presented to TMC members at their June meeting in Tucson.
The controversy: Many allied members of ATA (suppliers of trucks, components and services) are angry after being blind-sided with a dues increase--in some cases 100%--by the federation earlier this year.
ATA says the allies were supposed to have been notified in advance of the change in its formula for computing their dues, and that the staff person who was responsible for the "regrettable oversight" has been reassigned.
But the allies say not only were they surprised; the assessment came too late for them to budget the dollars, and just about the time ATA was reducing dues paid by fleets. Suppliers are hoping ATA will change its formula, which assesses their dues based on corporations' total revenues,
rather than revenues from truck-specific businesses.
ATA's response is that carriers pay more dues than suppliers, and that while the formula is under review, "there are no dues deals."
For more on this controversy, see Doug Condra's editorial "When 'Fair' Becomes A Matter Of Opinion" in the March issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

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