By a margin of just seven votes, the Truckload Carrier Assn. decided not to integrate with American Trucking Assns.
The 213-206 decision was not aimed against ATA but against certain aspects of ATA’s restructuring plan, said TCA chairman Gary Baumhover. In particular, it is a rejection of the requirement that TCA members join ATA, he said.
Truckload carriers don’t like to be told what to do, said Baumhover, senior vice president of business development at Grojean Transportation. “Pushing them is like pushing a rope.”
Just over half of TCA members participated in the long-awaited vote – 419 out of 762 ballots. The ballots were counted at TCA’s annual meeting in Orlando, FL, today.
The TCA decision has been anticipated as a critical referendum on ATA’s plan to restructure and downsize, focusing on national advocacy in Washington, D.C. TCA is the largest and most influential conference of ATA, and this vote signals a level of dissatisfaction that complicates ATA’s plans.
At this moment it is unclear how the issue of truckload participation in ATA will be resolved, although sentiment at the TCA meeting seemed to be for reconciliation.
Incoming TCA Chairman Bob Hansen of Gail Force Corp. underscored Baumhover’s message that the vote is not directed against ATA.
“ATA and TCA have to find a way to bring this whole thing together,” he said. “We both need each other very, very much. I am passionate about not losing one member of TCA and ATA. That is my goal this year.”
Ed Trout of Cornhusker Motor Lines, a board member of TCA and chairman of ATA when the restructuring plan was put together, was visibly shaken by the decision.
“I am disappointed of course,” he said. “A lot of really quality folks put together a game plan . . . with the industry’s future and vision at stake. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t approved by this, the largest conference, but I’m hopeful we’ll continue to work it out.”
Mac McCormick of Best Way Express, a member of both TCA and ATA, said the vote reflected a loss of focus.
“What we need to be doing is not spending so much time on this,” he said. “We tried to get a letter writing campaign to congress on meal deductibility and only got seven letters. We’ve lost our focus as an association and we need to get our eye back on the ball as to why we participate in trade associations. This vote was hardly a mandate one way or another.”
ATA President Walter McCormick said that the ATA restructuring plan was conceived under the leadership of truckload carriers Trout and John Wren of Lakeville Motor Express.
“ATA members chose to take a stand for equity in dues and that was a good business decision,” McCormick said. “They said they would not carry the freight for those who don’t pay.”
He predicted it will be an enormous challenge for incoming TCA chairman Bob Hansen to come up with something that will work, but said he’s confident that Hansen would be up to the challenge.