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July 21, 2017 11:30 AM, EDT

Opinion: TMC Provides Critical Trucking Forum

The trucking industry would not be able to move 70.1% of the nation’s freight tonnage without great equipment, reliable technology and millions of technicians working behind the scenes to make sure every component of the tractor-trailer is in working order.

As fleet owners, we count on our technicians and maintenance professionals to improve the performance of our equipment and increase up-time. But how often do we invest in our technicians and help them improve their vital service to our industry? I hate to compare a person to a machine, but how often do we give our technicians an update with the industry’s latest information?

Frankly, I think we can do more.

Pottle

Anyone who is reading this and agrees with me should take a long look at sending one or more of their technicians to one of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council events. To be fully transparent, I should explain that as ATA second vice chairman, I serve as ATA’s liaison to TMC, but until 2014, I never attended a TMC event. Looking back, I regret not sending someone from our team at Pottle’s Transportation to TMC because, for years, we missed out on the valuable information being shared and created by TMC task forces, guest speakers, exhibitors, industry equipment experts and TMC professional staff. TMC General Chairman and Treasurer Glen McDonald and dozens of TMC officers and volunteers dedicate their time and expertise to ensuring our industry is up to date on the latest issues regarding technology and the maintenance of our fleets.

Hundreds of fleets send their maintenance and equipment professionals to TMC and I now see why. TMC is instrumental in providing a forum for the industry’s maintenance and engineering professionals to gather in one place and figure out how to better make and maintain equipment. Through TMC’s study groups and task forces, TMC volunteers develop the industry’s best collection of recommended maintenance and engineering practices — now totaling more than 450 RPs spanning more than 3,300 pages of vital information.

Earlier this year, TMC released an information report on how to use virtual and augmented reality technology to train technicians. Similarly, drafted ATA policy on automated vehicles sets aside specific issues where TMC will assist ATA on future automation policy, going so far as to cite TMC’s Future Truck Program Position Paper: 2015-3 Recommendations Regarding Automated Driving and Platooning Systems as one of the well-established resources for trucking professionals looking to further understand the technical challenges for these emerging technologies. I expect ATA and TMC will work very closely on automation activities in the coming years because of the significant overlap in expertise and emerging issues that automation presents. TMC has already demonstrated leadership on automation, and with the support of ATA President Chris Spear we are bringing technology and maintenance professionals to the table when shaping the regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles.

No matter the issue of the day, TMC brings the right people together — engineering and maintenance professionals — to solve problems and benefit our entire industry.

If you are interested in sending an employee to a TMC event, I would strongly suggest the TMC Fall Meeting, which includes TMCSuperTech 2017 and TMCFutureTech 2017. TMCSuperTech is North America’s premier competition for commercial vehicle technicians, giving them an exciting, challenging opportunity to showcase their skills and size themselves up among the industry’s most dedicated technicians. Continuing to refine skills, especially in phases of maintenance that our technicians may not be exposed to day to day, is one of the several benefits that employers gain from engaging in TMCSuperTech. The competition is also a bridge to becoming more engaged in TMC and reaping an even stronger return on investment as an ATA and TMC member.

For those who aren’t interested in competing at TMCSuperTech, the TMC Fall Meeting agenda also includes technical sessions on controlling corrosion, implementing new technology, lock-out/tag-out procedures and an ELD discussion, among other sessions.

TMC’s Annual Meeting, held each March, is also growing substantially. In 2016, TMC’s Exhibit Hall floor was 350,000 square feet, but grew to more than 400,000 square feet in 2017. Next year, TMC’s Annual Meeting is being held in Atlanta, and we expect that meeting to be more expansive and draw well-beyond the record 5,000 plus attendees from this year’s meeting.

There is much to be excited about at TMC with longtime TMC Technical Director Robert Braswell now leading the organization as executive director. As ATA second vice chairman and an active member of the greater trucking community, I can affirm that the trucking industry will continue to rely on TMC and its network of technicians to solve our industry’s existing problems and issues on the horizon. We are an industry that invests $9.5 billion on safety, and I encourage all fleets to consider investing time and resources into our technicians in order to continue improving our industry’s safety record and productivity as the most vital mode of transportation in the country.

American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade federation in the trucking industry, has headquarters in Arlington, Va., and affiliated associations in every state. ATA owns Transport Topics. Pottle is president and CEO of Pottle’s Transportation, which has offices in Bangor, Maine, and Allentown, Pa.