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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJanuary 16 - January 22, 2019
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The Power of Association

dscn0375 0f59dBy Brian J. Riker

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the United Recyclers Group Training Conference (URG is a trade association for the recycling industry).

What jumped out at me about the URG conference was the amount of buy-in their membership had. The biggest difference I noticed was the URG member companies all contributed extensively to the conference, to the development of regulations that better their industry and hold each other accountable to industry standards.
In short, they are heads and shoulders above our industry.

I recently worked with the TRAA in an effort to obtain an exemption from the electronic logging device mandate (updates on our progress will be presented at Tow Expo-Dallas on Aug. 16). While this mandate has the potential to affect the entire towing industry, only 233 out of approximately 30,000 towing company's towers participated in the public comment period.

I get it: we are a highly competitive industry. So are many other industries; yet they find a way to work with their competition. Rising waters lift all ships in the harbor. We all benefit when our voices are heard, especially in a united front.

Other participants in our industry have strong trade associations, even folks that you may not consider needing a trade association, like law enforcement. I'm not talking about labor unions; instead, I'm referring to actual trade associations for professional development and self-regulation.

The one we are all most familiar with is the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. This is an international trade alliance comprised of members of the commercial vehicle enforcement community, trucking industry and insurance companies. They develop the North American Vehicle Inspection Standards, a document that all law enforcement members agree to abide by when inspecting trucks and deciding what the actual regulations mean.

The CVSA conducts training and has committees comprised of members from both sides of the table that work together to decide what the standards of conduct should be.

Wouldn't it be great if we as towers could work together with local law enforcement and the insurance companies to develop standards that assure fair play and payment for our efforts?

With strong trade associations, we can.

Look at what states like Texas and California have accomplished with their very strong trade associations. Both states have complex and demanding regulations as well as strong, tower-focused trade groups that keep the regulations manageable and provide top-notch guidance to the industry regarding compliance.

You are not going to give away the farm by helping your fellow tower, even those in the same community. In fact, you will find it is easier to compete fairly with other towers who are invested and engaged at the same level that you are.

We are facing some tough hurdles as an industry over the next few years. Insurance has sky-rocketed, electronic compliance monitoring is becoming standard, personal customer relationships are being replaced by mobile phone apps, labor is disappearing and more. The only way we are going to survive, dare I even say thrive, is to define our own role as a group in the changing marketplace.

The only way to do that is with the power of association.

Large numbers of active membership gets noticed. Again, 233 individual comments out of 30,000-plus tow companies that represent more than 100,000 individual tow operators was a pathetic response to the ELD mandate—yet that was better participation rates than we have seen in a while.

The summer season is the time to get things done. The entire House of Representatives is up for mid-term re-election, so that means during their summer recess they will be back home campaigning and eager to listen to what we have to say. Individually we can make a difference, no doubt; but our words have greater impact on our elected officials when they know you are just one of 30,000-plus voices that feel the same way.

Seek out your elected officials and speak to them, politely and with just the facts. Emotion does not sway them; they can only legislate on cold hard facts. Join your state towing association, local Chamber of Commerce, and any other local group that represents any function of your business. We all should be members of the TRAA: they are our only voice in Washington D.C. on federal matters.

Speak up now or forever hold your peace. You can't complain about the direction the industry is headed if you don't do your part to steer the ship!

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net
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