Industry Issues: OTA: Still young at 80

by David Bradley

This month OTA will celebrate its 80th year of operation – a milestone certainly worth noting.

Could the small group of visionaries who got together back in 1926 have ever envisaged what their industry would become; how it would change and adapt to become not only the predominant freight transportation mode in Canada, but the economic lifeblood of all commerce and trade?

Perhaps not entirely, but it is also very clear that those founders knew the world was going to change and that their fledgling industry would play a major role in it.

It is that ability to look ahead, which is a sixth sense that so many of OTA’s industry leaders have possessed including today’s crop; the ability to not only adapt to change but to bring about change, that has elevated OTA to the top of the ladder when it comes to business trade associations.

That tradition of excellence, the consistency of effort, is a rarer thing than you might think in the association world.

From its very first days, OTA has been guided by some underlying values, principles and traditions that have stood the test of time.

Among these core underpinnings are such things as accepting the responsibility that the trucking industry shares its workplace with the public and if the industry is to be respected it must be respectful of its broader footprint beyond providing top-rate service to its customers and generating a return on investment for its shareholders.

The latter two are worthy goals in their own right, and whatever role OTA can play in facilitating that for its members, it will do so unabashedly.

But, OTA’s hallmark has been to twin its economic pursuits with the paramount requirement that the industry conduct its business safely, in compliance with the laws of the land, and increasingly in a way that is environmentally benign.

It may sound like a broken record, but for OTA members, safety is good business. And, ensuring that everyone plays by the rules (even where the rules may not be without criticism, which is often the case) promotes fair competition.

With today’s fuel prices, fuel efficiency is not only good for the air and the climate, it also makes business sense.

Over the 80 years of OTA’s existence there are literally hundreds if not thousands of individual victories and accomplishments that can be pointed to as evidence of OTA’s effectiveness and of the industry’s growth and maturity.

Looked at in their time and place, these accomplishments often arose from these core values. And, because they sometimes demanded change, and/or forced some in the industry to confront how they were approaching the business, they were not always, at least at the outset, supported by everyone in the industry.

Over time, however, and by challenging the status quo, OTA has become an important agent for change for the better. That is leadership.

OTA has always played a leadership role in shaping the regulatory environment that was right for the industry at its various stages of progress.

The industry has adapted to various forms and degrees of economic regulation. While the transition was always painful for some, the industry grew stronger each time.

OTA can also take its share of credit for a number of initiatives that have formed the bedrock of today’s safety and compliance systems – the CVOR, the National Safety Code, the Target ’97 task force on truck safety.

None of these initiatives can afford to remain static – they must continually evolve, be scrutinized and improved – but can you imagine the industry without them?

That readiness to endorse standards by which the industry’s performance can be measured, that sets the parameters for responsible trucking, is as evident today as it has been at any time in the past 80 years.

Whether it’s the mandatory activation of speed limiters, or comprehensive initiatives to reduce smog and GHG emissions from trucks, OTA is still pushing and challenging the industry and those that regulate the industry to do better and to thereby create a better business environment for all.

OTA, like the industry, must continually adapt, be forward-thinking and prepared to take a stand, even when it is not always popular, especially with the lowest common denominator.

That the most successful trucking companies in Ontario – of ALL sizes and area of service – and indeed many of the most successful in North America, belong to and remain loyal to OTA is a testament to its roots and to how far it has come. Here’s to the next 80 years!

David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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