There is an old saying that goes: ‘To keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience.” Another is that “Persistence is the habit of victory.”
A great quote from Winston Churchill once proclaimed: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.” He also said, “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
And since you can’t avoid Confucius when you’re compiling quotes and maxims: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
My predecessor, Ray Cope, told me when I was very new to the job to “never miss the opportunity to put your industry’s case forward.”
Over the many years that I have been a lobbyist for the trucking industry, I have regularly reminded myself of these pearls of wisdom and have often taken solace in them. Nothing comes quickly or easily in this game.
The process itself can be frustratingly and mind-bogglingly slow. I did not come from government when I joined the industry back in the 1980s. It was a real eye-opener to have to deal with the industry’s regulators and legislators on a daily basis.
I came to the realization very quickly that you’ll be a very frustrated and unhappy person if you think things can be changed quickly, especially just because you say it should. From time to time we see groups popping up in the industry that don’t understand this. They are doomed to failure.
There are a lot of dedicated, intelligent people in government (both elected and in the civil service) but the sheer weight of the legislative and regulatory process can grind down even the most enlightened individual or idea.
Nor can you simply show up to the odd meeting or write the occasional pithy letter or critique this or that policy or regulation in a column in a trade publication, if you want to be heard or used as a sounding board.
I learned (and I didn’t always like being taught) that there is no way you can be successful unless you are prepared to stick with it, to battle every day.
I suppose that is true in any business or any pursuit, really. The trucking industry has provided me with a real role model in that regard. I learned that success takes patience and persistence in equal measure. I have also learned that democracy does work, if your cause is right, if your case makes sense and you are persistent.
You can and will eventually prevail. Of course, having the backing of those you profess to represent is also essential, and a little luck never hurts either. But, in the end it’s plain hard work – doing something about a problem – not just complaining about it or blaming someone else that will win out in the end.
I can’t imagine where the industry would be today if CTA and the provincial associations hadn’t persisted during the decade and more that it took to get the federal hours-of-service regulations rewritten. I can’t count the number of times we were rejected in trying to restore the 80% tax write-off for driver meals, before we were finally listened to and our effort rewarded. In Ontario, it took 30 years to get an LCV pilot up and running and now the program is no longer a pilot, but a full-fledged program with controlled growth.
It had been almost a decade that OTA had been working with MTO to give Class A drivers 65 years of age and over a break on licence renewals when the province’s new minister of transportation, Bob Chiarelli, introduced proposed regulatory changes in February. These are just a couple of examples. All of the provincial associations have their own examples of where perseverance has paid off.
Of course, it must also be acknowledged that you have to have a willing partner in government, if you want to change things. That doesn’t mean you always have to agree or that an association must be subservient to government.
But, the relationship should be one of mutual respect. Associations do have to understand where government wants to go and determine how best your industry can fit into those plans.
You must also come to grips with that fact that your issues – as important as you may think they are – are not always high on the government’s agenda. That’s where patience and persistence, as well as the energy and ability to work within the system, comes in and it starts all over again.