Note To Free-Riders: Association Achievements Don’t Just Happen
March 1, 2009
Last month, the Governor of Michigan signed a law exempting Canadian trucking companies operating into, out of, and through that state from the Michigan Business Tax (MBT), saving every carrier on ave...
Last month, the Governor of Michigan signed a law exempting Canadian trucking companies operating into, out of, and through that state from the Michigan Business Tax (MBT), saving every carrier on average about US$1,000 per truck per year in tax, capping off a year-long lobby effort led by OTA.
This is the latest in a string of recent announcements in which the association played a pivotal role. Others include increased weight allowances for wide-base single tires and a provincial funding program for APUs, to name a couple. CTA can also point to an impressive track record, the most recent being to convince the USCBP to show some common sense in implementing its new transponder renewal system, (DTOPS). And, it’s not just OTA and CTA – every provincial trucking association has its own list of accomplishments.
People join associations for many reasons, but they stay with associations only if they accomplish things. You have to put points on the board.
Much of our success derives from adherence to some basic principles. A culture of success is something that can be transferred from generation to generation. Advocacy is not an exact science, but after over 80 years and 70 years in existence, respectively, OTA and CTA must be doing something right.
Achievements don’t just happen. It takes more than attending a few meetings, or writing the odd diatribe to convince policy-and law-makers that your cause is worthy.
For example, a successful association is one that has something useful and constructive to say. It has to have the critical mass of membership and the mechanisms in place to consult with its members. It offers solutions, not just complaints. It builds bridges and lasting relationships with other associations, industries and governments.
A case in point is the Michigan tax exemption. OTA owes much to a number of people and organizations who partnered with us, including our often-maligned politicians and civil servants, whose support and intervention was essential. A successful association is respectful of other and opposing points of view.
It has to be flexible and maintain a long-term, broad-based and informed view. It is able to marshal the necessary resources and infrastructure to develop its arguments and then to effectively make the case.
Even then it takes persistence. Most importantly, this takes vision. I have never met such visionary, dedicated, entrepreneurial, sensible and quality people as those I find within my membership. That is as true today as it was when I started back in the mid-1980s.
Still, not everyone who should be a member is one. Everyone benefits from the work of OTA, CTA and the provincial associations, regardless of whether they are members or not.
There are those that pay the freight and those that are free-riders. Our members continue to fund the work of the association year after year even though they know that there are free-riders out there.
Many of the free-riders are among the first to complain when things don’t go their way but will say and do nothing when the association accomplishes things that are of benefit to them.
There are lots of reasons people give for not belonging. Over the past quarter century I’ve probably heard them all. Some argue they are in disagreement with this or that stance taken by OTA.
But, if you are not at the table, you forfeit your opportunity to help shape policy. Some say it’s because OTA only represents the big carriers.
Nonsense. Three-quarters of OTA members have less than 50 power units and a quarter have less than 10 trucks.
Every single member has a direct pipeline into the association. The OTA Board of Directors is composed of over 80 carriers reflecting every segment (size, region, service) of the industry. The CTA board has over 60 carriers on it, selected by the provincial associations. Each board member gets a vote.
Some say they can’t afford to belong. Yet most members say that they get far more out of the association than they put in.
The membership fees to join are $50 per truck. What’s that; less than three one hundredths of 1% of the revenue generated by a typical truck in a year? The Michigan Business Tax alone would have cost over a thousand dollars a truck.
Each and every one of our members is making a tangible commitment to a better trucking industry. They are taking responsibility, showing real leadership. They are directing their association to do what they think is right. They are putting their money where their mouth is. Are you?
– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
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