Nobody likes to be alone. In a world with a million ways to connect to others through social networking, cell phones, and computers, studies show people feel isolated now more than ever. Clubs, teams, and associations are difficult to build and maintain because isolation keeps people at bay. Isolation occurs because somewhere along the way, one has forgotten to learn how to trust others. Many problems facing the trucking industry and truck enforcement are caused by isolation…the good news is there is hope in community.
Shortly after the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association began, a local truck officer called with some questions. There’s no shame in that…truck enforcement is a complicated endeavor and the ITEA exists to help sort it out. The interesting part of the conversation came when the officer said why he was asking the questions.
Apparently there was a new judge hearing truck cases in the officer’s courtroom after the old judge was transferred. For several years, the officer had truck cases up before the old judge and he had the justice convinced his enforcement methods wer correct. Now with a new judge, the officer began second guessing his enforcement methods. Fortunately, the officer was in fact doing things right by the law.
What was really happening was the officer was out doing his own thing and was not involved in the truck enforcement community. His network of other truck officers was limited. He did not have authoritative places to go to seek information to make solid decisions. Shortly after the conversation, the officer joined the ranks of the ITEA and successfully passed through the ITEA certification process.
Truck law is a vast sea of information…none of us can fully wrap our heads around all the legislation and regulation. Mistakes happen. But time after time, the ITEA is made aware of situations like the one described that yields a very different outcome. Without fail, the root cause of the problem is not the lack of knowledge, but that officers were not part of the bigger picture. As an officer becomes more isolated, he believes that what he is doing is correct primarily because the enforcement method is going unchecked…he is unaccountable. Poor enforcement costs drivers and companies a lot of unnecessary time and money. This is the unfortunate reality to isolation.
Last week, leadership from the ITEA attended the MAASTO conference in East Lansing, MI. The Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials meets annually and is one of four regions that comprise the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). At these conferences, leaders from both the state transportation offices and the trucking industry meet together in an effort to discuss better and more productive ways of doing business.
Instead of isolation, state officials reach out to each other and seek solutions. The key word floated during MAASTO is “harmonization”. While not perfect in this, the states have made great strides. Representatives from the trucking industry provide valuable insight so the states can see what their rules look like at street level. The networking and professional relationship building is tremendous. As state government and the industry work closer together, trust evolves. In the end, the roads are safer and profitability is increased.
Why is this so hard at the local level? How is it regional states can pull together with the industry for positive change, but local government continuously needs to operate in isolation? Every town and county has its own issues and there in no one magical answer to solve individual problems fairly…understood. But every local truck officer should be asking themselves questions such as “am I trying to do things my own way, or I am working towards uniformity?” Or, “am I willing to be accountable to other officers to make sure I am doing an outstanding job, or am I happy with status quo, mediocre enforcement that could very well be wrong?”
The irony is this…it doesn’t take long for peers to figure out your answers to those questions.