Are You Certifiable?

Sweating It Out to Become Best in Class

Stephanie Mansfield | Transportation Intermediaries Association

It was IN a crowded bar at the Outback Steakhouse in Lewisville, TX, where 37-year-old Cori Eckley’s life changed for good – and it wasn’t discovering the Kookaburra Wings.

Although she had 15 years’ experience in the industry, she had put off taking the Certified Transportation Broker (CTB) online study course offered by TIA of which she is a member. Didn’t have time. Missed the deadline for registration. “I had every excuse under the sun.”

Harriet Mills/Choptank Transport

Finally, she signed up. “I don’t study well,” said Eckley, Vice President of North American Transport Concepts, Inc. from Arlington, TX. “I needed a loud bar. So, I went to Outback every night.” Amid the sizzling T-bones and the smell of Bloomin’ Onions wafting by, she hunkered down in the dark bar. Her reward after two hours of studying; a cold Bud Light, or two, and then a four-hour exam on Saturday morning.

“I found it difficult. I thought ‘What did I get myself into?’” (Outback wasn’t open, so she took the test at a nearby Panera Bread.) “I actually asked them to turn down the music,” she said with a laugh.

She passed on the first try, becoming a TIA Certified Transportation Broker, which, she said, “sets me apart from my competitors.” Considered the highest broker certification that exists and the most widely recognized distinction in the transportation industry, it’s akin to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Martha Torres, Vice President of ARPCO Transport Services in Grapevine, TX agreed. “And it’s challenging,” Torres said. “It gives them a good, broad understanding of the industry.” ARPCO requires all account managers to take the CTB exam, and over the years, more than 10 employees have become certified, including Torres.

For Robyn Frank Connelly, Claims Manager for Syfan Logistics in Gainesville, GA, the course was a serious challenge. When her company offered to pay for it, she said, “I thought ‘Why not?’ Then I was like, ‘What have I done?’”

She failed the test the first time, and then a second time around as well. “It took me a whole year,” she laughs. Although she has 15 years of experience, there were sections of entirely unfamiliar information. Finally, in June 2018, she passed.

For Connelly, the end result was worth all the effort. “In the long run, yes, it was tough – I was getting discouraged,” Connelly said. “I’m glad I did it, but I was sweatin’ it.”

TK Bardwell was sitting in the ballroom of the Red Rock Casino Resort in Las Vegas last April, attending the TIA 2017 Capital Ideas Conference when he heard the ceremony recognizing brokers who had attended the CTB online study course. One by one, the graduates stood and were recognized by the crowd.

“I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ I was intrigued.”

Bardwell, Vice President of Logistics for BR Williams Trucking, Inc. in South Oxford, AL, has been in the industry for 12 years. His company – five brokers – moves 10,000 loads a year. He has three other staffers taking the course now. “We’re definitely sold on it. It’s an investment we thought easily worthwhile.” Bardwell became certified last December, and another company broker recently passed the lengthy exam. “When all five brokers are certified,” he says, “we’re going to make a big deal out of it.”

Being a CTB is a valuable credential, and already Bardwell sees a difference in the way his company does business. He thought he knew everything there was to know. But the course was like a master’s degree.

“I thought I was just going to vet it as a tool for our folks. But I was wrong. I learned quite a bit.” His favorite section? “Case law. I was engrossed in it. It was like reading a great book.”

Mark Fiorini’s father, a longtime TIA member, started Westgate Global Logistics in Lehigh Valley, PA, in 1978. One of 10 kids, Mark took over the business in 2012. At 38, he is the only family member to follow in his father’s footsteps. “My father was one of the first CTBs in Pennsylvania,” Fiorini said. Mark signed up for the program in 2014. He passed the first two sections, but failed the last by one question. “It really ticked me off.” Outside the industry, he says, it might not mean much. “To the people who have taken it, they get that it means something.”

On the second try, he passed. They celebrated with a staff lunch at the office. Did he pop open a bottle of champagne? “I usually have a few drinks to celebrate occasions,” he laughs. “I’m sure I did the same.”

Stephanie Mansfield is Director of Marketing and
Communications for Transportation Intermediaries Association. She can be reached at mansfield@tianet.org.