Stephanie Mansfield | Transportation Intermediaries Association
The year was 1978. A gallon of gas was 63 cents. Pet Rocks were all the rage, postage stamps were 15 cents and a movie ticket would set you back a mere $2.30 apiece.
It was also the year the Transportation Intermediaries Association was born.
Originally known as TBCA (Trans-portation Brokers Conference of America), the organization consisted of 14 member companies, and counts Bill Tucker, of J.A. Tucker & Co. in Haddonfield, N.J. as one of its primary organizers and founders.
“My father was the industry’s premier champion,” said Jeff Tucker, the company’s third-generation CEO and former TIA Board Chair. (His brother Jim is the company’s COO.) Before that, he said, “Broker was a four-letter word. There were a lot of shady characters. But my father was determined to change that image.”
Bob Walters, President of Freight Management Inc. in Anaheim, CA, and a TIA member for 40 years, recalled a negative CNN report on “how brokers were ripping off everyone. That’s the hole we needed to dig ourselves out of. “
As the story goes, one day Bill Tucker was stuck with a load in New Jersey bound for Mexico. He called a guy he knew named Bill Hay who was in San Diego.
“Bill, I got a load going to Tijuana.”
Hay asked, “But can you make any money doing that?” The buddy told him not to worry about it, and of course added a few more dollars to the amount.
“Give me a few minutes.”
Hay called a buddy close to the border and asked him to take the freight. The guy gave him an estimate. Hay asked, “But can you make any money doing that?” The buddy told him not to worry about it, and of course added a few more dollars to the amount. Hay called Tucker back and gave him the estimate. Tucker asked, “But can you make any money doing that?” “Don’t worry about it,” Hay said, then added a few more dollars to the estimate.
“I got a nickel in there,” said 90-year-old Bill Hay with a laugh. “That was back a long time ago.”
“Jeff’s dad, Bill, was one of the original organizers,” recalled Tom Fiorini of Westgate Global Logistics in Lehigh Valley, PA who joined the organization in 1983 and is also a former Chairman of the TIA Foundation. “He was an A-1 good guy. The fellow who had the idea was a lawyer named Bob Gallagher, an attorney out of Washington, D.C.” Fiorini agreed that at that time the word “broker” carried a certain stigma.
“The original concept was a guy people would imagine hanging around truck stops and conning truck drivers into taking a load,” he said “a shady kind of guy standing in phone booths all day long. “That idea stuck for way too long. We spent too much time defending ourselves from that image.”
Indeed, the word broker had become a four-letter word. “Absolutely,” recalled Walters, a former TIA Board President.
In the early days, all the business was done on paper. “We did everything on a yellow tablet and a typewriter,” Hay said.
Tucker’s grandfather Jacob (a former traffic manager for Dixie Cups) who started the business in 1961 “used to have this board on his desk with index cards showing where a shipment was,” said Jeff Tucker. “We didn’t have computers. Communication was difficult.”
Then CB radios came into vogue.
“We had ham radios to communicate with drivers,” recalled Hay. “We didn’t have sleepers. We’d drive for 10 hours then stop at a motel for the night.”
Along came deregulation.
“In the first days our goal was to bring flexibility to what was then a very rigid, static world,” Walters said. “After deregulation, our role changed completely. We then had to bring order to what was becoming a chaotic world where there were hundreds of new carriers and rates were negotiable. Major companies started to cut out ‘middle management’ which frequently included the traffic manager. Shipping clerks were left in charge in many cases with little knowledge. Our industry exploded.”
Now, new technology allows shipments to be tracked in real time, something Bill Hay and Jacob Tucker never dreamed possible.
But that’s not the biggest change.
According to Fiorini, the biggest milestone in the association is that “we have proved to the shipping world that there is value to what we do. Originally, it was freight people. Now, more members are finance oriented.”
Walters added, “What you see now are brokers beginning to buy carriers themselves.”
Education, technology, and legislation have also grown in importance over the past 40 years. “We have now become more recognized as a voice for an important part of the industry, Fiorini said.”
A long way from those truck stop phone booths, and phone calls that only cost a dime.
Stephanie Mansfield is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Transportation Intermediaries Association. She can be reached at [email protected]