Sustainability: the Ability to Forge Ahead in a Crisis

Robert Voltmann, CAE

I am sitting at a makeshift office in my house, now in our fourth week of COVID-19 related isolation and tasked with writing a column on industry sustainability. The reality is palpable.             

We all either had business continuity plans in place before—or soon after—we were ordered to shelter in place. The good news is that those plans are working.

That’s good, because your importance to the supply chain is being well documented every day. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are all speaking of the importance of third-party logistics companies in managing small trucking companies and the supply chains of essential small businesses. Your worth is recognized and appreciated.  That is sustainability.

The motor carriers recognize you as the way for them to keep loaded and keep getting paid. That is sustainability.

The shippers know they need you. And, unfortunately, they may use you not just to access capacity and manage their supply chains, but to provide them with increased banking services. Like it or not, that is sustainability.

Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff (2009-2011) and then as Mayor of Chicago (2011-2019) is quoted as saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” My staff knows that I’ve added to that adage, by stating that, “A good crisis never lasts, so act quickly.” This is your opportunity.  This is our opportunity as an association.

Over a hundred years ago, Rudyard Kipling must have had you in mind when he wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs … if you can wait and not be tired by waiting … if you can dream—and not make dreams your master … if you can think—and not make thoughts your aim … if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same … if you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breathe a word about your loss … if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them: ‘hold on.’”

Because you embody these words and because you adapt and adopt new approaches and new technology every day, this is a very sustainable industry. This is an industry whose best days are ahead of it—an industry that will not be displaced anytime soon.

TIA is also sustainable. We are working hard to prove our worth to you during this crisis. I hope by the time we read this in May, that we are on the way to a cure and a return to normalcy. Until then, know that the TIA Staff and I are here to help you. We pray for you, your families, and our community.