OTA Dispatch Issue 3, 2022

Oregon Trucking Associations, Inc. Oregon Truck Dispatch THIS WILL BE my final Dispatch column as the OTA board chair. I leave the position—and this writing assignment—in the capable hands of Evan Oneto, who officially moved into the role during the Annual OTA Convention in August. Change is always inevitable, and it looks like trucking is in for some serious changes in the near future, ready or not. What some outside of the industry are calling “transformative” typically translates into painfully expensive and problematic for those of us operating in the real world. While the trucking industry has always and will always be ready for reasonable change, it’s unclear if those dictating this current list of changes understand that the tools to create this proposed “transportation transformation” aren’t quite there yet. When I became the OTA Board Chair in 2019, I was looking forward to spotlighting my experiences around driver recruitment, including workforce boards, and some less “traditional” methods. What none of us saw coming was a global pandemic that would shift priorities and throw everything into a tailspin. Except for trucking, we continued to do what we do best— keep moving forward. As I look back on my tenure as OTA chair, I gain even more respect for the industry that I’ve been around most of my life, as well as OTA as the association that travels this sometimes crazy path with us. As the world shutdown, American trucking kept moving. With constantly changing information, expectations, requirements, guidelines, and eventually mandates, we relied even more on OTA to connect our industry with agencies and experts to tackle whatever came next. Now, we’ve made it through the worst of COVID-19—we hope—but our country and our economy didn’t come out unscathed or unchanged. Contrary to popular belief, change is something that trucking is relatively good at. Just think about the first years of the association we know as OTA. What were the issues and concerns of members over 80 years ago? Climate change policies, global supply chain disruptions, and a labor shortage likely weren’t on the list. Infrastructure improvements probably were. Coming out of the pandemic, we were also faced with a new set of political pursuits at the national and local level. Granted, Oregonians are a little more familiar with this rush to alternative energy than other parts of the country, but what was considered a bit of science fiction a few years ago is now being forced into real world applications— again, ready or not. Our current economic environment has either exacerbated or created many of the challenges we now face. Our ongoing driver shortage has expanded to a full-blown labor shortage—and not just in trucking. Worker priorities have shifted. Some have no desire to re-enter the workforce after two years of pandemic-induced unemployment payments. What was hard— finding skilled workers—is even harder now, especially when trucking requires a certain level of specialization from our drivers, our technicians, and others. This takes me back to my original intent when I became the OTA chair—exploring less traditional methods of recruitment. State workforce boards are, I believe, a relatively untapped source. My goal was, and is, to get a trucking representative on each of Oregon’s nine boards. These boards provide a direct connection to potential recruits, as well as an avenue to grants, and other outreach. The trucking industry also continues to become even more diverse, with more women and minorities joining our ranks, whether behind the 2 Andy Owens OTA Chair Getting involved at this level gave me a unique perspective of everything our association does for us—and also of the role we all play in OTA’s success. On to the Next Chapter… Are electric trucks ready for primetime? Are hydrogen fuel cells the real path forward? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.