This Time it’s Different – A Message from TCA Chairman Dennis Dellinger


For those who don’t know me, I’m a military brat. My father’s career in the Army and Navy required frequent family moves all over the world. As a result, I witnessed first-hand the sacrifices that military families made, and continue to make, to keep our country and partners secure. This transient life was not easy for any of us, and at times we all wished we could have been just like the average American family, with one place to call our permanent home, and less of a revolving door of friends and teachers. However, the work that my father and his colleagues did, protected our collective American dreams. This was his mission, and as a result, it became our family’s mission.

The education provided to me from this military life has formed my world view and experiences with different cultures, and has reinforced the similarities of humans regardless of geography. Understanding how military officers managed their day to day activities, their subordinates, and how they interacted with their fellow officers provided a rich education on managing people and being prepared. This preparation was focused on understanding threats, implementing proactive measures to mitigate those threats, and when necessary, apply force to protect our interests.

For those of you from a younger generation, you don’t get to benefit from years of decisions and outcomes when you’re presented with a major curveball. Quite frankly, my personal management style has evolved over the years, and it would likely cause me to react much differently to today’s challenges than I would have without this experience and knowledge. With the rapid deterioration of the prognosis for this recent pandemic, it is important to reinforce the value of the trucking industry to the global’s critical infrastructure. Like healthcare workers and the producers of medical and life-sustaining goods, trucking is an essential service. This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve encountered before. This time it’s different.

I am writing this article today to reinforce many things you already know, but also to remind you that in order to see our way through this challenging time, the nation requires the trucking community to sacrifice and stretch ourselves. We are facing a common enemy, and the following suggestions may aid in your decision-making and strategy during this crisis.

You Have Friends – We are more connected now than ever before. The flow of data and the transparency of our freight networks is simply overwhelming. All of these potentially positive trends mean nothing without direct human to human communication. If you need assistance, ask for it. Call your fellow carriers (competitor or not), supply chain partners, local, state and federal agencies, and the supporting trade associations. We are stronger and more effective when we work together.

Put Your Business Strategy and Objectives on Hold (for now) – your individual business strategies and missions are secondary until we prevail against this enemy. You are now, more than ever, working on behalf of the American (North American) people. Your company and people are now of national importance.

People Need a Framework for Understanding What is Important – although your people will crave normality, it is important that you provide your team members with a method of triaging the mission-critical tasks vs those that are not. Your people are already and will be bombarded with information. It is your responsibility to help them shed those things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. In simply terms help them build silos.

The Safety of Your People is Paramount – Your people are now national interests. Keeping them safe, will as a result, keep thousands of other citizens safe. This applies to both their physical safety as well as mental well- being. It is important that during this time you provide guidance and best-practices derived from proven and credible scientific information. This isn’t a time to simply re-share unproven or untested information. Be careful, but be consistent.

Honesty and Decisiveness is Required – You’re the leader. It is not dramatic to state that you are now a wartime leader. You are going to feel overwhelmed at times. Your people need you more than ever. Being a calm and decisive leader during these times, with honest feedback is what they need, and it’s what the industry needs. Be that leader.

Your TCA team is actively engaged with COVID-19 challenges. Please view an informative resources page, here.

Dennis Dellinger, President & CEO Cargo Transporters