Jason McDaniel | Bulk Transporter
The George R. Brown Convention Center hosted 221,250 sq. ft. of tank trailer equipment.

Roundup: NTTC spotlights safety pros, launches branding effort

Dec. 2, 2022
‘Bulk City’ edition of tank truck association’s longest-running event hosted more than 1,000 attendees during productive gathering

HOUSTON—Tank Truck Week 2023 is on the clock.

This year’s “Bulk City” edition of North America’s largest tank truck industry event concluded with the return of the National Tank Truck Carriers Safety & Security Council’s annual awards banquet at the Marriott Marquis Houston, where the 2021 Safety Professionals of the Year were revealed.

Steven Grabas of Lacy’s Express earned that prestigious title in the Sutherland division of NTTC’s North American Safety Awards, and Service Transport Company president Wade Harrison accepted the honor of behalf of his company’s entire safety department in the Harvison division. In addition, the association celebrated the career of former Safety & Security Council national chairman Dan Athmer; and officially named Jim Anderson, Florida Rock & Tank Lines’ vice president of safety and risk management, the council’s next national chair.

The first safety awards banquet in the post-pandemic era punctuated four education- and equipment-packed days at the Marriott Marquis and George R. Brown Convention Center exhibit hall—where more than 1,000 people attended Tank Truck Week in the longest-running NTTC event’s first trip to Houston in eight years. 

Bulk Transporter was there for all of it.

See also: As tank container usage booms, Quality Carriers debuts intermodal service

Association leaders and guest speakers educated attendees on the association’s critical industry branding efforts, a new option for securing the dry bulk axle tolerance, and NTTC’s political action committee (PAC) efforts, all of which are covered here, along with NTTC’s perspective on the Rhode Island toll-scheme ruling delivered during Tank Truck Week, and more.

In addition, we’ll be unpacking key content online during the coming weeks. So keep an eye out for reports on the mounting concern surrounding “nurdle” cleanup at transload sites, the latest on industry compensation and benefits from Cottingham & Butler, Quantix’s electric truck journey, and U.S. ISO tank container growth.

The next Tank Truck Week is slated for Oct. 8-10, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Branding campaign

The Markstein Group is leading NTTC’s new industry branding efforts.

Susan Ann Roper, a director in Markstein’s workforce development practice; Chris Hoke, the group’s chief creative officer; and Nicole Chardavoyne, vice president for the Mid-Atlantic region for the public relations firm, outlined their plan during the Workforce meeting, and said they’re targeting a pilot launch in early 2023.

“This isn’t an ad campaign,” explained committee member Greg Hodgen, president and CEO of Groendyke Transport. “This is about, ‘Who are we? What is the brand of National Tank Truck Carriers and the associated members? Who benefits?’ This is important because I want everyone to understand this clearly: Individual organizations, the overall economy, National Tank Truck members, and job candidates will benefit from this initiative.

“We want people to know why we’re different, why we’re special—and why we’re in a class of our own as tank truckers.”

The tank truck industry already has a brand, Roper said. It’s an essential industry, and an “incredible place to work and build a career” with great camaraderie. Their goal is to tell that story with a campaign that helps industry stakeholders “inform, educate, and activate” target audiences. The brand will inform by increasing awareness, educate by enlightening audiences about key components, and activate by motivating folks to join in. “We don’t just want to tell a story, because we’ve got to get people into the workforce,” Roper said. “We’ve got to continue attracting people to the industry so you can keep doing what you’re doing.”

Hoke said a successful brand also will provide tools that help tank truck carriers “speak with one voice,” dispel misconceptions about the risks involved, or their commitment to safety, position industry jobs as “careers of choice,” and tank truck drivers as “the best of the best,” and attract more NTTC members. “There are a lot of things that happen in addition to just running out there and saying here’s who we are and here’s what we do,” he said.

A unified voice is highly impactful, Roper added, creating a consistent, authentic message people can more easily absorb and internalize.

However, identifying and developing that voice takes time.

“Branding an industry is tougher than just branding a company,” Chardavoyne said. “It’s not just picking colors and a logo. It’s significant because it represents multiple organizations of different sizes and different commodities.”

The group was early in the research and interview process during Tank Truck Week. Roper said they planned to begin Phase 2, persona development, in November. Markstein will present its creative concepts, and media and marketing plan, in December, and then launch a pilot program in select markets early next year.

“The persona development is interesting because we all know we can’t keep tapping the same age and demographics we’ve used in the past,” Hodgen said. “We’ve got to expand that and excite a new generation of people.”

Tank truck apprenticeship

NTTC secured the U.S. Department of Labor’s endorsement for the first registered apprenticeship program for tank truck drivers in April, and the association’s goal is to roll out a finished program during the 2023 Annual Conference, set for May 20-23, 2023, in Boston.

“We have the bones of the program ready,” said Bailey Glendenning Stark, the CEO of Glendenning Brothers who heads the Workforce Committee’s apprenticeship subcommittee. “It’s approvable as is. However, because we’re creating a national standard, we want to be certain we’re specific on the requirements for training trainers, classroom instruction, and measuring competence on the job. So what we’ll be working between now and the end of 2022 is getting technical instruction, on-the-job structure, and the train-the-trainer program in place, so it’s ready to submit to the DOL at the start of the new year.”

Ryan Streblow, NTTC president and CEO, praised the committee for its steady progress in a “painstaking” process. “Once we’ve navigated those waters and deliverables are in place, they’ll be available as a resource on our website through Tank Truck University,” he said.

Dry bulk axle variance

NTTC’s request for a 10% dry bulk axle variance did not make it into the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but all hope is not lost, Streblow said during the Dry Bulk and Food Grade Committee meeting.

“We have not given up,” he promised.

The association now is looking into adding the axle variance to the updated Farm Bill, which is set to expire Sept. 30, 2023. “We’ve already had a lot of conversations, both in the House and Senate, with the agriculture committee members and those majority leaders in regard to getting this included from an ag perspective,” Streblow said.

The plan was to wait until after the November mid-term elections to see who is on those committees going forward, and then have lobbyist Britton Clark Mullen determine who is on NTTC’s side. Streblow said more than 80 associations, including ATA, already pledged to assist with their efforts, along with numerous state trucking associations, and Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota.

“We will have that teed up for our Call on Washington, which is in March 2023, and that’s where we will focus our efforts going forward,” Streblow said.

PAC update

NTTC’s Political Action Committee (PAC) collected funds from 98 donors before the Advocacy Committee meeting. David Price, executive vice chairman at United Petroleum Transports, made it 99 during the gathering.

The goal was to reach 100 donors, which NTTC last achieved in 2016.

The association surpassed $100,000 in donations for the second consecutive year after raising only $69,225 in 2020, hitting $108,000 during the PAC reception Sept. 18. NTTC collected a record $110,625 last year.

The PAC had distributed $57,000 as of Sept. 15. It handed out $131,500 in 2019, when it raised only $99,745. Advocacy chair John Whittington said they want to be more effective with their contributions going forward, and were waiting until after the mid-terms to identify the new players on Capitol Hill before spending anymore money.

“We’re not just going to give money away to give it  away,” he said.

Rhode Island tolling

NTTC celebrated an Advocacy win during Tank Truck Week, with U.S. District Judge William Smith determining Rhode Island’s trucks-only toll scheme violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution in his Sept. 21 ruling.

The association called the decision a “resounding victory for America’s trucking industry and NTTC.”

NTTC contributed $50,000 to the fight against the RhodeWorks program earlier this year.

St. Christopher relief fund

NTTC also donated $2,500 to the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund (SCF) during Tank Truck Week on behalf of 2021-22 Tank Truck Driver of the Year Thomas Frain and Highway Transport—longtime supporters of the non-profit’s mission to assist truckers who are unable to work due to injury or illness.

Frain presented the oversized check to Shannon Currier, SCF director of philanthropy, after the safety champions panel.

“It’s an honor to have a donation sent in my name to a group that gives back in such an impactful way to the trucking community,” Frain said. “St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund does an outstanding job of assisting my fellow drivers and their families during hardships.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.