Podcast Interviews

Why You Should Become a TMC Member Today

Learn about the benefits of becoming a TMC member and attending their Fall Meeting.

Episode 113: In this episode, we are going to talk about the benefits of becoming a TMC member and why you should attend their Fall Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Our guest in this episode is Robert Braswell, the Executive Director for ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC).

TMC Logo

Watch the Video

Sponsors of the Show:

  1. Want to buy any of the parts mentioned in this episode? Visit HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/BuyParts.
  2. Want to learn how to start a mobile repair shop? Read this free eBook: Fullbay.com/Mobile
  3. Looking to get started with eCommerce? Visit GenAlpha.com.

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy-Duty Parts Report may receive a small commission. 

Complete Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about the heavy-duty parts you buy and sell and keep you informed about what’s happening in the industry. One of the most mentioned resources on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report is TMC. It comes up over and over again, and TMC stands for Technology and Maintenance Council. In this episode, we’re going to talk about why you should become a member today and also why you should seriously consider attending the fall meeting in Cleveland Ohio. So my guest today is Robert Braswell. He’s the executive director for ATS technology and maintenance council TMC. And Robert is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of all the TMC programs, the products, the meetings he’s in charge of all of those things and making sure that they work properly. Since 2005, Robert has served as the co-host and content producer of the weekly coast to coast satellite radio segment Tech Talk with TMC on the Dave Nimo show. And this is produced in partnership with Dave Nimo entertainment. It’s heard on Sirius XM channel 146 every Tuesday. That’d be 10:00 AM. Eastern 8:00 AM mountain. The show provides technical information and exchange on a wide range of technical issues to the audience that is both in the US and Canada, much like the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So I am so excited to have Robert here. Robert, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Robert Braswell:

Well, thanks very much, great to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

Robert, can you explain to us the connection between the American Trucking Association and TMC?

Robert Braswell:

Sure. TMC is a technical council of the American Trucking Associations. TMC stands for Technology and Maintenance Council. That wasn’t always the case in our history. For years, we were known as The Maintenance Council, we joined as part of ATA back in 1979. But before that, we were part of another group called The Regular Common Carrier Conference. We were the maintenance committee of the RCCC and when we started back in 1956, so the industry was very, very different. The interstate highway system was just being formed and the equipment that was rolling on the roads at that time, really wasn’t up to the task of the modern highway system that was to come. And so the fleet leaders at that time banded together to basically assault the manufacturers and chide them into making better equipment. And for the first 10, 15 years of our existence, when we were the MC of the RCCC, that’s a lot of alphabet soup. They basically spent a lot of time beating up on the manufacturers with the idea was to get a better product. Well, after about 10 years or so of that rather contentious arrangement. They started doing things in a more consensus approach. And we started developing the study group and task force and problem solving structure that we have today, eventually after deregulation it transformed into what has become TMC and is part of the American Trucking Associations.

Jamie Irvine:

Thank you for giving us that history. In a nutshell, what are the benefits of becoming a TMC member?

Robert Braswell:

Depending on what type of member you are. For the fleet members, that’s our primary member, there’s a great number of benefits. Our primary benefit is our recommended practices collection. We have over 4,000 pages in a three volume set of everything you need to know to spec and maintain and test your vehicles from the rubber side to the shiny side. We cover all of it. And we do this in organizations we call study groups, each study group tackles a different area, such as electrical tires and wheels, engines, chassis, brakes, you name it. And that’s, it’s really, really a foundational material for technicians, for managers, for manufacturers. And it really does provide the institutional memory of the best way to spec and maintain a commercial vehicle. That’s our primary benefit.

Jamie Irvine:

So I’m not running a fleet but I just became a TMC member proud to be part of this organization. There are opportunities for others to become members. Can you walk us through a little bit of that?

Robert Braswell:

Sure, absolutely. In addition to the fleets, so we have a number of different type of fleet categories and we’re individual-based at TMC, companies don’t join TMC, individuals do, so we call it a fleet category, but really it’s anybody who is interested in the improvement of equipment in terms of the motor carrier or the equipment user side. So owner operators for example, are welcome in that category. We have a category for technicians. We have a category for educators that we consider the fleet category. We also have a category for small carriers, and we also have one for the press, the trade media. And that gives you the full benefits of the council. You get our periodicals, you get our reference guides, there’s a directory that we put forth, although you can’t use it for commercial purposes. And there’s a lot of other great technical information that goes along with that. In addition to those categories, we also include associates, we call them, these would be suppliers to the industry manufacturers to the industry, consultants to the industry. There’s also a service provider category. It’s our fastest growing one. As a matter of fact, it’s for those who are third parties that work on vehicles for other folks. So let’s say the, I hate to use brand names. So like the TA Petros of the world or the Freightliners of the world, or the Macs of the world, those dealer networks would fall under the service provider category. And then of course, there’s also, as I mentioned, educators, there is other categories such as academia, the government folks fit into a particular category. So you name it. There is a place for you at TMC.

Jamie Irvine:

And what I love about all of that is how you’re bringing together all of these different groups of people with really just one focus. Like how do we make the trucking industry better? Now you’ve mentioned your, your RPs. And, and I wanted to really understand that over the last 60 plus years, how important have these recommended practices been to the trucking industry? Can you give us some context on that and how important it’s been and the way that it positively impacts the industry?

Robert Braswell:

Sure. I’ll give you a couple of examples. So one of the, one of the RPS that were developed in the late eighties in consult with the SAE at the time, it was a society of automotive engineers. It’s now SA international, but the whole series that dealt with J 1587, 1708, eventually becoming 1939, those standards made it easier for fleets to diagnose and repair vehicles because you didn’t have these proprietary systems for each of the electronic engine families. So they all agreed to one database. They agree to one common physical link and so forth. And that was a big advancement that saved the industry a lot in terms of tooling terms of avoiding proprietary equipment that makes it difficult for fleets that have mixed fleets, for example, or let’s say you’re a fleet and you acquire another fleet. The mix and match would have been terrible. And that was one of the fundamental standards that we worked on. Other ones I think are very good, are the type two, three, and four fuel economy test procedures. They standardize the way in which we measure in-service fuel consumption trials so that there is a good replication of data. It’s not just based on computer simulations, it’s real world trials. It’s basically like a double blind placebo controlled study if it was the medical world. And those were very important standards. Other ones I think, have to do with the development of antilock braking systems, for example, the second time around, of course, the first time around it, when it was analog ABS it was a disaster and there was all sorts of problems. But the second time when digital ABS came along, we were very instrumental in developing standards that ensure there is sufficient voltage or current for the electrical signal, from the power unit to the trailers, so that the trailer ABS could fire properly. The green coiled cable, for example, and the minimum standards for voltage drop, you know, we ensure that there’ll be at least be 10 and a half volts at the very back of the trailer so that the ABS would fire properly. Those were very important standards that help ABS become widely accepted and very successful the second time around when it was mandated in the mid-nineties. Other standards that we have, for example for their trailer underride guard, we have guidance on when do you need to repair that, based on the deflection or the damage that is observed in that underride guard, we call it the three inch rule bent up, down in out. There’s very little guidance otherwise on how much damage is too much damage, how much damage is too little damage. And so that’s an example of a maintenance recommended practice. I guess another one would be our brake adjustment recommended practice for S-cam brakes. You know, there’s so many different types of slack adjusters out there, or brake adjusters as they call them nowadays, we standardized procedures so that no matter what type of a slack adjuster or brake adjuster you encounter, you can follow a procedure that we have RP 609 and have good confidence that you can do roadside adjustment and maintain them properly and not adjust them when they shouldn’t be adjusted quite frankly, because if it’s an automatic slack adjuster, you shouldn’t be touching it probably to start with, but that’s another story. Those are some examples of the recommended practices that we have. And again, we have over 500 recommended practices of more than 4,000 pages information, I guess it’s probably, you know, a 4,500 by now. Another important standard was the RP 1210 windows application program interface because it’s standardized the interface for the vehicle data adapter, the BDAs, you know, and how that software interfaces with the diagnostic tool in the vehicle itself. Very important, standard that’s cited in regulations like in California with EPA and so forth. So yeah there’s a lot of examples out there. I’m always happy to talk about the work that our members do.

Jamie Irvine:

I like about the recommended practices is that yes, if you are a large national carrier and you’ve got thousands of units, obviously you are going to really be interested in all of this so that you can standardize across your nationwide fleet, but right down to an owner operator can benefit from all of the work that’s being done. And it’s access to information that the individual or the small carrier would never be able to acquire on their own. It just wouldn’t be affordable. And yet they become a member of TMC and it’s all there for them to implement in their business regardless of it’s size.

Robert Braswell:

Not only that we’ve had chairs of our study groups as owner-operators. The cabin control study group for several years was chaired by an owner-operator. And a lot of great work came under that person’s tenure. We’ve had a small fleet representative be the general chairman and treasurer. That’s our highest office in the council and a lot of great work happened there. So those perspectives are very important. You know, it’s not just a large carrier perspective, if you think that’s what TMC is all about, you don’t know much about TMC because we really are very, very strongly motivated to get as broad a consensus as possible. And whether it’s a small, medium, or large motor carrier or equipment user, owner-operator what have you, all of those points of view, those perspectives are valid and they have a place in the counsel’s portfolio of recommended practices.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back. If you’ve ever thought about starting a mobile repair shop or you’re to take your shop on wheels to the next level, you need to read How to Start a Mobile Repair Shop. This free e-book from Fullbay walks you through everything you need to know to get started and to scale your business, grab your copy at fullbay.com/mobile. Fullbay is the leading heavy-duty shop management software solution for fleets and independent repair shops. So they know a thing or two about how to run a successful mobile operation. Grab your copy of this free ebook at full bay.com/mobile. We’re back from our break. And before the break, Robert, we were talking about all of the great work that TMC is doing and why, regardless of whether you’re an owner operator or you’re part of a fleet, you’re part of the service channel, you supply parts you’ll want to be a member of TMC. I’d like to shift now to talk about trade shows. Of course, the pandemic put a grinding halt to all of our trade show plans. The last show I went to was actually TMC 2020 Atlanta. We’re getting back to something resembling normalcy, hopefully, and there’s an upcoming fall trade show that you guys are going to be putting on, it’s your fall meeting. So maybe tell us where, and when this fall meeting is going to be, and then we’ll talk about what people can expect if they attend.

Robert Braswell:

Sure. Our fall meeting is going to be held in Cleveland, Ohio at the Huntington convention center. It’s going to be held September 12th through the 16th, and we’re really cramming two meetings into the space of one. Ordinarily our fall meeting, it has our full slate of educational sessions and task forces. Those industry standards meetings in which our recommended practices are developed, but ordinarily our Transportation Technology Exhibition is held at our annual meeting, which is in the spring. Well now as you mentioned, COVID prevented that from happening. So we’re putting all of that into one venue. So we’re doing that plus our National Technician Skills competition with TMC Super Tech, and that’s a lot going on at one time. And of course we’re having to make compromises and all this, we can’t do everything we ordinarily do. The competition is scaled down to a one day event. The trade show’s about half the size it ordinarily is because we just don’t have as much real estate as we do, let’s say in a place like Orlando, but we’re really excited to be returning to in-person meetings and that we’re looking forward to a great crowd. We’re figuring there’s going to be, you know, 2000, 2,500 people there. And it’s, we’re just hoping everything holds out and really looking forward to gathering in person once again.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s get people who’ve never been there before a little bit of an idea of what to expect. So I remember when I first attended the first TMC show and you go in and it does look very similar to your standard trade show. There’s a lot of exhibitors and there’s this opportunity to walk around and see manufacturers of entire trucks down to parts manufacturers. So let’s talk a little bit about the kinds of exhibitors that people will see inside the show. And then we’ll about some of the other things that you don’t necessarily see on your first impression.

Robert Braswell:

Sure. Well, what makes TMCs trade show different, and we’re more than a trade show. We refer to ourselves as technology’s complete trade show. We focus primarily on the technical side of it. We don’t really focus on the commercial side. We don’t have, for example, in our exhibit booths, a lot of the sales folks, we have more of the technical experts. And so when you come to TMC, you’re more likely to bump into an engineer from a given company than you were, let’s say a marketing person. So right there, I think that differentiates us from the rest of the trade shows that are out there. The manufacturers get just as much from talking to each other on the show floor, as they do the fleet customers. So it’s all about improving products. It’s all about getting the latest technologies out there, educating the buyers as to what the new technologies are and how they can benefit them. And that’s really the primary focus of what our transportation technology exhibition is all about.

Jamie Irvine:

But arguably where a lot of the real magic happens is in the meetings. So can you kind of walk us through what we’re talking about when we talk about those other meetings?

Robert Braswell:

Well, in addition to the trade show, we have these protected times where the educational sessions happen without other things going on. So for example, we have these things called technical sessions. In many technical sessions, and they’re put on by our volunteer members, they’re all fleet driven and the topics are selected by our fleet study group committees. So you know that the content is by fleets and for fleets. And when I say fleets, I include owner-operators, small fleets, large carriers, you name it, if you’re running equipment, these are the folks that are setting the agendas for our meetings. And the educational content is always fantastic. You know, you get the best of the best when it comes to the presenters and speakers, the technical experts. And we really think we have our finger on the pulse of what keeps a fleet or motor carrier representatives up at night in their operations. So, you know, right now we’re having a focus on electric vehicles. We have a focus on ADAS, which is automated driver assistance systems. We have a focus on electrical issues themselves in terms of wiring, in terms of electrical repair. We have a focus on the future tractor trailer communications networks that are coming because smart trailers are the latest thing, now you know, the power units have been smart for a long time, it’s the trailers that have been dumb as a bag of hammers, but that’s changing.

Jamie Irvine:

A box on wheels.

Robert Braswell:

That’s it, you know, but the trailer is the important part because without the trailer, what’s the point of having the tractor, that’s where the freight is being hauled, right? So, you know, long neglected, but it’s a very, very much important. So the smart technology, these telematics are coming to trailers and it’s the wild west out there. And where TMC really excels is bringing different groups in the industry together to form consensus on how best to use this technology for the benefit of as many folks as possible. So, you know, that’s what we’re doing in our educational offerings this year.

Jamie Irvine:

So if someone’s listening today and they say, wow, I have to be there. What’s the steps that they have to take to make sure that they can attend and what are the costs?

Robert Braswell:

It’s very simple. You go to our event, microsite TMCfall.trucking.org, that’s TMCfall.trucking.org, all of it’s right there, the schedule, the brochure, you can download a PDF of the agenda. It’s very simple. You go online. Everything’s, e-commerce, you know, you click a button and you register. So that’s how that’s done. The prices depend on how much you want to participate. Right now, if you get the early bird rate, I believe it’s $675 for full registration for members, for non-members it’s $975. So there’s an incentive to join. You’ll save $300 that way. Plus you’ll be able to get all the benefits of being a member of TMC, which are quite numerous. And in addition to that we have day rates where you can experience like a taste of TMC for one day. You can register on site for that. That’s like a $250 for members or $500 for non-members. That’s an option that some folks do, especially if you’re within driving distance of the Cleveland area, it’s a great way to drive in, drive out, and you get, you get a lot of the programming that way.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, my recommendation is become a member, go to the whole show because you are going to be absolutely blown away at the value that you’re going to take away from that. We’re just going to take another quick break. We’ll be right back. The way we buy things has changed over the last year. We’ve all grown accustomed to the ease of online purchasing. This is no different in the heavy-duty truck parts industry buyers are looking for a streamlined digital experience where they can quickly find the part they’re looking for. If you’re looking to get started with e-commerce, there’s no better partner than GenAlpha technologies. If you want to learn more or schedule a free demo, make sure to head to genalpha.com that’s G E N alpha.com to start maximizing your online potential. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the fall meeting that TMC is hosting in Cleveland, Ohio. We’re so looking forward to being there and we were encouraging people to definitely become a member and attend. Robert what’s the biggest issue facing the transportation industry today?

Robert Braswell:

I think it’s all of the technical complexity that’s coming very, very fast. It’s almost like drinking from a fire hose, right? There’s so much change going on. You have change with respect to the powertrain, you know, it used to be well, diesel was your option. Well, now that’s not the case. There’s all sorts of different powertrain options that are coming. Electric vehicle has gotten a lot of play, but certainly net gas and some of the alternate fuel options are still in the mix. And I think that is a big part of the change that’s coming to trucking, is, you know, what’s your powertrain going to be? What’s the mode of force. The other thing of course is, is the data, all the data that is available to manage the fleet, all the telematics data that’s there, there’s so much data you don’t know how to manage it all. And so that’s a struggle that a lot of a motor carrier and fleet equipment users have, I’ve got this capability, I’ve got so many different telematics providers that want to sell me services on a subscription monthly basis. What do I do with all this stuff? You know, and so the value added services that are going to start coming with that, I think are going to be really key in helping the fleets get the most value out of these services that are going to be offered for everything dealing with the vehicle. So managing that I think is very important and TMC has some standards like the vehicle maintenance reporting standards or VMRs that are naturally designed to help with all of that. So that’s a unique thing I think TMC brings to the table. The other thing of course, is the future design of the tractor trailer platform itself in terms of communications, in terms of configuration, that’s going to be a big developing story over the next five to 10 years. And our future truck committee is looking at that even beyond take it to the next level. You know, the whole idea of, you know, how do you electrically power the vehicle? What voltages are going to be used? We’ve been using 12 volts forever. It was in the mid sixties, I guess, that they made the big conversion from six volt to 12 volt. That was a big problem. We’re probably going to be facing that again. We’re going to be going with 12, 24, 48,higher voltages, all coexisting on the same truck. And there’s going to have to be software and systems that have to handle that. And it’s going to have to be new strategies and how you maintain that, the idea of the technician that works on today’s truck. You know, you have a system where 12 months on the job training, you’re a qualified technician. Some of these electric vehicles may require to be a journeyman electrician, and that’s something we’re not used to in trucking. You know, so we have to work that out. TMC is kind of on the forefront of trying to work on that and see exactly what skill sets and what knowledge is going to be required for techs coming into the trades to keep these vehicles on the road and profitable.

Jamie Irvine:

Honestly, there are sometimes unintended positive consequences that just come from doing the right things. I think TMC has presented the industry with tremendous value for now 60 plus years. And yet, in some ways I almost think like everything that’s been done has just set TMC up to be there for the industry when we need you the most, which is going to be right now, because in 60 years there’s been change, but this has been a relatively stable, slow progression of change. And all of a sudden we’ve hit this, like just monsoon of disruption and change that the industry is going to have to cope with in a very compressed timeline. And I just can’t imagine if TMC wasn’t there, the people would be literally trying to build TMC to help us solve these problems. So in some ways I think it is just unbelievable that all the six decades plus of work has kind of culminated in you being here for the industry now.

Robert Braswell:

Well, we’ve been very fortunate in the industry for a long time, because every time there was a new generation of vehicle, it generally was better than the previous. And that was that held true for many, many years until I guess what we call the pull ahead engines in 2004, that’s when we took a step back in terms of fuel economy, in terms of reliability and durability, and it made it actually tougher for fleet managers to deal with those vehicles. Now it’s gotten better again, but it took a little bit of a time. We had some speed bumps, and I think TMC played a very important role in identifying that early and then helping to get the industry to make improvements so that we regained some of the real estate that we’d lost. So to speak when it came to efficiency, fuel economy, durability, reliability. The potential for those setbacks could be in the future. But that’s why we’re here to kind of like smooth those bumps in terms of how do you introduce automated vehicles and eventually autonomous vehicles? How do you introduce fully electric vehicles? How do you do all that? And without being disruptive. So that’s what we’re working on.

Jamie Irvine:

So for anyone who’s been hesitating to join TMC, why should they join right now?

Robert Braswell:

Well, right now we’ve got a great deal going. It’s 18 months for 12, the price of 12, it’s 18 for 12 offer. If you go to our website, tmc.trucking.org, you’ll see that as a big banner on there, you can click it, talk to Curry Blanton. She’s our TMC membership manager. She’ll be happy to sign you up. And again, there’s a different membership category and a different price range for all sorts of folks. If you’re a technician, it’s like $150. And if you’re a fleet person, I believe it’s something like $340 to $395, the manufacturers and suppliers a little bit more, but you know, if you’re a manufacturer it’s a great way to access your customer. If you’re a fleet person, it’s a great way to get institutional knowledge from your peers and also contribute back to the industry. A lot of folks find a lot of benefit from taking on a task force, chairing a task force, solving a problem, getting recognized by their peers and maybe, getting volunteers, our board of directors or our study group committees. They find that personal growth to be very helpful in their career path. We also have opportunities when we partner with other groups like the NATMI folks, the North American Transportation Management Institute, where we have certification programs and classes. If you want to be certified as a professional fleet manager, you can do that at TMC during our week. And that’s a great opportunity, too, for folks.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, proud TMC member. And we’ve been speaking with Robert Braswell the executive director at TMC. To become a TMC member, go to tmc.trucking.org, links will be in the show notes. And if you want to sign up to the fall meeting, it’s TMC, fall.trucking.org. Both of those links will be in the show notes. Robert, thank you so much for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And I just like to remind everyone to focus on cost per mile. Let’s keep those trucks and trailers rolling.

Share this:
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Related:

SUBSCRIBE TO THE SHOW

Receive a weekly email with a link to the latest episode.

North America’s largest most trusted independent provider of parts and service.

Find Heavy-Duty Truck Parts Fast. VIN decoder included.

Do you need to buy a diagnostic tool?
Use code HDPR at checkout for a discount.

Save time and money by searching for inventory from around North America in one place and best of all it’s easy to use and FREE

Search