The Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations has undergone several significant transformations since its inception in 1956, but its fundamental mission has remained the same: the improvement of equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.
TMC began with the birth of its predecessor organization - the Maintenance Committee of the Regular Common Carrier Conference (RCCC). Since then, thousands of dedicated industry professionals have given their time, treasure and talent to a cause in which they believe – “the principle of seeking truth and correcting error no matter where it lies,” as Bob Gardner, the RCCC Maintenance Committee’s first staff engineer said back in 1981.
The collective wisdom of TMC members resides in its collection of best practices or Recommended Practices, of which there are two general categories:
- TMC Recommended Maintenance Practices assist equipment users, vehicle/component manufacturers and other industry suppliers in the maintenance of commercial vehicle equipment. These are developed to improve the maintenance of vehicles that are already on the ground.
- TMC Recommended Engineering Practices assist equipment users, vehicle/ component manufacturers and other industry suppliers in the design, construction and performance of commercial vehicle equipment. These are applicable in the designing and engineering of vehicles so they require less maintenance, reduce maintenance costs and increase vehicle up time.
Recommended Practices or RPs reflect the dedication and perseverance of many users, manufacturers and others who chose to work together – not just in their own self-interest – but in the interest of all who are served by highway transportation.
The genesis of TMC traces back to May 1956 when Jack Snead of Consolidated Freightways and Woody Callan of Central Freight Lines presented a motion to the RCCC Board of Governors authorizing the establishment of the Maintenance Committee. The first meeting was held in New York in October 1956 in conjunction with a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). About 15 people attended that first meeting.
As Gardner noted: “The thing that Jack Snead envisioned was a meeting whereby the carriers, the manufacturers and the SAE would get together and thereby establish procedures, standards and improvements which would benefit the entire industry.”
This collegial atmosphere was not immediately forthcoming in practice. In the early days, there was a tendency on the part of the manufacturers to serve as meeting hosts, but not to participate in the work sessions for competitive reasons. It was for this reason that the early RCCC leaders decided to establish closed meetings with individual manufacturers regarding the deficiencies of their products.
This may have been an effective short-term strategy, but it was not the cooperative spirit that was first sought. By the Maintenance Committee’s 10th anniversary, a structure was put in place by which fleets and manufacturers could address problems collectively. That’s the Study Group and Task Force structure that TMC members employ to this day. The brainchild of Andrew Ambli, it formed the backbone for what would soon become the institutional memory of the organization – the Recommended Practices Manual.
The first RCCC-MC Recommended Maintenance Practices Manual was unveiled in December 1973, but not widely distributed until 1975. The manual now has more than 325 Recommended Practices which cover a wide variety of technical disciplines and areas.
When a TMC general chairman begins their term, that person usually has an initiative they promote while in office. TMC’s current General Chairman, Jerry Thrift, manager, new product development, Ryder System, has made it his mission to increase the awareness and utilization of TMC Recommended Practices.
“Based on a recent experience in increasing RP utilization at my company to improve our vehicle specifications, I learned many OEMs were not familiar with many of the RPs,” said Thrift.
“I was initially very disappointed with the OEMs, but after thinking this through, I realized I should also be disappointed in us, the users, too. For if we users had been including these RPs in our vehicle specifications, then the OEMs would be clearly familiar with TMC Recommended Practices. From this experience, I learned that we, as TMC members, need to increase the awareness and utilization of our RPs,” Thrift said.
Thrift has asked each Study Group chairman to review the RMPs they are responsible for and list those RMPs that could be used to design and engineer components/vehicles that require less maintenance. When their work is completed, a list of all the applicable RMPs will be made available to the fleets and associates (OEMs and component suppliers).
Thrift strongly encourages all fleets to add this list of applicable RMPs to the REPs they are hopefully already using to augment their new vehicle specifications.
He also strongly encourages manufacturers and suppliers to take TMC REPs and this list of applicable RMPs back to their respective companies and increase their peers’ awareness of these RPs and how they can help them turn out a better product.
“Take the initiative and do not wait for the fleets to ask for compliance to these RPs in their specifications,” said Thrift. “Find out if your component or vehicle meets, or exceeds, an RP. Then show the greater value of your product by bragging about this in your marketing/sales literature.”
As his term as TMC General Chairman closes, Thrift is challenging all TMC members to help increase the awareness and utilization of the association’s RPs. “I am convinced our respective companies will be better for it and the trucking industry will be, too.”