60 years of progress

By Terry White04 March 2008

What began as a handful of American companies that moved and, sometimes, erected bulky objects has grown steadily into an international trade association of more than 1,300 member companies from 47 nations. Despite the organization's substantial progress over the years, some important factors remain the same. Today's members still are involved in specialized transportation, machinery moving and erecting, industrial maintenance, millwrighting, crane and rigging operations, equipment manufacturing and rental.

Among the factors that have changed for the better are the industry's safety, capabilities, and efficiency. The regulatory and legislative environment has improved dramatically as the industry formed alliances both within and outside the government. And the industry has helped foster a global economy through the interrelationships of companies on six continents. SC&RA has played a significant role in all of these advancements.

The roots of the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II, when changes in business methods and decentralization brought about remarkable transformation in the transportation of heavy machinery, other heavy objects and articles requiring the use of special equipment. Also changing were laws and regulations specifically affecting the transport of such loads.

To accommodate the segment of the transportation industry affected by these developments, the Local Cartage National Conference (LCNC) of the American Trucking Associations began the process of creating a new section in 1947. In December 1948, the Heavy Haulers, Machinery Movers and Erectors Section of LCNC was born. This section, which elected its own leaders and no longer had to await approval of the LCNC Board before making decisions, ultimately evolved into SC&RA.

Among the members of this fledgling organization were six companies that remain members of SC&RA 60 years later:

• Dawes Rigging & Crane Rental, Milwaukee, WI

• Dobson Industrial, Inc., Bay City, MI

• Hastings Truck Company, Kalamazoo, MI

• Main Trucking & Rigging, Elmwood Park, NJ

• Southwestern Industrial Contractors, El Paso, TX

• Wilhelm Trucking & Rigging, Portland, OR

Soon, a Red Book Division became the Heavy and Specialized Carriers Section of LCNC. The original name came from the Interchange Plan, which allowed companies that used specialized equipment to transport oversize articles between all points in the nation without transfer of lading or changes of equipment or driver. The plan was kept in a red binder, hence the name Red Book.

In September 1953, the LCNC launched American Cartagemen magazine “to be its voice in a troubled era.” The magazine was born because “cartagemen and heavy haulers everywhere had been wanting— and needing—this baby for a long time,” according to Editor James Keith. He further noted that “in some cities and states people who write laws regulating the transportation industries have practically ignored the cartageman and heavy hauler.”

Five years later, glaring differences in interests and needs led the Heavy and Specialized Carriers Section of LCNC to petition ATA's Board of Directors to be considered as a separate conference within ATA. The reasons given for wanting to break away from LCNC were:

• Members were involved in activities and services, such as the national tariff bureau, that went well beyond the scope of the term “local cartage.”

• Although a number of nonaffiliated heavy-specialized carriers wished to affiliate with the section still commonly known as the Red Book division, they had no interest in most LCNC activities.

• The group felt the need to be identified other than “local cartage” in actions before the Interstate Commerce Commission and other federal regulatory agencies.

• Separating the activities of the heavy and specialized carriers from the rest of LCNC would simplify financing and other administrative functions to prevent misunderstandings.

ATA approved separate Conference status during its Annual Convention in Miami in November 1958. The new Heavy-Specialized Conference of the ATA held its first official meeting on December 6 at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C. with 75 people in attendance.

In 1959, Frank Floyd elected to leave his position as General Manager of LCNC to become Managing Director & General Counsel of the Heavy-Specialized Carriers Conference. He set the tone for the new group, saying, ”Let's do this – let each of us pledge that we will try to do our job right and that we will help every other member whenever possible.”

Despite the split, the Local Cartage National Conference and the Heavy-Specialized Carriers Conference remained close in several ways. Staffs of the two organizations both were housed within offices of ATA's Washington, D.C. headquarters. Several members served as officers of both groups.

The Heavy-Specialized Carriers Conference continued to grow, attaining membership of 200 member companies by 1966 and 300 member companies by 1968.

Much of this growth reflected a burgeoning industry. New registrations in the over 26,000 pound weight class jumped from 29,000 to over 100,000 in 1967.

The crane and rigging business enjoyed the same rapid growth. Increasingly, the Crane and Rigging Section of the Heavy-Specialized Carriers Conference played an important role in the organization. By the late '60s, that section had an active committee concerned with the crane safety code and equipment standards. A subcommittee covered tower cranes and jacks. The Forms Committee produced the first standard crane rental agreement and authored the first standard rigging and erection, work and labor supply contracts.

The conference kept growing, reaching 400 members by 1972 and 500 members by 1974. It also began reaching out to other countries, sponsoring the first International Business Forum to Europe in 1973.

In 1979, the organization shifted much of its attention to plans to deregulate the trucking industry. An immediate concern related to deregulation was safety. Members and staff worried that “fly-by-night” operations would face no effective deterrents against unsafe practices.

Instead of deregulating the industry, however, the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 ultimately was a massive rewriting of the rules governing trucking. Although the Heavy-Specialized Carriers Conference clearly saw the need for regulations, it strongly opposed those that unnecessarily complicated life for members. At the same time, the Conference demonstrated its commitment to safety, holding the first of a long series of Annual Safety Workshops.

The Conference also promoted a feeling of family among transportation and crane and rigging members. In 1981, these efforts were reflected most prominently in the adoption of a new name: the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association.

Tough times

A lingering recession hit the industry hard in the early 1980s, and SC&RA member retention and recruitment efforts also suffered. With business picking up again in 1983, the Annual Conference in Hawaii took on the aura of a survivors club for the 400 attendees.

That meeting also proved very significant because the establishment of the SC&R Foundation was approved. To date, this Foundation has awarded over $200,000 to students majoring in a subject related to a career in the industry served by SC&RA and nearly as much for research projects to serve the industry.

Economic conditions brightened even more in 1984, and SC&RA membership increased by over 10%. In 1985, the Association received another boost when the Steel-Carriers Conference of ATA merged with SC&RA. That year, SC&RA also relocated to ATA's new headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

At the 1986 Annual Conference, SC&RA introduced the Products Fairs with exhibits from 30 companies offering specialized products and services. Also in 1986, the annual Crane & Rigging Workshop doubled its attendees from the previous year by concentrating on practical topics for management.

In March 1987, SC&RA sponsored the first Oversize/Overweight Transportation Symposium. Renamed the Specialized Transportation Symposium several years later, this momentous meeting brought together for the first time professionals involved with the transportation of overdimensional loads, their suppliers, and state and federal highway officials.

The year 1988 began with SC&RA's Crane & Rigging Group forming a task force to formulate a policy on crane operator certification and the Transportation Group expressing concern about the lack of certification for escort service companies. That year, SC&RA's official magazine, Transportation Engineer became Lifting & Transportation International with increased emphasis both on the crane and rigging end of the business and an international perspective.

In 1991, SC&RA began the Escort Services Accreditation Program. The Association also initiated the Permit Uniformity Blitz, a program that strategically pinpointed 16 problem states over a three-year period.

To better serve a membership that had pushed above 700 companies, SC&RA relocated from ATA's headquarters in Alexandria, VA to more spacious offices in Fairfax, VA in 1994.

The next year, SC&RA spun off an independent not-for-profit corporation to administer a nationwide program of crane operator certification, the National Commission for die Certification of Crane Operators. The Association also crossed the 800 member mark in 1995.

A major development in 1996 was the innovative SRS Insurance and Risk Management Program, available exclusively to SC&RA members. The program featured a comprehensive loss control package that helped SC&RA clients avoid injuries and property damage, aggressive claims investigation and a litigation control system. Backing it all was all-line coverage underwritten by AIG, including workers' comp, general liability, business auto, property/inland marine and umbrella liability. This program continued to grow to $50 million before being purchased in 2006 by Nations Business Insurance Services.

More kudos

In 1997, the SC&RA program to achieve oversize/overweight permit uniformity received the coveted Award of Excellence from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

The next year, ASAE recognized SC&RA with a Gold Circle Award for Best Annual Report SC&RA further enhanced its communications efforts that year by introducing a comprehensive website at www.scranet.org. The Association also crossed the 1,000 member mark.

As the 1998-99 Annual Report noted: “Because of the very nature of their industry, SC&RA members have to be ready for anything. And they must always remain steady—never shaking, trembling, or tottering in the face of challenges from which other companies would flee.”

That resolve soon would be tested in ways nobody could have predicted. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, many SC&RA members stepped forward to assist in recovery and clean-up efforts. However, the industry, along with most other segments of the economy, struggled through tough times over the next two to three years.

Through patience and perseverance, the industry and the Association emerged stronger than ever. At the close of 2003, while business failures and consolidations played a part, SC&RA had just over 1,050 members.

While rededicating itself to membership recruitment, the Association worked diligendy on stellar programs that would result in member retention in 2004. During the following three-year period, SC&RA grew by 150 members to 1,201.

The year 2004 was a banner year for SC&RA. The Association contributed gready to the successful efforts of the Crane & Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (C-DAC), largely through official representation on the 23-member board. Dedicated to making the first revision to the OSHA crane and derrick standard for construction since 1971, C-DAC met nearly every month for over a year before disbanding on July 13, 2004 after reaching consensus on language for a revised standard.

Also in 2004, the Association released the first of its Safety First! Videos: Series 1, which included three safety talks. Two additional Safety First! series of videos have since been released.

The Transportation Group issued a new Cargo Securement & Protection video and handbook to address new federal regulations. Working under a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the group completed the Pilot Car Best Practices Guidelines in cooperation with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. This program later was named to the Associations Advance America Honor Roll, sponsored by the American Society of Associations Executives.

In 2004, work with United Kingdom-based KHL Group resulted in a partnership that made International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine the official magazine of the SC&RA. The magazine has a worldwide circulation in excess of 17,000 readers.

This partnership with KHL also has proven invaluable in SC&RA efforts to further extend its international reach. KHL continues to strengthen its position as the leading information provider for the world's construction sector.

Building on the success of its international magazine, the SC&RA/KHL partnership expanded in 2005 with the launching of American Cranes & Transport in June. Additionally, SC&RA established a partnership with J.J. Keller to enhance SC&RA safety program products. The Association also participated in the National Highway Watch Program to support national security concerns.

Progress continued on numerous fronts in 2006. SC&RA became one of 13 contractor associations and unions participating in the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, a cooperative agreement organized by the US Labor Department. The Association issued a White Paper in response to welding fume litigation, including claims linking Manganese to Parkinson's disease.

SC&RA participated in more than a dozen key meetings with transportation and permitting officials to advance the Association's permit uniformity agenda. Those efforts in Western states helped lead to very meaningful changes for member companies.

In 2006 membership numbers grew from over 1,200 to 1,300 by the end of 2007. Throughout 2007, SC&RA continued to expand its influence and power through alliances with other groups.

The Association agreed to assist the Edison Electric Institute with the Spare Transformer Equipment Program. This will help SC&RA members become involved with efforts to restore service to utility customers in the event of deliberate destruction of utility substations.

SC&RA also began the process of becoming an affiliate of the SmartWay Transport Partnership. This innovative public-private initiative supports freight shippers, carriers and logistics companies in setting and achieving ambitious goals that increase fuel efficiency and reduce emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

Still another cooperative effort involved SC&RA's support of campaigns by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Trucking Associations to reform the nation's tort system. These campaigns have the potential to deliver tremendous benefits to SC&RA members with liability exposures.

SC&RA enters 2008 with a full agenda. While reflecting on 60 years of progress, the Association will continue to move forward on its mission of “providing the unique information and other lawful activities worldwide members need to safely, legally and profitably transport, lift, and erect oversize and overweight items.”

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