One glance around the beautiful Renaissance Hotel and attendees of the annual SC&RA Specialized Transportation Symposium were greeted by familiar faces smiling ear to ear. Like countless other cities lifting the Covid-19 mask mandate, Glendale served as one of the very first in-person SC&RA event without strict masking requirements.

“We were thrilled to welcome 425 attendees to our annual Specialized Transportation Symposium in Glendale, an increase of 30 percent from 2021 and yet another sign the long Covid-19 marathon is finally coming to an end,” said Chris Smith, vice president, transportation, SC&RA. “Additionally, 20 state DOTs were represented in person, providing not only the opportunity for mutual dialogue, but the opportunity to showcase what makes specialized transportation ‘special’ to a new generation of public officials.”

The event kicked off on Tuesday, February 22 with seminars for SASHTO, MAASTO, NASTO, WASHTO and the SC&RA Pilot Car committee. Attendees participated in engaging discussions surrounding the latest oversize/overweight transport topics.

The First Timers’ Briefing brought together a sea of first-time attendees to get acquainted with SC&RA leadership and learn how to leverage the benefits of membership. The tradition at this meeting is to go around the room for attendees to introduce themselves. First timers represented locales from across the United States, along with several international members from Canada and Mexico.

One of my favorite parts of any SC&RA event is seeing just how eager first-time attendees are to get to know other members and jump right into getting involved with the Association. Jason Bell, SC&RA membership director, is always steadfast in making a point of encouraging the audience to not be afraid to introduce themselves to each other. A great way to recognize faces and name tags throughout the week, there are countless conversations held after the meeting is adjourned.

“The 2022 Specialized Transportation Symposium was a big success for the simple fact that for the first time in two years, we were able to have the conference on schedule and we were able to see people in person without a mask requirement,” said Keith Settle, chief executive officer, Oxbo Mega Transport Solutions. “I noticed more people than ever using the time between seminars to catch up and bond their personal relationships on the level that can only happen with face-to-face meetings.”

Arizona welcome

Wednesday highlights included the “Welcome to Arizona” presentation by Arizona DOT Division Director for TSMO, Brent Cain. Discussing everything from how Arizona is working with neighboring states to use technology to facilitate freight mobility, to permit harmonization, Cain set the stage for the rest of the week talking about all things transport. Isabelle Perron of Transport Bellemare International and Ernesto Gaytan, Jr. of STI led the session “Preparing To Do Business Across North America.” Both presenters provided interesting perspectives and advice for doing business all across the continent, and how to navigate different economic challenges that come with crossing the border.

‘Plant bamboo’

Incoming 2022 SC&RA President Ed Bernard of Precision Specialized treated attendees to an engaging presentation centered around navigating the post Covid-19 economy and offered tips for how to remain resilient. Flashing a photo of a roller coaster on the screen accurately likened the ups and downs of navigating the pandemic storm.

But the most memorable analogy was Bernard’s reference of “planting bamboo.”

“A bamboo tree takes five years to grow,” said Bernard. “It must be watered every single day. Then it doesn’t break through the ground for five years. But when it does, the bamboo can grow 90 feet in just five weeks.”

Equating the industry’s resilience to a bamboo, he encouraged the audience to “plant” their own bamboo. Despite shipping delays, fuel and equipment prices, and yet armed with a renewed sense of support and strategy, “what you do today will greatly impact tomorrow,” mused Bernard. Optimistic that the pipeline ahead will improve, he encouraged companies to utilize their skillsets, take care of their people and equipment and be ready to act.

The “2022 Forecast for Breakbulk and Project Cargo: A Shippers’ Perspective,” presentation was led by Steven Spoljaric of Bechtel. From the perspective of U.S. exporters, Spoljaric detailed challenges for carriers serving these markets facing new regulatory hurdles, particularly regarding environmental regulations.

On Thursday morning, STS attendees were treated to a breakfast presentation of the 2021 Hauling Jobs of the Year champs. Precision Specialized, Omega Morgan and Emmert International were among the trophy-winning companies.

Brendan McDonough presented a riveting keynote presentation titled “Know Your Why: Finding Purpose in a Chaotic World.” Encouraging attendees to find light in the darkest moments, McDonough detailed his survival of a tragic Arizona fire, and overcoming all the challenges that came along with it.

Breakout sessions included a highly anticipated live demonstration of how to plan and host a pre-trip meeting, strategies to mitigate liability for damaged cargo, permit harmonization and freight planning as well as a safety track offering insight into why insurance companies behave the way they do.

The Exhibit Center is always a highlight of any SC&RA event, but the 2022 STS set the stage for communication, collaboration and education. As attendees strolled through the booths, there was a lot of hand shakes, business card swapping and meaningful conversations among friends, colleagues and even competitors. With nearly 60 exhibiting companies, Thursday’s event was the mecca for all things networking.

“This year’s Transportation Symposium was great, and with show attendance trending up again, things are moving in the right direction,” said Cyndi Gurrola of WCS Permits & Pilot Cars. “This meeting always brings such a sense of belonging to its members, allowing for intimate interaction, as well as participation on a larger scale. We appreciate the SC&RA, and their non-bias approach to helping its members become and remain leaders in our industry.”

Grass roots advocacy

Thursday afternoon’s breakout sessions focused on transport operations and safety. Craig McGraw, vice president of sales and marketing at Trans American Trucking & Warehouse, spoke at the session: Grass Roots Advocacy. Along with McGraw, SC&RA’s Chris Smith, the Arizona Trucking Association Tony Bradley and NPCA’s Isaac Kight discussed how to empower your company to be an advocate for the industry in your own state. McGraw said he enjoyed his time at the STS networking and listening to all the content rich presentations.The Symposium concluded with interesting sessions from three perspectives: “Getting Rest From Things That Keep Carriers Up at Night,” “Challenges in Enforcing Permit Violations –A Dual Perspective” and “Emerging Size/Weight Technologies.”

What’s next on the calendar? SC&RA members will convene in Washington D.C. April 25-29 for the SC&RA Annual Conference. 

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