United we stand

For Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time, the key to success is simple: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” True to his word, Jordan’s trophy case now holds six NBA championship titles, two Olympic Gold Medals and a total of 14 MVP awards that offer proof for his proclamation – at least when it comes to basketball. But is his view on the importance of teamwork equally appropriate when talking about the global trailer manufacturing industry? Or is cooperation between rival businesses with a strong focus on intellectual property unrealistic?

According to a 2010 study by Mattias Nordqvist and Robert Picard of Swedens’s Jönköping International Business School, as well as Ossi Pesamaa of the Queensland Institute of Technology*, facilitating teamwork between competing businesses in the form of a dedicated industry association is not only possible, but critical to ensuring successful representation in the political realm.

Acting as neutral parties, they found, associations aim to develop and preserve the industries they serve, facilitate cooperation between competitors where possible, and represent the common interests of an otherwise fragmented market when consulting with authorities on a national or global level – regardless of any internal disputes. While individual game plans remain secret in such a model, they say there is much to be gained for industries who are open to dispersing knowledge and developing a collective playbook.

The size of associations can vary depending on the “breadth and depth of their activities”, Nordqvist, Picard and Pesamaa explain, with select national organisations often setting the agendas for other national, as well as regional and international associations. Truly global representation, they say, is rare.

In the commercial road transport scene, the demographics of industry associations are often based on geography or equipment type, too – only the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) claims to represent the entirety of the global automotive industry, uniting some 39 national trade associations under the one umbrella. Part of the OICA is the International Association of the Body and Trailer Building Industry (CLCCR), which has a more streamlined focus on the non-motorised part of the equation.

In line with Nordqvist, Picard and Pesamaas’ findings, however, both groups’ agendas are largely affected by influential national partner associations, such as Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in the UK or the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). In fact, the CLCCR membership solely consists of European and UK-based trade associations that each have a strong local focus.

In physically bringing 15 key associations together, however, the CLCCR still hopes to serve as a critical link between different international and European organisations, and offer a unified voice on industry issues when engaging with other bodies from around the globe. A key point of difference speaking for the CLCCR’s approach is that many national industry associations cover both trucks and trailers, as well as passenger vehicles in some cases, with only a select number of countries being able to sustain specific trailer associations.

North America can boast two such interest groups, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) for manufacturers and the National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) for dealers, while New Zealand and Turkey also boast standalone trailer representation. They all aim to standardise regulations and reduce trade barriers, and in some cases advance entire industries.

In the case of Turkey, for example, the local Trailer Industrialists’ Association (TREDER) is aiming to establish the nation as a global hub for trailer manufacturing. According to TREDER President, Kaan Saltık, the association thus serves as a “light for the future” for both its membership and the Turkish economy.

“We are working to make Turkey the centre of trailer production,” he says. “We know our work is not easy, [but] Turkey has made good roads to ADR legislation and is also preparing for ATP regulation. The greatest success of TREDER is the cooperation that it has [developed] with the public. We are trying to explain the problems of the country’s economy and industry as much as possible to the authorities.”

In line with that, bringing a ‘united’ industry view to the local government’s attention is one of the main roles for many a national association – much like a good offensive play in the NBA. In the case of the recent update the US Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Phase 2 Regulations, for example, the TTMA sprung into action to ensure trailer builders had a say in the revision.

Backed by the collective voice of its Board of Directors – which includes executives from North America’s leading trailer builders (see fast fact) – the TTMA’s submission is aimed at removing trailers from the standards entirely, claiming that the additional weight of aerodynamic devices would counteract their fuel savings. The strength of the voice eventually gave pause to the Trump administration, which is now taking another close look at the regulations to see whether amendments are needed – especially now that the US has pulled out of the UN’s Paris Climate Agreement.

As Nordqvist, Picard and Pesamaa established, it is here, on a national level, where a lot of association work gets done. According to Gwendolyn Brown, President of the US trailer dealer association NTDA, much of this is due to the fact that trailer specifications vary from country to country, “so there is not always synergy as far as the vehicles or equipment is concerned”. However, she admits that the NTDA “would certainly be open to partnering with other associations globally as we do in the US, [because] many manufacturers and dealers obtain component parts and equipment from outside the US.”

The most prominent forum for associations to get active are self-organised industry events, she adds, both locally and internationally. The biggest of them is the biannual IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany, which is hosted by the country’s largest automotive association, VDA, as an opportunity to elevate local issues to a global level. While local associations often deal with topics specific to their nation of origin, it is proof that underlying themes  often transcend the local realm – for example climate change, efficiency, electric mobility and digitisation.

The VDA is using these so-called megatrends to facilitate more broad-based collaboration across the industry, for example by holding specialist conferences as part of the IAA Show and by publishing standards and recommendations to be presented to both national and international governments. To do so, it has established a special working group focusing on trailer manufacturing that counts some of the country’s largest trailer builders among its members –  including Schmitz Cargobull, Krone, Kögel, Schwarzmüller, Goldhofer, Scheuerle and Langendorf. The group has various sub-committees focusing on specific issues such as refrigerants, hazardous substances and logistics processes. It his here where compromises – and sacrifices – are made that allow for an industry to stand tall on important big picture issues.

Much like Michael Jordan’s history-making Chicago Bulls, it’s the groundwork accomplished on a micro level that is helping successful association thrive when lobbying governments and global organisations. As much as the Bulls teams of the 1990s were more offensively oriented during the regular season, for example, they locked down on the defensive end of the floor when the playoffs began, which ultimately won them six championships.

“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles,” Jordan is often quoted as saying. “Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves.”

*Mattias Nordqvist, Robert Picard and Ossi Pesämaa: Industry Associations as Change Agents. 2010.

Fast Fact
The US Truck Trailer Manufacturers’ Association’s (TTMA) Board of Directors includes Wabash National President and CEO, Dick Giromini; Great Dane Senior Vice President of Engineering, Rick Mullininx; Hyundai Translead CSO, Glenn Harney; and Utility Trailer’s Chairman and CEO, Paul Bennett.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Commercial Vehicle Industry Association Australia (CVIAA), Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA)
Australia’s heavy-duty industry has three major associations with a distinct focus on the trailer community. The CVIAA consists of state-based transport associations, and the ATA represents state and specialty trucking associations as a whole. ARTSA, meanwhile, considers industry suppliers as part of its membership base and provides the country’s only trailer registration data.

Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA) The CTA has a holistic view on the industy with membership spread across operators and suppliers, while the CTEA has a narrower focus on equipment suppliers alone, including both truck, trailer and component manufacturers.

China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) China doesn’t have a designated trailer association, neither for dealers nor for manufacturers. The nation’s equipment builders and sellers are represented as a committee of the CAAM, however, under ‘Body & Accessory’.

Fédération Française de Carrosserie Industries et  Services (FFC) The French Federation of Bodywork Industries and Services brings together all branches of the commercial trailer industry, including trailer builders, repairers and equipment manufacturers.

Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) The heart of the European trailer building industry, Germany does not have a dedicated association set aside for its heavy-duty manufacturers. Instead, trailer builders fall under the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), represented by Krone Managing Director, Gero Schulze Isfort, who sits on the Management Board.

Japan Auto-Body Industries Association (JABIA) Established in 1948, JABIA is an industrial association composed of trailer builders, as well as truck body builders and bus bodies.

New Zealand
Truck-Trailer Manufacturers Federation (TTMF) The fundamental purpose of the TTMF is to “further the interests of its members by being actively engaged as a voice for the industry” when consulting with regulatory bodies. It promotes knowledge sharing through its member group of manufacturers, component suppliers and engineers.

Asociación Española De Fabricantes De Remolques, Semirremolques, Cisternas Y Vehículos Análogos (ASFARES) The Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Trailers, Semi-Trailers, Tanks and Analog Vehicles was created in 1982 to represent the common interests of the sector’s trailer, equipment and component manufacturers.

Lastfordonsgruppen (LFC) LFC consists of 50 Swedish companies which develop and manufacture of bodywork specially adapted to Swedish conditions.

Trailer Industrialists’ Association (TREDER) TREDER aims to improve the Turkish trailer industry and production by strengthening cooperation between its members and promoting standardisation, regulation and developing technical legislation.

British International Freight Association (BIFA), Freight Transport Association (FTA), Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) The British commercial road transport industry has plentiful representation through the three main associations above. However, none of them solely focus on the semi-trailer community.

National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA), Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) Established in 1990, the NTDA represents nearly 900 companies that sell, manufacture, lease, and repair semi-trailers and trailer parts and accessories throughout North America. The TTMA, meanwhile, is 75 years old. Its current membership reportedly produces more than 90 per cent of the semi-trailers built in the United States, and also includes material and component suppliers.

Disclaimer: While Global Trailer’s international association glossary has been compiled with the utmost commitment to accuracy and professionalism, it is supplied without liability. The focus was on associations that focus predominantly on the trailer and body building industry on a national level. Submissions for the next edition of the list can be made via email to the editor.

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