June 2, 2022
The Perks of Joining an Established Trucking Association
Striking out on your own to become an owner-operator is a serious undertaking, even for those with years of industry experience. That’s why many new owner-operators find joining a trucking association to be extremely useful. Associations are groups that advocate for the safety and profitability of truckers. They can be some of the most beneficial resources available to newly-independent drivers, providing a network of valuable connections, and even special deals on fuel and other necessities in order to help ease the financial burden placed on owner-operators.
Here’s what you should know about the different types of trucking associations, a brief overview of the major players in the industry, and how joining an association can give you a leg up on your competition.
Local vs. National Associations
Associations can consist of massive nationwide networks, or they can be made up of drivers in just one single state or even a local region.
Large, national associations will generally provide several membership categories specific to your type of business. For example, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the largest trucking organization in the country constituted from a federation of 50 affiliated state associations, provides direct support for private carriers, shippers and for-hire motor carriers through specific membership types.
While national associations can often provide benefits specific to your type of business, local associations can offer unique benefits specific to your area of business. These benefits will vary based on where you have established your home base and what your local association is. The state of Utah, for example, has the Utah Trucking Association that provides support and offers resources specific to the needs of drivers just in Utah state. Local associations tend to be more focused on combating problems and obstacles that drivers are facing in their particular region and they work to provide resources to help drivers be successful in the area.
5 Trucking Associations Owner-Operators Should Be Familiar With
Here are a few of the major trucking associations drivers may want to familiarize themselves with in addition to the ATA mentioned above:
- American Association of Owner Operators (AAOO): Motor Carrier HQ is partnered with the AAOO, which offers its members several practical resources to ease the cost of doing business as an independent.
- Trucking Industry Defense Association (TIDA): Many owner-operators have tons of experience on the open road but little experience defending themselves in the courtroom. As an independent business owner, personal injury, property damage, workers’ compensation, and cargo claims can sideline your business entirely without the proper experience and representation. TIDA provides the resources and expertise to effectively advocate for drivers in need of legal defense.
- National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC): As the name so aptly suggests, NASTC consults, protects and advocates for the little guys in the industry. Small companies are vital to the continued growth and success of the trucking economy and they are generally the most vulnerable to volatile conditions (like suddenly-excessive fuel costs). NASTC works to mitigate these issues and help small companies become major industry players.
- National Association of Independent Truckers (NAIT): Another organization dedicated to acquiring valuable resources for small companies, NAIT has a strong track record of supporting independent contractors through its extensive network of benefits and resources.
- Women In Trucking Association (WIT): WIT is a more recent addition to the landscape of trucking associations. Established in 2007, WIT is committed to increasing gender diversity in the trucking and transportation industries by expanding the employment opportunities for women at all levels of the trucking industry.
What Makes a Trucking Association So Valuable to New Owner-Operators
Associations are powerful allies for new owner-operators who are navigating the difficult terrain of business ownership for the very first time. They can offer easy steps to acquiring an operating authority, save drivers thousands in fuel costs, and even help owners provide their drivers with health benefits at a significant discount. Associations are constantly expanding and negotiating discounts and benefits on behalf of the owner-operators they support.
Longtime listeners of our team’s own Haulin Assets podcast might recall this specific episode from December 2020 dedicated to discussing the perks of joining an association. The episode hosts David and Kyle from AAOO, an organization that provided our own upstart business with access to the following resources early on in our company’s journey:
- Discounted health benefits
- CDL protection
- An online marketplace to buy and sell trucks and trailers
- A free, no ads GPS app that includes truck routing
- Access to The Mighty Trucker online community
- Brokerless freight network
- Free telehealth
- Truck insurance
- Association-specific load board access
- Truck warranty
- Roadside assistance
- Equipment financing
- Business, tax, and accounting help
- Truck management software
These benefits would be virtually impossible for independent owner-operators to obtain on their own, which is likely why total membership in AAOO has since grown to more than 30,000 members.
How Associations Can Help When Challenges Arise
We’ve previously detailed some of the challenges first-year owner-operators face when making their initial voyage into independent trucking. Tackling obstacles like vehicle ownership costs, insurance, regular maintenance, and unexpected repairs can prove much easier with an association’s years of expertise and valuable connections at your disposal.
Similarly, legal and compliance issues such as lawsuits, audits, compliance forms, certifications, and other unforeseen legal difficulties often faced by owner-operators can likewise be eased by joining with organizations that are well-versed in navigating such challenges. When it comes down to it, networking and communication aren’t just critical for shippers and carriers — successful networking with experienced owner-operators can also help new companies steer clear of common pitfalls and other obstacles with disastrous consequences.
At times it can seem like going independent and claiming full autonomy in trucking means you have to travel the road ahead entirely alone, but that doesn’t have to be the case. When problems arise, a good trucking association can be there to help. The ability to borrow from an association’s established connections within the industry — even for drivers with limited experience — is an invaluable asset to any owner-operator and when you find yourself in a pinch, it can make a world of difference.