Takeaways from the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association Annual Management Conference

Sometimes, all of the technology in the world is not a replacement for meeting people in-person. I had the good fortune of attending the Pennsylvania Motor Trucking Association Annual Conference in Philadelphia this past Thursday - Saturday. It was a jam-packed event, full of great speakers, excellent networking, and tons of fun!

For those who were not able to attend, my quick takeaways of each speaker are below.  


  • Leo Bagley from PennDot spoke about the enormous budgeting challenge associated with improving our roads and transportation infrastructure and the urgent need to overcome the talent gap in order for the industry to continue to thrive. 
  • Rep. Martina White, brought a real local flavor to the conference (Ms. White represents Northeast Philadelphia in the state legislature, has family ties to the trucking industry, and lives locally).  She encouraged those in the industry to more actively engage their local representatives to improve awareness of critical issues.  She gave the example of increasing the depth of the Philadelphia port to 45 feet, which expands the types of freight that can come to our docks.  
  • Megan Juday gave an extremely informative talk about the importance of succession planning in family businesses (which is the case for many small and medium trucking companies). Speaking from personal experience, she gave examples and practical advice on how to overcome the many operational and emotional challenges. Personally, my favorite piece of advice was to schedule an annual, in-person meeting to talk about family business (and have a little fun!) 
  • Author Brian Fielkow wrapped up the day's speakers by talking about the inextricable link between people & process and driving a positive culture, and the direct link to safety.  I'm sure I was not the only one who took notes on his down-to-earth, practical advice about how to build a safety culture in any company. I'm looking forward to reading his book, Leading People Safely: How to Win on the Business Battlefield


  • Elisabeth Barna, the COO & EVP of Industry Affairs of the American Trucking Association, and Kevin Burch the ATA Chairman talked about the positive PR momentum from the President's visit earlier this year, their new mascot, and the many resources available to promote the trucking industry available from the ATA.  Kevin gave a great overview of current industry trends, including safety and the ELD mandate, and how the driver shortage is evolving.  Many people don't know that over 7 million Americans and 56% of our GDP are associated with the trucking industry. It's our job to make sure they don't forget it! 
  • Doug Marcelo, Trucking Defense Attorney gave an extremely engaging, informative, and funny (!) talk about the very serious topic of trucking litigation. I was amazed at the level of technology associated with reviewing accidents.  Hopefully, Doug's vivid real-life examples of how immediacy and technology (social media, video footage, drones, simulations, etc) served as a wake-up call to those in attendance on how to better protect drivers and trucking companies.  
  • Bill West, an industry veteran with over 30 years behind the wheel offered some salient tips on how drivers (and the companies that support them) can help promote health and wellness, through better eating, exercising, and rest.  He promoted the Healthy Fleet Challenge
  • Gary Johnson from Lytx followed Bill with an informative presentation about the evolution of technology in the trucking space, improvements in the safety ecosystem, and the complex interplay between humans, technology, and the environment. To me, his use of videos really brought to life the importance of training fleet drivers in how to use technology to improve operations (and not add risk).  
  • Finally, Susan Reszczynski from EROAD talked about the upcoming ELD legislation, including the differences between AOBRD and ELD, and some very practical tips on how to choose a reputable ELD supplier.  

Additionally, the PMTA organized several social and networking events, including trivia, a food tour of Philadelphia, and a Philadelphia "Founding Footsteps" trolley tour, wrapped up by a Chairman's banquet on Saturday night. I'm only disappointed that I didn't win the silent auction item I bid on! 

Kudos to PMTA for doing a great job assembling a wonderful group, both speakers and fellow attendees.  I'm looking forward to deepening the relationships I made... and I can't wait until next year.  

Rajat Kapur (Guilford Group Business Development)

Guilford Group is a custom software development firm with over 20 years experience in the transportation industry with customers such as CSX.  Our goal is to help transportation companies improve their productivity, reduce their regulatory risk (through ELD compliance), and improve their end customer's experience through better systems and technology.

Creating Value by Building Partnerships

Guest post by Rahul Kapur, Icon Investment Partners

Companies build partnerships essentially to find growth opportunities or for significant costsavings. For growth, the partnerships would add know-how, technology, products, geographies and / or customers. There are numerous types of partnerships and companies need to learn how to successfully leverage these. These make companies more agile. Partnerships can be of different types: from leveraging great suppliers, to a variety of licensing agreements to university programs, and consulting arrangements, etc. Companies need to be flexible, in their approach. The key is to find the capabilities and know-how that is needed.


Of course protecting yourself with NDAs and other arrangements is essential to ensure that IP is protected.

Technology partnerships come in many forms. Arrangements span project and resource management, co-development, licensing, joint development, and acquisitions.
Specifically technology partnerships can help
  • Expand existing capabilities
  • Develop current core competences to strengthen the company
  • Add new to the company capabilities necessary for growth into new business areas.
  • Bring new ideas and new thinking into the company.
  • Provide speed to market in highly competitive situations.
  • Allow for resource flexing of resources or cost savings

Customer Self-Service Improves Your Business Model

Guest post by Jim Muehlhausen, author of Business Models for Dummies

Those of us over forty remember the days when “customer service” meant someone attending to your every need. Gas station attendants pumped your gas, travel agents handled every aspect of your business trips, and you spent Saturday morning working with the friendly bank teller who handled your banking needs.

Today, a high level of customer service does not mean waiting hand and foot on the customer. The desires of the customer have changed. Speed and ease are the new benchmarks for service, not hand-holding. Most of us are glad to pump our own gas, fetch our own soda, or book our own travel if it accomplishes the task quickly and easily. It’s about “check next” not being waited upon. So how to savvy companies leverage this dynamic for competitive advantage?

Step 1 is to let go of the notion that personal service equals customer service. Speed and ease equal customer service these days and it doesn’t matter if it’s a computer, data, or an ATM that delivers it.

Step 2 is to make a list of all the data the customer might want.

Step 3 is to find a way to give it to them. For most companies, this means opening up internal data systems to customers. With the rapid adoption of mobile devices, the best way to jump ahead of the completion is to allow mobile access to internal data to customers. Before we go through some examples- one caveat. There are hundreds of potential options for data sharing, so let me shorten the list. Only consider options that lower costs AND increase service levels. This will eliminate all the “it would be nice” options.

Examples of opening up internal systems ..… that lowered costs AND increased service

If there is a theme to these opportunities, it falls under the heading “Remove Tolls”.  A toll booth operator prohibits you from driving down the road until you pay a toll. Many legacy customer service operations do the same thing. I simply want to know where my package is, but I have to call into someone who can answer the question and pay a “toll” with my time to find out. By tracking the nature of customer service inquiries, you can determine what “tolls” you have erected for your customers. Eliminate them via technology and self-service to gain an edge on the competition.

You can learn more about business model innovation on our blog www.businessmodelinstititue.com