The Truckload Carriers Association annual convention held in Vegas was a holdover from 2020. Like almost everything else in this world, the timing for the event was adjusted due to Covid. As I began to think about the convention, my concern revolved around the Delta variant that was running rampant south of the border. So, I started planning the trip with a little trepidation. However, I had been asked to share the stage with Brian Fielkow, author of an excellent program called “Making Safety Happen”. This program, along with one of my own called “The Retention Project Plan” are both hosted by the TCA, so it was important to attend.
Although hesitant, I was confident enough to fly to Vegas as I have had both of my vaccinations for Covid. My wife Connie decided not to come for a couple of reasons. The first is that many of our old friends simply no longer attend; they have either sold their businesses or the newer generation has taken over or, health reasons have put them on the sidelines. The second reason for Connie not coming with me is a lingering issue with a compromised immune system, and as this event was to be held in a large Vegas style atmosphere, her health would be an ongoing concern. So, Connie stayed home and off I went in late September to the TCA convention. I also planned to stop and see a friend and his family on my way home in PA, to have a look at his terminal.
The convention went well with many great educational sessions and outstanding information/inspirational speakers. Issues of the day were discussed and debated such as escalating insurance rates, nuclear verdicts, the pending US infrastructure bill, labour issues and education of the labour force. The usual committee meetings were held including retention and recruitment, membership, and highway policy to name a few.
I rounded out the convention by attending one of my favourite events; the closing gala celebration where TCA crowns the safest fleets for the year, the Owner Operator of the year and the Company Driver of the year. Each of these winners received a $25K award. They give a short speech which is always genuine and that brings water to your eyes. I guarantee it! At the same event, all past TCA Chairman were given a beautiful ring and awarded the title of Chairman Emeritus (meaning a former holder of the office). Even those retired are allowed the honour of retaining their title. I will wear my ring with pride for the rest of my days.
This evening was also special because I have several first cousins who live in Vegas and a very special one agreed to accompany me to this event; Ms. Bonnie Suebert was my guest, and we had a good time. She helped make the event special as she always does.
I departed very early on Wednesday for Pittsburgh PA, where I was picked up by my good friend Evan Pohaski who is CEO of JLE Industries. I am very proud of this company and its achievements. The company purchased my retention program from TCA and, over the past couple of years, they have reduced their turnover by over 70 percent. Through this journey, I have become a close friend of Evan and have accepted the role of Performance Coach. This entails me talking to the senior management group on a weekly basis with the sole purpose of helping them succeed personally, and for the company to perform to its maximum potential.
Here is where it starts to get strange. After my visit to Pittsburgh, where I had a great time drinking some wonderful wine, smoking outstanding cigars and enjoying an amazing meal or two, off I go to the airport. I decided to get tested just before my flight and went to the adjoining hotel where a medical room was set up for Covid testing. $275.00 US later, I was stunned to find out that I tested positive for Covid, resulting in experiencing a mild panic attack. What next? Well, I decided to go to the Air Canada check-in desk where I was told by someone who looked like they were looking at a ghost (that was me) that I needed to phone Air Canada. Which, by the way, is not a Covid help line but rather a general 1-800 “good luck getting through line”. By the way, I was now starting to get text messages that revealed that 5 of the 10 people I had sat down with at the convention had all come down with Covid.
Again, what next? Well, maybe the test was wrong, so I went back to the hotel test room where they did another test for free. Guess what? Yep, still positive. So, I go back to the Air Canada check-in desk and wait to talk to a different person. This person was much more direct and stated very clearly, that I would not be boarding my flight to Toronto and again suggested I call Air Canada. She then gave me the same number to the voicemail jail.
I then called Connie and told her to stay strong as I revealed my ordeal. That did not go well but it was no time to panic. Next step was to call my daughter and son. My daughter is in the travel business, and she is my “go to” for all things travel related. Connie had suggested I rent a car and drive it home, but I saw two problems with this. First, a rental company is unlikely to rent a vehicle heading to Canada when it knows it won’t be able to get it back until the border is open to south bound vehicle traffic by Canadians. Second, I would be heading home only to infect Connie. Not good, and it won’t happen. I then decided to rent a one-way vehicle to Florida where we have a small home. I decided to isolate there until I get a negative result. A good plan but here is the caveat. As of the writing of this article, I have been here for 14 days and am still testing positive for Covid. My total trip time is now 3 weeks as of tomorrow. I have lost my senses of taste and of smell but now, have them back by about 50%. I have very mild cold symptoms. What is next? I’m not sure but I will test again tomorrow on Day 15, and I am hoping for the best. I know that I am just one of many going through this, but I am grateful that I have had both of my vaccine shots, or this could have been a lot worse for me.
Stay safe my friends and I hope to see you soon.
Ray J. Haight
Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.