In These ‘Unprecedented Times,’ Membership Matters

We hope to soon retire the phrase “in these unprecedented times.” We have heard it too much. (On a related note, we grew weary months ago of “in an abundance of caution.” It is on a growing list of phrases that we use sparingly because we have seen them way too frequently during these, um, super unusual times.)

The “unprecedented” phrase has been overused because it is fitting. None of us has lived through anything quite like this.

Now, as we work through the new phase of it, we have the opportunity to work through it together.

The Association has throughout the pandemic thrown its energy into being a resource. In the early stages, that meant interpreting your states’ stay-at-home orders, legislation, and emerging workplace regulations. Now, we are shifting toward serving as a clearinghouse of information about how each of you is restoring operations.

The process began this week when a member sought guidance on getting a sales team back on the road. We sent a dozen quick emails to other members asking how they were handling the question. Here’s what we heard. The first two responses were the most frequent.

  • We are ready, but too few companies are taking visitors.
  • We are staying out of the air but connecting to customers within driving distance.
  • We are staying put to see what happens with the virus as states reopen.
  • We just began overnight travel.
  • We are responding to requests for in-person visits.
  • We start travel in July.

At least one company reports wins and losses in grounding its sales force. Customer engagements have increased through video and phone meetings, but the quality of those engagements has been compromised. No one wants to see the demise of the face-to-face customer call.

The Association plans to build a resource to share this information. If you want to find out how others are handling an emerging issue or contribute to the conversation, send an email to Kristi Ruggles at

Start by letting us know how willing you are to travel and how your sales team is conducting business. Kristi will edit the responses to build a body of information without identifying the companies.

As the resource builds, we will share web site links here to connect you to the information.

Members tell us that among the greatest values of the Association is the opportunity to learn from one another. This resource will offer that. But, as a long-time member and outstanding ambassador of the Association is fond of saying, “you get out of the Association what you put into it.” The more of you who take a moment to participate, the richer the information becomes.

The same is true of the membership directory, a print-and- digital resource that manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors use to find one another. Companies provide their own contact information, executive names, and product listing.

The more folks who respond to our request for that information, the more valuable it becomes. While the digital directory is updated continuously, the print directory is a biannual publication. We print it soon, so if you have not yet responded to a request from Rachel Boehm, please dig up her email ( and submit your company’s updates.

The Association soon will embark upon a comprehensive assessment of what services it offers members. It is part of a staff expansion to continue to bring value and business opportunities to the shortline industry. This is the time to let us know what you need. Reach out to any staff member, or contact Executive Vice President Vernon Schmidt at