Management & Operations

Good news for ABA, UMA

Posted on May 1, 2005 by Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher

Welcome to our annual Top 50 Rail Projects issue, in which we present our exclusive survey of the largest rail projects in North America. The data in this Top 50 survey provides key insights into the development of passenger rail in the U.S. and Canada, which as you know has been robust over the past several years. I would normally address a subject involving the passenger rail industry in this space. But a critical development in the motorcoach industry compels me to switch gears. As you’re probably aware, members of the American Bus Association (ABA) and the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) voted overwhelmingly to approve unification of the two associations. The results were announced in early May (for details, see the news story on pg. 11). Barriers finally overcome
This merger has been a long time coming. It’s been bandied about for years and has been seriously considered more than once. Part of the problem has been that each association has felt the need to protect its turf. This is understandable given that there is some overlap in the memberships and interests of the ABA and the UMA. The other barrier has been a general reluctance to embrace change, which brings with it both risk and opportunity. We can all sympathize. It’s a rare organization that wants to tinker with a successful formula. But sometimes opportunity outweighs risk. Although each organization has its own set of goals and objectives, they share enough common interests that it makes sense for them to get together and take advantage of the synergies that exist. For example, lobbying efforts can only benefit from combining the expertise and experience of both associations. Better representation in Washington, D.C., and around the country will be the result. A single voice, representing a large, unified membership, will help to carry forward the interests of the private bus industry. Sum greater than parts
In this case, a merger, properly executed, will create from two groups a single organization that is greater than the sum of its parts. It will also eliminate some duplication of effort and allow for streamlining of operations. The reason I used the phrase “properly executed” is because the unifying vote is only the beginning of the process. As the ABA and UMA mentioned in their joint statement about the successful vote, several key steps still need to be undertaken, including decisions about a new CEO, a new name and the possible combination of the annual trade events. We all know that the devil is in the details. The next several months will be critical to the success of the unification, as principals from the two associations try to balance the interests of the collective membership. My sense is the consummate professionals involved in this undertaking will forge an organization that equitably represents each segment of the industry. Yes, there’s still much work to be done, but the overwhelming membership approval of the unification is a great first step. Congratulations, especially, to the ABA-UMA Unification Task Force, which worked arduously for more than a year to bring about the successful vote. As I mentioned earlier, change brings both risk and opportunity. I see a huge amount of opportunity in this consolidation for all members of the industry, from the smallest mom-and-pop tour and charter operators to the largest line-haul carriers. Everyone, even those who voted against the unification, needs to get behind this mandate and help to ensure its long-term success.

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