By John Adami
It has been ten months since I’ve added to the NWHD Journal. Ten very unusual, and uniquely challenging months. Accordingly, I’m going to provide a brief update on the agency, but I also would like to reflect on the times.
In 2020 we experienced losses … but there were also gains. I believe our futures, personally and professionally, will be heavily influenced by how we choose to view the setbacks and opportunities revealed by the events of 2020.
As the year began, truck production had already declined as part of a forecasted industry cycle. Development activity however was accelerating, with significant investments in clean energy powertrains, as well as ADAS. In January, NWHD made a strategic decision to invest in the future, adding Dave Shrader to the team. NWHD also attended several industry events in the first quarter, including HDAD, TMC, NTEA and CONEXPO.
It was there, in Las Vegas, that second week of March, when everything changed. It was as if somebody hit the emergency brakes and jerked the wheel at the same time, sending the whole world into a crazy, out-of-control spin while still barreling down the freeway at 70 MPH, with everyone wondering if there was a guard rail on either side …
Of course our agency took a hit, and of course it was unnerving. For several months the landscape was hard to navigate, as economic uncertainty impacted business decisions, while in the background concerns about personal health and the safety of family members created distraction and unease. As the year progressed, new issues arose … racial tension, political divisiveness, civil unrest … each one creating a unique set of challenges and questions. How do I engage? With whom? To what end?
Then along came our local, west coast twist: wildfires. Trapped inside homes for days by smoke so dense it looked like a London fog. It’s one thing for health officials to advise people to stay home. It’s completely different when the outdoors looks and smells like a disaster movie. Talk about depressing.
Meanwhile … life happens, right? Kids graduate, change jobs, move away (or maybe they move back). Parents move into memory care or pass away after a long illness. A sibling dies suddenly of a heart attack. These events were also part of 2020, and it would be utterly wrong to leave them out of the narrative.
And, while it would be a mistake to deny the hardships and trials of the past year, it would be equally wrong to overlook the positive aspects. It would also be a shame if we were unable to learn from both the good and the bad of 2020.
While the ability to meet in person evaporated, it seemed like every conversation went deeper. People opened up about their concerns, shared more of their lives. Less time traveling meant more time with family. Appreciation and gratitude seemed to increase, as we collectively realized how much we take for granted. No doubt … social distancing and masks are a tiresome grind, politics is a mess, and societal issues are still pressing … but I wonder if we haven’t perhaps stumbled on a way to move forward.
What if ... families were stronger? Neighborhoods more connected? Faith communities revitalized? Marginalized groups better supported? Wouldn’t that type of local regeneration ultimately manifest in a healthier nation? To me, it’s more likely that the change we want to see in the world comes through individual, grass-roots activity in the home, neighborhood, and workplace, rather than any kind of national or global mandate. Perhaps the stress and strain of 2020 will be a catalyst. In a good way.
Back to the agency. As we got through Q2 and moved into Q3, we noticed a shift. Companies were strategizing, streamlining, and positioning themselves for growth. The truck industry demonstrated remarkable resiliency, and suppliers began to up their game. Unable to travel themselves, they began looking at agencies like NWHD to enhance the essential link to OEM decision makers. As a result, the agency signed several new contracts in the second half of the year.
I don’t know when meetings will start shifting from online to in-person. I do know Class 8 US retail sales forecasts are robust. I also know that new vehicles are being launched, new drivetrains are being developed, and the OE parts business is still of huge strategic importance. As an industry, we have an ongoing responsibility to keep freight moving efficiently and safely, and we have increased appreciation for driver health and wellness.
Is hindsight 20/20? Sure … but only to a point. In the case of the year 2020, it’s way too soon to get perspective. Historians will be hashing over the decisions made and ramifications thereof for decades.
Meanwhile, it’s time to look forward. The year ahead … the years ahead … could be really, really good, in part, because we move into this new season with some fresh dedication to those things are truly important. When we start traveling again, and meeting together in person, let’s skip the stories about how bad 2020 was, and focus on how we’re making the future better.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy holiday season, and a prosperous, peaceful, fulfilling New Year.