Today, “Our goal continues to be advocating for the mobile crane industry,” he said. “The primary focus of the organization is legislative action, and education related to safety is a close second. Safety is a company mantra for every mobile crane owner.”
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, TCOA now serves 50 member companies, although several people from each company typically attend events. Members fall into three categories:
- Crane owners (many with multiple locations throughout the state)
- Mobile crane manufacturers
- Associated companies that support the Texas crane industry, such as insurance companies and banks
Member companies come from across the state. “Texas is a very diverse state – from oil and gas operations to chemical plants, wind energy, roads and bridges, and building construction,” Rex said. “Mobile cranes play a part in all those industries.”
A nine-person Board of Directors governs TCOA. Elected by members to two-year terms, the board includes six directors and three officers. After serving on the board for six years, Calvin Jones, Executive Director of McRay Crane & Rigging, Inc., in Houston, Texas, was elected President at TCOA’s 2020 annual meeting. Kenneth Lookingbill, Senior Vice President of Maxim Crane Works in Houston, Texas, currently serves as Vice President of the board and will become President in 2023.
“There’s been an evolution of litigation in Texas,” Rex explained. “Tort reform has been around in the state for about 25 years. The idea is to rein in what industries regard as frivolous lawsuits. Over the years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have looked for more creative ways to find litigation they can pursue, and they’ve begun to focus on big commercial and industrial vehicles on the road.”
In the last state legislative session, tort reform efforts started with House Bill 19. “The purpose was to limit lawsuits following commercial vehicle accidents to actual damages – medical or otherwise – as opposed to the greatly inflated numbers that were getting paid by the insurance companies,” Jones said.
With support from the Texas Trucking Association and Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the bill passed both chambers of the legislature. The new law now allows for a bifurcated trial. The first stage of the trial determines if the company or driver involved in an accident was negligent.
“Then, and only then, can you go to stage two to determine punitive damages,” Jones said. “Prior to this bill, we were getting nuclear verdicts; if you scratched a fender on a car, the driver filed a lawsuit for whatever your insurance limits are.”
In past legislative sessions, TCOA worked to change travel restrictions for mobile cranes.
“Prior to that legislation, it was against the law to travel a mobile crane with counterweights or anything on the deck other than what was manufactured there,” Jones said. “In a lot of cases, you’d need a truck to follow – at an unnecessary expense when that counterweight could be positioned on the crane deck or hanging. Now, anything that’s on the crane to help do the job is allowed, as long as it doesn’t cause the crane to be overweight.”
Another successful bill covered how to properly weigh a crane. Before that, “We would get overweight tickets for 10 times what the crane really weighed because of the manner in which it was being weighed,” Jones said.
“Throughout the years, because of our strength and effective lobbying in Austin, we’ve been able to change a lot of things for the better for our industry,” he added. “In the next legislative session, we want to make sure we don’t lose the footholds we gained. Taking care of our past accomplishments is a task in itself.”
TCOA’s Safety Committee recommends topics for membership meeting presentations. Each year, the organization hosts three events, typically in March, June, and October.
“One is a formal membership meeting and the others tend to be more networking events,” Rex said. “We try to meet in three metropolitan sections of the state – Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Austin/San Antonio. We typically have a guest who educates us on new products or safety measures germane to our industry.”
For the networking events, after the lunch meeting adjourns, “They’re specially styled to put the membership in a position to visit and develop contacts while having some fun together,” Rex said. “What’s been most popular for our association is shotgun shooting events. We’ve organized sporting clay shoots in north Texas and Houston for several years.”
Last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization didn’t hold in-person events. This year, 110 people attended the March meeting and 120 participated in the June shotgun shoot.
Going forward, “We plan to continue to grow the association,” Jones said.
To achieve that, “We’ve had a membership initiative for a couple of years,” Rex said. “We continued to grow through COVID, but not to the degree we hoped. I think a number of companies are interested in what we’re doing but have uncertainty about what their business model will look like because of the COVID intrusion. The association has a pretty good track record to show its effectiveness on behalf of the mobile crane industry, and when the business climate settles down, I think we’ll see our membership grow further.”