Safety first, keeping pace second
R&B: How would you characterize ATSSA today?
Wentz: We are moving at the speed of our industry, and our industry is moving faster every day. Our members must keep up with demand, embrace new technology and understand federal and state regulations affecting work-zone safety. At ATSSA, our job is to partner with members and meet their needs with regard to member services, education and training. The advocacy part of ATSSA is becoming more important on both the federal and state levels. The most important part is this: In the past, ATSSA has always been member driven. In the future, we will need to stay even more attuned to our members’ needs so that they will always see ATSSA as their most valuable resource.
R&B: What changes have you seen in 18 months since you came aboard at ATSSA?
Wentz: There have been too many changes to spell them all out, but let me offer some examples. We have changed our look, colors and logo to reflect an image more in keeping with that of an industry leader. The board crafted the slogan, “Safer Roads Save Lives” to reflect the industry’s and ATSSA’s public-spirited orientation. The board feels very strongly that ATSSA is the voice of the roadway safety industry. Accordingly, we have taken steps to raise ATSSA to the next level. This has included image initiatives as well as the establishment of the first-ever ATSSA communications department. We are determined to put better information into the hands of our members quicker than ever before.
R&B: Why is ATSSA reaching out to the news media?
Wentz: The news media is an important gatekeeper to public opinion. The national news media is paying attention to roadway safety issues, and ATSSA has emerged as a valued source of information. Educated drivers demand safer roads—for their elderly mothers, for their teenage sons, for themselves. The more drivers we reach through the news media, the more influence we build for initiatives to advance public policy and funding for saving lives on roadways.
R&B: What is ATSSA’s role while the next generation of federal roadway legislation is being developed?
Wentz: Just as ATSSA is being recognized by the national news media as roadway safety professionals committed to saving lives, it is being seen as a growing force in public policy arenas. ATSSA’s role is to be on top of what’s happening with legislation and regulation, to be a resource for decision-makers and to be an aggressive participant in the dialogue. ATSSA, and that means the roadway safety industry—those who are members and those who should be—is an important contributor to the process. We earn this standing by initiatives such as the Roadway Safety Partners program, which unites the industry and local and federal officials, National Work Zone Safety Week and the Roadway Industry Safety Coalition.
R&B: Will Traffic Expo 2000 take on new meaning in light of recent events?
Wentz: We believe the Traffic Expo will be a record breaker and the ATSSA Annual Conference will be a capacity crowd. This is the prime meeting of the year because it brings together all aspects of the industry, from lane stripers to transportation officials and from guardrail installers to ITS experts. Preferred exhibit space sells quickly, and we receive exceptionally high ratings for the exhibition both from exhibitors and those coming to see what’s new.
R&B: What part does training play in the overall plan for ATSSA?
Wentz: Training is the foundation of the roadway safety professional. In a year we train and certify 10,000 members and non-members in courses held all over the country. We are exploring new ways to offer training. For example, in August ATSSA is partnering with the American Public Works Association in a teleconference seminar called “Moving Roadway Maintenance into the 21st Century.” ATSSA’s Chief Instructor Vic Liebe will participate in that training event. Training for flaggers is so big it has its own website, www.flagger.com. Training is, and will continue to be, a major component of ATSSA’s service to the industry.
R&B: Has ATSSA reached its potential in terms of membership?
Wentz: This is a creative and expanding industry. During the next year we will refocus our efforts to attract additional members in the areas of temporary traffic control, pavement marking, sign manufacturing and installation and manufacturers and supplies. Also, the board remains open to embracing new areas—such as we did with the new guardrail unit and ITS Council. This type of expansion opens up opportunities for alliances among members and it strengthens ATSSA’s organization and influence. In fact, at the Midyear Meeting next month there will be a session to explore the potential benefits of organizing a shoring group.
R&B: What can ATSSA members look forward to in the next six months?
Wentz: Let’s start with something I’ve already mentioned: better communications—more information, delivered faster and more conveniently. We have introduced a Listserve, a lively e-mail discussion of timely issues, expanded www.atssa.com and overhauled the Flash. Flash now features news briefs and a calendar (longer items are at atssa.com), and is distributed every other Friday by e-mail and fax. This is a major step. ATSSA will be our members’ first resource for breaking industry information. Also, we are listening to members and responding accordingly. We have reorganized ATSSA with the goal of strengthening support for state chapters and we will continue to build the Technical Assistance Center. The goal is to continually tune in to the needs of our members—which change over time—and make sure we meet their expectations.