TCJAX brings together Northeast Florida executives to network and discuss topics relating to local and national transportation issues. Our mission today is a continuation of the mission of the first transportation club, formed almost 100 years ago in New York.
The rapid expansion of the railroads and, indeed, the extreme importance of the transportation industry brought into focus the need for a better understanding of the problems and the need for a greater cooperation between those directly involved in the commercial movement of goods.
Railroads in the United States had been subjected to regulations by the individual states through which they passed for many years, and by the Federal Government in 1887. However, it was not until 1906 that Federal Regulations took a more significant role and the general public began to take note of the many changes in the transportation industry. It was these changes which gave birth to uniformity within the railroad industry.
From the mid 1880’s and up to the early days of the 1900’s railroads had enjoyed a period of prosperity. Until this time, railroads were the only generally available means of transport for passengers and movement of cargo. This prosperity, however, was coming to an end of sorts, for on the horizon new competitors were appearing in increasing numbers. This competition would change the face of the railroad monopoly forever.
Rise of the rail challengers
1910 Ford T open truck pic3 by Alf van Beem, CC0
On land, the motor car and the omnibus were already beginning to cut heavily into the passenger business of the railroads, particularly on the short runs. Even more important, the motor truck possessed a flexibility and convenience that spur tracks could furnish. At the same time the airplane, with its speed and comforts, was also issuing a challenge to the railroads and was making it increasingly difficult for railroads to maintain their share of the long distance passenger business. As the country increasingly relied on petroleum and natural gas for sources of power and energy, the railroads suffered from a decrease in the carriage of coal, once their chief item in the freight hauling business. Even more galling were the pipelines, which could carry oil and gas to their places of utilization, thereby bypassing the necessity of railroad hauling.
This was the climate in the transport business during the early days of the 1920’s.
Traffic Clubs unite
As transportation continued to grow as an industry in the first few years of the 20th Century, so also did the growth of transportation groups, or for want of a better term, “Traffic Clubs.”
The first was The Transportation Club of Detroit, now known as the Traffic Club of Detroit, which was organized in January 1903. The Traffic Clubs of New York was organized in 1906 and Chicago followed in 1907. In Canada, the Traffic Clubs of Montreal and Toronto were organized in 1913.
The organization of a traffic club would seem to be the answer to satisfy the needs in the major transportation hubs throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. These clubs afforded the members the opportunity to meet on a one-to-one basis. After all, at a traffic club meeting, you were given the opportunity to meet your competition … to meet potential customers … to sell your product, or promote your service over dinner as opposed to cold-calling that was strictly business.
On Dec. 27, 1921, Mr. Henry A. Palmer (Editor – The Traffic World) addressed the Traffic Club of New York at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The text of Mr. Palmer’s address is not recorded, but one source remembers, “Henry’s speech was given in his usual forceful manner.” Mr. Palmer believed in a national association of traffic clubs. The idea so electrified the attendees of the New York Traffic Club that during the same evening, W.J.L. Banham, General Traffic Manager, Otis Elevator Company of New York City was made the Chairman of a special committee to study the subject and contact other traffic clubs to determine whether interest justified progressing with the idea…
And now, almost a century later, Transportation Clubs International continues the work begun by Henry Palmer. Approximately 70 traffic and transportation clubs round out today’s member roster, and the outlook for continued growth is promising.