LAS VEGAS. Faced with a do-nothing Congress dominated by “cubicle-dwelling ideologues” and with regulators who “issue mandates as if they were mere parking tickets,” the trucking industry must unite to protect common interests and to aggressively promote trucking’s importance to the nation, new American Trucking Assns. President and CEO Chris Spear said Monday in a fiery address to membership.
Formerly the ATA’s top lobbyist, Spear cited the successful industry effort to roll back the restart provisions of the hours of service rule in 2014 as an example of what can and must be done to keep the wheels turning.
“We came together as an industry, we told your story and we took seven Democrats on the Senate Appropriations committee with us—a solid vote that sent a message: Don’t mess with trucking,” Spear said in his first State of the Industry Address. “This is a game, and it’s not one we can afford to lose. We need to get in the game and we need to get in it together.”
Broadly, Spear used his speech at the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition to call for action on a host of issues, ranging from autonomous vehicle technology to funding the nation’s infrastructure.
Most pressing, Spear said ATA was working hard to secure two key legislative victories before the end of the year: a permanent hours of service fix and preempting states from adding new layers of meal and rest break requirements on interstate carriers.
Spear also laid out a vision for ATA’s future beyond 2016.
As for autonomous vehicle technology, Spear emphasized the importance of making sure trucking has voice in the debate as policy makers address the opportunities and concerns regarding the technology.
“Autonomous vehicle technology is here, folks, whether we like it or not,” he said. “If properly developed, it has the potential to dramatically improve safety and reduce congestion. This technology has the potential to get trucks moving, reduce fuel burn and emissions, and increase miles driving—all measurable returns.”
Speaking about highway funding, Spear stated that the most recent highway bill left trucking “thirsty for dedicated, sustainable funding for infrastructure,” and ATA must face political reality that Congress is unlikely to raise or index the fuel tax.
“ATA must be prepared to realign our policies with the realities on Capitol Hill, beginning with a new means for funding our nation’s infrastructure,” he said. Spear said he will work closely with the Board and key industry members to develop a new policy “that we can advocate with the next administration and Congress .”
Spear closed with a call for industry unity, pointing out that only by coming together could ATA achieve the industry’s collective goals.
“The story of trucking is the story of America,” Spear said. “We work hard. As one, we are the backbone of our economy and a pillar of our nation’s security. We are each leaders; ambassadors of our trade. United, we are the trucking industry. Telling our story matters, but telling it together matters more.”