In a speech delivered at this week’s American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said he saw continued growth for the trucking industry and strong gains in the industry’s pro-safety, pro-efficiency agenda — provided Congress takes action on necessary legislation.
“Most carriers have had a good year — not great — but pretty good in 2015. And 2016 is looking as good if not slightly better. If there’s a bogeyman that we need to be concerned about-look no farther than Washington, as the disarray within the House of Representatives could lead to all sorts of negative outcomes, unintended consequences and mischief for our economy,” Graves said. “It seems truly ironic that given all the turmoil that exist throughout the world-that the single biggest threat we may face is our own government.”
Graves said if Congress completes the long-term highway bill it is currently working on, as well as the annual appropriations process, ATA will be able to address many of the items deemed most important to the industry.
“Never before has ATA pursued as broad and significant a policy agenda as we do today. And as you will hear throughout this meeting, if Congress can find a path forward to ‘do business’ in the next 45 days, we will have what I believe is the most impressive list of achievements ever accomplished by the ATA,” he said, citing potential action on infrastructure funding, hours-of-service, productivity, electronic logging devices, driver recruiting and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety monitoring system.
Graves said these policies and agenda were the result of deliberations by members of ATA, and urged more in the trucking industry to make their voices heard.
“The only way to shape the future of this industry-in whatever form or fashion you believe in — is to be a member of ATA — to be sitting at the table and have the willingness to express your opinions about the policies and regulations that will affect you in the future,” he said. “If you’re not here — we definitely can’t hear you. And even if you’re here and you don’t speak up — we can’t help you. This federation is structured like a participatory democracy and participation — vocal participation — is a critical element of getting the full value of your membership.”
Graves also defended the role of government in transportation and business, but also called on all levels of government to do more to respond to trucking’s needs and the needs of the country.
“Let me tell you something: Government is not the enemy. Unfocused-unresponsive government is the enemy. Sloppy-wasteful government is the enemy. Overreaching-underperforming government is the enemy,” he said. “Too much government creates dependences that stifle personal responsibility and initiative. Too little government leaves gaps in critical programs and services that are necessary elements in sustaining this nation’s quality of life. Government — at all levels — should provide necessary beneficial service to all of us.”
Stepping away from the policy, Graves addressed trucking’s economic outlook as well. “It still comes down to my basic calculus: More people equals more stuff. And while all our other freight modal partners will continue to play their supporting role in moving this economy — the star of the show has been, is and will be the truck,” Graves said. “Trucking Moves America Forward is not simply the name for our image campaign — it’s a fact. I am an unabashed supporter of this industry and see no scenario — no outcome on the horizon that is anything but great for this industry.”