In his first State of the Industry address, American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear made a case for industry unity and called on ATA to move forward and lead on a host of issues, ranging from autonomous vehicle technology to funding the nation’s infrastructure — despite gridlock and other challenges facing the industry.
“The story of trucking is the story of America,” Spear said during ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas. “We work hard. Together we move nearly 70 percent of our nation’s freight. 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.”
In his speech, Spear criticized the proliferation of unchecked regulation and mandates on the industry, as well as the lack of compromise. Despite the gridlock in Washington, 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, specifically calling out the federation’s role in the development of autonomous vehicle technology and highway infrastructure investment.
“Autonomous vehicle technology is real, and it’s here,” 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 to companies — and drivers.”
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 — providing dedicated, sustainable funding for our federally administered national network of roads and bridges.”
Spear closed with a call for industry unity, pointing out that only by coming together can ATA achieve the industry’s collective goals.
“We face challenges in Washington and at the state level, but together, our strength as an industry is unmatched,” he said. “You deserve to win and that’s my vision for ATA – winning. I cannot do it alone. I need you.”