American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear addressed the federation’s 2020 Management Conference, highlighting the industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and detailing ATA’s successful efforts to keep trucks moving throughout the national crisis.
“While others in DC panicked, the ATA led, giving direction and certainty to our members when it mattered most,” Spear said in his annual State of the Industry address, citing ATA’s successful efforts in securing federal “essential” status for carriers and keeping facilities open for drivers—both of which were critical to maintaining the flow of interstate commerce while the county locked down.
“Our combined efforts have helped put America on a path to full recovery,” he said.
Spear said the challenges of 2020 have served to strengthen the ATA Federation, calling it “battle-hardened” as it looks to tackle a number of priority issues in the consequential year ahead. Among them, he said ATA will continue pursuing tort and legal reform, addressing the shortage of drivers and technicians and fighting for long-term funding for our national infrastructure.
“Our efforts this year on infrastructure produced a comprehensive bill in the House of Representatives–movement that paves way for passing comprehensive reform next year, regardless of who voters elect next week,” he said.
Success, Spear said, depends on funding that “cannot and will not be done via truck-only tolls,” emphasizing the paramount importance of ATA’s suit against Rhode Island to block the state’s truck-only toll scheme.
Spear also said expanding the industry’s workforce remains a top priority. This includes continued support for the Drive SAFE Act and the FMCSA pilot program for drivers under the age of 21, but also a new focus on expanded outreach to minority communities.
“2020 opened our eyes to the importance of diversity, and the trucking industry is no exception. To that end, ATA established a diversity working group in direct support of the Workforce Development Policy Committee,” he said. “This group will shine a brighter light on our efforts to expand urban hiring, including people of color and women; and, look at initiatives that increase the number of minorities in our executive ranks, including partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”
In closing, Spear said because of the the industry’s response to 2020’s challenges, it is “no surprise that America has awakened to the trucking industry.”
“Together, we inspire others. Together, we will win and grow. And we’ll always answer the call when our country needs us most. Trucking isn’t just the backbone of our economy – it’s the heartbeat of this nation,” he said.
To read Spear’s full State of the Industry address, click here.