WASHINGTON — Members of the American Trucking Associations, along with a contingent of America’s Road Team Captains visited the White House Thursday for a conversation about issues affecting the trucking industry, including Obamacare, which ATA President and CEO Chris Spear called “unaffordable” and which President Donald Trump said had inflicted “great pain” on truckers.
Whether ironic or planned, the meeting took place on the very day Trump had hoped the House would pass his version of an affordable care act.
The meeting was requested by the ATA.
“Trucking is the backbone of the nation’s economy. We employ one in 16 people in the U.S. Driving a truck is the top job in 29 states,” Spear said “Trucking moves 70 percent of the nation’s freight and 56 percent of GDP. To grow our economy, we need to take care of the people that move America forward. The Affordable Care Act is just plain unaffordable. Replacing this law will help trucking employees, their families and our customers by lowering insurance costs, decrease mandates, liabilities and administrative burdens, and provide access to quality care and patient choice.”
“I know you had a big problem with Obamacare, and everybody does," the president told the group. “No one knows America like truckers know America. You see it every day. You see every hill, and you see every valley and you see every pothole in our roads that have to be rebuilt.
“Through day and night in all kinds of weather, truckers course the arteries of our nation's highways. You carry anything and everything — the food that stocks our shelves, the fuel that runs our cars and the steel that builds our cities.”
“You think I wrote that?” Trump said to laughter. "I want to save that paragraph. But America depends on you. And you work very hard for America.”
Of Obamacare, Trump said: “Many of you were forced to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. You experienced a crippling rise in premiums, and a dramatic loss in options. And you just take a look at what's happened to the costs, and it's incredible.
“You know the problems. And it's put a lot of the trucking businesses out of business, which is pretty tough.”
The president joked a couple of times that he couldn't spend too much time with the truckers because of the American Health Care Act vote, which had been scheduled to take place Thursday, but has since been postponed.
“I'm not going to make it too long, because I have to get votes,” he said to laughter. “I don't want to spend too much time with you. I'm going to lose by one vote and then I'm going to blame the truckers.”
Two large trucks were parked in front of the White House, one emblazoned with a U.S. flag and other with a Trucking Moves America Forward campaign trailer wrap with a photograph of a trucker, a boy and the words “It takes 7 million people to move America ... like my dad.”
Trump made no formal remarks as he shook the hands of the drivers and CEOs, positioned in front of the trucks. Reporters could overhear the president congratulating the drivers on their safety records: “Accident free," he said a few times. He later joked with the drivers as he turned to the CEOs, “Who makes more, them or you?”
The president then hopped up into one of the trucks. He hit the horn a couple of times, closed the driver side door and waved to the press from the window.
“The trucking industry has suffered greatly under Obamacare,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters about 90 minutes before Trump met the truckers. “Many truckers were forced to buy healthcare plans that weren’t necessarily right for them on the exchanges. Like millions of Americans across the country, they saw their premiums rise and their options plummet. And trucking companies, classified as large employers under the law, are mandated to provide insurance that we already know doesn’t work.
“Instead of imposing senseless restrictions from Washington, the President’s three-pronged healthcare reform plan will lower premiums and increase choice by increasing competition. The President looks forward to discussing how these policies, combined with forthcoming tax, regulatory and trade reforms, will provide much needed relief for the trucking industry.”
“The 7.3 million people who work in the trucking industry – of which 3.5 million are professional truck drivers – have a common thread – to be safe and dependable and that requires a healthy professional behind the wheel,” ATA Chairman Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Inc., said in remarks released by ATA. “One thing for certain, the professional men and women drivers in America are proud of hauling America’s freight. We are here to tell you Mr. President, that the trucking industry will support you as you work toward solving America’s health care challenges. In addition, we look forward to working with you on improving our workplace, which is our highways.”
“Truck drivers are in all 50 states — every single day. As a driver, we feel the weight of the numerous regulations placed on us, as well as our companies — and those that we serve,” said America’s Road Team Captain Don Logan, a professional truck driver with FedEx Freight, from Eskridge, Kansas, also in remarks released by the ATA. “We proudly stand with you in your effort to improve the current healthcare law making it easier for us to make a living and serve America.”
Joining Spear and Burch at the meeting were ATA members:
Other members of America’s Road Team at the meeting included;