ARLINGTON, Va. — In an Oct. 26 state-of-the-industry address at the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) 2020 Management Conference, Chris Spear, the association’s president and CEO, highlighted the trucking industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and detailed ATA’s efforts to keep trucks moving throughout the national crisis.
“While others in D.C. panicked, the ATA led, giving direction and certainty to our members when it mattered most,” Spear said, citing ATA’s successful efforts toward securing federal “essential” status for motor carriers and keeping facilities open for drivers — both of which were critical to maintaining the flow of interstate commerce when much of the county was locked down earlier this year.
“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 ATA, calling the association “battle-hardened” as it looks to tackle a number of priority issues in the year ahead. Among them, he said ATA will continue to pursue tort and legal reform, address the shortage of drivers and technicians, and fight for long-term funding for the nation’s 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, adding that success depends on funding. That funding, he said “cannot and will not be done via truck-only tolls,” referring to ATA’s suit against Rhode Island to block the state’s truck-only toll plan.
Spear also said expanding the industry’s workforce remains a top priority. This includes continued support for the Drive SAFE Act and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s (FMCSA) pilot program for drivers under the age of 21, as well as 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.”
It is “no surprise that America has awakened to the trucking industry,” Spear said in closing. “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.”