A truck operator's recent e-mail suggested that the American Trucking Associations' acronym, ATA, would more practically stand for the "Anti-Trucking Association." Then he posed this question: "When was the last, or first, time they did anything for the trucking industry?"
There have been times when ATA's effectiveness on certain issues has been less than stellar. But not many. Even so, that reader's e-mail – though just one person's honest opinion – makes me wonder how many others in trucking feel as he does.
Let's see. Wasn't it ATA that made Highway Watch into a national security support system that is putting away criminals? It started in 1998 and, last I heard, some 250,000 people have been trained in anti-terrorism and safety. (ATA also formed a Security Council to help develop training, information exchange and new technologies).
Who's shouldered the bulk of the load for trucking in the debate over hours of service rules? Along those lines, the American Transportation Research Institute (an arm of the ATA) is researching the good/bad of the new sleeper berth rule – research that can be used to bring about changes, if needed.
Wasn't it ATA that testified to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, pointing out that current multiple-check transport worker security screening should be consolidated?
Isn't it ATA's engineering department that works with manufacturers and coordinates industry positions on equipment regulations?
Example: ATA's input is critical in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's current push for 20-30 percent shorter stopping distances on three-axle tractors.
What about the Technology & Maintenance Council, made up of the country's top equipment managers? TMC works with manufacturers to develop the best possible maintenance practices for everyone – members or not. Yep – yet another arm of the ATA.
Who's been preaching to Congress for years that there should be a national fuel standard? Who just supplied industry people with talking points to use with the media and legislators to help them understand our fuel dilemma? Where did America's Road Team, that premier group of drivers that gets so much favorable media exposure, come from?
Was that ATA joining the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, warning truckers of possible pitfalls in a model broker-carrier contract? And didn't ATA and the Truckload Carriers Association recently put together a student driver tuition program?
Who joined the fight to stop a California engine regulation that would run up reefer costs nationwide, and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to review Oregon's flat fee tax that would do the same?
Who do you think carries trucking's flag in the perpetual battle over federal highway funding?
As for the distant past, how about the '70s, when NHTSA first attempted to force unproven antilock devices on trucks? The reg was ultimately thwarted by a Supreme Court lawsuit brought by ATA and its members. That probably averted a bloodbath on our highways.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that ATA's public relations efforts over the past few years have been the best. Sadly, we have lost the man most responsible for those successes, in a rafting accident. As ATA spokesman, Mike Russell conveyed enthusiasm, common sense and a deep affection for trucking, especially for drivers. His are big shoes to fill.
ATA is not a stand-alone faction. It is an alliance of citizens – truck operators, state trucking associations, and industry manufacturers and suppliers. That alliance gives trucking a voice it would not otherwise have.
Those members often clash, debate and criticize among themselves, as in a democracy. And as in a democracy, ATA's resultant actions are not always win-win for all.
In other words, the system is working.
E-mail Doug Condra at [email protected], or write PO Box W, Newport Beach, CA 92658.