Fleet Management

ATA’s Spear Sees Trucking as “Test Bed” for Autonomous Technology

February 27, 2017

By Stephane Babcock

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Spear speaking at Omnitracs Outlook conference. Photo: Stephane Babcock
Spear speaking at Omnitracs Outlook conference. Photo: Stephane Babcock

PHOENIX-- According to president and CEO Chris Spear, the American Trucking Associations has “shaped the interstate highway system” in the 84 years since its inception, something that needs to continue during the Trump administration.

“We have to understand the environment we are working in,” Spear said, addressing the opening general session of the Omintracs Outlook conference being held here Feb. 26 to March 1. “[President Trump] has taken a much more different approach. He’s coming to Washington not owing anyone anything. The president is pretty much a freelancer.”

The recent change in administration could help the ATA and the industry itself “put some pretty big wins on the board,” he added. The first step would be the passage of one part of Trump’s economic plan – $1 trillion of infrastructure spending over the next decade. ATA, in Spears opinion, should be a partner in this move, not “an impediment.”

The upcoming electronic logging device mandate was highlighted by Spear, who believes it will “make us more efficient…and will serve as a catalyst to the next big thing – autonomous vehicles.” While widespread acceptance of autonomous technology is still 20 to 25 years away in Spear’s opinion, he called upon the industry to take a seat at the table.

“My team is working very hard to ensure that we are providing the voice that you all require in Washington, not conceding any ground to other modes,” said Spear. “This industry has to take its seat, or it’s going to be left behind.”

Trucking, according to Spear, could accelerate and accept this technology faster than any other mode, a message that he wants to carry to key decision makers in Washington, in the states and to all localities.

“They need to be focused on us first; we’re the test bed, we’re the innovators, we’re the ones that can get this done,” said Spear, “and that’s a message we need to share.” 

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