ATA's Spear: Trucking Deserves a Stronger Role in Policy

March 5, 2018

By Jack Roberts

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Spear wants trucking to take its rightful seat at the negotiating table and make certain it was not cut out of the picture in the legislative, policy and technology issues both today and in the future. Photo: Jack Roberts
Spear wants trucking to take its rightful seat at the negotiating table and make certain it was not cut out of the picture in the legislative, policy and technology issues both today and in the future. Photo: Jack Roberts

American Trucking Associations president Chris Spear told a packed room at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting that the time was right for trucking to take its rightful seat at the negotiating table, tell its story and make certain it was not cut out of the picture in the legislative, policy and technology issues both today and in the future.

“We believe the best way to to that is to tell the truth and pack it to the brim with data is the best way to insure positive outcomes in those negotiations,” Spear told attendees at TMC’s Town Meeting, Monday evening in Atlanta. “You are driving those outcomes. You are framing the future that will allow this industry to grow.”

The Strong Economy

Spear began his remarks by acknowledging recent changes made to TMC’s leadership structure and program to reflect both a changing industry and attendee and exhibitor wishes. He then noted strong economic conditions in the United States today, pointing out that trucking today moves 71% of all domestic freight in the country today. Trucking also employees 7.4 million Americans in today, with 3.5 million truck driving jobs in the mix. Spear also noted that 1 in 16 of every job in the U.S. today is in the trucking industry, with trucking now the top job employing Americans in 29 states.

“This is our time to shine,” Spear said. “We are the backbone of this economy today, which is booming thanks to the largest tax code reform since 1986. All the key ingredients are coming into place to insure a wonderful future for this industry.”

But, Spear cautioned, a booming economy also mean demands to move even more freight and expose the industry’s weaknesses. “The economy is strong, but it shows we have a lot of work to do,” Spear summed up. “We are short of 50,000 truck drivers now. And that shortage could grow to 100,000 drivers in five years if current trends continue.”

Finding the Next Generation of Drivers

The time has come, Spear told TMC attendees, to stop talking about problems and start solving them, instead. To that end, he pointed out recent ATA efforts to address the 18 to 21 year old hiring ban that keeps young drivers out of truck cabs — often until they’ve already been snapped up and started careers in other industries. “The fact that we can’t hire these young people to drive our trucks, but they are old enough to go overseas and fight our wars and operate multi-million dollar pieces of equipment is absurd,” Spear said. “To counter this problem, ATA is working on new solutions with built-in controls to protect the public while attracting young talent and nurturing them and helping them eventually earn a Commercial Driver’s License.”

A key part of this effort, Spear said, was for ATA to work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor to initiate President Trump’s new Apprenticeship Program. “There is no better industry than trucking to partner with the Federal government and wisely use taxpayer dollars to bridge that relationship,” Spear added.

Spear also called out the media for what he called “hyping” emerging technologies in ways that could scare potential workers away from the trucking industry. Trucking should embrace new technology, Spear said, and not fear it.

“We need to get past the hype, however,” Spear warned. “For the media to suggest that drivers will be taken out of the picture — that we’re going to have trucks with no steering wheels, or pedals or drivers tomorrow can drive potential employees away. Who would want to join an industry where autonomous technology will take their job away in a few short years. So, I say to the media, let’s be realistic and solve the problems new technology will create. But let’s not blow new technology out of proportion.”

Spear wrapped up his remarks by noting that a strong, modern infrastructure was also crucial for trucking to continue to power the U.S. economy and compete globally. To counter this trend, Spear said ATA was continuing to advocate Congress for a fuel tax “baked into the price of fuel and hardly noticeable to consumers,” as a way to short up the U.S. highway trust fund and generating $340 billion in real revenue that can be used to repair the nation’s degrading roads and bridges. “This is an investment in our future, which is why Ronald Reagan signed two similar bills into law during his presidency,” Spear said. “If we don’t invest in our infrastructure now, our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate at a rate that we will eventually not be able to recover from.”


  1. 1. Brian [ March 06, 2018 @ 07:42AM ]

    I agree that Trucking as a industry needs to make sure its voice is heard in the legislature, and in policy making. The problem is that Chris Spear is not the voice of the industry. He is the voice of the deep pockets of the members of the ATA. This is not the voice of the trucking industry, but rather a very small (around 5-10%) of the market share. Why does HDT continue promoting the ATA?

  2. 2. Richard Davis [ March 06, 2018 @ 09:21AM ]

    The Truth, coming from the ATA? If Spear's really wants to tell everyone the truth, he should start by telling them the ATA, is NOT for the truck-driver. He should tell people the ATA, is for the companies, mainly the large ones. That is the Truth. The ATA doesn't think the truck-drivers deserve a decent pay. They should only be paid for mileage. Nothing else, like detention. Tell people the ATA only wants what big companies want, not the drivers.

  3. 3. B. Hacket [ March 06, 2018 @ 01:10PM ]

    ATA does not represent the trucking industry well, if at all. This includes the big boys. That's why trucking companies are always canceling their memberships. They are bit players in the lobbying world, almost irrelevant. Tax reform was successfully advocated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various other significant business organizations in D.C. ATA was just playing "Me too!" This will never change as long as they continue their current practice of hiring staff who have absolutely no trucking experience whatsoever. TMC has been, in the past, the one positive aspect of ATA, but the Council's entrance into the policy world will probably, eventually, lower it's standards down to that of ATA's, which is too bad.

  4. 4. Kevin Hopkins [ March 06, 2018 @ 08:50PM ]

    Spears never has been & never will be a voice for the real truckdrivers of our nation! Nor is anyone else in the ATA!!!!

  5. 5. Kevin Hopkins [ March 06, 2018 @ 08:53PM ]

    Spears is not & never will be a voice for us, the real truckdrivers! Nor is anyone else at the ATA!!!
    Why don't yall listen to us?????
    We all have a voice all our own!!!

  6. 6. Tim [ March 07, 2018 @ 01:28PM ]

    Chris Spears came from Hyundai, knows nothing about trucking and only wants for our industry what the mega carriers tell him they want. He and the ATA have left 85% of the drivers and o/o out of the conversation for decades. This will all come to an end on April 9th, everyone head to DC and we will be heard. They can't ignore us if we unite, and demand to be heard. We can tell them what we want and what we don't, if its about safety then talk with the safest on the road, all it takes is unity. If you can't come to DC then at least take 3 or 4 sick days. #mondayinformation

  7. 7. Chuck Biddles [ March 08, 2018 @ 11:59PM ]

    This guy don't give a shit about the true American truck. O/O, Small Company's that r the ones that make up for around 70% of the industry. So how in the hell can he say he represents the trucking industry.

  8. 8. Tom Selhorst [ March 09, 2018 @ 02:40PM ]

    Wow i would love to buy this guy for what he is worth and sell him for what he thinks HE is worth. I would be able to pay cash for an entire new interstate systems that includes truck parking.What he knows about being a trucker you could put in a thimble and have room for a quart of oil. I wonder if he would be willing to sign a contract that if the death toll on the interstate go up he would be held accountable ? Every driver out here is accountable for decisions they make from that seat he should be held accountable for decisions he makes from his seat..Bet he wouldn't sign . This man is very ill. I fought my ass off trying to save a 2 year old baby from a burning car and i was not able to save him and this haunts me yet to this day.Chris is living in a fantasy world and thinks he can fix everything. He is does not know enough to be speaking for anyone in this industry. Maybe one day he will be at the seen of an accident and he might not be able to save someone he may look at this eld and realize it's not the paper log or the e log the kills people it people that kill people. I loved my job for 31 years and Chris now has me hating my job.I hope he has good luck with the fake driver shortage. The man has to be the most hated person in the industry. Very very ill man.


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