American Trucking Associations president Chris Spear welcomed fleet professionals to the 2022 Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting by noting that they were witnessing a “technology revolution” first-hand. “But,” he warned, “as I look at this industry and what we face as a country, I see extraordinary times ahead, COVID aside.”
Spear noted that inflation is currently at a 40-year high and said that fuel prices were within 6 cents of being at their highest level, ever. “This is not sustainable,” he said. “We are facing incredible headwinds now. We want to continue to serve our country and our economic security. And labor and fuel costs are on the front burner right now.”
Times like these, Spear said, are exactly why “having a seat at the table” matters. “We need our decision-makers to understand what this industry and this council are all about,” he said.
Building on that theme, Spear touted several ATA victories on the legislation front, most notably the recent Biden administration Infrastructure Bill that was signed into law with bipartisan support. “This is a historical bill that ATA has lobbied for over seven years in over 25 Congressional hearings,” Spear said. “But we got it done and we will see a massive 38% increase in infrastructure funding — levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration.”
Spear also cited passage of the Work Safe Act, which will allow the training and employment of intestate truck drivers who are under 21 years of age in a pilot program.
“There is no reason not to hire young drivers after we have added 400 additional hours of training, including 240 hours with an experienced driver trainer in the truck with them and mandatory safety technology installed on the vehicle,” Spear said. “This is a step toward more safety — not away from it. And thanks to ATA it was included in the infrastructure bill.”
And, earlier this week, Spear added, he and other ATA officers sat down with the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Labor to make the trucking a registered apprenticeship program industry.
Turning back to the international situation, Spear said, “Foreign issues matter. And we want to support Ukraine and bring stability back to the world. But why we rely on a genocidal tyrant for his oil is beyond comprehension. U.S. domestic policy should be to build on energy independence and not feed $10 billion a year into the Russian economy. That is a disgrace. And we will make the transition to alternate fuels. And TMC will be integral part in that transformation. But it will not happen now. It will take time. And it is time for the president, the Senate, and Congress to get real about the need for a bridge to energy independence, and you can expect ATA to be very vocal on that issue.”
Spear said putting the trucking industry, its issues and solutions in front of national leaders is critical. “That is why you are here,” he added. “To help shape those policies. TMC is the very best at doing that. And ATA will continue to advocate on your behalf.”
He also said ATA played a major role in the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year that tossed out the Biden administration’s emergency temporary rule that would have required businesses with more than 100 employees to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly and wear a mask.
“Ours was the case that was broken out and heard by the court,” Spear said. “The justices ruled 6 to 3 in our favor for a massive win for the industry. We listened to our leaders, and as a result, our members, drivers and dock workers were heard. And ATA will continue working to achieve these type of results for trucking. Let’s all play a role — get involved and get busy.”