American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear celebrated the associations’ “wins” in the past year, whether in court or in the halls of Congress and state legislatures, including an emphasis on non-partisanship.
“Since taking this job, I’ve made it clear that your association’s primary objective is winning… winning on behalf of the members and this great industry, no matter who the electorate sends to Washington,” Spear said. “We don’t get paid to point fingers. Partisanship is not a crutch.”
In his remarks Monday, Oct. 24, at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego, Spear cited ATA’s significant legal victories in federal court over the state of Rhode Island on the issue of tolling and over the Biden administration on the government’s proposed employer-based vaccine mandate as evidence of ATA’s commitment.
“These two court victories are impactful and historic. No matter the size of your business — large, medium or small — had either of these two policies become reality, our industry and the countless businesses and consumers we serve… would have suffered,” he said.
In the case of Rhode Islands’ Rhodeworks truck-only tolls, Spear said, “we told them from the beginning they were crazy… that Rhodeworks was unconstitutional and discriminatory. … Like a lot of elected officials these days, they didn’t listen, so we took them to court.” A judge did listen, he said, and that decision sends a message to other states, “don’t mess with trucking.”
Winning with Infrastructure Funding
“There were times when elected officials did listen,” Spear said, “and they were just as impactful.”
Spear also pointed to ATA’s role in helping to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including important investment in the nation’s roads and bridges as well as critical workforce development language like a pilot program of younger commercial drivers as significant wins for the industry.
The Trump administration, he said, “talked a good game” on infrastructure funding, “but after four years in office, including two in control of the House and Senate, Republicans never introduced an infrastructure bill. As we say in Wyoming, ‘All hat, no cattle.’
The resulting legislation provides $550 billion dollars over five years, Spear said, “the largest amount we’ve seen since the Eisenhower administration. This infusion of funds will benefit every major artery our trucks run on across the United States.”
Not that the passage of the IIJ was a cakewalk.
“Leading up to its enactment, ATA testified 25 times before the House and Senate. Providing answers to questions, reams of ATRI reports and actionable data; and, a steady narrative that resonated with both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “Good outcomes take time, and this bill was no exception.”
“Legislating is hard,” Spear said. “It’s about building consensus and accepting compromise. … few understand that better than Peter Defazio, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.”
In fact, later in the day, ATA presented Defazio with the 2022 Highway Diamond Award.
“Passing a bill in one of the most divisive political environments …stands out and should be called out,” Spear said.
Continuing to Fight
Looking ahead, Spear said the association would continue to fight on behalf of the industry, citing new efforts to increase the number of women in the industry, develop smart emissions standards and continue to fight against lawsuit abuse.
“With six states having already enacted lawsuit abuse legislation, the ATA federation is using its reach in every state to put the plaintiffs’ bar on defense,” he said. “We now have 11 more state associations preparing legislation that will further shape a landscape where jury decisions are driven by facts, not Powerball payoffs. The plaintiffs’ bar’s preoccupation with nuclear verdicts and putting companies and hardworking men and women out of a job is now strengthening the foundation and resolve of our federation.”
Spear said ATA had a record number of new members this year, as well as a record retention rate. It surpassed its budget goals and relocated its headquarters back into the District of Columbia “at the doorstep of decision-makers,” so the association can work more closely with regulators and legislators alike.
“Your association is stronger now than ever before… and that’s why we can fight.”