ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. Photo: Jim Beach

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. Photo: Jim Beach

NASHVILLE, TN -- [CORRECTED] State governments, especially California, need to understand they can’t “mess with trucking,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, at the TMW Systems and PeopleNet in.site User Conference + Expo.

Singling out state meal and rest break rules that are causing problems for truckers in California, Spear said ATA would be “stepping out of our comfort zone” to help its state trucking association partners fight these kinds of rules that hurt trucking. Noting that trucking is interstate commerce, Spear said the issue compromised safety and only benefited “trial attorneys.” He also pointed out proposals in New Hampshire to charge tolls on bridges in the state only to trucks.

As for federal government officials, Spear said ATA needs to “understand them. We have to work with them.” The roads and bridges we all drive on are “not political.”

The trucking industry is too big and too important not to engage, Spear said, noting that trucks move 70% of domestic freight and over 70% of freight moved between the North American Free Trade Agreement partners of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. As for changes to NAFTA, for which negotiations are supposed to get under way this week, or other trade agreements, he said, “if you tweak it and do it wrong, we’ll be the first people to feel it.”

On autonomous vehicles, Spear said that while the technologies were promising, the media hype indicating driverless trucks are in the near future are “bunk.”

“We are not talking about driverless; it’s not going to happen anytime soon.” After all, he noted, jetliners are capable of taking off, flying and landing without anyone in the cockpit, “but we don’t do it.”

With driverless trucks way off in the future, the industry still needs to find more drivers. Spear said the industry needs a way to get to 18-21 year-olds – not to let them drive, but to get them into the industry, where they can be trained to be drivers, maybe at age 20, rather than the current 21-year-old age limit.

CORRECTED 8/16/2017 9:35 a.m. EDT. We mistakenly reported that Spear said ATA would sue California. ATA says he did not say that and that they have no plans to do so. We apologize for the error.

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