Graves says elections will impact ATA’s agenda

Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, said the gains by Democrats in the Nov. 7 midterm elections had “significant implications” for the trucking industry.

Graves, speaking at the Commercial Carrier Journal Fall Symposium in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday, Nov. 15, said the ATA had a greater chance of addressing issues of concern to the trucking industry by working with a Republican-led Congress and administration.

“That dynamic changes now,” Graves said, adding that transportation funding may be spent in a much more diverse way than ATA would like. “I wish the money we paid in taxes was targeted and more effective in solving the challenges we face,” Graves said.

Speaking about Republican losses in the elections, Graves, a two-term Republican governor of Kansas, said he wasn’t surprised at the outcome. “In politics, you reap what you sow,” Graves said. “Republicans didn’t do a good job of taking care of the people’s business. In my opinion, you have to focus on governing and not the politics of the moment.”

Politics aside, Graves forecasted a bright future for the volume of freight moved by truck. The U.S. population, now 300 million, is expected to reach 400 million in 2040. Fueled by this growth, freight volume is expected to grow from 10.7 billion tons in 2005 to 12.4 billion in 2011, and increase 31 percent by 2017. The ATA forecasts that Class 8 trucks will grow from 2.9 million to 3.8 million by 2017, representing a 32 percent increase.

“Anyone in the trucking industry will have full employment opportunities going forward,” he said. “There is lots more freight to be moved in this country.”

Trucking faces many challenges, however. The industry continues to face a driver shortage, high fuel costs, equipment issues and regulatory oversight, but Graves said the number one issue is whether or not this country is willing to make the investment in infrastructure to move freight economically, efficiently and safely.