ATA’s Graves: 2016 should be slightly better, warns of Washington interference

ATA President Bill Graves said the prospects for the trucking industry should be as good or slightly better in 2016 compared to 2015, but warned that uncertainty in Washington threatens to undermine good business conditions.ATA President Bill Graves said the prospects for the trucking industry should be as good or slightly better in 2016 compared to 2015, but warned that uncertainty in Washington threatens to undermine good business conditions.

During a luncheon address at the 2015 American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in Philadelphia, Bill Graves, ATA president said that while 2015 was a good but not great year for most fleets, 2016 is looking as good or slightly better.

“If there’s a boogeyman we need to be concerned about, look no farther than Washington,” said Graves. “Disarray within the House of Representatives could lead to all sorts of negative outcomes and unintended consequences for our economy. Government is not the enemy. Unfocused, unresponsive and overreaching government is the enemy.

On the upcoming presidential election in 2016, Graves said actions of political leaders could have an enormous impact on whether trucking companies will be successful in the future. “Whether your family will be better off than you are, whether the United States will continue to be the leading nation among free nations, this election will have a lot to do with the answers to those questions,” he said.

Graves pointed to the current political uncertainty as a potential reason for softer freight volumes in recent weeks and months, but said the United States is a growing nation in terms of people and products they consume and produce. “While other freight modal partners will continue to play supporting roles in moving this economy, the star of this show has been, is and will be the truck,” he said.

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In the last year ATA has revised its objectives and strategies with a clearer focus on safety and productivity as guiding principles.

“Operating safely is a moral imperative that positively relates directly to your bottom line and forms the basis for all we do in our policy and regulatory efforts,” said Graves. “If you can’t deliver on that commitment, then you have no business trying to deliver freight.”

On to the subject of highway funding legislation, Graves said that if Congress can move on a highway bill, ATA has language in the just-released chairman’s markup that addresses Compliance Safety Accountability concerns, opportunities for recruiting younger drivers, funding to alleviate some freight bottlenecks and options for pre-employment drug screening.

“In the appropriations bill we have language that helps resolve hours-of-service concerns and addresses truck productivity,” said Graves. “We have been a consistent and loud voice asking for implementation of the electronic logging device mandate.”