ATA’s Spear reiterates priorities during TMC speech

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ATA President and CEO Chris Spear on stage at the TMC Annual Meeting Monday in Atlanta.ATA President and CEO Chris Spear on stage at the TMC Annual Meeting Monday in Atlanta.

American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear offered a short but fiery speech on ATA’s priorities in the year ahead during the Fleet Operator’s Forum at ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting Monday in Atlanta.

With a presidential election looming in the fall, Spear said ATA cannot take its foot of the gas pedal and slow its effort the help shape policy and regulations to serve the trucking industry by getting caught up watching what he predicts will be a “downright ugly” election season.

One area where ATA intends to focus its resources is fighting plaintiff attorneys and anti-trucking litigation. Spear said the trucking industry invests $10 billion a year into safety solutions and is actively lobbying in Washington and at the state level to improve roadway safety across the country. Yet while driving from Houston to Lake Charles, La., last week, Spear said he counted 37 anti-trucking plaintiff attorney billboards. The number angered him, Spear said, and made it clear the industry is at war to combat these predatory attorneys.

“We are going to push state-to-state for comprehensive legal reform,” he said.

ATA also intends to continue supporting trade associations between the United States and China, like it did throughout the development of the recently signed USMCA agreement. Spear said ATA aggressively supported Phase 1 of the White House’s proposal trade agreement with China that was announced last month and will push heavily to see Phase 2 become a reality in 2020. If approved, Spear said the agreement would result in $33 billion of U.S. manufactured goods to be exported to the East in year one and more than $44 billion in year two — a huge lift to freight’s weakest sector (manufacturing).

“There is no daylight between trucking and trade,” Spear said.

Other initiatives ATA has on its docket for 2020 are employee recruitment and supporting the highway trust fund with an increase of the fuel tax. Spear said the nation’s incredibly low unemployment rate has been good for the economy but tough for the trucking industry, which continues to struggle to solve its driver and technician shortages.

As for the fuel tax, Spear was adamant that ATA will not stand for a commercial vehicle exclusive vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax and said legislators proposing such ideas should be publicly rebuked. Spear added a nickel a year increase to the fuel tax will net more than $340 billion in revenue across four years, an adequate amount of money to improve the roads and bridges necessary for the trucking industry to move 76 percent of the nation’s domestic freight.