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Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO ATA
Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO

ATA president asks industry to focus on challenges ahead

Chris Spear, American Trucking Associations president and CEO, recently urged members to work together, and with anyone who is willing to work with trucking, to continue shaping a strong, positive future for the industry.

Spear made the plea during the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego CA.

“As an association that puts its members, industry and country first, we must always adhere to the value of working with anyone willing to work with us,” Spear said. “Since becoming your president and CEO, ATA’s focus on your priorities has been relentless, posting key wins … from federal tax reform to the preemption of California’s duplicative meal and rest break requirements. These results contribute to a growth environment.”

Working with lawmakers and officials from both sides of the political divide, as well as the many parts of a diverse trucking industry, is critical to achieving success on behalf of the industry, Spear maintained.

“The fact is, the relationships ATA has with the House and Senate—and both governing parties—are real, strategic and impactful,” he said. “The right wing and left wing belong to the same bird. And as an association that puts its members, industry and country first, we must always adhere to the value of working with anyone willing to work with us. We do that and we soar.”

Looking ahead, Spear said it is critical to continue making progress on key issues like trade and infrastructure, while also addressing looming challenges like the driver shortage, tort reform and relaxation of laws surrounding recreational marijuana now, so ATA can shape solutions that benefit the industry.

On the driver shortage, Spear said ignoring or denying its existence is not an option, and there are a number of potential solutions, including allowing younger drivers to obtain a commercial license with improved oversight and safety training, working to improve access to affordable health care and wellness programs that keep our employees healthy, and recruiting drivers from underrepresented and nontraditional demographics.

“Let me be clear—poaching talent from other carriers is not a sustainable growth strategy,” he said.

Spear also cited new work to be done in the areas of tort reform and the industry’s response to a number of states legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

“Eleven states, DC and Canada have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana … all while our federal government turns a blind eye. You can just see the trial lawyers sitting on the edge of their high, wing-back leather chairs drooling over the thought of more legal ambiguity,” he said. “We can’t just sit back and hand them yet another opportunity to litigate our industry. That’s why we’re announcing the first meeting of ATA’s new Controlled Substances, Health and Wellness Subcommittee here in San Diego.

“We need a member-led policy platform that helps lawmakers, regulators and courts make informed decisions about the impact substance abuse is having on safety and interstate commerce.”

Those decisions, he said, should include moving forward on completing the federal clearinghouse of drug and alcohol test results, hair follicle testing and research into a roadside test for impairment from marijuana.

Finally, Spear told ATA’s members the association is making “tort reform a Tier 1 priority at the state and federal levels.”

“We will continue to grow the ATA Litigation Center, and increase the number of lawsuits,” he said. “And we will back our state association executives that pursue ballot initiatives—going state-to-state to fight … until we have won.”

To read Spear’s full speech, click here.

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