Times Are a Changin’

ATA Management Conference Offers Look into Trucking’s Near Future

Nobel Prize LaIMG_20161003_110639037ureate Bob Dylan’s hit “The Times They are a-Changin,’ ” could have easily been the theme song for the recent American Trucking Association (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition.

ATA’s new president and CEO – Chris Spear made the keynote address before a record number of conference-goers. Spear laid out plans by the ATA senior leadership to take a more proactive role in promoting free trade, working closely with federal regulators, elected federal officials and congressional members and asserting itself in discussions of autonomous technology and future regulations.

Earlier this summer, Spear was named ATA’s 9th president, following former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, who led the association for nearly 14 years. Spear previously served as ATA’s senior vice president for legislative affairs from 2014 to 2015.

During his address, Spear told attendees the story of trucking is the story of America.

“We work hard. Together we move nearly 70 percent of our nation’s freight. As one, we are the backbone of our economy and a pillar of our nation’s security,” Spear said. “We are each leaders, ambassadors of our trade. United, we are the trucking induIMG_20161003_115332364stry. Telling our story matters, but telling it together matters more.”

Spear said a permanent suspension of the hours of service restart rule and pre-empting states from adding new layers of meal and rest break requirements on interstate carriers are two immediate key legislative goals for the ATA. Looking beyond the election and the Inauguration in 2017, the ATA may have to be prepared to realign its policies in order to deal with the realities on Capitol Hill, Spear added. One of those realignments could be finding a new way to fund the nation’s highway infrastructure. ATA’s senior leaders will work closely with the board and with key industry members to develop a new policy the organization can advocate with the next administration and Congress, he said.

Spear called for industry unity saying “we face challenges in Washington (D.C.) and at the state level, but together, our strength as an industry is unmatched. You deserve to win and that’s my vision for ATA—winning. I cannot do it alone; I need you.”

During the conference attendees also:

  • Received encouragement from Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff under President George W. Bush, to participate in this year’s presidential election, even though they may not like either presidential candidate. “It is our government. Don’t blame anyone else for the performance of the government other than those who don’t participate in it,” he said. Educate yourself and follow your inner moral compass to the ballot box. Card also reinforced Spear’s message about the need for ATA to be actively involved in the crafting of a new transportation funding bill in Congress during the next session. “It’s a divided country and you don’t want to be trapped in the divide. You want to be united. ATA has to be united to speak with a very clear and loud voice.”IMG_20161003_110523265
  • Heard a presentation by Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer and assistant administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, about his agency’s rulemaking process. Van Steenburg outlined upcoming regulations, emphasizing that during the rulemaking process notices of proposed rules, cost-benefit calculations, public comment periods and extensive reviews are all in place to protect the public from “over-zealous” regulations.
  • Looked at advances in automated driving while examining potential obstacles for the technology.
  • Received an overview of the U.S. economy and its effect on trucking from Diane Swonk, founder and CEO of DS Economics, and Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist
  • Learned more details from the ATA’s industry-wide safety investment survey.
  • Reviewed equipment, applications and services, including Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass service, at vendor booths.

As Transport Topics said in its editorial published in the Nov. 10 issue, while it’s fun and interesting to talk about the future, the future has a funny way of sneaking up on us all. This year’s ATA conference provided a way for those in trucking industry to stop and take a good look at what the near future holds with regards to changes in transportation and distribution trends, products, technology, and regulations. It was also a time to reflect on the service of Bill Graves and his 13 years as president of ATA.

It’s like Dylan says, “if your time to you is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, For the times they are a’changin’!”

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