ATA Management Conference & Exhibition Wrap Up

In case you were not able to attend the even in person, here is a wrap-up of some of the key takeaways from this year’s conference.

Solutions to Driver Shortage Top ATA’s Conference Agenda

Trucking and government leaders focused attention on professional driver recruitment and retention as the industry’s leading issue at the American Trucking Associations annual conference Oct. 21-25 in Orlando.

As the freight market is expected to grow, and as many drivers near retirement age, the industry will need to hire nearly 1 million drivers and technicians in the next decade to meet demands, according to ATA president Chris Spear.

“To build trucking’s future, we need to look beyond the hood,” Spear was quoted as saying. “We need to stop talking about problems and start addressing them.”

ATA Establishes Joint Workforce Development Subcommittee

The association announced it has established a workforce development subcommittee to work with officials from federal and state agencies on solutions. John Smith, ATA’s secretary and chairman of CRST International, will lead the workforce development subcommittee. The subcommittee will look at a variety of ways to address the labor shortage – including apprenticeships and the minimum age requirement for interstate drivers.

Also leading the charge is incoming ATA chairman, Dave Manning, who serves as Tennessee-based TCW Inc. and replaces outgoing Jet Express Inc.’s Kevin Burch, whose term expired. Manning said he believes apprenticeships could help the industry get young people into trucks after they graduate from high school instead of having to wait until they pursue a second or third career.

Drivewyze at their booth at the ATA’s 2017 MCE Conference.

Two High-Ranking Trump Administration Officials Address Conference

As part of its efforts in engaging federal and state agencies regarding the industry’s labor shortage, the ATA had two high-ranking members of the Trump Administration address conference-goers – U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Chao said she is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on possible solutions to the driver shortage. Further outreach to veterans and to underserved communities and outreach to women are among the things federal agencies can do to help recruit new truck drivers and technicians, she said. The FMCSA is also looking at several approaches to recruit veterans and individuals from historically underserved communities.

Joining ATA’s Spear and Manning, Acosta focused on apprenticeships as a key strategy for meeting the industry’s demands for skilled drivers and technicians. The industry has developed robust training programs, but has few established apprenticeship programs, he said.

Chao made headlines nationwide when she told attendees that the Trump Administration plans to take on the president’s $1 trillion proposal on infrastructure immediately after Congress completes work on tax reform. Trump’s proposal includes $200 billion in federal funding, with the remainder coming from private investment and other methods. In the meantime, Chao said the DOT is continuing its examination of regulatory reforms to speed up construction projects.

Also at the conference:

  • During his state of the industry address, Spear declared the fight over the electronic logging device mandate as over;
  • Three long-time trucking industry executives reinforced the message about creating apprenticeships and allowing people under the age of 21 to trucks on the nation’s interstates. The executives also voiced their support for a $1,000 minimum weekly wage for truck drivers;

Although it’s an unpopular idea with President Trump, the subcommittee’s chairman suggested allowing more immigrants interested in becoming truck drivers into the country because they can make more money in the United States than in their home countries.

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