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October 18, 2017 10:30 AM, EDT
Opinion: Opportunities Abound After Momentous Year

Just over a year ago, I delivered my first State of the Industry address at American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas — four months after taking over as president and CEO of ATA. Then as now, I am honored to lead this prestigious organization.

It has been a turbulent year in Washington and around the world, but an exciting one for ATA and our industry. The work we have done thus far has laid the groundwork for a bright future.

Spear

Looking back, ATA’s March visit to the White House is among the top highlights. Never in our association’s history have we had a truck — let alone two — parked on the White House grounds. To have the nation see the president of the United States climb into a truck was a landmark moment for our industry — a testament to the paramount role our drivers play in moving America forward, and the pride, dedication and professionalism they exhibit on our roads every day. Moreover, it sent a powerful message to decision-makers in Washington and across the country: Trucking is here, we have a story to tell, and we will drive outcomes.

That momentous event elevated our visibility in ways that reverberate to this day, creating opportunities for ATA to have a seat at the table for key policy discussions. Whether it is ongoing work on infrastructure investment, tax reform, regulatory issues, small business issues, automated vehicles or trade, ATA is viewed as a leading business group with policymakers in Washington.

That elevated presence in Washington has delivered significant victories for trucking.

During the past several months, we have beaten back attempts to delay the electronic logging device mandate scheduled to take effect in December. For nearly a decade, ATA has supported the use of ELDs as a compliance tool — with the understanding that compliance with hours-of-service rules leads to improved safety outcomes for all motorists.

At the 11th hour, opponents have tried to get this commonsense rule delayed or overturned, citing specious cost or other concerns. ATA has and will continue to be a leader in working with Congress and the administration to keep this rule on schedule. Required use of an ELD will soon be the law of the land; it will reward carriers and drivers that follow existing HOS rules and punish those who do not. Seeing this rule through to enactment is a significant win for safety and for ATA.

It is the type of win we expect to see on other fronts. While we wait to hear the full details of the administration’s infrastructure proposal, ATA is fully engaged to ensure the plan is good for trucking and the economy — in short, that it has real, sustainable funding attached. That funding must be derived equitably from users, and for now that means a user fee — the fuel tax or a similar funding mechanism — not tolls or private investment by foreign entities.

We cannot turn our highways over to Wall Street, based on the siren song of tolling and public-private partnerships. While these tools can be useful in very limited circumstances, when used incorrectly — as we have seen in Rhode Island — they are toxic, and we will fight them with every means at our disposal.

ATA continues to press forward on the key issues of tax reform and trade. President Trump has talked about reducing taxes, from the corporate tax rate to the death tax, in a way that would specifically benefit trucking. It is why we were proud to stand with him in Harrisburg, Pa., earlier this month in support of tax reform. That money should be yours, and we want to help you keep more to invest in your company — in your employees, equipment and the future of our industry.

Similarly, ATA continues to advocate in favor of smart trade policy. As the U.S. renegotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement, we are making sure that parties in all three NAFTA countries understand the importance of trade to our industry. Trucks move 76% of the NAFTA surface freight, 82% of the cross-border traffic with Mexico and 71% with Canada, our nation’s largest trade partner. Trucking will be the first to feel any changes in NAFTA, and we are urging all sides to work toward maintaining the free flow of goods between these countries.

Achieving results in Washington is no small task; it requires bright minds and hard work. We continue to build upon our outstanding staff by attracting new talent, and have called upon our members to be front-line warriors for our advocacy efforts. They have responded with vigor and enthusiasm. Thanks to these efforts, our Call on Washington program brought a remarkable 41 state trucking associations to Capitol Hill this year, making our industry a constant presence in the halls of Congress.

While I am deeply proud of what we have already accomplished over the past 12 months, many obstacles and challenges remain before us. As President Trump said, “When your trucks are moving, America is growing,” and we as an association are moving and growing together and laying the foundation for a strong and prosperous future for trucking. That future begins today, with us telling our story.

American Trucking Associations is the largest trade federation in the trucking industry and has headquarters in Arlington, Va., as well as affiliated associations in every state. ATA owns Transport Topics.