October 29, 2007 7:55 AM, EDT

ATA to Push Climate Initiative

Group Sets Environmental Policies
By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter
This story appears in the Oct. 29 print edition of Transport Topics.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Executives with American Trucking Associations endorsed a program aimed at tying several key trucking-industry issues to growing political concern about global warming.
“We got together and came up with six different proposals about how ATA could help do our part to support the effort to reduce greenhouse gases,” said G. Tommy Hodges, chairman of Titan Transfer Inc., who also headed ATA’s task force on the issue.
Some of the program’s six main points already had been supported by existing ATA policy, Hodges said.
Endorsed here Oct. 23 during ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition, the “sustainability” plan includes support for:
• A national speed limit of 65 miles an hour for all vehicles.
• Increased size-and-weight limits for trucks.
• The Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel efficiency program, SmartWay.
• Nationwide anti-idling ef-forts — including working to reduce idling in traffic jams and providing incentives for technology to reduce idling to operate a truck’s systems while parked.
• An increase in the fuel tax, but only if revenue goes to mitigating congestion.
The sixth point sets the trucking group in opposition to so-called cap-and-trade carbon reduction schemes for mobile sources such as cars and trucks.
Hodges’ group filed a report encompassing all the points and it was approved in its entirety by ATA’s executive committee; the group’s board also approved new stand-alone policies backing the national speed limit and SmartWay. The truck-idling, size-and-weight and fuel-tax positions already were held in some form by ATA.
The federation is expected to formally release the report this week.
Several ATA leaders said adopting the plan gave the federation a chance to be a leader on an environmental issue gaining momentum in Washington. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee took up climate-change legislation, and other legislators were looking closely at the issue last week.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the trucking industry,” said Hodges, now second in line to be chairman of the federation. “We know that we consume a tremendous volume of fossil fuels in our daily activity — that’s not going to change — but it’s way past time for us to get responsible in how we use those fossil fuels; and for us to recognize that, while we’re not the major contributor out there, we are a contributor and while we’re not the only users out there, we are a user with a unified voice that gets in front of the issue.”
ATA President Bill Graves had called on the group’s members to back the sustainability platform.
“The message from the membership seems to be: ‘We want to position our association in a way that we are proactively advancing the agenda, as opposed to having someone else’s agenda forced upon us,” Graves said.
The package, he said, did include some individual items — such as the size-and-weight endorsement and others — that on their own, individual members might not support, but taken on the whole, the package may be well-received.
Taking a proactive stance, Graves said, “usually means you go out on a limb a bit, you stretch a bit in terms of what you’re willing to commit to going forward, that maybe in an isolated set of circumstances or historically you might not have been willing to do.”
“Several people commented on elements of the plan that they could all find some reason to disagree on or lose some level of enthusiasm, but they nonetheless were going to support the package, because they viewed it as a very positive step in the right direction for the industry,” he said.
Charles “Shorty” Whittington, president of Grammer Industries Inc. and the newly installed first vice chairman of ATA, said he thought that, by endorsing the plan, “we took a huge step forward.”
“I think the mood at ATA today is to play a little bit more offense instead of so much defense,” he said.
Greg Owen, chief executive officer of California-based Ability Tri-Modal Transportation Services Inc., said that all of the plan’s points were “good ideas.”
“How many of them are doable, I don’t know, but I think it’s great that ATA and the task force put together a plan,” he said. “It’s a good plan, and every trucker in the nation should support it.”
Hodges said the final piece of new policy was the cap-and-trade language.
Cap-and-trade refers to a method of reducing carbon emissions by providing incentives for companies to lower their output and allow them to sell any extra credits to companies that exceed their maximum-allowed levels of pollution.
Hodges said the new ATA policy opposed cap and trade on “any mobile source — that’s trucks and other vehicles.”
“We can understand how that can work on static facilities, with things like scrubbers and air cleaners, and you have plants where you measure one year over the next,” he said. “We don’t see how it could work on mobile sources . . . regardless if somebody has 400 or 500 trucks or just two or three trucks.”