Editorial: The Best Defense

This Editorial appears in the Oct. 29 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Rather than trying to hold back the tide, American Trucking Associations’ leaders have decided the industry should get ready to funnel, in beneficial ways, the political groundswell that is rising behind the popular surge of interest in global warming.

ATA’s executive committee and board of directors, in the final activities of the Management Conference & Exhibition last week, agreed to a six-point environmental “sustainability” plan that outlines trucking’s potential role in reducing greenhouse gases generated by human activity.

A federal study stated, in draft form, that “scientific evidence supports the view that the earth’s climate is changing.” Carbon-dioxide emissions are widely considered a prime culprit.

The plan, which unifies policies that ATA will pursue in the political arena, recognizes that the industry benefits from any steps that help it reduce the consumption of fossil fuel, a prominent source of carbon dioxide.

ATA already had adopted the basics of three of the policies, calling for: authority to run bigger trucks so there may be fewer of them per ton-mile; fuel tax increases whose proceeds must be devoted to mitigating traffic congestion; and reduction of congestion-produced idling and truck idling nationwide. Congestion and idling waste huge quantities of fuel and add that much more to pollution.

For the sake of fuel efficiency, the plan expands an ATA speed limit policy: 65 miles per hour for all vehicles — cars as well as trucks — across the entire nation. It also calls on members to participate in the SmartWay Transport Partnership, which helps fleets and their customers monitor their carbon footprints.

As the sixth point, ATA states its opposition to mandatory participation in carbon cap-and-trade schemes. Some trucking interests voluntarily trade carbon credits in the environmental marketplace, but the federation will resist legislative efforts to impose regulations on trucking, because they would be far too complicated.

Despite individual objections to some of the details, approval of the plan may well prove to be a historic decision in the long run. As ATA President Bill Graves said, the associations’ members want the industry to be in a position to shape a global-warming agenda “rather than having someone else’s agenda forced upon us.”

It’s an idea torn from the playbooks of a famous football coach: The best defense is a great offense.