Editorial: Joining Forces to Move Forward

The themes of partnership, outreach and unity were present throughout speeches and presentations at this year’s American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition.

Cooperation between ATA and the federal government was a central tenet. During his State of the Industry address, ATA President Chris Spear said the federation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are working together on automated vehicles, advancing the guidance recently issued by the Department of Transportation.

For his part, FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said during an address at MCE that his agency is willing to work with the trucking industry on some of its key challenges: notably, hours-of-service reform and a uniform federal framework for meal-and-rest-break rules. On the latter point, Martinez heard cheers from the packed room where he spoke when he expressed concern about the ability of states to enact a “patchwork” of safety rules.

It was enlightening to hear a regulator offer such openness to collaboration with the industry. Martinez cuts an engaging and sincere profile in public speech, and one gets the impression he really is willing to engage with the industry. To that end, he was seen participating in conference activities days after his speech — an encouraging sign that he is willing to immerse himself in the industry and talk to its people. Indeed, he said that keeping the roads safe is a “two-way street,” requiring both sides to participate.

Two sides that have sometimes been adversarial are police and truckers. But here, too, there emerged words of hope that the sometimes difficult relationship has an opportunity to improve.

For one thing, they are both focused on keeping roads safe. Improving relations during roadside inspections could go a long way toward that goal, and it’s something that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said it is working on with state associations. By giving drivers the same training as inspectors, the hope is that drivers will better understand what inspectors are looking for and also have a deeper appreciation for what they do. At the end of the day, both sides just want to ensure the roads are safe.

As it has in years past at MCE, safety was at the forefront of the conversation. Through the kind of partnership, outreach and unity outlined in Spear’s speech, the industry is poised to deliver on this commitment to safe roads.