Exclusive: Graves to Depart as ATA President at End of 2016

Graves by John Sommers II for Transport Topics
PHILADELPHIA — Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations, has informed the federation that he will step down at the end of 2016, when his current contract expires.

“I have made a decision that at the conclusion of next year I am going to allow someone else to have the honor and privilege to head up the ATA,” Graves told Transport Topics in an interview here during the federation’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition.

ATA has formed a search committee led by Philip Byrd Sr., a past chairman.

“We are at a very critical intersection in our history, where we have key staff people that have decided to take other opportunities [and] where we have had marquee and key members decide that they might not want to participate going forward in the ATA organization,” Byrd, CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express, told TT in a separate interview. “Those are the things we need to be focused on. We need a leader and CEO who will help take us to that next level of excellence for ATA. That is what this committee is about.”

During his speech at MCE, Graves noted that vice president Martin Rojas and senior vice president Chris Spear have recently departed, and attorney Prasad Sharma is leaving shortly after the conference.

Graves was hired by ATA in 2001 while still serving his second term as the governor of Kansas. He officially took the helm at ATA in January 2003 and agreed, at last year’s MCE in San Diego, to a two-year contract extension through 2016.

Graves, who joked this will not be the first time some people view him as a “lame duck,” said he informed the internal leadership of ATA of his plans several months ago and that this is the right moment to make his intentions public.

It is time “to let someone else bring a renewed sense of energy and different optics and vision to the organization,” he said.

“The timing of the announcement is always awkward because there is a part of any leader that wants to maintain total and complete command and control for as long as they can,” Graves said. “But there is also a part of a leader that understands the organization you serve needs ample, adequate time to effectively search for and place a new person.”

New ATA Chairman Pat Thomas said the timeline allows for “ample opportunities to use all the resources we have available within the association . . . to begin to search for the right person to replace Gov. Graves.”

Thomas is senior vice president of state government affairs for UPS Inc. He was installed as ATA chairman here Oct. 20.

“We have had full confidence in the governor over the last 13 years, and that continues today,” Thomas said. “We recognize that people’s lives change . . . and we anticipated it might be near.”

Byrd said the finalized search committee will include 10 or 11 members and resemble the makeup of ATA members. He referenced fleet size, niche and geography among the factors being considered.

A representative of the state trucking associations will be included, and an at-large spot has been provided for past ATA Chairman Dan England, who also is chairman of C.R. England Inc.

“All of us on the committee — and certainly me, personally — thank Bill Graves for his 13 years of service to ATA. He has been a dynamic face for our industry and a great ambassador for us. It is going to be a hard job to replace Bill Graves,” Byrd said.

He said a professional firm will be hired to help guide the search committee through the process and to develop an organizational profile so candidates can better understand “where ATA is today and where does ATA need to be in the future.”