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October 30, 2018 11:30 PM, EDT

Outgoing ATA Chairman Dave Manning Reflects on his Year as the Face of Trucking

Dave Manning Dave Manning gives his farewell speech at MCE. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

AUSTIN, Texas — Over the past year Dave Manning, the immediate past chairman of American Trucking Associations, has walked in the White House Rose Garden, rubbed elbows with members of Congress, racked up a hefty airline travel-point balance, and even watched the Supreme Court in action.

But his greatest memories, he said, were meeting face-to-face with the trucking industry’s hard-working, passionate people who occupy offices, workshops and truck cabs nationwide.

“It’s the people piece of it that I’ll cherish the most,” Manning said in an interview with Transport Topics. “Our conversations impressed upon me the diversity of our industry and how issues affect each of our companies differently. Those conversations showed me that there’s much more that unites us than divides us.”

At ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition Oct. 30, Manning was succeeded by the federation’s 74th chairman, Barry Pottle, who will pick up some of the issues that Manning and ATA’s advocacy team put on the radar of Congress and the Trump administration.

Manning, meanwhile, will serve as chairman of ATA’s Executive Committee for a year and then become a member of the federation’s Nominating and Leadership Development Committee the year after.

Barry Pottle and Dave Manning

New ATA Chairman Barry Pottle (left) unveils the official portrait of outgoing Chairman Dave Manning. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)  

Despite some frustration dealing with what he called a “dysfunctional Congress” during his yearlong tenure at the top of ATA, Manning feels trucking had its share of successes — not the least of which were overseeing the successful implementation of the electronic logging device rule and developing a unified voice for the industry.

“I think ATA accomplished some stuff,” he recalled. “But I think also the dysfunctional Congress slowed things down some.”

Manning continued: “Bipartisan issues like infrastructure and workforce development, they should have been able to get done. But all they [Congress] wanted to do was focus on midterm elections, which were even more partisan.”

Yet, he’s still optimistic that some of those issues can be advanced quickly in the lame-duck session of Congress and in 2019.

“Regardless who controls Congress after the midterms, some of these issues are as supported by Democrats as they are by Republicans.”

Manning said by coming together with one voice, ATA has been able to effectively advocate on the issues that motor carriers deem important.

“Through the hard work of the entire ATA team, Washington is hearing our voice, and taking notice of our industry. With the DRIVE-Safe Act being introduced this year, we’ve been able to highlight trucking’s need to attract and train the next generation of truck drivers. It’s time the federal government allows 18- to 20-year-olds operate commercial vehicles across state lines.”

It was eye-opening for Manning to see firsthand some of the inner workings of the federal government, “those things you see and hear about, but don’t normally get to participate in,” he said.

“One thing this role gives you is the opportunity to have some face time with the administration,” he said. “The Rose Garden event was awesome. The small panel meeting that House Speaker Paul Ryan had was something.”

Manning also attended the State of the Union address and watched a U.S. Supreme Court hearing.

“What I liked about the Supreme Court hearing was that it’s usually the lawyers that do all the badgering,” Manning said. “But at the Supreme Court it’s the lawyers that get badgered.”

Manning also said he was inspired by the competitors who participated in ATA’s National Truck Driving Championships.

“Standing on stage and shaking the hands of 424 champion drivers was one of the best experiences I had the whole year,” he said. “It’s a great industry.”

In his speech just before handing off the chairmanship on Oct. 30, Manning, president of Nashville, Tenn.-based TCW Inc., thanked his employees for allowing him time away from the office to fulfill his duties.

And, he had a special message for his wife:

“To my junior high school sweetheart, and wife now of 43 years, thank you for all the planning and preparation in making our absence from home possible — and for postponing your knee replacement surgery to be on travel with me.”