Perspective: ATA Members Are on a Winning Team
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When it comes to politics, our country remains bitterly divided. Partisan gridlock makes government less productive and responsive to the needs of American families and businesses. Unlike politicians, the trucking industry cannot point fingers or play blame games. We have a job to do, and we get it done.
The same holds true for American Trucking Associations. ATA keeps its foot on the pedal despite dysfunction gripping our nation’s capital and statehouses. Our members expect a return on their investment in this association, and these past 12 months have proven what we can achieve as one trucking federation.
Owing to smart strategies and the courage to fight, I’m proud to report this has been a banner year for ATA. Together, we’ve notched historic wins on multiple Tier 1 priorities — beginning with some big news from the smallest state.
Last month, a federal court in Rhode Island sided with ATA in striking down the state’s trucks-only tolls, ruling it unconstitutional and a violation of the Commerce Clause. We told Rhode Island’s leaders early on that it was not only crazy, but illegal. They chose to ignore us, but they can’t ignore the judge. This historic decision carries implications far beyond Rhode Island’s borders. States considering similar schemes received a resounding message: Don’t mess with trucking.
That’s a lesson Washington needed to learn, too. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pursued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, we said it had exceeded its authority. We stressed that truck drivers, safely isolated from others in their cabs, have one of the lowest risk professions for viral exposure. We warned of the devastating impact the mandate would have at a time when we’re short 80,000 drivers.
OSHA didn’t listen, so we found someone who would — the Supreme Court — which sided with ATA and bounced the vaccine mandate. In just two months’ time, we upended a disastrous policy that would have cost trucking billions of dollars in compliance, brought a catastrophic end to many carriers, and severed our supply chain.
We can also point to victories buoyed by elected officials who did listen to us. For years, ATA has advocated for a federal infrastructure investment bill, testifying 25 times on Capitol Hill about the cost of failing infrastructure. That persistence paid off when Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides a 38% boost to road and bridge funding.
This infusion of funds will benefit every major artery trucks use. It will result in less downtime and lower maintenance and repair costs, and will keep trucks traveling more safely and efficiently. It reduces the time drivers spend in congestion, and expands access to safe parking. And it dramatically cuts C02 output.
The IIJA also established new recruitment and training programs, including a national pilot based off the DRIVE-Safe Act that provides a pathway for under-21 drivers to participate in interstate commerce, while simultaneously raising safety and training standards.
ATA also played a critical role in addressing the supply chain crisis, working with the administration to identify solutions that minimize bottlenecks and increase intermodal efficiencies. Our intermodal members helped push the Ocean Shipping Reform Act across the finish line — significant legislation that takes control and leverage away from foreign-owned ocean carriers and protects American truckers from abusive practices inside our ports.
And we continue to take on the plaintiff’s bar, with six states passing civil litigation reforms that will protect motor carriers from abusive lawsuits and nuclear verdicts, and 11 more state trucking associations preparing efforts in upcoming legislative sessions. Our industry continues to reshape the legal landscape so that juries are driven by facts, not payoffs.
Trucking has also made incredible strides toward a clean energy future, but we see an increasing, aggressive role by states regarding environmental regulation. While the industry is seeking cleaner energy, we are also laser-focused on shaping realistic goals and timelines, both at the state and federal level.
Next month, Americans return to the polls. Regardless of the outcome, ATA member companies can rest assured they are on the winning team. Because of your commitment to this association, your voice is being heard at the highest levels. Thanks to your support, this association is now stronger than ever. You are why we fight. And you are why we win.
Chris Spear is president and CEO of American Trucking Associations.
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