Chairman, American Trucking Associations
Perspective: Marking a Year of Wins
[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
About one year ago, as I was preparing to take over as chairman of American Trucking Associations, I thought about what the next year might bring. We were slowly emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, waiting and hoping for Congress to deliver on the promise of a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would change our country and economy, and we looked cautiously toward what the future might hold in the second year of the Biden administration.
It was an exciting yet uncertain time. However, what happened over the next 12 months was — in my opinion — truly special.
As ATA chairman, I’ve traveled around the country — 20 states in all — talking to my fellow truckers. Everywhere I go I’m struck by how invigorated people are by the “new” ATA. It’s not exactly new, but ATA is no longer the reactive group it once was. The team has come together, and you can feel that when you talk to people in the industry; from the smallest companies to the biggest, you can feel the momentum and energy to move this industry forward.
That momentum is built off of wins. Many times during our travels together, I’ve heard ATA President Chris Spear speak of wins. Because of the ATA team, our industry has started to win a lot.
Since I’ve become chairman, we’ve seen Congress pass sweeping infrastructure legislation — a huge priority for trucking. The legislation included critical funding for roads and bridges, but also important workforce development provisions that will help us find, train and retain the next generation of truckers.
ATA led the fight against what could have been a crippling vaccine mandate, ultimately prevailing at the Supreme Court in a win for the whole economy — but especially for trucking.
The industry’s unity and strength has been noticed.
It has been noticed by the White House, which once again invited our trucks onto the South Lawn — this time to talk about the importance of apprenticeships and bringing new, younger talent into trucking.
Our strength is also being noticed in state capitals, including Providence, R.I., where ATA very recently secured a tremendous victory over that state’s unjust and, now, officially unconstitutional truck tolls. This case wasn’t just a win in Rhode Island, it was a victory we can cite across the country to battle state schemes to use our trucks as rolling piggy banks.
It is good to win and be a strong, unified association, because the challenges that lie ahead for our industry are myriad. We must stay together to overcome them.
Record inflation and fuel prices this year drove up costs, potentially tipping our economy toward recession. That has people a little more cautious than they were just a few months ago.
And regulatory challenges remain. Whether it’s California’s Assembly Bill 5 or other potentially damaging federal rules, we cannot afford to sit back and admire our wins — we must move ahead and keep the momentum going.
Safety, electric vehicles, labor, emissions rules — there are so many opportunities for ATA to show up and demonstrate leadership. But that requires being involved.
As I prepare to conclude my chairmanship, that is my challenge to the industry and to my fellow ATA members: deepen your involvement in this association.
Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info
It isn’t enough just to belong to ATA, you must support the things ATA and this industry supports. That means programs like the Trucking Cares Foundation and Trucking Moves America Forward. It means being an active participant in your state associations, in their Calls on Washington, in ATA’s advocacy efforts through TruckPAC. It means supporting ATRI so we can have real answers and data about the important questions facing trucking.
The best part about being on a team is the feeling of winning when everyone is pulling on the rope together. Let’s keep pulling on that rope, supporting our industry and moving us forward to more wins in the future.
Harold Sumerford Jr. is CEO of Birmingham, Ala.-based J&M Tank Lines.