Perspective: State of the Union Highlights Trucking

Dan Van Alstine
Van Alstine at the State of the Union. (TT File Photo)

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It was my privilege to be in attendance when President Joe Biden recently addressed Congress on the state of our union. Over time, this constitutional requirement has become something of a made-for-television production, full of choreographed pageantry for political pundits to pore over. But as I took in the sights and sounds from the gallery of the House chamber, what struck me as chairman of American Trucking Associations was something you probably didn’t hear from the talking heads on TV. My main takeaway was that our industry remains at the heart of the American story.

Beyond a ceremonial box-checking, the State of the Union lays down important markers that will define policy debates in the coming months. As the president articulated his agenda and engaged with members of Congress from both parties, what I heard was a substantial list of issues that are paramount to the success of our industry and its ability to keep the nation moving forward. After COVID elevated trucking to the top of our public consciousness, this speech encapsulated how and why we remain squarely in Washington’s center of gravity and decision-making process.

Take infrastructure, for example. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was a monumental piece of legislation that ATA was instrumental in securing. We testified more than 25 times on Capitol Hill leading up to the bill’s passage. Thanks to that hard work, we are now seeing a 38% increase in our nation’s road and bridge funding.

But that work is far from over. It is critical these funds are now directed to where they are most needed: freight bottlenecks, new highway and bridge construction, intermodal connectors and truck parking capacity. The new Republican House majority has a vital oversight role in ensuring these funds are spent wisely. In recent weeks, ATA has testified twice before House and Senate committees to drive this point home for lawmakers.

We also heard a lot about the various supply chains that we are most dependent on and progress that has been made to alleviate chokepoints up- and downstream. The president cited the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act, for which ATA also helped secure passage. This bill represents the first major update for laws governing U.S. maritime port operations in more than 20 years, targeting abusive business practices waged by foreign-owned ocean carriers against American truckers. As the central and most critical link in the supply chain, the trucking industry will continue to shape solutions to address these challenges. That includes expanding the talent pools to join our workforce and infrastructure investments that reduce congestion and increase the flow of freight.


Energy was another focal point, leading to some spirited back and forth between the president and Republicans. Powering our nation’s trucking fleet is a matter of national and economic security. As policymakers discuss what fuels will power trucks and cars in the future, we are making sure the industry is at the table, and advocating that any policies considered must be responsible, realistic and have achievable timelines. This debate is only beginning and will have enormous implications for the trucking industry, supply chain and the American consumer. Our voice is essential to keep lawmakers honest and transparent about the road ahead and to shape policies that are financially and technologically feasible for our industry.

These many acknowledgments by the president serve as an important reminder that what happens in Washington has far-reaching consequences and a direct impact on trucking. That’s why the power of the collective voice of ATA, and our members, is so important, and so effective. The state of our union is strong so long as our industry remains strong. Our presence on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is what make that possible.

Dan Van Alstine is president and chief operating officer at Ruan Transportation Management Systems.

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