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May 12, 2021 12:15 PM, EDT

TIA Pledges Greater Capitol Hill Presence; New CEO Anne Reinke Leads First Meeting

TIA CEO Anne ReinkeAnne Reinke took over as head of the Transportation Intermediaries Association in October. (TIA2021)

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The head of the Transportation Intermediaries Association stressed that the industry is healthy and poised for a return to the kind of camaraderie that existed before the coronavirus pandemic.

“The state of the TIA is strong and its future will not be virtual,” said Anne Reinke, CEO of TIA, on May 11 at the TIA 2021 Capital Ideas Conference, which was held virtually May 11-13.

“We will meet again in person. We will forge new connections and relationships to benefit your businesses. And we will increase our presence on Capitol Hill.”

Elevating the group’s profile with lawmakers has been a stated goal for Reinke ever since October, when she took over leadership of TIA from Robert Voltmann, who had led the group since 1997.

Prior to joining TIA, Reinke served as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation and was previously vice president of government affairs at CSX Corp., a Class I railroad.

The virtual meeting was her debut before TIA’s members.

“I am so excited to work with you in this industry for years to come,” she said.

The keynote speaker for the virtual event, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, aligned with her goal of working more closely with Capitol Hill. During his May 11 remarks, DeFazio pledged to mark up the highway policy portion of President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan within weeks, after which it would be put to a vote by the House, ideally before the Fourth of July break.

Outgoing TIA Chairman Brian Evans, CEO of L&L Freight Services Inc., also urged more involvement with legislators. “We have to be able to tell our story, and fund supportive candidates through TIA’s political action committee,” he said. “This is the year we need to have our loudest voice and biggest influence.”

During the meeting, DeFazio touted Biden’s “very ambitious program.”

“Some say it is too expensive,” he said. “The reality is we have been underinvesting in our infrastructure for decades. We have been living off the legacy of Dwight David Eisenhower. What we built in that era is pretty much worn out.” Eisenhower as president in 1956 launched the interstate highway program. In addition to new infrastructure, there is the need to reduce fossil-based fuel in transportation, DeFazio said. He pointed out corporate giants such as FedEx Corp. and General Motors Co. have testified before his committee that they are going “all electric.”

FedEx Corp. ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Rep. Peter DeFazio

Rep. Peter DeFazio says America cannot continue to get by on infrastructure that was constructed during the Eisenhower era. (TIA2021)

U.S. truck makers all are working to bring electric trucks to market in the near future.

“We are going to electrify the national highway network as we rebuild it using materials that last longer and are more resilient,” DeFazio said

At the same time, he believes building bridges that can last 100 years is doable. Typically, he said, the U.S. builds 40- to 60-year bridges. “We are still running traffic over bridges that are way older than their lifespan all around the country,” DeFazio said.

Meanwhile, congestion remains a thorn in the side of commerce and individual commutes. To be competitive in the world economy, DeFazio said, “we can’t be all choked up all across America all the time.”

“We were once the envy of the world with our national highway system and the vision of President Eisenhower,” he added. “We are now rated 15th in the world in terms of our current rate of infrastructure investment, and are somewhere down around 60th in the world in terms of the percentage of our GDP that we put into transportation infrastructure. This has to change this year, which is the best opportunity we’ve had.”

RoadSigns

The year is 2039. Zero-emission, electric heavy-duty trucks roll past you on the highway. Charging ports are now commonplace at terminals and truck stops. Diesel-powered vehicles are becoming a thing of the past. You sit and wonder: How did we get here? Here, in 2021, Daimler Trucks North America's head of eMobility speaks to RoadSigns. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

In a move that aligned with TIA’s goal of increased Capitol Hill involvement, he urged those attending the meeting to get involved, “You have a huge network — all of you who are members of TIA, your customers and everybody else,” DeFazio said. “We need advocates. We have to get this done. And move it soon.”

Reinke, who called TIA the center of the supply chain, said she would work to enhance “and in some cases improve” the group’s relationship with key industry partners.

“It is imperative that we work together on issues that impact us all, and also find common ground where we may not see eye to eye,” she said. “Many members I have spoken with over the last six months have emphasized how important it is to have TIA look for common ground.”

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