A Year Later: ATA President Spear Reflects on Pandemic

ATA President Chris Spear
“We worked with lawmakers to ensure that economic stimulus reached carriers and drivers so they could keep the economy moving," ATA President Chris Spear says. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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Last April, the White House hosted representatives of the trucking industry to recognize their contributions at a time when the pandemic already had afflicted segments of the economy. American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear was at that event alongside truck drivers, former President Donald Trump and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. A FedEx Ground truck, as well as the ATA image truck Interstate One were used as backdrop.

“American truckers are the foot soldiers who are really carrying us to victory,” Trump told attendees.

“You’re America’s heroes,” noted Chao.



Reflecting a year later, Spear told Transport Topics that he acknowledged the adversity the industry faced during the early days of the pandemic. Back then, operational uncertainties industrywide threatened parts of the supply chain, and it would take resilience and flexibility on the part of truckers to ensure essential tasks were performed. Spear was among several officials who shared their perspective with TT about the pandemic’s impact on the industry.

“Last March, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, but it became clear just what an important role we were going to play in getting the country back on its feet,” Spear said. “Truck drivers became soldiers on the front lines of our response to the pandemic: delivering food, medicine, [personal protective equipment] and other essentials that made our long quarantines possible; that kept hospitals and clinics supplied. And now, as the tide is turning, delivering the literal shots in the arm we need to finish the fight.”

Spear also emphasized the adversity staff overcame to continue to assist stakeholders: “Working remote, we were able to secure real wins for our industry: access to rest stops, distributing [personal protective equipment] and sanitizer all in the name of keeping our drivers safe and healthy.”

He continued, “We worked with lawmakers to ensure that economic stimulus reached carriers and drivers so they could keep the economy moving. We pivoted and adapted our series of meetings and events to keep our members safe, but connected.”

The Week Ahead (All times Eastern)

March 24, 9:30 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers the nomination of Brenda Mallory to be chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

March 24, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee considers the nomination of Polly Trottenberg to be deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

March 25, 11 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hosts Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Watch live here

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Legislative Docket


Van Hollen

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) recently introduced the “Promoting Infrastructure by Protecting Our Subcontractors and Taxpayers Act.”

The bill is designed to require payment protection on federally financed infrastructure projects receiving loans via the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The measure is meant to pave the way for protections for workers, suppliers and contractors.

“Contractor defaults on infrastructure projects can cause costly delays, wasting taxpayer dollars and leaving residents, local stakeholders and project workers in the lurch. As we work to make historic investments in our nation’s transportation network, we must ensure that projects are financed securely,” Van Hollen said this month.


The highway bill is expected to get a May markup at House T&I, per sources.


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The Last Word

We set a goal to achieve carbon neutrality for our global operations by 2040. To get there, we will invest in solutions and make necessary changes across our enterprise.

Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx Corp. on March 17


We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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