September 21, 2009 8:00 AM, EDT

You Need to Attend MCE

This Editorial appears in the Sept. 21 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

If you’re in the trucking business, you need to be at American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas on Oct. 4.

Yes, it’s always easier to spend money to attend the annual meeting of your primary trade association when business is good and cash is flowing in. And it would be a notable understatement to say that it’s been a difficult year for trucking, and that few fleets are looking to spend money on discretionary expenses.

But we feel strongly that, even more than usual, fleet executives need to gather to discuss strategies for dealing with a new truth: The devastating recession is ending and business is going to grow, and the political picture in Washington has markedly changed. So the industry needs to revamp its approach to government.

In the words of ATA President Bill Graves, this year’s MCE will be about “lessons learned from surviving this last year” and to study “how to be successful as the recovery begins to show itself.” (Click here for p. 1 story).

And, Graves said, all of that will come against “the backdrop of the political reality that we’re going to be dealing with an Obama administration and Democratically dominated Congress for quite some time. . . . ”

The agenda for the meeting, which will run from Oct. 4-7, will include less discussion on general policy themes and focus more on ways to thrive in the changed economic and political environment.

It’s crucial that trucking have a voice in the changes that seem sure to come, especially involving labor law and the environment. Already organized labor has attempted — thus far unsuccessfully — to get Congress to make a major change to the rules governing union-representation elections, and there is a move to implement some emissions rules that could hamper trucking operations and possibly impede the economic recovery.

We also need to discuss the importance of the decision by the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to delay a multiyear highway reauthorization bill, and what we can do to get the bill moving.

A vigorous highway funding bill not only is critical to the trucking industry, but we also believe it is vital to keep the economy growing because it includes the financing of the nation’s infrastructure projects.

More than ever, trucking executives need to meet to discuss these important issues and to map a plan of action for 2010. See you in Vegas.