New ATA president puts trucking’s enemies on notice

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – In his first American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition speech as president and CEO of the organization, Chris Spear put the trucking industry’s enemies – including some lawmakers – on notice.

“Trucking is already one of the most regulated and taxed industries in America,” Spear said. “In the eyes of some elected officials, we look like a money-filled piñata. I’m here to tell you that those days, those impressions of our industry – are over…If you want to throw the first proverbial punch, you’d better knock us down. Because you will feel the one we throw back. ATA will fight your one-line sound bites and baseless rhetoric and we will publicly call out the hidden agendas of other industry groups.”

Spear said ATA will fight to reduce the industry’s taxation.

“Shaving just five points off our corporate tax rate would allow you to make critical investments in your businesses and your employees,” he told the packed crowd. “That’s money you could use to purchase new, more efficient equipment with safer technologies, increase driver pay and provide additional training to your employees.”

With a new president set to take the helm within the next few months, Spear also voiced concern about discussions around reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Any attempt to re-open or threaten this longstanding agreement could have dire repercussions on our industry,” Spear said, noting trucks carry 70% of surface freight between Canada, the US and Mexico. “America relies on free trade and trucking is key.”

Spear also said the trucking industry must be involved in shaping autonomous trucking regulations.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is real, folks, and it’s here whether we like it or not,” he said. “If properly developed, it has the potential to dramatically improve safety and reduce congestion…The playbook for how autonomous technology will be regulated is currently being written by auto OEMs and their federal and state regulators. The trucking industry cannot afford to concede an entire regulatory framework to another mode of transportation.”

Spear called on the trucking industry to remain unified as key issues are addressed. Two of these include securing a permanent hours-of-service fix and pre-empting states from “adding new layers of meal and rest break requirements on carriers operating across state lines.”

“The state of our industry cannot be driven by Washington,” Spear said. “We simply cannot allow that to happen.”


James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Sounds like at least the American Trucking Association finally, might be headed by someone who has an inkling as to what the industry’s real needs are. Historically, the trucking industries in both Canada and the United States have allowed ones who know absolutely nothing about the real issues of trucking, tell the ones who do, just how to go about rekindling both the viability and attractiveness, the profession once held. All trucking companies, but in particular the smaller carriers who make up the majority of the trucking environment, are suffering the consequences of this present dilemna. Given the opportunity, the industry itself could have the potential to self regulate as in the past, and clean up the aftermath of what’s wrong with trucking in North America today.