President Obama Nods to Trucking Industry

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. President Barack Obama gave a nod to the trucking industry in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, when he talked about supporting a new highway bill, building natural gas fueling infrastructure, improving truck fuel efficiency and addressing labor shortages.

Yet despite the president’s acknowledgement of the trucking industry, the American Trucking Associations was disappointed with the lack of details regarding infrastructure in the president’s speech, ATA’s president and CEO Bill Graves said.

“While we appreciate President Obama making reference to the need for infrastructure investment, we remain disappointed in the continued lack of specificity when he discusses funding,” Graves said. “While it is critically important to the nation that Congress and the administration come together on a multiyear highway bill this year, we believe that until the administration puts forward a serious, user-based funding proposal we will risk going over the Highway Trust Fund ‘fiscal cliff’ in the near term and be woefully underfunded to meet the longer term needs of the nation.”

In his speech, Obama pushed for lower tax rates for businesses in order to create more jobs in the U.S. and to re-invest the savings into infrastructure: “We can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.”

“We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible,” Obama said.

ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, who is also president and CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express commented: “It was an honour to attend the State of the Union, but the president’s proposal was sorely lacking in details and comes up short of what the nation needs to maintain our economic competitiveness. Trucks use our roads and bridges to move more than 70 percent of the nation’s freight and if [we] do not address our infrastructure deficit, the system will soon become a drag on our economic recovery and hinder our future growth.”

Obama on labor shortages and natural gas

When Andra Rush, CEO of Wayne-based trucking company Rush Trucking Inc. opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit, she needed workers. She called an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job – and found the workers she needed. Today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees, Obama said.

“What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker,” Obama said.  “I’ve asked Vice-President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”

What that means is more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships to help young workers find jobs that employers need filled, “it means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs.”

What’s more, the president threw his support behind natural gas, saying that part of the initiative to “bringing more jobs back” to the U.S. is to commit to American energy.

“If extracted safely, [natural gas is] the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas,” Obama said.

To read a transcript of President Obama’s full remarks, click here. 

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