Trucking continues fighting ‘must-win’ battles, as pandemic dominates news

ARLINGTON, Va. – What started as a year of so much promise for the trucking industry has gone off the rails, but the industry now enjoys greater appreciation and recognition than in the past.

Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) gave his keynote address virtually this year, praising the trucking industry for how it has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We began this year with tremendous optimism,” Spear said. “The passage of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement and over half of a new agreement with China secured, these trade deals gave us confidence that 2020 would feel more like 2018. Two months later, those hopes were dashed, replaced by a global pandemic that brought swift responses from all levels of government.”

Chris Spear (Photo: John G. Smith)

The ATA moved quickly to have trucking deemed an essential service, allowing truckers to continue serving their customers, Spear recalled.

“We got loud,” he added, “taking our story about the vital importance of trucking to the national airwaves, drawing the attention and respect of our nation’s elected officials.”

Truckers received unprecedented recognition for the work they did supporting the economy from the front lines.

“America is paying attention to trucking,” Spear said. He cited a long list of appearances on national news stations, as well as a growing social media audience. The ATA’s total impressions surged from 1.9 million to 8.2 million as its messages were retweeted by the likes of U.S. President Donald Trump and other high-ranking government officials.

Meanwhile, the ATA continues to wage several legal battles in support of the industry. One is fighting back against nuclear verdicts, with tort and legal reform becoming one of the association’s top priorities last year. Spear said the ATA has enjoyed legal victories on this front in several states.

“Trial attorneys are now paying attention, some even claiming that they’re the defenders of safety. Really? Where were they when ELDs, cameras and technology entered our trucks? I don’t recall seeing one trial attorney walking the halls of Congress when that was up for vote,” Spear said.

“Where are they as we advocate for more tools to combat the nation’s war on opioid use and the widespread legalization of recreational marijuana…tools like federal hair testing authority, expanding FMCSA’s drug clearinghouse or fixing the CSA program. The truth is, they haven’t lifted a finger for safety. Instead, they hide behind frivolous lawsuits aimed at destroying companies, jobs and families. But thanks to you, we’re takin’em to the woodshed.”

Another top priority for the association is battling plans in Rhode Island to toll commercial trucks. Spear called the battle a “must-win” for the industry, even for those who don’t run trucks in Rhode Island.

“Other states are watching, salivating over the notion of tolling our trucks,” Spear said, encouraging donations to a litigation fund the ATA has set up to cover the cost of the court battle.

Spear ended his speech with high praise for the trucking industry.

“It’s no surprise that America has awakened to the trucking industry. Together, we inspire others,” he said. “Together, we will win and grow. And we’ll always answer the call when our country needs us most. Trucking isn’t just the backbone of our economy – it’s the heartbeat of this nation.”

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 james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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