PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Addressing trucking industry leaders at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition here today, president and CEO Bill Graves said the biggest threats facing the US trucking industry come from the disarray in Washington.
Though he delivered a mostly optimistic outlook for the industry and its prospects into 2016, Graves said “If there’s a bogeyman we need to be concerned about – look no farther than Washington, as the disarray within the House of Representatives could lead to all sorts of negative outcomes, unintended consequences and mischief for our economy. It seems truly ironic that given all the turmoil that exists throughout the world, that the single biggest threat we may face is our own government.”
While truck freight volumes have softened of late, Graves said he still maintains a bright outlook for the industry.
“The simple fact remains, the US is a growing nation, both in terms of people and the products they consume and produce,” he said. “It still comes down to simple math: More people equals more stuff. And while the other freight modal partners will continue to play supporting roles in moving this economy, the star of the show has been, is and will be, the truck.”
Graves said ATA is in the midst of pursuing its most “broad and significant policy agenda” in its history. He said if Congress does its job over the next 45 days, “We will have what I believe is the most impressive list of achievements ever accomplished by the ATA.”
He noted all 10 items that appeared on ATRI’s 2015 Top 10 list of industry concerns, released earlier today, are being addressed by ATA.
“If you examine that Top 10 list, you’ll see that we’re all over it,” he said.
However, Graves remains cynical about the work that’s getting done in Washington and some of the people who are running for President in next year’s federal election.
“Who would have thought we’d have half the country running for President?” he said. “It’s like a cottage industry – you run around the country self-promoting on other peoples’ money (except for the Donald) and if you don’t win (which all but one won’t) you springboard into the book deals, the talk shows and speeches and whatever other form of profit-making you can conceive of, given your now ‘celebrity status’ as having been a presidential candidate.”
But Graves reminded delegates that government itself is not the industry’s enemy.
“Unfocused, unresponsive government is the enemy. Sloppy, wasteful government is the enemy. Overreaching, underperforming government is the enemy,” he said. “Too much government creates dependencies that stifle personal responsibility and initiative. Too little government leaves gaps in critical programs and services that are necessary elements in sustaining this nation’s quality of life.”
Graves expressed concern over the growing number of people who run for President without the skill set needed to “manage their way out of a paper bag.”
And he urged delegates to vote for the most capable candidate.
“I believe this election is going to matter a lot more than others,” he said. “I close by imploring you to think very carefully about the skill set that the next person who occupies the White House should have. Think very carefully about the unrest that permeates this world and ask yourself who would be the best leader to guide us toward greater national security and global peace? Which individual would best balance the domestic and foreign challenges our nation faces? Which person has the temperament to get up each day and face the withering assault of our Congress and our media? Which candidate seems to appreciate the role that our government needs to play, while not falling under the illusion that more government is always the answer? Perhaps it’s good that we have a year to figure this out, because I believe the stakes are too high to risk getting it wrong.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies