“2020 has been a year of endless challenges,” said American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear. “We rolled up our sleeves, and we’re getting the job done. Throughout this pandemic, trucking has done what it does best: care.”
These remarks come from Spear’s virtual address at this year’s Management Conference and Exhibition, in which he sang the praises of the efforts of the trucking industry and its dedication to stepping up to the country’s demands during this unprecedented time.
The event was conducted virtually this year due to COVID-19 safety protocol, and focused on the difficulties that arrived with the pandemic as well as the current opportunities for truck drivers to show their dedication to the stability of the country. Attendees also discussed the importance of the ability for the public to show its appreciation for those who hauled vital resources and PPE in the midst of the coronavirus breakout.
“During COVID-19, the American people have gained a much greater appreciation for the trucking industry’s vital role in keeping our supply chain open,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “Without [truck drivers], food, medical equipment, and essential supplies can’t get to where they need to go.”
Spear also noted the trucking industry’s efforts to make use of its position in the public eye during this time, with industry experts appearing on national television to discuss the importance of their work, as well as Chao and other industry representatives joining President Donald Trump at a White House ceremony in April.
ATA also worked quickly to secure its “essential” status for truckers during the beginning of stay-at-home orders across the country in an effort to work with state leaders in keeping rest areas open for truck drivers as they perform their important duties.
Additionally, Chao explained that the Department of Transportation has worked diligently to keep truckers safe, and claims that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s emergency declaration of hours-of-service regulation relaxation was a step to help carriers working in pandemic relief efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with FMCSA, state representatives, and industry groups, distributed 1 million protective masks to truckers early on in the pandemic, as well.
American Trucking Associations also worked to create the Moving and Storage Conference, along with the Moving and Storage Council. These efforts, which are an attempt to grow ATA’s involvement in the moving and storage sector and to provide training, leadership, and certification programs, were announced in August.
“By welcoming these leaders into the ATA family, we will be in a stronger position to represent the interests of our industry at both the state and federal level,” said Spear at the time ATA voted to initiate these efforts. “This new, larger, and stronger organization will be better able to serve our members.”
Spear detailed other recent trucking triumphs, such as truckers’ ability to navigate and aid severe weather difficulties that arose this year. He detailed truckers’ efforts to bring relief supplies to areas heavily affected by Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Sally, and Hurricane Delta.
Additionally, as was a hot topic in 2019’s Management Conference and Exhibition, “nuclear” verdict (a verdict in which juries decide in favor of awards of at least $10 million in trucking incident cases) tort reform was focused upon in this year’s discussion. According to Spear, ATA has won tort reform cases in Iowa, Louisiana, and Missouri.
The industry’s fight against Rhode Island’s trucks-only tolls was another main focus of the conference, as ATA has long-argued that these tolls discriminate against truckers working in interstate commerce.
“This is a must-win case,” said Spear at the conference. “This effort cannot be won on the backs of local and regional carriers. It’s everyone’s responsibility to fight and win. If we lose this, it could be in your backyard next.”
Spear also explained the infrastructure bill produced by the House of Representatives recently will make a 2021 long-term funding plan much easier, and said he’ll continue collaborating with lawmakers on an efficient package.
ATA has also reached out to Joe Biden’s campaign to commit to a working relationship as soon as he is inaugurated.
“We try very, very hard to work with people who work with us,” Spear said.