ATA's Graves highlights focus on safety, infrastructure in State of Industry Address

Oct. 9, 2014
Graves pointed to the industry’s drive to correct the hours-of-service rules as “a great template for our future efforts.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves committed ATA to a focus on safety and improving the nation’s infrastructure in his annual “State of the Industry” Address as part of the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition on Monday in San Diego.

“The state of the industry is certainly better than when we last met, and the possibility for continued improvement outweighs the risk of slipping backwards—although the crystal ball is murky given the current confluence of three key challenging factors: one – the lack of infrastructure investment; two – where to get drivers and three – the uncertainty around the cost versus benefit of government regulations,” Graves said.

Graves said a large part of why the industry was better off than it was a year ago was reorganization and refocusing by ATA on a few key areas.

“Everything we do, or try to do, on Capitol Hill somehow or another revolves around the issue of safety. We’ve recognized that, we’ve acknowledged that and now we’re going to embrace that fact in our planning efforts,” he said. “This is not just a recommitment to safety, but an elevated game plan designed to make the entire trucking industry safer.  Now I don’t want anyone leaving here thinking I just said we’re planning to be in favor of every safety idea that raises its head—that’s not what this is about. What we’re going to do embrace safety in a more holistic way. We want to be better in our assessment of which safety related initiatives truly work and how our industry and the motoring public will benefit from them.”

Graves pointed to the industry’s drive to correct the hours-of-service rules as “a great template for our future efforts.”

Efforts, he said, that needed to extend to raising revenues to improve the nation’s infrastructure.

“Everybody knows what we need to do, everybody knows how important it is to this country, but everyone wants someone else to pay for it,” Graves said. “Infrastructure is not free and it’s not cheap and it’s not going to be repaired, be built and be expanded by osmosis.  That’s why it’s so critical that our national leaders start leading on the issue and stop politically pandering and posturing – posturing that is having the very negative and unintended consequence of fooling Americans into believing that there really are ‘pennies from heaven.’”

Specifically, Graves called out conservatives in Congress supportive of cutting back the federal highway program and pushing the responsibility to the states.

“The most damaging element of that type of approach is those members of Congress who have been suggesting that ‘devolving’ the program to the states is the answer. Devolution is simply code for ‘passing the buck’ or in this case ‘passing the responsibility for raising a buck’ to someone else,” he said.

While congressional efforts to improve highway safety and the nation’s infrastructure were the focus of many ATA efforts, Graves said the industry was also threatened by the specter of overregulation by the federal government.

“What challenges our industry is not the Congress. What challenges our industry – for at least the next two years – is the power of the President and his administration to mis-regulate our industry,” Graves said. “Regulations, per se, are not bad; in fact there are a number of things we think the government should do to make the trucking industry safer and more profitable.”

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