Just as Freddie Mercury orchestrated “We Will Rock You” to thousands at Wembley Stadium, Chris Spear acts the part as president of America’s premier trucking group, the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
Perhaps not possessing the tenor or stage presence as the prog rock front man, Spear does have the bravado to stick up for trucking’s bottom line and is fearless when it comes to calling out any bureaucratic beeswax.
As of late, the Spear-led ATA has been rocking along wins on both the national and state levels.
Top trucking group does not shy away from industry issues
Spear spoke to stakeholders at the ATA’s annual Mid-Year Management Session hammering away the trucking group’s diligent approach to taking on issues impacting the industry.
“We’re working with our federation and state associations executives,” he said. “They’re seeing action in states like California…Florida…Iowa. We are leveraging the entire strength of the ATA to be engaged at all levels.”
The ATA does not shy away from denouncing any regulatory measures that the group disapproves of.
The trucking group will take anyone to court when it sees an injustice. Last year, it won a legal battle in Rhode Island over what trucking believed was targeted tolling by the state.
While the group is candid with its criticisms, Spear also notes its willingness to cooperate with regulatory agencies and lawmakers: “We’re not saying no—we’re not the association of no.”
Spear cites the group regularly engages with government agencies, like the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, to find common ground.
For instance, he acknowledged a “forty-year pedigree working with the EPA to reduce tailpipe emissions, to deploy the latest, greatest innovative equipment available.”
It’s far more suitable for the industry when the two parties are collaborating rather than butting heads. A point Spear appears to stress.
California puts trucking and regulators at odds with each other
That said, a symbiotic relationship between regulators and trucking can sometimes appear as a pipedream.
Recently, California’s rollout of zero-emission regulation puts the two sides at odds again.
Spearheaded by the California Air Resources Board, new measures are being implemented in the Golden State as early as next year which will require motor carriers (operating in the state) to transition to zero-emission trucks.
The CARB regulation has incensed most trucking stakeholders, but notably trucking’s loudest critic, Chris Spear.
“This isn’t the United States of California,” he brazenly worded in a press release. Spear, like his associates, is gravely concerned this regulation forcibly imposes an unrealistic timeline for Californian fleets to meet.
He condemned the EPA’s decision to approve these measures and believes this sets the stage for future supply chain crises.
A frustrated Spear reiterated trucking’s commitment towards zero-emission fleets, but emphasized it needs to be done at a steady pace. “It’s just the timelines are unachievable,” he said at the Mid-Year Management Session. “We don’t have the technology available…just simply will not happen in that amount of time.”
A close eye is being kept on EV
Another issue the ATA is keeping a pulse on is electric commercial vehicles.
EV regulation has taken its first steps and a key concern from trucking is that expected regulatory standards will lump commercial trucks in with passenger vehicles.
The industry desires a longer leash to integrate appropriate infrastructure needs for EV fleets while not having to capitulate to regulation it’s not ready to adhere to.
The ATA has been at the forefront of trucking’s plea for regulators to draw a distinction between the two sectors.
The industry saw a legal win in March, but don’t expect Mr. Spear and the ATA to let up on the pedal anytime soon.
Trucking’s premier advocacy group is on standby—ready to raise its voice again with its president holding a megaphone.
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