New ATA boss says he intends to be more aggressive on lobbying front

Chris Spear succeeds Bill Graves as president and CEO of ATA.Chris Spear succeeds Bill Graves as president and CEO of ATA.

The new president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations has signaled he intends for the group to take a more aggressive stance against trucking regulations and anti-truck safety groups as head of the trucking lobbying firm.

Chris Spear, ATA’s new boss, spoke last week at ATA’s annual Management Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas.

“Don’t mess with trucking,” Spear said in his address. “The state of our industry is strong, but without leadership, unity or an aggressive pursuit of results, our future is uncertain.”

On the regulatory front, Spear said ATA will work with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other agencies to ensure existing and pending regulations – Compliance Safety Accountability, electronic logging devices, parking and minimum insurance requirements, as well as any new regulations – are based on sound science and research and actually will accomplish their intended goals.

“In the eyes of some elected officials, we look like a money-filled piñata. I’m here to tell you that those days, these impressions of our industry, are over,” he said.

Spear said ATA intends to protect trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which have come under fire in the president election this year.

Greater infrastructure funding will remain one of ATA’s core lobbying efforts, Spear said. But he noted ATA may have to abandon its pursuit for greater fuel taxes to fund roads and instead adopt a new strategy. He didn’t outline what the strategy would be, however.

“If this is to be the fate of our nation’s fuel tax, then ATA must be prepared to realign our policies with the realities on Capitol Hill, beginning with a new means for funding our nation’s infrastructure,” he said.