Graves blasts Tea Party/Congress at ATA conference

Oct. 22, 2013
ORLANDO, FL. American Trucking Associationpresident and CEO, Bill Graves, did not pull his punches at the podium yesterday during his State of the Industry address. Instead, he pounded members of Congress, especially the Tea Party Republicans, for “intellectual amnesia” and doing harm to the industry and to the country as a whole.

ORLANDO, FL. American Trucking Association president and CEO, Bill Graves, did not pull his punches at the podium yesterday during his State of the Industry address. Instead, he pounded members of Congress, especially the Tea Party Republicans, for “intellectual amnesia” and doing harm to the industry and to the country as a whole.

“The great comedian Milton Berle once said, ‘You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think,’” Graves observed. “Whether we like it or not, the world you operate in is in large part shaped by the policy and regulatory actions of the President and their administration, by the Congress and by state government—which is why it’s so important that we continue to be fully engaged in the political process at all levels…”

“Political change is underway and many of the traditional allegiances the business community has had within the Republican Party are necessarily going to need to be re-evaluated,” Graves continued. “…We are rapidly moving to a time where political labels mean very little, but the integrity and statesman-like qualities of candidates for office, or those already holding office, must be themeasure by which we decide our level of support.

“Not only has Washington’s recent public policy meltdown on the budget and the debt ceilingexposed the bitter, sharp (actually hateful) division between Republicans and Democrats, what’s most alarming is the collapse of the Republican Party and the emergence of the conservative wing of the party, most often referred to as the Tea Party, and it’s emergence as a very corrosive force,” Graves continued.

“Don’t get me wrong—while it’s appropriate, and there is certainly merit in advocating forreduced government spending, smaller government, reducing our debt, limiting regulations and controlling the reach and intrusive nature of the federal government—insisting on having things their way, without a hint of willingness to compromise and threatening to ‘burn the house down otherwise, is a combination of foolish, ill-advised, reckless and detrimental actions to the future of this country,” he observed. “Compromise must be at the heart of all the federal government does, or we run the risk of continually fighting and re-fighting battles brought about by one political party feeling “run over” and victimized by the other.”

“In spite of these challenges and many others facing trucking, the industry continues to thrive, Graves noted later in his remarks. “Trucking is a core building block in the economic foundation of America. We stand along with working men and women, the entrepreneurs who are willing to put capital at risk, with plants and equipment, energy, water, chemicals—all the fundamental elements that make up the economy.

“Trucking is as important as any aspect of the economy because it serves at the economiccirculatory system—the link between all the other critical elements. And while all those elements are important, without trucking’s ability to join them together in one place, business as we know it would simply not happen,” he said.

Graves also ticked through a long list of new and pending regulatory activities that will impact the industry in the short- and long-term. Change will happen, he noted when:

  • The EPA moves forward to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which could be “very expensive for our industry.”
  • FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) finally gets the long-overdue Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rulemaking finalized. “This will be a game-changer.”
  • The full impact of the new Hours of Service rules are realized.
  • Natural gas vehicles take on a greater share of the industry workload
  • The implications of CSA are “fully felt by fleets and drivers and greater safety will be the result.”
  • The driver shortage pushes the industry to examine and likely change its longstanding compensation model for drivers.
  • The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is fully implemented so that unsafe drivers are no longer able to drift from state-to-state in order to try to hide their record.
  • The commercial driver pool ages and retires.
  • “The shipping community’s ability to match up available truck capacity with economic demand becomes so limited and challenging that some accommodation towards greater truck productivity will logically need to occur.”
  • Americans will eventually pay higher prices for everything due to increased fuel taxes or tolls in response to infrastructure needs

He saved a jab or two for the railroad industry, as well. If freight rail works so well, he asked, why does it take a $100 million “Freight Rail Works” campaign to tell everybody?

“Let me tell you something,” he observed at the conclusion of his remarks. “This industry’s biggest obstacle to success is not the railroads; it’s not the political environment or the policy and regulatory environment in Washington DC or state capitols. It’s not high diesel fuel prices or an anticipated shortage of drivers. The biggest challenge we face will come from the incredible diversity of our industry and the easily fragmented constituency that we are. There’s an old saying about ‘hanging together or hanging alone.’ The ATA record of success in successfully advancing your agenda and protecting your interest is one I’m very proud of.”

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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