It starts here: Chris Spear highlights agenda at ATA's 2018 NAFC

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ATA president, Chris Spear addressed conference participants to kick off a busy Wednesday at the 2018 annual NAFC.

"What your doing matters and you can feel the level of excitement about what your doing. The protocols, the standards, you’re shaping the future," he began.

"I’ve never seen Bob Costello so excited. It’s an exciting time to be in trucking. With good, also comes to surface some of the problems, like the shortage. It doesn't just  impact this industry but the economy," he said.

"Your participation and your initiative matters. Thanks for being engaged, and we’re going to continue to work hard on your behalf. We want to keep raising the bar every time. Tell us what works and what doesn’t."

"What a banner year for TMC. There’s a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty. Trying to explain something like blockchain to some of these folks in Washington; they don’t always even know how to operate a Facebook account. So that starts here."

"Whether we’re talking about cybersecurity, or blockchain, it starts here. How we talk about these things. These things are based on sound, well thought out protocols. The tax reform is going to give a lot of money back to carriers. A conservative estimate is $3.6. A lot of the money is going back into the pockets of the employees. It’s either that or newer, safer, more environmentally-friendly equipment," said Spear.

"When the president of the United States met with us in Harrisburg, that was a defining moment. We’re wanting to constantly show value. This isn’t a country club. We’ve been around for 85 years, but we’re doing more than networking here. We’re here to get some things done. We’re here to run a business. We want to get some wins on the board. I’ve created a team that has a very strong business mindset. We’ve got the tax return on the board. We’ve got a lot of cash flow now. It’s not sustainable. This revenue is probably got a two year fuse. How do we use it?" Spear asked.

"It’s a good problem to have."

"I’ve got some carriers turning down as many as 10,000 loads a month," said Spear. "You just can’t imagine the repercussions of that. You’re going to have to add more trucks, and if you’re going to add more trucks what else are you going to need? You’re going to need more drivers."

"Also, in terms of cybersecurity, what are we going to do?" Spear asked. "How do we track congestion? Personal conveyance time? Connectivity? It’s a building block. It starts with ELDs. We need good protocols. We need to know how these trucks aren’t compromised."

"Will everyone come together and hold hands?" he laughed. "We’ll see. It’s going to be interesting to see. Policy isn’t going to be done through twitter. It’s going to be done here. We need to take some of the granular elements here. I get about three minutes to pitch something like blockchain. I need the high-level pitch. If it gets their attention, we may get to follow it up with about 30 minutes of Q and A, but we need the high level."

"It’s simply impossible to keep up with the pending litigation now. It benefits no one, but the plaintiffs," said Spear. "F4A is a business killer. We need the salient points. We’ve got to win this issue. We’ve got to get that done this summer. There’s a lot of things I’d really rather be getting done than a lot of underbrush, bad policy that’s coming out of California."

"In terms of autonomous, the media is really a problem," he said, and asked for any members of the media to raise their hand.

"Look, we’re not going Level 5 in the next five years. We will go driverless some day, but it ain’t happening any time soon. What will be happening soon? Driver assist technology. We need to have someone regulating and tending to that freight. It’s about security as well. Speeding and texting is one of the main problems we deal with right now just from passenger vehicles."

"You have to get rid of the human error first," he said. "We’re really talking about driver assist especially from Levels 2-4. There’s some really cool stuff happening there. It’s an encouraging space with a lot of potential there. We need some Federal leadership here as well. We don’t need a patchwork that suffocates this innovation. We can’t always lead with regulation. We need to lead with the innovation. We’d never have gotten to the moon if we led with regulation. We need to shape that narrative. If we don’t we’re going to have a lot to deal with. We’re not in the passenger vehicle space, we’re in interstate commerce. We need federal laws that help our industry."

"Like we need to help the 18-21 year olds to cross state lines. We need to help train them so that they can mentor and do it responsibly. We need that talent pool. We need to bring them into industry." Spear said that this was a particularly important issue, and one that should be easy to pass.

"And another thing we need to do is to make trucking cool again. We have some work to do. Not just talk about the issue, but do something about it."

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