via Truckline Express

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves reflected on the economic turmoil of the past year and addressed the issues of distracted driving and highway safety that the trucking industry will face during the year ahead when he delivered his annual State of the Industry address to trucking industry executives and stakeholders on Oct. 5 at ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Graves told ATA members, “All that you’ve endured in 2009 becomes a part of your personal and professional life in 2010 and beyond. And the difference between the individuals and companies that tend to have more ‘good luck’ versus the ones that have more ‘bad luck’ boils down to the ability to use the past as a road map for a more successful future.” He continued, speaking about the lessons the industry learned during the fuel price crisis about managing and conserving diesel. MC&E attendees were able to learn more about fuel hedging during an education session later on Monday.

During the heart of his speech, Graves made it clear that he sees these challenging times as a “transformational moment” for the trucking industry. In addition to the political transition the country has experienced since November 2008, the industry has faced economic challenges and global uncertainty as technology and opportunity, and thus jobs, spread across the world. “Change is difficult at any moment, but it will be especially challenging for this industry in this transformational time,” said Graves.

He also spoke to industry executives about some of the specific challenges on the horizon, including adapting to additional government oversight of trucking, health care reform and climate change legislation.

Graves spoke with particular passion about the critical need for infrastructure funding. “The nation’s infrastructure needs are staggering,” he said. “ATA has done an outstanding job of developing and communicating a list of reauthorization priorities – highlighted by calling for an emphasis on freight movement and the elimination of freight bottlenecks. And while we have made it clear that we are prepared to pay additional dollars in support of road and bridge construction, we are only interested in that possibility when our industry agenda is embraced.”

Finally, Graves concluded his address by emphasizing the accomplishments of the past year, especially the implementation of ATA’s progressive 18-point safety agenda, which includes measures to eliminate driver distractions.