ATA’s Spear rips ‘self-promoting union bosses’ in annual address


AUSTIN, Texas — “Self-promoting union bosses” encouraged by the “most pro-union president in history” are making trouble for the trucking industry, American Trucking Associations CEO Chris Spear said in his annual membership address.
But he had plenty of invective for California regulators. And he criticized a century-old excise tax that adds $25,000 to the typical cost of a new heavy-duty truck.
“Trial lawyers chasing jackpot justice, self-promoting union bosses and delusional environmental extremists. Together, they constitute a clear threat to our industry’s ability to grow and support our nation’s economic security,” Spear said as he paced the main stage Monday at the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition.
Spear: Organized labor failed Yellow workers
Spear took aim at the Teamsters for failing to negotiate further concessions that might have provided a lifeline for bankrupt Yellow Corp.
“Thirty-thousand hardworking Yellow employees lost their jobs because one of two parties refused to come to the table,” he said. “Say what you like. Blame who you want. But that’s the cold, hard truth.”
The ATA tried to help place out-of-work Yellow drivers in open jobs with association members, he said.
“What’s the International Brotherhood of Teamsters done? Nothing. Just self-promoting tweets and blame,” Spear said. “If that is representation, if that is what this president is selling, we want none of it.”
Union organizing campaigns backed by the Biden White House create peril for trucking and related industries. They account for one in 17 U.S. jobs, he said. Seeking to count gig workers as full-time employees and opposing autonomous trucking in California are two examples of Teamsters meddling with trucking livelihoods.
“These same organizers have told me candidly that truck drivers cannot speak for themselves,” he said. “[Drivers] can think for themselves. They don’t need some showboating union boss to do it for them.”
ATA backs California Trucking Association in CARB suit
The ATA is backing the California Truck Association’s suit challenging the California Air Resources Board (CARB) over its Advanced Clean Fleets rule . The regulation requires fleets to purchase increasing percentages of zero-emissions vehicles beginning in January.
Spear called CARB “an unelected, ill-informed band of extremists who have no clue the impact their timelines and targets will have on our economy.”
On Tuesday, Spear told members of the European Parliament that the international governing body should embrace realistic, achievable timelines to reduce emissions. He urged rejection of CARB’s mandates that also require OEMs to produce increasing numbers of zero-emission trucks.
“Given where the technology, infrastructure, power grid, cost and operational requirements stand, these regulations will undoubtedly fail to deliver the vehicles and market adoption California seeks,” Spear said.
Operational parity between diesel and battery-electric trucks is a long way off.
“It currently takes 15 minutes to fill a diesel-powered truck to go 1,200 miles regardless of extreme heat or cold. It can take six to 10 hours to charge an electric truck during nonpeak hours just to go 250 miles under the best of conditions,” he said.
Dueling regulations
Creating dueling sets of emissions regulations — CARB and its followers against a 50-state Environmental Protection Agency standard — follows the path the automotive industry faced with differing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for pollution-sensitive California and the rest of the country, Spear said.
In July, after months of acrimony between CARB and the Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), the two sides agreed to flexibly implement the state’s toughest-in-the-nation emissions rules.
“CARB bullied our manufacturers, dangled the credits in exchange for their right to sue,” Spear said. “CARB seeks to defy our history, our voice, our ability to fight back.”
Spear also railed against the continuation of a 12.5% federal excise tax on new heavy-duty trucks that dates to 1917. It adds about $25,000 to the cost of a typical Class 8 tractor, he said.
U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Todd Young, R-Ind., unveiled the Modern, Clean and Safe Trucks Act of 2023. It would repeal the levy that generates about $5 billion in tax revenue a year.
Today’s trucks are 98.5% cleaner than more than half the trucks on the road in California with engines dating to 2010 and earlier, Spear said, citing American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) data.
Zero-emission vehicles came in at No. 10 on the latest ATRI list of top industry issues. It was the first time the issue made the list.
Related articles:
California Trucking Association sues to block Advanced Clean Fleets rule
CARB and engine manufacturers compromise on emissions timing
Yellow’s demise: 2 decades in the making
Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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