It’s been said adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Having worked in trucking for more than three decades, I can safely say 2020 has been a year unlike any other for our industry. We’ve navigated countless obstacles and unforeseen twists and turns over this difficult stretch.
When the COVID-19 pandemic blanketed our country in a fog of uncertainty, the character of America’s trucking industry shone through; precisely the type of character that drew me to trucking from the first days of my career.
Like many in this business, I’m proud to lead a family-run operation — one that began with one truck and has grown to more than 80 power units and 400 trailers. The story of Garner Transportation Group is a common one in trucking — and a reflection of the drive and opportunity that are hallmarks of this great industry.
It also reminds me of what unites us. From the smallest carriers to the largest fleets, we’re all driven by a similar purpose and unwavering dedication to service. We’re bound by a common character; the same values and shared commitment to seeing any job through, no matter the task. Indeed, 2020 has revealed our true character for every American to plainly see.
That’s why I am deeply honored for this opportunity to lead American Trucking Associations as its 76th chairman — and the second chairwoman.
The strength of the ATA federation rests in our ability to unite the depth and breadth of our membership under one banner — when the power of our combined character aligns behind a common purpose. This is particularly important during these unusual times, as COVID-19 makes convening in person more difficult. But as we demonstrated by taking the Management Conference & Exhibition virtual, truckers find a way to get the job done. We should expect the virus to continue disrupting “business as usual” into 2021, but we cannot let it prevent us from staying connected and present.
Next year is sure to be consequential in Washington — regardless of who controls the White House and Congress. Long-term infrastructure funding, the widening driver shortage, workforce development programs, safety and environmental regulations, and tort reform are issues on tap at federal and state levels. Maintaining our voice, and building upon the goodwill our industry has rightfully earned throughout the pandemic, is critical.
Every ATA member has an important story to tell, and now is the time to tell it. Participate in a Call on Washington. Invite elected officials to visit your facilities. Talk to your employees and listen to their input. Get engaged.
The level of our success is determined by the level of our support. Securing wins on priority issues depends on many hands working from a well-resourced toolbox. That means supporting the American Transportation Research Institute, so that policy proposals before lawmakers and regulators are backed by ironclad data. It means supporting the ATA Litigation Center as it works on a monumental court case to defeat truck-only tolls in Rhode Island. It means supporting Truck PAC, and backing our allies in Congress.
It means supporting Trucking Moves America Forward and other outreach programs, so Americans can meet the amazing drivers who are the lifeblood of our economy. And it means supporting the Trucking Cares Foundation so we remain the bedrock of communities across the country.
I also challenge you to look for other opportunities to make a difference. Truckers Against Trafficking is one initiative dear to my heart, and our industry is uniquely positioned to battle this horrific and very real crime. As the eyes and ears of America’s highways, we can help save lives stolen by human trafficking.
Through the adversity of 2020, our industry has emerged stronger than ever. The strength of our character is an unstoppable force, and through the power and unity of ATA, I am excited about what we can accomplish in the year ahead. I’m proud to join you as we embark on this journey together.