AUSTIN, TEXAS — American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear denounced plaintiffs’ attorneys, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the California Air Resources Board on Monday as foes of the industry.
Speaking at the 2023 ATA Management Conference & Exhibition, the association executive blamed the groups for putting companies out of business and workers out of jobs.
“Trial lawyers chasing jackpot justice, self-promoting union bosses and delusional environmental extremists,” the association executive said, “constitute a clear threat to our industry's ability to grow and support our nation's economic security.”
Spear struck a combative tone as he touted the associations’ victories and ongoing efforts on behalf of its tens of thousands of members during a wide-ranging, 25-minute address at the Austin Convention Center.
Since ATA declared lawsuit abuse a tier-one priority in 2019, more than a dozen reform bills have been passed in different states, Spear boasted.
“There are now a dozen more states lining up to do the same,” he said.
Spear said his niece was one of the 30,000 workers laid off when Yellow Corp. filed for bankruptcy this summer after a monthslong, knock-down-drag-out fight with the Teamsters over its proposed network overhaul.
The ATA launched a job seeker database to connect laid off Yellow workers to jobs with the associations’ member companies, Spear noted.
“What’s the International Brotherhood of Teamsters done?” he asked. “Nothing. No help. Just self-promoting tweets and blame.”
In an emailed statement to Trucking Dive, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien argued Yellow’s corporate mismanagement caused its collapse and said the ATA would “love nothing more than the complete destruction of labor unions.”
“It’s reassuring to know the undeniable rise of worker power is getting firmly under the skin of the corrupt corporate elite,” O’Brien said. “The Teamsters are fighting for our members' fair share and, yes, imperiling the pocketbooks of greedy CEOs everywhere.”
The ATA stands with the California Trucking Association in its lawsuit against CARB, “an unelected, ill-informed band of extremists who have no clue the impact that their timelines and targets are going to have on our economy,” Spear said.
CARB did not respond to a request for comment.
CARB’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule requiring the production and sale of zero-emission vehicles goes into effect Jan. 1. Its Advanced Clean Fleets rule mandates an end to diesel combustion engine truck sales by 2036. The state aims to convert all trucks operating in the state to zero-emissions by 2045.
Spear noted 53% of California trucks in operation are models older than 2010 and proposed an alternative strategy he said would immediately encourage carriers to adopt newer, cleaner trucks: repealing the excise tax.
“If the goal is to reduce emissions,” Spear argued, “then eliminate the century-old federal excise tax, which adds 12.5% of the price of every new tractor purchased today.”
The threats to the trucking industry underscore why ATA’s advocacy matters, Spear said.
“Without a seat at the table, our industry, our way of life, could look entirely different over the next decade,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.