Earlier this month, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trucking industry’s largest trade association, held its annual Management Conference and Exhibition. Industry and government officials alike hobnobbed to “focus on the evolving challenges of the trucking industry and setting a course for the future.” Coverage of the Truckers’ annual convening is not typically front page news. However, the presence of two senior Biden Administration officials—EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Mobile Resources Alejandra Nunez (discussing new Greenhouse Gas Phase 3 regulation) and Senior Advisor to the Office of Energy and Transportation Kevin Miller (part of a panel that discussed the industry’s path to a zero emission future)—is enough reason to dig deeper into the association’s leadership and political goals. Let’s start with the current President and CEO: Chris Spear.
Before moving to the private sector, Spear had the ignominy of serving as the Deputy Representative to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. You know, the pseudo-government the Bush Administration set up after the United States’ horrific invasion of Iraq. A reflection of the Pentagon’s incoherent plans for governing post-invasion Iraq, the CPA failed to get Iraq on track and is a significant reminder of the perils of pigheaded warmongering. The pseudo-government failed to enact most of its promised economic reforms and grossly mismanaged reconstruction funds; over $8 billion (that’s BILLION with a B) remains unaccounted for.
Prior to his spell at the CPA, Spear had a deep background in Republican politics. He was Senator Tim Hutshinson’s (R-AR) legislative director and served as the staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training. He also worked for Senators Mike Enzi and Alan Simpson (R-WY). In addition to those roles, Spear served as the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor, where he briefed the Pentagon on Iraq’s needs in terms of training, construction, electronics, and agriculture. All notable positions, which eventually led to his ascension as the Deputy Representative for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Spear’s post-government employment has been a varied tour of the private sector. He first worked as a lobbyist for anti-union defense contractor Honeywell before becoming Vice President of Government Affairs at Hyundai. And now, as the trucking industry’s major advocate in Washington, Spear has pushed for autonomous trucks, increased oil and gas production, and “a federal solution” to state and local government taxes on the industry while also criticizing the PRO Act as “a political favor to big labor union bosses wanting to grow their membership.”
What’s more, the ATA has:
- Attacked California’s Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation, which would require half of all heavy trucks sales to be electric by 2035,
- Actively opposed Julie Su’s nomination to lead the Department of Labor, and
- Dismissed President Biden’s move to stand with striking auto workers on the UAW picket line as “political theater.”
These policy positions are emblematic of a lobbying machine that is vehemently anti-labor and excitedly pro-fossil fuel expansion–in other words, the inverse of the Biden administration’s professed bedrock values.
The list of red flags is so varied that Biden administration officials tacit endorsement of the legitimacy of the ATA flies in the face of his campaign promises and rhetoric. Moreover, it undercuts the commitment of the entire administration towards substantively addressing the climate crisis. It’s critical that Biden officials exercise better judgment and shun attachments with a group such as ATA, which is diametrically opposed to all the things the president claims to stand for.