The American Trucking Associations is thrilled to announce our Trucking Champion of the Month for July: Congressman Henry Cuellar. Hailing from Texas, which has the second largest GDP in the United States, Congressman Cuellar understands just how essential trucking is to the American economy and way of life. From protecting motor carriers from staged accidents and lawsuit abuse, to advancing workforce development programs that help recruit more drivers into lucrative, long-term careers, Congressman Cuellar has proven to deliver pro-trucking policies on Capitol Hill.
The saying that everything is bigger in Texas certainly applies to trucking. The industry provides more than 750,000 jobs across the Lone Star state, moving 91 percent of its manufactured goods by tonnage. But it's not just businesses that depend on trucking -- all Texans do: 82 percent of communities across the state rely exclusively on trucks to receive their goods. Those men and women behind the wheel embody the backbone of the Texas economy, keeping store shelves stocked, gas pumps filled, homes furnished, hospitals supplied, and first responders equipped.
"There are few other places in the country that have more of a concentrated focus on trucking than the Congressman's district,” says John D. Esparza, President and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association. “His district is growing by the day, and through his steady and thoughtful leadership, he will continue to work hard to build up small businesses to meet the demands of their community. His attention to these businesses and their success will continue to generate the economic prowess this state has come to be known for.”
Doing the economy's heavy lifting is no easy task, and the trucking industry faces many hurdles in keeping America moving forward. One of those is lawsuit abuse by way of staged accidents targeting innocent truckers. On highways across the U.S., bad actors are deliberately causing collisions with unwitting tractor trailers in order to file bogus lawsuits. These criminal rackets have drawn the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but more work must be done by federal officials to protect the industry and supply chain from this growing threat.
Thankfully, Congressman Cuellar co-authored and introduced The Highway Accident Fairness Act (H.R. 6151), bipartisan legislation that would make the act of staging a collision a federal crime. Unbelievably, there currently is no federal statute that specifically outlaws this malicious activity, leaving prosecutors with fewer tools and forcing them to pursue tangential charges instead, like wire fraud. His legislation would right this wrong, making our highways safer for all who use them.
In order to meet the demands of a growing freight economy, the trucking industry needs to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade. Representing one of the fastest growing congressional districts in the country, Congressman Cuellar knows the rewarding opportunities that trucking can provide job seekers as a stable pathway to the middle-class without the costly burdens of a college degree. He has championed legislation like the DRIVE-Safe Act to help recruit the next generation of American truckers, which expands access to interstate-commerce driving jobs and elevates new safety and training standards for younger drivers. He's also a leading sponsor of the LICENSE Act (H.R. 6567), which reduces red tape to streamline the CDL process so drivers can get on the road without navigating through the government's bureaucratic maze.
Congressman Cuellar is also fighting for the rights of independent truckers as their chosen business model is threatened by AB-5 in California and the similarly proposed PRO Act in Congress. He recently introduced the Worker Flexibility and Choice Act (H.R. 8442), which would ensure that the millions of independent contractors, including hundreds of thousands throughout the trucking industry, retain the freedom and flexibility to continue running their businesses under the Fair Labor Standards Act, federal tax, and state wage and hour and tax laws. Independent contracting is a core pillar of the trucking industry, providing truck drivers the flexibility to pick and choose their routes and when they want to drive, and ensuring the supply chain has the freight capacity it needs to meet surge demand in peak seasons.
Thanks to these efforts and more, the trucking industry has a unwavering champion in Congressman Cuellar.
Q&A with Congressman Cuellar
What do you appreciate most about the trucking industry?
The trucking industry plays a vital role in keeping food on the shelves in our grocery stores and keeping our supply chain moving. It’s a thankless job and we owe a lot of our daily lives to its success. I am appreciative of all truckers who spend many days away from their families in support of our economy. I am especially grateful for their work during the pandemic as part of our nation’s frontline response and distributors of vaccines and other critical medical equipment.
What role do truckers play in the local Texas economy?
Truckers play a pivotal role in the Texas economy. The industry transports approximately $1.2 trillion worth of freight to, from, and within the state each year. Truckers also ensure Texans receive essential goods in rural areas that other modes of transport may not be able to reach. Additionally, the industry generates or supports an estimated one in four jobs in the Lone Star State. Not only do truckers have a direct impact on ensuring we receive essential products, but they also support a wide array of industries within our state’s economy.
If you could describe Texas truckers in one word, what would it be?
Texas truckers are tenacious—driving 12+ hours a day and spending many weeks away from their families to support our local and national economy. Their hard work ensures we have food at our grocery stores, medical supplies in our hospitals, and fuel for our cars.
How can elected officials better support the men and women of trucking?
Elected officials can better support the men and women of trucking by passing common-sense legislation to enhance safety, modify and improve CDL requirements, and invest in our roads and highway systems. I was proud to vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law last year, which includes a $350 billion investment in our highways and $3.4 billion for construction and modernization projects at our land ports of entry. I have also introduced legislation like the Highway Accident Fairness Act of 2021 to improve safety on our highway system.
What song tops your long-haul playlist?
"I’ve Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash.