President Trump sits down with truckers to talk health care, jobs

Trucking Associations CEO: Obamacare hurt our industry
Trucking Associations CEO: Obamacare hurt our industry

While Republican leaders were busy most of the day Thursday trying to rally House support behind the GOP-proposed American Health Care Act, President Donald Trump met with some of the trucking industry's biggest names, and their dialogue focused on health care.

"We're the ones out there moving the economy," Chris Spear, chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, told CNBC's "Closing Bell" after the meeting. Spear said the group had an "outstanding conversation" with Trump.

Trucking is a $725 billion industry, employing around 7.3 million Americans and delivering 70 percent of the nation's goods. One in 16 jobs in the U.S. goes to a trucker, Spear told CNBC, and in 29 states the most popular job is truck driver.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has severely hurt the industry of late, Spear said. "Rising insurance costs, administrative burdens, lack of choice ... the status quo is not acceptable to our industry, with all the people we employ. For us, it's a jobs issue."

President Donald Trump sits in the drivers seat of a semi-truck as he welcomes truckers and CEOs to the White House in Washington, DC, March 23, 2017, to discuss healthcare.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Many prominent leaders of the trucking industry have said they stand behind Trump and his stance on removing current health-care mandates and empowering individuals and businesses to make their own decisions.

"Having a good, strong health-care platform is really important to us," Spear told CNBC. Further, he wants to see a health-care bill that "makes sense" and one that's easy to understand.

Spear said the industry has seen many negative impacts from Obamacare, such as one Wisconsin trucking company that currently averages monthly premiums of $2,300 and can no longer invest into its business.

Fleet growth is slowing, posing one problem to the industry. But with fewer available trucks on the road, there is actually a greater demand for drivers. Data show there is a shortage of nearly 50,000 truckers in the sector today.

Trump has said he intends to make the country more aware of truck drivers' challenges, health care being a top priority.

To be sure, a very small minority of U.S. voters, just 17 percent of them, support the Republican plan to repeal and replace key parts of Obamacare, while 56 percent of voters disapprove of the bill, a new poll shows.

Those attending Thursday's meeting at the White House included Mike Ducker, president and CEO of FedEx Freight'; David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line; and Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight. A dozen truck drivers were also invited.

— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this story.