Monday, August 25, 2008

Panic or Patience

Some say we are in a recession but in my neck of the woods it sure doesn’t look like it. The shopping malls are buzzing and restaurants serving up lots of food. Predictions are that the trucking industry will lead the way out of economic issues but still much burdens our industry.

For the past three years, the American Trucking Associations has commissioned the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) to survey the industry and define the major matters being addressed by carriers. Its Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry—2007 was issued in October last year. Even in this short period of time, some of the Top 10 issues have changed their place in the order, moving up or down the list. Here’s a look at those 10 issues as defined last year with additional insights by ATRI’s vice president, Research, Daniel Murray.

1. Hours-of Service (HOS). While this was the top issue last October, edging out Driver Shortages which had previously been number one, its importance has diminished over the past few months. “I think HOS is a relatively stable issue and I would expect that would drop at least several places on our survey,” observes Murray. “This really came out during the height of the instability—court cases, interim rules and even congressional action. There were so many unknowns regarding HOS at the time that I now think we can go back to running companies with HOS in the background.”

The most recent District Court ruling preserving the 11- and 34-hour provisions of current regulations, the HOS controversy may be put on hold for quite a while.

2. Driver Shortages. Though this was a major matter in last October’s survey, with the lessening of demand for freight transport there has been less need for drivers. As always, it’s not just the need for drivers, but the requirement for those with good driving records and skills.

“Talk about a dull edged sword,” says Murray. “There’s an easing on the driver shortage issue because of how bad the economy is. But we all assume that’s a temporary situation.” As the overall economy recovers and demand for more freight movement ratchets up, so will the need for more drivers. It’s an issue that’s not going to go away.

3. Fuel Issues. The reason for this issue being third in October was given as the ability for carriers to recover some of the expense through fuel surcharges. Of late there is increasing focus at many levels on developing and using alternate fuels, ranging from ethanol to hydrogen and everything in between.

4. Congestion. This issue has moved up considerably from year to year as a headache for those using the highways. ATRI points out that average truck speeds and system reliability within many urban areas continues to decline. While several suggestions are offered to attempt to find initiatives to begin solving the problems attendant to congestion, there is obviously no panacea.

5. Government Regulation. While those surveyed in the October report weren’t specific on the matters that caused them concern, the sheer number of them were a burden. “When we went into the issue of Government Regulations,” recalls Murray, “as we surveyed this was a time of major rule making—everything from HOS to EPA engine standards for 2007, driver education. There’s even niche stuff, at least investigation of roll stability mandates on vehicles. They had done that on automobiles and everyone knows they are doing the same on large trucks.”

Exel director Greg Williams sent me this article. I’ll give 6 – 10 tomorrow. I heard on the radio that the decrease in gas prices is likely to continue as consumers are thinking through and not using as much gas as they had. Bus ridership is up. People are actually walking places. It’s all good.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

1 comment:

Brandy said...

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