American Trucking Association Conference in Vegas

The latest trucking industry news relates to the 2012 American Trucking Association (ATA) Conference and Exhibition held in Las Vegas from October 7-10.  In addition to the numerous truck-related exhibits, seminars and discussion panels led by a range of industry experts and various government agency officials were held.  Thousands attended the four-day event and we were proud to be with them. Here’s an overview of what we learned.

American Crossroads

Embracing this year’s theme, “American Crossroads,” ATA President Bill Graves spoke at the opening of the general session, offering his annual address, the “State of the Industry.”  His comments zeroed in on the numerous changes and challenges facing today’s trucking industry, each of which is placing carriers at important crossroads of critical decision-making points.  He stressed the need for companies to “adapt and change,” and maintained that the decisions made today would determine which businesses would succeed, profit and grow and which would stagnate into failure and loss.

Graves went on to point out the three biggest problems currently facing the trucking industry and the nation:

  • A sluggish economy
  • A  population lacking confidence that the economy will improve
  • A dysfunctional federal government, with leaders incapable of getting the job done

Economic Outlook

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello led a panel discussion on the economic outlook for the trucking industry, where a slow, steady growth of about 2% was predicted for 2013.  Factors that may alter that growth include the economic climate facing the European Union and actions of the U.S. Congress dealing with today’s fiscal issues.  Here’s a current rundown on specific year-to-date statistics:

  • Total tonnage was up 3.7%
  • Number of loads carried by large carriers was up 0.4%
  • Smaller carriers saw a load volume decrease of 4.6%
  • Tank-truck loads saw an annual increase of 6.6%
  • Total flatbed freight increased by 5.7%

Other Trucking Industry News

Two other factors currently challenging the industry are driver shortages and the cost of fuel, especially the high fuel taxes being imposed.  Regarding the first, shortages are not so much a problem with driver availability, but rather driver retention.  Many carriers are experiencing as much as a 100 percent turnover rate, indicating dissatisfaction with current conditions, requiring immediate improvement.

To deal with fuel costs, industry experts are pushing to increase allowable load limits on five-axle rigs from 80,000 to 96,000 pounds.  This would allow for fewer trucks on the road and lower fuel consumption, thus lowering overall transportation costs.  Higher load limits, however, are contingent upon the nation’s infrastructure being able to handle the additional weight.