Overdrive Staff | February 01, 2011

WEST VIRGINIA. The Parkways Authority proposes tolls for a 14-mile portion of four-lane U.S. 35 in Mason and Putnam counties. Truckers paying cash would be charged $8.50 at each of two plazas, or $17 for a full-length trip. E-ZPass account holders would pay $8.08 for fixed axles at each plaza, or $16.16 for a full trip. Tolls would rise every four years through the proposed sunset date of 2043, up to $32 for a full-length trip.

U.S Xpress expects industry rebound

U.S. Xpress executives, speaking during an event at the Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters marking the company’s 25th anniversary, said they are optimistic the trucking industry will gain momentum in the next few years.

The trucking climate “stinks,” said U.S. Xpress Co-chairman Max Fuller, borrowing language from Bill Strauss, an economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. With gross domestic product at 3.2 percent, “you’d think that business would feel a lot better,” he said. “The reason it doesn’t feel better right now is the inventory rebuild component that has really affected the economy.”

Subtract that component, and the GDP is really running at about 1 percent, he said. Using Strauss’ forecast, the GDP should hit 4 percent in the second quarter, and confidence will improve.

“At 4 percent, the consumer will kick in, businesses will kick in and we’ll start consuming some of this inventory that has built up,” Fuller said. For 2011 and 2012, “business is going to be extremely good.”

Fuller and Co-chairman Patrick Quinn said issues such as the federal Compliance Safety Accountability program, rising fuel prices, increases in new truck prices, driver shortages and wages will challenge fleets to grow. Quinn said CSA will make it especially tough to fill driver seats.

“The capacity issue will make for some tight spots and interesting situations,” Quinn said. “There may be some freight that sits for a day or two longer than some shippers want.”

Good drivers, though, will have an advantage. “A driver with a really clean record in a year or two could become like a free agent in the sports arena,” Quinn said. “He can command higher wages because he’s proven to be compliant.”

U.S. Xpress announced its gold sponsorship of the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides services to severely injured military service members.

The company started with 48 trucks in 1986 and today has more than 8,000 trucks, 22,000 trailers and annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion.

– Randy Grider n

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