ATA chairman: Trucking looking up

American Trucking Associations Chairman Tommy Hodges Aug. 26 offered a guarded assessment of the trucking industry during the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

Approximately 5,500 carrier failures have led to almost 200,000 fewer trucks in the marketplace. This tightening of capacity along with stronger consumer confidence has Hodges more optimistic for the short-term.

As for the economic downturn, “we’ve hit the bottom,” Hodges says. “We are in a replenishment mode. We have hit the bottom in consumer confidence, and consumers are feeling better.”

As for the long term, Hodges pointed to various think-tank groups that are forecasting a 30 percent increase in freight tonnage over the next decade.

The trucking industry faces regulatory challenges in the next few months. While Hodges said he would like to see highway reauthorization at the top of the list of most important issues, cap and trade, truck size and weight, electronic onboard recorders, CSA 2010 and revamped hours of service will dominate the trucking industry in the coming months.

Hodges briefly outlined each issue:
• Proposed cap-and-trade legislation that could put a 47-cent-a-gallon increase on refineries will have a residual effect on trucking.
• Legislation concerning size and weight of trucks is the most decisive issue for the industry and it’s difficult to get a consensus.
• On EOBRs, “get ready for them. They are coming.” This could result in a $1,750 price increase for each truck.
• CSA 2010 is “free agency for drivers,” as it gives drivers with good safety records the upper hand to make wage and benefits demands on trucking companies.
• Rewrite of the hours-of-service rule could create a productivity hit on the industry. He says driving time may be reduced by one to two hours a day and the industry could see the loss of the 34-hour restart provision. “This could mean an 18 percent to 19 percent loss of productivity if we lose two hours of driving time.”