Most important thing I learned this week

MACROBy any measure, CCJ’s Fall Symposium in Scottsdale, AZ, was a resounding success. As the Equipment Editor for Randall-Reilly, I – along with my fellow editors – attend this three-day series of meetings with two primary purposes. The first, naturally, is to report on the various speakers and news generated by the Symposium and communicate that information back to you. (You can catch up on everything that happened by going here.)

Our other assignment at the Symposium is exactly the same as the fleet executives’ attending: Learn as much as possible about current and future trends facing the trucking industry so we can be prepared to cover them as they develop. And the funny thing is, you never know when some vital piece of information is going to leap out at you.

Case in point is Eric Stark’s excellent economic forecast, which he presented to the Symposium Wednesday morning. Now, I’m not going to lie to you: Even though they’re vitally important to all of us, I hate economic presentations. Every time I sit in one, I’m immediately transported back to Dr. Vallery’s Macroeconomics 101 class at the University of Alabama, where I sat in utter bewilderment for a whole semester understanding virtually nothing that was discussed the entire time. So you can imagine my amazement when – thanks to a hellacious grade curve – I finished the course with a B. It turned out nobody else in the class understood what the hell Dr. Vallery was talking about, either.

Alas, this year I was assigned to write up the news story on Eric’s presentation. So, now, my flashback was exactly like being in Dr. Vallery’s Macroeconomics class because I was actually taking notes. But even if I hadn’t been taking notes, one of Eric’s main points would’ve leaped out at me when he pointed out that the forthcoming round of government regulations about to hit are the largest concentration to ever concurrently hit the trucking industry.

Stark noted these changes include CARB trailer regulations, hours of service changes, new greenhouse gas/mpg regulations, as well as potential mandatory electronic onboard recorder and speed limiter requirements.

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“It’s hard to calculate the impact these changes will have,” Starks said. “The problem is not so much the regulations themselves. It’s the fact that they’re all happening at once. But make no mistake, these regulations will be game-changers.”

Now, of course, I know full well these regulations are all coming. But, until Eric pointed it out, it had not occurred to me that they will, in fact, hit more or less at once and create incredible challenges for both fleets and owner-operators in the next several years.

Needless to say, there will be a lot of news coming as they regulations take effect. And the industry as a whole will have to work diligently to take advantage of, or work around them, as they do so.

Take a nice long rest over the holidays this year if you can. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a pretty wild – and interesting – ride.