Change was front and center as Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, gave his annual state of the industry speech yesterday in Orlando, Fla.
While change comes in the form of challenges like competitive pressure from railroads, high fuel costs and the worsening driver shortage, Graves also said governmental change has a huge impact on the industry. Graves encouraged his audience to participate and engage in politics to make sure the industry stays healthy, though he did acknowledge that the relationship between the trucking industry and the government is evolving. The way trucking leaders engage with politics is adapting even as so many non-governmental issues are going through changes that will impact the industry in the future.
“Many of the traditional allegiances the business community has had within the Republican Party are necessarily going to need to be re-evaluated,” he said, speaking at length about the implications of recent political actions. “We are rapidly moving to a time where political labels mean very little, but the integrity and statesman-like qualities of candidates for office, or those already holding office, must be the measure by which we decide our level of support.”
As the political situation changes and ATA members adapt with it, regulatory changes will be taking place in the industry. Trucking will be transformed, he said, with the implementation of electronic logging devices, which will “force many of the ‘bad actors’ in our industry to either change their ways or get off the road.” As the Environmental Protection Agency works to improve fuel efficiency, Graves warned members to be attentive of the costs and benefits of any new regulations, which could be “very expensive.” The impact of the CSA rules and the new hours of service provisions have also not fully been realized.
To combat the growing fuel expenses, Graves looked to the evolution of liquefied natural gas in trucks.
“I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for our industry as we look out over the horizon at a fuel that will compete with diesel, is certainly cost competitive and, most importantly, is domestically produced,” he said.
Change will also happen regarding driver compensation, he said, in order to combat the growing driver shortage ATA is predicting. Driver retirements will also mean that the stereotypical truck driver will change and “drivers available to our industry won’t likely fit the profile we’re used to—the 30 to 50 year old white male,” he said.
“Change is inevitable,” Graves said, in closing, “and those who foresee it, plan for it and use it to their advantage will be the winners.”