REGULATORY change was front and center when members of National Tank Truck Carriers gathered in Chicago, Illinois, April 30-May 2 for the association’s 69th Annual Conference & Exhibits.
Brian Wood, 2016/2017 NTTC chairman and now executive committee chairman, credited the association’s renewed focus on advocacy and education with helping to secure several critical regulatory wins for the tank truck industry.
“The advocacy efforts were crucial to overturning restrictions on using the 34-hour restart and restrictions on the maximum number of hours a driver can operate during a week,” he said. “Our direct efforts secured specific votes that allowed these provisions to be passed into law.”
Other victories included stopping an attempt by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require cargo tanks to post hazard labels while in transportation. “We’re also drafting two petitions for the Department of Transportation—one that would preempt California’s meal and rest break requirements for all trucks carrying hazmat and another would exempt select fuel haulers from the federal 30-minute rest break requirement,” Wood said.
Regulatory changes also are coming from the Trump Administration. NTTC sees this initiative as an opportunity to remove or reform a number of regulations that pose troubles for the tank truck industry. “For instance, the Administration’s requirement that agencies prove the value of their regulations with hard figures means that the threat of a new wetlines rule is a distant image in the rearview mirror,” Wood said.
Not everyone at the NTTC Annual Conference was as upbeat about the regulatory limits imposed by the Trump Administration. Rachel A Meidl, deputy associate administrator in the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), said: we are having to closely pull back on a lot of the rules that we did and a lot of our regulatory actions that we did, and having to re-justify some of them, which is not a bad thing in most cases.”
She added: “Despite the administration’s regulatory holds, we’re looking at ways we can advance the priorities we have right now. We’re operating in a difficult and challenging environment right now, with the demands continuing to grow. There are so many new energy sources. We’re looking at what that means for us in the transportation industry, what it means for production, what it means for new chemical products. So the scope of our work continues to grow. That’s a little bit of a challenge, considering the new administration and some of the budget shortfalls we have right now. What we can do is partner with you and our stakeholders.”
Even some regulations favored by the tank truck industry pose potential risks. Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, expressed concern about the electronic driver log mandate that takes effect in December. He cited a www.truckstop.com survey of 1,300 carriers—a majority of which operate fewer than six trucks—in which respondents said they had no electronic logging devices (ELDs) in any trucks at this time.
Studies suggest that less than 50% of the commercial trucks operating in the United States have ELDs, and Costello said he believes participation could actually be under 40%.
Truckload carriers that have adopted ELDs are generally larger and more sophisticated than most of those that haven’t. The fleets with ELDs are seeing lost productivity, and that impact could be much bigger as the mandate takes effect across the entire trucking industry.
Drivers and carriers are almost certain to exit the industry. “What if just 1% to 3% of truck drivers leave the market for a host of reasons, including log cheaters, anti-technology, anti-big government, or just unwillingness to change,” Costello asked. “Some carriers also are likely to exit the industry. We still don’t know the enforcement impact from law enforcement, liability insurance carriers, shippers, and truck brokers.”
Costello also addressed the economic outlook for tank truck fleets and trucking overall. He projected that tank truck loads should grow by about 1.6% in 2017, compared with overall truckload growth of around 1.5%. Tank truck loads shrank by more than 1% in total during 2015 and 2016 in the depths of the oilshale bust.
“No industry sector benefitted more from development of the shale oil plays and fracking than tank trucking,” Costello said. “The oilfield is getting busy again. More oil wells are being drilled, and US crude oil production is rising. However, $100-a-barrel oil is highly unlikely.”
Taking a macro look at the US economy, Costello predicted moderate growth in gross domestic product in 2017 and 2018. “Real GDP growth for 2017 should be around 2.1%, and should average 2.4% from 2018 to 2020,” he said. “The economy seems to be on solid footing right now, and we are seeing more optimism in the business sector.”
The supply chain has made significant progress in cleaning out excess inventories, which is a big positive for truck freight. Business investment has increased at one of the highest rates in recent years.
Todd Stine, a driver for Carbon Express Inc in Wharton, New Jersey, showed that he doesn’t stop until he achieves his goal. On his second try, Stine was named 2017/2018 National Tank Truck Carriers’ William A Usher Sr Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year. He is the fourth recipient of the award.
Groendyke Transport Inc and GLS Transport Inc were the latest recipients of National Tank Truck Carriers’ Outstanding Safety Performance Trophies for their calendar year 2016 safety achievements.
Groendyke Transport Inc, Enid, Oklahoma, won the 40- to 90-million-mile category within the contest’s Harvison Division with an accident frequency of 0.373 accidents per million miles. This was Groendyke Transport’s seventh Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy.
In the Sutherland Division, GLS Transport, Bedford Park, Illinois, won in the 3.5- to 5-million-mile class. GLS Transport’s accident frequency of zero accidents per million miles was the winning mark in that category.
Lee Miller, president of Miller Transporters Inc, was elected chairman of the board. He succeeded Brian Wood, president of TransWood Carriers Inc, who now serves as chairman of the executive committee.
Also part of NTTC’s leadership are: John Whittington, Grammer Industries, first vice-chairman; Angela Kane-Haas, Kane Transport Inc, vice-chairman; Kevin Jackson, Liquid Cargo Inc, vice-chairman; Rob Sandlin, Florida Rock & Tank Lines Inc, at-large representative; Len Fletcher, Superior Bulk Logistics, treasurer; Bernie Gorski, Gorski Bulk Transport Inc; Dan Furth, president; Harold Sumerford Jr, J&M Tank Lines Inc, chairman of the nominating committee; Randall Clifford, Ventura Transfer Co, chairman of the audit committee; and Bill Usher Jr, Usher Transport Inc, advocacy committee chairman.
NTTC’s membership will be celebrating the association’s 70th Annual Conference & Exhibits at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 15-17, 2018. ♦