A Year of Economic Turmoil

May 1, 1998
It was an honor and I was so proud to be the 28th president (now chairman) of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc from May 1974 to May 1975.I presided over

It was an honor and I was so proud to be the 28th president (now chairman) of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc from May 1974 to May 1975.

I presided over the 30th anniversary convention and equipment show at the Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas, May 12-15, 1975. The attendance was over 470, with 30 exhibitors. The convention registration fee was $90 for men and $60 for women. Hotel rates ranged from $35 to $52 for single and double occupancy.

Other officers who served in 1974-75 included: Tom Greenleaf as chairman of the board; Les Wilsey Jr, first and Central Region vice-president; John Chapman, Western Region vice-president; Tom Clowe, Southern Region vice-president; Andy Fraser, Canadian Region vice-president; Charlie O'Brien Jr, Eastern Region vice-president; Dick Lewis, treasurer; Tom Maxwell, assistant treasurer; Fred Schwerman, ATA Conference vice-president; and Cliff Harvison, secretary. I really appreciated their fine help and support.

Cliff had taken over the helm from NTTC founder Austin Sutherland three years earlier. Cliff was presented with a 10-year anniversary gift, a painting, at the Allied Committee banquet.

Deregulation Heat The battle over economic trucking deregulation was heating up and was a major topic of discussion at the convention. Little did we know that more, not less, federal regulation was in the future for the entire trucking industry, and certainly tank trucks.

While the Interstate Commerce Commission was going to be downsized, other agencies such as the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, Coast Guard, and many others were expanding at an alarming rate.

Cliff pointed out in his annual report to the membership that "There has been a subtle, yet conclusive change in the very form of government in these United States. We are no longer a democracy. We are no longer a republic. We have become, instead, what might be described as a benevolent bureaucracy..."

EPA shocked us with its new proposed effluent guidelines. Cliff and others had gotten a delay, which was good news, but eventually EPA prevailed.

Shipper Hold Harmless Agreements were becoming more frequent and were being resisted by some of the carriers.

Sizes and Weights Good news came to us in the form of the lifting of a 20-year federal freeze on sizes and weights. Congress was now allowing each state some flexibility based on prior state size and weight history. This future increase in productivity was a welcome relief, especially for those of us in bulk transportation.

The country and our industry had a tough year. The aftermath of the Vietnam War was being felt. Our economy was shrinking, not expanding. Unemployment was pushing 9%. Inflation was at or near double digits. The auto industry in Detroit was in serious trouble. Consumer confidence had plummeted to its lowest level since 1946. We were experiencing our country's worst recession in over 30 years. Price and wage controls had been imposed by President Richard Nixon earlier, causing many problems. Casualty insurance rates were on the rise.

The outlook, though, appeared to be improving as several speakers forecast. We were heading into the celebration of our Bicentennial-200 years as the greatest nation on earth. Like our transportation industry, our nation is second to none in the history of mankind!

As Cliff and I pointed out in our annual reports, the need to contact elected representatives was critical (as it still is today). Getting involved in the political process was and is vital to the survival of the tank truck industry in 1975, 1998, and the next century.

Jean Gay, Austin Sutherland's assistant, had passed away during the year. And, of course, several old timers and founders were also gone or retired. We owed a lot to these people. The companies and organizations they founded were our legacy. Manyof us who attended the 1975 convention were second generation leaders.

Safety Award At the convention, the company I was associated with all my working life, The W S Hatch Co, received the industry's Outstanding Performance Trophy for the safety year of 1974. This was the third time HATCHCO won this trophy. Our company safety director, James Telford, proudly accepted this trophy and other safety awards we had achieved.

I believe I truly had an impact during my time in office. Just before I became NTTC President, Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign amid scandal. Shortly after I came into office, Watergate erupted, and President Nixon was forced to resign. Any similarity to 1997-98? I hope so!

My popularity was really on the rise. Almost all of the NTTC staff resigned during my term of office.

Cliff had selected Al Rosenbaum as the new assistant manager, replacing Bob Reese. I was fortunate and happy to welcome Al to his first NTTC convention.

Being president (now chairman) of NTTC was one of the most rewarding and fun experiences of my life. I will never forget the events and wonderful people.

About the Author

Lawrence Mills