Ellis: Time for tank fleets to prepare for economic turnaround

July 1, 2009
As Difficult as conditions are right now, it is important to remember that the recession will end and the economy will recover.

As difficult as conditions are right now, it is important to remember that the recession will end and the economy will recover. A turnaround will occur, and tank truck carriers need to be prepared.

This was the message from Norm Ellis, vice-president, transportation & logistics, Qualcomm Enterprise Services. He spoke during the National Tank Truck Carriers 61st annual conference held May 10-12 in San Diego, California.

Ellis opened his presentation with a sobering assessment of the tank truck industry business environment. Tank loads are off at least 40% this year, and fleet capacity as dropped significantly. Across all of trucking, more than 70,000 Class 8 trucks are sitting parked.

The tank truck market will remain depressed at least through 2009. “The market will turn around,” Ellis said. “We just don't know when or how fast the recovery will proceed.”

Tank fleet managers need to begin planning for the recovery now. The companies that recover fastest will be the ones with the best leadership. Management must focus on priorities, show confidence, continuously innovate, seize opportunities, and effectively prioritize available resources.

When it comes to focusing on priorities, fleet managers need to concentrate on developing clear and concise goals. They need to keep the plan simple and stay focused. “You also need to make sure that everyone in the organization knows how their work helps the company achieve its goals,” Ellis said.

Managers must show confidence in the company's future and in the economy. They need to demonstrate a belief that the market will improve and that the company is building a strong position that will help make it a winner.

Winning companies need to innovate, and that starts with listening to customers and understanding their needs — both for today and for the future. Fleet managers must prepare in advance for the market turnaround.

Preparation includes developing a clear plan for the tank truck carrier. “You can't seize an opportunity if you are not prepared and don't know where your company is going,” Ellis said. “You have to put processes in place that make it possible for the company to take advantage of opportunities for growth and new markets.”

Prioritizing resources is absolutely critical. A fleet must allocate enough of the right resources (vehicles and fleet management technology, for instance) to achieve its goals. Plans must be include flexibility to adjust resource levels to meet changing conditions.