For members of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc, last week’s (May 10-12) annual meeting at the Bellagio in Las Vegas NV was one of the most upbeat conferences in nearly a decade. Attendance was more than 540 carrier members, associates, suppliers, and guests. Carrier attendance nearly doubled. Suppliers displayed a wide array of products at 61 booths, and traffic through the exhibit area was brisk. There was general agreement that tank fleets are back in a buying mood.
Shippers were more noticeable at the meeting than since the mid-1980s. “The shipping community seems more aware of pricing pressures on carriers, and they are responding,” said Cliff Harvison, NTTC president. “That certainly played a role in their increased participation at this year’s meeting.”
Why the turnaround? A key reason is a US economy that is growing and freight levels that will increase by close to four percent this year, according to Martin Labbe, president of Martin Labbe Associates. A shortage of truck drivers has constrained capacity even as shipments are growing. As a result, carriers are able to raise rates and turn down loads that are unprofitable or problematic. It’s quite a change from just a year ago when many tank truck carriers were still mired in recession.