FOR MEMBERS of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc, the 56th annual conference and tank truck equipment show May 10-12 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas NV was one of the most upbeat meetings in nearly a decade.
Attendance included more than 540 carrier members, associates, suppliers, and guests. Carrier attendance was nearly double the previous year. 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 this year's NTTC annual 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.”
What contributed to the optimism? A key reason is a US economy that is growing and freight levels that will increase by close to 4% 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.
In addition to Labbe's economic forecast, fleet executives received updates on labor relations, federal safety regulations, and hazardous materials security.
On the labor side, Howard Daniels, an attorney with Haynsworth Baldwin Johnson & Greaves LLC, detailed recent aggressive union efforts aimed at boosting membership to reverse a decline that started in the 1970s. The Teamsters have been among the most aggressive, and tank truck fleets have been key targets.
Daniels discussed strategies for blunting the union organizing efforts. He pointed out that an informed management and workforce form the best defense.
Tank truck carriers involved in intermodal operations could face more scrutiny on the security front. Officials within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) believe some of the greatest security risks exist in the intermodal sector, according to Chet Lunner, TSA office of marine and land security.
Danny Shelton, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told those attending the NTTC annual conference that mandatory federal permits for hazmat haulers are going to happen. It's just a matter of when.
Ted Gorski Jr, president of Gorski Bulk Transport, was elected 2004-2005 chairman. Gorski previously was Canadian region vice-chairman.
NTTC's 57th annual conference and tank truck equipment show is planned for May 8-10, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois.