NTTC conference returns to New York after long absence

July 1, 2008
Fifty-Eight years had passed since National Tank Truck Carriers last convened its annual conference in New York City

Fifty-Eight years had passed since National Tank Truck Carriers last convened its annual conference in New York City. The 60th Annual Conference and Tank Truck Equipment Show was held May 18-10 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel overlooking Times Square.

More than 650 members, associates, suppliers, and guests turned out for this year's event. Suppliers displayed a wide array of products and services at 69 booths, and traffic through the exhibit area was brisk.

Tanker rollover prevention and the economy dominated the conference. NTTC's elected leadership called on the Department of Transportation to mandate electronic stability systems for trucks hauling placarded loads. The hope is that regulatory action could begin before the end of 2008.

Bob Richards, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said a proposed rule is likely by 2009 and probably would mandate electronic vehicle stability systems on new vehicles. Richards added that Department of Transportation statistics indicate about two truck rollovers a day in the United States.

Bill Quade, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, thanked the association for taking a proactive stand on the rollover issue. He added that truck rollovers remain a focal point for the DOT and its agencies because half of the incidents result in fatalities, and product spills are much more likely.

Roll stability is just one of the heavy-duty truck technologies currently under study by federal agencies, according to Tom Moses, The Spill Center. Federal mandates also are likely for lane departure and collision avoidance systems, as well as a variety of security-related technologies.

He said it is important for tank truck fleet managers to get involved in the regulatory process. They need to learn about the technologies being considered and make their voices heard on those issues.

Shifting to economic issues, Bob Costello, American Trucking Associations, told NTTC members that their sector of the trucking industry stands out as a star performer right now. Tank truckloads increased approximately 7% during the 2008 first quarter, well ahead of other trucking sectors.

Costello also said tank truck fleets should continue to outperform most of trucking for the rest of this year. Even with a sluggish economy, tank fleets have stayed busy hauling petroleum products, chemicals, and plastics. Only cement shipments have declined significantly at this point.

Tank truck carriers, along with the rest of the trucking industry, will continue to be hammered by soaring diesel prices, according to Costello. Worldwide diesel demand is high already and growing. He said it would be no surprise if diesel reaches $5 a gallon this year in the United States.

While truck fleets can't control the overall price of diesel, they can do a better job of managing fuel surcharges, according to L E “Tripp” Dunman III, FC Stone Trading LLC. He discussed how fleets can use hedging strategies to stabilize and cap fuel costs.

Growing numbers of carriers and shippers are turning to hedges as a means of reducing the volatility in fuel costs. Fuel hedging can offer a carrier a competitive edge when bidding for a shipper's freight.

Truck fleets also need to do a better job of evaluating operations data. Kenneth Manning, Transportation Costing Group Inc, pointed out that just collecting information is ineffective if it isn't properly analyzed. Today's successful fleet operation requires pricing sophistication, the ability to optimize yield, and analysis and management of profitability. Volume trends and rates also must be analyzed effectively.

Owner-operator arrangements may need a closer look, according to Greg Feary, Scopelitis of Garvin, Light, Hanson, and Feary PC. He pointed out that the Internal Revenue Service and various state agencies are taking a closer look at the relationship between fleets and owner-operators. There is an increasing tendency to try to classify owner-operators as company drivers.

Bill Usher Jr, president of Usher Transport Inc, was elected 2008-2009 chairman. Previously, Usher was Region 2 vice-chairman.

NTTC's 61st annual conference and tank truck equipment will trek across the country to sunny southern California. The event will be held May 10-12, 2009 at the Hilton San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.