MARKET indicators increasingly suggest that tank truck fleets — and trucking companies in general — want to put the recession behind them and move forward. There is a clear sense that trucking wants to get back on the growth path in its role as one of the engines driving the US economy.
FTR Associates' Trucking Conditions Index has been climbing and reached a reading of 2.3 in August. That was the sixth consecutive reading in positive territory during 2010 and indicates a healthy trucking environment, according to Eric Starks, FTR president. Strong manufacturing increases have generated truck freight above gross domestic product, and freight should continue to grow at around 4% in 2011.
Most fleet managers are expressing cautious optimism about economic growth in 2011. They say they believe that increased shipper demand for truck transportation combined with fleet capacity constraints will continue to push rates higher. Modest increases in driver hiring are projected.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and the Democrat dominated Congress continue to attack trucking — and the business community as a whole — with anti-business, job-killing programs and policies. Even worse, the Obama Administration has missed few opportunities to vilify the business community.
Just in the past few weeks, President Obama and toadies in his administration launched a bizarre attack on the US Chamber of Commerce. Reminiscent of 1950s-era political smear campaigns orchestrated by Senator Joseph McCarthy, the White House alleged that the Chamber of Commerce was allegedly receiving foreign money that it was using for political donations. David Axelrod, a top Obama advisor, even charged that the Chamber's actions pose “a threat to our democracy.”
Chamber of Commerce officials vehemently denied the allegations, which they said point to Democrat desperation prior to the November elections. The Chamber reportedly will respond to the attacks by spending up to $75 million on the mid-term elections, and most of that will go to Republicans.
Overt attacks on business include the ill-conceived moratorium on deep water drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. A wide range of businesses, including trucking, were impacted, and tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs across the region.
The Obama Administration's tepid announcement in early October that it is lifting the moratorium was too little, too late. Some of the deep water rigs have been moved to other countries, and drilling companies have expressed reservations about the new federal regulations that could make it too expensive or difficult to resume offshore drilling. More than 300,000 oil industry jobs could disappear over the next 10 years.
The Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress seem likely to let most, if not all, of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire at the end of this year. Small businesses and most individuals in this country will be hit with significant tax increases. That comes at the same time that Americans will begin to feel the impact of new taxes and fees that are part of Obamacare. Former Democrat Senator Tom Daschle recently said that Obamacare could bankrupt the US economy.
A blizzard of regulations from the Obama Administration also is raising operating costs for tank truck fleets and other businesses. Federal regulations are costing Americans trillions of dollars annually in hidden taxes.
So many new regulations are coming out of Washington DC that it is hard to keep up with all of them. Bulk Transporter is devoting more and more editorial space to federal regulatory activity, such as the wetlines rules that are now expected from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in December. Over the past year, Obama Administration regulations mandated electronic on-board recorders for some carriers and tripled the hazardous materials registration fees. Higher fleet operating costs are coming with the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 and new driver hours of service regulations that are expected to reduce productivity.
Small businesses in particular (many of them tank truck fleets) seem to be bearing the brunt of the Obama Administration's anti-business tone. These companies have responded by not hiring any new workers or hiring at levels well below what would be typical during an economic recovery.
It's no wonder that real unemployment has reached a crisis level of nearly 20%. Recent estimates suggest that more than eight million workers may have lost their jobs since 2008, and companies aren't hiring anywhere near enough new workers to reduce that total.
Sadly the situation isn't likely to improve until changes are made in Washington DC. Congress — both the House of Representatives and the Senate — needs a complete makeover. Elected officials must stand firm against Obama Administration policies that are destroying businesses and the economy.
Only then will we begin to see a true economic recovery. Hopefully, real change we can believe in will start in November.
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