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Fuel, economy & regs most pressing concerns for carriers: Survey

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Not surprisingly, the price of diesel and the crumbling economy in the U.S. were ranked as the top two most critical issues the trucking industry faced in 2008.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), an arms-length research division of the American Trucking Associations, surveyed more than 5,000 trucking industry executives on their opinions of the top 10 most important issues the industry has dealt with over this past year.

The results were released in New Orleans at the 2008 ATA Management Conference and Exhibition.

Summaries of the list are as follows:

1. After ranking second in 2006 and third in 2007, Fuel Prices once again attained the top ranking. The cost of diesel pushed past $4 a gallon this summer, and while prices have subsided in recent weeks, carriers' fuel bill and the inability to recoup whole fuel surcharges are playing havoc with fleets' bottom line.

2. The Economy debuts on the list as the 2nd most pressing issue. As high fuel prices, a deepening credit crisis and rising inflationary pressures take a greater toll on the U.S. economy, the industry "is pressed by increasing regulations, slumping demand, excess capacity and increases in both fixed and marginal key cost centers," the survey noted.


A perfect storm of struggles, from fuel costs to the
economy and increased regulation, hurt truckers in 2008.

3. In the top two spots each of the last three years, the Shortage/Retention issue took a back seat in 2008. Although the persistent sluggishness and resulting excess capacity somewhat masks the driver shortage, many respondents recognize this is a temporary hiatus that will dissipate as baby-boomers continue to retire in large numbers and as the economy rebounds.

4. Government Regulation continues its ascension in the top industry issues. Previously this issue ranked as low as seven in 2005, so, "clearly the burdens of industry regulation by multiple agencies continue to have an impact on the industry."

5. Hours-of-Service (HOS), the top ranked issue in 2007, slipped four places this year. Prominence of the HOS issue in 2007 was likely due, in part, to the industry’s concern over the July 2007 U.S. Court of Appeals rejection of the 11-hour driving provision and 34-hour restart.

6. Though Congestion had seen a steady increase in the rankings since 2005, this latest drop may be explained by recent declines in vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled resulting from fuel price increases for all road users.

7. Tolls/Highway Funding issues gained in importance from several events, including the U.S. DOT announcement that the Highway Trust Fund was running out of money.

8. This is the highest ranking for Environmental Issues. The proliferation of anti-idling regulations and other emission reduction initiatives sought by more governments has created concern that the compliance costs may exceed benefits.

9. Tort Reform and other legal issues fell to its lowest ranking in four years. The trucking industry, reflective of many other industries, seeks to clarify the distinction between civil tort liability and punitive damage awards.

10. Onboard Truck Technology rounded out the list. The most prolific technology topic is Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBRs), most often cited as a potentially effective tool for monitoring HOS compliance. Alternatively, recent government actions in Canada as well as the U.S. to mandate EOBR usage for segments of the industry have raised some concern in the industry.

The entire survey report, complete with tabulated strategies for addressing each issue, can be found here.

 

 
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