ATRI: Economy tops trucking’s critical issues

. The economy came out on top in the fifth annual survey of critical issues facing the trucking industry, conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute and commissioned by the American Trucking Assns

LAS VEGAS. The economy came out on top in the fifth annual survey of critical issues facing the trucking industry, conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute and commissioned by the American Trucking Assns.(ATA), was released this week at annual ATA conference here.

The state of the nation’s economy was of the greatest concern by a wide margin, followed by government regulations, fuel issues, congestion/highway infrastructure, hours of service, commercial driver issues, environmental issues, tolls/highway funding, truck size and weight, and onboard truck technology.

Approximately 52% of survey respondents put the economy at the top of the list. Proposed strategies identified to address this issue include: promoting tort reform and other initiatives to reduce carrier operating costs, actively engaging in the healthcare reform debate to support policies that would control costs for employers, and pursuing federal stimulus funds for freight transportation initiatives.

Government regulation was a distant second on the critical issues list, ranked as of most concern by 13.7% of the survey respondents. According to ATRI, “the ascension of government regulation to second place could be attributed to the changes in the national political landscape and election results at the federal, state and local levels. Many industry stakeholders anticipate a new era of costly government mandates.”

Strategies for addressing this issue include continuing public outreach efforts that highlight the negative business impacts associated with the Employee Free Choice Act , identifying low-cost functional solutions to government mandates, and supporting efforts to maintain and clarify the current status of independent contractors/owner-operators.

Fuel, which ranked number one in 2005 and 2008, was considered of primary concern by just 5.5% of survey respondents in 2009, but ranked second by 21.8%. It was, however, among the top-five hot issues for the fifth year in a row. The top potential strategy for addressing fuel costs is to examine the root causes of price volatility and identify solutions that can offer price stability.

“On every legislative and regulatory topic, issues come and go so quickly today,” said Gov. Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO. “If we are not at the table with sound, science-based information and a common sense plan of action, then we are going to be left behind and saddled with solutions that have no bearing on moving America’s freight safely and efficiently.”

As in prior years, the 2009 annual survey was conducted in two phases. Phase One was designed to identify and categorize key issues and strategies from a large, representative sample of for-hire and private fleets; Phase Two was distributed to more than 4,000 carriers, with the objective of rank-ordering the relative importance of each issue and the preferred strategies for addressing them.

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