Over 50% of trucking industry executives are worried about fuel prices more than any other issue, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2008 report of the ten most critical issues facing U.S. trucking companies.
The economy ranked second, followed by driver shortage and retention, government regulation, hours of service, congestion, tolls and highway funding, environmental issues, tort reform and onboard truck technology.
In addition to surveying the issues that worry executives the most, the ATRI report also asked respondents to indicate what strategies they feel the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) should most advocate on the national stage.
“On every legislative and regulatory topic, issues come and go so quickly today,” said Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO. “If we’re not at the table with sound, science-based information and a common sense plan of action, then we’re going to get left behind, and saddled with solutions that have no bearing on moving America’s freight safely and efficiently.”
Fuel costs were the number-one issue facing their fleet, indicated 54.3% of respondents, up from third in last year’s survey. Carriers tried to recoup fuel cost increases with surcharges, but could not keep pace as diesel fuel hit $4.70 a gallon in July.
To address that issue, 68% of survey participants said ATA’s first concern should be to advocate for increased supply through the expansion of domestic drilling and refinery capacity. Other respondents called for fuel conservation measures such as a national speed limit and tax incentives for fuel-saving technologies, as well as the increased deployment of alternative fuel sources.
Economic instability and weakness was the number-one issue for 18.1% of fleets and the number-two issue for 28.3% of fleets. Respondents indicated that ATA’s first concern should be to support “pro-freight” candidates in state and federal elections, while also directing the trucking lobby to advocate for policies that control healthcare costs for employers and pursue full implementation of trade agreements.
Problems with the bottom line due to fuel and the economy have pushed the top two concerns from last year down the list. Driver retention, which had been voted one of the two biggest concerns for the industry every year since 2005, fell to third. Last year’s top concern, hours of service, fell to fifth as “the concern over potential changes in HOS regulations has been supplanted by issues that are having a more direct impact on carrier operations and profitability,” according to the report.
Although being “green” has been heavily focused on this year, environmental issues finished eighth in the rankings, only chosen in the top three by 13.6% of respondents, although it marks the highest place it has ever finished in the rankings. Carriers said ATA should be most concerned with seeking tax incentives for new technology adoption and alternative fuel usage.
The ATRI survey is now in its fourth year. It is designed to help prioritize the top issues facing the industry while identifying what strategies are the most effective to addressing the concerns, ATRI said.
“The annual ATRI survey proves invaluable in helping us chart a course of action for the future, and as ATA chairman I will work to see that the industry-identified strategies are implemented,” said incoming ATA chairman Charles “Shorty” Whittington of Grammer Industries.