Trucks are “essential” to making the U.S. economy function and need to be viewed through that lens as efforts continue to make them safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly, according to speakers at the “Moving the World: The Future of Freight Transportation” conference, hosted by Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA), Volvo Group North America, and the American Trucking Assns) in Washington D.C. this week.
Gov. Bill Graves, president & CEO of the ATA, noted, however, that as a whole, the trucking industry perhaps worries about the public’s recognition of its importance too much.
“We seem to obsess about our essentiality somewhat; maybe we spend too much time fretting about it,” Graves said. “I think debating how essential we are is like debating about whether or not it’s important for the lights to go on when you flip the switch, or that water comes out of the tap. We all start to take certain basics for granted in this country-- and that’s a compliment to those industries for what they do.”
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Graves said he believes that the vast majority of Americans “get it” when it comes to how essential trucking is to the economy – even if, every now and again, they don’t like sharing the road with an 18-wheeler.
“But I can assure you, they like it when the truck drives up to the back of the grocery store or a delivery truck shows up at the front door and gives them the things that they want and quickly,” he stressed.
“Consumers in the U.S. and across the globe demand fast delivery of life’s essentials,” Graves pointed out. “Trucks help meet that demand and will continue as the preferred mode of freight transportation. However, our challenge as an industry is to accommodate the demands of a growing population in a safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly manner.”
Randy Mullett, vp-government relations &public affairs for Con-Way Inc., added that 80% of U.S. communities today receive goods only by truck.
“That’s why you cannot separate economic growth from the growth of transportation – especially trucking,” he emphaszied. “We seem to think we can have economic growth without the other. That’s not just wrong; it’s irresponsible, because it sets us as trucking companies up for failure.”
ATA’s Graves went on to note that the demands placed on the freight hauling industry – especially truck fleet owners – will only increase in the future. Citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, he said the U.S. population increases by 2.6 million each year. That’s the equivalent to adding a new city of Chicago every year-- on top of the 310 million persons already living here.
“With more people, cars and congestion across the country, improved truck productivity becomes a vital tool for maintaining global competitiveness, lowering the cost of consumer goods and limiting greenhouse gas emissions,” Graves added.