Former ATA chairman Urges Logistics Professionals to “Get Engaged”

America finished 2010 in “sustainable mode,” by buying bare necessities and delaying discretionary spending. Consequently, demand tightened at a rapid rate.

That was the message Tommy Hodges, immediate past chairman of the American Trucking Association, gave to a room full of transportation professionals at Tuesday’s Traffic Club of Memphis meeting.

“We’re not overblown by business, but we’re right at the cusp,” Hodges said

Hodges, who also serves as chairman of Titan Transfer Inc., gave a brief history lesson – attributing Dwight D. Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which allowed the free flow of goods economically between two points.

America’s highway system is so advanced, countries like China have come over to take notes, “putting their money where their mouth is.”

Today, China has a 9 percent annual growth rate, compared to America’s 2 percent. China is also competing with the U.S. for fuel, using 9 percent each year.

Hodges also gave a political look forward, attributing 2010’s top 10 critical issues the trucking industry faces. The report, conducted by the Atlanta-based American Trucking Research Institute, is based on surveys of more than 4,000 trucking industry executives:

  1. The economy: 75 percent of retailer’s inventory ratio is brought in by trucks
  2. Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (aka CSA 2010): “a huge game-changer;” a mechanism that “will separate the good from the bad”
  3. Government regulation: Obama’s administration is “now doing things through regulation that they tried to do through legislation”
  4. Hours of service: elimination of the 11th hour of driving; mandatory breaks; “if we were to take this poll today, hours of service would be the No. 1 issue”
  5. Driver shortages: since 2007, more than 5,800 trucking companies have gone out of business; average driver is 54 years 0ld
  6. Fuel issues: scare commodity that is “as cheap as it’s going to get”
  7. Transportation funding/infrastructure: billions that used to sit in the trust fund for transportation earmarks can now go towards the deficit
  8. Electric On-board Recorders (EOBR): another requirement with associated costs
  9. Environmental issues: every gallon of fuel releases 22.2 lbs. of CO² in the atmosphere
  10. Truck size and weight: more trucks due to regulations – 7 to 12 percent less productivity results in more cost

Moving forward, it’s time to figure out how to be more productive for the long haul, ensuring sustainability for the future, Hodges said.

He ended on a note to “simply get engaged,” with politics, in efforts to have an impact on pending and future legislation.