By Gino Fontana
Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
It seems like every day there are headlines screaming about the high cost of fuel, or rising inflation, or supply chain issues, or the lack of drivers and technicians. Reading these headlines and the stories that accompany them can be pretty depressing and could make you think that the trucking industry is having a really tough time.
While it is true that our industry is facing a great deal of challenges, when haven’t we? Trucking is always battling something, whether that is conditions in the general economy, legislation governing how we operate, price increases, and more.
I am not a Pollyanna, and I do not think we should ignore some of the negative things impacting our businesses, but I challenge each of you to seek a more balanced view of trucking.
Let’s start with the fact that, according to American Trucking Associations, 72.5% of the nation’s freight by weight is moved by trucks. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics puts the amount of freight moved by trucks at 79.7% and says that in 2022 the U.S. transportation system moved a daily average of about 54.7 million tons of freight valued at more than $54.4 billion. The International Association of Food Protection says that 80% of all food shipments and 91% of all temperature-controlled freight are transported by trucks. Basically, trucks move a lot of stuff.
Despite issues with parts shortages, orders for Class 8 trucks are rising. At least one analyst—Charles Roth, analyst-commercial vehicles for FTR—thinks the number of orders for the most recent month (June) indicates optimism. And fleets are placing orders for 2023 even if OEMs have not been entering them on the order board at this time. Clearly, the demand for new trucks is there.
In addition, Congress is considering repealing the Federal Excise Tax on trucks. We all know that the 12% FET adds significantly to the cost of a new truck and could prevent some fleets from moving to newer and/or alternative-powered trucks, which come with higher base prices. The fact that Congress is at least considering this is a plus.
Another thing we have going for us is the incredible amount of technology that is being used in everything from the trucks themselves—telematics, ADAS, battery-electric power, etc.—to software to optimize routing and to streamline the maintenance and repair process. All this technology should help us attract the next generation of employees who expect to use technology on their jobs. We all need to do a better job of telling potential employees just how cool and tech-forward trucking is.
Yes, we are faced with some headwinds, but that is nothing new for the trucking industry. But we are also faced with a few tailwinds that will give us some relief from the challenges.
I am not asking you to discount the headlines, but rather suggest you look for some of the bright spots that balance the bad news with the fact that trucking has always been a vital part of the economy and that is not going to change anytime soon.