Apr 1, 2010 12:00 PM
Jeff McCaig leads association through a tough recession
McCaig: Very little, if any, impact in my view. We saw two things. An industry analysis showed that just $27 billion (out of $750 billion) was spent on infrastructure projects and other programs that would impact tank truck carriers. Any money that was spent last year on those types of projects probably already was planned prior to the stimulus program. Maybe we will see some stimulus spending that impacts us this year, but we'll have to wait and see.
BT: What do the order boards for transportation look like going forward?
McCaig: They are good. We have every reason to believe that the economic improvement will continue. However, our customers can turn off the tap on a dime when they need to. We still don't have a clear picture of whether we are benefiting from a shift in transport mode or are seeing real growth.
Rail has experienced some capacity issues that shifted some cargo to tank truck carriers. Rail may also have experienced some service issues. In addition, extremely cold winter weather and iced up rivers diverted some loads from barges.
BT: Was 2009 all bad or were there some positive aspects?
McCaig: It certainly was a challenging year. It was one of the most difficult years I've experienced in my 26- to 27-year trucking career.
If I were looking for a silver lining, I think it did sort out some of the players. The ones that survived are stronger. It forced us to address our costs. We will be better for it when the freight volumes come back — and they will return.
BT: How optimistic are you about the future?
McCaig: I see a positive future in the sense that customers will still need the transport services that we offer. The products we haul are essential to the North American economy. In addition, we serve a wide range of customers across diversified industry sectors. There is definitely a good future for the tank truck industry.
However, a number of factors will impact the overall size and scope of the tank truck industry in coming years: Cost of fuel, cap-and-trade programs, and such.
BT: What will it take to get the tank truck industry running at full speed again?
McCaig: I think some positive steps have already occurred. The recession and credit crunch took away much of the over capacity. The industry is reasonably well sized now for the amount of freight being shipped.
Excess tank truck capacity was taken out of the industry to a large degree. Most of the reduction came from manpower leaving the industry; and to a lesser degree rolling stock was taken out of service. Some of the equipment was parked. Some of the equipment is gone permanently.
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