2010 Tank Truck Plate is Full
May 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By John Conley
THOSE of us in the trade association business sometimes wonder: “What will we do if there are no real issues in our industry? Will our members still support their trade association representatives in Washington?”
Thanks to the Obama Administration, Congress, and a recovering economy, our industry's issue plate is full. We will all need to work together to keep the industry safe, secure, productive, and perhaps even profitable.
Let's start with some good news. The first four months of this year have seen a slow but steady increase in chemical shipments. One month's uptick might be an anomaly, but four months indicates that our customers' customers are getting ready to produce things again. It is an old but true adage that the tank truck industry is among the first segments of the trucking industry to see a recession coming and the first to see one easing. We like building inventories rather than watching them drip away.
In fact, we are starting to hear from carrier members who are experiencing a shortage of drivers and even of equipment as demand increases. The “shooting fish in a barrel” rate structure our shippers have enjoyed the last two years might actually be starting to improve for the fish. Of course, an increase in chemical shipments will mean more tank trailer cleanings, hopefully, followed soon by growing tank trailer equipment order boards.
The news is not so good for our cement and dry bulk sector as all of the “shovel ready” projects the stimulus was going to spur seem to require little more than a garden spade. Let's hope that the hot air and dollars generated in Washington DC soon will turn to concrete and asphalt on our nation's tired highways and bridges. We do hear that those dry bulk carriers that support the oilfields are seeing more demand. Who knows what the terrible Gulf of Mexico oil release and $4 a gallon gasoline will do to stimulate looking for oil the old fashioned way — in the ground?
On the regulatory side, issues impacting the various segments of the tank truck industry grew faster than the weeds on my lawn over the past few months. “Wetlines” has been quiet but will soon erupt again like the volcanoes in Iceland. The House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to vilify and attack the committed safety professionals at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Among the weapons on that cabal's scorched earth ambush is wetlines.
Thanks to the efforts of NTTC members who came to Washington to appear before Congress and many “letters from the folks back home,” we have thus far been able to make a very bad bill less onerous. I do not think we will see “wetlines” legislation pass the Congress this year. However, PHMSA will issue a proposed wetlines ban regulation sometime this fall. I do not believe the agency is convinced such a regulation is needed, but I understand why they are acting in “self-defense.”
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