Jul 1, 2006 12:00 PM
SAN ANTONIO — with its blend of the Texas West and old Mexico — provided a colorful backdrop for the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) 58th annual conference and tank truck equipment show May 7-9. It was the first time the association met in San Antonio, and turnout was impressive.
Nearly 600 members, associates, suppliers, and guests attended this year's conference. Suppliers displayed a wide array of products and services at nearly 60 booths, and traffic through the exhibit area was brisk. It was hard to tell who was more optimistic — the tank fleets (many of them running at full capacity) or the tank trailer builders (many of which have order boards extending out a year or more).
All indications are that the optimism won't fade for quite some time. The US economy should grow by around 3% through 2006, and the expansion should continue into 2007, according to Martin Labbe, Martin Labbe & Associates. He described the US economy as a “juggernaut,” adding that there is no recession in sight for at least 24 months.
Strong demand for petroleum and chemical products is keeping the tank truck industry busy. Production of refined petroleum is increasing, and growing volumes of renewable fuels (such as ethanol) are entering the market. Chemical production is surging due to all-time-high housing starts, low inventories, and resurgent manufacturing activities.
Participating in this year's annual conference were some of the shippers of those products. In a panel presentation, they stressed the importance of safety and on-time performance by tank truck carriers. They also called on carriers to make better use of technology and to do a better job of measuring on-time performance.
An update on ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) was presented by Rich Moskowitz, American Trucking Associations regulatory affairs counsel, and John Conley, NTTC president. Moskowitz cautioned that ULSD will cost more and will result in a fuel-economy drop of about 1%. Spot shortages are likely in some parts of the United States.
Looking at ULSD from the transportation side, Conley said that carriers face a number of challenges. The fuel may be very close to the maximum of 15 parts per million sulfur when it reaches the loading rack, and fleets may have a difficult time verifying the level. Hauling out-of-spec diesel could be a costly problem, because fleets could be fined $32,500 per violation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Concerns about ULSD purity may push oil companies and carriers to require dedicated tank trailers for virtually all shipments, at least initially. However, that will put more pressure on the already tight driver supply.
Kelly Anderson, Impact Transportation Solutions Inc, discussed the importance of driver retention in today's market. He said that driver retention begins with the recruiting process.
Fleet owners also need to pay attention to succession planning. Owners who wish to successfully pass their company to their heirs not only need a well-thought-out plan, but they should review and update the plan on a regular basis, according to Terry Resnick, Resnick and Associates.
Gregory K Price, president of United Petroleum Transports Inc, was elected 2006-2007 chairman. Previously, Price was Region IV chairman.
NTTC's 59th annual conference and tank truck equipment show is planned for the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel May 7-9, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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