Promising year ahead for construction fleets
Jan 1, 2005 12:00 PM, Editorial By Charles E Wilson
TANK truck fleets that haul construction materials — cement, concrete additives, asphalt, and such — should find plenty of reason for optimism in our 2005 Construction Hauling Forecast, which starts on page 18. It looks like this will be a busy year for these fleets.
Optimism in the construction industry is at an all-time high, according to the CIT Construction Industry Forecast. An optimism quotient is used in the forecast, and the 2005 optimism quotient is 109, up six points from last year. Anything above 100 indicates strong optimism.
The reason for the optimism is simple. The construction market has been performing at near historic levels in virtually every sector of the market. Non-residential and public sector construction projects are expected to be market leaders through at least 2008. Residential construction may weaken somewhat, but it still will be strong by historic standards.
More federal funds are being allocated for highway construction, and that sector should grow by 4.5% this year, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Congress allocated $36.5 billion (a $4.8 billion increase) for highway construction in 2005.
Spending is being increased by about 7% for airport runways, taxiways, and related projects. An additional $100 million federal investment has gone into the Airport Improvement Program.
Suppliers of cement and asphalt will be scrambling to keep up with demand. Domestic cement production has been stretched to the furthest limits, and inventory levels have been squeezed tight. Many US cement producers are operating their plants above 98%.
Strong cement demand, not just in the United States but worldwide, has resulted in shortages across more than half of the United States. There are two basic reasons for the shortages, according to the Portland Cement Association. Demand for cement has been high due to strong residential building activity, and there is limited availability of ships to transport imported cement.
The cement shortages in various areas have benefited trucking companies. As Hugh Hinton Jr points out in the cover story on Sterling Transport (page 10), cement hauls took his fleet farther last year, with some trips exceeding 500 miles. Sterling rigs went from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to pick up some loads of cement. He expects more of that in 2005.
All of this is good news for the fleets hauling construction materials. Equipment and drivers should be busy all year. In fact, the biggest challenge may be keeping enough drivers behind the wheel.
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