War Brings High Fuel Prices
May 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Robert J Schaupp
I had the privilege and honor of being chairman of NTTC for the year beginning May 1990 and ending May 1991. The industry was just beginning to stabilize after a mini-recession that hit particularly hard the carriers that hauled chemicals, because the automobile industry was in a tremendous slump.
Fuel prices were a disaster because we had experienced enormous increases prior to the outbreak of war with Iraq. They finally stabilized, but many of us were not able to pass on these increases, in the form of a fuel surcharge, to our shippers. Most of the carriers were finally adjusting to the previous 15 years of deregulation, but it was still extremely difficult to pass along rate increases to our shippers. We continued to see many carrier consolidations.
Equipment costs, especially tank trailer costs, rose unbelievably because of the price manufacturers had to pay for certain (steel and aluminum) alloys. Tractor prices also increased because of requirements to meet new environmental standards.
Driver shortages were a problem, but most of us worked our way out of it. However, we all discovered that good drivers were very difficult to find and equally hard to retain.
We had plenty of new challenges, the first being stormwater runoff. The EPA stipulated that transportation facilities with vehicle maintenance shops must comply and secure a permit for each facility. Fortunately for us, NTTC filed a group application, and any NTTC member that qualified could be part of that application.
We had a lot of input into the reauthorization of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 1990. We were very frustrated by the long delay for the rules mandated by the Sanitary Food Transportation Act, which were implemented August 3, 1991. Congress couldn't wait to pass the legislation, but the Department of Transportation said it had many other projects and would get to the food rules as soon as possible. NTTC was the lead association in addressing these bills.
The association also made known its views with input into the reauthorization of the Federal Highway Fund regarding changes proposed by the Bush administration. We were especially pleased that no additional taxes were tied to the proposal. We also presented our views regarding free trade with Canada and Mexico.
NTTC was able, in conjunction with the Chemical Manufacturers Association, to form an Interindustry Bulk Chemical Highway Safety Task Force. Members of the task force met regularly, and it gave us a chance to discuss our industry problems with the Chemical Manufacturers Association. We were very enthused about this new committee and had plenty of volunteers for the task force.
Over the years, NTTC has done an outstanding job representing its members and the entire tank truck industry. NTTC is by far the most outstanding conference in the American Trucking Associations.
For the future, I see NTTC continuing to lead and protect its members as it has in the past. We will continue to deal with hours-of-service issues. Safety, in all respects, will be a dominant concern. The Highway Trust Fund will continue to attract non-contributors who want to use the money for projects other than highway construction and improvement.
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