Tank truck carriers continue to perform the rest of the trucking industry, and 2012 should be a another good year for tank fleets, according to the economic reports presented during the National Tank Truck Carriers 64th Annual Conference May 6-8 in San Francisco CA.

The tank truck industry grew at just under 20% during 2011, and the industry is still growing in 2012, but at a somewhat slower pace, according to Bob Costello, American Trucking Associations chief economist. “We believe the tank truck industry will some growth in the 5% range this year, but the slowdown was expected.”

Tank truck fleets continue to benefit from strong activity in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Automobile sales are growing; plastics production should grow by around 2.5% for the next three years; chemical production should increase at about the same rate; construction is rebounding with cement demand up about 6.6% in 2012.

Still, Costello pointed to some storm clouds: Trucking companies that generate under $30 million in annual revenue are still downsizing. Cash flow issues could push some of the smaller carriers out of the industry. Inflation is rising higher for the trucking industry than it is for the rest of the economy.

Noel Perry, Transport Fundamentals Inc, also predicted slower growth, and said economists are becoming more pessimistic about the economy overall. “However, this is still a good time to be in trucking,” he said. “This is still a good market, but the economy is more volatile than it used to be, and that will impact tank truck fleets. Another recession is quite likely in the 2014-2016 timeframe.”

He predicted 3% to 4% growth for trucking over the next couple of years. Lack of driver will be one of the biggest drags on growth, but tank truck carriers should have very good pricing power.

A full report on the economic projections by Costello and Perry will be carried in the July issue of Bulk Transporter.