ATA Annual Conference 2014 Update: Driver’s Time is the Emerging Theme
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition (MC&E) in San Diego, CA. Each October, executives, owners, and thought leaders from across the trucking industry come together to discuss the current business environment and challenges, share knowledge, and—this year, more so than in recent times—promote optimism. A record crowd of 2,700 attended the conference.
There are certainly still many challenges facing the industry. In his State of the Industry address, Governor Bill Graves, president and CEO of the ATA, weighed in on three major items that are still a concern.
1. Infrastructure. Without a long-term transportation bill and no one in Congress being able to agree how to fund the needed spending, companies are anxiously awaiting how the issue of congestion will be resolved. The American Transportation Research Institute estimated trucking companies spent $9.2 billion in delay time due to congestion in the last year.
2. Driver shortage. This issue has been discussed numerous times on this blog, and the issue continues to loom large over carriers’ desired growth. Driver pay increases are taking place in many organizations now, but the problem remains.
3. Regulation. The battle over the latest Hours of Service changes remains at the forefront, and it appears the ATA will take another run at overturning them during the lame duck session after the elections in November or starting fresh with a new Congress in 2015.
On the more optimistic side, an economic panel—moderated by ATA’s Chief Economist Bob Costello—included economists from the petroleum, retail, and manufacturing industries and shared mostly positive news. Mr. Costello cited two positive trends for trucking, growing demand and a supply shortage, versus one on the more negative side, rising costs—though much of the rising costs are attributable to the much needed driver wage increases. All of the panelists were cautiously optimistic as to what 2015 would hold.
The closing night’s annual banquet included good food, entertainment, and company as the many attendees came together for a final evening together. An emotional outgoing Chairman Philip Byrd, president and CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express, turned the reigns of leadership to Duane Long, chairman of Longistics.
In all, the MC&E seemed to accomplish all it set out to do. It educated, enlightened, entertained, and brought many people from many different parts of the industry together for three days of networking and relationship building.