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Don’t let current uncertainty divert your attention from future opportunity, ATA’s Graves advises

GRAPEVINE, Texas --- Motor carrier executives grappling with the current economic uncertainty need to be careful not to miss out on the opportunities that lie ahead, warned American Trucking Associations president and CEO Bill Graves in his...


GRAPEVINE, Texas — Motor carrier executives grappling with the current economic uncertainty need to be careful not to miss out on the opportunities that lie ahead, warned American Trucking Associations president and CEO Bill Graves in his annual state of the industry address.

Graves acknowledged there is much going on right now to divert an executive’s focus from the road ahead. He recalled that at last year’s annual conference he forecasted bigger and better things by the time they met again this year in Texas.

“Little did I know that ‘bigger’ was going to be the size of the federal debt; ‘bigger was going to be the unemployment rate; and ‘bigger’ would characterize the number of government regulations our industry would be facing. And ‘better’, well ‘better’ is apparently caught up in some sort of political traffic jam and just hasn’t been able to get here yet.”

Yet despite the frustration with Washington’s inability to come together on seemingly simple issues such as the need to fix roads and bridges and pass a highway bill, Graves said he was still optimistic about the economy and the industry’s future. He referred to a personal “aha” moment he had while out on a run recently where he found himself slowing his pace while focusing at cracks and crevices in the road. When he finally looked up he got past all the imperfections and saw the road that was truly stretching out ahead of him.

“It’s a metaphor that so appropriately explains our industry. We are dealing every day with a myriad of policy and regulatory cracks and crevices that threaten to overwhelm us. And we have no choice but to devote tremendous time, energy and money in an effort to fix them so we achieve positive near term results for our industry. But at the same time we need to be careful not to become so obsessed with the challenges of the moment that we give up on the opportunity of the future,” Graves said.

He went on to outline the reason to be optimistic about the future.

America’s population is expected to grow from 300 million in 2006 to 400 million by 2050, something on the order of adding a city the size of Houston or Chicago each and every year. “400 million people need a lot of good stuff and most of the time we’ll be bringing it,” he said.

The ATA’s most recent freight transportation forecast calls for trucking’s share of total freight tonnage to rise from 67.2% in 2010 to 70% by 2022. And that’s from a tonnage pie that grows from just less than 9 billion tons of freight to over 11.5 billion tons. During that same period of time, the corresponding trucking revenue pie is forecasted to grow from $563 billion to $937 billion.

“I’m sure you can split up $374 billion in revenue growth among you and be happy,” Graves quipped.


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