LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Bob Costello, chief economist and vice-president of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said consumer spending, housing and employment all play key roles in the trucking industry.
“You all want to know if they are buying trucks,” said Costello. “What I say is there’s another layer out there. The split between truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) is very large: 95% of the marketplace is truckload, 5% is LTL.”
Costello was speaking during an industry roundtable at the American Truck Dealers Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., which focused on challenges and opportunities for dealers.
Costello said that although it seems that recent numbers on consumer spending, housing and other economic factors appear to be moving up, that may not be the case.
“[Consumer spending] doesn’t mean we are spending our money in the same way that we used to,” Costello said of the traditional definition of consumer spending in brick-and-mortar stores. “We may be spending [more], but since 2000, online sales have increased 1,400%…it’s not just online sales that are changing. We spend more money on food and beverages at restaurants than we do at grocery stores.”
As a result, truck-freight volumes have slowed, there is a continuing driver shortage in the US, as well as a dip in the average miles trucks are driven per month and better fuel economy in today’s trucks than in those built five years ago.
“I don’t want to leave you with [bad news],” Costello said, adding that trucking will follow the lead of housing and job growth. “It’s soft right now, but it won’t always be.”
Ron Hall, vice-president of equipment and fuel for C.R. England, Dave Meetre, fleet maintenance manager for Vulcan Materials and Paul Truman, president of Estenson Logistics and Truline Corporation also took part in the roundtable.
“For us we will order trucks when we get a contract signed,” said Truman. “Reliability has become very, very important to us and also the life cycle cost of the equipment, including purchase price and financing and through the life cycle.”
“Things are going to happen with a truck and [it’s all about] how you deal with it,” said Meetre, discussing the importance of 24/7 maintenance, updates on repairs and other support. “If something goes wrong with a truck, we’ve got to get it turned around, get the repairs made [and get it back in service].”