ATA’s Graves: ‘Things are not going well’

The trucking industry faces huge problems at every turn, but it must work hard to make things better – just as New Orleans has done three years after Hurricane Katrina, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said Monday, Oct. 6.

“Things are not going well for our industry, and we face some awfully tough times in the near future,” Graves declared in a “state of the industry” speech at ATA’s 2008 Management Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. “With war and unrest throughout many parts of the world as a backdrop, unimaginable record fuel prices have hit us hard – and the hits may just keep coming. The economic slowdown – highlighted by the housing and automotive industries – has had a devastating impact on our tonnage, and the recent financial meltdown on Wall Street severely impacts the credit markets you rely on for the capital to run your business.”

Graves further cited a collapse in consumer confidence, tightening regulatory requirements and political uncertainty. “And I’m not confident anyone knows if we’ve yet bottomed out and how long it will take before anything close to an economic recovery will occur.”

But given all of this, there are two types of people – those willing to accept the world as it is, and those who work to make it a better place, Graves said. “The very nature of our industry makes us the latter.”

Graves cited ATA’s presence in New Orleans as an example. “Three years ago, no one would have dreamed we would be meeting here today, and some probably hoped we wouldn’t. The damage of Hurricane Katrina gave new meaning to the term ‘catastrophic.’ ”

New Orleans’ recovery has been remarkable, and it began with more than 1,600 trucks hauling more than 3,700 truckloads of food, water and other essential supplies into the city. Three lessons of Katrina stand out, Graves said. First, you need a plan for when disaster strikes; preparation is the key to weathering any storm. Second, with teamwork you can accomplish great things. Third, dire consequences arise from ignoring our nation’s infrastructure.