Graves touts trucking’s rebound, natural gas

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Updated May 11, 2012

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves told attendees of the 14th annual Pegasus TransTech User Conference in Clearwater Beach, Fla., that he optimistic about the future of trucking and expects that the increased use of natural gas as truck fuel will bring major changes to the industry.

However, Graves expressed concern over the apparent inability of Congress to agree on a transportation bill and the higher interstate speed limits being posted in some states.

Graves said that carrier CEOs were currently in a “cautious go-slow mood.” At present they were not anxious to buy new equipment or launch any major expansions, he explained. Nevertheless, Graves said, those carriers who survived the depths of a recession that greatly reduced the ranks of truckers and thus of available capacity are in an excellent position to prosper when the economy finally rebounds.

“The people who are still here will do well,” he said. However, Graves cautioned that the return to a robust economy probably will have to wait for the elections in November.

Graves said that the barriers to wide adoption of natural gas as a mainstream fuel are being addressed, noting that Pilot Flying J has announced it will begin making natural gas available within its network of truckstops. Graves also said that as more companies are deploying natural gas-powered trucks, resale of used units presents less and less of a challenge.

Virtually every manufacturer offers natural gas models, he said, and trucks that burn natural gas as opposed to diesel endure less wear and tear, thus retaining value. “This will change the landscape,” Graves said, adding that for the first time, there will be serious competition between suppliers of diesel and of natural gas.

However, he noted, Congress appears unwilling to pass tax credits that would spur fleets to adopt natural gas. Despite that, Graves is optimistic about the future of natural gas in trucking. “This is going to work,” he said.