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October 21, 2011

Trucking’s Top 10 issues

Release of trucking’s Top 10 issues by the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) shows that the state of the economy is the number one concern of trucking’s executives. The economy has held the top spot for three years, after being in second place in 2008 as the current economic situation loomed. The poll, conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), surveys 4,000 industry executives. This year’s results were released at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition in October.

Consistently in the Top 10 is concern about hours of service issues, propelled into second place in the latest poll on concerns about proposed changes to the rules that would see a reduction in driving time. The approaching crisis of driver recruitment has many concerned, too. Always in the Top 10, the issue dropped several places over the last few years as fleets downsized capacity for the shrinking freight market. However, with the hoped-for return to better times signaled by the weak, but positive growth in GDP , finding drivers is expected to be a big problem again soon.

Although still at the bottom of the list, on-board technology and size and weight have come on the radar in the last few years. Conspicuously absent in the latest rankings are regulatory concerns and the environment.

This powerpoint shows the ATRI Top 10 issues for the trucking industry for 2005 through the 2011 results just released. First is the complete matrix, which is a little hard to read and extract trends, so I’ve broken out the issues one by one on the subsequent slides. The order is based on the most recent survey results. And if you page through all, you’ll see the odd instance of a “dead end” like the insurance issue in 2005. This came up because of a blip in the truck insurance business the previous year that saw an almost total abandonment of trucking by the insurers at that time.

With the individual issues broken out, it’s easy to see the impact of outside influences like fuel price, the general economy, and the evolution of technology on trucking. All in all, it makes for an interesting series of snapshots of what grabs the industry’s attention at the moment. And it also shows those issues that endure.

October 19, 2011

Driving the new Caterpillar Truck

Caterpillar’s CT660, the all-new on- and off-highway truck, is just now rolling into the dealers and a few high-profile customers. The green light startup of production was September 5th. To mark the occasion, Caterpillar staged a press briefing and drive at its Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center close to the Peoria, Ill., headquarters of the manufacturer of the more familiar construction equipment.

George Taylor, director of Caterpillar Global On-Highway Truck Group and head honcho for the CT660 talked of the enthusiastic reception of the new product by dealers and early customers. During the press day, many of the same presenters from the Las Vegas launch in March revisited the materials from the pre-production reveal at ConExpo.

But the highlight of the day was an all-too-brief opportunity to drive a couple of examples of this special Caterpillar product – the first highway truck in the broad and deep Caterpillar lineup.