March 25, 2014 3:45 PM, EDT
Driver Shortage, Lack of Highway Funding Top Concerns at TCA Meeting

GRAPEVINE, Texas  —  A stronger economy was reason to celebrate at the 76th annual convention of the Truckload Carriers Association, although industry officials cautioned that the driver shortage and concern over the nation’s lack of highway funding could curb trucking’s ability to grow and meet shippers’ demands.

Even with diesel prices topping $4 a gallon in recent weeks, the driver shortage was the top issue in meetings, speeches and in hallway chatter at the convention, which ran from March 22 to March 26 and drew nearly 1,400 attendees.

The industry is doing well on most fronts except for the seat in the truck cab, outgoing TCA Chairman Tom Kretsinger said March 24.

“This is the year of the driver,” Kretsinger, of American Central Transport, said in his farewell speech. “A couple years ago, we would all say customer is No. 1. Well, today driver is No. 1, driver No. 2, driver No. 3, customer No. 4.”

Adding to worries about filling seats in cabs, is that the industry is “operating and delivering America’s commerce every day on a highway system that is literally crumbling beneath our trucks,” American Trucking Associations Chairman Philip Byrd Sr. said.

The task force Byrd created this month to address the crisis in transportation infrastructure held its first meeting at the TCA convention. It brought together what Byrd called some of the best minds in trucking to help formulate a policy position that the industry can present to Congress on how best to raise revenue for roads.

More coverage from the TCA conference will be included in the March 31 issue of Transport Topics.