Despite coming off a strong ‘04, LTL fleets must not get tripped up by high fuel prices and the driver shortage now also impacting this segment of trucking, says James Latta III, vp-development of A. Duie Pyle, a regional LTL carrier based in West Chester, PA.

“In the last half of 2004, we added 90 new power units to our fleet, and we're currently in the process of putting our order together for 2005,” Latta says. “We also have to project driver availability,” he continues. “There's a countrywide shortage of Class A hazmat-certified drivers.”

To deal with the shortage, A. Duie Pyle started an in-house driving school to train the specialized recruits it needs. “This provides us with a steady, reliable stream of Class A hazmat-certified drivers. But it's still an issue as we project our needs for 2005.”

According to Latta, another challenge is “coping with the higher costs of operations, including fuel.” He cites fuel as the carrier's third-highest operating expense, behind personnel and insurance. “Fuel is also one of our most volatile cost components,” he adds. “Without an understanding customer base that supports the necessary weekly adjustments to the surcharge schedule, I'm afraid the trucking industry as a whole would be in serious trouble.”

The approach of the 2007-2010 engine emissions regulations continues to be a source of apprehension as well. “If the results of the 2002 regulations are any indication of what we can expect from future regulations, then I'm concerned,” Latta says. “The 2002 regulations resulted in a minimum increase of 9% in new truck costs and a 10% reduction in engine/fuel efficiency [for us].