RENO, Nev. — Paul Enos has served as CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association since 2006.
At the time, he was just 30 years old. Enos has spent the past decade-and-a-half advocating for policy changes that enhance the state's trucking industry and profitability, as well as the overall business climate in the Silver State.
The NNBV recently interviewed Enos to discuss the state of the trucking industry in Northern Nevada, as well as the many changes occurring throughout the industry as a whole.
Q: Why are the trucking and logistics industries so crucial to the economic health of Northern Nevada?
A: In Nevada, 92 percent of all freight is moved by truck. Nationwide it's 71 percent. We don't have a Mississippi River, seaports or an extensive rail network like many other states have. When you look at its impact on the economy, trucking touches every sector of our economy. Everything we do relies on freight.
Q: What are some major changes that have taken place in the industry since you joined the Nevada Trucking Association back in 2006?
A: Trucking first started to see the impacts of the recession at in 2008. At that time, it was driven by huge increased in (the cost) of fuel. Labor was always our No. 1 cost, but fuel overtook it in those years. We saw a lot of trucking companies that didn't have a fuel surcharge go bankrupt. Companies have gotten a lot smarter, and shippers have a better understanding of how the system works, and they are now bearing some of the cost of those increases.
Q: What's the top issue facing the trucking industry?
A: Truck drivers are a scarce commodity. I recently got back from the American Trucking Association's national meeting and exposition in San Diego. For three years in a row, the top industry issue is the shortage of drivers, and the economy is No. 10. But in the dregs of the recession, back in 2011, the economy was No. 1. That driver shortage is very real.
Q: What are the main impacts of the driver shortage on the regional trucking workforce?
A: We are seeing wages increase across the board. But what's great about our industry is that it's still the fastest way to get into the middle class without a college degree. If you do your training, you can get a job driving and fast-track to the middle class. And it's still a career where if you became a truck driver today, you can retire as a truck driver. A lot of trucking companies also are starting their own brokerages to be able to employ their assets and move freight where it makes the most sense. It used to be that brokerage and trucking companies would lock horns because the brokers did not have a lot of skin in the game. But now the trucking industry is getting into that side of the business so they can better control where and how they deploy their assets.
Q: Technology is bringing sweeping changes many industries, from advanced manufacturing to construction services. How is technology changing the trucking industry?
A: A lot of companies are employing forward-collision warning systems on their trucks. It's becoming standard in trucks. From rollover protection where hydraulics will correct a truck when it starts to falter, or automatic braking systems, safety is paramount for this industry. We also are getting a lot more amazing and visible data today than we ever have before that impacts truck drivers and trucking companies every day. I can get an idea of what is going on across the entire industry market by market. Here in Reno, I can tell you that we have a balanced freight market – every truck that is coming in is going back out full – or that today in Reno a truck will be detained an average of 2.5 hours. It's pretty amazing stuff, and it's updated every night.
Q: How has the trucking workforce adapted to those changes?
A: Customers are demanding a lot more visibility with freight today. Some companies are putting date into a blockchain so they know where the truck and the freight is – heck, they can even tell the temperature of the freight across the entire load. (Delivery) windows are getting shorter, and we are seeing more penalties from the shippers on trucks if they are late because they need the products the trucks are delivering on the shelf at a certain time. There's a lot more precision in terms of freight delivery, which requires more visibility on where the freight is.
Due to print space limitations, the full version of this interview can be read at www.nnbw.com. Search: “Paul Enos.”
Q: The aging trucking workforce and general shortage of qualified Class C drivers has long been an issue of major concern for your industry. What steps is the Nevada Trucking Association taking to replenish the industry as older truckers retire?
A: One of the problems we have, especially with interstate trucking, is that we don't get the kids right out of high school who aren't planning on going to college because you have to be 21 years old to drive interstate. Forty-eight states in the country allow you to drive a truck intrastate, so we are promoting a national push, the Drive Safe Act, to help train younger drivers between 18 and 21 far above any current standards we have today. We are trying to get it passed through Congress. Today a kid can go from Reno to Wendover, but they can't drive from Reno to Truckee or South Lake Tahoe. We are advocating to allow those folks from 18-21 to drive but increase their training standards. Once they get their CDL, they have to be on duty with at least 400 hours and have at least 240 hours of drive time with an experienced driver.
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