Air Shipping Slowdown Doesnt Help Truckers

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — With reduced commercial air traffic since Sept. 11 and tighter restrictions on air cargo creating potential delays in air shipments, the trucking industry might be expected to see a modest increase in business as companies seek other ways to ship goods.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case in West Michigan. At least not judging by three West Michigan companies that responded — out of eight contacted — to an informal telephone survey conducted by the Business Journal.

Gary Snider, branch manager for ABF Freight System Inc. of Walker, said his company hasn’t experienced an increase in business in the past few months.

“The same customers we had are the same customers we have now. There has been no indication that they’ve diverted any air freight to us,” he said.

Most of ABF’s freight is manufactured and distributed goods and most of that business occurs in the third quarter in preparation for the Christmas holiday. The slowest two months of the year are usually November and December.

Neither has business changed dramatically up or down for G. B. Management Systems (formerly Gra-Bell Truck Line) of Holland, a truckload carrier. 

“We have not been affected either positively or adversely by any changes in air freight movements,” said President Thomas Van Wyk.

He said it’s possible that some LTL (less-than-truckload) carriers may have seen more of an increase in their freight because that’s typically the type of freight that’s handled by the air freight industry.

John Taratuta, owner of Taratuta School of Truck Driving in Grand Rapids, said from what he has seen, the trucking business seems to be flat.

November through December is the busiest period of the year for companies that deal in package freight, since the Christmas season means a certain amount of inventory has to be shipped just in time.

“Retail is heavy, but overall there’s been about a 10 percent drop in freight just because the general economy is down,” Taratuta observed.

“If anything, it’s flat or possibly even declining in lieu of the normal seasonal rush.”

But Taratuta has seen some other recent changes in the industry.

“From our perspective, what we see is that the qualifications for drivers now have increased. A lot of the companies are not interested in entry level because they have a vast pool of experienced drivers to draw from.”

Also, a lot of companies have gone out of business and are going out of business for various reasons, he said. There have been a number of trucking company bankruptcies in the last six months or so.  

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