U.S. truckers host Chinese delegation
A delegation of Chinese trucking officials met Monday with U.S. industry and government counterparts as part of an ongoing effort to learn business and regulatory best practices that can help the growing nation develop a modern trucking system to meet rising demand for domestic and international distribution.
Members of the China Road Transport Association (CRTA) were briefed by representatives from the American Trucking Associations, which hosted the meeting at its headquarters in Arlington, Va., on how the U.S. trucking industry expanded from localized operations under a patchwork of state laws to a streamlined, national industry that operates under federal oversight and is responsible for transporting imports, exports and domestic shipments. Tony Furst, director of the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Freight Management and Operations, also discussed the U.S. government’s safety approach to regulating truck size and weight, according to ATA officials.
The CRTA delegation is scheduled today to visit a Con-way Freight terminal in Greencastle, Pa., and a Roadway Express facility in Carlisle, Pa. Con-way Freight and RoadLink are less-than-truckload carriers. The group is also scheduled to meet with RoadLink, a short-haul intermodal carrier that handles freight moving through ports and rail hubs.
Mingde Yao (left), president of the China Road Transport Association, speaks, while American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves listens, at a briefing Monday at ATA headquarters in Arlington, Va.
The delegation will also use the visits to learn about drop-and-hook operations and how the ATA provides services to its members, CRTA President Mingde Yao said.
“The Chinese understand that their national economy is directly linked to freight transportation and a supporting infrastructure. In fact, China devotes fully 9 percent of its GDP to transportation infrastructure — a timely reminder as we in the U.S. await the recommendations of our National Infrastructure Commission,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a welcoming statement.
The former Kansas governor said his members would also like to learn from China how to improve efficiency in ports to get truck turn times under 30 minutes. “Efficiency like that would go a long way to alleviating congestion and emission issues in many U.S. ports.”
The Chinese government has invested $100 billion in road construction during the past year and the expressway system has reached more than 50,000 kilometers. Truck freight accounts for more than 90 percent of all goods movement in the country, but the industry must still counter many inefficiencies. The industry is dominated by mom-and-pop operators and a limited regulatory or enforcement regime governing overloading, size, weight, safety, drivers and other issues. It is common for small truckers to pile up goods on a flatbed.
The CRTA represents more than 900 of the largest trucking companies in China, many of which use more modern equipment. Smaller firms belong to provincial and local branches of the CRTA. The trade association operates as a quasi-private organization under the leadership of the Ministry of Communications.
The increased presence of multinational corporations in China, better roads and the rapid growth of the Chinese middle class has spurred several U.S. trucking firms to set up small operations in China in the past two years.
“We think (the burgeoning consumer market) is going to change dramatically the opportunity for us and trucking in China,” said Randy Mullett, vice president for government relations at Con-Way, during the ceremony.
Menlo Worldwide Logistics, a subsidiary of Con-way Inc., acquired Shanghai-based Chic Logistics last October. Chic employs 1,500 people at 130 operating sites in 78 cities.
The Chinese market is so fragmented and based on local relationships that it is a big challenge for U.S. trucking firms to set up a national hub-and-spoke network for LTL shipments, Mullett said.
U.S. trucking companies hope some of the U.S. rules that allow truckers to operate reliable service can be replicated in China, and that Chinese officials also learn from some of the problems the U.S. industry faces, Mullett said afterwards.
If Chinese officials take home a better understanding of the U.S. regulatory structure and how trucking companies work within it and adapt it to their situation “then it will make it a more fertile market for us,” he said. ' Eric Kulisch