Trucking Biz Buzz

Transportation Services Index reaches all-time high in July

The official freight index, which measures freight movement in tons and ton-miles, reveals July freight moved upward for trucking, pipeline and water freight, enough to move the entire index up to reach a new all-time high.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Freight Transportation Services Index for July rose 1.4 percent to 128.2. In June, the index fell 0.8 percent, after it reached an all-time high of 127.2 in May.

The July index is 33.3 percent above the low that was set during the recession in April 2009. TSI records began in 2000.

Trucking freight made a giant leap to 143 from 139.2, a significant increase of nearly 3 percent. Numbers from the American Trucking Associations reveal a tonnage increase of just 0.1 percent in July to 138.5 from 138.4 in June. ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys of its membership.

According to the DOT, the TSI’s upward movement comes amid other positive signals elsewhere in the economy. Employment and personal income both increased, while the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index grew by 0.4 percent, with gains in mining and utilities, according to BTS. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index also showed positive growth.

Freightliner salutes Detroit in ‘hardest working city’ program

Freightliner Trucks announced this week that Detroit is the next city to be honored as a Freightliner Trucks Hardest Working Cities award recipient. The program, which launched in 2015, recognizes cities across North America that are fueling economic growth.

The Freightliner Trucks Hardest Working Cities winners are determined by an exhaustive review of about 400 metropolitan census areas across 11 key economic performance indicators, including unemployment rate, infrastructure investment and contribution to total GDP.

Detroit is the fourth city in North America for manufacturing employment. It also is recognized for these top percentile rankings:

  • Top 10 percent of cities for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and light truck and delivery;
  • Top 10 percent of cities for number of transportation establishments;
  • Top 15 percent of cities for contribution to U.S. GDP; and
  • Top 20 percent of cities for construction employment.

The data review shows a strong correlation between work truck sales and thriving local economies, so as part of this program, Freightliner Trucks will visit work sites around Detroit with pop-up food and gift events to thank workers for their contributions. To date, Freightliner has visited dozens of job sites and thanked hundreds of workers, from contractors shaping landscapes to concrete professionals repairing roadways.

“The city of Detroit is near and dear to Freightliner because of the legendary Detroit engines and drivetrains that power our trucks,” said Allan Haggai, marketing communications manager for Freightliner Vocational Trucks. “In addition, Wolverine Truck Group has been a great partner of ours for many years. We're looking forward to spending time with the people who use our work trucks to power the great things happening in the Motor City.”

Since its inception, the Freightliner Trucks Hardest Working Cities awards program has recognized 10 cities across North America: Dallas; Edmonton, Alberta; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Nashville, Tenn.; New York City, Salt Lake City, Seattle; Toronto; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Freightliner plans to visit Detroit the week of Oct. 9 for job site visits, a customer tour of the Detroit engine plant, and on-site celebration, including a media event scheduled for Oct. 11. To learn more about Freightliner Trucks Hardest Working Cities, visit HardestWorkingCities.com.

DAT Solutions: Post-hurricane, MembersEdge delivers opportunities to help, work

Flooding in Houston. Another hurricane barreling toward Florida. The Labor Day holiday.

There were lots of reasons for a big drop in load posts on DAT MembersEdge during the week ending Sept. 9. Instead, the number of loads was down just 3 percent at a time when 20 percent is more in line with expectations. There’s freight to move and plenty of folks who would be happy to have truckers haul in the essentials.

Truckload capacity tightened: Truck posts were down 15 percent compared to the previous week. That led to higher van and flatbed load-to-truck ratios:

  • Van L/T ratio: 6.6 (up 17 percent)
  • Flatbed L/T ratio: 34.4 (up 29 percent)
  • Reefer L/T ratio: 11.3 (down 2 percent)

Rates, diesel prices rise: The national average price rose 4 cents to $2.80/gallon. Higher fuel prices put some pressure on spot rates:

  • Van: $1.93/mile as a national average, up 3 cents compared to the previous week
  • Flatbed: $2.24/mile, up 4 cents
  • Reefer: $2.18/mile, up 8 cents

These rates include a fuel surcharge but not accessorial fees that compensate the carrier for loading, unloading, layovers and detention.

Van volumes stay strong: Nationally, van load posts declined only 3 percent last week while truck posts lost 17 percent. Reefer volumes dropped 10 percent and truck posts declined 8 percent, while flatbed volumes increased 4 percent nationally. Available flatbed capacity fell 20 percent, which is in line with expectations, given the holiday week.

Texas open for business: A lot of volume that was lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey started to come back last week. Houston freight levels are at 88 percent of where they were before the storm—a remarkable figure. Dallas volumes also recovered.

Capacity still finding a balance: Trucks have been delivering relief cargo to the region and leaving empty or sticking around to find a load out. More available trucks in a market means that rates are going to fall, and that’s what we’re seeing on outbound loads from Houston and Dallas, in particular.

About those big rate swings: The sharpest rate declines were in Texas, but that’s compared to a week where intrastate lanes hit the highest prices we’ve ever seen. Elsewhere, outbound reefer rates in Atlanta rose 6 cents to an average of $2.46/mile as freight hubs in the Southeast helped to re-stock markets in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma that are usually served out of Houston. Demand for reefer trucks out of Dallas led to a 19-cent increase to an average of $2.26/mile.

Flatbed trends: Houston is typically the No. 1 market for flatbed freight, but flatbed demand usually lags a couple of weeks to recover after a big weather event. Vans and reefers have been bringing emergency relief into the storm zone, but flatbeds won’t get deployed until it’s time for construction equipment and materials.

The Irma effect: After Harvey, some shippers began to supply markets ordinarily served by Houston from regional hubs in the Southeast, including Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis. With Irma headed toward Florida, those same distribution centers refocused and moved freight south instead of west. Meanwhile, the Midwest had to supply the Northeast to compensate for the freight that would otherwise arrive from Atlanta. And the Midwestern warehouses were called on to supply Colorado, which is often served by Houston. The pressure intensified even more because of the short workweek.

If you’re taking freight into Florida, remember that it’ll likely be even harder than usual to find loads coming back out. Atlanta and Charlotte are the two major van markets that serve Florida, and outbound rates soared in those markets, but volumes were down. That means the storm threat might have led shippers to cancel or postpone some freight movements instead of expediting them.

Stay safe, and please check the dat.com/blog for updates.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges. 

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com load board or tune in to Land Line Now. You can get all of the latest rate information at dat.com/industry-trends/trendlines, comment on the DAT Freight Talk blog, or join us on Facebook. On Twitter you can tweet your questions to us @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT Industry Analyst Mark Montague.

Daseke merges with R&R Trucking

Daseke, the largest owner of flatbed and specialized transportation solutions in North America, announced a merger with R&R Trucking, a leading specialized transporter of defense and commercial arms, ammunitions and explosives cargo.

This marks Addison, Texas-based Daseke Inc.’s fourth company addition since May 1.

R&R Trucking Inc., which was founded in 1988 and based in Joplin, Mo., uses primarily team drivers to move specialty cargo that requires unique training and security clearances.

“With over 3,800 tractors and over 8,200 flatbed and specialized trailers, Daseke is the largest owner of flatbed and specialized equipment in North America, yet accounts for less than 1 percent of the highly fragmented $133 billion in flatbed and specialized freight market,” Daseke President and CEO Don Daseke said in a news release. “We took Daseke public in February of this year to accelerate our vision of building North America’s premier flatbed and specialized transportation company. We continue to attract top-tier companies to join us as we build upon our national scale and further enhance the synergies throughout our unique transportation network.”

Earlier this year, Daseke acquired Schilli Cos., Remington, Ind.; Big Freight Systems, Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Steelman Cos., Springfield, Mo.

“Our highly-credentialed expert team drivers are proud to serve our country,” R&R President and CEO Phil Nelson said in a news release. “I knew this was going to be one of the best opportunities the company would ever have. We are going to continue to do what we do best, but now we will have all the support and benefits of being a Daseke company, like consolidated purchasing power and collaboration with our top-quality sister companies.”

Trucking suffers largest monthly job loss in nearly a year

Transportation jobs overall scored a seventh consecutive month of job gains in August. The transport sector netted 1,900 jobs to the economy. Trucking jobs were down significantly after a short-lived increase in July.

So far, the trucking subsector for 2017 has a net gain of 11,600 jobs. The truck transportation subsector experienced a decrease of 1,600 jobs in August after the industry gained 400 in July and lost another 1,400 in June. August’s job loss was the largest decrease since September 2016, when the trucking subsector decreased by 3,600 jobs. For the year, the trucking subsector had a net loss of 2,500 jobs in 2016.

In 2016, the transportation and warehousing sector had a net gain of more than 19,000 jobs. Last January, transportation lost more than 20,000 jobs, the largest decrease since January 2011, when 38,000 jobs were eliminated from the economy.

Couriers and messengers experienced the largest increase for the second consecutive month with 3,900 more jobs, followed by “support activities for transportation” at 2,100. Transit/ground passenger transportation experienced the largest loss, with 3,200 fewer jobs, trailed by trucking, with 1,600 jobs lost. Only four of 10 subsectors experienced gains, making couriers/messengers largely responsible for the transportation sector’s net increase.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $23.98 for August – a 5-cent increase from July and up 62 cents from August 2016. Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees experienced an increase of 8 cents to $21.41 from the previous month and a 50-cent increase year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $26.39, 3 cents higher from the previous month. Compared with a year ago, average earnings have gone up by 2.5 percent, or 65 cents.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for transportation and material moving occupations lowered significantly to 5.3 percent compared with 7.1 percent last August and down from 6.2 percent in July. The overall unemployment rate for the country experienced an uptick to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent the previous month. The number of long-term unemployed moved down, to 1.7 million, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the unemployed.

Grote’s LED thin-strip LED lighting sure to change the game

Perhaps one of the coolest innovations in LED lighting was shown to the press corps a few years ago at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Grote Industries trotted out these thin strips of plastic with LED lights in them. We were blown away. The uses, we speculated, were virtually unlimited.

Without a drumroll, because this is online news, Grote has rolled out its LED strip lighting.

LED strip lights are by no means new. However, with limited options and a less-than-rugged design, traditional LED lighting strips have been more play-toy for accent lighting than for the often harsh truck and trailer setting. Fortunately, advances in LED technology are now providing truck owners with better options.

New thin-film LED technology not only produces brighter illumination, but does so using paper-thin strips that can be easily installed into the existing lighting power system or a supplied battery box.

As a result, the number of applications and locations for LED task lighting is skyrocketing. To meet the demand, companies such as Grote Industries are releasing new advanced LED light strip options.

Designed specifically for trucks, the XTL is designed to meet or exceed established industry standards. This includes being waterproof, rather than just rain-resistant, and being able to withstand pressure washing with hot water. It also has a patented thin-film technology that is only 0.5 mils thick (equivalent to a piece of paper) in 34-inch strips that produce a very high 475-plus lumens.

The XTL LED light strips also are resistant to 25 of the most common chemicals associated with vehicles in the event of exposure or spills, including motor oil, diesel fuel, battery acid, gasoline, and brake fluid.

The strips have been installed in sleeping compartments for added lighting and can be attached to a dimmer switch to increase or decrease the lighting needed.

XTL lights are extremely durable and could be hung from the walls or ceiling of a trailer to greatly increase productivity.

To ease installation the lights come with pre-cut, double-sided tape. Simply peel back the protective cover and press the LED strips into place. Some LED strip lights also come with a battery option and a wiring harness to tap directly into the truck’s power system.

For more information about XTL LED Strip Lights, contact Grote at 2600 Lanier Drive, Madison, IN 47250; phone: 800-628-0809; email XTL@Grote.com; or online at Grote.com.

Another positive month for cross-border freight in June

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in June trucks moved more than 63 percent of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. All five modes experienced an increase in freight year to year.

The value of freight hauled across the borders increased by 1.5 percent compared with May when freight was up nearly 8 percent from the previous month. March experienced the largest month-to-month increase (16 percent) since March 2011, when NAFTA freight was up more than 22 percent compared to February 2011.

Compared to June 2016, freight was up nearly 8 percent. This marks the eighth consecutive month of year-to-year increases. Nine of 12 months experienced a loss compared to the previous year in 2016.

June’s rise was the third largest year-to-year increase this year, trailing May and March. In March, the index reached more than $100 billion for the first time since October 2014.

August, November and December were the only months to experience a year-to-year increase in 2016 at 0.7 percent, 3.3 percent and 0.4 percent respectively. August was the first year-to-year increase since December 2014, when freight increased by more than 5 percent.

Trucks carried more than $63 billion of the $99.8 billion of imports and exports in June. Rail came in second with more than $15 billion.

Freight totaled $99.764 billion, up more than $1.5 billion from the previous month and an increase of more than $7 billion from June 2016.

Pipeline freight experienced the largest increase at 26.3 percent after an increase of 60.3 percent in May. Trucks experienced a modest increase at 4.4 percent. In May, truck freight experienced the smallest increase at 5 percent.
 
More than 58 percent of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at more than 16 percent. U.S.-Mexico freight went up by more than 9 percent compared with June 2016. Of the $48.7 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 70 percent of the loads.

Next month’s North American Commercial Vehicle Show sells out exhibit space

Show managers of the North American Commercial Vehicle Show 2017 announced today that the event has officially sold out its 365,000 square feet of net exhibition space. The inaugural commercial vehicle industry trade show next month in Atlanta is focused on truck and trailer manufacturers and commercial vehicle parts and components suppliers.

A total of 400 exhibitors will demonstrate their latest products to the trucking industry’s leaders, fleet owners and managers at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga. from Monday, Sept. 25, to Thursday, Sept. 28.

Forty-two percent of the show’s floor space will be occupied by companies headquartered outside of the United States. Exhibitors from around the world that have booked exhibition space include companies from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.

According to this week’s press announcement, an impressive lineup of companies that represent the commercial vehicle OEM spectrum are exhibiting at the NACV Show 2017. Major truck manufacturers including Freightliner, Fuso, Hino Trucks, International, Isuzu, Mack, MHC Kenworth, Peterbilt of Atlanta, Volvo and Western Star will showcase the latest trucks.

Leading trailer manufacturers including Carrier Transicold, Cross Country Manufacturing, Dorsey Trailer, East Manufacturing Corp., Great Dane, Hyundai Translead, MAC Trailer Manufacturing, Manac Trailers, Meritor, Stoughton Trailers, Trail King, Trout River Industries Inc., Utility, Vanguard National Trailer Corp., Wabash National Corporation and Wilson Trailer Co. are exhibiting.

Major tire manufacturers including CMA/Double Coin Tires, Continental Corp., Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., Double Star Tires, Falken Tire Corp., Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Hankook Tire America Cor. and Michelin North America plan to showcase their latest products, as will manufacturers of finished lubricants, including Chevron Lubricants, Tenneco and Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.

Major commercial vehicle parts and components suppliers are expected to unveil their latest technologies, including Accuride Corp., Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products – Arconic, Alliance Truck Parts, Allison Transmission, Aperia Technologies, Bee Line Co., Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Bharat Forge America, BorgWarner Inc., Bosch, ConMet, Cummins Inc., Dana Inc., Eaton, Enow, FlowBelow Aero, FUWA/AXN Heavy Duty, Graco, Hendrickson, Jake Brake, Kinedyne LLC, Magna, Mahle Industries Inc., Meritor, Mitchell1, National Fleet Products, Noregon Systems Inc., SAF-Holland, Stoneridge Inc. and Wabco.

Apex Capital giving away money at GATS

Are you going to the Great American Truck Show on Aug. 24-26 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention center in Dallas? What if someone gave you money to go? Apex Capital has recently announced its Get Paid Today cash giveaway during this year’s GATS.

Apex, a freight factoring service company, will hand over a total of $1,500 to GATS attendees who enter into the Get Paid Today giveaway. Attendees can enter by picking up a free Get Paid Today T-shirt at booth 2041. Wear the shirt during the show and someone on Apex’s Blue Cash Crew may spot you and give you some money.

The Blue Cash Crew will be searching the convention center for those wearing the shirt. Increase the odds of being spotted by using the #apexcash hashtag on social media, including Instagram and Facebook.

This will be Apex’s second cash giveaway. Apex, at booth No. 2041, will be joined by their full-service programs, including the Apex Startup Program, free load board NextLOAD.com, and fuel card provider TCS.

Women in Trucking seeks Influential Woman in Trucking nominations

The Women in Trucking Association is seeking nominations for its 2017 Influential Woman in Trucking award. Nominations are due by Friday, Sept. 1.

Sponsored by Freightliner Trucks, one woman will win the Influential Woman in Trucking award. However, finalists will be invited to participate on a panel discussion regarding female leaders in the industry at the Accelerate! Conference and Expo on Nov. 6-8 in Kansas City, Mo.

The nominator needs to provide a response to the following three items (no more than 250 words per item):

  1. Briefly describe this nominee’s role in the trucking industry.
  2. Describe how your nominee has been a role model for women in the trucking industry.
  3. Please tell us why your nominee should be selected as the 2017 Influential Woman in Trucking.

The winner will be highlighted in the following ways:

  • Recognized at the 2017 Accelerate! Conference and Expo; 
  • Feature article in the Redefining the Road magazine; 
  • Featured in news releases and other media initiatives; and
  • Featured in social media channels that are followed by thousands of business influencers and drivers in the industry.

To fill out a nomination form, click here.

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