Trucking Biz Buzz

DAT Solutions: Back(haul) to work

Spot market volumes usually dip in the week before Easter, as shippers close early on Good Friday and truck drivers book loads home for the holiday.

That combination – a little less freight to haul, a little more motivation on the part of trucker – tends to tamp down rates on the spot market.

Still, the 2.4 percent drop in load counts during the week ending April 15 wasn’t as steep as expected. And rates on DAT MembersEdge, for the most part, stayed firm. The national average spot van rate fell 1 cent to $1.68/mile; the flatbed rate was unchanged at $2.07/mile, while agricultural markets pushed the reefer rate up 1 cent to $1.94/mile.

With 8 percent fewer van load posts last week, the national average van load-to-truck ratio dipped from 3.4 to 3.2 loads per truck. The flatbed ratio increased slightly to 39.7 loads per truck but remains strong, while a 2 percent decline in volume caused the reefer ratio to slip 4 percent to 6.6 loads per truck.

Here’s what’s driving trends on DAT MembersEdge in key markets:

California and Southwest: Lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower—they’re all shipping now, with strawberries coming out of Oxnard and the Santa Maria districts. And with Cinco de Mayo around the corner, more avocados are crossing the border at Nogales, Ariz. (where the average reefer rate jumped 14 cents a mile). Out of Los Angeles, the average reefer rate jumped 5 cents to $2.39/mile; the van rate was unchanged at $1.90/mile.

Atlanta: Volumes declined and the average spot rate dropped 2 cents to $1.92/mile but Atlanta was still the top van market last week. Memphis-Atlanta, a big inbound lane, fell 17 cents to an average of $2.07/mile, giving back a 13-cent gain from the previous week and then some.

Columbus, Ohio: Columbus, a jumping off point for van freight moving into the Northeast, saw the average outbound van rate decline 3 cents to $1.89/mile. Rates also fell in Buffalo and Philadelphia, signaling slower traffic into the region.

Florida: It’s coming on strong with sweet corn, potatoes, mixed veggies and melons. Key reefer lanes surged:

  • Lakeland-Charlotte: $2.06/mile, up 49 cents
  • Lakeland-Atlanta: $1.65/mile, up 22 cents
  • Miami-Baltimore: $2.15/mile, up 39 cents

Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reduced shipments of fresh eggs and stored apples dragged down reefer rates last week. On average, Grand Rapids fell 3 cents to $2.67/mile, and two key lanes took a hit: Grand Rapids-Madison tumbled 32 cents to $2.01/mile while Grand Rapids-Cleveland skidded 10 cents to $3.18/mile.

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/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.

Toyota unveils hydrogen fuel cell truck for California port study

Toyota Motor North America has announced its “Project Portal,” a hydrogen fuel cell system for heavy-duty trucks at the Port of Los Angeles. The concept will study fuel cell technology in a zero-emission truck.

In a press conference with the California Air Resources Board and California Energy Commission, the truck manufacturer’s feasibility study with the concept truck will begin this summer as part of the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan. Established in 1995, the plan reduces harmful emission from Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles operations.

The hydrogen fuel cell concept truck will be a fully functioning heavy-duty truck with enough power and torque to for port drayage work “while emitting nothing but water vapor,” according to a Toyota press release. The truck generates more than 670 horsepower and 1,325 lb-ft of torque from two Mirai fuel cell stacks and a 12kWh battery, a relatively small battery to support class 8 load operations. The concept’s gross combined weight capacity is 80,000 lbs., and its estimated driving range is more than 200 miles per fill, under normal drayage operation.

Listening session about automated commercial vehicles planned

Automation continues to be a hot topic in the trucking industry, and soon truck drivers will have the opportunity to provide their two cents on the subject.

Later this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will host a public listening session to solicit information on issues relating to the design, development, testing and deployment of highly automated commercial vehicles.

The listening session will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon EDT on Monday, April 24, at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta in the Regency Ballroom. Interested parties will have the opportunity to share their views and any data or analysis on this topic with representatives of the agency.

Participation in the listening session is free. FMCSA will post specific information on how to participate via the internet at the FMCSA website in advance of the session.

More information about the listening session can be found here.

February freight index reaches new all-time high

The official freight index, which measures freight movement in tons and ton-miles, reveals February freight was up for all freight transportation modes except pipeline, leading to an increase in the index compared to January.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Freight Transportation Services Index for February rose 1.5 percent to 126.4. After adjustments from last month, this marks a new all-time high for the index, replacing the former all-time high of 125.2 set in July 2016.

The February index is 33.5 percent above the low set during the recession in April 2009. TSI records began in 2000.

Trucking freight went up to 138.4 from 137.6, an increase of less than 1 percent. Numbers from the American Trucking Associations reveal a tonnage decrease of 0.1 percent in February to 138.7 from 138.9 in January. ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys of its membership.

According to the DOT, the TSI’s upward movement comes amid similar signals in the economy. Employment, housing starts and personal income all increased in February. Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index also revealed improvement.

Two NHTSA recall investigations affect nearly 250,000 Cascadia trucks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently opened two recall investigations for certain Freightliner Cascadia trucks. One recall deals with a steering defect, and the other defect affects the wiper motor. Nearly 250,000 trucks are potentially affected between the two issues.

The first defect investigation affects an estimated 50,000 2016-2017 Cascadia trucks. According to NHTSA documents, the capscrews that secure the lower steering arm to the steering knuckle on the tie rod may fail without warning.

One crash that resulted in two fatalities has been reported.

In September 2015, Daimler Trucks North America issued a similar recall (15V-613) for 2016 Freightliner Cascadia, Business Class M2, 108SD, 114SD, 122SD, Coronado Glider, and Columbia Glider trucks. Nearly 11,000 trucks were affected in that recall.

In the 2015 recall, axles were built in Mexico with insufficient torque applied to steering arm capscrews. According to NHTSA, only 62 percent of affected trucks have completed the remedy to date.

On Oct. 23, 2016, a 2017 Cascadia was involved in a crash where both the driver and co-driver were killed along Interstate 57 in Illinois. An investigation found that “the steering linkage separation occurred at the lower steering arm capscrews on the driver side.”

NHTSA is currently investigating to determine whether or not a larger population of trucks should have been included in the recall from 2015.

In a separate investigation, NHTSA is looking into a wiper defect affecting nearly 200,000 2015-2016 Cascadia trucks. According to investigation documents, “The wiper motor intermittently ceases to operate causing a loss of vision while driving and increasing the risk of a crash.”

Field reports reveal that multiple vehicles were affected, with some trucks experiencing the issues multiple times. Replacing the wiper motor appeared to resolve the problem.

In one situation, the wipers quit working when a driver switched the wiper speed from intermediate to high during a rainstorm. As a result of the loss of visibility, the driver lost control and hit an embankment.

DTNA has collected wiper motors from trucks reported to experience failure. However, in each case DTNA claims the motor worked and the manufacturer was unable to duplicate the failure. The investigation has been upgraded to an Engineering Analysis, according to NHTSA documents.

Knight, Swift to merge in all-stock deal

The boards of directors of Knight Transportation and Swift Transportation struck an all-stock merger of the two companies, creating the largest all truckload carrier in the U.S.

The deal was announced in a joint press release issued by the two motor carriers on Monday, April 10. The merger lands Knight-Swift firmly in the top five largest for hire motor carriers, trailing UPS, FedEx, XPO and J.B. Hunt.

The two companies combined have a revenue of $5.1 billion, roughly $1.1 billion less than J.B. Hunt. However, according to the press release, the merged Knight-Swift operation will continue to focus on full truckload freight, as opposed to J.B. Hunt’s more diversified operations including less-than-truckload and intermodal freight. Thus, it will be the largest for-hire truckload carrier in the U.S.

“The holding company structure will enable the Knight and Swift businesses to operate under common ownership and share best practices, while maintaining distinct brands and operations,” the merger press release stated. “The company will remain headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., operating with approximately 23,000 tractors, 77,000 trailers, and 28,000 employees.”

The all-stock deal means that Knight stockholders will get one Knight-Swift share for each share of Knight stock they held. Swift stockholders will get 0.72 shares of Knight-Swift stock for each share of Swift they held before the merger.

The value of the stock shares was based on close of trading on Friday, April 7.

At that time Knight shares closed at $30.65 and Swift closed at $20.02 per share, according to Nasdaq.com. Swift’s implied value, or what it’s expected to be following the announcement of the merger, was reported in the press release at $22.07. The merged Knight-Swift leadership expects to pay quarterly dividends of 6 cents per share following the merger.

The makeup of the board of directors and management team will be split between Knight and Swift operations. However, chairman of the board and company executive seats will be taken by Knight Transportation individuals.

Of course, Swift founder Jerry Moyes will be on the board, along with three other Swift representatives. The remaining 10 board seats will be filled by the current members of the Knight Transportation Board of Directors.

Day-to-day operations will be run by Executive Chairman Kevin Knight and CEO Dave Jackson, both of Knight Transportation.

The deal hinges on a final vote by Swift and Knight shareholders. The Jerry Moyes family, which owns 56 percent Swift stock, and the Knight family, who hold approximately 10 percent of the Knight stock, all agree to vote in favor of the merger.

Trucking sector gains more jobs in March, nets nearly 14,000 for the year

After a strong month in February, March followed with another positive month for transportation jobs. The transport sector netted 3,500 jobs to the economy, including nearly 5,000 trucking jobs. February’s employment surge was the largest since April 2013 when the subsector grew by 11,700 jobs.

So far, the trucking subsector for 2017 has a net gain of 13,900 jobs. The truck transportation subsector experienced an increase of 4,700 jobs in March after the industry gained 10,600 in February and lost 1,400 in January. 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. In January, transportation lost more than 20,000 jobs, the largest decrease since January 2011 when 38,000 jobs were eliminated from the economy.

The trucking subsector experienced the largest increase by a wide margin for the second consecutive month, followed by air transportation at 2,000. Transit and ground passenger transportation experienced the largest loss with 2,300 fewer jobs, trailed by couriers and messengers with 1,200 jobs lost. Only four of 10 subsectors experienced gains, making trucking and air largely responsible for the transportation sector’s net increase.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $23.67 for March – a 9-cent increase from February. Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees experienced an increase of 11 cents to $21.14. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $26.14, 5 cents higher from the previous month. Compared with a year ago, average earnings have gone up by 2.7 percent.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for transportation and material moving occupations is unchanged at 6.2 percent compared with last March, but significantly down from 7.3 percent in February. The overall unemployment rate for the country was down to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent the previous month, the lowest in nearly a decade. The number of long-term unemployed was down slightly at 1.7 million, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the unemployed.

America’s largest expedite trucking show scheduled for July 14-15

Expedite Expo, returns in 2017 with new format designed to optimize interactions between exhibitors and attendees, as well as offering ideas and opportunities. Expedite Expo will be held July 14-15, 2017, at the Lexington Convention Center in downtown Lexington, Ky.

The new format will feature a focus on workshops in the morning each day at 8-11 a.m. Friday, July 14, and 8-10 a.m. Saturday, July 15 – before the show floor opens. Expo producer On Time Media announced that the event will feature dedicated workshops for every type of person attending. The workshops will be organized by tracks – fleet owner, owner-operator, driver and motor carrier.

In addition to floor booths and workshops, as many as 25 to 30 companies that are hiring drivers could be on site at the Expo.
 
Another new feature at the Expo this year is Expediter of the Year award, sponsored by ExpeditersOnline.com. This contest is open to any expedite trucking industry driver, team, or owner-operator based in the United States or Canada. Anyone can nominate a driver, and nominations will be viewed and voted on by a group of trucking professionals. Nominations can be submitted through the ExpeditersOnline.com application process.

The top three nominees will be announced in early June and will be asked to be present at Expedite Expo. The top finalist will receive $500 cash for travel, two nights’ hotel accommodations provided by ExpeditersOnline.com, and an Expediter of the Year plaque.

The Expo offers free registration, convenient free parking and hotel attached to the Convention Center. For more details call 859-746-2046.

MCS-150 forms causing confusion in California

Some motor carriers in California are receiving a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150) forms, except there is one problem: They should not have a MCS-150 on file. Here’s what is going on and what exempt truckers in California should do if they receive the letter.

Every two years, carriers required to have a DOT number are obligated to update information via MCS-150. Operations that do not require a DOT number do not need to fill out the form.

However, many carriers who are exempt have received a letter to update their MCS-150, most notably in California. In California, the state assigns all intrastate carriers with a DOT number for its own personal tracking purposes. Many carriers may not even know they have a DOT number.

For example, one exemption includes farmers who transport agricultural commodities within a certain distance or commercial passenger van operators, according to Duane DeBruyne, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesperson. Most states would not issue a DOT number, but in California one could be assigned for such carriers.

As a result, blank information has been received by the feds over at FMCSA. Letters being sent out reflect that missing information, unbeknownst to the carriers that anything was ever on file in the first place.

Theoretically, this can cause problems at a scale house when law enforcement officers check their database. If they see an incomplete form, an overzealous officer could technically write up a ticket or cause some delay.

Any motor carriers that are exempt from biennial MCS-150s and received a letter or otherwise suspect they may have one on file are encouraged to contact FMCSA at 800-832-5660, by fax at 202-366-3477 or on their website by clicking here.

ATRI releases online driver survey

The American Transportation Research Institute launched its annual online truck driver survey to receive feedback on the top concerns in the industry.

Last week, ATRI collected more than 500 driver surveys at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The online version of the same survey is intended to allow a larger number of truck drivers to participate.

“Driver involvement is so critical to ATRI’s research, and we were extremely pleased with the number of surveys completed at MATS,” ATRI President Rebecca Brewster said in a news release. “We encourage drivers to spend a few minutes completing the online survey so that driver opinions are included in the research of these timely issues.”

The survey includes 26 questions on such topics as highway safety, driver retention, and infrastructure.

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