Trucking Biz Buzz

DAT Solutions: Spot rates hit three-year highs

It’s typical to see a big increase in spot market activity in the week after Thanksgiving. A lot of people take a day or two off that week, and comparing a regular workweek to a short one usually results in about 40 percent more load posts.

But load posts on DAT MembersEdge soared 64 percent while the number of available trucks gained 22 percent during the week ending Dec. 2. Strong demand for capacity is keeping spot rates elevated:

  • Reefer: $2.43/mile, unchanged compared to the previous week 
  • Van: $2.09/mile, up 2 cents
  • Flatbed: $2.30/mile, up 1 cent

Van loads up 68 percent: Van load post activity increased 68 percent and truck posts gained 23 percent as retail goods made their way across the country from west to east. The van load-to-truck ratio jumped 37 percent from 6.8 to 9.3 loads per truck, an all-time weekly record, and averaged 6.9 for November.

Crazy lanes: We’re still seeing some crazy rates on lanes, though not as many as the previous week. Check these out:

  • Seattle-Spokane jumped up 50 cents to $3.67/mile
  • Columbus-Buffalo paid 19 cents more at an average of $3.81/mile
  • Allentown-Richmond, Va., was also up 19 cents to $2.83/mile
  • Denver-Los Angeles got a 20-cent boost to $1.25/mile but not enough to offset a 30-cent decline in the L.A.-Denver head-haul rate, which paid $3.19 last week. Still, that means the round-trip average was $2.22/mile.

Reefers cool: The national average reefer rate remained strong at $2.43/mile, but weaker rates on most high-traffic lanes indicate a loss of pre-Thanksgiving urgency. Christmas, of course, is around the corner.

Reefer posts jump 55 percent: The number of reefer load posts jumped 55 percent last week while truck posts increased 12 percent, propelling the reefer load-to-truck ratio up 40 percent to 13.2 loads per truck. 

Falling rates: Many reefer lanes came down in price after some unseasonable highs.

  • McAllen, Texas-Atlanta tumbled 80 cents to $1.98/mile
  • Twin Falls, Idaho-Chicago came back to earth at $2.17/mile
  • L.A.-Denver fell 39 cents to $3.03/mile 
  • Miami-Elizabeth, N.J., retreated from an off-season spike in the previous week, down 34 cents to $1.61/mile.

Flatbeds fall in line: Flatbed load and truck posts increased, as expected, following the Thanksgiving holiday. The number of load posts gained 67 percent and truck posts 42 percent, which caused the load-to-truck ratio to rise 18 percent to 30.6 loads per truck. 

Tri-haul of the week
We mentioned that an L.A.-Denver roundtrip average $2.18/mile for reefer loads. Not bad, but if you need more loaded miles, you can add them with a TriHaul.

This TriHaul runs 2,500 loaded miles for about $6,000 compared to 2,000 miles for $4,450. That’s nearly $1,500 more in your pocket for an extra 500 loaded miles. The rate per mile is 18 cents higher for the TriHaul than the roundtrip in a reefer, but the van rate would work out lower for the TriHaul than the roundtrip—and you might have to wait for a load in Amarillo. Look in DAT MembersEdge for other options.

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 the 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 acquires three trucking companies valued at more than $300 million

Trucking company Daseke Inc., based in Addison, Texas, has recently announced its acquisition of three trucking firms, according to a news release. Although Daseke did not disclose the amount paid, Reuters calculated the combined revenue of the three companies at $320 million.

Daseke, the largest flatbed and specialized transportation company in North America, has acquired Tennessee Steel Haulers, The Roadmaster Group, and Moore Freight Service Inc. Daseke has more than 5,200 tractors, 11,000 flatbed/specialized trailers and industrial warehousing space of more than 1 million square feet.

Since its first year of operations in 2009, Daseke experienced an annual revenue growth rate of nearly 60 percent. In 2009, revenue was $30 million. Nine years later, Daseke is expecting revenue of $1.2 billion going into 2018.

Tennessee Steel Haulers was founded in 1977 and is based in Nashville, Tenn. The family-run business operates throughout the East Coast, Southeast and Mexico. TSH has a flatbed fleet of 1,100 with a 100 percent owner-operator model.

Roadmaster was founded in 2011 and is based in Phoenix. Last year, Roadmaster acquired
Tri-State Motor Transit Co., a Joplin, Mo.-based trucking company established in the 1930s known as one of the largest high-security cargo carriers. CEO John Wilbur paid drivers on a salary-type structure, rather than the typical per mile pay.

Established in 2001 in Mascot, Tenn., Moore Freight Service hauls commercial sheet glass in the Midwest, East Coast and Canada. The company operates more than 300 specialized trailers. According to its website, Moore Freight Service is committed to community service, including sponsoring the nonprofit organizations Widows International and Lost Sheep Ministry.

NAFTA freight continued to increase year-to-year in September

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in September trucks moved more than 64 percent of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. Three of five modes experienced an increase in freight year to year, including trucks.

The value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by more than 3 percent compared with September, when freight was up more than 9 percent from the previous month. March had 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 September 2016, freight was up 3.6 percent. This marks the 11th consecutive month of year-to-year increases. Nine of 12 months experienced a loss compared to the previous year in 2016.

September’s rise was only the third largest year-to-year increase this year, ahead of February (2.9 percent increase) and April (0.8 percent increase). 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 have 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 nearly $61 billion of the $94.4 billion of imports and exports in September. Rail came in second with more than $14 billion.

Freight totaled $94.379 billion, down more than $3 billion from the previous month but an increase of more than $3 billion from September 2016.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest increase at 28.6 percent after an increase of 4.5 percent in August. Trucks accounted for a modest increase at 2.9 percent. Truck freight experienced a similar modest increase of 3.6 percent and 4 percent in August and July, respectively.
 
Nearly 59 percent of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 16 percent. U.S.-Mexico freight went up by 2.1 percent compared with September 2016. Of the $45.9 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried more than 70 percent of the loads.

Tesla reveals all-electric semi with 500-mile range at breakneck speeds

After months of delays and nail-biting anticipation and hype, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s electric truck on Thursday, Nov. 16. Many of the spec claims are jaw-dropping, including a range of 500 miles and acceleration of 0-60 mph in 20 seconds at 80,000 pounds.

Musk’s primetime announcement was every bit of an exaggerated spectacle as one would expect from the eccentric entrepreneur.

Powered by four independent motors on rear axles, the truck has a range of 500 miles and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds when fully loaded at 80,000 pounds. Without a trailer, the 0-60 time is five seconds. Tesla claims the truck can reach 65 mph up a 5 percent grade while diesel trucks can only hit 45 mph.

When it comes to drag coefficient, the Tesla semi performs at 0.36 cd. Comparatively, a diesel truck drives 0.65-0.70 cd and the $2 million Bugatti Chiron clocks in at 0.38 cd. Tesla achieves this with side flaps that adjust to any trailer and closes the gap. The bottom of the truck is also completely flat.

One major selling point for Musk was the operation costs of the all-electric semi compared with a traditional diesel truck.

Assuming a 100-mile round trip route at an average speed of 60 mph, 80,000 pounds GVW, $2.50 per gallon diesel and 7 cents per kWh electricity price, Tesla’s semi will cost $1.26/mile to run. Conversely, a diesel truck would cost $1.51/mile to run. Those same stats applied to a three-truck convoy reduces that operating cost to $0.85/mile while diesel trucks remain at $1.51/mile, according to Tesla.

Tesla claims more than $200,000 in fuel savings and a two-year payback period.

As one would expect from Tesla, the semi will include various autonomous technology features, including enhanced autopilot. Additionally, the truck will come equipped with automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping and forward collision warning, which are already featured in trucks by other manufacturers.

One feature that separates Tesla’s semi from the rest is the interior. The steering wheel is situated in the center of the cab. Touchscreen monitors are placed on both sides of the steering wheel.

Tesla also claims the semi is the “safest truck ever.” In addition to collision avoidance technology, the truck has a low center of gravity that offers rollover protection. During the unveiling, Musk said that it is virtually impossible to jackknife this truck as independent motors will adjust the torque at each wheel.

When it comes to reliability, Musk said the drivetrain is guaranteed to last 1 million miles. Drivers may not need to worry about flying objects through the windshield. Designed with armor glass, Musk said the windshield could survive a thermo-nuclear explosion. The image below compares a traditional windshield to Tesla’s armor windshield.

Tesla also claims “quasi-infinite” brake life. During the unveiling, Musk said “You don’t have to replace brake pads ever.”

Similar to technology found in Tesla’s passenger vehicles, data from the semi is connected to Tesla Mobile Services which can be retrieved from an app, which can be useful when managing a fleet. Features include, remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, location tracking and communication with dispatch.

Production of the Tesla semi will begin in 2019. How much will it cost? That was not unveiled Thursday night, but one can assume it won’t be cheap. According to ACS Energy research, the battery pack alone for a 600-mile range truck could cost $400,000. That doesn’t include literally everything else to produce the truck.

The potential lofty price tag has not dissuaded one carrier. Not even 12 hours after Tesla’s unveiling party, Lowell, Ark.-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. announced that it has placed a reservation to purchase multiple Tesla trucks.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores also has ordered 15, five for Wal-Mart U.S. and 10 for Wal-Mart Canada.

Mercer awarded two safety awards by Kentucky Trucking Association

Mercer Transportation based in Louisville, Ky., brought home two safety awards from the Kentucky Trucking Association Conference, Sept. 20-22 at the Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Ind.

Mercer Transportation received a first-place award in the flatbed division and also the overall first place award for all truck divisions within the Kentucky Trucking Association.

Mercer Transportation maintains one of the lowest claims and accident rates in the industry, said Len Dunman, safety director for Mercer.

Military vets can get help on a down payment for a new truck

U.S. and Canadian military veterans interested in buying a Western Star truck can get help on coming up with the down payment.

Through the Western Star VetStar Military Appreciation Program, U.S. veterans can get up to a $2,000 match a down payment on a new Western Star truck financed through Daimler Truck Financial.

Canadian veterans are eligible for a $3,000 Canadian match on their down payment through Daimler Truck Financial.

Western Star VetStar Military Appreciation Program launched in 2017 and is being extended through 2018. The VetStar program applies to all new Western Star models. Glider kits and used units are not eligible. The program is intended for intended for owner-operators and small fleets.

Western Star Trucks Sales, Inc., Fort Mill, S.C., is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC.

To find a Western Star dealer, visit WesternStarTrucks.com or call 866-850-STAR (7827).

Trucking thrusts freight index to another all-time high in September

In the Transportation Services Index, which measures freight movement in tons and ton-miles, another significant increase in trucking in September was enough to make up for declines in all other freight modes except pipeline to push the index to yet another all-time high.

Trucking freight jumped forward for a third consecutive month, increasing from 144.4 to 145.6, an increase of more than 1 percent. Numbers from the American Trucking Associations reveal a tonnage decrease of 0.9 percent in September from 145.7 to 144.4 in August. ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys of its membership.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Transportation Services Index for September rose 0.2 percent to 129.2. In August, the index increased by 1.5 percent, replacing an all-time high set in July, which replaced an all-time high in May.

The September index was 36.3 percent above the low that was set during the recession in April 2009. TSI records began in 2000.

According to the DOT, the TSI’s upward movement coincides with growth in the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index, employment, personal income and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Index. However, housing starts decreased by 4.5 percent.

Trucking subsector suffers another month of minor job losses

hurricanes, but the trucking subsector is not one of them.

Transportation jobs overall scored a ninth consecutive month of job gains in October. The transport sector netted 8,400 jobs to the economy. Trucking jobs were down a pinch after a similar small decrease in September.

So far, the trucking subsector for 2017 has a net gain of 11,400 jobs. The truck transportation subsector experienced a decrease of 100 jobs in October after the industry lost another 100 in September and 1,500 in August. October’s decrease was the seventh month of job losses. However, large gains in February and March put trucking jobs in the black for the year so far.

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 with 5,700 more jobs, followed by air transportation at 3,500. Transit and ground passenger transportation experienced the largest loss, with 2,800 fewer jobs each, trailed by water transportation with 1,800 jobs lost. Five of 10 subsectors experienced gains, significantly outweighing subsectors with relatively minimal losses.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $24.07 for October – a 2-cent increase from September and up 63 cents from October 2016. Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees experienced an increase of 8 cents to $21.61 from the previous month and a 58-cent increase year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $26.53, a penny lower from the previous month. Compared with a year ago, average earnings have gone up by 2.4 percent, or 63 cents.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for transportation and material-moving occupations lowered to 5.2 percent compared with 5.8 percent last October but went up from 4.5 percent in September. The overall unemployment rate for the country declined to 4.1 percent from 4.2 percent the previous month. The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged at 1.6 million, accounting for one-quarter of the unemployed.

New Bridgestone wide-base tires enhance long haul performance

Bridgestone Americas this fall introduced two wide-base tires, the Greatec M835AEcopia tire for the drive position and the Greatec R197Ecopia tire for the trailer position.

Designed for use on tandem-axel applications in long-haul service, the new Greatec wide-base Ecopia tires are built for better fuel efficiency and deliver up to 20 percent longer wear life than the previous generation offering. In addition, the trailer tire delivers 6 percent better rolling resistance than the previous tire.

The new tires are compatible with Bandag FuelTech retreads. The Greatec M835AEcopia tire and the Greatec R197Ecopia tire are available in size 445/50R22.5.

Pilot Flying J opens new location in Kansas City

Truckers driving near the Kansas City area will have another truck stop to choose from. Pilot Flying J has recently announced a new location just north of the Missouri River east of Interstate 435 off of Missouri Route 210.

Scheduled to open Saturday, Nov. 4, the new Pilot Flying J is at 8801 NE Birmingham Road. According to a news release, the new store will create 60 jobs in the area and add $1.5 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

Kansas City’s latest Pilot Flying J will include 10 fueling positions and six diesel lanes. It has a public laundry, two showers, 15 truck parking spaces and 80 parking spaces for passenger vehicles.

Other amenities:

  • PJ Fresh, fast casual food offerings, including PJ Fresh Pizza, soup, salads, sandwiches and hot dogs
  • Western Union
  • Premium coffee and cappuccino selections

Customers can download the myPilot app to receive a 3-cent gas or auto diesel discount. Customers can also take advantage of free offers and discounts when using the myOffers feature on the myPilot app. Simply download the app, create an account or log in, and start saving.

For more information, visit PilotFlyingJ.com.

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