Category Archives: Trucking News

Spot Freight Rates for Vans, Reefers Rise Sharply

Spot truckload rates hit multi-year highs during the week ending Oct. 7, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards, as the number of available loads fell.

The 3% decline in freight availability following the close of the third quarter and generally tight capacity kept spot load-to-truck ratios elevated:

  • Van: 6.7 available loads per truck
  • Flatbed: 46.7 loads per truck
  • Refrigerated: 12.4 loads per truck

National average spot truckload rates, which include fuel surcharges, jumped significantly compared to the previous week:

  • Van: $2.09 per mile, up 12 cents
  • Flatbed: $2.31 per mile, up 4 cents
  • Reefer: $2.37 per mile, up 14 cents

The market for van freight remains solid despite a 6% decline in volume and 1% increase in truck posts last week, according to DAT. In Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, higher reefer load counts in the region contributed to tighter van capacity, meaning that fewer reefer trucks were competing for van loads. Rerouted port traffic from Houston to Seattle after Hurricane Harvey may have added to demand for trucks in the area.

In the spot reefer market, both load posts and truck posts were unchanged from the previous week. The national average reefer rate moved higher due to seasonal demand and relief efforts following Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

The number of flatbed load posts dipped 1% and truck posts increased 6%, with rebuilding efforts in Florida and the Gulf Coast driving demand for flatbed capacity.

Story by Evan Lockridge at truckinginfo.com

Truckload Earnings Expected to Be Mixed for Third Quarter, but Brighter Times Are Ahead, Insiders Say

Wall Street analysts expect truckload carriers to report mixed third-quarter earnings, despite a boost in business related to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Six of the 16 publicly traded truckload carriers are expected to see 3Q profit growth, while three could have diminished returns, according to a Bloomberg News consensus analyst forecast. USA Truck is forecast to lose money for the seventh consecutive quarter, but will likely climb closer to the break-even mark than during any point of 2016.

Celadon Group and Roadrunner Transportation Systems won’t report earnings, due to ongoing audits into financial discrepancies. Schneider and Daseke Inc. don’t have year-over-year comparisons available because they began trading on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. Patriot Transportation and PAM Transport Services have no industry analysts covering them.

Werner Enterprises, which ranks No. 16 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America, is expected to have their second consecutive strong quarter. After growing profits 27% year over year in the second quarter, forecasts call for a 14% rise to $21.6 million in the third quarter. Earnings per share could rise a nickel year over year to 31 cents.

Conversely, the newly created Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings — the companies closed their merger on Sept. 8 could announce that profits in the third quarter fell about 10% to $34.5 million or 33 cents, the analysts predict. The year-over-year comparison would be evaluated against the combined profits of the two companies one year ago. Swift and Knight rank Nos. 7 and 30, respectively, on the for-hire TT100.

John Larkin, analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus and Co., noted that spot markets are up 15% and contract rates in the second half of the year were up 5% to 10% year over year, which will eventually spur earnings growth.

For Epes Carriers Inc., revenue and operating income rose low-to-mid single digits versus last year, according to the company, based on data through August. The Greensboro, N.C., dry-van carrier ranks No. 81 on the for-hire TT100.

“The past quarter has been very robust. We find ourselves in most areas most every day. And since the hurricanes, which was unfortunate for the country, things have picked up even more. We’re at a point where we’re extremely busy right now,” said Scott Fulton, ‎Epes senior vice president of sales.

Big G Express president Randy Vernon said it’s been the busiest he’s seen conditions since late 2014. Vernon is re-approaching shippers for rate increases because he believes pricing hasn’t bounced back to 2015 levels, even after the latest capacity crunch.

“It’s better to be us now than it was 12 months ago. There isn’t any capacity right now and I don’t see it changing in the next two to three quarters,” he said. “A year ago, we were relying on brokers for about 6% to 7% of our business, whereas now broker business is probably about 0.1% or 0.2% in the last 60 days.”

For Nussbaum Transportation, a dry-van carrier in Hudson, Ill., volume and revenue were up about 14%, which founder and CEO Brent Nussbaum credits to the strong economy.

“Demand is up significantly from last year. Freight rates are up. Every industry we work with is up. This appears to be a result of housing, commercial construction, mining of commodities, business investment and consumer confidence [all] going up,” he said.

Flatbed carriers in particular have capitalized on increased residential and commercial construction in 2017. The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index climbed in July, August and September to 56.3, 58.8 and 60.8, respectively. During the same period last year, the numbers were 52.3, 49.4 and 51.7. A total above 50 is expansion and below 50 is contraction.

Melton Truck Lines, based in Tulsa, Okla., reaped the rewards as revenue per truck per week rose 4.8% in the quarter.

“If you put our freight levels graph on the same chart as the ISM, the two are highly correlated. So last month when the ISM was over 60 — smoking hot — conditions are very, very strong for us. The entire year as a whole has been very robust,” Chief Financial Officer Robert Ragan said. “Our conditions, in some ways, are tied to how steel is doing and the steel industry is much healthier than it was a few years ago.”

Business has not been as favorable in the refrigerated truckload market in 2017.

Twin Falls, Idaho-based Giltner Inc., and Los Angeles-based White Arrow summarized the third quarter as flat. White Arrow CEO Chris Ceausu said per-mile rates were about the same as a year ago, while Giltner General Manager Mark Durfee described the last three months as marginal.

“Capacity was well-matched to the volume until about the last three weeks of the quarter when things got very tight. Everyone we talk to wants us to give them trucks, but we’re completely booked up and all of our trucks are manned with drivers,” Durfee said. “But when you put all three months together, it was break-even at best. We’re looking forward to the fourth quarter as hopefully good for us, given the recent capacity crunch.”

Story by Ari Ashe @ Transport Topics

ATA Celebrates National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

Screenshot via Trucking Moves America Forward

American Trucking Associations kicked off National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, a week-long celebration of the trucking industry’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers.

Running Sept. 10-16, National Truck Driver Appreciation Week highlights the efforts of professional truck drivers to remind the industry of the important role that truck driver’s play in transporting goods across the nation. More than 80% of U.S. communities rely exclusively on truck drivers to deliver goods and commodities, and some remote towns and territories are unreachable by other modes of transportation.

“This week was created to commemorate and support the industry professionals who work daily to deliver America’s goods,” said Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO. “Truck drivers are hard-working men and women who practice safety on the roads and serve as the faces of our industry. These drivers improve our collective quality of life by making personal commitments to safety and delivering our critical goods like medicine, food, building supplies and clothing.”

ATA is asking the trucking industry to engage their communities in this week’s celebration of truck drivers. Public officials, community leaders, members of the media and local businesses can all play a role in helping to better understand the important work that truck drivers do in safely moving the economy each day. Highway safety is dramatically improved when the motoring public acknowledges the difficulties of driving a truck and the limitations of large commercial vehicles.

In support of this effort, Trucking Moves America Forward, the trucking industry’s image movement, is partnering with state trucking associations to run billboard advertisements along key highways to thank truck drivers for their service to the industry.

This year, special attention is being paid to the 1.6 million trucking industry employees who live and work in the direct paths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. During National Truck Driver Appreciation week, ATA is monitoring the storms and working with FEMA and the American Logistics Aid network to carry out relief efforts.

State trucking associations, industry suppliers, and carriers are set to host appreciation events for the men and women who safely deliver more than 70% of all freight tonnage in the United States. Additionally, America’s Road Team Captains and Share the Road professional truck drivers will take to the airwaves Sept. 12 for live satellite broadcasts from the Nashville terminal of TCW. ATA first vice chairman Dave Manning, president of TCW, will participate in the morning broadcasts and speak alongside the professional truck drivers about the important role that drivers play in the nation’s economy.

“Truck drivers work day in and day out to make our jobs possible, our shopping more convenient, and our roads a lot safer,” said Manning. “Truck drivers are entrusted with large vehicles, yet we know we can rely on them to be fully aware of their surroundings on the road and make good decisions. They make safety their responsibility and truly deliver everything that makes our economy function.”

The ATA official NTDAW site offers a collection of resources to magnify driver appreciation events. The content provided by ATA allows industry professionals to engage their communities during this week of outreach. These resources are aimed at demonstrating public support for the work that drivers do each day and reflecting the image of professional truck drivers.

Story by Truckinginfo.com

Could apprenticeship programs bring more youngsters into trucking?

This particular thought has been bandied about the trucking industry for some time now: allowing 18 to 21 year olds, under close supervision, to drive commercial trucks.

Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) acknowledged to me at the recent TMW Systems and PeopleNet 2017 in.sight user conference and exposition that the trade group plans to push for the establishment of an apprentice program that would allow the trucking industry to “capture” 18 year old high school graduates and train them as drivers.

“We’re losing the 18 to 21 year olds to other industries,” he explained as the reason why ATA plans to make a concerted effort to get the federal government behind its apprenticeship plan.

“We’re going to need 960,000 people for our industry as drivers over the next decade,” Spear emphasized. “We need to think outside of the box; we do a disservice to our industry if we don’t.”

Spear added that when he work in the Department of Labor during the George W. Bush’s presidency, he noted that the agency provided workforce training “grants” to a variety of industries to the tune of $4 billion a year – and Spear believes just retooling some of that money to fund truck driver apprenticeships, especially in the inner cities of the U.S., could uncork a broader flow of candidates into the truck driver employment pool.

But not so fast, argue others – including John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research for Stifel Capital Markets.

John Larkin. (Photo: Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner)

In a recent research note, Larkin said “it could take several years” to gain Congressional and regulatory approval for such an apprenticeship program – “if the industry association can get any traction at all,” he added.

“Most insurance companies refuse to insure companies hiring drivers younger than 22 to 25 years old,” Larkin pointed out. Also “most of the higher quality high school graduates, who are not attending college, have developed other careers prior to becoming age eligible for a professional truck driving position.”

In addition, he noted that “all the talk of autonomous trucks is scaring away many young people from the industry. Why would a young person want to enter a profession that will soon be disrupted by technology?”

Yet Larkin also emphasized that widespread adoption of autonomous trucks might be several decades, or more, away – leaving the trucking industry facing yet another challenge, that of “getting that message across to young people” who might consider a career as a professional truck driver if they were not going to eventually be replaced by self-driving machines.

It’s a ticklish problem, no doubt: one of many bedeviling industry efforts to find, recruit, and retain good safety-conscious truck drivers. And it’s an effort that will need to be sustained for a long time to come.

Story by Sean Kilcarr in Trucks in Work

Regulators Pull Plan To Test Truckers, Train Operators For Sleep Apnea

Two agencies in the Transportation Department are ending their push for a rule that would have required truck drivers and train operators to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that’s been linked to preventable accidents.

The agencies — the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration — have withdrawn a proposed rule they published in March of 2016, when they wrote that when it goes undiagnosed or inadequately treated, obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, “can cause unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory, thus reducing the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive duties.”

While calling OSA “an on-going concern,” the regulators said the issue can be addressed through existing safety programs and rules.

According to the Associated Press, “The agencies argue that it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees. One railroad that does test, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 11.6 percent of its engineers have sleep apnea.”

The decision didn’t sit well with the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency, which has pushed for apnea screening and awareness, said it is “disappointed” by the move. The board cited its own findings that obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to 10 highway and rail accidents in the past 17 years.

“Medical fitness and fatigue, two of the NTSB’s 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2017 – 2018, are tied to obstructive sleep apnea,” says the agency’s media relations chief, Christopher O’Neil. He added, “The need for this rulemaking is well documented.”

Last spring, the FMCSA and FRA cited a number of cases of rail and trucking crashes that were linked to OSA in recent years, including a railway collision that took place near Red Oak, Iowa, in 2011.

That crash, which killed two crewmembers who were found to have been at risk of apnea, prompted the NTSB to urge the Federal Railroad Administration to “require railroads to medically screen employees with safety sensitive duties for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.”

The agencies’ initial proposal also cited the 2013 derailment of a Metro-North Railroad passenger train that had been approaching the Spuyten Duyvil Station in New York City. In that crash that killed four passengers and injured more than 60 people, the engineer reported feeling dazed — and was later diagnosed with severe OSA.

Obstructive sleep apnea’s risk factors include being male, obese, and middle-age or older. Family history can also play a role.

Dr. Stefanos Kales of the Harvard School of Public Health, who has studied the link between sleep apnea and serious accidents, told NPR’s David Schaper last year, “Drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea who were noncompliant with treatment had a five-fold increase in the risk of serious preventable crashes.”

In announcing the withdrawal of the proposal, the FMCSA recommended that commercial drivers and their employers consult the North American Fatigue Management Program to boost their awareness of fatigue and its impact on performance.

Story by Bill Chappell at NPR

Diesel hits three-month high after six straight weeks of increases

The average price of a gallon of on-highway diesel went up 5 cents to $2.581 per gallon for the week ending Monday, Aug. 7. This marks the sixth consecutive increase after a month of decreases and the highest prices since May 1, when diesel cost $2.583.

Diesel price averages went up in all 10 regions in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. The largest average increase was in the Rocky Mountain region, where prices at the pump went up by 5.8 cents per gallon. Prices increased by 2.3 cents in the California region, the smallest increase in the nation.

Following are the average prices by region as reported by the EIA:

  • U.S. – $2.531, up 5 cents
  • East Coast – $2.613, up 4.7 cents
  • New England – $2.618, up 2.8 cents
  • Central Atlantic – $2.751, up 4.5 cents
  • Lower Atlantic – $2.514, up 5.2 cents
  • Midwest – $2.543, up 5.7 cents
  • Gulf Coast – $2.41, up 5.1 cents
  • Rocky Mountain – $2.673, up 5.8 cents
  • West Coast – $2.848, up 3.2 cents
  • West Coast less California – $2.747, up 4.3 cents
  • California – $2.93, up 2.3 cents

According to ProMiles, the average retail price at truck stops was $2.552 on Monday morning, a 5.7 cent increase from last week.

ProMiles, the software company that maintains the websites ProMiles.com and TruckMiles.com, continues to offer its own weekly fuel price information. The company’s fuel price data are presented in the same format used by the EIA in the agency’s weekly reports. The prices include a national average as well as regional averages, and comparisons to the previous week and the previous year.

A key difference between the EIA and ProMiles reporting is the type and number of fueling stations the company surveys in order to calculate its averages. While EIA surveys 400 truck stops and convenience stores nationwide, ProMiles uses its direct feed from thousands of truck stops to develop its averages.

TruckMiles.com listed the daily average price for Monday at $2.64, with truckers in Pennsylvania paying an average of $3.097 per gallon, the highest in the nation. Truckers in South Carolina are paying a national low of $2.397 per gallon, according to the site. No states in the Lower 48 states have been listed in excess of $4 per gallon at the pump since Dec. 4, 2014. Two states, Pennsylvania and Washington, are reporting average prices, one more than last week. It has been nearly two months since the last time more than one state reported prices above $3. No states have reported average diesel prices below $2 since April 27, 2016.

AAA has indexed diesel prices at $2.512 for Monday, 21.3 cents more expensive than this time last year and 6.6 cents higher than a month ago.

In separate energy news, according to the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude (also known as West Texas Intermediate) for September delivery was trading at $48.95 at noon CDT on Monday, a $1.22 decrease from last Monday and a 63-cent decrease from its last settlement price. The price of Brent crude oil for October settlement was listed at $51.90, a 75-cent decrease from last Monday and a 52-cent decrease from its last settlement price.

According to Reuters, oil prices dipped on Monday as investors cashed out amid news of increased production in Libya and continued concerns regarding more production from the U.S. and OPEC countries. Prices dropped last week despite a boost on Friday from a positive employment report in the U.S.

Story by Tyson Fisher