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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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U.S. Trade Gap Narrowed in May
Friday, 10 July 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in May to its lowest level since November 1999, as exports grew and imports fell despite rising oil prices.

The U.S. deficit in international trade of goods and services contracted 9.8% to $25.96 billion from a downwardly revised $28.79 billion in April, the Commerce Department said Friday. The April trade gap was originally reported as $29.16 billion.

The May deficit was much smaller than Wall Street expectations. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had estimated a $30 billion shortfall.

In a separate report, the Labor Department reported that U.S. import prices jumped last month, matching their largest increase in nearly two decades, as soaring oil prices and a weaker U.S. dollar further lowered the odds of a protracted period of economy-wide price declines known as deflation. Still, with oil prices already in retreat this month to under $60 per barrel and U.S. wages flat-lining, inflation is unlikely to take root. The slowing U.S. economy and ebbing demand for overseas good began to eat away at the large trade gap early in the year, though a resurgence in oil prices had pushed it back up in recent months.

Still, trade has been one of the few positive notes in an otherwise downbeat U.S. economy, contributing 2.39 percentage points to first-quarter gross domestic product to partially offset a drop-off in housing and business spending. Overall GDP contracted 5.5% in the first quarter.

The real, or inflation-adjusted, trade deficit—which economists use to measure the impact on the overall economy—narrowed to $36.18 billion in May from $40.06 billion the previous month.

U.S. exports posted their biggest gain since July 2008, rising 1.6% to $123.31 billion from $121.41 billion. Imports decreased in May to the lowest level since July 2004, however, falling 0.6% to $149.27 billion from $150.20 billion.

The U.S. bill for crude oil imports fell to $13.41 billion from $13.63 billion the month before despite a continued rise in oil prices. The average price per barrel climbed $4.61 to $51.21. Crude import volumes fell to 261.89 million barrels from 292.60 million.

The U.S. paid $17.70 billion for all types of energy-related imports, up from $17.40 billion in April.

Imports of industrial supplies decreased $656 million in May. Auto and related parts imports declined $238 million, while imports of foreign-made consumer goods like clothing and household appliances decreased $80 million.

May purchases of foreign-made capital goods such as computer accessories rose $269 million, while food and feed imports gained $55 million.

As for exports, sales of industrial supplies, such as gold and copper, jumped $2.07 billion. Exports of food, feed, and beverages went up by $254 million.

U.S. sales abroad of consumer goods, including art and stereos, increased $228 million in May. Capital goods exports rose by $134 billion.

Meanwhile, auto exports decreased $441 million.

The U.S. trade deficit with China widened in May to $17.48 billion from $16.75 billion the month before. Exports to the country grew 1.6% to $5.25 billion.

But U.S. trade deficits with other major trading partners narrowed. The gap with Japan fell to $1.91 billion, the lowest level since 1984, from $3.22 billion. The deficit with Canada fell to $628 million, its smallest level since March 1994, from $1.20 billion.

The trade gap with the euro area declined to $2.10 billion from $4.16 billion. Meanwhile, the deficit with Mexico decreased to $3.94 billion from $4.12 billion.

Imports Prices Increase in June

Import prices spiked 3.2% last month from May, the Labor Department said Friday, matching the biggest monthly rise since September 1990. They also rose 3.2% in November 2007. Economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey had expected a 2.3% increase last month.

However, import prices were down 17.4% compared to June 2008. And while petroleum prices rose 20.3% from May, a 10-year high and fifth-straight monthly increase, they were down 45.9% on the year.

Excluding petroleum, import prices were up just 0.2% on the month.

Reports next week on U.S. producer and consumer prices will give a broader read on price pressures. Domestic factors like unemployment, wages and the gap between economic output and its potential are the main determinants of underlying inflation. All three point to little, if any, upward pressure, suggesting Federal Reserve officials can maintain their near-zero interest rate policy for an extended period to combat the recession.

According to Friday's report, prices for non-petroleum industrial supplies and materials imports rose 0.7% last month. Automobile prices were up 0.1%. Prices of imported capital goods were down 0.1%, and consumer goods excluding automobiles advanced 0.1%. Food prices rose 0.5%.

Prices of imported goods from the European Union were up 0.7% on a monthly basis, while those from Canada jumped 2.8%. Prices of products from Japan were up 0.7%, the biggest increase since 1998. However, prices from China slid 0.1%.

Meanwhile, U.S. export prices rose 1.1% from May, though they were still down 6.4% from year-ago levels.

Prices of agricultural exports increased 4.8% on the month, while prices of non-agricultural exports advanced 0.8%.

Wall Street Journal, 7/10/2009

Traffic Delays Fell in 2007
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 00:00

U.S. drivers spent less time in traffic delays in 2007 for the first time in at least 25 years, a new study showed.

Motorists spent 4.16 billion hours in traffic in the 439 urban areas studies by the Texas Transportation Institute, the report released Wednesday showed. The number fell increased every year since studies began in 1982, but fell in 2007 from 4.2 billion hours.

The decrease was caused by motorists cutting back the amount they drive, the study said. The recession and high fuel prices have pushed motorists to drive less.

The 2007 figure was still above 2004’s level, the study said.

The average motorist spent one less hour stuck in traffic in 2007 than in 2006 and wasted one less gallon of gasoline, the study showed.

Transport Topics, 7/8/2009

Diesel falls 1.4 cents to $2.594
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 00:00

According to statistics provided by the Energy Information Administration, the weekly retail on-highway diesel price average for the U.S. dropped slightly to $2.594 per gallon.

The price is $2.133 a gallon lower than one year ago today, and $0.014 less than last week’s price of $2.608.

One year ago next Monday the price reached its highest level ever at $4.765 per gallon.

The Rocky Mountain region was the only one to increase in price this week. It was up $0.017 per gallon to $2.648 a gallon.

The Central Atlantic region had the top average at $2.714 per gallon, down $0.012 from last week. The least expensive diesel was found in the Gulf Coast region where a gallon of diesel sold for $2.547, which was down $0.022 from last week.

Retail gasoline prices rose every day for nearly two months as refiners slashed production. That streak finally ended two weeks ago and prices at the pump have fallen every day since, according to the Associated Press., 7/7/2009

Virginia truck parking changes to be implemented July 21
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 00:00

RICHMOND, VA.—The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is notifying motorists today of impending changes at the rest areas slated for closure later this month.

In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) finalized plans to scale-back the number of rest areas VDOT maintains and operates from 42 to 23 as the agency grapples with a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. Electronic message signs notifying visitors that the facilities will close on July 21 are being posted at each location beginning today and VDOT has updated its Web site and 511 traveler information system to reflect the closures.

In an effort to mitigate the impacts of these facility closings on trucks, VDOT plans to implement changes to its rest area truck parking restrictions on July 21. Crews will remove a number of no parking signs at the remaining 23 rest areas and welcome centers to provide more than 225 legal truck parking spaces. This will offset the total number of truck parking spaces lost at the closed facilities. VDOT will also remove signs that had restricted vehicles to two-hour parking limits.

Truck drivers will now be able to get their mandated 10-hours of rest in Virginia’s rest areas. New truck parking rules only limit parking for an entire overnight period. This means that trucks arriving in a rest area before sundown must leave the site prior to sunrise the following day. Those truck arriving during the night or early morning hours must leave the site prior to sunrise the following full day.

“These are hard decisions for us to make,” said VDOT Commissioner David S. Ekern. “It is difficult to cut back on these popular motorists’ services, but we must prioritize our limited funding to emergency response and maintaining our roads and bridges. We have worked with the trucking, tourism and commuter communities to ensure that those impacted are aware of the impending changes and to address adverse impacts wherever possible.”

The 18 rest areas slated to close July 21 include:

I-81 North Rural Retreat

I-81 South Smyth

I-81 North Radford

I-81 South Troutville

I-81 North Mt. Sidney

I-81 South Mt. Sidney

I-81 South New Market

I-95 North Ladysmith

I-95 South Ladysmith

I-95 North Dale City (cars)

I-95 South Dale City (cars)

I-66 East Mannassas

I-64 East Goochland

I-64 West Goochland

I-85 North Dinwiddie

I-85 South Dinwiddie

I-85 North Alberta

I-85 South Alberta

VDOT will operate the I-66 West Manassas Welcome Center through the summer travel season, since it was the only welcome center impacted by these closures. VDOT will close the I-66 Welcome Center on Sept. 16, following the busy summer travel season.

A map of the affected rest areas is available at Closures

VDOT recommended in February a series of reductions to address a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. These include reductions over the next six years of $2 billion to the construction program, $391 million to administrative and support programs, and $348 million in reductions to the maintenance and operations program. The department collected feedback during 11 public meetings in March and early April. It then proposed final recommendations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) after considering public input and completing additional analysis.

The CTB finalized these decisions and adopted VDOT’s new $3.7 billion budget June 18. This triggered implementation of VDOT’s service cuts, including the rest area closures.

The commonwealth will continue to pursue federal legislation changes necessary to allow future rest area commercialization, currently prohibited by law., 7/7/2009


DOE Boosts ’09-’10 Fuel Price Outlook
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 00:00

The Energy Department Tuesday boosted its price forecasts for diesel, gasoline and crude oil for this year and 2010.

Diesel will average $2.46 this year and $2.79 next year, DOE said in its monthly short-term energy outlook, a slight increase from its prediction last month.

Trucking’s main fuel averaged $3.80 last year, peaking last July at a record $4.764 a gallon.

DOE’s forecasts have gained steadily in the past two months, led by higher crude oil prices. Last month, the department forecast diesel would average $2.40 this year and $2.67 in 2010.

Regular-grade gasoline will average $2.36 this year, a 3-cent increase from last month’s forecast—well below last year’s record $3.26 average.

Gas will average $2.69 next year, up 13 cents from last month’s $2.56 prediction.

Crude oil will average $60.35 per barrel in 2009 and $72.42 per barrel in 2010, up from last month’s forecast of $58.70 this year and $67.42 next year, DOE said.

Oil averaged $99.57 per barrel last year and set a New York Mercantile Exchange closing-price record of $145.29 last July.

In its latest weekly survey released Monday, DOE reported that the national diesel average fell 1.4 cents to $2.594 a gallon, while gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.612. That marked the second week of modest declines for both fuels after two months of increases for diesel and three months of gains for gasoline.

Transport Topics, 7/7/2009

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