Track and Quotes

Show Shipment Information - Track and Trace PackageTrack and Trace
Get a Shipping Rate QuoteRate Quote

Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

Our current transportation LTL and TL news bulletins are powered by SMC3

January spot freight up 54 percent from a year ago
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 00:00

PORTLAND, OR—Freight availability in January rose by 54 percent on the North American spot market compared to January 2009 according to the TransCore North America Freight Index. This marked the fourth consecutive month of improvement on a year-over-year basis.

The TransCore North America Freight Index measures truckload freight volume found on load boards supported by the DAT Network, including 3sixty Freight Match, and LinkLogistics, the company’s Canadian subsidiary.

As expected, there was a month-to-month dip in spot market freight availability from December 2009 to January 2010. Although the 38 percent decline exceeded seasonal norms, the gap can be attributed to December’s unusually high level of spot freight availability rather than unseasonal weakness in January, according to the report.

Brokers, 3PLs, carriers, and owner-operators in North America list more than 50 million loads and trucks per year across a variety of services feeding TransCore’s DAT Network. As a result of this high volume, TransCore says its North America Freight Index is representative of the ups and downs in spot market freight availability throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico., 2/17/2010

LTL Market Stabilizes in 4Q as Fleets See Growth Ahead
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

The long-depressed less-than-truckload market has stabilized and is showing initial signs of modest growth, LTL carriers said in fourth-quarter earnings statements.

The chief executive officers made their comments as Con-way Inc., Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. and Saia Inc. reported that fourth-quarter results from operations trailed 2008.

YRC Worldwide Inc. also saw signs of a stabilizing market for LTL.

Old Dominion reported $9.7 million profit, or 26 cents a share, while Con-way lost $1.9 million, or 4 cents a share, and Saia lost $3.1 million, or 31 cents a share. Though LTL revenue fell at Old Dominion and Saia, it rose at Con-way Freight, and month-to-month trends reflected improvement at all three companies.

“We have begun to see some early indications of some positive trends,” said Con-way Inc. Chief Executive Officer Douglas Stotlar on a Feb. 5 conference call. “We are seeing some signs of demand recovery.”

Volume rose 30% in January over the same month of 2009 at Con-way Freight, President John Labrie said.

Con-way reported the market was relatively stronger at the truckload unit, as Stotlar commented that “a little more economic demand will evaporate the excess capacity pretty quickly.”

Richard O’Dell, chief executive officer of Saia, said the tonnage and rate trends grew stronger during the quarter and in January, and tonnage last month topped 2009.

“This is the first time that I can make a statement like that over the past 18 months,” he said on a Jan. 25 conference call.

Executive Chairman Earl Congdon of Old Dominion said on Jan. 28 that, for the only month in 2009, tonnage in December topped the same month of the year before.

In contrast with these assessments, Judy McReynolds, president of Arkansas Best Corp., reported only “occasional signs” of modest economic improvement for nationally oriented subsidiary ABF Freight System Inc. and an “extremely weak and uncertain freight market that has continued now for 40 months.”

Arkansas Best lost $22.1 million, or 88 cents a share, from continuing operations.

While the three regionally focused carriers had a more upbeat assessment than nationally oriented ABF, the regionals’ executives followed different strategies in a market plagued by overcapacity.

Con-way reported a 21% increase in shipments per day and a 14% drop in price, as measured by revenue per hundred pounds of freight shipped.

“We made a strategic decision to attract more volume to use that excess capacity,” Stotlar said. “The competitive dynamics of the pricing environment put a damper on profits.”

Labrie said his company hopes to be able to raise rates, now that the market has stabilized.

Freight revenue rose 7% to $683.9 million, but truckload revenue and logistics revenue declined. Corporate revenue at Con-way Inc. dipped less than 1% to $1.12 billon.

The freight unit’s operating ratio was 99.6, worse than the 98.2 recorded in the fourth quarter of 2008 after one-time charges were excluded.

Old Dominion and Saia said their approach to the market was to try to hold the line on rates as much as possible.

“We have been taking a firmer stance on pricing, starting in the second half of last year, and we saw some results from that,” Saia’s O’Dell said, citing year-to-year pricing improvement in January.

“Our position is that the rates clearly can’t continue to go down, and we need to make some headway to get them going in a different direction,” he said.

Saia’s fourth-quarter pricing fell 4% from 2008 levels and revenue was off 12% at $202 million.

The operating ratio at Saia was 101.8, worse than the 97.7 recorded in the 2008 quarter, excluding impairment charges.

Congdon said Old Dominion remained committed to focusing on stable pricing, as evidenced by a modest 3% year-to-year drop in rates. Its revenue fell 8% to $310.9 million.

Old Dominion’s operating ratio continued to lead the publicly traded carriers at 93.9, although it deteriorated somewhat from 93.2 in the 2008 fourth quarter.

On a companywide basis, Con-way lost $49.7 million, or 94 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2008 because of one-time costs.

One-time costs also hurt Saia in the fourth quarter of 2008, when the loss was $28 million, or $2.10 a share.

Arkansas Best results also were affected by one-time charges, but those were in the fourth quarter of 2009. It posted a loss of $88.7 million, or $3.54 a share, after one-time charges.

Revenue at ABF declined 8% to $347.7 million, while tonnage slipped 2%. The company’s operating ratio excluding one-time charges deteriorated to 109.3 from 104, sinking to the worst among publicly traded carriers.

YRC’s less-than-truckload operating ratio, which previously trailed the industry, was 109.1 in the fourth quarter.

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010

Blizzards Snarl Mid-Atlantic, Hampering Freight Movement
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

The record-breaking blizzard last week, the second massive storm in a week to hit the mid-Atlantic region, caused Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania to close highways for at least part of Feb. 10, and forced trucks to park and delivery schedules to absorb delays.

The series of storms dropped 50 inches of snow on the ground in some areas, closing schools and businesses, along with federal offices in Washington, D.C., for several days.

Maryland and Delaware closed several roads, including the part of Interstate 95 that runs through the two states.

Pennsylvania’s state of emergency declaration left Interstate 95 and Interstate 80 open, but it closed interstates 78, 83, 476, 176, 676 and 81 from the Maryland state line to I-80.

While trucking companies struggled to cope with the delays, some had contingency plans that helped.

At the height of the storm, only 10 of the 130 employees usually at work in the Cherry Hill, N.J., headquarters of NFI Logistics and Distribution were there.

Dozens of other employees were connected, though, working on home computers, dispatching and coordinating logistics for customers and for about 200 NFI trucks that had been sent out in advance of the storm.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” said Joe Roeder, president of NFI Logistics and Distribution.

NFI has a weather emergency plan that determines which staff members must be in the office and which must be working at home in order to keep trucks rolling, Roeder said.

At the height of the blizzard, when the three states closed highways, the NFI trucks pulled off until the roads reopened, Roeder said. Drivers had been sent out prepared with blankets and food in their sleepers, he said.

Other carriers such as FedEx and UPS Inc. have full-time staffs of meteorologists who help plot storm strategy worldwide.

Estes Express Lines, a national carrier with headquarters in Richmond, Va., slowed work at about 25 of its Midwest terminals when the storm hit Feb. 9 but otherwise kept trucks rolling, said spokeswoman Paula Evans.

“We deal with this every time we have bad weather, so this is nothing new for us,” Evans said.

In Elizabeth, N.J., at the Port of New York and New Jersey, New England Motor Freight made the same decision as its NFI competitor: Send trucks out as early as possible.

NEMF ran its full linehaul operation at the port the night before the storm, said Tom Connery, chief operating officer.

That allowed NEMF to get trucks beyond the reach of the storm, to New England and upstate New York, for example, where its terminals were unaffected.

“We were current everywhere but Baltimore,” Connery said.

“The big concern in our business is that carriers are often up and ready to go” the day after a storm, Connery said, but customers are not plowed out. That means a lot of returns and causes deliveries to back up.

Roeder at NFI said that because about 26% of his freight is food, getting as close as possible to the delivery point is crucial.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t get bread and eggs on the shelf, they’re out of business,” Roeder said.

Sending trucks out ahead of the storm left NFI at worst only 10 to 12 hours behind schedule, he said.

Carriers tend to link the bottom line to delivery success, but another big consideration is assets, Roeder said. “Equally important is getting that asset back in play for the next day.”

For transportation officials in the affected states, the back-to-back storms created a logistical nightmare.

For snow removal, Virginia relies on state and local truck fleets that are essentially large pickup trucks with plows.

“They simply cannot push 30 inches of snow,” said Jeff Caldwell, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Virginia has some larger trucks with plows and contracts with private firms for additional equipment, but could not meet the needs for clearing these storms, he said.

New Jersey did not close down any roads at the height of the blizzard, although traffic on its turnpike slowed to 30 miles an hour.

On the morning of the latest blizzard, Connery of NEMF said, he was startled to see fleets of cement trucks on the New Jersey Turnpike.

“I’m like, what are these cement trucks doing out in the storm? And then I looked, and they’ve all got plows on them,” he said. New Jersey had leased the drivers and the trucks.

That was the lightest moment for Connery in a day that he estimates—with snow plowing, driver hotels and lost production—will cost NEMF nearly $1 million.

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010

DOT Proposes Testing for More Drugs, Lowering Existing Threshold on Others
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published a proposed rule that would toughen its workplace drug-testing program for truck drivers and other transportation workers, including testing for the drugs “ecstasy” and heroin.

The new proposed rule also would lower cutoff levels for cocaine and amphetamines and authorize employers to use test facilities certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct initial drug testing, according to a statement by Jim Swart, director of DOT’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance.

Swart said the rule is intended to more closely align much of DOT’s program of direct-observation urine drug-testing with stringent HHS drug-testing guidelines.

DOT said it would take comments on the proposed rule until April 5. The drug-testing proposal has been on DOT’s rule-making radar screen since 2004, when HHS revised some of its mandatory workforce drug-testing guidelines for federal agencies.

“In this rule, we are seeking to harmonize our proposals for laboratories, collectors, medical review officers and employers with the new requirements contained in the revised HHS mandatory guidelines,” the new proposed rule said.

Annette Sandberg, a transportation consultant and former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said during a Feb. 5 investors conference call hosted by Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets that she didn’t expect the new drug-testing standards to be implemented soon.

DOT is busy with more urgent trucking issues such as hours-of-service and electronic onboard recorders, Sandberg said.

The new rule noted that while HHS has estimated incidence and prevalence are low, 10% more users of amphetamines and cocaine may be identified using the new, tougher cutoff standard.

DOT said its data supports that conclusion. From July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, the DOT’s regulated transportation industry program had 14,440 positive laboratory results for amphetamine and 15,675 for cocaine in more than 5.4 million tests.

Because of the low incidence data, DOT said it does not believe the tougher standards will be costly or burdensome from a record-keeping standpoint.

The agency said it does not intend to change its drug testing policies in order to comply with all the suggested HHS guidelines.

For instance, DOT will not require drug test observers to receive advanced, formal training to learn the steps necessary to perform a direct observation collection.

DOT also does not intend to change the duration of paperwork retention requirements for collectors. Although HHS will require keeping the records for two years, DOT said it believes 30 days is sufficient.

DOT also said it would not change its requirements that medical review officers keep records of negative test results for one year and non-negative results for five years.

DOT also said it believes HHS guidelines requiring it to conduct audits at 5% of collection sites, or a maximum of 50, is not needed.

“We have had few if any laboratory accuracy problems over the history of the program, and we believe we can continue to ensure that this pattern continues while reducing burdens and costs on participants,” said the proposed rule, which was published Feb. 4 in the Federal Register.

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010

Crash Data Undervalue Weather
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00
Significance of Slick Roads and Poor Visibility Not Fully Understood

Roughly16% of all fatal heavy-truck crashes between 1975 and 2006 were associated with adverse weather, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. What’s more, weather-related delays add a whopping $3.4 billion annually to U.S. freight costs.

But rain, snow, wind, fog and other weather conditions may not be getting all the blame they’re due—and most trucks don’t have all the technological applications that could help them travel more safely when Mother Nature gets mean.

In October, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report saying electronic stability control systems on big tractors can reduce the number of crashes substantially.

Electronic stability control is a computerized reaction to onboard sensors that continuously monitor various vehicle forces—lateral acceleration, yaw and wheel speeds—to detect loss of steering control. The system automatically applies individual brakes on the outer front wheel to counter oversteer or inner rear wheels to counter understeer. Some ESC systems also reduce engine power until control is regained.

Anti-rollover monitoring will try to slow the vehicle before it tips over.

Radar-based assisted braking and collision warning may be helpful to the driver under vision-obscuring conditions.

ESC “will minimize risks and maximize control, but it can only help so much,” said Alan Korn, director of vehicle dynamics and controls for Mentor WABCO Vehicle Control Systems. “A full system on the tractor is not a sole solution to difficult weather conditions.”

Weather as a factor in truck crash losses is ill-understood. And information systems dedicated to alerting cross-country truckers to an immediate weather threat in the route ahead, are lacking.

Incomplete crash data and complexities in causation can prevent weather from being cited as a cause or factor in official crash reports. Wind and flood-obstructed roads, for example, are not listed among causes that can be cited in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the federal crash database to which all states are required to report annually.

Yet a 15-to-20 mph crosswind can lay an empty tractor-trailer on its side, researchers at the University of Kansas found after studying conditions on Interstate 70. A rig hauling a full load can withstand crosswind up to 60 mph, according to their 2009 study.

Research by Michael Johnsen, environmental program analyst for FMCSA, Washington, D.C., and Michael Rosetti of Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Cambridge, Mass., suggests a need for better understanding of weather’s role in crashes. They found that fatalities related to commercial vehicles are higher than with other vehicles when rain, snow, ice and fog are involved.

“Wet roads can double stopping distances. Even after rain stops, it may take 30 minutes or more before pavement begins to dry,” Rosetti wrote in his report, published by Volpe in January 2009. FMCSA has yet to release its report.

“Snow and ice cause loss of traction, loss of visibility and other driver control problems,” Rosetti said, while fog creates “the potential for large, multi-vehicle accidents,” because of loss of visibility.

FARS data that Johnsen and Rosetti extrapolated for their study also revealed that between 1975 and 2006, the greatest concentrations of fatal truck crashes that occurred in snow, sleet or on icy pavement were along Interstate 80 in the Rocky Mountains and along U.S. 97 in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Rosetti, who is now retired, listed “a combination of traffic volume and its exposure to adverse weather conditions throughout the year” as likely reasons for these concentrations.

In still more findings, Rosetti and Johnsen found that fatal crashes in which fog and other visibility hazards played a role clustered not only in the Appalachian Mountains and the Pacific Northwest but also in southern California and Florida.

“I wouldn’t have expected this. Maybe drivers aren’t expecting this, either,” Johnson said.

Interstate highways playing host to the most crashes during the 31-year period were Interstate 80, which traverses the nation east to west, and interstates 75 and 95, both heavily traveled north-south corridors in the East. The definitive causes of these accidents are subject to debate.

“Causation is tricky,” said Dan Blower, traffic-crash causation expert at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. “We like to think of single causes, but crashes are inherently complex, they’re rare, and they’re dependent on many factors that are random.”

Both FARS and TIFA, which is the university’s annual Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents survey, identify only the immediate reason for a crash, and in roughly 95% of cases, that reason is some form of driver error.

“You’re traveling too fast for wet conditions,” Blower said by way of example. “You glance away to change your radio, and when you look up, traffic is stopped, and you hit the brakes. Because of reduced friction, your stopping distance is lengthened, and you hit the vehicle in front of you. The cause of the accident is listed as driver error, because the driver admitted looking away from the road. But really, driver error and weather were both factors.”

Does that mean weather may be listed as a contributing factor when it is, in fact, an accident’s primary cause?

“There are weather-related crashes that might be coded as ‘going too fast for conditions’,” Blower said. Going too fast for conditions is a driver error. “But the solution isn’t only to tell the driver next time to slow down,” he said. “It could also be to give the driver a vehicle that deals better with such situations.”

Manufacturers are trying to do just that. For example, Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks, both owned by Europe’s Volvo AB, began offering Enhanced Stability Technology systems on their highway trucks in 2005 and made the capabilities standard equipment in 2006.

“Responses have been overwhelmingly positive from drivers who experienced the system first-hand,” said Volvo Trucks spokesman Frank Bio. “We’ve also received anecdotal reports from several drivers who experienced [the technology] firsthand in preventing a potential rollover or jackknife.”

Navistar’s International trucks, Paccar’s Kenworth and Peterbilt Motors, and Freightliner, owned by Daimler Trucks North America, also offer full-stability technology on their heavy-duty models. Peterbilt and Kenworth offer it as standard equipment that buyers can delete for a credit. International and Freightliner offer the technology as an option.

In October, UMTRI and the NHTSA released a report saying ESC systems on large trucks (more than 10,000 pounds) can greatly reduce the number of crashes.

“Stability systems directly [affect] truck performance in inclement weather,” said Rick Conklin of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Elyria, Ohio, which makes the sensor-based products for several manufacturers.

When a truck encounters high wind, driving rain or other difficult conditions, “the technology adjusts to maintain that stability across the entire system,” Conklin said, though it cannot prevent every misfortune.

“There are times when the laws of physics are exceeded,” he said. Still, in some of these cases “the stability systems will intervene, taking energy out of the crash and making the situation less impactful.”

According to Bendix, more than 26,000 of its full-stability systems were ordered for Class 8 trucks in 2008, a 40% increase over 2007. By the end of 2008, about 66,000 new large trucks made by International, Kenworth, Mack, Peterbilt and Volvo were equipped with Bendix full-stability technology.

Mentor WABCO makes a similar system called “SmartTrac” that is offered on trucks made by International. Freightllner offers similar systems made by Mentor WABCO and International offers 4 systems from both manufacturers.

Even with full-stability systems available, though, trucks are still rolling over in strong crosswinds.

“I believe strongly that wind has an effect on truck positioning,” said Tom Mulinazzi, an engineering professor at the University of Kansas who has studied truck accidents.

Mulinazzi led a group of students in an analysis of truck-related accidents on Interstate 70, but he said limited data failed to establish wind-related problems.

“We found thunderstorms, which are usually accompanied by wind, but we only had wind data from the nearest wind station, which could be 20 miles away,” he said.

However, Mulinazzi has talked with truckers at Yellow Freight who said wind is indeed a factor on 1-70.

“Our conclusions will say that, despite this particular analysis, common sense and research done in other locations say wind does have an effect on truck accidents,” he said.

To shed more light on weather-related truck crashes in general, however, the government will have to be convinced that spending more money on studies and technology, will produce a solid return.

The NHTSAMT study seems a step in the right direction. Dan Blower, however, noted the cart-before-thehorse conundrum when he made this observation: “We can only do work that people (and governments) with money are willing to fund.”

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010

<< Start < Prev 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Next > End >>

Page 11 of 78