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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Trucking loses 94,000 jobs in 2009
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:00

Payroll employment among for-hire trucking companies dropped 7 percent—or 94,200 jobs—in 2009 to approximately 1.247 million workers, according to the latest figures released Jan. 8 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For December, payroll employment was down 0.3 percent from November.

With the estimated 3,300 jobs lost in December, the trucking industry has lost 208,000 jobs—or 14.3 percent—since seasonally adjusted trucking employment peaked in January 2007 at more than 1.45 million. The BLS numbers reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet.

The jobs report for the overall economy in December was slightly better on a percentage basis than that for the trucking industry. Total non-farm employment fell by 85,000 jobs or 0.1 percent. During 2009, the economy lost 4.083 million jobs, or 3.9 percent., 1/12/2010

LaHood Announces New Group to Fight Distracted Driving
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:00

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced Tuesday the creation of FocusDriven, an organization dedicated to fighting distracted driving.

The announcement comes as a result of September's Distracted Driving Summit, a meeting in Washington in which public officials, law enforcement, victims and other spoke about the dangers of distracted driving, the Department of Transportation said in a statement.

FocusDriven will be supported by DOT and the National Safety Council, a transportation safety advocacy group. LaHood said Tuesday that he hoped FocusDriven “can do for distracted driving what groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done (for drunk driving).”

Jennifer Smith, an advocate against distracted driving, will lead the new group, DOT said.

LaHood said last year he intended to ban texting by truck drivers and other commercial operators.

During his remarks Tuesday, he said DOT was "working on (those) rules." T

ransport Topics, 1/12/2010

U.S. grants $187M for fuel efficiency research
Monday, 11 January 2010 00:00

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration will announce on Monday funding for nine projects designed to significantly increase fuel efficiency in heavy trucks and passenger vehicles, with more than half the money coming from the $787 billion (euro550 billion) stimulus package.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu will detail the projects during a ceremony in Columbus, Indiana, home of Cummins Inc., which will receive nearly $40 million to develop a more efficient and cleaner diesel engine, a more aerodynamic long-haul truck cab and trailer, and a fuel cell that would deliver auxiliary power to reduce engine idling while the vehicle is not on the road.

The White House said the nine projects would receive $187 million from the federal government, with more than $100 million coming from stimulus funds and the remainder from the Department of Energy. Recipients are expected to match government funding, creating a total investment of $375 million.

According to the administration, the nine recipients are expected to create more than 500 research, engineering and management jobs, with 6,000 more jobs anticipated when the technologies go into production and assembly.

In detailing the awards, the administration said the new technologies, when in broad use, "could save more than 100 million gallons of oil per day and reduce carbon emissions from on-road vehicles by 20 percent by 2030."

Three of the projects, receiving $115 million, are aimed at improving long-haul truck fuel efficiency by 50 percent, with new designs supposed to be ready by 2015.

In addition to Cummins, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, of Portland, Ore., will receive nearly $40 million; Navistar Inc., of Fort Wayne, Ind., is in line for $27.3 million.

The remaining six projects for passenger vehicles will spread more than $71 million among Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Delphi Automotive Systems, Robert Bosch and a second Cummins project.

The money will go to companies based in economically hard-hit Michigan and Indiana, with the exception of Daimler Trucks.

The following projects have been selected for awards under two topic areas:

Systems Level Technology Development, Integration, and Demonstration for Efficient Class 8 Trucks (SuperTrucks)

  • Cummins Inc., Columbus, Ind., $38,831,115. Develop and demonstrate a highly efficient and clean diesel engine, an advanced waste heat recovery system, an aerodynamic Peterbilt tractor and trailer combination, and a fuel cell auxiliary power unit to reduce engine idling.
  • Daimler Trucks North America, Portland, Ore., $39,559,868. Develop and demonstrate technologies including engine downsizing, electrification of auxiliary systems such as oil and water pumps, waste heat recovery, improved aerodynamics and hybridization.
  • Navistar Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., $37,328,933. Develop and demonstrate technologies to improve truck and trailer aerodynamics, combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, hybridization, idle reduction, and reduced rolling resistance tires.

Advanced Technology Powertrains for Light-Duty Vehicles (ATP-LD)

  • Chrysler Group, Auburn Hills, Mich., $14,458,572. Develop a flexible combustion system for their minivan platform based on a downsized, turbocharged engine that uses direct gasoline injection, recirculation of exhaust gases, and flexible intake air control to reduce emissions.
  • Cummins Inc., $15,000,000. Develop a fuel-efficient, low emissions diesel engine that achieves a 40 percent fuel economy improvement over conventional gasoline technology and significantly exceeds 2010 EPA emissions requirements.
  • Delphi Automotive Systems, Troy, Mich., $7,480,572. Develop a novel low-temperature combustion system, coupled with technologies such as continuously variable valve control and engine downspeeding, to improve fuel economy by at least 25 percent.
  • Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., $15,000,000. Achieve a 25 percent fuel economy improvement with a gasoline engine in a 2010 mid- to large-size sedan using technologies including engine downsizing, turbo-charging, direct injection, and a novel exhaust aftertreatment system.
  • General Motors Corp., Pontiac, Mich., $7,705,862. Develop an engine that uses lean combustion and active heat management, as well as a novel emissions control system, to improve the fuel economy of a 2010 Malibu demonstration vehicle by 25 percent.
  • Robert Bosch, Farmington Hills, Mich., $11,953,786. Demonstrate a high compression, turbo-charged engine based on homogenous charge compression ignition technology (a combustion technology that allows for lower emissions and higher efficiency) to achieve up to 30 percent fuel economy improvement in a gasoline-fueled light-duty vehicle., 1/11/2010

Drug Recall Fuels Pallet Makers’ Feud over Advantages of Wood vs. Plastic
Monday, 11 January 2010 00:00

A recall of batches of a Tylenol pain product has rekindled the long-simmering marketing battle between purveyors of competing versions of one of trucking’s most ubiquitous tools: the lowly pallet.

The latest chapter in the competition between wooden and plastic pallets began quietly in November when medical giant Johnson & Johnson began a recall of all Tylenol Arthritis Pain Caplet 100-count bottles that included what the company calls its red EZ-Open Cap.

A chemical used to keep the wooden pallets free of bugs and fungus is believed to be the source of a nauseous odor that prompted the recall, said Tylenol’s maker, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of McNeil-PPC.

Freight moves in and out of trucks on the nearly 1.4 billion pallets circulating daily, according to the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association.

While plastic pallets are gaining market share, according to NWPCA, 93% of all pallets are still the familiar wooden versions.

McNeil ordered the recall, but federal Food and Drug Administration spokesman Christopher Kelly said the FDA is working with the company to confirm the source of the problem.

The odor reported is apparently because of trace amounts of a chemical “believed to be the breakdown of a chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials,” said McNeil spokesman Mark Boston.

The trucking industry may handle billions of pallets each day, but it has little input on them.

“If a shipper chooses to use a particular pallet, the carrier has no say in it,” said David Miller, senior vice president for global policy and economic sustainability at Con-way Inc.

In the nearly 40 years he has been in the freight business, Miller said, he never encountered a pallet problem like the one that appears to have sparked the drug recall.

“We need to counsel regulators not to overreact to limited or isolated issues, and attempt to solve them by proposing broad-brush regulations that could affect how an entire industry operates,” Miller added.

Brian Daugherty, senior vice president for quality at Bulkmatic Transport Co., said, “Unless the carrier sprayed the chemical on the pallets, how would the carrier or the driver even know?”

Once pallets surfaced as an issue in the recall, however, wooden and plastic pallet suppliers squared off in a public relations battle over which are safer.

Bob Moore, founder and chairman of Intelligent Global Pooling Systems, a firm that leases plastic pallets, said wooden pallets are a “breeding ground for bacteria” that can cause cross contamination in the food supply chain.

Because pallets circulate constantly, Moore said, the wooden ones can pick up bacteria at, say a meat packing plant, and later infect products at another plant — for instance, a sugar refinery.

“Everything we eat and drink gets to where we bought it at on a pallet, and it typically gets there on a wooden pallet,” Moore said.

He also said wooden pallets are made largely in South America, where they are treated with the same fumigant used on the pallets in the Tylenol case.

The substance is methyl bromide, which the Environmental Protection Agency Web site lists as banned in the United States because it depletes the ozone layer.

Bruce Scholnick, president of the NWPCA, fired back, saying Moore is trying to save a business based on plastic pallets that contain a fire-retardant chemical, deca, which is being banned.

EPA, which has found deca in human tissue and breast milk, announced in December that it had reached an agreement with deca manufacturers to phase out the chemical by 2013.

“If they’re phasing out the deca, they’re going to have to find an alternative,” Scholnick said of the plastic pallet suppliers. “But it is three times the cost of deca and they have to use substantially more of it,” Scholnick said.

Moore said that pallet manufacturers have an alternative retardant that will be ready by the phase-out date.

Although McNeil, the drug company, has said that the pallets and packaging stored on them appear to be the source of the problem, spokesman Boston did not respond to questions about where the caplets or their packaging were manufactured here or abroad.

Nor did Boston respond to questions about where the drugs or their packaging components were stored, or how the Tylenol was shipped to retailers.

The pallet association’s Scholnick does not dispute that in the Tylenol case, the pallets, or at least the wood used to make them, probably came from South America.

“We know that [the chemical is] banned in the United States in terms of being used as a fumigant . . . but it can come into this country . . . because nobody checks for it,” Scholnick said.

The trucking industry is not in a position to say whether wooden or plastic pallets are better, said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for American Trucking Associations.

Plastic pallets are lighter, which appeals to some carriers because that could reduce fuel use and be easier for workers. But wooden pallets are less costly, Boyce said.

“Plastic pallets are nice, but they cost more,” said Daugherty of Bulkmatic. “Insect infestation is less likely, but plastic can still carry bacteria and other contaminants unless they are sanitized,” he said.

Transport Topics, 1/11/2010

Trucking to undergo big changes in 'teen' years
Friday, 08 January 2010 00:00

BALTIMORE, Md.—Impending operational, economic and regulatory changes are about to turn the trucking industry on in its head, states a new Stifel Nicolaus white paper.

After a mid-decade bump, the last decade fizzled due to a major recession and slumped freight demand, but things are looking better for those quick to adapt for the next 10 years, states the report from the firm's Transportation & Logistics Research Group.

Most notably, the supply chain will shorten due to increased energy and commodity prices, changing labor demographics and wage rates, declines in the value of the U.S. dollar, increased international security regulation and technological innovation.

"The increase of shorter supply chains means there will be an increase in fully integrated, domestic supply chains," the white paper states. "These will not be well served by the current transport infrastructure, which was designed to distribute imported manufactured goods. Shorter haul truckers and carriers of raw materials and components should be able to capitalize on these trends as the new decade unfolds."

Stifel Nicolaus also says that as the middle class expands in Asia and those workers' compensation expectations evolve, it will tip the scales away from U.S. imports toward U.S. exports. Trucking companies involved with shorter domestic hauling, intermodal and exports will be poised to take advantage of the shift.

Something that will greatly impact the balance between supply and demand will be federal regulation, such as CSA 2010, which, theoretically, will do a better job of weeding out unsafe drivers and trucking companies out of the market. Hours of service, electronic onboard recorders, new rounds of emissions standards, rail re-regulation, and speed governors, are all factors that could continue to drive transportation prices up, according to the report.

"While a reduction in capacity may be the remedy needed to cure the industry's current ills; longer term, one has to wonder if transportation costs won't skyrocket, as the current decade matures and after demand rebounds (reflecting the recovering economy) and capacity shrinks (to reflect the implementation of a myriad of new safety and environmental rules and regulations)."

Stifel Nicolaus says that industry consolidation will not play a large role in the next decade, while diversification of service offerings, particularly into non-asset intensive services, will become a larger trend.

"The idea is that margins are as good or better in these asset-light spaces and investment requirements are significantly less; therefore, returns on invested capital are higher."

Meanwhile, "foot-dragging" on fixing highway congestion "will sap further productivity from the trucking industry (thereby increasing the costs of trucking) and delay the implementation of a plan that could encourage the use of more productive trucking combinations..", 1/8/2010

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