CCJ: Study: safety, health top concerns in transportation

By Aaron Huff

The transportation industry is a very broad, diverse group of companies and individuals that collectively keep America moving. With all of the time and effort it takes to keep those wheels turning on the highway, the amount of traffic that goes online would seem to pale in comparison.

The opposite appears to be true. The online community for news, blogs and social media in trucking has exploded. To help make sense of where all of the online traffic is headed, GE Capital’s Transportation Finance recently commissioned a year-long study.

The company hired TrueVoice based in Westport, CT, to conduct a study of social media use in trucking. The company used software to gather, filter and analyze about 250 million online outlets that touched on commercial trucking. Some interesting trends began to emerge.

(Click to view an infographic from GE Capital that highlights its study on transportation in social media)

The info graphic to the right is an overview of the content from 72,000 posts related to areas of interest in the trucking industry. It provides a summary of what types of topics people are interested in and the channels they go to for news and daily topics of conversation.

As for why a finance company like GE Capital would want to analyze the trends in social media, Dan Clark, the president and general manager of its Transportation Finance business, said the goal is to be more than just a banker.

“We know that the industry needs money, but it also needs insight, knowledge and expertise — and that’s where we come in,” he says. “We want to understand the challenges and issues that are most important to the trucking industry so we can translate that into business objectives that will benefit customers and the others we do business with.”

One of the most interesting findings from the research is the concern over diet, exercise and health. This is encouraging news for an industry where the average lifespan of a long haul trucker is just 61 years.

“(Drivers) have voiced opinions that increased regulation is forcing them to spend more time on the road, which they believe is increasing their sedentary lifestyles,” Clark said. “Unlike online chatter about equipment management and regulations, we saw a lot of emotion around conversations about health — and that’s not surprising because it’s inherently personal.”

The study also showed that recruitment and employment accounts for 24 percent of traffic. Driver pay, as expected, was a hot topic but other items also simmered to the top.

“We expected to find chatter about salary and benefits and, to a lesser extent, equipment safety. We were somewhat surprised, though, to find experienced drivers expressing frustration about the training level of new recruits,” Clark said.

Huffington Post: U.S. Trucking Companies Deliver Sales, Profit Gains

By Mary Ellen Biery – research specialist, Sageworks

Privately held U.S. trucking companies posted their fourth year of higher sales, and profitability also improved in 2013, according to data from Sageworks, a financial information company.

financial statement analysis shows that private companies in the general-freight trucking industry, on average, increased sales by about 7 percent. Industry sales growth slowed from 2012, although not quite as much as sales slowed among private companies of all types in Sageworks’ database.

Sageworks analyst Peter Brown said the trucking industry is a good indicator of the U.S. economy because it shows what’s going on domestically with shipments, as opposed to other forms of freight transport that are more heavily influenced by international shipments.

“What’s also true about the trucking industry is that it seems to parallel other measures of economic activity like manufacturing and consumer spending, which have risen in the last year as well,” Brown said.

Brown said it’s unclear whether volume, pricing, or a combination of the two was behind private trucking companies’ 2013 sales increases reported in Sageworks’ data. Other industry groups, however, have reported truckers generally have been hauling heavier loads, even if rates and the number of shipments haven’t improved materially.

Private trucking companies historically have thin profit margins relative to other industries, according to Sageworks’ data. But profitability improved in 2013, according to preliminary estimates. Net profit margin, on average, was about 6 percent, compared with average margins in the 3 percent to 4 percent range the previous three years.

Sageworks’ financial statement data indicate trucking companies may have been paying down debt rather than buying new equipment in 2013, Brown said. Preliminary 2013 data indicate expenses related to both overhead and cost of goods sold increased, relative to sales. Meanwhile, depreciation, a non-cash expense, declined relative to sales, and liabilities relative to assets decreased. These trends, coupled with a few other metrics, signal that trucking companies may be paying down loans.

Through its cooperative data model, Sageworks collects financial statements for private companies from accounting firms, banks and credit unions, and aggregates the data at an approximate rate of 1,000 statements a day. Net profit margin has been adjusted to exclude taxes and include owner compensation in excess of their market-rate salaries. These adjustments are commonly made to private company financials in order to provide a more accurate picture of the companies’ operational performance.

Trucking dominates the freight transportation industry, accounting for more than two-thirds of tonnage, according to the American Trucking Associations. And while there are many large publicly traded trucking companies, including UPS and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, nearly half of the top 50 trucking companies are private, according to S.J. Consulting Group Inc. Furthermore, Census data indicate nearly a quarter of all 2007 revenue in the general freight trucking industry was made by businesses with no paid employees, i.e., mostly self-employed people operating non-incorporated businesses.

The American Trucking Associations last month reported the best year for truck tonnage since 1998. But Cass Information Systems, which processes freight transactions, has called the climate for North American freight “mediocre,” given fewer shipments and largely unchanged rates. January shipments declined from a year earlier, though expenditures were slightly higher, according to Cass. Industry consulting and research firm FTR expects freight growth in 2014 to weaken even as capacity utilization remains high, according to a published report.


Land Line Magazine: One of these four truckers will be the next Goodyear Highway Hero

Goodyear has announced the four finalists for its annual Highway Hero award to be presented during the Mid-America Trucking Show in March. Talk about an impressive group.

Professional truckers Brian Dunn of Knoxville, Tenn., Tim Horton of Sheridan, Ark., Scott Rosenberg of Isanti, Mich., and Ivan Vasovic of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., are the four finalists. And they are all deserving of recognition.

“The Goodyear Highway Hero Award recognizes truck drivers who put their lives on the line to help others,” said Gary Medalis, marketing director for Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.

“Each of our Highway Hero finalists took action without concern for his own safety in order to save another person from a life-threatening situation.”

A group of trucking journalists will decide the 31st annual award. The Highway Hero will receive $5,000, a special ring and a plaque while each of the finalists receives a cash prize.

The award ceremony will be Thursday, March 27, during the Mid-America Trucking Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

Narratives provided by Goodyear put an exclamation point on the heroic acts of these truckers, who represent a vast number of nominees and Good Samaritans on the highways.

Brian Dunn was driving down a highway in Oklahoma when he witnessed a car crash through a guard rail and land on its roof in the middle of the road. He ran to the car as its engine caught fire. Running back to his truck to grab a fire extinguisher, he heard a child crying. Dunn spotted a 2-year-old boy who was trapped in the back seat of the burning vehicle. Braving the flames, Dunn yanked on the car’s door until it gave way, allowing him to rescue the child, whom he then handed to bystanders. Dunn ran back to his truck for his fire extinguisher, while other bystanders tried to rescue the boy’s mother, who had driven the car. They later learned that she had died as a result of the crash.

Tim Horton was driving outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., when a small car passed his truck, spun around, and drove into a 35-foot-deep ravine, landing upside down in a creek bed. The car’s driver, a teenager, was trapped inside the car and had suffered a large cut on his head. Horton got out of his truck and flagged down the driver of another vehicle, who happened to be a volunteer firefighter, to assist him. Horton and the firefighter made their way down the steep, brush-covered embankment and found the teenager alive, but bleeding heavily. Horton cut the teenager’s seat belt and pulled him from the car. After Horton and the firefighter stabilized the teenager’s condition, Horton called for additional help. It took 10 men using a 50-foot fire ladder to transport the teenager to a waiting ambulance.

Scott Rosenberg had just dropped off a load in Stillwater, Minn., when he spotted a pickup truck that was upside down in a pond, with steam rising from it. At the time, Rosenberg was driving a trailer with a boom crane used for loading heavy concrete products. Acting quickly, he positioned his crane in place, hoping to flip the pickup truck over and back onto its wheels. In the meantime, two other men had reached the pickup and were trying to pry its doors open, to no avail. Using his crane, Rosenberg turned the pickup right-side up. Its driver, a college student who had fallen asleep at the wheel, was still alive. Police then arrived and pulled the student from the vehicle.

Ivan Vasovic was at a stop sign when he witnessed a double tanker truck hit the concrete divider of a freeway overpass, careen off a wall, and slam into a guard rail. Its tanks, which were full of diesel, ripped open and the truck came to a stop with its tractor and first tanker hanging over the side of the overpass. The truck’s driver was trapped inside and was trying to exit when the diesel ignited. The driver, now on fire, kicked out a window, slid down the truck and fell 20 feet to the ground, breaking his arm and leg. By that point, the suspended truck was engulfed in flames. Vasovic and another bystander tried to pull the driver to safety. However, due to the intense heat, they could only drag him a few yards at a time. Vasovic ran to his truck and poured water on himself, which enabled him to drag the driver 20 yards away from his original position. Moments later, the entire burning tanker truck crashed to the ground.

Rosenberg is an OOIDA senior member, and Vasovic is an OOIDA member.

“Each Highway Hero Award finalist is a true credit to the trucking industry,” Goodyear’s Medalis said.

“We are honored that these individuals are part of our Highway Hero program, and we look forward to recognizing them for their bravery during MATS.”

Real Clear Politics: Opinion – How Obama Could Lower Trucks’ Fuel Use Right Away

By Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer for Werner Enterprises, Inc

OMAHA, Neb. — Earlier this week, President Obama directed the transportation and energy-related agencies of the federal government to develop higher minimum fuel standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks — the latest effort in the administration’s effort to reduce the oil consumption that is costly to the U.S. economy and a culprit in global warming.

“Everybody who says you can’t grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it’s turned out they’ve been wrong,” the president said. “Improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further. That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers. So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win. We got three wins.”

The president made his remarks in Upper Marlboro, Md., at a Safeway distribution center while standing beside a big rig that had been re-configured to maximize fuel efficiency. But the backdrop for his announcement could have been any number of places — including here in Nebraska, where our company, Werner Enterprises, is a leader in the movement toward sustainability and conservation.

At Werner, we rank reducing our carbon footprint as a top company priority. We are not alone. Trucking is competitive industry, and we are engaged in an arms race with other transportation firms to lower fuel consumption and emissions through measures that include idle reduction technologies, aerodynamic trucks, equipping trailers with trailer skirts, tire inflation systems, and continuing to invest in the newest diesel engine technologies.

We also partner with local utility districts to improve the long-term outlook for the use of natural gas-powered equipment and are excited about the future of alternative fuels. Such initiatives, backed by over $850 million of capital investments in our company alone, have allowed us to save more than 85 million gallons of fuel and reduce greenhouse emissions by 1 million tons since 2007.

The federal government has encouraged such efforts: Recently, Werner was honored with an EPA SmartWay® Excellence award for our successful reduction of emissions, carbon, and other criteria pollutants. And the president’s efforts to set target dates for minimum fuel standards is a concept that we support in principle, provided the administration moves ahead in ways that are both economically achievable and technologically feasible.

We believe, however, that there are other areas that would have an even greater impact in reducing emissions of carbon and other pollutants.

Chief among them are desperately needed investments in America’s roadway infrastructure, which would lead to significant improvements in fuel burn and productivity.

Sixty-eight percent of the nation’s freight tonnage is carried by trucks, which are a critical link for all modes of freight movement — and all of it is highly dependent on a quality highway system. Augmenting the current fuel tax system to raise additional revenues, with all funds dedicated solely to improving the highway system, would reap immediate benefits. Overcrowded roads, decaying bridges, and increased congestion further exacerbate safety, productivity, and efficiency concerns.

In addition, the latest Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations have added substantial challenges to the nation’s fuel consumption. The newest HOS ruling limits the flexibility of the professional truck driver. As a result, more trucks are traveling during a compressed portion of the day. This requirement alone increases traffic congestion and decreases fuel efficiencies as it adds the equivalent of 70,000-75,000 trucks to an already stressed infrastructure. Revisions to this rule would positively impact fuel efficiencies and increase productivity, and allow the professional driver to rest when fatigued vs. when mandated.

The American Trucking Associations has estimated that the current HOS regulations have reduced productivity by 2 to 3 percent. A recent Wells Fargo Securities study came up with similar results. According to the Wells Fargo analysis, certain fleets may experience even larger productivity losses. These changes are affecting an industry that connects the entire global marketplace. To relieve congestion and increase the efficiency in moving the nation’s truck and intermodal freight, we urge the White House to revert back to the HOS rules that were in place prior to July 1, 2013.

Our industry is proud of our sustainability commitment and results, and applauds the president’s call to action. It is our hope that the administration continues to support efforts to fund, develop, and advance fuel efficient technologies for trucking that are attainable, economically feasible, and jointly researched.

Our industry is not afraid to stand up to challenges. We believe that working together, we can overcome any hurdle. To assist in delivering on the national goal of energy independence, we would respectfully ask that the input, guidance, and experience of the trucking industry are allowed a more active role in the conversation. Call it a “win-win.”

Washington Post: U.S. to raise fuel efficiency standards for larger trucks

By Juliet Eilperin

President Obama announced Tuesday that the government will tighten fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, part of an ongoing effort to use his executive authority to address climate change and spur domestic manufacturing.

Speaking at the Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., Obama did not specify what new standard the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation should set for these larger trucks, which weigh more than 8,500 pounds, but he said he is confident that manufacturers will be able to meet this “ambitious” goal.

“Don’t make small plans; make big plans,” the president told a crowd of about 275 people, including environmental leaders and trucking industry officials. “And anybody who had dire predictions for the auto industry, said we couldn’t do it, manufacturers couldn’t bring jobs back to America — every time they say that, they’re proven wrong. Every time somebody says you can’t grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it’s turned out they’ve been wrong.”

This is the second time Obama has mandated a cut in fuel consumption and carbon emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, a category that includes large pickup trucks, school buses and 18-wheel tractor-trailers.

An earlier rule, finalized in September 2011, improved the fleet’s fuel efficiency by 9 percent to 23 percent, with the largest trucks showing the most improvement. The Obama administration estimates that those standards, which applied to the model years 2014 through 2018, cost the industry $8 billion but will save truck users $50 billion in fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles.

The new greenhouse gas standards will become final by March 2016, Obama said, and will apply to subsequent model years.

Unlike some of Obama’s greenhouse gas proposals, which have prompted a backlashfrom the affected industries, many truck suppliers have embraced the idea of reducing carbon emissions.

Phil Byrd, chairman of American Trucking Associations, said in an interview that he spoke to engine manufacturers and that “they are very upbeat” about their ability to make additional improvements in fuel efficiency. He noted that his members are hoping they can recoup the costs on any such investment within 18 months and that they want to make sure any new technology is reliable so their trucks won’t be idled. By contrast, owners of passenger cars and light-duty trucks would recoup their investment in fuel efficiency within 31 / to four years.

“We have to ensure our members are protected and this technology is ready for the marketplace,” Byrd said, noting that after the first round of efficiency improvements, “many fleets experienced a loss in productivity with that new equipment that was not reliable.”

Byrd, who met with Obama before the speech, said the president “assured us we would continue to have a voice in this process.”

S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, wrote in an e-mail that “the juxtaposition between the positions of the motor vehicle and power sectors on the president’s climate action plan is startling.”

“While truck manufacturers are lining up behind the plan pledging their support and cooperation, most of the power plant industry is fighting it tooth and nail,” he wrote.

In 2011, transportation accounted for about 28 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the electricity sector. Heavy-duty vehicles offer a major opportunity to cut transportation oil use and carbon pollution.

In 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented 4 percent of registered vehicles on the road in the United States, but they accounted for about one-quarter of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. They are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within transportation, after cars and light trucks.

The president, who stood in front of a large truck whose fuel economy was improved by 75 percent over the past year, said he announced the proposal at Safeway because the company has invested in more efficient trucks and trailers. “That’s why we call this ‘SuperTruck,’ ” he said, prompting laughter from the crowd.

He said the administration is offering new tax credits to manufacturers of heavy-duty, alternative-fuel vehicles and to firms that build fuel infrastructure for biodiesel, natural gas and hybrid electric vehicles to make sure the new efficiency goals can be realized.

“What the president plans is a classic example of using executive power to make further reductions in greenhouse gases from one of the most notorious emission sources,” Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, wrote in an e-mail.

The Trucker: David Flaherty named a TCA Highway Angel for noticing potential problem and acting on it

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Many times, when people spot something odd on the side of the road or in a passing vehicle, they will assume the driver has the situation under control and keep going. Fortunately for one lucky motorist, professional truck driver David Flaherty does not think that way.

Flaherty, who lives in Walkertown, N. C., and drives for ABF Freight System Inc., of Fort Smith, Ark., has just been named TCA’s latest Highway Angel. On November 10, 2013, Flaherty was driving along I-85 near Concord, N.C., at 11 p.m., when he saw an intermittent flash of orange light ahead in the darkness. He eventually caught up to the vehicle — another tractor-trailer hauling doubles — and realized that the flickers were actually embers of heated metal falling from an area near one of the inside rear tires.

The other truck driver had no idea that there was a problem. It took Flaherty about 10 minutes of honking and flashing his lights to get the man to understand that he needed to pull off the road. Together, Flaherty and the other driver used both of their trucks’ fire extinguishers to smother the embers. But that was not enough, so they started pouring whatever drinks they had in their vehicles — water, sodas, even cranberry juice. By the time the fire department arrived, the smoldering was finished. But just then, the tire blew very loudly.

If it weren’t for Flaherty’s alertness and willingness to go out of his way to stop the man, it is likely that the trailer would have caught on fire and destroyed the load inside.

“It’s amazing how quickly a tire fire can burn a truck to the ground. They generate a ton of heat,” said Flaherty. “Another 10 minutes and that fire would have burned through the floor of the trailer and destroyed the load. I’ve seen it before … it goes up like a torch.”

TCA has presented Flaherty with a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. The organization also gave ABF Freight System a certificate acknowledging that it has a Highway Angel in its midst.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job.

To nominate a driver or learn more about the program and its honorees, visit the Highway Angel Web page at or Facebook page at For additional information, contact TCA at (703) 838-1950 or

CCJ: Report: More fuel efficient trucks would be economic boon, help consumers

By James Jaillet

Increasing the fuel efficiency of trucks would lead to lower transportation costs — and thereby lower cost of goods — and save consumers hundreds of dollars a year, this according to a report released this week by the Consumer Federation of America.

The report says that a 50 percent increase in the fuel efficiency of trucks would save the average American household $250 a year, a number that could rise to $400 by 2035 as fuel prices increase, the report says.

That savings would act as an overall stimulant to the U.S. economy, freeing up $29.8 billion in disposable income for consumers, the report notes. The average U.S. household today spends about $1,100 a year due to truck fuel costs, according to CFA, and that number is projected to rise with fuel costs.

The report, dubbed “Paying the Freight: The Consumer Benefits of Increasing Fuel Economy of Medium and Heavy-Duty Trucks”, states the obvious in many ways about the price of goods and the cost of transportation, noting the correlation between increased fuel costs and increased cost of goods for consumers.

Lowering transportation costs is a win-win for everyone, CFA says. “One of the reasons we believe a strong fuel efficiency standard for heavy-duty trucks will be implemented is because key components of the trucking industry are also seeking ways to reduce the enormous impact of fuel expenditures on their costs,” said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation.

The report also notes other oft-cited benefits of reducing fuel consumption of trucks: Environmental benefits in reducing emissions and the social and security benefits of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

The report says tightening fuel economy standards on large trucks could follow the U.S.’ policies on tightening fuel efficiency for light vehicles. President Barack Obama has also noted he would like to see increased fuel economy standards implemented for heavy trucks.

Click here to see the entire report.