CCJ: TCA Chairman Dunn: Image critical to future success

By Jeff Crissey

Repairing the trucking industry’s image is critical to its future success, said Shepard Dunn, president of Vincennes, Ind.-based Bestway Express and 2014-2015 chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association, during a luncheon address at the 2014 CCJ Spring Symposium in Nashville, Tenn.

“We are a collection of personal stories that represent the best of America, and we truly do move America forward,” said Dunn. “We will succeed only when we cooperate and align our goals,” he added, noting that the American Trucking Associations and TCA have common ground in education, image, policy and advocacy initiatives and the two organizations will align on those efforts when possible.

During his tenure as TCA chairman, Dunn says he plans to continue to improve the many image campaigns the association already has established, including Wreaths Across America, the Highway Angel program and the Allied Committee for the Trucking Industry-initiated Trucking Moves America Forward program, and asked attendees to invest their time and resources. “I encourage each of you to get involved,” said Dunn. “When you do you, I guarantee you will be happy you did. My platform is keep doing the things we already do. We have so many programs it is hard to be excellent in all of them, but that is exactly what we are going to try to do.”

Dunn said he also plans to grow TCA’s benchmarking program and establish a “Fittest Fleet” program during his tenure, building on the health and wellness initiative first introduced by past TCA chairman Robert Low.

Dunn also outlined several challenges facing the industry, including lack of driver respect at shipper facilities, lost productivity due to the new hours-of-service rules, electronic logging device adoption and the lack of highway infrastructure funding. “If we face those challenges and adapt as needed, we will continue to thrive as an industry,” said Dunn.

Bloomberg: Truck Orders at 8-Year High Signal U.S. Economy Rebound

By Thomas Black

Trucking companies are increasing their bets on the U.S. economy picking up speed.

Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. and Knight Transportation Inc. are ordering hundreds of vehicles to keep up with freight demand. They’re part of an industrywide push that’s propelling sales of big rigs to an eight-year high, buoying trucking stocks and raising pay for drivers, who are in short supply.

“Freight is up, availability of trucking assets is tight,” said Sandy Cutler, chief executive officer of Eaton Corp., whose products include truck transmissions. Truckers “are feeling more comfortable ordering increased assets.”

Rising cargo rates are giving truckers confidence to expand fleets and replace tractors averaging a near-record age of 9.6 years. While first-quarter U.S. economic growth came to a near standstill, gross domestic product is expected to expand 2.5 percent this year, according to the median forecast of 94 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, topping 2013’s 1.9 percent rise, and accelerate to a 3.1 percent rate next year.

Even with winter storms disrupting highway travel, first-quarter truckload shipping volumes rose 4.9 percent and rates climbed 1.2 percent, according to consultant FTR Associates. North American truckers placed net orders for 90,289 large trucks in the three months ended in March, 35 percent more than a year earlier and the fastest such pace since early 2006.

Comeback Arrives

“We’ve been waiting for a year like this to come back for a few years,” Cutler said in an April 29 interview from Eaton’s U.S. headquarters in Cleveland. “This appears to be the year it’s coming back.”

Eaton raised its 2014 forecast for North American truck output by 5.7 percent to 280,000 units. That was among the highest annual totals projected by seven truck and equipment manufacturers, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Their average prediction is for an 11 percent gain over 2013.

Old Dominion, based in Thomasville, North Carolina, added $25 million to its budget to buy additional tractors and trailers, raising its planned 2014 equipment investment to $188 million “as a result of our strong volume for the first quarter and our expectation for the remainder of the year,” CEO David Congdon told analysts on an April 24 conference call.

More trucks are on the way for Knight, too, as the Phoenix-based carrier adds 200 tractors, CEO Kevin Knight said on an April 23 call.

Busy Rigs

Active truck utilization has stayed above 99 percent since November, according to data from Bloomington, Indiana-based FTR. That rate had remained lower than 96 percent in 2012 and slid to less than 86 percent in 2009. With few idle trucks, continued economic expansion could translate into an equipment shortage, FTR President Eric Starks said.

“We’re kind of at a tipping point,” Starks said in a May 1 telephone interview. “If the economy heats up at all as we get in the second quarter, early third quarter, then you could have some significant problems from a capacity standpoint and you’d see rates really shoot up dramatically.”

With the difficulty finding available trucks, freight rates might climb as much as 5 percent to 6 percent annually over the next several years, said Brad Delco, a Stephens Inc. analyst in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“What shippers need to be prepared for is that this isn’t a sort of one-and-done pricing year,” Delco said by phone on May 5. Truckers may be in a three- to four-year “pricing cycle” when they’re able to keep raising rates.

Supplier Boost

Suppliers are benefiting as well. Cummins Inc., which produces engines for Class 8 trucks, forecast 2014 sales growth of as much as 10 percent, while analysts surveyed by Bloomberg project a revenue gain of 12 percent for Paccar Inc., the maker of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.

The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Trucking Index rose 8.9 percent this year through yesterday, almost five times as much as the broader S&P 1500 Supercomposite Index of U.S. stocks. The gauge of 11 truckers beat the broader index in three of the previous four years.

The optimism defies U.S. growth that slowed to a crawl last quarter, with gross domestic product expanding at an annualized rate of just 0.1 percent. Downward revisions for gauges such as inventories and construction spending also suggested deceleration in the world’s largest economy.

Driver Shortage

Tight capacity hadn’t spurred more truck sales because companies are struggling to find people to drive them, FTR’s Starks said. The company estimated the driver shortage at 236,000 in the first quarter, 43 percent more than a year earlier and the largest shortfall in a decade.

Covenant Transport Group Inc., a long-haul trucking company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is looking to expand its fleet this year. That means charging more for freight and using most of those profits to attract drivers with higher wages, CEO David Parker said on an April 30 conference call.

“End of the day, our drivers need to be making a whole lot more money,” he said.

Rate increases may push more long-haul cargo to railroads, which can carry double-stacked containers at lower prices than trucks. The tradeoff for rail shipments: slower speeds and, this year, a traffic jam on U.S. tracks because of harsh winter weather, a larger harvest and rising crude-by-rail volumes.

“The ability to put more stuff onto the railroads has been completely constrained,” Starks said. “We know shippers have actually taken some freight off the railroads because they can’t get their stuff there in a timely fashion.”

That’s good news for Eaton’s transmission business. An increase in economic growth promises to drive truck purchases throughout this year, CEO Cutler said.

“What we’ve seen in the last four months is a significant upsurge in orders from the industry,” Cutler said. “It’s really an issue of fleet age and amount of freight being carried.”

Fleet Owner: ATA again confirms trucking as dominant freight mode

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said today that the latest edition of its industry almanac, American Trucking Trends, shows that trucking is still on top as the primary mover of freight in the U.S.

“This report shows once again what a critical role trucking plays in the U.S. economy,” said ATA president & CEO Bill Graves.

“Trucking continues to move the most, and the most valuable, freight in the United States, despite the challenges of congestion, regulations and crumbling infrastructure,” he added

Among the findings in American Trucking Trends for 2014:

  •  In 2013, trucks moved 69.1% of all domestic freight tonnage– up from 68.5% the previous year
  • Trucking collected 81.2% of all freight revenue– up from 80.7% in 2012
  • Trucks move the majority of all NAFTA trade, hauling 55.4% of all trade with Canada and 65.4% of all trade with Mexico
  • Trucking paid $37.8 billion in state and federal highway user fees [in 2013]
  • Truck user fees account for 43% of all payments to the Highway Trust Fund
  • It takes trucking just nine days to move as many loads as moved via rail intermodal in all of 2013
  • Since 2003, trucks have become greener—recording  a drop of 88%  in sulfur dioxide, 48% in NOx and 32% in particulate-matter emissions
  • Trucking employed more than 7 million people in 2013.

Trends is an annual almanac, a snapshot, of what the trucking industry, and really what the freight economy, looks like,” noted ATA chief economist Bob Costello.

“These numbers tell us what is happening in trucking and that’s important for industry leaders, suppliers and policymakers,” he continued.

Graves remarked that “trucking’s growth in the face of continued road and bridge deterioration has been amazing, but it is time for our elected leaders to do their part to insure that the highways we use to move America’s goods safely and efficiently are in good condition.”


Transport Topics: Opinion: Intermodal: An Infrastructure Success Story

By Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations and Edward Hamberger, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads

Moving America forward. Designed to move a nation. These aren’t just slogans — they’re mission statements for two industries that are critical pieces of the U.S. economy.

America’s trucking companies and railroads quite literally are the lifeblood of this economy; connecting farms to the dinner table, warehouses to stores and American businesses to consumers at home and across the globe. Without the hard work of millions of drivers, train crews and employees all across our industries, this economy would simply stop.

That’s because trucks and trains can boast a critical importance to the U.S. economy that is rooted in infrastructure investments. Last year, freight railroads invested more than $25.5 billion in private dollars, in line with a decadeslong trend of investing roughly 40 cents of every revenue dollar back into the nationwide rail network. The trucking industry in 2012 paid about $37.8 billion in state and federal highway user fees, on top of millions of dollars on new, fuel-efficient tractors and trailers.

However, this hasn’t been enough. The nation’s highways need more investment to ensure trucks and trains can serve intermodal customers, keep powering our revitalized economy and link America to the global supply chain.

This week, as part of Infrastructure Week, we’re coming together as the voices of freight transportation’s true heavyweight industries. We’re setting aside what policy differences we have to tell Washington what is needed to ensure we can meet growing demand for freight transportation. That includes making America’s highway system a funding priority — now and in the future.

Let’s start in the present: Among the fastest growing and most critical pieces of our supply chain is intermodal, which requires cooperation between trucking and the railroads. In fact, the trucking industry is among the largest customers of the railroads. When moving goods such as industrial components, canned foods, grain or frozen foods long distances, intermodal often is the best option for shippers. Typically, a single container or trailer is loaded onto a truck, taken to an intermodal terminal, hauled by train close to its final destination, and then loaded back onto a truck for the final leg of the delivery.

This kind of cooperation allows both modes to shine: the train handling the longest segment of the journey efficiently, and the flexibility of the trucking industry allowing for effective delivery to the store or distribution center.

American business is increasingly recognizing the value of intermodal transportation and reaping the benefits of allowing railroads, ocean carriers and trucking companies to take advantage of their strengths. The result: cost-effective freight movement and huge value to shippers looking to hold down costs in order to compete globally.

Intermodal growth has surged, solidifying the partnership between rail and trucking. This growth is the result of significant railroad investment in new intermodal terminals, track upgrades and other infrastructure necessary to make railroads a reliable partner for trucking companies. Thanks to today’s balanced regulatory system, railroads have been able to sustain billions in private investments, including those in intermodal rail. Investments made by railroads and trucking companies also underscore the support of the “user-pays” system for investments in infrastructure.

While intermodal transportation is projected to grow at a faster clip than any other freight sector, we believe the potential exists for more growth if federal investments are made where they can do the most good: the roads that join our industries and support businesses across America.

Infrastructure Week has given us the opportunity to remind people that the success of many other industries is directly linked to the ability of the trucking and railroad industries to move goods and products to market across the globe. Thanks to cooperation and competition for moving freight between our industries, trucks and trains will continue to help our nation’s economy grow — today and into the future.

The Carthage Press: Students learn about ‘No-Zones’

By John Hacker

A number of new drivers and soon-to-be new drivers at Carthage High School heard from a truck driver about how to operate a car safely around tractor trailer on highways.

Stephanie Klang, Carthage, a driver for Conway Truckload, brought the “No-Zone” trailer to her hometown on Wednesday and showed students the places where cars can be virtually invisible to a truck driver.

Klang also gave the students a chance to sit in the drivers seat of her truck so they could get an idea what it is like to try to see around 60 feet of tractor and trailer sitting about 10 feet off the ground.

“I’m an America’s Road Team Captain, where we take tractors and trailers to high schools, especially ones close to us, where the kids are getting their permits and their drivers licenses,” Klang said after speaking to students in Kelsey Stenger’s CHS class. “We try to put everyone up in the truck, so they can see exactly what the driver sees. We want them to realize the blindspots around the truck so they’re aware. Any time you can educate someone and make them more aware of what other vehicles need to do, it makes a safer road for everyone.”

About 20 students heard a presentation from Klang in the classroom before heading to the southwest corner of the CHS parking lot where Klang’s tractor, pulling a trailer painted to show the blindspots around a tractor-trailer combination, was parked.

Klang said the biggest blindspot is on the passenger’s side of the tractor trailer and runs almost the entire length of the trailer and for as many as three lanes to the right.

“We have a slight blind spot on the driver’s side, a slight blind spot in front of the truck,” Klang told the students. “We also would like drivers to leave a cushion behind us because you cannot see what’s happening in front of us when you get too close behind.”

Klang invited every student to sit in the tractor and see how she lives while on the road.

They could see that drivers can’t really see smaller vehicles immediately in front of their tractors, and that it’s hard to see traffic in the “No-Zones.”

“Trucks have a lot of no-zones, they can be very dangerous,” said CHS Freshman Mason Jones. “We should be sure to help them in any way possible. It’s good to know where they can’t see you so you can be safer while driveing your car.”

An exciting perk of getting to sit in the tractor — students got to sound the extra-loud horn on the truck, which brought smiles each of the more than a dozen times it sounded.

“It makes an impression on them and if it makes one driver safer when they get their learner’s permit or license, it’s worth it,” Klang said. “I especially like telling them now they can tell their parents how to drive.”

Heavy Duty Trucking: Trucking Moves America Forward and Love’s Travel Stops Partner

Trucking Moves America Forward gained momentum with its first major partnership, announcing an agreement with Love’s Travel Stops. This comes days after TMAF shared it had raised more than a half-a-million dollars since its March launch.

The partnership kicks off with the unveiling of a newly designed No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops car featuring the TMAF logo at Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday, May 4. The paint scheme will run on the car, driven by David Gilliland, for eight races in the Narscar Sprint Cup series.

The partnership also includes additional promotion of the new industry-wide campaign.

TMAF – launched at the Mid-America Trucking Show – is an industry-wide image and internal education initiative informing policy makers, motorists and the public about the benefits of the trucking industry to help build a ground swell of political and grassroots support necessary to strengthen and grow the industry.

For more information on the TMAF/Love’s Travel Stop Partnership