All posts by Chris Stachiw

Trucking rates continue to slide amid weak demand, expanded capacity

The year 2018 was a year that the trucking industry had never seen before and will more than likely never see again. While 2018 offered a look at an industry that was unable to fully make-up for the lack of capacity, 2019 is exhibiting the downturn so many expected with rising prices of freight along with last year’s capacity issues not being fully rectified. In 2018, there was an overwhelming shortage of new truckers, which hurt the overall capacity. However, in 2019, there hasn’t been a way to take full advantage of the increased capacity in the industry, leaving the new truckers without anything to do. This problematic flip of the switch has caused a downturn in the growth of the industry and left freight companies shipping truckloads that are not completely full.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics PPI shows that the growth that was so rampant and strong in 2018 took a massive downturn at the beginning of 2019, and hasn’t managed to bounce back. While bouncing back completely is not the expectation due to 2018’s growth being an outlier, the slide was not expected to be as drastic.

Along with suppressed growth, the industry also seems to have its inflation issues under control, which was looking to be an issue towards the end of 2018. As seen in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics numbers, the price inflation that has building for the last couple of years seems to have stabilized, returning the industry to less concerning numbers.

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Trucking Firms Large and Small Urged to Think Electric

With the recent changes to the trucking industry, namely those that change the way truckers have to operate, there has been what seems to be less and less focus on the electrification of industry. However, while ELDs and the changes to the HoS are significant and far-reaching in their ability to shape the industry, the widespread implementation of the alternative electric options aims to change the industry from the ground level. At a recent expo held in Long Beach, California, industry officials met with experts to discuss, inform, and continue to educate themselves on the future of what electric trucking will bring to the industry.

As Amanda Phillips, general manager of OEM sales at Meritor, put it:

If you don’t look toward the future, all of a sudden, your business goes away.

That mindset rings true for an industry that has been years behind similar sectors due to the unnecessary stubbornness of some within trucking who rebuke change. While that is to be expected in an industry whose median age is higher than similar industries, being an analog industry in a rapidly paced digital age does not help the industry as a whole to grow and prosper.

While many companies are still hesitant to begin discussions to work towards electrification of the fleet, many companies are starting serious inquiries into how that can be achieved. While it is a long road ahead, getting to zero-emissions for the industry as a whole, or at least a substantial percentage of the industry, is something that all truckers should strive for. It’s another notch in the belt of an industry that drives this country and provides so much to nearly everyone in the US.

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Trucking and the Indians hoping to cross the US-Mexico border

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts and on our social media pages, Sikhs are becoming a significant part of the American trucker workforce. With many of them are seeking asylum in the US, they are looking for consistent, predictable pay that allows them to provide a living for their families while strengthening their connection with their new home.

Al Jazeera recently rode along with one of those Sikh truckers, Satnam Singh, as he goes about his daily work as a trucker moving freight across the US.

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Job growth rebounds, but trucking jobs decline for the first time in nearly a year

2018 was a year in the trucking industry that may never be seen again for a multitude of reasons, namely the strength of the sector coupled with near constant hiring at a staggering rate. However, 2019 at its outset has been a markedly different year. While this is due to some factors, the reality of the industry is that there is an upward trend that is continuing, even in spite of certain factors that may be dampening the industry’s rampant growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its numbers for March 2019, and the month made a massive jump back up from the abysmal February that saw trucking take an enormous downturn in hiring for the entire month.

Job growth rebounded in March after a dismal performance

The numbers in February made industry experts anticipate that there was a possible recession on the horizon. Recessions are usually preceded by a shock that causes hiring to take a dive then coupled with consumers drawing back on spending as income becomes to stagnate as well. However, it would seem that fears of a recession may have been slightly exaggerated; a good thing for not just trucking but the economy as a whole.

Trucking employment fell for the first time since last April

While employment may have been down for March only slightly, it’s still 1.9% higher than it was a year to date. The industry is still experiencing growing pains from regulation changes and capacity changes, but as the consumer marketplace becomes more reliant on the quick turnaround on shipping, the industry will continue to experience growth.

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Trucking Firms Optimistic About Economy Despite Driver Shortage

The trucking industry has faced numerous uphill battles in the last year. From ELD changes to increased tariffs on overseas products causing some downturns in freight to the continued reliance on online shopping and two-day shipping. However, one of the issues that continue to plague the industry as a whole is the overwhelming lack of new drivers joining the industry.

Since the beginning of 2018, there has been a growing lack of not only interest in trucking as a career among younger prospective drivers but also amongst the public in general. Couple that with a workforce that is continuing to retire at a rate that isn’t being slowed and you have a problem that does not seem to be alleviated anytime soon. However, while there is a lack of new truckers, the industry continues to grow.

Industry competition doesn’t seem to be slowed by the lack of new truckers, which means that industry is operating under capacity but above expectations. 66% of all companies surveyed within the industry reported they have experienced growth in the last year, even with a lack of drivers, and 38% of those companies expect continued growth within the year.

While it would seem that the lack of incoming drivers would adversely affect the growth of the industry, that doesn’t seem to be the case. However, it is affecting the way freight companies approach hiring and tracking down new truckers including offering benefits previously unimaginable to those who already work within the industry.

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Not disruption but a transportation fix — and how it’s changing trucking

With the shortage of truckers on the forefront of the industry’s mind both in 2018 and in 2019 as a massive issue, there seems to be an even bigger problem lurking in the horizon: green energy. While fully autonomous trucking is a hot button issue right now for an industry that is hurting for more drivers, going green addresses a different set of problems that are currently plaguing the industry.

At the recent Green Truck Summit, Michael Berube, acting deputy assistant secretary for sustainable energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE, revealed an interesting statistic regarding current trucking freight patterns.

Currently, half of the goods by weight move less than 100 miles from their origin to destination with 3/4 of all freight moving less than 250. Couple that with 1.2 billion hours lost annually due to truckers being caught in congestions, you find that it amounts to nearly 425,000 truckers sitting idly by instead of being able to do their jobs. A stunning conclusion in light of the current shortage of truckers that numbers close to 50,000.

These statistics show that there should be and will be a need for all-electric solutions to short range trucking, while not so readily available or feasible for long-haul truckers. The price for consumer electric vehicles has come down drastically in the last two decade, and the expectation is that the trucking industry will follow suit, making electric a more financially viable option. The DOE is currently working on their SuperTruck II program which is looking to create a more efficient freight system than what is now operating in the US. These advances in trucking could save freight companies millions along with passing the savings along to a rapidly growing consumer market who expect their online shopping experience to operate just as efficiently.

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Could driverless vehicles spell the end of the road for truck drivers?

Autonomous trucking has become a hot button issue in the industry primarily due to the toll it may take on the current trucking workforce. However, there is an expectation that it will be fully autonomous when that may not be reality.  While strides have been made in the autonomous automobile in the last decade, for consumers the tech isn’t there yet, and for commercial uses with more burdensome regulations, it’s even farther away.

PBS recently reported on the prospect of autonomous trucking and what that means for the truckers, industry, and for the end consumer who knowingly or unknowingly relies on trucking for an overwhelming percentage of their daily use goods.

The Changes Driving Trucking Are Accelerating

This past week in Dallas, during the Omnitrac Outlook User Conference, Susan Beardslee led a discussion on the changes that are shaping trucking in 2019 and beyond. Similarly to past trucking and logistics conferences around the US, one of the main topics of Omnitrac was to inform and determine the rate of change and what the industry can do to embrace it.

The trucking industry has had a long history of being very slow to adapt and accept change due to an aging workforce that isn’t able to keep up with the quick changes coming from outside and inside.  The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has not allowed adults between the age of 18-20 to hold CDLs, preemptively cutting out a sizable portion of willing, able, and qualified drivers that the industry is in such dire need of. Those young drivers would be able to help lessen the effects of the driver shortage that the industry has been experiencing since late 2017.

Along with the lack of young drivers, the current market changes are also affecting the way freight is moved and delivered. Next day, two-day, and home delivery are increasing and changing the expectations when it comes to how we receive our packages. Amazon is at the forefront of the push for quicker, more efficient logistics as to help cut down and streamline their ever quickening delivery times. It’s an inevitable change for the “instant gratification” generation that needs everything now and with very few barriers to delivery.

While autonomy is still far off for personal transportation let alone commercial uses, the industry is changing around more current issues that are affecting the industry now. It remains to be seen how these changes are going to affect the industry in the long run, but it can be imagined that bringing an old and stubborn sector into the 21st century will have massive benefits for consumers and producers alike.

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Average American needs to start caring about troubles in trucking industry, says host

The trucking boom of 2018 that strengthened the industry more in one year than in previous recorded history was not without its problems. Regulation changes, trucker shortages, and truck shortages all created a problem for an industry that affects so many daily.

Most folks not in the industry don’t worry about the goings-on in the trucking industry, but with the advent of online shopping becoming a primary source of purchasing, they should. In this short clip from The Blaze, host Glenn Beck talks the ins and outs of why trucking is more critical than you may think.

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A new federal ruling requires California truck drivers to take unpaid rest breaks — but a flurry of lawsuits could change that

Unlike most other industries in California, the trucking industry is being shown to have a problematic federal ruling in regards to rest breaks. While a retail worker is granted a 30 minute mandated lunch break for every five hours of work, the trucking industry has come under fire from within the industry walls to change that requirement. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there is a likelihood that truckers are taking 60% more paid rest breaks than they should which is resulting in a massive downturn in productivity for the industry in California. However, according to Miles Locker, attorney for California’s Labor Commissioner, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

(T)he ATA’s arguments concerning lost productivity are speculative and unsupported. In this regard, the TTD states that the ATA’s argument is nothing more than a “‘back of the napkin’ speculation on lost productivity… (that) invokes the specter of damage to interstate shipping without evidence.”

The ATA and Western States Trucking Association have continued to contend that there should be no “paid rest breaks” and have gone as far as contacting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to plead their case. Under the new Trump administration, there is a chance that doing this may be successful as it was not with previous Obama administration. However, the industry itself must keep an eye on and be mindful of the wellbeing and safety of their most prized assets: the truckers. With the current trucker shortage still looming large over the industry, alienating current and pushing away prospective truckers is not helpful for growth and stability of the industry.

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