Industry News Briefs

May 2016

ATA Truck Tonnage Index Jumps 7.2% in February - Index Up 8.6% from February 2015Arlington, VA… American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 7.2% in February, following a revised 0.3% reduction during January. In February, the index equaled 144 (2000=100), up from 134.3 in January. February's level is an all-time high.

Compared with February 2015, the SA index was up 8.6%, which was up from January's 1.1% year-over-year gain. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2015, tonnage was up 4.8%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 129 in February, which was 0.4% above the previous month (128.5).

"While it is nice to see a strong February, I caution everyone not read too much into it," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "The strength was mainly due to a weaker than average January, including bad winter storms, thus there was some catch-up going on in February. Normally, fleets report large declines to ATA in February tonnage, in the range of 5.4% to 6.7% over the last three years. So, the small increase this year yielded a big seasonally adjusted gain. If March is strong, then I'll get more excited.

"I'm still concerned about the elevated inventories throughout the supply chain. Last week, the Census Bureau reported that relative to sales, inventories rose again in January, which is troubling." he said. "We need those inventories reduced before trucking can count on more consistent, better freight volumes."

The increase is the largest monthly move for the index since January 2013 (11.4%) and the largest year-over-year increase since December 2013 (10.4%).

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.8% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled just under 10 billion tons of freight in 2014. Motor carriers collected $700.4 billion, or 80.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.

ODOT Announces Formation Of Task Force To Reduce Distracted Driving In OregonSALEM, OR… An Oregon State Police vehicle totaled when a distracted driver’s car hit it last February took center stage on the Capitol Mall today, showing what can happen when drivers are distracted for even a short time.

Standing in front of that awful sight, ODOT Director Matt Garrett kicked off National Distracted Diving Awareness month in Oregon by announcing that ODOT, OSP, AAA Oregon/Idaho and other partners are forming a task force to reduce distracted driving.

“Distracted driving is an epidemic in Oregon,” said Garrett. “We are challenging Oregon drivers to ditch the distractions and focus on driving.”

ODOT crash data reveals that on average, over the five-year period from 2010 to 2014, a distracted driver crash occurred every 2.5 hours. In Oregon on average, more than 11 people die in distracted driving crashes each year, and more than 2,800 are injured.

In a recent ODOT-commissioned survey conducted by Southern Oregon University, three-quarters of respondents admitted to driving while distracted. 84 percent of respondents said they feel uncomfortable riding as a passenger with a distracted driver who is distracted. But 44 percent admitted to driving distracted with passengers in their vehicle, and 75 percent admitted they drove distracted when they drove alone.

“Many drivers demonstrate a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude toward distracted driving,” said Marie Dodds, Director of Government and Public Affairs for AAA Oregon/Idaho and member of the newly announced task force. “AAA’s research shows almost half of all drivers read texts or emails while driving, and most of us talk on our phones while driving. We urge you to avoid interacting with your smart technology while you’re driving: It’s a huge and dangerous distraction.”

Oregon State Police are now using a fleet of 40 new unmarked vehicles to observe and document distracted driving. OSP Troopers have already documented a 37 percent increase in enforcement actions.

“We’re reducing what we call the fatal five driving behaviors: speed, occupant safety, lane usage, impaired driving and distracted driving,” said OSP Captain Dave Anderson. “We’re asking drivers to put down their phones, for safety’s sake.”

The task force will include a broad base of members from law enforcement, public health, the courts, emergency services, academia and the media. Its goal is to reduce distracted driving through sustained efforts in education, enforcement and policy initiatives.

“Drivers must recognize our individual responsibility to stop distracted driving,” said ODOT Director Garrett. “If each of us focuses on the job of driving when we get behind the wheel, we’ll save people’s lives and relieve the enormous emotional toll on our families and friends.”

DOT Accepting Applications for FASTLANE Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation is accepting applications for the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies grants. FASTLANE, a program established by the FAST Act , is designed to fund what DOT determines are critical freight and highway projects. For fiscal 2016, the FAST Act authorizes $800 million in funding, with 25% reserved for rural projects and 10% for smaller projects. For the first time in DOT’s 50-year history, FASTLANE establishes broad, multiyear eligibilities for freight infrastructure, including intermodal projects.

Increasing PA Turnpike speed to 70 mph raises safety concerns

Increasing the speed limit to 70 miles an hour this spring on the Pennsylvania Turnpike — and likely on other state roads — doesn’t come without safety concerns.

Cass: US truckload rates stall, intermodal pricing drops ($)

Journal of Commerce Online reports with U.S. truckload capacity at its highest level since the recession, and freight demand slow to rise, truck shippers increasingly are resisting rate increases. The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index inched up only 0.5 year-over-year in February after rising of 0.4 percent in January.

That compares with annualized increases of 6.6 and 7.9 percent in the same months a year ago, according to Cass Information Systems and equity research firm Avondale Partners. The research firm lowered its truckload pricing forecast, for the first time projecting that rates could drop by 1 percent this year, or rise at most by 2 percent. “Demand continues to soften while truckload capacity has been further increasing,” Avondale Partners said Thursday.

Falling short on highway reform

The Post and Courier reports, both the House and Senate recognize the necessity of providing additional funding for state highways. And given the wretched condition of so many roads and bridges, the problem is hard to miss. But neither body has been willing to insist on the best source for additional revenue for the S.C. Department of Transportation — a hike in the state gas tax.

There was strong support for a gas tax increase a recent House debate on the budget, particularly among Democratic members who decried the General Assembly’s willingness to let roads and bridges continue to deteriorate year after year.

But the House finally decided, much as the Senate did, to add $415 million in General Fund revenue to DOT coffers so that critical repair work can at least get under way.