The Short Haul

Heard a story on NPR on April 9 titled "Rail Operators Aim To Do More Short-Distance Hauling," that might have some in the trucking industry sitting up and taking notice - Norfolk Southern wants more of their business. And it’s building more intermodal facilities to accomplish that goal. Used to be railroads couldn’t make money on hauling intermodal freight less than 1,000 miles. Norfolk Southern believes it can do it profitably at distances as little as 550 miles. 

A Missed Opportunity for the Ages

Jim Park, writing for Heavy Duty Trucking, suggests that the trucking industry should have seen today's driver demographic roadblocks from a mile away.

For decades after World War 2, Baby Boomers pushed their kids away from trades and hands-on vocational training into more academic-minded pursuits. The shift away from blue-collar work was well documented (check out the Boom, Bust & Echo reference!) but widely ignored:

Armed with that knowledge, we might have begun 10 years ago to reduce the lifestyle costs of over-the-road driving, or tailored the job to suit the next generation's work ethic.
As well, because of the demographic shifts, we might have been able to convince regulators to lower the minimum age for holding a CDL and working in interstate trucking. We might have been able to make a convincing case for maintaining vocational streams in schools, or developed trade and apprenticeship programs to nurture and train future diesel technicians and drivers.

Park has a few ideas about what the industry and lawmakers can do today—ideas that hearken back to a paper Park wrote 15 years ago. And they don't involve another ATRI study. 

As usual, Park is well worth the read..

Why Can't This Car be Sold in the U.S.?

BBC's Nigel Cassidy asks Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), about the differences between cars made for the U.S. market and one on sale at a car showroom in the UK. It's a peek into vehicle standards governing everything on a car from the design of major components to the way it is built and crash-tested and then certificated for safety.

CCJ Adds Reader Product Reviews

CCJ today introduced CCJ Reader Reviews, "the detailed, real-world product evaluations fleet executives have been requesting for years."

Readers are asked to rank each truck, component, or technology on specific criteria from a low of 1 to a high of 5. They can also comment on their overall experiences with the product or service. Each criteria’s numerical score is an average of all reviewers’ criteria scores; a product’s overall ranking is an average of numerical scores.

Reviewers remain anonymous, but are identified with general information on fleet size, freight type, and geographic location.

"A Series of Miscalculations, Mistakes, and Errors"

The Washington State Department of Transportation filed a $17 million lawsuit to recoup the costs of response and repair after the May 2013 over-height-vehicle collision that caused a portion of the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate 5 to collapse.

The suit, filed in Skagit County Superior Court, names five responsible parties: the truck driver; his employer, Mullen Trucking LP; the pilot-car driver; pilot-car company G&T Crawlers Service; and the owner of the metal shed being transported, Saxon Energy Services.

Accident investigators cited the truck driver for negligent driving, stating the bridge collapse resulted from "a series of miscalculations, mistakes, and errors by the truck driver and his employer," including:

  • The truck driver did not know the accurate height of his oversized load, and received a permit for a load two inches lower than the one he carried.
  • The truck driver failed to research the route to ensure it could accommodate his over-height load.
  • The pilot-car driver was on the phone as she crossed the bridge and did not notify the truck driver of the height clearance pole striking the bridge. 
  • The truck driver was following the pilot car too closely and would not have been able to stop in time even if the pilot-car driver had notified him of the pole strikes. 
  • As owner of the shed that struck the bridge, Saxon Energy Services, also is financially responsible for the catastrophic damage caused by this collision, according to state law.

As the Energy Bubble Bursts, New Freight Markets Emerge

Mark Montague of DAT Solutions blogs on the impact of falling oil prices on truckload rates and capacity:

First, there will be less oil-industry cargo to move, including drilling equipment and infrastructure items, such as pipe and controls. Second, there will be less competition for drivers from this sector. These factors combine to increase downward pressure on rates, which started to drift lower last week. That trend is assisted by the declining fuel surcharge.