Trucking conditions point to stronger ‘17, FTR says: Market conditions for carriers, as measured by the monthly Trucking Conditions Index from FTR, remained nearly unchanged in January from December, dipping slightly between the two months. However, FTR COO Jonathan Starks says 2017 is “looking like a better year for the trucking industry,” due to expected capacity constraints prompted by increasing adoption of electronic logging devices ahead of the December 2017 compliance date and industry-wide struggles in finding and keeping drivers.
“We expect a productivity and capacity hit to the industry, though the effects will be felt differently, with early adopters ahead of the curve. One of the big issues we expect companies to continue to struggle with is the driver situation, with the number of new hires not keeping pace with overall demand for drivers,” says Starks. “If capacity doesn’t meet demand, then truckers will be able to raise prices. However, we don’t expect to see that impact until late 2017, or into 2018.”
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That's what prompted Marshall Wright, who had been stocking store shelves for Coca-Cola, to switch careers. He enrolled in Elgin Community College's truck driving program and, four months later, he left with his commercial driver's license.
The less-than-truckload fleet’s 537 technicians also are assigned one hour of training per week, Newby said, adding that Old Dominion is the only LTL carrier with an ASE certification training program.
“If a technician follows through with the training and shows commitment and tests, he’s automatically promoted,” Newby said.
Adding more computing and diagnostic capability in the shop helps, but the industrywide shortage of technicians remains.
While finding technicians is a challenge, getting new technicians up to speed and maintaining technical skills is just as critical, said Steve Lynch, vice president of equipment purchasing and shop operations with Swift Transportation, which is based in Phoenix. “We’re spending a ton of money and time training people.”
Swift, which ranks No. 6 on the for-hire TT100, requires its 1,300 technicians to take one hour of training weekly, whether it’s for the latest update or a refresher on a previous topic, Lynch said.
But the need for tech-savvy technicians can only grow, he said.
Martin Tewari, the president of the trucking division at USA Truck Inc., resigned from his job on March 13, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company didn’t provide any additional details other than to state that a search is underway for his replacement. Tewari joined USA Truck in September 2015 after a nearly a decade at the former Con-way Truckload Inc.
Tewari is the latest to leave during a tumultuous 12 months at the Van Buren, Arkansas, truckload carrier, which ranks No. 53 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.
In May 2016, Chief Financial Officer Michael Borrows stepped down, leaving the job vacant for five months. James Reed replaced Burrows in October, but only a few months later he was promoted to CEO when Randy Rogers abruptly resigned a week before fourth-quarter earnings were released.
USA Truck lost $7.7 million dollars in 2016 after earning $17 million in profits combined in 2014 and 2015, although it’s only posted annual profits three times since 2008. Since 2009 the company has lost 38.5 million dollars.
HOPEWELL TWP. -- PGT Trucking has found a permanent home for its new headquarters only six months after the company’s former building along Route 18 in Potter Township was purchased by Shell Chemicals Co.
According to a deed filed with the county, PGT Trucking bought 67 acres in the Hopewell Business Park from the Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development. The sale price was listed at $750,000.
The currently undeveloped plot of land sits in the same business park as PGT’s temporary offices at 4200 Industrial Blvd. in Hopewell Township.
Jim Palmer, BCCED president, called the site “raw land” and said PGT must undertake design work before it builds its new facility there.
He also said that part of the land is “very rough terrain” and that only half of it will be able to be developed.
Jim Harris, whose family owned Dick Harris & Son Trucking Co. Inc. for nearly 50 years, sold his business at the end of February to Cowan Systems, another family-owned company, which began in 1924.
Dick Harris began with one truck in the late 1960s, and his son ran the company for more than 40 years, doing business as Harris Trucking near Lynchburg, Virginia. But at age 74, Jim Harris said he’s ready to retire, and his son wasn’t interested in taking over.
Harris has known Cowan CEO Joseph Cowan for decades, and the two companies belonged to the same insurance captive, company representatives told Transport Topics. A captive refers to a group created to buy insurance at lower costs than one can generally do on its own — in this case, a coalition of more than 50 trucking companies.
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To the eye of Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group, there are a lot of regulatory battles ahead for the industry over the next several years, encompassing everything from developing the protocols governing autonomous vehicle operation to fighting against a mandate for speed limiters, and making changes to Phase 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) rules, such as removing the trailer mandate.
Yet all of those “big issues” also coincide with a number of “small topics” as well trucking needs to be involved with as well, Spear explained to Fleet Owner in an interview last week at the 2017 Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting – topics that could generate larger long-term impacts upon the industry if not addressed.
For example, Spear pointed to the ongoing debate regarding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigning seven channels within the 5.9GHz radio band for “truck communication” protocols.
Five years ago, the thought of $55-a-barrel oil would have given Piotr Galitzine heartburn. Now it’s keeping one of his steel-pipe shops in Houston open 24/7 and fueling a flurry of orders.
It’s stoking business for National Oilwell Varco Inc., too, with the oilfield-equipment giant for the first time in better than a decade selling more land-based than offshore gear. And it’s got Perry Taylor on the hunt for truckers to haul fracking sand. Even at $80,000 a year, jobs are hard to fill. “It’s tough,” said the CEO of Agility Energy Inc. “We’ve got commitments that are very difficult to keep right now because we can’t get the drivers.”