With the change of the calendar to 2018, diesel fuel prices across the U.S. shot up by seven cents during the week ending Jan. 1, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.
The country’s average price for a gallon of on-highway diesel starts 2018 just shy of the $3 mark — $2.973. This puts diesel at its highest point in nearly three years, when prices topped $3 per gallon during the week ending Jan. 12, 2015.
Prices increased in all regions during the most recent week, with the most significant increase coming in the Central Atlantic region, which saw an 8.3-cent increase.
The nation’s most expensive diesel can be found in California at $3.59, followed by the Central Atlantic region at $3.151 per gallon.
The cheapest fuel in the U.S. can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.774 per gallon, followed by the Lower Atlantic region at $2.854 per gallon.
Prices in other regions, according to the DOE, are:
New England – $3.01
Midwest – $2.935
Rocky Mountain – $2.981
West Coast less California – $3.073
ProMiles’ numbers during the week saw diesel prices jump by 7.8 cents to $2.93 per gallon nationwide.
According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $3.628 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.773 per gallon.
The carrier registration process for the 2018 fiscal year has been indefinitely delayed, according to a notice posted to the Unified Carrier Registration board’s website Friday.
The governing UCR Board of Directors has recommended that all states delay the enforcement period of 2018 registration compliance until 90 days after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a final rule setting the 2018 registration period and an updated registration fee structure.
Registration is supposed to begin each year on Oct. 1, but a Federal Register notice issued by FMCSA last month announced that the annual registration period had been delayed until Nov. 1. The same notice announced that fees for the 2018 fiscal year would be reduced from 2017’s fee structure.
However, FMCSA’s failure to complete the formal rulemaking process regarding 2018 registration and fees has prompted a further delay in the registration period. “We regret this inconvenience and appreciate your patience,” reads the announcement from the UCR Board of Directors.
“Until further notice, please do not accept any carrier fees for the 2018 registration year,” the UCR Board told state administrators in an Oct. 27 letter. “If received prior to the final rulemaking, please return to the entity that paid the fee.”
A lawsuit filed in late September claimed the UCR Board of Directors violated federal open meetings acts by failing to notify the public of a Sept. 14 meeting, at which the UCR Board determined the 2018 fee structure and the delayed Nov. 1 registration start period.
A court agreed with the plaintiffs in the case and required the UCR Board to post to its website the minutes from the Sept. 14 meeting. However, the court said it lacked the authority to rescind the decisions made by the Board at the meeting
Shippers fear “double-digit,” by percentage, rate increases loom in the coming months as trucking capacity continues to tighten and spot market freight activity — and rates — continue to gain ground. Spot market rates have soared in recent months, and the contract market could be next, says FTR analyst and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Starks.
“Spot market rates are a leading indicator. And, although there is a lag, contract markets are starting to follow suit. Shippers are now taking notice and are getting worried about dealing with double-digit rate increases as we head towards bid season,” he says.
These notes come from FTR’s monthly Trucking Conditions Index report. The most recent TCI is from August, which shows modestly positive conditions for carriers. August’s reading isn’t “wholly reflective of the current environment for truckers,” FTR notes, because it doesn’t include the supply chain disruptions caused in September by hurricanes Harvey or Irma, nor does it fully reflect the ballooning spot market.
“The truck market is currently in the middle of a significant change in conditions,” Starks says. “While the recent weather events made it feel like it happened all at once, spot markets have actually been moving in this direction for the past year. Load activity was rising, truck availability was falling, and rates were already up 20 percent year over year before the storms hit.”
Loadboard DAT Solutions last week reported strong spot market gains in September from August and record-setting year-over-year growth.
Available loads on DAT’s loadboard were 74 percent higher than the same month last year, DAT reported.
The dry van segment in particular saw major gains, with freight activity climbing 15 percent from August and up 80 percent from September 2016. Rates, meanwhile, gained 19 cents a mile from August and were up 35 cents from last September, DAT reported. The load-to-truck ratio hit 6.6 to 1 — the highest average in 8 years.
Reefer demand grew 4 percent from August and 70 percent from last September, pushing rates up 15 cents from August. DAT says harvest season in the pacific northwest and upper midwest, as well as late harvests in California, drove the segment’s surge.
The number of flatbed loads grew 3 percent from August. Though flatbed freight activity typically declines in September, recovery and rebuilding efforts in storm-stricken areas helped boost the segment this year, DAT says. Rates in the segment climbed 8 cents in September.
DAT says it expects the elevated spot market activity to continue at least until February.
President Donald Trump plans to nominate Raymond P. Martinez to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to an update posted to the White House’s website. Martinez is the current chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
For Martinez to become the official head of FMCSA, he must be confirmed by the Senate.
Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010. Prior, he was commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Martinez has also held positions as the Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority and as Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. State Department, according to his bio on New Jersey’s website.
Mobile technology has revolutionized truck driving, making drivers more connected than ever before and changing how they work, relax and interact. The five ways it’s happened include:
Connection – Though trucking still comes down to a driver and a truck, the job is a lot less lonely than it used to be, thanks to the smartphone. No other piece of mobile technology has done more for truckers. It offers instant connections with friends, family and work; it’s also a safety device and source of entertainment.
“I don’t have to look for a pay phone on a street corner in the rain or cold, blowing wind. Now, I sit in my truck and make my phone calls,” said Gary Wiggins, a Texas-based owner-operator.
While smart phones keep drivers in touch with family and friends, they’re also business tools.
“I use my phone to call agents about loads. Then I have the agent email the pickup info and delivery info. Then I print that info out on my printer in the truck. After I deliver a load, I call the agent on my cell phone to let them know their load has been delivered. Then I scan the paperwork and BOL and email that to the company that I’m leased to to get paid. I get paid online, I pay my bills online,” Wiggins said.
Navigation – Truckers do still get lost on occasion, but it’s rarer than it used to be, thanks to GPS technology. Satellite navigation, backed by apps that provide up-to-date maps, weather conditions and road construction, makes it easier for drivers to arrive safely and on time.
Entertainment – Laptops, tablets and smartphones put a world of entertainment at the disposal of drivers. They can binge on Netflix in their sleepers, listen to audiobooks and music or play Xbox as well as they could in their living rooms. That makes nights on the road a lot more bearable.
Accountability – Drivers like to say that they could never be cooped up in an office; ironically, their whereabouts are probably more closely tracked than that of many office workers. GPS devices on trucks and e-logs tell employers exactly where drivers are and, in many cases, how they’re driving. Dash cams record video of driving behavior while engine telematics track speed and acceleration, all of it information employers can use to monitor drivers.
Drawbacks — Though there is no doubt that mobile technology has made trucking easier, safer and more profitable, some drivers feel something has been lost along the way.
“Electronics is a double-edged sword,” said William Kolias, an owner-operator in New Hampshire and driving instructor. While electronics has removed a lot of the inefficiency from the industry, it has pushed the human element – the driver – to the limit, he said.
Technology and trucking will remain linked and drivers will continue to adapt mobile technology to make their jobs easier and to remain competitive.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Politicians in Washington agree on the dire need to modernize the ports, railroads and highways in the United States, but the “how do we pay for it” question sparks a debate between Democrats and Republicans.
At the Intermodal Association of North American exposition here, stakeholders discussed two funding ideas that are already the buzz on Capitol Hill: taxes and public-private partnerships.
“Our funding stream for infrastructure, especially freight movement, needs tremendous help. What we’ve relied upon primarily, the gas tax, is a nonsustainable funding stream. It will decrease as we go forward with better efficiency and less reliance on gas,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Ports Caucus, told members of the expo late last month. “Right now, [lawmakers] are laying out the parameters. But we haven’t dealt with the 800-pound gorilla of how we’re going to pay for all of this with sustainable funding streams.”
The federal tax on diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon. For gasoline, it’s 18.4 cents per gallon.
In June, Lowenthal introduced House Resolution 3001 — The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act — that would institute a new 1% ground transportation tax on freight transportation on railroads or in Class 7 and Class 8 trucks. Lowenthal believes the funding stream would be more stable than the gas tax.
“We already have it on air transportation, but we don’t have that kind of thing on surface transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it would raise a minimum of $8 billion annually,” he said.
On public-private partnerships, or P3s, there was a skepticism that the idea should be used as frequently as President Donald Trump would prefer.
“I don’t think there should be this blatant, overall, ‘let’s do P3s for the sake of doing P3s’ mentality. In certain contexts, it might not be the most efficient way to deliver a project,” said Shant Boyajian, attorney in the infrastructure group of Washington, D.C., law firm Nossaman. “Every public agency should think when doing a project what’s the most efficient way to actually deliver it and maximize the value of money.”
Lowenthal added that while public-private partnerships make sense in some cases for urban infrastructure projects, they don’t make sense in the rural areas.
When revamping the nation’s infrastructure Jones Lang LaSalle economist Walter Kemmsies noted that the design should focus on a transportation network designed for imports and exports. He argued that when the national highway system was originally built, it was prioritized towards importing based on economic conditions after World War II.
“The problem is we’ve succeeded. We have a growing global middle class, but our industries do not get access to those markets,” he said. “If we’re to rebuild our infrastructure to support our exports, that’s where the employment and wage growth comes from. Does the U.S. produce what the global consumers are buying? Yes. But are we supplying the global customer? Increasingly, no. The world market is where we’ll get our best return on investment.”
A coalition of major carriers has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to immediately allow hair sample tests to satisfy federal rules requiring trucking companies to drug test truck drivers pre-employment. Currently, the agency only recognizes urine sample tests.
The Trucking Alliance, a carrier advocacy group that includes fleets like Maverick Transportation, Knight Transportation, J.B. Hunt and Dupre Logistics, submitted the petition.
The FAST Act highway bill passed last year opens the door for the agency to recognize hair tests in lieu of urine samples, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services creates guidelines for hair sample testing. The FAST Act requires HHS to finalize guidelines within a year of the law’s enactment, which would be Dec. 5, 2016 of this year.
The guidelines have not yet been finalized, however, and the Alliance says HHS likely will request more time to do so, further delaying carriers’ ability to test driver via hair sample, the Alliance argues.
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“On this issue, the private sector is already far ahead of the public sector in utilizing the latest methods to detect drug users,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “While we wait on HHS and FMCSA, we can possibly save lives with this exemption by keeping many hard drug users out of our trucks and off our highways.”
Some carriers like J.B. Hunt already test drivers via hair sample, but such carriers must still spend the money to test drivers via urine sample too, a practice that could be ended if the agency accepted drug screening via hair analysis, the Alliance members argue.