Commerce Express Weekly Road Map: October 4th, 2022

Keeping you informed on the latest news/insights in our industry.

Commerce Express Blog

It was good news a couple weeks ago, when the rail unions and the freight railroads reached a tentative agreement, averting a potential strike. Now that the dust has somewhat settled and the process of ratifying those agreements has begun, some U.S. shippers are still a little hesitant on if the ratification of these agreements will indeed improve service.

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Trucking Update

  • The FMCSA is considering a 5-year ‘special’ waiver for propane haulers, which experts say will help propane haulers respond to peaks in consumer demand. The public will have 30 days to comment on the consideration – which was requested by the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) – with a notice published in the federal Register last Friday. 
    • The proposed request would extend the daily 14-hour driving window to 17 hours, and the driving limit within that window from 11 hours to 14. As Freightwaves reports, the exemption would have limitations on the number of consecutive days a driver could use it and must conclude with an off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours, which is required under the current maximum drive-time rules.
  • New York is now allowing trucking companies and other third parties to administer road tests for those wanting to get their commercial driver licenses, Transport Topics reports. This action comes after an effort to help continue to tackle shortages for bus and truck drivers. Governor Hochul said the goal is to increase the number of testing sites statewide and lower wait times so more CDL drivers can get on the road faster. Qualified third parties will need to apply for certification to administer tests via the state DMV website, with a variety of requirements. The DMV also stated that any examiner associated with a driving school cannot test an individual trained by anyone employed by the driving school.  
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a new handbook, Truck Parking Development Handbook, to give state and local planning groups and private industry detailed procedures on assessing demand for truck parking and boosting parking capacity, Freightwaves reports.
  • The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) will be opening the application period for its annual Fleet Safety Awards, starting on October 5th. The winners are chosen based on their accident ratios in any given year, while division winners are cleared via an audit for ratio accuracy and then are invited to compete for one of two grand prizes. The grand prize winners are announced every year at TCA’s Annual Convention.  

Did You Know: U.S. Farmers and Policymakers are Asking the Mexico Government to Reconsider Their Impending Ban on Genetically Modified Corn

Back in 2020, the President of Mexico stated he would eliminate the use of herbicide glyphosate and genetically modified corn in the country by December 31st, 2024. 

Supporters of the ban say that the seeds from the genetically modified corn could possibly contaminate Mexico’s age-old native varieties of white corn, which is consider a significant part of Mexican history and heritage. 

Now those stakeholders in the U.S. are worried that if the ban on that corn is partially or fully implemented, that it could be an issue for U.S. exports – 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, data from the USDA shows.

Rail Update
  • BNSF has plans to spend more than $1.5 billion on a new multiuse rail facility in Southern California that will help inland container moves from the U.S. West Coast ports. The Barstow International Gateway facility, will be the first of its kind developed by a Class I railroad and will take up 4,500 acres, consist of a rail yard, an intermodal facility and warehousing enabling transloading from international containers to domestic containers, Freightwaves reports. The goal with this new rail facility is to maximize rail and distribution efficiency throughout the region, while also reducing truck traffic and freeway congestion in the Los Angeles Basin and Inland Empire, a news release from BNSF stated. This new facility will also create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs. 
  • Class I railroad, CSX, is committing $200,000 to help support hurricane relief and recovery efforts throughout the Florida and South Carolina communities that have been affected by Hurricane Ian, Railway Age reports. CSX will also match employee contributions, dollar-for-dollar to the CSX Employees Disaster Relief Fund – a fund that provides assistance financially to those who experience severe damage to their homes and property. 
  • Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending on September 24th, 2022, was at 489,111 carloads and intermodal units – which is down 4.4 percent compared to the same time last year, the Association of American Railroads reports. Motor vehicles and parts, coal, and non-metallic minerals all saw increases compared to the same time last year. While metallic ores and metals, grain and chemicals all saw decreases compared to the same time last year, data shows.
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