Commerce Express Weekly Road Map:

November 29th, 2022

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

Commerce Express Blog

Rail Strikes and Lockouts Loom Over as Labor Agreements Stall-01

The advent of December is best associated with holiday hearth. Freeform will kickoff its usual “25 Days of Christmas” movie specials, tacky lawn ornaments will magically appear around the neighborhood, and the sounds of holiday music will fill every room across the country.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for the rail industry to get in on this usual holiday glee. The early days of December bring along a different and more stern meaning for this tormented sector of freight.

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American style truck on freeway pulling load. Transportation theme. Road cars theme.

Trucking Update

In October, Truck Tonnage Index was up Nearly 3 Percent

Truck Tonnage Index, which is the gross tonnage of freight that is transported by motor carriers in the U.S. for a specific month (as defined by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics), was up 2.8 percent for the month of October.  

Specifically, data from the American Trucking Associations, shows the truck tonnage index rose annually to 116.3 in October, but slid from 119.1 in September. As Transport Topics reports, this is a sign that the freight market is reacting to economic and consumer trends.  

The FMCSA is considering revising ELD regulations, the trucking industry reacts

Recently, the FMCSA published a notice asking for comments surrounding the ELD certification process and the trucking industry responded, basically with split thoughts on the matter. 

One issue that has been discussed on being revised is the pre-2000 engine exception for vehicles manufactured before 2000. 

Some in the industry have stated how important the need for flexibility in applying certain mandates should be, but also said that the fewer exemptions the better as it causes less confusion.  

Others in the industry want more guidance from the FMCSA as it can be difficult to determine certain requirements for difference mandates.   

Transport Topics also notes that this long rule-making process will take time, and to not expect things to change in weeks or months, but closer to years.

Work on the Tearing Down of Interstate 81 Through Syracuse has been halted per Judge Orders

A teardown for the Interstate 81 viaduct which goes through Syracuse, New York has been ordered to be halted – per a court order, Freightwaves reports. Work for this project was set to begin very shortly.  

An injunction, that was sought by a group in the suit, was granted. While the order does not rule on the merits of the case, the Judge says the group has met the burden for obtaining that preliminary injunction.  

The group, Renew 81 for All, stated,  that this project would “cause significant traffic delays and backups and force trucks to divert an extra 8-22 miles around Syracuse, or into local streets, causing numerous and avoidable negative environmental impacts.”  

No statement from the New York Department of Transportation has been issued as of yet.  

FAQ: Is Mexico Considering a Softer Stance on a Planned U.S. Import Corn Ban?

The answer is, possibly and it seems likely that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (also known as AMLO) will allow imports of genetically modified yellow corn for livestock feed. He previously stated the government would phase out GMO corn by early 2024. 

The majority of U.S. corn exports to Mexico are yellow corn so, this would be good news for those U.S. farmers, if AMLO follows through on his comments.

Vancouver, Canada - April 2018 : CN Rail Locomotive in Freight Yard
Rail Update

The STB wants Answers on why Union Pacific has had a Significant Increase in Embargoes

Throughout the past five years, Union Pacific has been issuing a significant increase in embargoes.  

Embargoes are a temporary way to control traffic because of congestion or weather-related issues, typically.  

In 2017, the number of embargoes that UP issued were 27. Then, last year that number of embargoes was at 662. Now, as of October 2022, that number is at 886 and the year is not officially over yet.  

However, Freightwaves reports that the majority of those embargoes in 2021 and 2022 were caused by congestion.  

But, shippers are making their feelings known about this issue to the STB, as the STB has been receiving reports on how the embargoes are impacting operations. Additionally, reports show that between November 1st and November 24th, UP issued an additional 126 embargoes, caused by congestion. 

Public hearings are set to take place on December 13th and 14th and the STB has asked the President and CEO, EVP of marketing and sales, EVP of operations, and VP of customer care and support to testify at those public hearings. They also are asking shippers and other stakeholders for testimony surrounding this issue.  

A Federal Program Aiming to have Railroad Employees Report Certain Working Conditions Needs Improvements the U.S. GAO says 

The program, which is called the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), was created to improve railroad safety by collecting reports from employees, that would describe unsafe situations that could possibly lead to more serious consequences, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) says.  

In a recent report, the U.S. GAO says this program is being underutilized and needs improvements.  

For one, participation has been quite limited. With over 800 railroads in the nation, only 23 have been involved in this program – as of August 2022.  

The railroads who have not participated in this program say there are concerns about confidentiality and that they already have similar reporting systems that they use internally, as the two main reasons why they have yet to participate in the program.

Total U.S. Rail Traffic for the Week Ending November 19th, 2022 

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 491,794 carloads and intermodal units, which is down a little over 3 percent from the same time last year, the Association of American Railroads reports.

To break that total U.S. weekly rail traffic down, 235,887 were carloads – down slightly at 0.6 percent compared to this time frame last year. While intermodal volumes were 255,907 – down 5.6 percent compared to this time frame last year, data shows.

Grain, coal, and non-metallic minerals all posted increases compared to the same time from last year. Additionally, chemicals, motor vehicles and parts, and forest products all posted decreases from that same time last year – data shows.

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