Commerce Express Weekly Road Map:
December 27th, 2022
Keeping you informed on the latest news/insights in our industry.
Commerce Express Blog
We feel it’s only appropriate to rehash safety in trucking. Just last week, a large weather system dumped a wintry mix of snow and ice to the north and summoned tornadic storms to the south.
If that wasn’t cruel enough, the American Midwest and Rust Belt regions are now in the thralls of another winter monster. Inland points, such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit, are expected to receive another deposit of snowfall, the likes of which could accumulate to over a foot.
U.S. EPA Issues its Final Emissions Rules for Heavy-Duty Vehicles
On December 20th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced stricter clear-air standards for heavy trucks, which the U.S EPA says are 80 percent stronger than current limits.
This final ruling also includes provisions that require emissions equipment to perform in compliance with clean air limits for a longer period of time. Plus, manufacturers will be required to demonstrate that engines are designed to prevent tampering with emission-control components by limiting access to electronic pollution controls prone to tampering – per FleetOwner.
The EPA estimates that with the new standards it will reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions from trucks by more than 40 percent by 2040 and by nearly 50 percent by 2045, which they also project most of the regulated fleet will have converted to newer equipment by that time.
The FMCSA Denies Carriers’ Request Regarding Trucker Hair Tests
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Chief, Robin Hutcheson, stated in a public filing that a federal statute prevents her from approving a drug-test exemption.
This comes after a group of 11 major truckload operators put in an application seeking an exemption from federal regulations to require positive hair tests be reported into FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. As Freightwaves notes, those tests would have then been made available to other carriers querying the database for drug test information on potential hires.
However, Hutcheson states that the FMCSA lacks the authority to change those rules. You can read more about the public filing here.
The Decline Continues in the U.S. For-Hire Truck Tonnage
The American Trucking Association (ATA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped 2.5 percent from October to November, after a 1.2 percent sequential drop in October – the Journal of Commerce reports.
Falling freight volumes in the fourth quarter have been especially apparent for truckload and less-than truckload (LTL) carriers – most notable those that rely on retail freight.
Industrial freight – which freight volumes were decently high through most of 2022 – is slightly starting to decline as well.
Additionally, lower industrial and retail demand plus excess truck capacity will continue to keep pressure on truck rates as the 2023 contract negotiating season approaches – per the JOC.
Port Insights for Truckers
Southeast Ports: Dray capacity in Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Charlotte, and Wilmington is available. As Charleston continues to outperform Savannah and Charlottee for export equipment.
Northeast Ports: Plan for additional days through the holiday season. Increased refrigerated volumes are causing some equipment issues. Additionally, it’s looking like Norfolk is seeing more seasonal delays than other ports in the Northeast.
Port of Vancouver: Labor contract expires in March 2023. Steamship lines report low levels of concern for a strike.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train Raises Nearly $1 million USD
In its 24th year, CP Holiday Train raised $1.3 million in Canadian dollars, nearly $1 million USD.
The CP Holiday Train had concerts that ran between November 23rd and December 19th in 168 communities.
Since its existence, the CP Holiday Train has raised more than $22.4 million and has collected 5.15 million pounds of food.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee Leaders Approved Billions in Funding for Rail
Specifically, for freight and passenger rail, billions were approved by House and Senate leaders. The THUD Appropriations bill and IIJA provide $2.3 billion for RAISE grants for surface transportation projects, that include public transportation and multi-model projects – Railway Age reports.
Additionally, the THUD Appropriations bills provides $3.4 billion for passenger rail investments, which include $2.5 billion for Amtrak grants, $560 million for CRISI grants, and $100 million for Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grants – per Railway Age.
STB Issued Decisions on Two Final Rules
The decisions that the STB issued, relate to modifying an existing voluntary arbitration program and creating a new procedure for rate challenges, named Final Offer Rate Review (FORR).
The STB stated that these two rules are the board’s “attempt to strike a balance between the competing interests of various stakeholders,” the STB Chairman said in a news release last week.
Additionally, the two rules pertain to rate disputes that are worth up to $4 million in relief over two years. If the rate is brought before the board and the board finds the rate to be unreasonable, then the STB will decide the rate by selecting either the complainant’s or the defendant’s final offer – subject to an expedited procedural schedule that adheres to firm deadlines, the STB says.
Total U.S. Rail Traffic for the Week Ending December 17th, 2022
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 476,232 carloads and intermodal units, which is down 5.5 percent compared to the same time last year – data from the Association of American Railroads reports.
To break that down a bit, total carloads for that week were 226,977 carloads – down 3.2 percent compared to the same time last year. While U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 249,255 containers and trailers – down 7.5 percent compared to the same time last year – data shows.
With the year coming to an end, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,603,096 carloads, for the first 50 weeks of 2022 – which is up 0 percent from the same time as last year. And, U.S. intermodal units were 13,059,825 – which is down nearly 5 percent from the same time last year – per data.