Commerce Express Weekly Road Map:

April 9th, 2024 

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

Baltimore Bridge Incident:

— The Port of Baltimore continues to remain indefinitely closed and salvage crews have started to remove containers from the cargo ship that crashed into the bridge. Long-term impacts on the freight market remain to be seen, but the immediate impact is apparent.

— Port of Newark has expanded their truck gates and would be open until 6pm and PNCT will be open on Saturdays from 7am to 3pm, for an undefined time. The Port of Virginia is extending their gate hours by opening at 5am instead of 6am.

— The FMCSA has granted Baltimore drivers a waiver that will add two hours to the allow hours of daily driving under the 14-hour on duty limit. Currently, the law allows 11 hours of driving in a 14 hour day window.  

— Long-term impacts on the freight market remains to be seen, but the immediate impact is apparent. with reduced outbound freight volumes on key freight lanes from Baltimore to the west, including Chicago, South Bend, and Indianapolis, DAT Freight & Analytics reports.  

— Norfolk Southern has started to run trains between the Port of NY/NJ and Baltimore to transport containers that have been re-routed due to the bridge collapse. NS is also working with the Port of Virginia to provide rail service from Norfolk to the Virginia Inland Port.

— CSX has started a daily north-south service from the Port of NY/NJ and it’s Kearny, NJ intermodal terminal to Baltimore. It’s likely this service will bring around 150 import containers to Baltimore’s Seagirt marine terminal for local pick-up and then empties for the return back.

Trucking –

  • As of April 8th, the average price of diesel was $4.061 a gallon. 
    • Seeing a 6.5 cent increase from last week.
  • CVSA International Roadcheck this year is May 14th-16th.
    • The focus is on tractor protection valve, trailer supply valve and anti-bleed back valve.
  • Chassis providers are confident that the current equipment pools are able to handle and adjust to cargo re-routing from the Port of Baltimore.
    • They do caution that chassis could be occupied for longer if the drayage haul is longer than usual.

Rail –

  • BNSF has moved 14% more intermodal volume through their facilities compared to last year.
  • Railways have moved $15.6 billion of freight in January 2024, this is down almost 7% from January 2023.

March Class 8 Truck Orders See a Drop

Preliminary data from ACT Research and FTR Transportation Intelligence show Class 8 truck orders in March saw a decrease, but those agencies aren’t worried and say they are in line with seasonal trends.

Per ACT Research, preliminary data shows North America Class 8 net orders were 17,300 units in March. This is down 10,400 units from February and 8.7% from March last year.

Per FTR Transportation Intelligence, their preliminary data shows a net order of 18,200 which is down 34% from February and 4% from March last year.

This is preliminary data and can be subject to later revisions.

Commerce Blog

Canada Rail Workers May Authorize Strike as Labor Talks Stall-01

A strike may occur across Canada’s rail network as early as late May. Unionized rail workers employed by Canada’s two Class I railroads are set to vote in the coming weeks on whether to authorize the labor action which would stymie intermodal freight movement in the country. The looming disruption comes as negotiations for new labor agreements are at an impasse.

The workers, represented by Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference (TCRC), will vote from Apr. 8 to May 1. If their ballots are in favor of picketing, a strike across Canadian National’s and Canadian Pacific Kansas City’s networks could happen as soon as May 22.

Read more 

FRA Rules Freight Railroads Need to Keep Two-Person Crews

In their final ruling, the Federal Railroad Administration stated railroad operations will be required to maintain a minimum of two person crews.

There is an exception for certain identified one person train crew operations that do not post significant safety risks to railroad employees, the public, or the environment. However, those that are the exception will be required to submit to the FRA a yearly report that summarizes the safety of the operation.

This rule was finalized on April 2nd and goes in effect 60 days after publication date.

This ruling is a win for rail unions who have a long history of opposing one person crews, due to the safety and job concerns. It has been a key issue in contract talks in the industry for many years. Railroads on the other hand have wanted the size of train crews to be determined by contract talks, not regulators or lawmakers, because they say there isn’t enough data to show that two person crews are safer.   

BNSF Plans to Test Out A Pilot Program Focused on Improving Fluidity

At their terminals in Chicago, Memphis and Kansas City, BNSF Railway is testing out a variety of measures to improve fluidity, with the possibility for implementation late in the year for an appointment system for container retrieval at those three major inland hubs.

As part of their plan, they will have a designated waiting area for drivers. This will allow the railroad to meter how many trucks are able to wait underneath cranes to pick up boxes. They also intend to coordinate with trucking companies to increase the usage of BNSF’s RailPass app so drivers can enter and exit terminals faster.

Total Weekly Rail Traffic for the Week Ending March 30th, 2024:

  • For the week ending March 30th was 472,651 carloads and intermodal units – seeing a 3.2% increase from the same time last year, per AAR data.
  • Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 253,918 containers and trailers – up 9.3%.
  • Grain, motor vehicles and parts, carloads, and chemicals all saw increases. While coal and metallic ores and metals all saw decreases.
  • For the first 13 weeks of this year, North American rail volume was at 8,462,498 carloads and intermodal units – up 1.8%.
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