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Raman Dhillon

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In an unprecedented move, the Trump Administration has threatened to slap tariffs on all Mexican imports. Mexico is America’s third largest trading partner with over $550 billion worth of goods traded between the two nations. Trump is seeking to gain leverage over Mexico in order to force them to do more to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants flowing across the southern border. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump was “deadly serious” about tariffs with a 5% hike beginning on June 10. Tariffs could go as high as 25% by October.

A protracted trade war between the U.S. and Mexico could spell catastrophe for some 47,000 Americans who have trucking-related jobs that depend on freight going back and forth across the border. In response, the American Trucking Associations reminded Trump that they “support free, open and fair trade between our country and our closest neighbors.” In fact, the trucking industry moves more than $700 billion in goods between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Also in the crosshairs of Trump’s tariff war is the recently negotiated USMCA—a replacement for NAFTA—which has yet to be ratified by Congress. Some fear that new tariffs would cause the deal to fall apart.

A statement from the National Retail Federation claims that new tariffs would be passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices. “The growing tariff bill paid by U.S. businesses and consumers is adding up and will raise the cost of living for American families,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations at NRF. “Forcing Americans to pay more for produce, electronics, auto parts, and clothes isn’t the answer to the nation’s immigration challenges, and this certainly won’t help move USMCA forward.”

Trump Administration officials have said tariffs will not cause higher prices but will force Americans to buy goods produced in the United States. Currently, Americans purchased $5.9 billion in fresh vegetables, $5.8 billion in fresh fruit, $3.6 billion in wine and beer as well as another nearly $4 billion in other food-related products from Mexico. These products are all shipped by American truckers to their final destinations across the nation.

Tariffs would also significantly impact the automotive industry with both cars and manufactured parts passing back and forth between the two countries. In 2018, 2.7 million vehicles built in Mexico were sold on the American market. Some experts, however, believe tariffs on new cars coming out of Mexico could boost used car sales in the U.S. and could increase the transport opportunities for American truckers.

Economists and Wall Street analysts fear that broad tariffs on such a large trading partner could tank markets and send the U.S. economy into a tailspin, especially with the ongoing trade war with China still unresolved. On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 354 points or 1.4% of total shares.

For his part, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador refused to get into a feud with Trump and has sent a delegation to Washington D.C. in hopes to negotiate a resolution. “All conflicts in bilateral relations must be faced through dialogue, through communication. The use of coercive measures does not lead to anything good,” said Obrador.

The largest truck inspection blitz of the year is coming. For three days in June, enforcement officials will be conducting International Roadcheck at more than 1,500 roadside locations throughout North America. Here are 10 things you need to know.

Photo courtesy of Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
  1. 1. When: June 4-6, 2019 (Tuesday-Thursday).
  2. 2. Where: U.S., Canada, Mexico.
  3. 3. This year’s focus: Steering and suspension. Download the flyer telling you what inspectors will be looking for.
  4. 4. What else will they be checking: Brake systems, cargo securement, coupling devices, driveshaft components, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, lighting devices,  tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels, and windshield wipers. Download the Inspection Cheat Sheet.
  5. 5. How will it affect capacity: Many drivers will avoid the hassle and take the week off. During Roadcheck week in past years, the load-to-truck ratio has increased on DAT load boards, meaning brokers and shippers have a harder time finding trucks.
  6. 6. How will it affect rates: In past years, rates have risen during Roadcheck week due to tighter capacity.
  7. 7. How many trucks will they check: Last year, inspectors conducted 67,603 inspections during the 3-day period. As a result, 22% of trucks receiving a Level 1 inspection — the most extensive inspection — were placed out of service.
  8. 8. How will it affect delivery times: All those inspections take time, so you’ll want to allow extra time for freight to get to its destination during Roadcheck week.
  9. 9. Who’s behind Roadcheck: It’s a joint program between the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the FMCSA, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Transport Canada, and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation of Mexico.
  10. 10. Where can I get more information: See the International Roadcheck webpage.
  11. Punjabi Trucking  readers click here on the link to get 30 days free trial of DAT Loadboard

In a move that can only be seen as a way to squeeze out freight brokerage firms, retail goliath Amazon has set up its own brokerage pilot program as a way to gobble up the market by utilizing shippers during its peak seasons but also selling off that capacity during down times, sometimes at a loss. The new program, currently in its infancy, is limited to five states in the northeast, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Amazon denies it is seeking to monopolize shippers in its network. In a recent statement, the company said, “Analysis suggesting dramatic undercutting of pricing is false. We work with many line-haul service providers in our transportation network and have long utilized them to carry loads for Amazon. This service, intended to better utilize our freight network, has been around in various forms for quite some time.”

In April, however, reports surfaced that Amazon is offering low-margin and sometimes zero-margin rates to shippers in its network. This allows shippers to haul freight for a cheaper rate than they would get from traditional brokerages, but still within the rates that Amazon already promised them. A second goal for Amazon is also to make it tougher for competitors such as Walmart, Neiman-Marcus and Bed, Bath and Beyond to find enough capacity during peak retail seasons such as Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Amazon’s strategy seems to be a win for carriers, especially small carriers, because Amazon can guarantee rates and loads, often selling capacity for far under the market rate. In contrast, it may be a catastrophe for brokerage firms who will lose out on the 12-18% margin they charge shippers for booking loads.

During non-peak periods, Amazon simply auctions off capacity they don’t need but have already paid for. Because it ships on such a large scale, it is easy for Amazon to discount truckload services it offers shippers. For brokerages, it is impossible to stay in business with zero-margin rates.  

Reefer carriers finally got some good news last week. Demand for refrigerated trailers has been relatively soft this year, but shipments ahead of Memorial Day weekend pushed rates higher in many major markets and high-traffic lanes. That should also help van rates since reefer carriers often compete for dry van loads when reefer demand is low.

Last week the load-to-truck ratio was up 12% over the previous week, and the national average reefer rate for May is now at $2.16 per mile — 1¢ higher than the April average. Rates are expected to rise higher in the next few weeks.

DAT load boards are the largest and most trusted digital marketplace for truckload freight, with more than 256 million loads and trucks posted annually, plus rates based on $60 billion in real transactions.

The national average load-to-truck ratio for reefers increased to 2.9 loads per truck last week.

Rising rates

Reefer rates out of California typically peak in June, and that upward trend started last week. Potato harvests also helped push prices higher out of Green Bay and Grand Rapids, while volumes increased in Southern Idaho.

  • Green Bay to Chicago rose 28¢ to $3.28/mi.
  • Sacramento to Salt Lake City jumped 39¢ to $2.62/mi.
  • Fresno to Denver added 18¢ to $2.27/mi.
  • Atlanta to Chicago increased 25¢ to 2.11/mi.
  • Miami to Baltimore was also up 24¢ to 2.54/mi.

Falling rates

There were relatively few declining lanes, and most drops were slight.

  • Atlanta to Miami fell 15¢ to $2.25/mi.
  • Miami back to Atlanta was also down 15¢ to $1.91/mi.
  • Ontario, CA to Chicago dipped 10¢ to $2.02/mi.

Delivering on its commitment to developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure at its facilities, Penske Truck Leasing has opened commercial heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations with 14 high-speed chargers at four of its existing facilities in Southern California. The company’s near term plan includes adding at least six more chargers, bringing the total number to 20. Penske believes these are the first DC fast charging stations in the U.S. designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles.

“We’re committed to being at the forefront of commercial vehicle electrification,” said Brian Hard, President, and CEO of Penske Truck Leasing. “We are investing to ensure our customers have access to the right vehicles, technology, charging infrastructure and information to help shape the future of mobility in our industry.”

Located throughout Southern California at Penske Truck Leasing’s facilities in San Diego, Chino, Anaheim, and La Mirada, these 14 chargers connect directly to a commercial truck’s battery charging system, providing a DC fast charging option for commercial electric fleets. Utilizing 50 kW to 150 kW chargers, this charging infrastructure allows Penske to power an all-electric class 8 tractor from zero to 100% charge in less than half a shift.

Penske celebrated the announcement of its new electric vehicle commercial charging capabilities at its La Mirada facility during a live stream ribbon-cutting event with the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California, April 24, 2019. Daimler Trucks North America’s electric class 8 Freightliner eCascadia semi-truck was on-hand as part of the charging demonstration.

“We are proud to provide our customers with the ability to quickly and conveniently charge their electric truck fleets at these locations,” said Andrew Cullen, senior vice president of fuels and facilities at Penske Truck Leasing. “We’ll continue to add new locations and charging infrastructure to support our customers as our electric fleet continues to grow and the demand for commercial electric vehicles gains momentum.”

Penske Truck Leasing has previously announced the addition of light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty commercial electric trucks to its fleets.

About Penske Truck Leasing

Celebrating its 50th year in business, Penske Truck Leasing Co., L.P., headquartered in Reading, Pennsylvania, is a partnership of Penske Corporation, Penske Automotive Group and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. A leading global transportation services provider, Penske operates more than 311,000 vehicles and serves customers from more than 1,100 locations in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Product lines include full-service truck leasing, contract maintenance, commercial and consumer truck rentals, used truck sales, transportation and warehousing management, and supply chain management solutions. Visit https://www.gopenske.com/ to learn more.

Volvo Trucks North America today hosted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they presented a $44.8 million check to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) for the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project. The check presentation occurred in the Volvo Trucks booth during the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, California.

“Volvo LIGHTS will enable us to truly demonstrate the benefits of working with an interconnected team of fleets, private electric infrastructure companies, governmental agencies and other stakeholders to help achieve valuable real-life insights to introduce and scale fully electric transport solutions on a broad basis,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America. “We look forward to spearheading our part of this end-to-end project to help the industry and society develop viable electromobility solutions in support of a more sustainable future.”

The Volvo LIGHTS project is a partnership among the Volvo Group, South Coast AQMD and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure. The project will demonstrate the ability of battery electric vehicles to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies, reduce emissions and improve air quality.

As part of the project, Volvo Trucks will introduce all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrators in California later this year, with vehicle sales planned to begin in 2020.

“This substantial climate investment by the state, matched by the project partners, will help speed up the number of zero-emission trucks in the California communities and neighborhoods where they are needed the most,” said CARB Chairwoman Mary D. Nichols. “It will provide a real-world at-work demonstration of innovative heavy-duty electric vehicle technologies. The project offers a commercial solution to move cargo and freight around the state using zero-emission trucks and equipment that protect air quality and cut climate-changing emissions.”

“South Coast AQMD is proud to partner on this innovative demonstration which has the potential to help transform goods movement in our region to zero-emissions,” said Wayne Nastri, South Coast AQMD Executive Officer. “The battery-electric trucks in this project are shuttling freight, in real-world conditions, in and around environmental justice communities in the Southland. This is of particular importance in areas affected by air pollution from nearby port and warehousing operations.”

The Volvo LIGHTS project involves 16 partners and will transform freight operations at the facilities of two of the United States’ top trucking fleets. Volvo LIGHTS is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The Volvo VNR electric vehicle will be based on the proven technology currently being used in the North American model Volvo VNR, the Volvo FE Electric and builds on the Volvo Group’s experience in electrified solutions. Volvo Buses has sold more than 4,000 electrified buses since 2010.

For more information, please visit the Volvo Trucks booth (No. 1634) at ACT Expo or visit www.lightsproject.com.

The project, in conjunction with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), has received significant support from platinum sponsors Kenworth Truck Co., Inland Kenworth and Ritchie Bros., along with other leading industry suppliers.In an effort to further educate and fund efforts against human trafficking, Inland Kenworth has once again put together a special “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 with a very distinctive paint scheme and signage.

Register at: RBAuction.com

Click Here for Truck Specs & Project info

Proceeds from the sale of the Kenworth T680, which has a retail value of $162,000, will go directly to TAT – a 501(c)3 non-profit devoted to stopping human trafficking by educating, mobilizing, and empowering the nation’s truck drivers and rest stop employees.

The special Kenworth T680 is fully loaded with a 76-inch sleeper, 485-hp Paccar MX-13 engine, and Paccar 12-speed automated transmission.

Don Blake, who serves as new truck sales manager at Inland Kenworth-Phoenix, is again spearheading the effort. Blake said he’s been touched by the industry support for the Everyday Heroes Truck.“This started out as an idea in 2017 that got rolling, and it was a great success. Now, the sponsors we’ve worked with again are so supportive. It shows our industry’s true colors to pull together to raise money for a great cause,” Blake said. “I’m especially appreciative to Kenworth. When I reached out to see if they would be a sponsor again, they were more than happy to help. Kenworth has been great to work with.

Entities providing support for the 2019 Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 include platinum level sponsors Kenworth Truck Co., Inland Kenworth and Ritchie Bros; gold level sponsors Paccar Engine, SEG Automotive, and Swift Charities; silver level sponsors Bendix, Bridgestone, Eaton, FlowBelow, Horton, Jost, Meritor, Paccar Financial, Paccar, PeopleNet, Utility Trailer Sales of Arizona, and Wabco; and bronze level sponsors Alcoa, Arizona Rock Product Association, Arizona Trucking Association, Beaver Stripes and Molding, Chevron, ConMet, Davco, East Penn, Ex-Guard, National Seats, PrePass/Help Inc, Sheppard, and Tectran.

Blake’s initiative to contribute to TAT’s efforts led to an expanded role with the organization.  “Don became a TAT board member shortly after the 2017 auction,” said Kendis Paris, executive director of Truckers Against Trafficking. “Not only did we ask him to join the board due to his tremendous work on the Everyday Heroes Truck, but because Don is a true TAT champion. He believes deeply in the mission and enlists his resources and ideas.”

In the United States alone, profits from the crime of human trafficking are estimated to be worth $32 billion.

“Each year, more truck drivers and truck stop operators are added to the network of TAT trained and educated members – over 663,000 to date,” Paris said. “They are our eyes and ears out on the road and are relied upon to report suspicious activity. ”Through the national hotline (888-3737-888) operated by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 2,250 calls have been made by truckers alone since the program began in 2009. So far, we’ve had more than 600 likely human trafficking cases, involving over 1,100 victims … many of whom are minors.”

More information is available on the TAT website at www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

Volvo Trucks’ newest series of parameter updates complements its newly-launched Parameter Plus subscription package, which allows for up to 50 parameter updates annually per covered vehicle. With over 250 parameters to choose from, this new set of updates will provide customers with notable value in terms of cost savings, fuel efficiency and uptime.

“The enhancements we’ve made to our range of available parameter updates demonstrates Volvo Trucks’ commitment to maximizing uptime for our customers through best-in-class connectivity capabilities,” said Ashraf Makki, product marketing manager at Volvo Trucks North America. “Our customers are already seeing the value in the recently introduced Parameter Plus package, which allows owners to switch between operating modes remotely, balancing fuel usage and performance to optimize the truck’s transport assignment and maximize profitability. These updates will only add to that value.”

 

Volvo Trucks in leading the industry in the breadth and amount of control of over-the-air (OTA) updates. This new release of the parameter updates further increases the potential of the nearly 17,000 Volvo trucks benefiting from OTA update capabilities, delivering a higher level of accuracy and efficiency and offering increased flexibility and optimization. The new packages include over 250 updates in categories including road speed, cruise control, transmission, idle shutdown and fuel economy.

Included in these enhancements is comfort shift, a software package that provides smoother launches when load shifting must be minimized, giving drivers a smoother start, changed gear shift strategy and gentler drive. Idle shutdown is another area of control being offered, giving authority over minimum and maximum time allotted for idleness.

The Parameter Plus package, introduced in March 2019, set the stage for the release of advanced updates such as these. A supplement to Volvo’s Remote Programming, the new Parameter Plus package was designed with thorough feedback from customers to meet the demands of their applications via over-the-air updates while significantly increasing up time. Average industry time for typical parameter and software updates can require two or more days of downtime, along with the added administration and costs of acquiring a supplementary truck and managing additional driver logistics. The new Parameter Plus package with OTA power train software updates can be completed in under 20 minutes and parameter updates in under 10 minutes.

Volvo is an exhibitor at the upcoming Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. Joining hundreds of leading public and private fleet operators, attendees will have the opportunity to connect with Volvo’s experts on-site to learn more about these parameter updates and the latest connectivity services at Booth #1634.

KeepTruckin has been recognized as a winner of the 2019 Bay Area Best Places To Work, an awards program presented by the San Francisco Business Times and the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

This award is determined by how highly KeepTruckin’s employees rate the company’s values, including:

  • Having a fun, collaborative culture
  • Competitive compensation
  • Convenient perks such as free catered lunches and commuter benefits
  • Transparent management practices

We could not have achieved this honor without the ongoing support and appreciation of our employees.

KeepTruckin’s VP of Talent, Caitlin Schlakman and General Counsel, Alice Sansone attended the Bay Area Best Places to the

Work awards ceremony in San Francisco on April 18, 2019.

Sansone said, “We’re so honored to be recognized as a Bay Area Best Places to Work, San Francisco. Caitlin Schlakman and I had a great time celebrating last night at the awards ceremony. This is a great recognition of how important our employees are to our success at KeepTruckin, and we remain committed to making this an outstanding workplace and culture. Our employees are what make KeepTruckin such a special place to work, and we are so grateful for all of their hard work and dedication.”