Max Heine

A rare roadside attraction on the Dalton

Faithful watchers of “Ice Road Truckers” this season know that there ain’t much between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. There’s a few state highway facilities for maintenance of the Haul Road, a few resort facilities (closed in winter) when you cross the Yukon River, and then Coldfoot Camp at roughly the halfway mark. (See the top four photos on the right.) It’s considered the world’s northernmost truck stop. There’s food, fuel, lodging and other amenities. When I ...

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Landstar shows how to make it work

Anyone who thinks the owner-operator business model can’t rebound from the prolonged downturn, rising costs and other factors should take note of Landstar System. The nation’s largest owner-operator carrier reported its second-quarter earnings Wednesday. Of course, business was down, as it has been everywhere. Revenue dropped 30 percent from a year ago, and earnings dropped from 56 cents per share to 35 cents per share. But this isn’t a business model that compels its owners to fly ...

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Putting safety news in context

 The good report last week on 2008’s highway fatality numbers, including truck-related deaths, was a bit incomplete because of the highly unusual drop in vehicle miles traveled (VMT, in government-speak). Of course, that decline was due to months of outrageous fuel prices during late 2008. The press release from the American Trucking Associations conveniently failed to mention that factor, even though it did cite increased use of safety belts and the hours of service regs that ...

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Some bright spots in the supply chain

If you’re looking for good news, this morning’s report from the Institute for Supply Management has some: The overall economy grew in June. Warehouses are emptying out, which is good for trucking. Manufacturing failed to grow last month, though its rate of contraction is slowing. And seven of 18 industries did report growth to ISM: petroleum and coal products; printing and related support activities; wood products; nonmetallic mineral products; miscellaneous manufacturing; chemical products; and primary metals.  “Most ...

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Expecting the unexpected

Wednesday started with bad news/good news economic reports for trucking. Both involve May numbers. New orders for durable goods were up by 1.8 percent, says the Commerce Department. That’s better than expected, and a welcome report for any business related to manufacturing. On the down side, sales of new homes fell, which also wasn’t expected. They were down almost a third from a year ago, reports the Commerce Department. The market placed more weigh on the durable goods ...

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Building permits among leading indicators

Today’s report on the Leading Economic Indicators is good news. It “increased sharply for the second consecutive month in May,” says The Conference Board. The strong points include some fiscal things, like interest rates and stock prices, but the positive freight-related items were building permits and, more indirectly, vendor performance and consumer expectations. “The index rose 1.2 percent (a 2.4 percent annual rate) between November 2008 and May 2009, the first time the index has increased over ...

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In memory of an ice road trucker

Those of you who caught the first episode of this season’s “Ice Road Truckers” might recall a part on how some of the truckers who’ve died on Alaska’s Dalton Highway have been memorialized at the Hilltop Truckstop. The Hilltop is between Fairbanks and the start of the Dalton, also known as the Haul Road, which runs up to Prudhoe Bay. As an example of the tributes, the program showed one on the wall for Dale Harris. ...

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Prices: Down for truckload, up for diesel

If you’re thinking of getting your own authority for truckload hauling, think again. Or have some excellent contracts locked up before you jump. A June 8 conference call, hosted by Dahlman Rose & Co. with executives from five carriers (Cowan Systems, Fenway Partners, First Express and Roehl Transport), had little good news. “There was universal agreement that we are experiencing one of the worst pricing marketing in truckload history,” says Dahlman’s summary of the conference. The pressure ...

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'On those wrecks just like a vulture'

The top three photos on the right are from my 2006 ride along Alaska's Dalton Highway with the smiling trucker, George Spears. It was published in Truckers News. If you watched the History Channel's third season of "Ice Road Truckers," which premiered last Sunday, you might recall Spears, one of the featured drivers. This season's shows are based on the drivers of the highway, also known as the Haul Road. Running from just north of Fairbanks to ...

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June is bustin’ out

It seems that for economic news, June is bustin’ out all over, to cite the song from the old play, “Carousel.” Well, not all over, but there were some strong items announced June 1. I hope you’re seeing evidence in your freight. The overall economy grew for the first time following seven months of decline, according to executives surveyed in the latest manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management. Also, “May is the first month of ...

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