Max Heine

Following the billions

  You’ve heard reports about the diverse types of projects that the federal bailouts are funding, in some cases how few jobs they will create, and how some of the expenditures are scheduled to take place years after the economy is likely to have rebounded.   Two websites can help you track this fiscal free-for-all. They’re both called “Stimulus Watch,” but are quite different.   The most publicized one is Stimulus Watch, which lists many proposed projects that could become ...

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For the newly jobless, driving never looked so good

Recent trucking news has reported the reversal of the driver shortage, which had appeared to be, as Jesus said of the poor, with us forever. Friday’s Wall Street Journal highlights how the competition for drivers is worse than ever partly because of people recently unemployed from car plants or construction and desperate for a paycheck.   At Prime Inc., even white collar workers are knocking on the door, a recruiting director told the Journal. The company ...

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When boxcars come to stay

Railroads were advertising a lot during last year’s period of rising fuel prices, touting their good cost-per-mile for moving a ton of commodities. Lest you think the super-heavy-duty engines are stealing your livelihood, consider this anecdotal evidence from the Wall Street Journal: Boxcars used to be a “fleeting sight” in the town of New Castle, Ind. For the past year, though, 100-plus yellow boxcars have been parked in the middle of town. The line stretches for ...

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Some stimulus trickle-down for trucking

The $787 billion economic stimulus doesn’t offer much for leased operators other than hopes of better roads and, with federal aid to banks, easier credit. Some tax provisions, though, can benefit carriers, including small owner-operator independents, and to a lesser extent leased operators with an extension of capital expenditures deduction. The American Trucking Associations reports that the package: • Extends bonus depreciation, allowing businesses to make a tax deduction of 50 percent of the cost of depreciable ...

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Caterpillar jobs: Two accounts

In case you missed the news from last week’s foulup about Caterpillar and the economic recovery plan, you can see and hear the remarks yourself. President Obama, visiting Caterpillar in Peoria, Ill., claimed Cat CEO Jim Owens said “that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off." Whether the president was just overeager or there was some miscommunication, Owens later set the record straight ...

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For retail sales, a tiny reversal

The latest bit of bright news is Friday’s report that retail sales rose 1 percent in January over December. The Wall Street Journal says economists attribute the blip – following six consecutive months of falling retail sales – “to discounting and easier automobile-financing terms in January. Sales of cars, electronics and clothes all were up. Year-over-year, January retail sales decreased 9.7%.” For a dose of reality, the weekly roundup from Bob Costello, chief economist at the ...

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Chapter 11 for Sirius XM?

  The graph of Sirius XM Radio stock looks like a runaway truck descending a mean mountain pass. News reports today speculate the escape ramp might take the form of Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.   CNN.Money.com reported that shares plunged again Wednesday, to 6 cents, following reports late Tuesday that the company might try bankruptcy protection to avoid a takeover by Charlie Ergen, the chairman of satellite-television provider Dish Network and set-top box maker EchoStar. The New ...

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Next on Obama’s plate: Mexico

President Obama has made much of reversing his predecessor’s decisions, and the next big enchilada could be cross-border trucking. News reports indicate the pilot program with Mexico is part of the Department of Transportation's appropriations bill, which the Senate will be discussing this week. Reports David Hendricks of the Houston Chronicle: “The talk on the streets of Washington is about how the Obama administration treats cross-border trucking will be a litmus test on bilateral relations with ...

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Offering more than the other guy

Overdrive’s 2007 Trucker of the Year, two-truck fleet owner Henry Albert, knows that other independents, as well as bigger fleets, can do what he does. And in the current environment, ranking behind the competition isn’t a good idea.   “The amount of freight available is falling away at the same rate as trucking companies,” said Albert, who this week stopped for a breakfast at the T/A on I-59/20 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where Overdrive is based. Senior ...

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Will haul crutches for food

One wee bit of good news from the Institute for Supply Management today: The service sector is shrinking slower than it was in December. "The NMI (Non-Manufacturing Index) registered 42.9 percent in January, 2.8 percentage points higher than the seasonally adjusted 40.1 percent registered in December, indicating contraction in the non-manufacturing sector for the fourth consecutive month, but at a slightly slower rate,” reports ISM. Even better news is for those tied to two sectors: Health ...

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