Max Heine

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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Fixing the credit score mess

The silly rules that credit card companies play by have gotten plenty of airing in recent years. Be a day late on your electric bill, and wham! That’s the sound of extra percentage points piled on top of an already high rate. Your credit score suffers, too. The good news is that Fair Isaac Corp., which developed the FICO score method of rating credit histories, will introduce a new version this spring called FICO 08. ...

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Clogged warehouses a bad sign for freight

Friday’s bad report on the fourth quarter’s Gross Domestic Product bodes ill for those who want to make a living moving freight in the coming months.   The economy contracted 3.8 percent in the final three months of 2008, according to the Commerce Department. But strip out production that merely inflated inventories, and the economy would have contracted 5.1 percent. Even with companies lopping off production like dead limbs, it wasn’t fast enough to compensate for ...

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When oil abounds, prices fall

Plug the low price of diesel and gasoline into the supply-and-demand formula, and it tells you supplies are plentiful. True enough, and they’re getting more plentiful by the day. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories jumped 6.2 million barrels from the previous week, almost twice what was expected, according to Wednesday’s report from the U.S. Energy Department. That’s thanks to the anemic world economy, which is requiring less energy. At this week’s NATSO Show 2009 in Nashville, truck ...

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Twitches of life in housing

Housing’s been down so long that it’s not hard to imagine it could begin to look like up. A few recent stats give that appearance, as a Wall St. Journal blog points out.   One is existing home sales rising 6.5 percent in December. The inventory of homes for sale has been dropping since July, and fell 13 percent in December.   Still, flatbedders don’t need to start whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again.” With tens of ...

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Next target: Heavy-duty trucks?

One of President Obama’s first moves was to prod the two agencies with the most influence over highway emissions into further tightening the regs.   On Jan. 26, he directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish higher fuel efficiency standards for carmakers' 2011 model year. He also asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review whether to grant California and 13 other states the right to impose a 30 percent reduction in vehicle emissions following the ...

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Werner did it. You can, too.

Werner Enterprises brought in 7 percent less money during the fourth quarter, when the economy was spiraling down the toilet, yet its net income went up 20 percent from a year ago. It accomplished this by reducing the size of its fleet and taking other cost-cutting measures, the company reported this week. Declining fuel prices helped, too. Just because you’re not a mega-fleet doesn’t mean you can’t get the same results in a downturn. You have ...

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Watch how fast fuel prices don’t change

The economy might be bumpier than I-10 in Louisiana, but according to the feds, diesel fuel prices are in for a long, stable ride.   “The EIA expects diesel prices to average $2.27 per gallon for all of 2009,” says the Energy Information Administration. EIA’s latest average price is $2.30 per gallon.   OK … and this confidence in price stability comes only five months after diesel averaged $4.76.   While not addressing diesel, a Lundberg survey of 5,000 ...

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Freight’s swan dive

December data is in from Cass Information Systems, and it looks like the year ended on a grand whimper.      After a modest pick-up during the first half of 2008, freight expenditures and shipments dropped in the second. The final months took an increasingly steep freefall, as you can see from the Cass chart:   www.cassinfo.com/frtindex.html     January is historically slow for trucking, so don’t be too surprised if things get worse.

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