Max Heine

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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.

Read More

Take that job and love it

Last year saw 3,065 carriers of at least five trucks go out of business, according to Avondale Partners, a financial group that does a widely reported count of fleet closures. That’s 766 per quarter.             So the bright spot? That only 375 carriers bit the dust in the fourth quarter, notes Economist Bob Costello in his Jan. 9 report for the American Trucking Associations. As he notes, the crazy drop in diesel prices might have saved ...

Read More