BLOG: Overdrive Extra

Landstar rides out the storm

When the economy’s in a tailspin, some observers like to speculate that the owner-operator is about to become an endangered species. Indeed, many contractors have fallen out in recent months, but there’s no doubt about the potential for good operators to make money. The biggest owner-operator fleet, Landstar Systems, recently announced it earned $14 million in the first quarter. Granted, that’s 41 percent less than a year ago, due to decreased revenue in a serious ...

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Diesel: Cheaper than gasoline?

If you’re still smarting over last year’s outrageous diesel prices, you can take a little comfort in a prediction from the U.S. Department of Energy. The feds forecast diesel will average $2.19 over 2009, and $2.51 in 2010. “The expected continuing decline in diesel fuel consumption in the United States this year as well as the growing weakness in distillate fuel usage outside the United States are projected to result in a narrowing of refining ...

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Protecting your plastic

I doubt there are many Americans who haven’t been stung by greedy credit card companies’ sneaky tricks of raising interest rates for lame reasons to levels well over 20 percent in some cases. Owner-operators have more than their share of whelps. You often having to rely on credit while far from home. When the economy’s tough, it’s easy to fall behind on bills, a sure trigger for higher interest rates. A tremendous consumer backlash over the issue ...

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Truck maker chiefs buck income trend

Daniel Ustian and Mark Piggott were among a handful of trucking-related CEOs included in the annual Wall Street Journal CEO compensation survey released today.   A photo of Ustian, head of Navistar International, made a front-page graphic due to his compensation rising almost five-fold, to $6.5 million, in 2008 – a year when average top CEO compensation fell. One of the stories, quoting a Navistar spokesman, attributed the large hike to Ustian’s “relatively low 2007 compensation ...

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Smile for the traffic camera

Traffic cameras are being used for more than red light monitoring these days. The Wall Street Journal gives an excellent update on how cities are increasingly using them to catch speeders and others by way of reading license plates.   The core app of red-light spying is still popular. And profitable. Tiny Schaumburg, Ill., put a camera at a mall and issued $1 million in citations for red-light runners over three months, The Journal reports.   There’s ...

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Hurray for homebuilding, retail and manufacturing

  Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press this week notes that five key economic areas show potential early signs of a turnaround, in spite of continuing signs of worsening problems.   Three of the five directly impact trucking: new homes, retail sales and durable goods. Each also was accompanied with a “reality check” reminding readers of the ongoing bad news, of which there is no shortage. The other two areas were existing home sales and Wall Street.   Looking ...

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Schneider raises the bar on applicants

 Schneider National is taking a variety of measures, some different than their competitors’, to cope with the downturn. Last week at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., the VP for driver recruiting, Michael Hinz, reviewed Schneider's latest developments with me and Linda Longton, the editorial chief for all our magazines here at Randall Reilly Publishing. One big change is closing the door on inexperienced drivers, Hinz said. Unless you have six months’ fairly recent driving ...

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Economic news not all bad

Following are items that came our way in the last several days. Hey, it’s not all gloom and doom. Of the four, two anticipate positive change in trucking:   The current glut of trucking capacity won’t last too long, says Chief Economist Bob Costello of the American Trucking Associations. He notes that thousands of fleets have gone belly-up, those truckload carriers that are surviving have been downsizing for a few years, and the driver shortage will return ...

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Bright spots few and far between

  There’s plenty of bad news from the economy-watchers at the Institute of Supply Management. As the headline for the February roundup of manufacturing stats says: “New Orders, Production, Employment and Inventories Contracting.”   No surprise there. So for what it’s worth, here are a few shiny needles among the haystack:   Factory output is still shrinking, but not as fast as in January. “ISM's Production Index registered 36.3 percent in February, which is an increase of 4.2 ...

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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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