Economy

Recovery on the back burner

As recently as April, manufacturing still looked mostly bad, notes the latest weekly roundup from Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. April output grew for autos, paper, wood products and nonmetallic mineral products. It shrunk for furniture, primary metal and fabricated metal products. From a year ago, manufacturing production was down 14 percent in April. Inventory still has a ways to go before demand strengthens. The combined manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade inventories dwindled ...

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Oink!

 As one of my former editors was fond of saying, “The stuck pig squeals the loudest.” You can hear a little squealing from the headquarters of pork consumption, Washington, D.C., in this blog entry from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He tries to discredit a recent Associated Press report saying that federal stimulus spending on transportation-related projects appears headed for counties of low unemployment, not high. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” says LaHood of the ...

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Some positive trends for the first quarter

First quarter figures from ATBS show a few encouraging notes. Among all hauling segments, clients of the Denver-based owner-operator accounting firm saw average income rise from $3,892 in January to $4,074 in March, due in large part to low fuel prices. Flatbedders had a steady rise in miles, from 7,216 in January to 8,303 in March. ATBS President Todd Amen says their lot has improved, but they’re still struggling. “I don’t think we are into any ...

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Credit card bill moves to Senate

Legislation that would remedy much of the credit card industry’s consumer abuses is closer to reality. It was approved by the House last week and now is before the Senate. As mentioned earlier in this space, it would eliminate abrupt, huge increases in interest rates and prevent other tactics that consumer advocates have called for. It’s about time. For too long, credit card agreements, filled with wide rivers of microscopic, self-serving type have allowed card issuers ...

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Topics for coming webinars

Well over 100 owner-operators turned out Wednesday evening for Overdrive’s first webinar. Kevin Rutherford, our Dollars & Sense columnist and the host of ATBS Trucking Business & Beyond on Sirius XM, had a lot to say about “Surviving a difficult economy.” The overall reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and that’s saying a lot, coming from a group that doesn’t mind sounding off about anything that rubs them the wrong way.   Listeners viewing the free web presentation also ...

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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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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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