owner-operator

Small business still hurting

 If you’ve caught the business news in recent days, you know there have been some positive signs. Home prices and sales, employment and other indicators are looking better, possibly meaning a bottoming out of the downturn. But when it comes to small business and credit, it’s still a mess, reports CNNMoney.com: “Bank lending is down, credit card interest rates are up, and the country's largest small business lender, CIT Group ... is hanging by a thread.” ...

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70 years in one minute

I was fortunate to be invited to Peterbilt’s 70th anniversary celebration at the Denton, Texas, headquarters this week. As part of a presentation to dealers and customers, the company presented this cool little video that shows many of the truck models morphing into each other, reflecting the changes over seven decades. Also, note the top two photos on the right for a glimpse at a few trucks that stand out in Peterbilt’s history. And if you haven't ...

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A rare roadside attraction on the Dalton

Faithful watchers of “Ice Road Truckers” this season know that there ain’t much between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. There’s a few state highway facilities for maintenance of the Haul Road, a few resort facilities (closed in winter) when you cross the Yukon River, and then Coldfoot Camp at roughly the halfway mark. (See the top four photos on the right.) It’s considered the world’s northernmost truck stop. There’s food, fuel, lodging and other amenities. When I ...

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Putting safety news in context

 The good report last week on 2008’s highway fatality numbers, including truck-related deaths, was a bit incomplete because of the highly unusual drop in vehicle miles traveled (VMT, in government-speak). Of course, that decline was due to months of outrageous fuel prices during late 2008. The press release from the American Trucking Associations conveniently failed to mention that factor, even though it did cite increased use of safety belts and the hours of service regs that ...

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Some bright spots in the supply chain

If you’re looking for good news, this morning’s report from the Institute for Supply Management has some: The overall economy grew in June. Warehouses are emptying out, which is good for trucking. Manufacturing failed to grow last month, though its rate of contraction is slowing. And seven of 18 industries did report growth to ISM: petroleum and coal products; printing and related support activities; wood products; nonmetallic mineral products; miscellaneous manufacturing; chemical products; and primary metals.  “Most ...

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Building permits among leading indicators

Today’s report on the Leading Economic Indicators is good news. It “increased sharply for the second consecutive month in May,” says The Conference Board. The strong points include some fiscal things, like interest rates and stock prices, but the positive freight-related items were building permits and, more indirectly, vendor performance and consumer expectations. “The index rose 1.2 percent (a 2.4 percent annual rate) between November 2008 and May 2009, the first time the index has increased over ...

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Prices: Down for truckload, up for diesel

If you’re thinking of getting your own authority for truckload hauling, think again. Or have some excellent contracts locked up before you jump. A June 8 conference call, hosted by Dahlman Rose & Co. with executives from five carriers (Cowan Systems, Fenway Partners, First Express and Roehl Transport), had little good news. “There was universal agreement that we are experiencing one of the worst pricing marketing in truckload history,” says Dahlman’s summary of the conference. The pressure ...

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June is bustin’ out

It seems that for economic news, June is bustin’ out all over, to cite the song from the old play, “Carousel.” Well, not all over, but there were some strong items announced June 1. I hope you’re seeing evidence in your freight. The overall economy grew for the first time following seven months of decline, according to executives surveyed in the latest manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management. Also, “May is the first month of ...

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Managing acres of reefer freight

What company supplies food to a third of all U.S. restaurants, cafeterias, and sports stadiums? If you pull a reefer, chances are you well know that it’s Houston-based Sysco, which each year ships 21.5 million tons of produce, meats and other food-related products. Fortune magazine has an detailed look at the “complex web of software, databases, scanning systems, and robotics” that enables one of the company’s distribution centers to turn over 11,000 items every 17 days. There’s ...

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Consumer confidence and housing

Your freight might be down, your dog might be snarling at you, but your fellow Americans are looking up, money-wise. At least relative to recent months, which isn’t saying too much. U.S. consumer confidence jumped in May to its highest level in eight months, according to the Conference Board, an industry group that measures this. It was the biggest one-month jump since April 2003. Likewise, the government’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators saw its first rise in ...

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