Pennsylvania hiking turnpike tolls | Spot market summer doldrums have arrived?

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, July 21, 2023:

Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls rise for 15th straight year

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) this week approved a 5% toll increase for 2024 for all E-ZPass and "Toll By Plate"  customers. The new rates will take effect across the toll-highway system on Jan. 7, 2024. 

The most-common toll for a tractor-trailer will increase from $14.40 to $15.20 for E-ZPass, and from $29.40 to $30.90 for "Toll By Plate." After the increase is applied, rates will round up to the nearest dime.  

“As in previous years, the PTC is obligated to raise rates annually as part of its legislative mandate to provide PennDOT supplemental funding for transit systems around the state as outlined by Act 44 of 2007,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “While these payments were once $450 million a year, they have been reduced to $50 million annually.” At once, because the Act 44 funding plan required borrowing by means of 30-year bonds, the PTC is obligated to increase tolls annually through at least 2053, PTC said. The 5% toll-rate increase for 2024 continues the Commission’s planned, multi-year reduction in annual rate hikes with a goal of getting to 3% in 2028.

“We recognize that our customers pay a premium when they choose to travel on the PA Turnpike,” Compton said. The commission hoped to  "provide a dependable, premium experience.”

Compton also noted that the PA Turnpike’s E-ZPass commercial rate of 55 cents per mile is 12% below the national average of 62 cents per mile, adding that “despite having to raise tolls every year for the past 15 years, the PA Turnpike is still less expensive than the national average.”

[Related: Toll roads on the rise: What's an operator's best electronic-collections option?]

Spot-market summer doldrums, despite volume boost post-July 4 

With any luck, a volume boost last week in spot markets has translated for some owner-operators to additional rates leverage, though signs suggest summer market doldrums have arrived. DAT Freight and Analytics reported a sizable surge in loads posted to the DAT One network, overall numbers growing by 29.1% last week compared to the prior holiday week to a total 1,382,220 loads posted.

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To put things in perspective, though, post volumes are lagging 2022 levels by a considerable amount -- for flatbeds, on the order of a negative 59% compared to the same week last year.

Truck posts, with carriers looking for loads, rose week over week, too, though slightly less than volumes. Still, load-to-truck ratios were fundamentally unchanged from the July 4 holiday week for all three major tracked segments.

Truckstop and FTR Transportation Intelligence reported similar dynamics in its weekly spot market snapshot for last week. 

Truckstop and FTR's spot market snapshot for post-July 4 weekRates have fallen mostly in line with movement in the five-year average the last several weeks, since FTR's Avery Vise declared freight markets essentially "at bottom" during this FTR State of Freight webcast. On the Truckstop load board, though volumes rebounded from July 4 holiday week lows, "the early summer peak season in the spot market was not especially strong," FTR reported, and "it appears to be over."

[Related: ELDs/location tracking making brokers more annoying? Or more efficient]

Inmate’s request for driver training regs relief denied

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied Robert Towle's exemption request seeking relief from portions of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations.

Towle, an inmate in the New Hampshire State Prison, sought an exemption on behalf of graduating students of the CDL Prep Class of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections’ Granite State High School (GSHS). The exemption would have allowed students to receive training from instructors who didn't meet the regulatory definition of “theory instructor;” and from a training provider not listed on the FMCSA's Training Provider Registry (TPR).

In his request, Towle said the exemptions would allow eligible students at GSHS to receive the requisite theory instruction in order to obtain their Commercial Learner’s Permit as a step toward job readiness as part of their community re-entry plan.

In denying the “theory instructor” exemption request, FMCSA noted the two years' experience as an operator required of instructors "is essential in providing appropriate theory instruction to entry-level drivers." 

FMCSA denied the request related to the Registry on grounds that Towle “did not provide sufficient evidence to establish that the exemption would provide an equivalent level of safety as compliance with the existing requirement," FMCSA said. 

FMCSA added that the Registry “is a critical piece of the ELDT program,” adding that “the TPR, by receiving and retaining driver certification information from training providers and relaying it to states prior to the issuance of a Class A or Class B [CDL], also ensures that individual CDL applicants receive [training] from a qualified training provider.”

[Related: Inmate seeks regs relief from driver training rules]

Rand McNally releases new MileMaker app

Rand McNally has released its new MileMaker Web App to provide access to its routing and mileage software with enhanced mapping and more than 33% more truck-specific data from anywhere.

The app is accessible from any browser on any desktop or mobile device and offers a variety of features:

  • Efficient door-to-door routing and mileage with customizable points of interest, midpoints and avoidances
  • Optimal routes based on your vehicles and business needs, including route optimization
  • Route by zip code, city, state, latitude/longitude, address or "Standard Point Location Code" -- and use them interchangeably
  • Accurate ETAs with accounting for traffic, up-to-date speed limits and more variables
  • Maps viewable with real-time traffic, weather and satellite overlays
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