Editor's Journal

A little good news

Trucking reports take a turn to the positive side

It’s been a long time since there has been as much positive news revolving around the transportation industry as we have witnessed of late. Here are a few of the headlines from a June 9 Google search: “Wanted: 400,000 Truck Drivers,” “Trucking Jobs Added in May” and “U.S. Truck Rates Are Soaring.”

The late spring surge is something of a surprise. Earlier forecasts called for a slight uptick in the last two quarters of this year. Analysts are predicting a 4- to 6-percent increase in freight demand for the rest of the year.

The trucking industry is already talking major driver shortage. According to a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals report, the industry needs to hire about 200,000 additional drivers by the end of 2010 and a similar number by the end of 2011. This is because of increased freight demand, attrition and loss of drivers who will be weeded out by the government’s new CSA 2010 safety program.

Despite high unemployment figures, meeting the upcoming job demand won’t be easy. Many fleets will be more selective in their hiring because of the new regulations, and a premium will be put on finding experienced drivers. This is where another issue comes into play: how and where to find seasoned drivers. A lot of companies downsized their recruiting departments during the recession. Some fleets are still a little wary about growing too quickly until they have more confidence the economy has not only stabilized, but growth will return to a pre-recession norm.

Currently, capacity is fairly tight and freight rates are on the rise, in the range of about 10 percent overall and pushing 15 to 20 percent in some shipping lanes. All this is good news for drivers with good safety records. Some fleets are already beginning to raise driver wages, and that could increase significantly going into 2011, which many economists expect to be a decent year of growth.

Other good news included some publicly traded trucking companies beginning to see their stock shares increasing in value as independent experts upgrade their ratings. Equipment manufacturers and suppliers also are ramping up for what is expected to be a good 2010. Earlier this year, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said many fleets have figured, based on the average miles they would run in 2010, they would upgrade their trucks in 2011. It will be interesting to see if, due to the sudden increase in miles, truck sales in the fall and winter increase more than expected.

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While we may not see the explosive trucking upsurges we’ve experienced in past post-recessions — sometimes as much as 10 percent — the return of real growth to the trucking industry is a relief. After more than three years of tough traveling, hopefully we’ll enjoy some smoother roads ahead. That’s welcome news for all.

Hoffa Urban Legend Buried 13 Feet Under

July 30 marks the 35th anniversary of the disappearance of former International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Jimmy R. Hoffa, one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century.

There have been many theories as to what happened to the labor leader. Most prevalent is that he was killed by the mob after attempting to regain control of the union following time served in prison for jury tampering, bribery and fraud. Reportedly, the Mafia found his hand-picked successor, Frank Fitzsimmons, much easier to work with.

Hoffa was alleged to have scheduled a meeting with two Mafia leaders, Anthony Giacolone and Anthony Provenzano, on July 30, 1975, at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Mich. He phoned his wife from the parking lot and told her he had been stood up. That was the last time anyone heard from him. He was declared legally dead in 1982.

While there is little doubt Hoffa met a tragic end, exactly what happened to his body remains unknown. The most outlandish rumor is that Hoffa was cut up and buried in the west end zone of Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

This past spring, Giants Stadium was demolished. The FBI showed no interest in being there to look for Hoffa’s body. Due to a lack of credible evidence, the agency had long ago excluded the site as his final resting place. The site of the bowl stadium was covered in 13 feet of concrete and asphalt and is now a parking lot for the new stadium next door. While the search for Hoffa continues, the most enduring urban legend of the mystery may finally have been laid to rest.

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