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FTR analysis confirms tonnage surplus in U.S. trade with Mexico

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A truck crosses the border between Mexico and the United States in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. FTR estimates that truck loads into and out of Mexico make up just 1.5% of all U.S. truck loadings, but that share has risen by about 50% since 2009. (Associated Press: HANS-MAXIMO MUSIELIK)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Although the U.S. goods trade deficit with Mexico is about $80 billion, the U.S. has a longstanding trade surplus with Mexico in terms of rail tonnage and a growing truck tonnage surplus over the past three years, according to just-completed analysis by FTR.

Using the Freight•cast forecasting model, FTR translated value-based trade data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics into transportation tonnage and loadings to and from Mexico and Canada.

The forecasting firm’s analysis of cross-border trade data has been ongoing for several months and happened to conclude around the time President Trump announced tariffs on all imports from Mexico, effective June 10.

“With China continuing to be problematic, we know that there had been some shifting of sourcing to Mexico, so potential tariffs on Mexican imports raise important questions,” said Eric Starks, chairman and CEO of FTR. “Either we lose this freight, see increased costs, or both.”

The U.S. rail sector has run a significant surplus of tonnage into Mexico for years, but U.S.-Mexico truck tonnage had been more balanced until 2016, when the U.S. trucking sector posted its first meaningful surplus since 2008. The picture looks a bit different regarding loads into and out of Mexico. Rail loadings are volatile year to year, but the U.S. runs a deficit of truck loads to the tune of about 800,000 a year.

Rail movements into and out of Mexico represent about 3.2% of all U.S. rail moves, and that portion has grown steadily since 2009. Excluding intermodal, U.S.-Mexico traffic represents about 5.5% of total U.S. rail moves, and that number has nearly doubled since 2009.

FTR estimates that truck loads into and out of Mexico make up just 1.5% of all U.S. truck loadings, but that share has risen by about 50% since 2009.

“Rail is more exposed than truck even though it has a smaller portion of overall crossborder freight,” Eric Starks said. “Changes in freight would be felt quicker by the rail sector. If we assume a retaliation by Mexico, rail could be hit further because Mexico potentially has other ready sources for some of the most important rail exports to Mexico, such as fuel and grain.”

With truck, while the share of overall truck volume dedicated to Mexico is small, a big piece of that are parts for vehicles, computers, and machinery.

“If the trucking freight went away, that in itself would not be a death knell for trucking, but the broader issue is the exponential impact on U.S. manufacturing,” Starks said.

FTR will discuss some of its top level findings during a complimentary State of Freight webinar on Key Issues in Transportation, scheduled for June 13.

To register, visit http://www.ftrintel.com/webinars. A more comprehensive analysis will also be available later this month to subscribers of FTR’s State of Freight INSIGHTS series.

For information on how to subscribe to State of Freight INSIGHTS and other FTR products, visit www.ftrintel.com or contact FTR by email at sales@ftrintel.com or by phone at 888-988-1699, ext. 1.

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Spot rates, volumes stay firm after International Roadcheck

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Reefer markets with load-to-truck ratios above 20 to 1 last week included Tallahassee, Florida; Albuquerque, New Mexico, Amarillo, Texas; El Paso, Texas; and Lubbock, Texas. (Courtesy: DAT TRENDLINES)

PORTLAND, Ore. — The number of truck posts on the spot truckload freight market jumped 14% during the week ending June 16, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest load board network.

The increase is in line with expectations following CVSA’s International Roadcheck, the annual enforcement initiative, which tends to have a dampening effect on available capacity.

With the number of load posts down 10% last week, load-to-truck ratios declined for all three equipment types.

Still, national average spot rates were above May averages, and van and refrigerated freight volumes were each up nearly 20% compared to the previous week.

National average spot rates through June 16 were:

  • Van: $1.90/mile, 11 cents higher than the May average
  • Reefer: $2.26/mile, 11 cents higher
  • Flatbed: $2.32/mile, 4 cents higher

Van trends

The national average van load-to-truck ratio dipped from 3.8 to 3.0 and rates were lower on 61 of the top 100 van lanes by volume. However, several major van markets including Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago were up significantly in terms of available loads.

Demand was strong in the Southeast and West. The average outbound van rate from Memphis, Tennessee, was up 8 cents to $2.33/mile, as was Los Angeles at $2.31/mile. Van lanes with gains included:

  • Memphis to Columbus, Ohio, up 24 cents to $2.23/mile
  • Stockton, California., to Portland, Oregon, up 18 cents to $2.86/mile
  • Los Angeles to Seattle, up 15 cents to $2.72/mile
  • Charlotte to Buffalo, up 15 cents to $2.54/mile

It’s almost always good news when rates rise in both directions on lanes in the same region of the country, as they did on a handful of van lanes that connect Memphis, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta. Memphis to Charlotte paid $2.16/mile, up 6 cents, and Charlotte to Memphis paid $1.65, up 3 cents, for a roundtrip average of $1.91/mile. That’s up 9 cents compared to the previous week.

Even when rates dropped in one direction, the roundtrips improved over the previous week’s averages. Memphis to Atlanta went for $2.50, up 10 cents, but Atlanta to Memphis paid $1.86/mile, down 3 cents. The roundtrip average was $2.18, up 7 cents compared to the previous week.

Reefer trends

While the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio dropped from 6.4 to 4.5, volumes increased out of both California and Texas, signs that produce season is on. Average outbound reefer rates were higher in Sacramento, California ($2.76/mile), Ontario, California, ($2.80/mile), and Fresno, California ($2.46/mile) — three of the top four California markets (Los Angeles fell 2 cents to $2.93/mile).

Freight volumes were up more than 40% out of Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexico border. The largest reefer lane-rate increase was Nogales to Dallas, up 49 cents to $3.36/mile.

DAT Trendlines is a weekly snapshot of month-to-date national average rates from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $60 billion in freight payments. DAT load boards average 1.2 million load posts searched per business day.

For the latest spot market loads and rate information, visit www.dat.com/trendlines and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.

 

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Cargo Transporters initiates Acres of Diamonds…Focus on Home Program

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With Acres of Diamonds…Focus on Home, Cargo Transporters makes it possible for drivers to get home in less time when their shift ends or to stay home for a few more hours before reporting to work. (Courtesy: CARGO TRANSPORTERS)

CLAREMONT, N.C. — Cargo Transporters, an asset-based transportation operation, Tuesday introduced its Acres of Diamonds…Focus on Home Program.

The new recruiting and retention initiative will allow drivers to be closer to home when they finish a shift or have downtime in their schedules, and to take part in community and company events, according to COO Jerry Sigmon Jr.

“Acres of Diamonds…Focus on Home is aimed at lowering our already low turnover rate of 42% because we believe that drivers who live in or near our terminal communities are more likely to stay with the company,” Sigmon said. “Just as importantly, the recruiting and retention campaign reflects our corporate culture that has always embraced the importance of focusing on home, family and community. By carrying that same way of thinking over to our drivers we know they will be more likely to stay with us.”

With Acres of Diamonds…Focus on Home, Sigmon said Cargo Transporters makes it possible for drivers to get home in less time when their shift ends or to stay home for a few more hours before reporting to work. In addition, if there is a schedule change or scheduled vehicle maintenance, drivers who live closer to a terminal can go home and relax with their families.

As part of the program, Cargo Transporters is offering a $2,500 bonus to any employee who refers a driver located near its terminal locations in Claremont, Rocky Mount and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The name Acres of Diamonds refers to a motivational lecture by Russell Conwell, a popular public speaker in the 1800s. The story is about the misfortunes of seeking opportunities elsewhere instead of focusing on your own backyard.

“Acres of Diamonds was mentioned by one of our drivers in an employee survey,” Sigmon said. “As soon as we heard its message about being open to the opportunities that are around us, we knew we needed to quit focusing on a national level and focus on hiring locally.”

Based in Claremont, North Carolina, Cargo Transporters, Inc is an asset-based, transportation operation with 48-state intrastate and interstate common and contract authority. Cargo Transporters operates a fleet of 525 trucks and 1,700 trailers, and employs over 700 people.

For more information, visit www.cargotransporters.com.

 

 

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ATA truck tonnage index declines 6.1% in May

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ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 6.1% in May after jumping 7% in April. In May, the index equaled 114 (2015=100) compared with 121.4 in April. “As expected, tonnage corrected in May from the surprising surge in April,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The economy is still growing, but the recent volatility in truck tonnage fits with a broader economy that is showing more mixed signals. The good news is if you ignore recent highs and lows, tonnage appears to be leveling off, albeit at a high level.” April’s reading was revised down compared with our May press release. Compared with May 2018, the SA index increased 0.9%, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2017. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 119.1 in May, 1.5% above April level (117.4). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes. ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the drop in the tonnage index shows the economy is still growing, but the recent volatility in truck tonnage fits with a broader economy that is showing more mixed signals. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 6.1% in May after jumping 7% in April. In May, the index equaled 114 (2015=100) compared with 121.4 in April.

“As expected, tonnage corrected in May from the surprising surge in April,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The economy is still growing, but the recent volatility in truck tonnage fits with a broader economy that is showing more mixed signals. The good news is if you ignore recent highs and lows, tonnage appears to be leveling off, albeit at a high level.”

April’s reading was revised down compared with our May press release.

Compared with May 2018, the SA index increased 0.9%, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2017.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 119.1 in May, 1.5% above April level (117.4). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

 

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the drop in the tonnage index shows the economy is still growing, but the recent volatility in truck tonnage fits with a broader economy that is showing more mixed signals.

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