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One sure way to increase profits is understanding in and outs of fuel surcharge



One sure way to increase profits is understanding in and outs of fuel surcharge
Every truck owner, whether operating under their own authority or leased to a carrier as an independent contractor, should be aware of the exact amount of the surcharge for each load. (The Trucker file photo)

For many truck owners, independence means freedom. When you own your own tractor, you can go for the bigger engine. The dual exhaust. The long hood and the fancy chrome bumper.

Truck owners have more freedom in how they choose to drive, too. Company idle standards don’t apply, and in many cases, neither do company speed limits.

One advantage those carriers have with their plain vanilla tractors is that they can maximize fuel efficiency. That’s something that savvy truck owners should be thinking about, too.

There are a lot of reasons why saving fuel is important to a small trucking business, but one you may not have thought about is maximizing fuel surcharge payments. Many drivers look at fuel surcharges as another line on their settlements without realizing that the payment can help them reduce their out-of-pocket per-gallon fuel cost.

Every truck owner, whether operating under their own authority or leased to a carrier as an independent contractor, should be aware of the exact amount of the surcharge for each load. Many carriers accomplish this with a surcharge chart that allows each owner to determine the surcharge payment for each mile. These are usually based on average diesel fuel prices published each Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration ( As fuel prices rise and fall, so do fuel surcharges.

It’s important to understand that carriers and shippers calculate fuel surcharges based on an average miles per gallon (mpg) figure. In simple terms, if the fuel surcharge is based on a fleet average of 7 mpg but your truck achieves more than the average, you’re generating additional revenue for your business. That’s because the surcharge amount is calculated based on trip miles – it doesn’t change based on your truck’s fuel consumption.

When fuel prices are high and surcharges are at a peak, it’s possible to cut your out-of-pocket fuel cost in half, or even lower.

Consider a 1,000-mile trip. If your truck achieves 7 mpg, you’ll burn 143 gallons of fuel. If the price of diesel fuel is $2.55, your fuel cost for that trip, at 7 mpg, would be $364.65. If you receive a fuel surcharge of $0.15 per mile, you’ll get $150.00 in fuel surcharge for that trip, reducing your fuel cost to $214.65.

But, if your tractor achieves 9 mpg, you will only consume 111 gallons of fuel for the dispatch. At $2.55 per gallon, your initial cost would be $283.05, a savings of $81.35 from our example above. Subtract the $150 total fuel surcharge from $283.05 and you’ll get $133.05. That’s your final cost for the 111 gallons of fuel you burned on the 1,000-mile trip. That’s a fuel price of less than $1.20 per gallon. The secret to making fuel surcharges pay is getting better fuel mileage than the fleet average used to calculate the surcharge..

If you can increase your fuel efficiency, you’ll burn less fuel AND you’ll pay less for the fuel you burn. The higher the price of fuel, the greater the potential savings to the owner-operator. In fact, when fuel prices are highest, it’s possible to realize a final fuel cost of ZERO.

Taking full advantage of surcharges, however, means adopting many of the practices of the larger carriers. Reducing speed and keeping idle time to a minimum can have a huge impact on fuel mileage. Out of route miles don’t generate revenue and they don’t generate fuel surcharge income, either. The most efficient route is usually the best one. Trucks with sloped hoods, wind fairings, low-profile tires and aftermarket aero treatments like flow-through mud flaps and hub caps will generally get better mileage.

If you lease equipment to a carrier and you’ll be pulling their trailers, ask how the trailers are equipped for aerodynamics. Trailers that aren’t equipped with side skirts, undercarriage “scoops” or collapsible “tails” will require more fuel to pull, at your expense.

When leasing to a carrier or signing an agreement with a customer, be sure you understand how the fuel surcharge is calculated, what it’s based on and when you’ll be paid. Unfortunately, some carriers can be very ambiguous about how the fuel surcharge is paid, so be careful about leasing equipment to a carrier who can’t clearly explain the surcharge.

The fuel surcharge was developed to help carriers and shippers cope with fluctuating fuel prices. By understanding how it works and making it work to your advantage, you can add revenue to your bottom line.


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Georgia seaports set new record cargo volumes in 2019



Georgia seaports set new record cargo volumes in 2019
Georgia's seaports are reporting record cargo volumes that moved across their docks in the 2019 calendar year. (Courtesy: Georgia Port Authority)

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The amount of cargo moving through Georgia’s seaports reached record levels in the past year, in part because of continued growth fueled by larger ships traversing the expanded Panama Canal, the Georgia Ports Authority’s top executive said Jan. 28.

The state-operated ports in Savannah and Brunswick handled a total of 38.5 million tons of imports and exports in calendar 2019, the agency reported. That’s an increase of 4.3% compared to last year.

The number of cargo containers, large metal boxes used to ship goods from consumer electronics to frozen chickens, moving across the docks at the Port of Savannah also reached record highs last year. The port handled 4.6 million container units through December, up 5.6% from 2018.

Griff Lynch, the port authority’s executive director, attributed much of the 2019 growth to the expansion of the Panama Canal that opened nearly four years ago. He said shippers are still increasing the size of the vessels using the route, funneling more cargo to the East Coast.

“On the container side, I think it still comes down to the expansion of the canal,” Lynch said. “We’re still enjoying the fruits of that.”

Savannah is the fourth-busiest U.S. port for shipping containerized cargo, behind only the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing a $973 million deepening of the shipping channel that connects Savannah’s port to the Atlantic Ocean to make room for the larger ships. Work on the projects second half began in September and is expected to be complete by the end of 2021.

A boost in automobile exports also helped to grow Georgia’s cargo volumes last year. GM and Volvo began exporting vehicles through Savannah last year, with Volvo also shipping cars through Brunswick. Overall, the ports moved more than 657,000 cars, trucks and tractors, up 2 percent from 2018.

Lynch said tariff increases last year during the U.S. trade war with China likely slowed the Georgia ports’ 2019 growth.

Now he expects Georgia to benefit after President Donald Trump signed the first part of a new U.S.-China trade agreement in which China has pledged to buy more U.S. agricultural products.

“We think that’s going to be a big deal for us,” Lynch said. “We’re already seeing it. Poultry is starting to move again, and that has been flat for several years.”

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ATA Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.3% in 2019



Ata truck tonnage index increased 3.3% in 2019
After falling 3.4% in November 2019, the Truck Tonnage Index recovered in December, posting a 4% monthly increase. (courtesy: ATA)

ARLINGTON, Vir. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.3% in 2019, about half the annual gain in 2018 (6.7%). The increase was the tenth consecutive year in which the tonnage index has risen above the previous year.
The advanced SA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 4% in December after falling 3.4% in November. In December, the index equaled 118.2 (2015=100) compared with 113.6 in November.
“Last year was not a terrible year for for-hire truck tonnage, and despite the increase at the end of the year, 2019 was very uneven for the industry,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The overall annual gain masks the very choppy freight environment throughout the year, which made the market feel worse for many fleets. In December, strong housing starts helped advance the index forward.” It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.
November’s reading was revised down slightly compared with the December 2019 data. In December 2018, the SA index rose 3%, which was preceded by a 2% year-over-year drop in November.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage hauled by the fleets before seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.7 in December, 2% below the November level (115.1). In calculating the index, 100 represents the index from 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.

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ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index: Rates slip amid strong holiday freight



Act research for-hire trucking index: rates slip amid strong holiday freight
For-hire index rates slip, but signs of freight recovery in 2020 "encouraging" (©2020 FOTOSEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. – The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index showed improvement in for-hire freight volumes and utilization. The data used in the Index included December. Respectively, the data indicated 55.5 and 52.3 diffusion index readings, both up four points from November on a seasonally adjusted basis. But even as for-hire capacity contracted again, the Freight Rates Index slid to 48.7 in December.
The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat level is 50.
Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst commented, “We see encouraging signs that the freight downturn is in its late stages and the market will rebalance in 2020. However, the ongoing rate pressure, even as volumes ramped into the holidays, is symptomatic of ongoing excess industry capacity. Our survey respondents clearly get it, and reduced capacity for a sixth straight month, so we can pretty easily deduce that private fleet capacity additions through year-end 2019 are the main factor continuing to pressure for-hire rates.”
The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for the direction of truck volumes and contract rates quarterly through 2020, with three years of annual forecasts for the truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal segments of the transportation industry. For the truckload spot market, the report provides forecasts for the next twelve months.
In 2019, the average accuracy of ACT’s truckload spot rate forecasts was 98%. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s economics expertise to provide anticipated freight rates, helping businesses in transportation and logistics management plan with confidence.

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