Truck tonnage up 2.4% in February
Truck tonnage rose 2.4% in February compared with the same period a year ago, and the American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was unchanged month over month at 115.3. February was the first month the index didn’t increase since July.
February’s increase was the sixth straight year-over-year gain and the largest over that period. In January, the index was up 0.9% from a year earlier. Year-to-date and compared with same period in 2021, tonnage is up 1.7%. Despite a string of gains, the index is still off 1.8% from March 2020 and down 4.2% from the all-time high in August 2019.
Diesel prices slide
The national average price of diesel fell 11.6 cents to $5.134 a gallon, according to Energy Information Administration data released this week. Diesel is up $1.52 a gallon since Jan. 10 and $1.94 compared to the same period last year.
On the spot market, the national average fuel surcharge was 65 cents a mile for van freight this week, down 4 cents compared to the previous week, according to DAT Freight & Analytics. A fuel surcharge calculated into broker-to-carrier spot rates posted on load boards.
While shippers have been focused on velocity and on-time service since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, high fuel prices have shifted the emphasis to transportation cost and load consolidation, writes Bill Cassidy in the Journal of Commerce.
Wave of imports headed to Southern California
The backlog of container ships is nearly half what it was at the start of the year but the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are bracing for another surge.
A report by Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis shows the queue of vessels outside the two ports or in transit from Asia is higher than expected for March. Given the approximate transit time of 2.5 weeks from Asia to southern California, the number of ships waiting to unload should exceed 100 by early April.
Ed DeNike, president of Long Beach terminal operator SSA Containers, said the source of congestion in southern California continues to be warehouses. Meanwhile, the ports postponed a dwell fee on companies whose import containers linger at marine terminals, citing progress in reducing the number of containers at the terminals.
Court reinstates independent contractor definition
A federal judge in Texas ruled that the “independent contractor” definition published in the final days of the Trump administration must be reinstated because the current Dept. of Labor did not give enough time to comment on new rulemaking.
Last May, theDept. of Labor announced the withdrawal of a definition that would have raised the bar for employers to prove independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiffs—a coalition of businesses including the American Trucking Associations—argued that the 19-day comment period was insufficient. The judge agreed.
The Trump administration favored an “economic reality” test to determine a worker’s status as an employee or an independent contractor. The rule set up two “core factors” in making the determination: nature and degree of control over work, and opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment. The court ruling reinstates this definition of independent contractor as opposed to the conventional “ABC test.”
FMCSA extends COVID HOS declaration
The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended the COVID-19 emergency declaration that exempts haulers of certain commodities from maximum driving time limits in the federal hours of service regulations. Now effective through May 31, the exemption applies to drivers hauling food, medical supplies, vaccines, fuel, and commodities related to COVID treatment, vaccination, and detection. Carriers operating under the terms of the declaration are required to report their use of it to FMCSA within five days of the end of each month. The agency said it does not anticipate extending this waiver beyond April 15.