By Cain Adams
Trinity Logistics/Longboard Logistics
Lower shipping volumes, weather changes and truckers scrambling to figure out the next few weeks of spot freight is a good thing. It means we can gain a bit of ground on rates.
Flatbeds will be used on southern routes after Oct. 15. Wyoming night lows are in the low 20s, and a touch of snow fell on Idaho Falls on Oct. 11. Snow is going to hit the Rockies this week, which will have reefers heading home to grab their chains.
Shippers will be into the storage crop, and thicker skins will be noticed. Thank goodness. This means rail will get used a bit more. This month, we think rail will take some pressure off trucks. For customers, the hard part, right now, is finding the right product.
The heat really hit the fields hard this year. Jason Vee of Vee’s Marketing and I met up in Washington a few weeks ago to see the harvest. Mostly, we saw sizing was off. What I loved about the trip was how honest everyone was. Every farmer said the same thing and had nothing to hide. “Size and yield will be off,” they said.
By how much? I have no idea. That’s not my part of the business. I can say all sheds were doing their best to put the best product they could in each bag, though. They were working their tails off and were being careful to social distance. COVID can affect a shed quickly, and with labor shortages everybody is important.
In Idaho and Oregon, we are seeing the same deal. Sheds are trying to get filled and figure out what they have to sell. We think January/February is going to get interesting, and Texas becomes a big player. Let’s hope for good weather this year for them. They had a tough go last year, and a good year could really help their overhead, I’m sure.
Rates for reefers will be higher than normal in November. We have seen an average of about $3.40-$4 per mile, so be sure you do not underbid just to get the business. We don’t know what the weather will look like, and if we get hit by storms, it may push up over the $4/mile rate. Just be careful.
Christmas freight is already moving. We think so many stores closing down the past few years have created an overseas “just in time” inventory. Bricks and mortar stores like Kmart and Toys R Us could stockpile inventory.
Now, many of those stores are closed, which means less storage space. Customers now order online goods which are built overseas. The warehouse now is on boats. All those ships are now the storage facility waiting in line to be unloaded.
“Just in time.” Crazy, right? It may be a few years before the big box stores figure out that they need to increase their warehouse capacity to alleviate the crunch.
We are also seeing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cracking down more on drugs and alcohol testing. This may take more drivers out of service, putting more pressure on freight. We are monitoring this and should know how much it affects the industry for 2022.
It took 50,000 drivers off the road last year. The hard part is replacing those drivers. Higher pay and more time at home has been the carrot. Driver schools are recruiting hard but having a hard time. The state of Washington is working to train drivers who are 18 years of age. This is a test to see how they do. Right now, a driver has to be 21 years old.
There is also a military pilot starting up. According to the FMCSA,
“The pilot program will study the safety records of covered drivers with military training and experience when compared to older, non-military drivers over the study period. At the conclusion of the study, the Secretary of Transportation will submit to Congress a report describing the findings of the pilot program and the recommendations regarding the age limitations for CDL drivers.”
The FAST Act defines covered drivers as:
- Those 18, 19, and 20 years old
- Members or former members of the armed forces, including Reserve and National Guard components.
Keep treating those drivers at your loading and unloading docks well. They are in short supply and working hard to get things done. As always, we appreciate you for doing your part. Keep America moving!
PLEASE NOTE ONIONBUSINESS WILL BE OFFLINE FOR MAINTENANCE THE WEEKEND OF OCT. 16-17 AS WE PREPARE FOR OUR NEW WEBSITE LAUNCH TO COME IN NOVEMBER.