February 2013

FREIGHT RISING. According to the American Trucking Associations, freight tonnage rose nearly 4% in November. This represents a turnaround from the same period last year and is part of a year to date trend of moderate gains. According to the ATA report, Hurricane Sandy affected tonnage readings in both October and November, slowing shipping among fleets but resulting in an increase in flatbed hauling as rebuilding efforts continue.

TRUCKING FATALITIES UP. While the NHTSA figures released in December of 2012 showed a steep decline in overall traffic fatalities actually reflecting the safest year in recent memory, trucking fatalities as a separate category rose. In 2011, 32,367 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States—the lowest number of fatalities since 1949, when there were 30,246 fatalities. This was a 1.9-percent decline, from 32,999 in 2010, according to NHTSA’s 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). While this is good news overall, the news for the trucking industry was less than stellar.

In accidents which involved large trucks, there was a 1.9% increase in fatalities overall, yet this masks the real tragedy that among truck occupants there was a 20% rise in deaths over 2011. Occupants in other vehicles saw a decline in fatalities. This report only legitimizes the need for more vigilance in safe driving practices as drivers themselves are the category most at risk. Other categories where fatalities increased included motorcycle accidents and accidents related to distracted driving.

DIESEL DOWN. Just about the time you read this you may be saying “those were the days.” With fuel prices as volatile as they are, we hesitate to even take a story to press. This having been said, the price of diesel dropped considerably in the middle of December plunging to its lowest level of the year according to the Department of Energy.

ALSO FUELING INTEREST. While visiting the Department of Energy website, we could not help but notice the statistics for the United State’s dependence on foreign oil. Since the beginning of 2009, there has been a steady decline in foreign oil imports as a share of domestic consumption. The U.S. now gets less than half of our oil from foreign producers—45% for 2011, as opposed to 60% in the years 2005 and 2006. Don’t expect this to have any significant impact at the pump; oil, gas, and diesel is bought and sold on world markets, and as demand increases in countries such as India, Brazil, and China, the long term trend for fuel prices remains bleak.

HEAVY HAULING? Any chance a driver can lose weight while constantly on the road? This seems to be a hot topic on a number of trucker’s websites. Considering that most all truck stops serve fast food, and schedules leave little time for exercise, weight loss while driving is a challenge indeed. Overall, any time you can cut back on certain carbs, do so; this means watch your bread input, avoid sodas and energy drinks, and especially fries. Another helpful suggestion we ran across included the idea that parking as far as possible away from buildings—and walking. Keep in mind, it is impossible to lose weight if you are eating fast food and not getting any exercise. Changing bad habits is the hardest part, but you can do it.

MUSIC OF THE MONTH. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – need some good sweet driving music? Isbell’s Alabama Pines, Tour of Duty, and TVA, all great roots music. This ain’t fake country, it is the real deal, no false cowboy stuff. Regardless of what you like to listen to, Isbell will not disappoint, after all, the only kind of art you can go down the road with is music.

“Keep an eye on where you’re going, and don’t forget where you came from.” –RR writer.