Posts by SGI Editor

used commercial truck

Used truck prices ended 2021 at the highest level in the modern era

By Dean Croke

Last year was definitely one for the record books. Class 8 retail prices reached the highest level in the last seven years – so far. In the 2021, late model 3 to 5-year-old trucks brought 40.7% more than in 2020, and 21.4% more than in 2019, according Chris Visser at J.D. Power.

Trucks with warranty in the 3-year-old category – a favorite of new owner-operators entering the industry for the first time – brought 96.3% more money year-over-year at auction and 40.7% more at retail. The average price for 2018 year-model trucks sold at auction in December was $95,854, which was 3.3% lower than November but is still just over double auction prices a year ago.

J.D. Power reported higher auction volumes in December were driven by surprisingly strong new truck deliveries, as “companies taking delivery of long-awaited new trucks were probably eager to offload their older inventory.”

Around 280 used trucks were sold at auction in December, which is 44% lower than in December 2020 and 74% lower than the record-high 1,054 trucks auctioned off in June 2020, as the fallout from the pandemic rippled through the truckload sector. December’s auction results did catch some by surprise following the 16% month-over-month drop in the price of 4-year-old used trucks.

A sign that the market is turning?

The average price sold at auction in December was $73,305, which was $13,766 lower than November.

“We don’t consider December’s overall results evidence of a market shift, but we do consider the new truck delivery figure a surprise,” according to Visser.

Wards Intelligence reported 24,717 new Class 8 trucks were delivered in December, which was 38% higher than the 2021 average and the highest-volume month since September 2019. U.S. medium- and heavy-duty trucks finished the year 12.7% ahead of 2020, with only three months of negative sales, withstanding the challenges brought by the ongoing pandemic according to Wards Intelligence.

What’s 2022 have in store for used truck buyers?

Unprecedented freight demand plus manufacturing constraints on the supply side have created a once-in-a-lifetime scenario where carriers can’t add sufficient capacity even if they wanted to. Equipment manufacturers are in the same position – they can’t meet demand for new orders due to labor shortages and lack of parts availability.

“Most analysts predict the status quo through at least the first half of the year,” explained Visser. “Later in 2022, a relaxation of parts shortages and a return towards more typical economic activity could place downward pressure on used truck pricing.”

Strong freight rates hold the key, and while they’re at record-high levels, the used truck market should continue to absorb most of the available inventory, maintaining auction and retail prices at current levels.

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Infrastructure Bill Trucking

Increased holiday travel underscores deteriorating infrastructure

By Dean Croke

Last week, truckload dispatchers across the country were busy routing drivers home after shortening their radius of operation to keep them closer to home base. This week they’re doing the opposite. 

This period is regarded as one of the more challenging times of the year for carriers. It can be even more stressful for drivers anxious to spend time with family and friends, especially when freight demand is so high.

Earlier this month, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted highways will be jam-packed this year with an estimated 6.4 million more people traveling over Thanksgiving. This is up 13% compared to 2020. 

The recent opening of the U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers and higher vaccination rates created a sense of normalcy this Thanksgiving, which means truckers are seeing roads busier than usual. AAA estimated 53.4 million people traveled last week, which brought travel volumes within 5% of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

Travelers will also be driving on an Interstate Highway System that turned 65 years old — and showing its age — in June. The recent signing of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Deal by President Biden includes $110 billion to repair the nation’s highway, bridges and roads. 

Almost $40 billion will be allocated to repair, retrofit, and replace bridges alone. Structurally deficient and rough bridges have long been the bane of truckers making this investment welcome news. It’s also the largest investment in bridge infrastructure since the highway system was built. 

The 2021 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives our nation’s infrastructure a C minus. This makes it the first grade higher than the D range since the survey began in 1988. 

According to the reported 618,000 bridges across the United States, 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old. Also, 46,154 (or 7.5%) bridges are considered structurally deficient. That’s 6,000 miles worth of structurally deficient bridges.

A “structurally deficient“ bridge doesn’t mean the bridge currently poses a risk to safety or is likely to collapse. However, it does have cracks, damage, wear, or other problems that can lead to failure in the future if those issues aren’t resolved. 

The report also estimated over 40% of America’s roads are now in poor or mediocre condition. 

What does this mean for motor carriers?

Improving road conditions will benefit flatbed and specialized carriers the most. Unlike dry van and reefer loads, which are hauled in enclosed trailers where the trailer walls act as load securement, flatbed loads tend to be far more specialized. These loads need to be physically secured to the trailer using heavy-duty straps and/or chains. 

This makes flatbed loads more vulnerable to rough roads and bridges. Bridges often have a significant height gap between the blacktop and bridge surface, creating vertical acceleration as a truck enters and exits a bridgespan. Not only does this road-to-bridge transition add more wear and tear to heavy vehicles and drivers, it creates significant stress on the load and road. 

Which bridges should truckers be on the lookout for?

West Virginia has the most structurally deficient bridges, with 1,545 (or 21%) bridges being in poor condition and requiring monitoring. The state’s most frequently used structurally deficient bridge is on I-64 West in Charleston, WV where it crosses over the Kanawha Turnpike with 86,494 daily crossings. This bridge was built in 1974. 

The most travelled structurally deficient bridge in the nation is California’s Kester Avenue overpass on the Ventura Highway in Sherman Oaks. This bridge was built in 1959. According to BridgeReports.com, it was last inspected in March 2018 and is considered in poor condition.

What should truckers expect in 2022?

More construction delays from roadworks and bridge construction is a given. But on the positive side, the new Infrastructure Deal means more jobs and much more freight to haul. 

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commercial truck driver

8 Ways Carriers Can Find the Best Loads Fast

By Ben Robbins

Axele TMS and DAT recently partnered for a webinar to show how carriers can use our combined tools to find the best loads fast. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here and access the slides here.

Below is an overview of the webinar, with strategies and tactics you can put to use in your carrier business.

Biggest keys to success

One recurring theme from the webinar was exploring ways to use Axele and DAT to leverage both sides of the DAT Load Board network.

  1. Advertise Yourself – Post your trucks and let brokers call you.
  2. Search Available Loads – There are three ways to search:
    1. Smart Search
    2. Active Search
    3. LaneMakers
  3. Set Alarms – Use alarms to notify you when new loads are posted that match your needs. Alarms will notify you in any of the DAT Load Board products. 
  4. Subscribe to Trendlines – Get weekly updates on the national average rates plus supply and demand information for each major trailer types (van, reefer and flatbed)
  5. Monitor Market Conditions – Market Conditions map provides a real-time heat index to see where your trucks are in highest demand and where you can get the best rates.
  6. Plan Your Trip – With routing tools such as TriHaul, you can get automatic suggestions for triangular routes based on the loads you’re searching. These routes can help boost your rate per mile and avoid lower-paying lanes.
  7. Find new business partners – The DAT Directory within the load board allows you to research who you’re considering doing business with first, with, address, phone number, DOT number, company reviews and more..
  8. Negotiate Rates – With these DAT tools at your fingertips, you have all the information to negotiate the best, most profitable rates for success.

You got the load — what’s next?

This is where the DAT / Axele partnership really adds benefits, letting you run your business like a well-oiled machine.

Axele TMS helps you manage loads, dispatch trucks, manage settlements and more. Once you get the load and enter the details into your Excel sheet, Google doc or send a rate confirmation text, Axele gives you the ability to drag and drop your rate confirmation and auto-populate the load data. You can then assign a driver or you can see the dispatch system in a Gantt chart. Axele also offers both an internal and external share links to load tracking, reducing the check calls and giving visibility into more accurate load arrival ETAs.

Axele also gives you greater insight into the revenue for each load, pulling in all the load information with Axele’s integration into DAT and applying all costs to show the profit per load. 

This process can be time consuming, but Axele has automated it. You can invoice right away in near real-time, helping cash flow. Driver settlements are flexible and can be set up to pay a flat fee, per mile, percentage of topline revenue, etc. It calculates everything for you, making it easy to know how much to pay. Axele also provides robust reports, tracking in and out times, loaded miles, empty miles and detention times in an executive dashboard view to watch your weekly performance closely. They make it easy to upload documents and provide an easy to search document repository to find documents you need to access quickly. 

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Commercial Truck Freeway

New infrastructure plan may boost flatbed market

By Dean Croke

Flatbed and specialized carriers stand to gain the most from the Biden Administration’s new infrastructure plan with all of the steel and concrete products required to fix the nations’ bridges.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association notes that more than one-third, or 220,000 (36%), of the nation’s 618,000 bridges need structural repair, rehabilitation work, or replacement.

This number includes the 45,023 structurally deficient bridges, which average 68 years old. Compare this to the average 32 years for bridges in good condition. The busiest structurally deficient bridge is on U.S. Route 101 over Kester Avenue in Los Angeles. It was built in 1959 and sees 289,000 daily travelers. The second is also in Los Angeles – Interstate 5 over Marietta Street, which was built in 1948.

Unlike dry van and reefer loads in enclosed trailers where the trailer walls act as load securement, flatbed loads need to be physically secured by straps or chains. This makes flatbed loads more vulnerable to rough roads and bridges.

This is especially true when bridges have significant height gaps between the blacktop and bridge surface, creating turbulent entrances and exits. Not only does this road to bridge transition add more wear and tear to heavy vehicles and drivers, it creates significant stress on the load itself and adds more cost to the flatbed sector.

Flatbed rates in the Top 10 markets remained flat last week at an average of $3.46/mile. Outbound load post volumes dropped by 3%.

But as has been the case for many weeks, there has been substantial volatility in some markets in the South Region. In Mobile, volumes were down 6% last week while spot rates surged increasing by $0.44/mile to $3.42/mile. In contrast, nearby Little Rock volumes were down by just over 1% and rates were up $0.20/mile to $3.58/mile.

Spot rates

Capacity continues to tighten in the flatbed sector with spot rates increasing another $0.07/mile last week to reach $2.74/mile. Flatbed rates are now $1.01/mile higher than the same week last year and $0.28/mile higher than the same time in 2018.

How to interpret the rate forecast:

  1. Ratecast: DAT’s core forecasting model
  2. Short Term Scenario: Formerly the pessimistic model that focuses on a more near-term historical dataset
  3. Blended Scenario: More heavily weighted towards the longer-term models
  4. Blended Scenario v2: More heavily weighted towards the shorter-term models

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Commercial Truck Driver

Is now a good time to buy a truck?

By Dean Croke

We get asked this question the most in our DAT iQ Weekly Update: Is now a good time to buy a truck?

Based on recent industry cycles, the answer is probably “no.”

“Orders follow price” is a common theme in trucking. When rates surged in early 2018 during what was then the tightest period of truckload capacity in a decade, asset-based carriers placed record numbers of orders for new trucks and trailers in the latter half of the year. When capacity loosened in 2019, we saw record numbers of trucking bankruptcies.

These recent boom-and-bust freight cycles are important to analyze before investing in new equipment.

What went up came down

Total Class 8 truck orders for 2018 broke a 14-year record, according to ACT Research. Orders totaled 490,100 units, far outstripping the previous record of 390,000 units set in 2004. By the time all of those new trucks and trailers hit the road in 2019, demand declined, resulting in extra capacity that drove dry van spot rates down 26%. The national average went from a high of $2.05/mile (excluding fuel) in June 2018 to just $1.50/mile 10 months later.

Used truck prices crashed also. During 2019, the average retail selling price of 3 to 5-year-old sleeper tractors decreased 30%. The volume of the three most common sleeper tractors (3 to 7 years old) sold through the two largest no-reserve, nationwide auctions increased by 36%, according to J.D. Power Valuation Services.

Fast forward to late 2020, truckload rates once again hit record levels, and carriers repeated the 2018 buying spree. Truck orders totaled 142,093 in Q4, the second-highest total in history. This accounted for 51% of the total orders placed in 2020, according to ACT Research.

Will history repeat?

At the moment, spot rates are $0.71/mile higher than in 2020 and $0.53/mile higher than 2018. Capacity is the tightest it’s ever been, according to the Michigan State For-Hire Truckload Capacity Tightness Index. The driver shortage appears real this time around, and spot market volumes are almost double where they were this time last year. Now is as a good a time to buy a truck as any, right?

There are many caveats. While spot volumes surge, total freight volumes in February were up only around 3% year over year. We still have a bifurcated market where there are winners and losers in the ongoing economic recovery – not all shipper volumes are rising at the same pace. Jason Miller, supply chain economist and associate professor at Michigan State University, recently noted that in Q4 2020, dry van general freight was up 2.2% year over year, whereas specialized flatbed and bulk freight was down 4%.

Operating costs and cash flow

On the cost side of the equation, diesel prices are on the rise at $3.19/gallon, 46 cents higher than the same week in 2020. A small carrier running around 100,000 loaded miles and 10,000 empty miles per year would’ve been losing 3 cents per mile in March 2020, with line haul rates averaging $1.59/mile and diesel costing $2.73/gallon.

This year, with line haul rates at record levels around $2.40/mile, that same carrier would be making 65 cents per mile in gross profit before taxes and depreciation. These higher spot rates are generating just over $80,000 in additional top-line revenue for carriers compared to the same time in 2020, which largely explains why the recent hike in fuel prices is not causing as much alarm as it normally does.

The truck orders placed in late 2020 will eventually add significant amounts of capacity to the marketplace, taking pressure off of truckload rates. When that occurs, the higher fuel costs will be much more painful for carriers.

Now is a good time to put some cash aside for that inevitable rainy day. It’s also a great time to fully understand your operating costs and how to manage cash flow.

Recently we addressed the most frequent question asked on our weekly DAT iQ Live series: Is now a good time to buy a truck? This week, we asked a leading industry expert will weigh in with insights.

Todd Amen is President and Founder of American Truck Business Services and former Co-President and owner of Trans-Western Express. ATBS specializes in helping owner-operators manage their financial and compliance affairs through their Rumblestrip suite of products, which handles the “business of driving.” ATBS clients also produce the Independent Contractor Benchmarking (ICB) yearly report, which Todd shared on the recent Truckloads Carriers Association webinar.

By the numbers

According to Todd, “2020 was like a full truck economic cycle that takes four or five years, but happened in the space of just one year.” ATBS clients ended 2020 averaging 104,000 miles for the year, an increase of 3.2% year over year. All equipment types averaged $1.46/mile, excluding fuel surcharges, which was a 5.7% decrease – the equivalent of $0.09/mile lower.

One major trend in 2020 was the shift from owner-operators being 100% leased onto another fleet to running on their own authority as independent contractors (IC). ATBS calculates the costs of being an IC adds $0.48/mile (IFTA, permits, licenses, insurance, trailer and load fees) in expenses. In June 2020, spot rates took off, increasing by close to a $1.00/mile over a 6-month period. The average rate per mile for leased owner-operators in 2020 was $1.50/mile, but with spot rates averaging $2.11/mile in the second half of the year, many carriers decided to go independent.

With rates still up around $2.36/mile excl. FSC as we end the first quarter of 2021, the incentive to become an IC and/or remain one is high – as are the profits. In 2020, ATBS clients earned an average net income of close to $68,000 representing an 8% increase over the previous year.

Know what you’re getting into

One more time back to the original question. Yes, it’s a great time to buy a truck. It always is – provided you know what you’re doing, fully understand the business side of running a trucking business and have good partners to support you along the way.

Lastly, consider the advice from Todd Amen, who looks after the business affairs for more than 20,000 O/O’s: “Good times don’t last but people that manage for the downside do.”

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Commercial Truck Driver

Stimulus bill for carriers, brokers, owner-operators?

By Pat Pitz

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) includes $2 trillion in economic stimulus funds. Included in the relief package is funding for state and local governments and industries hit hard by COVID-19, such as hospitals and airlines. But what’s in it for carriers, brokers and owner-operators?

Below are highlights of the stimulus package, which includes relief for both businesses and individuals.

Help for businesses

Several trucking trade associations have sent out messages to their members this week encouraging them to take advantage of federal aid programs for businesses. Here are some of them:

Paycheck Protection Program – The PPP enables small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) to apply for $349 billion in forgivable loans. Businesses are eligible to borrow 250% of their average payroll expenses, up to $10 million, for meeting payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utility payments. Loan amounts will be forgiven if the company maintains payroll for 8 weeks after the loan is made and at least 75% of the forgiven amount is used for payroll. Loans are processed by Small Business Association lenders.

“I encourage you to inquire with your local bank or financial institution about applying for this great stimulus loan program,” said Robert Voltmann, president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), in an email to its members.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is encouraging its members to reach out to banks they’ve worked with in the past to see if they are participating in the program. They note that small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply today, while independent contractors and self-employed individuals can begin applying on April 10. (Independent contractors and owner-operators may also be eligible for unemployment. See below.)

“The PPP program is first-come, first-served, so please apply as soon as possible,” OOIDA said in its email to members.

The U.S. Treasury Department has put together a Fact Sheet with questions and answers about the PPP.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan – This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are experiencing temporary difficulties. Funds will be made available within days of a successful application, and the money will not have to be repaid. This program is for companies with fewer than 500 employees, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and people who are self-employed. Learn more.

SBA Express Bridge Loans – These loans enable small businesses who currently have a relationship with an Small Business Administration Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. Learn more.

Help for individuals

Many employees have already lost their jobs due to shutdowns brought about by the coronavirus. In March, millions of people applied for unemployment benefits. There’s aid in the stimulus bill for those individuals and other Americans who are still working.

Enhanced unemployment benefits – The stimulus provides an extra $600 per week for four months on top of normal unemployment benefits, which vary by state. It also extends the unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks.

Economic impact payments to individuals – A key element of the CARES Act is direct payments to individuals. For taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 per year (up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns) the stimulus provides $1,200 to individual taxpayers and $2,400 to couples. There’s also an additional $500 for each child age 16 and younger. That means a family of 4 would receive $3,400. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,00-$198,000 for couples) are still eligible, but will receive lesser amounts.

If you’ve filed your taxes for 2019 or 2018 and provided the IRS with your bank account, the funds will be automatically deposited into that same account. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, visit the IRS’s Get My Payment web page.

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Commercial Truck Driver

What’s in the stimulus bill for carriers, brokers, owner-operators?

By Pat Pitz

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) includes $2 trillion in economic stimulus funds. Included in the relief package is funding for state and local governments and industries hit hard by COVID-19, such as hospitals and airlines. But what’s in it for carriers, brokers and owner-operators? 

Below are highlights of the stimulus package, which includes relief for both businesses and individuals.

Help for businesses

Several trucking trade associations have sent out messages to their members this week encouraging them to take advantage of federal aid programs for businesses. Here are some of them:

Paycheck Protection Program – The PPP enables small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) to apply for $349 billion in forgivable loans. Businesses are eligible to borrow 250% of their average payroll expenses, up to $10 million, for meeting payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utility payments. Loan amounts will be forgiven if the company maintains payroll for 8 weeks after the loan is made and at least 75% of the forgiven amount is used for payroll. Loans are processed by Small Business Association lenders

“I encourage you to inquire with your local bank or financial institution about applying for this great stimulus loan program,” said Robert Voltmann, president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), in an email to its members. 

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is encouraging its members to reach out to banks they’ve worked with in the past to see if they are participating in the program. They note that small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply today, while independent contractors and self-employed individuals can begin applying on April 10. (Independent contractors and owner-operators may also be eligible for unemployment. See below.)

“The PPP program is first-come, first-served, so please apply as soon as possible,” OOIDA said in its email to members. 

The U.S. Treasury Department has put together a Fact Sheet with questions and answers about the PPP. 

Economic Injury Disaster Loan – This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are experiencing temporary difficulties. Funds will be made available within days of a successful application, and the money will not have to be repaid. This program is for companies with fewer than 500 employees, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and people who are self-employed. Learn more.

SBA Express Bridge Loans – These loans enable small businesses who currently have a relationship with an Small Business Administration Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. Learn more

Help for individuals

Many employees have already lost their jobs due to shutdowns brought about by the coronavirus. In March, millions of people applied for unemployment benefits. There’s aid in the stimulus bill for those individuals and other Americans who are still working. 

Enhanced unemployment benefits – The stimulus provides an extra $600 per week for four months on top of normal unemployment benefits, which vary by state. It also extends the unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks. 

Economic impact payments to individuals – A key element of the CARES Act is direct payments to individuals. For taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 per year (up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns) the stimulus provides $1,200 to individual taxpayers and $2,400 to couples. There’s also an additional $500 for each child age 16 and younger. That means a family of 4 would receive $3,400. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,00-$198,000 for couples) are still eligible, but will receive lesser amounts.

If you’ve filed your taxes for 2019 or 2018 and provided the IRS with your bank account, the funds will be automatically deposited into that same account. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, the Treasury Department plans to develop a web-based portal for where people can provide their bank information, so they can receive payments immediately instead of waiting for checks in the mail. Learn more.

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commercial truck insurance containers

The freight recession, and the next spot rate upturn

Posted by Tim Denoyer

The freight market has been soft for almost a year, and in our view, slid into freight recession in the first half of 2019. The U.S. trucking industry faces a supply and demand imbalance – excess equipment capacity and not enough freight – which continues to press rates lower.

Historically, freight down-cycles last one to two years. Even with spot rates down about 20% from last year, we don’t think they’ve bottomed yet. But we do see signs that the bottom and next upturn are on their way.

While the U.S. economy overall continues to expand, weakness in many freight metrics fits with slowing activity reported in manufacturing and housing – key freight-generating sectors. Though there were pockets of growth in the broader freight market, such as private fleets, most major for-hire modes were down in first-half 2019.

  • Cass Shipments Index -5.3% y/y in June, down seven straight months
  • ACT For-Hire Truckload Volume Index 43.2 in June (50 is neutral), down seven of past eight months
  • LTL tonnage -4.3% y/y in May, down seven of past eight months
  • NA Class I Rail volumes -4.3% y/y in June, down 25 straight weeks

Trade has also been a factor, as the pre-tariff shipping in late-2018 was a headwind to volume in first half 2019. We think this may become a temporary tailwind again near-term, as shippers build their inventories in advance of another round of tariffs expected on $300B of Chinese imports

The U.S. consumer still supports underlying freight growth, but soft manufacturing and an inventory overhang are very typical features of freight down-cycles. By contrast, an unusual feature of this cycle is the major growth of the private fleet segment of the industry in 2018 and 2019.

DAT Load Boards provide the largest and most trusted digital marketplace for truckload freight.

Private fleets represent roughly half of the U.S. Class 8 tractor market, and have been relatively stable for many years before growing aggressively in 2018 and the first part of 2019. This is now pulling freight from the for-hire market, and the freight recession is pretty mild when private fleets are factored in. Now that the spot market is a more affordable option, private fleets are likely reducing internal investments, which should help tighten the spot market in 2020.

Orders for new Class 8 tractors in the U.S. are running almost 40% below replacement levels so far this year, even though production and retail sales of tractors are still running well above replacement.

New truck production rates look set to reduce in the next few months. It will then take a few more months for the record inventories to work through the system. But by early 2020, the capacity additions will slow meaningfully, taking pressure off spot rates.

This sets up a cyclical recovery in spot truckload rates but not quickly and not necessarily a strong one, as high carrier margins are unlikely to lead to significant Class 8 underproduction. But at least the year-over-year declines should begin to moderate later this year.

We’re certainly not out of the woods since a primary factor behind the industrial slowdown – the trade war – most likely isn’t going away. But with this caveat, we think there’s a good case in 2020 for freight to improve as capacity rebalances, setting up the next upturn in spot rates.

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Trucker App

How to Get the Most Out of Our Free Trucker App

By Michael Tupper, Product Manager, DAT Solutions

If you use the DAT Trucker™ mobile app for Android, you probably noticed some big changes recently. We redesigned the app to work the same way that most other mapping apps do. More importantly, now DAT Trucker lets drivers find what they need faster and easier. Based on your location, you can find truck stops, rest areas, fuel prices, Walmarts, nearby loads, truck-friendly hotels and more.

We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from new users who love the app, but truckers who’ve been using the app for a long time are telling us that they’ve had trouble finding the tools they used in the old version.

Everything is still there, and after you first get the app set up with your personalized settings, you can find what you’re looking for in one click.

Trucker AppTrucker App

When you open the app, there’s a map based on your phone’s GPS location. The markers show locations that match your search results – just like in Google Maps. You can see everything at once, or choose whether you want to see truck stops, rest areas, Walmarts or more. Tap the magnifying glass in the top-right corner to search other cities.

If you tap the triangle icon circled in the screen above, you can choose which categories you want to search: Truck stops, rest areas, etc. The app will remember what you select and do the same search anytime you open the app, based on your GPS location. Once you have it set to your preferences, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster than you could with the old version.

Trucker AppTrucker App

If you want to see a list of search results like you did in the old version, you can tap “list” from the map screen. Tap on the sort options (circled in the picture), and you can sort the list by name, distance, fuel price and more. Also, this is often the most useful way to see search results if you’re in a place where the internet connection isn’t strong.

Trying to find a parking spot? From the list, you can get more details about each business. Tap on a truck stop to see how many parking spots they have and get info about showers, laundry, scales and much more.

Trucker AppTrucker App

You can still search for nearby loads. Just tap on the main menu in the top-left corner and choose “Find loads nearby.” You might see fewer results than you used to because the old version showed loads for every equipment type. The new version shows loads that match the truck and trailer in your profile, so the loads are more relevant to what you’re looking for.

You can also tap the DAT Trucker icon in the bottom right corner and choose what you want to do. For example, you can tap “Fuel up” and find the cheapest nearby diesel prices, or “Sleep” to find truck-friendly hotels.

Another advantage of the new version is that it lets our software developers make updates faster and make changes based on your suggestions. For example, many of you pointed out that we didn’t include landscape mode, which flips the display when you turn the phone sideways. That’ll be fixed in an update coming soon, so keep sending suggestions.

Get the DAT Trucker mobile app in the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.

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Trucker News

6 Steps to Adding a Brokerage to Your Trucking Company

6 Steps to Adding a Brokerage to Your Trucking Company

By Gary Land, Fleet Compliance, DAT Solutions

Do you have shipper customers who need to move more freight than you can service with the current size of your fleet? You could buy more trucks to move that extra freight, but adding a brokerage is another option. If you already have relationships with shippers, know their lanes, and know the capacity that they need, then brokering their freight could add another source of revenue for your transportation business.

There are 6 steps you’ll need to take before you can start brokering freight.

Insurance Brokerage

  1. Apply for operating authority

You’ll have to apply for broker authority through the United Registration System. This will be separate from your carrier authority. You’ll also need to decide how to organize this separate company: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S corp., etc.

Getting your broker authority means you have to designate process agents in every state you’re doing business, just like you did to get your carrier authority. Our fleet services team can help with all the paperwork.

  1. Get a broker bond

Every freight broker has to have a $75,000 surety bond or trust fund. It’s similar to the liability insurance required for your trucks, and it’s there to ensure that a carrier can get paid if a broker doesn’t fulfill a contract. The bond covers the entire brokering side of your business. DAT customers can get a broker bond at a special price.

  1. File state permits

Some states require extra permits to set up your business, so be sure to check the requirements in your state. DAT Fleet Services can help with that too.

  1. Invest in a TMS

Managing your cash flow is key to your brokerage’s success. You’re already familiar with days-to-pay – the number of days a broker has to pay the carrier – but as a broker, you won’t always get money from the shipper before you have to pay the carrier. TMS software like DAT Keypoint is the easiest way to manage your transactions, keep records, and manage the company’s cash flow.

TMS software also lets you manage all your new brokerage’s operations in one place, so you can move more freight with a smaller back-office staff. A streamlined, entry-level TMS like DAT Keypoint Ops requires minimal training and lets you control all your operations on one screen. You can also upgrade it seamlessly to fit your business needs as your company grows.

  1. Make personnel decisions

Are you going to be the one working the phones, or will you need new employees? Would you be better off working with independent agents? Will your brokerage share the same office space as your carrier business?

  1. Anticipate hidden startup costs

When you started your carrier business, most of the startup costs were tied to equipment. For a brokerage, some of those costs are a lot less obvious – contingent cargo insurance policies, for example. Meet with a business attorney who has experience with brokers. That will save you some headaches.

DAT can help get your brokerage off and running, whether that means getting your broker authority or streamlining your business with broker TMS software. Call 800.551.8847 for more info.

 

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