Freight index up 1.5 percent

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U.S. Xpress executives Patrick Quinn and Max Fuller announced Oct. 12 the successful completion of the tender offer for all outstanding shares of the company’s Class A common stock. At that time, New Mountain Lake Acquisition Co. – the entity former by Quinn and Fuller to pursue the purchase – owned about 14.5 million shares, representing about 93.3 percent of the total issued and outstanding. Quinn and Fuller founded Chattanooga, Tenn.-based U.S. Xpress in 1985 and serve as co-chairmen of the board; Fuller is the company’s CEO, and Quinn is its president.

YRC Worldwide, following a third quarter that saw lower revenues and profit, named Mike Smid president of North American Transportation, responsible for the asset-based operating companies of YRC Worldwide. Smid had served as president of YRC National Transportation since its formation in January 2007 and was previously president of Roadway. Jim Staley, president of YRC Regional Transportation, announced his retirement effective Dec. 31 after
37 years in the industry; his replacement is Keith Lovetro, who will report to Smid.

IRP Inc., the repository of the International Registration Plan, now has automated registration fee estimating software on its website for carriers and others to estimate registration fees for interstate fleets with various travel, weight or other haracteristics. The free estimator can be found at www.irponline.org under Information Exchange.

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.5 percent in September, after falling 0.8 percent in August. The not-seasonally adjusted index fell 10.6 percent from August to 107.4. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index rose to 111.6 in September. Despite September’s sequential increase, tonnage was down 2.3 percent from a year earlier. Year-to-date, the tonnage index was 2.2 percent lower than during the same period in 2006.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the September tonnage reading points to continued softness in the trucking industry, despite the month-to-month increase. Although the 1.5-percent gain was the biggest monthly increase since February of this year, Costello expects tonnage to remain choppy in the foreseeable future, a trend that started a couple of months ago.

“Nearly all economic indicators suggest continued sluggishness for the trucking industry in the near term,” Costello said, adding that September’s reading points to a lackluster 2007 fall freight season, which traditionally starts in mid- to late August and peaks in October. “We are sticking with our economic forecasts that point to below-trend growth for the overall economy and truck tonnage,” Costello said.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The baseline year is 2000.


Forum: No easy fix for transportation funding
A federal transportation policy forum concluded no single mechanism will solve the transportation funding crisis, but possible ways include new taxes and tolls and congestion pricing strategies. Participants acknowledged potential drawbacks to all these options, such as lack of public support for tolling and equity concerns with certain pricing mechanisms.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, released a summary of forum results Sept. 19. The May 23 event brought together transportation experts from government, academia and industry. Groups represented included FedEx, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Reason Foundation and the Port of Miami.

Who said what, exactly, is a secret, the GAO said. “This forum was designed for the participants to discuss these issues openly, without individual attribution, in order to facilitate a rich and substantive discussion of these issues,” the GAO stated.

A copy of the forum report is available at www.gao.gov/new.items/d071210sp.pdf.
– Jill Dunn


NMFTA revises organizational structure, procedures
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association said last month that it had voted to adopt a new organizational structure and set of operating procedures. NMFTA said the plan allows for the continued development and maintenance of the National Motor Freight Classification without the need for antitrust immunity while facilitating continued input from carriers, shippers and third parties. NMFTA’s adoption of the procedures will be effective Dec. 6.

Since 1996, the Surface Transport-ation Board – the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission – has been the administrative agency overseeing the National Classification Committee’s activities. STB on May 7 issued a decision regarding motor carrier bureaus that would, among other things, eliminate antitrust immunity for NCC’s activities.

In response, NMFTA has created two new organizations: the Classification Resource Committee and the Commodity Classification Standards Board. CRC is comprised of elected representatives selected by NMFC-participating motor carriers and will provide advice, information and resources to CCSB, the new autonomous classification-making group responsible for investigating, considering and acting on proposals for amending the classification of commodities, commodity descriptions, classes, rules, packaging definitions, specifications and requirements, bills of lading and other NMFC provisions.

CCSB’s decisions will be determined by the commodity’s density, stowability, handling and liability characteristics – the same criteria that have governed the evolution of NMFC since they were specified by ICC in 1983. CCSB will operate under rules and policies that are substantially similar to the rules and policies that comprise the NCC Agreement and that were developed in accordance with directives of ICC and STB.

Proposals for amending NMFC now may be made by any party having an interest in the contents of NMFC and will be addressed by CCSB through a formal, transparent decision-making process in which all interested parties can participate. The procedures incorporate numerous safeguards to prevent collusion, manipulation or other misuse of the classification process, according to NMFTA, and they also make clear that no motor carrier or shipper is bound to use or abide by NMFC’s provisions.