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Today’s pickup: driver squeezes in a country legalizing marijuana state-by-state

Photo: Shutterstock

Good day,

J.B. Hunt does not do a conference call when its quarterly earnings are published. They aren’t alone, but it’s still a relatively small community of trucking and transport companies that don’t meet the analysts in a semi-public forum to discuss how things are. So it was interesting to see that they had chosen to webcast their presentation Thursday before the Cowen transportation conference in Boston. What we chose to highlight in our story was a question about the company’s hard-line stance on marijuana testing and usage. If you are an applicant to Hunt and you fail the hair follicle marijuana test, you aren’t working there. The question was how that policy would hold up as more states legalized recreational marijuana use. And the answer was clear: them’s the breaks. Their representatives made clear that such a development might tighten up an already tight driver market but there was no indication Hunt would change its views. The question then is whether others will as well, or whether they’ll just learn to live with another factor that could squeeze driver availability even more.

Did you know?

The biggest commodity being hauled by trucks today in the U.S. is energy, with 32% of the market. Agriculture products are next at 25%. You can see the data in our Infograph.


“I think it will be a continuing impact point. As more states legalize, it will take applicants out of the pool.”

Brad Hicks, the executive vice president of dedicated for J.B. Hunt, speaking at the Cowen transportation conference on the impact increasing legalization of marijuana will have on driver supply. Many trucking companies will not hire a driver who flunks a marijuana test.

In other news:

FMCSA’s second public listening session is next week

The agency will listen to views on its proposed changes to Hours of Service rules (FMCSA)

The new intermodal? Sea/air combination becoming more popular

Using both marine and air services is increasingly viewed as more reliable. (The Loadstar)

Blockchain and battery metals

Using a distributed ledger is being viewed as an important tool in the movement of key battery materials like cobalt (Platts)

Tariff wars move down the supply chain

An ISM survey shows some companies not directly impacted by tariffs are citing them in their outlook. (WSJ)

August was a good month on the rails

Monthly AAR data is strong on rail volumes last month (Progressive Railroading)

Final Thoughts

Does your truck have a telescoping side guard? We can answer for you: no. They don’t exist in any sort of commercial application, though there are designs and computer simulations of them. Still, the attorneys for a 19-year-old woman and her infant child, injured in a side crash with a truck, argued that the larger vehicle should have had the telescoping side guard. The case was against trailer manufacturer Great Dane. But in a decision handed down recently by the sixth circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals, the court ruled that because the telescoping side guard doesn’t exist commercially, it couldn’t be demanded that one should have been installed. As FreightWaves reporter Ashley Coker described it: “Court documents describe a telescoping side guard as a safety measure that would not only block the space underneath the trailer like an ordinary side guard but also ‘slide and expand to protect the space opened up when a truck’s sliding rear-axle— which trucks use to meet state and federal weight-per-axle regulations—is moved toward the rear of the truck.’” There is a bill introduced in Congress to widen the rules on underride protection, but it isn’t expected to get much headway in this Congress, which ends its term at the close of December. But for now, a sideguard that theoretically offers more protection doesn’t exist in the real world to be part of that effort.

Hammer down everyone!



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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.