Watch Now

Loaded and Rolling: Infrastructure bill, autonomous freight, sluggish November freight volumes

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Infrastructure bill and trucking impact

On Nov. 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by a 228-206 vote after passage by the Senate on Aug. 10. In a report published by Georgetown University, trucking jobs are estimated to account for 20% of the infrastructure plan, with around 15 million infrastructure jobs created or saved over 10 years. 

The American Trucking Associations, in a prepared statement, praised the passage of the legislation, arguing the bill will create, among other things, new pathways into trucking, bolster highway safety and increase economic growth from supply chain improvements. The ATA comprises over 34,000 motor carriers and industry suppliers across the U.S. and focuses on advocacy to educate and guide policy promoting trucking. The Truckload Carriers Association also praised the bill, noting the significant investment will deliver a needed injection into the Highway Trust Fund. 

The legislation’s trucking highlights

The bottom line
Better infrastructure, repaired bridges, and expanded highways and interstates are all positive changes that can improve congestion and traffic, and save companies money from lost time. Expect increased demand in construction materials, machinery and labor in the coming months as the projects begin to ramp up. Open-deck and heavy-haul carriers should see increased seasonal volumes beginning in late 2022. An increase in construction jobs should see greater wage competition for drivers, as construction and freight handlers are large labor pools. If wages and demand for construction workers rise due to limited supply, expect continued challenges hiring and retaining drivers unless there is additional upward movement on wages.

Source:  Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings

Building the autonomous freight grid, more trucks, less TRON

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Back in my truckload network design days, a favorite concept of mine was the modified hub-and-spoke method. The concept involved using local drivers in daycabs to pick up the loads, transfer to a terminal or drop yard, and have an OTR driver run the middle mile to drop at a terminal close to the consignee. From there, another local driver would deliver the load, get empty and pick up another load to continue the cycle. 

The biggest challenges are the equipment, hiring and processes to start such an undertaking, as full truckload carriers are not well equipped like LTL carriers to execute on the extra movements. Theoretically, you could double or triple your potential load capacity in a market, but the challenge is locating the terminals and geographic area to support the moves. 

A Georgia Tech study funded by Ryder System, took this idea a step further, suggesting huge cost savings for using autonomous trucks for the middle-mile hub transfers, and using human drivers for the local pickup and deliveries. Operational cost savings could range from 22% to 40% using autonomous trucks for long-haul transfers, as fully autonomous trucks can double the utilization, no longer relying on a human limit of 11 hours of driving in a 24-hour period. 

Large carriers are starting to test these concepts due to such lucrative cost savings. Ryder has increased its collaboration with autonomous trucking companies, with a partnership and terminal-sharing deal with TuSimple and Waymo, a Google-backed autonomous software developer that has also partnered with J.B. Hunt for testing trucks in Texas. 

Market Update: Sluggish start to November tender volumes

Tender volumes now are significantly underperforming year-ago levels:
SONAR: OTVI.USA: 2021 (blue), 2020 (green) and 2019 (orange).
To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

The Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) , which reflects shippers’ requests for capacity, fell 2.1% week-over-week, the largest decrease in more than three weeks. Historically, volumes can fall in preparation for peak retail season, with additional volatility due to depressed inventory levels and high import demands. 

While tender volumes fell, The DHL Supply Chain Pricing Power Index score of 70 still favors carrier pricing power based on a score of 100, with 0 favoring shippers, 50 being neutral and 100 completely favoring carriers. 

103rd anniversary of World War I armistice today, the technical innovations of WWI and impact on transportation.

Importance of logistics in the Korean War.

The M35 2.5-ton military truck, lovingly called The Deuce and a Half, hauling supplies since World War II and still in service. 

Exporting victory: how the U.S. lend lease trucks helped win World War II.

Military reading lists: 10 books on military logistics.

Want this in your inbox? subscribe to the newsletter here

Thomas Wasson

Based in Chattanooga TN, Thomas is an Enterprise Trucking Carrier Expert at FreightWaves with a focus on news commentary, analysis and trucking insights. Before that, he worked at a digital trucking startup aifleet, Arrive Logistics as an Account Executive, and 5 years at U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. with an emphasis on fleet management, load planning, freight analysis, and truckload network design. He graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a MBA in 2020 and a Bachelors of Political Science from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2013.