The Trucker Chronicles

Manufacturing, restocking pushed increase in freight

By  Eric Schwartzberg

America’s truck freight in 2011 took its biggest leap in 13 years, a boom driven largely by a steady rise in manufacturing and inventory restocking, the nation’s largest trucking association said last week.

The 5.9 percent increase in the amount of freight hauled last year was the largest yearly increase since 1998, the American Trucking Association said.

In December alone, the amount of freight jumped 10.5 percent, the association said.

Trucking is a key business in Ohio, which has several major freight routes running through it, including I-70, I-71 and I-75.

Ohio has 12,730 trucking companies, which employ an estimated 270,000 people, the Ohio Trucking Association said.

The national association’s figures did not surprise trucking-firm operators.

Ken Henderson, president of Middletown-based J.P. Transportation Inc., said the increase is between 5 to 8 percent at his business, but, “It’s a mixed bag” when it comes to the cargo.

“If you’re hauling automotive parts and steel for that (industry), that has definitely picked up.”

“Automobile manufacturers are doing much better now, but if you’re in the construction end, lumber and shingles and stuff like that, I don’t think that part of the market has recovered at all.”

Millis Transfer Inc., a Hamilton-based company that hauls everything except hazardous materials, had “a little less of an increase,” said shop manager Randy Purkey.

“I’m not totally sure of the numbers because we’re still going through all that right now,” he said.

Purkey said the increase in the amount of freight finds him somewhat optimistic about the future of the industry.

“It’s kind of stabilized, finally, I hope,” he said.

Fairfield-based Consolidated Trucking Inc., which warehouses and distributes in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, has seen freight levels increase for some customers and decrease for others, said Perry Williams, the company’s general manager.

“I’d say we’re up about the average,” Williams said.

While the increase is a positive sign, the economic downturn of the past several years has caused a tremendous amount of trucking companies go out of business, Williams said.

“If you take the number of companies that has gone out of business and (factor in) the freight that they used to haul and distribute it between the companies that are still in business, there’s your increase right there,” he said.

The increased freight is a bellwether of a stronger economy, said Larry Davis, Ohio Trucking Association president.

“My folks say they’re hauling more than they had been,” Davis said.

Trucks hauled more than 9 billion tons of freight in 2010, and trucking companies collected $563 billion, or 81 percent of all revenue generated by freight shipping, the national association said.

But freight-haulers say they need more qualified drivers who are willing to make careers out of trucking, said Steve Spears, president of Spears Transfer & Expediting Inc. in Englewood, in the Dayton area.

“It’s hard to find drivers, and freight is getting more plentiful,” Spears said.

Article Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch –

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