Wednesday, June 10, 2009

U.S. Box Imports Plummet 22 Percent
Bill Mongelluzzo Jun 9, 2009 6:28PM GMTThe Journal of Commerce Online - News Story

Slight April gain over March gives weak signal for peak season

Container volumes at U.S. ports edged up in April compared to March, but remained well below the volumes recorded in April 2008, according to the monthly Port Tracker published by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.

The second half of 2009 appears to be trending the same way the first half progressed, with containerized imports creeping up compared to the month before, but down noticeably from the same month last year.

It therefore looks like the back-to-school shopping season this summer, traditionally the second busiest period on retailers' calendars, will be disappointing. Prospects for the holiday shopping season that follows look equally bleak.

These developments are reflected directly in the cargo volumes moving through the eight major U.S. container gateways covered by Port Tracker.

"Retailers are still being cautious with their inventory levels in anticipation of slow sales this summer into the fall," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

Containerized imports in April increased 2 percent over March, but were down 22 percent compared to April 2008, according to Port Tracker. April was the third lowest month since 2004 and marked the 22nd month in a row of year-over-year declines in volume.

Projections call for May to be down 21 percent and June 19 percent from the same months last year. Port Tracker projects that containerized imports in the first half of 2009 will be down 21 percent compared to the first six months of 2008.

Port Tracker projects volumes in the peak summer-fall months through October will be down about 16 to 18 percent compared to peak season 2008.

Logistically, the U.S. port and intermodal transportation networks are operating efficiently and without any disruptions. Ports are congestion-free from vessel to gate. Rail service levels are good and the harbor trucking industry is operating with excess capacity.

On the other hand, all of these transportation industries are struggling with weak revenues and over-capacity.

Introduction of the federal security program known as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential has successfully taken place at all major gateways.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Shippers Throw Support to Heavier Trucks
John Gallagher Jun 8, 2009 7:12PM GMTThe Journal of Commerce Online - News Story

Coalition supports bill to raise size, weight limits on interstates

Big shippers are throwing their weight behind legislation allowing heavier trucks on federal roads as a way to boost carrier productivity, save fuel, and cut transportation costs.

The Coalition for Transportation Productivity, representing more than 100 associations and companies such as the National Industrial Transportation League, Kraft Foods, Archer Daniels Midland and International Paper, is urging Congress to raise federal vehicle weight limits on U.S. interstates to 97,000 lbs. through its support of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009. The measure was introduced in Congress March 30.

The legislation stipulates raising the weight limits would only be allowed for vehicles equipped with a sixth axle, which would maintain braking capacity and weight distribution per tire. The bill imposes a user fee for six-axle units to fund bridge repair.

More freight on fewer trucks would also make roads safer, says CTP Co-chairman John Runyan.
“Accident rates among heavy vehicles are strongly tied to the vehicle miles a truck must travel to deliver a ton of freight,” he said. Allowing heavier trucks “would reduce the number of vehicle miles and overall number of trucks needed to deliver a specific amount of freight, making roads safer while cutting fuel and emissions by as much as 19 percent for each ton carried.”

Railroads have long opposed such legislation, claiming raising truck weight limits would give them a competitive edge in the fight over shipper dollars. The AAR cites a 1999 DOT study suggesting increasing truck size and weights would result in a decline in rail revenue of between $2.9 billion and $6.7 billion. Rail earnings would decline 32 percent to 46 percent, and rail car-miles would decline 4 percent to 20 percent, the study said.

Contact John Gallagher at

Friday, June 05, 2009

Texas makes Port of Brownsville overweight corridor program permanent
May 21, 2009 Breakbulk News

Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed legislation that will permanently allow overweight freight to be transported by truck between the Port of Brownsville and Mexico. The corridor allows trucks carrying primarily break bulk steel but also other cargoes to be loaded to Mexican truck weights. Without the corridor, said the port’s Deputy Director Donna Eymard, shippers would have to use two trucks instead of one and the steel Brownsville handles would move to Mexican ports.

Brownsville is one of the U.S.’s largest steel ports, handling more than 2 million tons during 2008. Virtually all of the port’s import steel goes to mills in northern Mexico to be processed. After processing, some of it is then re-exported.

Port Director and chief executive officer Eduardo A. Campirano said in the port’s statement that “this is great news for the state, the port, the county, the city, and the consumer. The overweight corridor program helps to insure the sustainable growth of the Port – the economic engine for the Rio Grande Valley and Northern Mexico.”