Ben Bernanke Continues to Pedal Liquidity up a Growing Fiscal Hill

As the federal government spending sequester begins, fiscal policy is currently stealing the headlines, but Ben Bernanke discussed future monetary policy at two important appearances during the past week. Somewhat ironically, the two broad methods by which government policy influences the economy are working in opposition: even as fiscal activity deflates, the Federal Reserve is actively working to keep the economy from submerging into another recession.

Bernanke’s first major appearance of the week was in his Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress. In this speech, the Chairman of the Fed provided Congress with an assessment of the current economic situation before outlining policies that the Fed is using to help boost economic activity. In particular, Bernanke outlined two “tools” that the Fed is wielding: “forward guidance” for the federal funds rate, and “large-scale purchases of longer-term securities.”

Both of these tools aim to promote economic growth by reducing uncertainty about the future financial environment. I’ve previously discussed how economic uncertainty can hinder business activity, and the Federal Reserve Bank is acting to provide a more stable outlook for U.S. businesses.

In a second appearance last week, at the Annual Monetary/Macroeconomics Conference in San Francisco, Bernanke extended his discussion of the Fed’s current policies. In this longer speech, the Fed’s Chairman outlined four “prongs” of the strategy, which he characterized as relying “primarily on monitoring, supervision and regulation, and communication.” Again, the underlying motivation is to reduce economic uncertainty so that businesses feel more comfortable about expanding their operations.

But, the Federal Reserve’s actions to reduce economic uncertainty are easily undermined by the whirlwind of obscurity being produced on the Fiscal Policy side of government. In his report before Congress, Bernanke called out the Legislature directly:

“Although monetary policy is working to promote a more robust recovery, it cannot carry the entire burden of ensuring a speedier return to economic health. The economy’s performance both over the near term and in the longer run will depend importantly on the course of fiscal policy. The challenge for the Congress and the Administration is to put the federal budget on a sustainable long-run path that promotes economic growth and stability without unnecessarily impeding the current recovery.”

Indeed, Mr. Chairman. It is very challenging to promote financial liquidity when pedaling up a Fiscal hill.

-Jeremy West, Internet Truckstop Economist

(Non-commercial Drivers are) On the Road Again

Cyclists often display bumper stickers or yard signs reminding motorists to “share the road.” The U.S. Department of Transportation even has a website providing information about safe road sharing.
Although these reminders are typically lighthearted, the message is serious: as road congestion increases, vehicles of all types are more likely to be involved in collisions. This unsurprising relationship between road congestion and vehicle collisions has been documented repeatedly for quite some time, and applies as aptly to large commercial trucks as to smaller vehicles.
For this reason, drivers of all vehicle classes should take note of the recent travel monitoring reports from the U.S. DOT, which show that monthly miles traveled increased year-over-year during nearly every month in 2012. During the recent recession, motorists broke a long-running trend of annual increases in vehicle miles traveled, and the trend then remained flat to decreasing for much of the past five years (Figure 1).
As the economy slowly improves – and provided gasoline prices remain fairly stable – annual vehicle miles traveled are likely to continue increasing, perhaps returning to the long-term trend. Over the next few years, the phrase “share the road” may ring truer than ever.

More on the Ebb and Flow of Truck Drivers

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (.pdf) that firms added 157,000 employees to their payrolls during January. As in December, the Construction and Manufacturing sectors continued to expand. But, for-hire trucking employment also grew, increasing by 5000 employees since December.

In another article, I examined transitions from and to for-hire employment in trucking. If manufacturing and construction are close substitutes for trucking, should all three of these occupations be swelling their payrolls simultaneously – especially when the overall unemployment rate remains at 7.9 percent?

Below, I update my previous analysis to incorporate time, showing the extent of employment transitions to and from trucking during each year over the last decade. Specifically, I use the previously discussed CPS-MORG employment transitions to show the ratio of new truckers to former truckers by year, rather than combined into a single measure for each sector. I present this ratio for three of trucking’s most related sectors: construction, trade (wholesale or retail), and manufacturing.

In the figure, a value of zero for a sector indicates that there is an equal flow of workers moving from that sector to employment in trucking as there is exiting for-hire trucking to that sector. A value of 0.5 indicates that there are three new truckers coming from that sector for every two former truckers departing for that sector.

Construction activity sharply declined during the recession, so it is not surprising to see an influx of construction workers into trucking towards the end of the decade. However, now that the construction sector is rapidly expanding again (.pdf), this trend could easily reverse.

The relative shift of truckers to manufacturing during recent years is also concerning, and as manufacturing activity continues to improve, this pattern is likely to continue.

Retail and wholesale trade appear to be the most balanced of the sectors, in terms of transitions to and from trucking. At this time, there is little reason to anticipate this pattern changing substantially.


About the author

Jeremy West is the Internet Truckstop research economist for the weekly Trans4Cast. Jeremy examines the broader economic picture and reports how the current economic headlines relate to the trucking industry. He holds a bachelor of science in Economics, with minor degrees in Business and Creative Studies, from Texas A&M University, where he is currently completing a doctorate in Economics. His research focuses on empirical analysis of topics in industrial organization, particularly those affecting the transportation sector. In addition to his academic training, Jeremy held several previous positions in corporate financial planning and economic forecasting. Jeremy enjoys the opportunity to offer highlights and analysis of the trucking industry.


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The Ebb and Flow of Truck Drivers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that 155,000 jobs were added nationally during December, with the national unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 7.8%. For trucking, a key portion of this report was that manufacturers and construction firms respectively added 25,000 and 30,000 workers to their payrolls. This underscores that a sizeable reduction in potential truck drivers may be an important factor for the trucking industry during 2013.

Anyone who has spent a long time in trucking can tell you that construction and manufacturing are some of the closest employment substitutes for possible truck drivers. Like trucking, these occupations are physically demanding, require long hours, and necessitate safe handling of heavy equipment.

As an economist, I am interested in exactly how close manufacturing and construction are as substitutes for trucking employment. To address this question, I use the “Merged Outgoing Rotation Groups” version of the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is originally collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One feature of the CPS is that many individuals are surveyed about their employment twice, one year apart. This allows for researchers to link (anonymous) individuals across two sequential years to examine changes in their employment. Below, I use the CPS from 2000-2011 in this way to study transitions into and out of full-time employment as a truck driver.

Over the past decade, the U.S. averaged roughly 4.15 million truck drivers each year, representing around 2.6 percent of all full-time employees. Note that this number includes all surveyed individuals who described their employment as truck driving, not just TL and LTL truck drivers. The data do not allow for further dissection of this occupational category.

Using the sequential links in the data, the CPS shows that about 75% of respondents who were employed full-time as truckdrivers remain employed full-time as truck drivers during the following year. In Figure 2, I examine the roughly 25% of drivers who changedeither to or from driving a truck for employment from one year to the next.

Figure 2 displays the ten largest employment categories for individuals who transitioned into or out of full-time truck driving between their surveys. Interestingly, transitions to and from other types of employment appear to be very balanced, with drivers as likely to switch to any other particular occupation as they are to switch from it.

Of truck drivers who changed their full-time occupation, the largest employment category is Other Transportation or Warehousing (e.g. driving a bus). Construction and Manufacturing are respectively the second and fourth most likely alternate industries for truck drivers, representing a combined 17% of occupational transitions. So, during the past decade about 4.25% (17% of 25%) of truck drivers shifted to employment in either construction or manufacturing from year to year.And, about 4.25% of “new” truck drivers transitioned from either construction or manufacturing in each year.

For these reasons, it is well worth keeping a close eye on anygrowth in construction and manufacturing employment as we enter 2013.


About the author
Jeremy West is the Internet Truckstop research economist for the weekly Trans4Cast. Jeremy examines the broader economic picture and reports how the current economic headlines relate to the trucking industry. He holds a bachelor of science in Economics, with minor degrees in Business and Creative Studies, from Texas A&M University, where he is currently completing a doctorate in Economics. His research focuses on empirical analysis of topics in industrial organization, particularly those affecting the transportation sector. In addition to his academic training, Jeremy held several previous positions in corporate financial planning and economic forecasting. Jeremy enjoys the opportunity to offer highlights and analysis of the trucking industry to subscribers each week. Take advantage and subscribe today!

Internet Truckstop is First Load Board to Help Members Navigate New CARB Regulation

For Immediate Release

New Plymouth, Idaho

January 7, 2013

Internet Truckstop is First Load Board to Help Members Navigate New CARB Regulation

Internet Truckstop has rolled out a new decision support tool and a free webinar series to help members’ transition into new regulations, now in effect, from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The new CARB regulation just went into effect, on January 1st, and requires every carrier driving on California roads to comply with the rules, or face hefty fines. While the weight of the regulations primarily fall on carriers, brokers and shippers will face penalties if they fail to ensure they are contracting with compliant carriers.

Internet Truckstop is the only load board that offers companies looking for trucks a quick sort function to find compliant carriers, saving time when searching for trucks to move freight on California roads.

Internet Truckstop’s four-week CARB webinar series begins on January 9th, with a different hour-long webinar being offered each Wednesday starting at 12:30 p.m. MST.  Each meeting will feature a visit from a member of CARB, with topics to be covered including: vehicle inspections, diesel particulate filters (DPFs), TRUCRS Reporting System, Truck and Bus Regulations, the Transport Refrigeration Units (TRUs) regulation, drayage truck regulation, public fleets, public transit agency, solid waste collection vehicle regulation, tractor-trailer greenhouse gas emission reduction regulation and enforcement of regulations.

“It can be overwhelming to those in the industry to stay on top of the stream of new regulations.  Internet Truckstop continues to offer information-driven solutions to our members.”  Pat Dickard, Internet Truckstop Corporate Trainer

For more information on Internet Truckstop’s free CARB webinars, contact Pat Dickard at 800-203-2540 x 6181 or visit the ITS Business Development Webinar Series page.

About Internet Truckstop

Founded in 1995, Internet Truckstop was the first online freight matching service. Listening to the transportation industry is the driving force behind all of the innovative business tools that they develop. These easy-to-use tools, the largest freight database and a commitment to their customers makes Internet Truckstop the leader in Internet freight matching.


Justin Morken

800-203-2540 ext. 6283

Internet Truckstop

Po Box 99, New Plymouth, ID 83655



CARB Webinars receive an overwhelming response


Today marked the first day for ITS and CARB’s month long webinar series, “Will You be Able to Drive in California?”

With over 150 participants that came to the webinar full of questions regarding the new laws for driving in California. There will be another chance next week for more questions to be answered when another webinar is offered. The topic for January 16th is  Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs), Truck and Bus Regulation, TRUCRS Reporting System. Don’t miss your chance to register! Click here for more information and registration.


Do I Ever Need the Christmas Spirit This Year!

***This post is originally from Internet Truckstop is the official load board for Team Run Smart. Check out all their great articles on their website!

Every driver’s day has its ordinary “driving down the road” challenges and having a good attitude can you stay positive and not overreact to difficult situations.  The right attitude will make a more professional, safety conscious driver. It can also help you earn more money and get more enjoyment from driving.  However, the challenges the industry faces has made a positive attitude difficult to maintain.

Here are a few of the challenges that have brought on some sleepless nights for many owner-operators and company drivers:

  • The changes in CSA regulations
  • Hours of service regulations
  • Clean air regulations
  • Increased cost of equipment
  • Increasing diesel fuel prices
  • Difficulties getting loans for new equipment purchases
  • Less parking spaces for trucks
  • Rates not keeping up with costs
  • Detention pay (the lack of and the need for)

So how do you keep up a positive attitude when you are faced with these challenges? Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, knowing carriers have been successful at improving truck efficiency and reducing costs by optimizing fuel, improving truck and trailer aerodynamics, improving power train efficiency, and inventing new tools or ways to get the job done. If carriers can come out ahead, owner-operators and company drivers can too.

Here are ways to overcome some of these challenges and keep up your Christmas cheer:

  • Creative Brainstorm. Around the holidays, since you might have some additional downtime, start brainstorming and thinking creatively on ways to solve your business challenges. Catch up on the latest Team Run Smart articles to get industry news and business tips, or read posts in the Team Run Smart Forums to see how other drivers are solving their issues. Call some of your friends in the industry who are successful and ask them for advice. A fun idea for the holidays that keeps me in a positive attitude, is to watch my favorite Christmas shows.  Seriously, it has helped me to relax and get the creative juices flowing.  Start thinking outside the box and find new ways get over those bumps in the road to start fresh for the New Year.
  • Choose your loads wisely. If the hours of driving each day get reduced, find a way to deliver the product on time.  After all, if Santa Clause can make all his delivers to every house on the globe, surely we can find a way to make one delivery on time.  The change might be to quit hauling loads for folks that make us sit at a loading dock for an unreasonable amount of time without any detention pay.  Of course, this time of year, we can be held up by bad weather and road closers.  You may consider a computer program or GPS system that provides weather updates and road conditions.  Make sure you get the phone number for road conditions of each state and call ahead to change your route if necessary prior to being detained.
  • Become a business minded entrepreneur. Changes in CSA will make us all better business minded entrepreneurs.   CSA regulations are changing the way owners evaluate and train their drivers. Using electronic logs to ensure drivers comply with hours-of-service laws and using smart phones and iPads to take care of daily paperwork are a just a few of these recent changes.
  • Remember regulations may save you money in the long run. Regulations like the new CARB Greenhouse Gas Regulation will actually save you money because it forces drivers to take advantage of some of the fuel-efficient technologies available. This is better for you and the environment. (Link to CARB article.)
  • Consider switching to natural gas from diesel.  Even though the cost of purchasing a new truck (which would most likely be necessary) is higher, the payback is fast because natural gas is less expensive than fuel.  There also exists the side benefit of burning a cleaner fuel with less bad emissions, making the clean air folks happy.  The engine manufactures are already developing the powerhouses for class 8 trucks.  Several companies are developing a network of refueling facilities, enabling cross-country trips.  (Link to natural gas article.)
  • Embrace technology. The new technological advances going into the cab of a truck at a record-setting pace should be looked at as assets to enable us to do a better and safer job.  This integration of networked electronics with trucks means, in theory, telematics could do everything from automatically slowing a truck down when it approaches a blind curve, to diagnosing vehicle issues remotely for preventative maintenance. With telematics, your truck will have the ability to report your driving style to your boss or insurance company.  It’ll keep track of any risky maneuvers you perform and tell the police if it thinks you’re to blame for an accident. If you are a safe driver, you have nothing to worry about and it should help decrease the number of truck accidents on the road, which will help boost the industry image.  Telematics will also cut down on highway traffic and decrease the amount of fuel burned by idling vehicles, which will again make the clean air folks happy. Some even envision it will decrease potential litigation costs by keeping having the facts on the truck’s every move.

Plan ahead, keep positive, and make this a holiday season full of love, happiness, and optimism.  Let’s put the fun back into trucking for 2013.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


About the Author
Patrick Dickard -With over 25 years of experience in the transportation field, Pat Dickard brings a wealth of knowledge and application to the position of Corporate Trainer for Internet Truckstop. Transportation became a way of life as General Manager for a potato and onion packing and shipping facility in Oregon. He has experience shipping from Mexico to points throughout the US. Later years found Pat in the seat of a big rig traveling the highways of the country. By joining the staff at Internet Truckstop Pat is able to bring his experience as a business manager, business owner, truck driver, broker agent, and a shipper to the forefront to assist other folks in being more successful. Host of the ITS Business Development Webinar Series – Mr. Dickard covers subjects such as How to find new shipper clients, How to sell yourself and conduct a business meeting; Identity theft, theft of loads, fraud in the industry, How to qualify carriers faster with less risk, Insurance issues, tips and tricks of using the load board for best results, and negotiating rates.


When we send out a product we want it to be as ‘bug free’ as possible. To that end, we employ an avid testing process, wherein testing starts at the beginning of development and continues even after the product has been deployed.

Our tech team begins the testing process by gaining a good understanding of what the product is and how it should function. After getting a thorough handle on the product, we write a test that, when run, will make sure the product is functioning correctly. We run this test after the product is finished being coded, going back and fixing coding problems until the test is passed. These tests are retained for the life of the product, and are constantly running to make sure that no future additions or alterations damage the product.

After the product passes this initial test, the developers test it further, and then upload it to a test environment (test environments are often clones of live website, wherein testers can demo functionality of new products without affecting the live website). Our quality assurance testers (QAs) manually try the functionality of the new product in the test environment, making sure it does what it is designed to do, and nothing that it isn’t. Strangely enough, the most valuable QAs are those who are agile enough to find ways to ‘break’ the product. The more ways in which testers can try to ‘break’ a product, the more durable and ‘bug free’ the product can become. All of the bugs and missing functionality found by the QAs are sent back to the developers for repair. After a bug is fixed, it must again go through testing.

Before the QAs get into the detailed stages of testing, they explore the product to make sure all obvious bugs and functionality has been dealt with. Then they send out the product to testers throughout the company, as each Internet Truckstop department has a few people designated to help test, with testers rotating quarterly. Each company tester spends an hour a day doing nothing but testing products for functionality and bugs. The more eyes exploring a product, the better, as the diversity of approaches and perspectives makes for a more thoroughly tested product. When company testers find the product to be ‘bug free’ and user friendly, they communicate to QAs that the product has ‘passed.’

QAs continue to test even while they wait for the product to pass through the company testers. After confirming that all bugs have been fixed, that functionality is working and user friendly, and that company testers have given the ‘thumbs up,’ the product is finished, and ready for rollout.

After passing through our developers, our QAs, and our company testers, the product then moves on to its most important test of all – your daily use! Our entire testing process is designed to make our products function in the useful, user friendly ways that you would like it to. We greatly value your feedback because your opinion is the most important of all.

About the Author
Chelsea Baguley, is a certified Scrum Master at Internet Truckstop and works hand in hand with the development department. Chelsea started as a tester at Internet Truckstop and has a keen insight of the functions on the load board.

Some (Cautiously) Optimistic News for the Economy

Last week, two key economic reports showed an improving environment for trucking. In one, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that total monthly retail sales increased by a seasonally-adjusted 0.3% during November, or 3.7% year over year. In the other, the Federal Reserve documented a full percentile increase in the monthly industrial production index for November, including a 1.1 percentile improvement in the manufacturing component.

Contrasted with the weakness seen in these measures during recent months, the November reports are especially promising for trucking. The improvement in industrial production, for instance, was the largest monthly increase in this index since December 2010. Retail sales, meanwhile, are now up nearly 25% from their recessionary bottom.

The scene is not all rosy, however. As the Fed’s report noted, “The gain in November is estimated to have largely resulted from a recovery in production for industries that had been negatively affected by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast region in late October.”

Moreover, inventories continue to grow throughout the supply chain. As shown in the figure, the growth rate of inventory accumulation has outpaced that for retail sales and production since late 2010, and the volume of business inventories steadily increases. So long as the supply chain struggles to move existing stock, we will continue to see a disconnect between new production and demand for more trucking.

Whether the November improvements in manufacturing and sales will continue is an open question. Some early answers to this question will be provided this week in the December regional production reports from the Fed Banks in New York, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.


Jeremy West
ITS Economist