Werner founder, namesake easing out of leadership role

Leadership of one of the trucking industry’s leading companies is changing.

Saying, “There comes a moment when you know it’s just time to move on,” CL Werner, the man who founded what was to become Werner Enterprises, took a step toward easing out of his role on the company’s board of directors.

The company this week announced Werner stepped down as executive chairman, effective May 31. A statement from the company said he will continue to serve as chairman of the board of directors through the end of his current term, which ends in May of 2021. Werner is expected to become chairman emeritus then.

In connection with this transition, the board of directors appointed Derek Leathers, the current chief executive officer and president of the company, as a member and vice chairman. Werner recommended Leathers be named chairman of the board of directors, in addition to his roles as chief executive officer and president next May.

CL Werner founded the company in 1956 with one truck. Today the company has almost 11,000 drivers.

“All I ever wanted to do was drive a truck,” said the founder in a statement from the company. “As the first driver for our company, I know first-hand that professional drivers are, and have always been, the backbone of our country. America is witnessing that now more than ever.
“I’ve been proud to have created such a company. But my intent was nothing more than being able to drive a truck, provide exceptional service, meet good people, and hope I could convince the best of them to come to work for me … and it worked.

“There comes a moment when you know it’s just time to move on. I’m in good health, and Werner has never been in a better position than it is today. So now is the time. I have the utmost confidence in Derek and his leadership team to continue to take Werner to the next level and beyond.”

In a statement on Werner’s website, Leathers said, “Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such foresight as CL has. He’s passionate about our company, our drivers, our associates, and life in general. There is no doubt he will stay committed to Werner’s success going forward.

“He put over 64 years of work into this company, and I appreciate the confidence he has in me and our leadership team going forward. We will continue to concentrate on the things that have made Werner great – being a driver-focused company, with core values that reflect who we are as we serve our customers.”

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Re-Opening Measures Positively Affect Truck Freight, Rates

With all 50 states relaxing COVID-19 shutdown orders to various extents, trucking shipments and rates are heading back up – but don’t expect a true recovery until 2021.

For the week of May 18-24, truckload markets continued to follow seasonal trends, and load-to-truck ratios on the DAT network continued to climb as a result, according to DAT Solutions. That put pressure on prices, which rose going into the long holiday weekend as more and more businesses reopen.

The number of posted loads actually dropped 16.5% during the week ending May 24, which includes the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, but truck posts fell 29%. Shippers and brokers paid a premium to secure capacity ahead of the holiday, DAT said.

“The demand for trucks has steadily increased throughout May, following seasonal trends that are typical for this time of year,” wrote Matt Sullivan on the DAT blog May 27.

“The upward trends offers plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward. Last week saw some of the biggest increases since late March, with many shippers paying a premium to get freight moved ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend.”

National averages for van and flatbed rates are still below where they were in April, although refrigerated rates were up slightly, reported DAT.

  • Van: $1.57 per mile, 6 cents lower than the April average
  • Flatbed: $1.88 a mile, 6 cents lower than April
  • Reefer: $2.00 a mile, 7 cents higher than April

The rolling national average van, flatbed, and reefer rates were 6, 7, and 8 cents higher, respectively, on May 24 than they were on May 1. Rates are low but trending in the right direction.

There are still many markets where truckload supply outweighs demand, Sullivan said. Hot markets, on the other hand, included Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Ontario, California.

Look for 2021 rebound

ACT Research is predicting that the economy will transition from contraction to growth over the course of the third and fourth quarters. “Clearly the global economy does not have the luxury of waiting a year or two for a vaccine to be developed before the current solution itself becomes the greater risk,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst. “Our forecast anticipates that the U.S. economy, as defined by GDP, will not return to its Q4’19 size until after 2021.”

It’s not easy to restart supply chains that were totally shut down due to the pandemic, Vieth said. “In the supply chains that support complex OEM-level assembly operations, from raw materials to finished goods, it is not just about opening one plant, but opening thousands of plants simultaneously, making tens of thousands of parts that go into those assemblies in an orchestrated fashion, all with new layers of safety and testing protocols in place.”

On top of that, he said, getting buyers to market is another challenge “when the economy has so recently cratered and going outside poses an existential risk.”

However, Vieth said, because the pre-COVID economy was “structurally sound… with strong Federal Reserve and Congressional support, and rising pent-up demand, there is a case to be made that the economy will respond strongly into 2021.”

Coyote Logistics is predicting a similar recovery. “Though we expect a steep drop once all Q2 numbers are in the books, we have likely already hit the bottom in Q2,” writes the third-party logistics provider in an article explaining its latest Coyote Curve forecast for the truckload market.

“We’ll see a slow recovery the rest of the year and then rocket into 2021,” with spot market truckload rates rising year over year in the first quarter of the year, said Chris Pickett, chief strategy officer of the third-party logistics provider and author of the Coyote Curve forecast, in a recent webinar. Coyote said it expects contract and spot rates to more or less converge from here, and an inflationary 2021 spot truckload environment (barring a major economic setback).

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DOT to mail masks to truck drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation will distribute some 2.1 million cloth masks to truck drivers as part of a larger initiative to distribute masks to transportation workers across the country. The department will distribute about 15.5 million masks to various transportation sectors.

“Transportation workers are on the frontlines of keeping our transportation systems operational during this public health emergency and their wellbeing and safety is paramount,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

DOT says the masks will be secured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will be sent out over the coming weeks through the Mail. The breakdown of masks by transportation sector is as follows:

  • Mass transit and passenger rail – 4.8 million
  • Aviation – 3.8 million
  • Maritime – 2.4 million
  • Freight rail – 2.2 million
  • Highway and motor carrier – 2.1 million
  • Pipeline systems – 258,000

An agency spokesman said further details about how and when the masks will be distributed will be forthcoming.

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Yokohama ends Covid-19 shutdown at truck tire plant

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Yokohama Corporation of North America has reopened its plant in West Point, Miss., which had been silenced as a precautionary measure in the early weeks of Covid-19.

The facility was closed on March 28 in what was originally announced as a a two-week shutdown. The shipping department and maintenance operations continued to operate.

“To ensure the health and welfare of all personnel upon their return, [Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi] has implemented several new safety procedures at the plant based on the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as from local authorities,” the company says in a related notice.

“Several preventative measures are also in effect at all Yokohama facilities.”

The 1-million-square-foot factory began production in the fall of 2015, representing a US $300 million investment, and was set up to produce up to 1 million tires per year.

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TravelCenters of America lays off more than 3,000

WESTLAKE, Ohio – TravelCenters of America, one of North America’s largest truck stop chains, has laid off 2,900 field employees and 122 corporate employees in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All TA, Petro Stopping Centers and TA Express travel centers remain open with fuel, showers, restrooms, quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores. But the full-service restaurant business has been affected by limits on such establishments and lower consumer demand linked to broader stay-at-home orders.

“Employees continue to take precautionary measures consistent with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to minimize the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols,” it adds in a related press release.

“This decision was very difficult, but these are unprecedented times. We believe this step is necessary to preserve the long-term success of our company and to ensure our essential services remain available for the millions of professional drivers who rely on us daily,” said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA.

Founded in 1972, TravelCenters of America has more than 21,000 employees in more than 260 locations.

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Goodyear offering free DoT inspections

AKRON, Ohio – Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers in the U.S. are offering free DoT inspections for truckers as they continue to move commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Valued at US$120, the inspections will include the tractor and trailer, including brake systems, tires and wheels, exhaust systems, lighting and more. The Goodyear CTSC locations are remaining open, even in states with stay-at-home orders, as they have been deemed an essential business.

“Goodyear is dedicated to meeting tire and service needs for the many hardworking professional drivers, first responders and other essential workers who are making countless sacrifices to protect public health and safety and deliver needed goods during these difficult times,” said Frank Payne, director, Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers. “With the health and wellbeing of our customers and associates top of mind, we are taking a number of precautions to minimize the spread of Covid-19 at all of our centers so we can remain open and keep vehicles on the road.”

To reduce the spread of illness, all centers are following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and taking a number of preventive measures, including enhanced disinfection, visitor protocols and physical distancing, the company claims.

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BYD delivers 100th electric truck in U.S.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – BYD recently reached a new milestone, delivering its 100th battery-electric truck in the U.S.

The Class 8 truck was delivered to Anheuser-Busch, which will use it to support its Oakland, Calif., operations. The truckmaker has delivered more than 12,000 zero-emissions trucks worldwide.

“This is a great milestone for BYD, and it is just the beginning,” said Aaron Gillmore, BYD’s vice-president, truck business. “Our trucks are hard at work every day proving that electric is the new standard. 2020 will be a fantastic year for battery-electric trucks.”

“We are proud to continue to build on our commitment to sustainable logistics through our partnership with BYD in California,” added Joaquin Schlottmann, vice-president of Tier 2 logistics at Anheuser-Busch. “By integrating zero-emission vehicles into our distribution fleet, we are taking another step towards reaching our sustainability goals and helping ensure our beers are delivered in the most sustainable way possible.”

BYD said Anheuser-Busch extensively tested the truck on range, acceleration, gradeability, charging speed and more.

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8 named finalists for national tank truck driver award

The National Tank Truck Carriers has named eight professional tank truck drivers as this year’s Champion Finalists for its Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Award.

The 2019-2020 Champion Finalists include:

Ronald Baird, Hoffman Transportation LLC./ G&D Trucking, Inc.
James W. Ellis, Sr., Grammer Industries, Inc.
Ronald Evans, Liquid Cargo, Inc.
Darrien Henderson, J & M Tank Lines, Inc.
Alen Smailovic, Highway Transport
Abdul Standfield, Quality Carriers, Inc.
Edward Stasyshyn, Trimac Transportation
Tony Stinnett, Usher Transport, Inc.

“Congratulations to all of our professional drivers who applied this year and certainly our eight champion finalists,” said NTTC President Daniel R. Furth. “In our unique segment, safety is the single most critical element of success and these finalists epitomize the required safety culture that separates tank truckers from other segments. Thanks to our program sponsor Great West Casualty and our esteemed judges whose support and efforts make this contest one of the top driver recognition programs in all of trucking.”

These eight finalists will advance to the final round of the selection process next month in Arlington, Virginia where a panel of industry professionals will judge the contestants on their knowledge of the tank truck industry, dedication to safety, ability to communicate the industry’s messages, overall safe driving record, and their positive community efforts outside of their driving responsibilities.

The 2019-2020 Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Grand Champion will be announced at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. during NTTC’s 75th Anniversary Annual Conference & Exhibits, May 3-5.

During the winner’s one-year term, he or she will serve as the face of the industry, representing NTTC at safety-focused events throughout the year, and sharing NTTC’s mission of safety and education with the general public.

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Fleet fulfills 95-year-old woman’s trucking dreams

One woman’s longtime dream of riding in a big rig was recently fulfilled by an Alabama trucking company.

BR Williams Trucking, headquartered in Oxford, Alabama, arranged the ridealong for 95-year-old Helen Haywood. Jack Brim, the fleet’s senior vice president of transportation, first learned about Haywood and her trucking ambitions when her daughter approached him during a local Chamber of Commerce event where the fleet had a booth.

“Mrs. Helen’s daughter came by the BRW booth and asked if we ever give rides in the trucks and that her 95-year-old mother wanted to ride in a truck, especially a big red one,” Brim said.

Brim said his heart was touched and he immediately said absolutely, the fleet could arrange for a ride. Then it occurred to him: How would they get Haywood into the truck cab five feet off the ground? The BR Williams team brainstormed and came up with the idea to lift Haywood into a cage that they use for high off the ground projects. The ridealong took off Oct. 24, with some of Haywood’s family members present and Brim behind the Volvo’s wheel.

“I can’t tell you how sweet she was and the look on her face,” Brim said. He referenced Ruth Williams, who founded the fleet with her husband, Bill, saying, “I could only see Mrs. Williams smiling down from heaven being so proud of her dream continuing to be a servant.”

When the ride was over Haywood told them to give her a call if they ever needed someone to ride along on a trip, Brim said.

“The family said how thankful they were to the BR Williams family for making this happen. My reply was we thank you because we were the ones that received the blessing with the look on Mrs. Helen’s face,” Brim said.

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Schneider donates trucks to attract new talent

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Schneider has found a creative way to attract new drivers – by giving them trucks to learn on.

The fleet donated 10 gently used, late model trucks to select CDL driver training programs. The trucks are loaded with technology, giving students hands-on training with the Schneider spec’.

“In addition to hiring many experienced drivers across the country for the many types of positions we offer, Schneider also recruits graduates from CDL driver training programs,” said Rob Reich, executive vice-president and chief administrative officer at Schneider. “We know that many driving training programs have limited resources, and we want the next generation of professional drivers to train in the best trucks in the business as they embark on new careers.”

The schools receiving the trucks are based in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Texas. Schneider feels it will be able to attract more drivers, including some who may not have considered a professional truck driving career.

“Women and younger adults are an emerging driver pool, and we believe technologies like automated manual transmissions, safety and connectivity will attract a more diverse audience to the trucking industry,” said Reich. “Learning on modern equipment spec’d with some of the latest technologies and creature comforts helps attract new candidates and allows them to adjust more quickly to the new trucks operating within our fleet.”