Truck Congestion at Worst Bottlenecks (MPH), Barge Rates on the Mississippi (WHOOSH), China-US Container Freight Rates

Three tidbits with charts from the Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2022.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

We’re going to look at three tidbits that I found particularly interesting in the newly released Department of Transportation’s 234-page Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2022: A measure of truck congestion at the 10 worst bottleneck locations in the US; barge rates on the Mississippi River System, which exploded this fall; and container freight rates in both directions between the US and China, with US-bound rates still 200% above the rates before the pandemic.

Truck congestion at the 10 worst bottlenecks in MPH.

One of the new thingies in 2022 that came out of the supply-chain chaos is a slew of supply-chain measurements, including by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (which is part of the DOT), which came up with monthly data of the average trucks speed at the 10 worst bottleneck locations. The data goes back to January 2019. The latest entry is for October 2022. Here is its map of truck bottlenecks:

In April 2020, passenger vehicle traffic plunged amid the lockdowns, and with fewer passenger vehicles on the road, trucks practically flew through the bottleneck locations at an average speed of 50 mph, up from 21 mph in April 2019!

In every month of 2022 through October (dark blue line in the chart below), the average truck speed at these 10 bottlenecks was faster than in 2019. But in the spring, the speed differential to 2019 was minimal, as the stimulus-fueled boom in goods was still going on, though beginning to fade, while other vehicles were starting to crowd the bottlenecks again.  Then in the summer and fall, the boom in goods faded further, and average truck speeds at these 10 bottlenecks rose to about 25 mph.

The cost of truck congestion was $20 billion in 2019; in 2020, it plunged to $11 billion, the BTS estimates. You can see why (click to enlarge):

Grain Barge Shipping Rates.

The US has 25,000 miles of navigable waterways and about 34,000 barges/non-self-propelled vessels. Domestic waterborne commerce dropped steadily from over 1 billion tons in 2000 to 818 million tons in 2019, and to 743 million tons in 2020 (last year in the report).

In the summer of 2022, the weekly barge rates for downbound freight originating from seven locations along the Mississippi River System, which includes its tributaries, spiked to record highs in September and early October, nearly reaching $120 per ton at one point. They dropped in November but remain high (click on chart to enlarge):

The report outlines why this historic spike in downbound barge rates occurred this fall: excruciatingly low water levels on the Mississippi due to drought. Some excerpts from the report:

“Low water levels, especially on the vital stretch between Cairo, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee, have caused groundings and the need for dredging that have closed sections of the river and halted barge movements for intermittent periods. U.S. Coast Guard District 8 (New Orleans) reported a backup of over 2,000 barges on the Lower Mississippi in early October.

“Low water also restricts the loads each barge can carry, and the narrower channel restricts the number of barges in a single tow [USDOT BTS 2022i]. These restrictions affect the ability to transport cereal grain and other bulk products by water, which account for over half of the 165.5 million tons of freight that moved in 2020 between states touching the Upper Mississippi System and Louisiana.

“Rain from Hurricane Roselyn eased the problem slightly in late October.”

“Rail shipment is the normal alternative to barges, but the rail system can have difficulty absorbing such a massive short-term shift. Moreover, concerns over a possible rail strike in 2022 made shippers hesitant to rely on a rail option.

“Grain and other farm products, however, are seasonal.”

“Unfortunately, disruptions to freight flow caused by low water have coincided with the peak shipping season for U.S. corn and soybeans, the Nation’s largest export crops. The October downbound grain and agricultural product shipments on the Lower Mississippi below Lock and Dam 27 were predominately soybeans and corn, leaving those major export commodities most vulnerable to the Lower River disruption.”

“The low water also delays upbound tows moving fertilizer and cement for spring planting and construction, which also cuts the supply of empty barges for subsequent downbound trips.”

Container Freight Rates: down from peak, but still up 211% from pre-pandemic rates.

Pandemic stimulus caused a historic boom in sales of goods in the US, and many of these goods, either finished goods or components, are imported from Asia, and particularly from China. This explosion in demand caused all kinds of issues, including congestion of ports and rail yards, which tangled up containers.

This sudden burst in demand, chaos at ports and railyards, and “the control of a few companies over prices” caused freight container shipping rates from Central China to the US West Coast to spike by 578% between February 2020 and the peak in August 2021, according to the report.

Ocean freight rates then began to fall, but as of October 2022 remain 211% above the pre-pandemic rate.

The chart shows the average rates in both directions: The rate from Shanghai to Los Angeles (left scale, gray line), peaking at nearly $12,000 per 40-ft. container in the summer of 2021; and the rate from Los Angeles to Shanghai (right scale, green line), peaking at nearly $1,800 per 40-foot container.

 

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  100 comments for “Truck Congestion at Worst Bottlenecks (MPH), Barge Rates on the Mississippi (WHOOSH), China-US Container Freight Rates

  1. DanS86 says:

    All I know is I am often surrounded by Semis on the expressway around me.

    • Leo says:

      Many people here are getting paid for sitting at home (aka pretending to WFH). They then order stuff online, that is being built by hard work of exploited Chinese labor. This stuff is then shipped all the way to US by labor that is really working hard again.

      Wallstreet calls this “strong economy”. Is it Consensual Hallucination?

  2. rojogrande says:

    “Department of Transportation’s 234-page Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2022: A measure of truck congestion”

    LOL! I want your holiday reading list.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      You should see the rest of my inbox, LOL

      • RepubAnon says:

        Market it as a sure-cure for insomnia: “Having trouble sleeping? Looking for a drug-free alternative? Try Wolf’s Reading List! Works even faster than tapes of Econ 101 lectures!

        ;-)

    • Cas127 says:

      Six Words – Statistical Abstract of the United States.

      It won’t contain every stat from every industry/gvt agency, but it will clue you in as to where to start looking for…everything.

      A bit like the pre-Google, Google.

  3. Michael Engel says:

    US economy is strong : day and night trucks are moving stuff in the
    mid west and the south.

    • Leo says:

      Truckers do contribute to strong economy as its a productive service. Strong economy can only be through higher production of goods and services and not higher consumption.

      Higher GDP doesn’t necessarily mean strong economy.

  4. Brooks says:

    Why was 2019 truck traffic so slow?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Massive congestion, lots of people driving to and from work and lots of goods being hauled.

      The MPH data doesn’t go back to 2018, but it was likely similarly slow as 2019.

      • Staunton16 says:

        Just a personal anecdote, but my personal commute in the DC capital area has not returned to a level of congestion anywhere approaching what I experienced in the decade preceding the pandemic. There just aren’t as many cars on the road.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, we see that here too in the San Francisco area, on the commuting routes and times. Traffic moving much better now than in 2019. Rush hour is shorter and less rush-y. And this comes despite BART and CalTrain ridership being down by a huge amount. Working from home is huge here. And you can see the impact in the traffic pattern. I’m NOT complaining, LOL.

          (But weekends are chaotic, with tourists and day-trippers piling in. That’s when we have the worst congestion, it seems. But it’s not on the commuting routes, it’s in the City, in our area, and when I’m trying to drive to Costco on a Saturday at noon, that kind of thing).

  5. Rodolfo says:

    transitory for sure. Not to worry
    HAHA

  6. Nathan says:

    I think the Secretary of Transportation’s McKinsey background may have something to do with these excellent and granular DOT reports. Rule of thumb-If you want to know the state of the “Main Street” economy ask a trucker or longshoreman….

    • Cas127 says:

      Hmm, considering that the reports’ data (and likely the reports themselves) long predate (at least back to 2019) the current McKinsey DoT figurehead, I don’t know if McK-think had much to do with any of this.

      The Agencies tend to collect huge amounts of data (accuracy does tend to vary, though) but they do a poor-to-non-existent job of letting the general public know that the data exists.

    • joedidee says:

      right now those truck drivers and longshoreman are collecting unemployment

  7. Augustus Frost says:

    Intersection of I-75N and I-285 or I-85N and I-285 in ATL looks like it is a candidate from the map. I live close to the latter and the traffic sucks there, time of day and day of week doesn’t seem to make much difference.

    • Escierto says:

      In Texas, I-35 is a parking lot from Laredo to Dallas. Not just at rush hours on weekdays. I have been in huge traffic jams 11 pm on a Saturday night with no explanation other than traffic volume. Of course Texas is a state that spends little to improve its infrastructure. I have lived here over thirty years and the deterioration is amazing.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Now wait, I have been in Texas 30 years and I-45 on both sides of Houston (N & S) is always under construction! It’s a construction company’s retirement program.

        • Michael Engel says:

          Anthony A : Houston and Texarkana are still disconnected.

        • Anthony A. says:

          M.E. – Texarkana will be connected with I-69 (old Highway 59) from what I gather. Remember, all highways are a work in process here in Texas!

      • Cas127 says:

        Escierto,

        Stop flacking for CA (nightmare of all nightmares, commuting wise) – TX has plenty of up to date road infrastructure.

        (Not to mention that 35 is an *interstate*, as in “run from DC”).

        In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that a huge free-market toll road was build *around* Austin in order to lessen congestion on DC controlled 35.

        • Escierto says:

          No one takes 130! I think all the trucks should be forced to go on 130 instead of I-35. BTW, the interstate highways are NOT controlled by DC!! At least get your facts straight. Oh that’s right, you are living in an alternate reality where you make up your own facts!

        • NBay says:

          The Invisible Hands (aka corp and PE money) have him by the brain. Probably thinks he’ll live forever, too.

        • HowNow says:

          CAS bellyaching about DC? I’m shocked!

      • Augustus Frost says:

        There is never going to be enough money to solve the problem. ATL interstates (I-20, I-75, I-85, and I-285) are under regular construction/expansion.

        I’ve read all kinds of proposals on the Curbed ATL website before it shut down. None of the proposals will resolve the congestion. Believing mass public transit is the solution is fantasy. I live within about a mile of the closest MARTA rail station but it’s still faster to drive, after waiting and changing lines. (I live about 8 miles from work.) The public transport system is an “armpit” anyway and most don’t want to use it.

        The population has increased about 300% (4X) since I first moved here in 1975 to about 6MM. There are just too many people here.

        • Halibut says:

          Same problem in Nashville. Population growth is too much for the infrastructure.

          Not so many years ago, I only had to worry about getting through Atlanta when driving to Florida. Now, it’s so bad that I have to hit both Nashville and Atlanta in the middle of the night to get through OK. At least you can cruise through downtown Atlanta in the wee hours and not take that bazillion mile loop.

        • All Good Here Mate says:

          I went to Tennessee from Fla a couple weeks ago. Went through Alabama to avoid I-75 both times.

          Not sure I’ll ever grace Georgia’s I-75 ever again. What a pleasure to take I-65 through Bama…

          Now, if I could only avoid Fla’s I-75… and Turnpike, and pretty much all the major roads the Disney worshippers use. What a day that’ll be.

        • NBay says:

          At least the roads aren’t crowded with Oxycontin worshippers anymore. They are all busy dying from substitute street stuff now.

          The Sackler family should be made to house, feed, and personally care for drug addicts in re-hab. At least 1000 of them.

      • Brant Lee says:

        I’d rather have a root canal than drive in Dallas.

      • Apple says:

        The Governor is fixated on building walls.

      • Nunya says:

        I moved to Texas in July 2021. I live just outside of DFW. I’ve been taking 35E to work the last 3 months. I also visit family in San Antonio and have taken trips to Austin. I’m not sure what your defition of a traffic jam is, but in my experience I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam only a handful of times.

        I commuted to NYC from NJ and other parts outside the city for 15 years. This “traffic” in TX is NOTHING compared to the absolute nightmare of traffic issues in the NYC area. It’s all about perspective.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Nun – last sentence totally on the mark. Like it or not, every new environment on the globe will require at least some adaptation to it FROM you as you endeavor to inject it with, at least, SOME of the environment you left behind…

          (Wolf, as a shirttail geographer, I found this to be one of your most-enjoyable columns, ever! Thanks, as always, for your endless hard work, analysis, and patience with an oft-unruly and impecunious commentariat…).

          may we all find a better day.

        • HowNow says:

          91B20: Thanks. I like your reasonable and measured comments. No ranting. Makes the day go better…

        • NBay says:

          Yep. Only saw him lose it once when Ukraine War started. I responded with a rant, and I think we both got deleted….I did, anyway.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          NBay – “…all who are lost occasionally wander…” – or something like that.

          A better year to you, and to you, How, and to all who wander in to this, Wolf’s most-excellent establishment…

          and, if not a year, may we all find at least a better day…

      • Happy1 says:

        This is a problem everywhere fast growth occurs, where I live in Colorado we are almost 2 decades behind in freeway construction. And there is also the well documented phenomenon of induced demand, as in if you build freeways, people move out further from the urban core because the commute improved.

        The only places with great traffic are large cities in the rust belt that shrunk substantially. St Louis has great traffic.

        The worst traffic overall is in the largest metro areas where there just is not enough room to add 20 lanes in each direction.

    • Denise says:

      @AF. I can attest that the biggest reason for all of the traffic congestion on I75 north and south of the perimeter are those ridiculous aka STUPID reversible lanes. It is more irritating from the south. Just take a northbound lane away, after I275 and I 16 merge. Keep the trucks coming from the port in the right two lanes and let the rich pay the express lane price to bypass the huge traffic congestion that they created. The Reversible lane runs opposite the actual north south congestion from the port and I75 South. The traffic is unbelievable. The Reversible lanes go nowhere. But some heavy road construction contractor must have made some huge political donations. Atlanta has not put any significant money into transportation infrastructure since the Republicans took over the state 20 years ago. In the 90’s the median between the north and southbound lanes was designated for commuter light rail. I lived in Atlanta for 22 years you could not pay anyone in our family to live there again.

    • Softtail Rider says:

      Had the honor of passing through Atlanta twice. First time was travelling north via I-75 to the west bypass. Rain was coming down in sheets and I was coming from Daytona after the rally. A new concrete left lane had just been completed and I loved that lane even at 80 MPH on my scooter. There were many wrecks in the right two lanes due to truck traffic having depressed both wheel tracks and those being filled with rainwater. Hence the love of the concrete!

      The second time I was going south during the beginning of rush hour. I chose to go straight through at 80+ MPH and was amazed at the short amount of time in transit. This time in a four wheeler with no rain.

      At this point I wish to mention All Interstates were originally designed to handle speed at 85 MPH but government safety idiots decided that the average citizen could not handle speed at that rate so dropped it to 70 mph. Thus increasing the congestion and the wrecks.

      I-270 north in St Louis county was designed at 70 but the locals tried 55. Again congestion and wrecks increased until the limit was raised to 70. Now back to 60 and congestion is building.

      Sometime during the 70s gasoline shortage the powers that be dropped the limit to 55. A most brilliant move as CB radios helped increase it back.

      Our wonderful safe government is not a blessing.

      • Prairie Rider says:

        And most of the suggested speed signs posted on corners is calculated for a vehicle to be safe at .25 G of lateral force. The speed to lateral G force relationship is a squared function. Twice as fast through the corner(s) of the posted speed is a 1.0 G side load.

        At a 45 degree lean angle, a motorbike pulls 1 G laterally. Only three or so more months to go until the car and bike come out of hibernation.

        Back in the summer of 1996 when working at the Summer Olympics, I experienced Atlanta’s rain coming down full force while on the freeway on two occasions, in a car. Man, it was safer to pull aside and wait for awhile. I can’t imagine riding a motorbike through that!

        “Shiny side up,” to you Softtail Rider.

      • HotTub says:

        Ah, CB radios – what a great memory! My handle was Night Owl, as I loved being out at night. My brother’s handle? Danglin’ Sirloin! My dad was really upset with him. LOL

        I know, a bit off-topic, but you really made me smile with your reference to CB radios.

      • NBay says:

        A “safe” government that doesn’t allow racing with old ladies going to the Safeway must be a bitch for the truly macho….(legends in their own minds), especially the ones with mid-life crises. (although there ARE racetracks, if you MUST have thrills or check your skill level). I did all my kid stuff to the max when I was a kid, and let it go. And was damn lucky I survived that.
        The correct old man involvement is in crew chiefing and coaching young racers who STILL HAVE the reaction times required for it, like 91B20.

        • Prairie Rider says:

          A smart rider only pushes when they are all alone on a well-known road and in good weather conditions. I have a few of them, and the best are decreasing radius cloverleafs.

          Wolf commented that he swam in the Bay yesterday.

          My fix in winter? Today I rode, and almost every day I ride my gravel bike along the river in Minneapolis and St Paul; putting my 40 mm wide tungsten-carbide-tipped studded winter tires to good use. “It’s addictive.” You see to me, NBay, that is “the correct old man involvement.” (Helmet always, and lights on the bike)

          “You got to keep on moving to keep on moving.”

    • anon says:

      Augustus,

      My wife and I love taking long car trips.

      A few years ago, before COVID, we decided we’d bother our relatives living peacefully in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And since I’m an American Civil War fanatic I thought it would be cool to follow Genl Shermans trail through Atlanta over to Savannah.

      We have been ‘trapped in traffic’ all over the country. The Chicago area where we live can be awful too. I-65 down to Indianapolis can stink too.

      But the WORST traffic we’ve ever encountered was in, and around Atlanta. Worse than Boston or San Francisco or DC or Los Angeles.

      I agree with you 100%. Atlanta was easily the WORST.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Went through that area about 30-40 times between ’99 and ’15 AF, and AGREE totally; finally gave up on the I-285 roundabout, and just timed my departure to go straight on 75 to 20W, or vice versa going south.
      Not to mention the crazy ass drivers on 285 who would actually come up and push if you weren’t going 85 MPH…
      Glad to be done with that haul, far damn shore.

  8. Bill Shortell says:

    Interesting. Trucks not the bottleneck. I do wonder what all that slow driving does for diesel emissions, though.

    The Mississippi barge question should open the eyes of a few doubters about the impact of climate change on the economy.

    Can the nearly 10-fold higher rates from China to US be totally attributable to volume difference. (these figures would be interesting), or do we have a case for anti-trust regulation?

    • Escierto says:

      There is literally nothing that will change the minds of the climate change deniers. The Mississippi could be bone dry and they will insist it’s a temporary phenomenon unrelated to climate change.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Well, it’s like they say about the weather, it’s always changing.

      • Bs ini says:

        Climate change and moisture my initial thoughts were that rain and moisture would increase as earth warms. So I don’t know about a drought and the Mississippi and rain fall.
        Climate change can affect the intensity and frequency of precipitation. Warmer oceans increase the amount of water that evaporates into the air. When more moisture-laden air moves over land or converges into a storm system, it can produce more intense precipitation—for example, heavier rain and snow storms.Aug 1, 2022

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Yup. An interesting observation is the lack of congruence across the spectrum of moisture prediction (amount, location) models. Were one so inclined.

          Climate Change is a rather empty concept for me – the politicized concept that is. Better expressed, the lack of accuracy in predictive analytic models and the shere complexity of what is being modeled leads me to think we’re a long ways from understanding/explanation – a precondition for wise policy/regulation and funding decisions.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          …what needs to be remembered in the climate discussion is that ‘change’ is not only amounts of temperature and precip, but their moving DISTRIBUTION over the globe (surely the Sahara will be returning to a it’s former savanna-type climate any year, now? /s).

          may we all find a better day.

      • Ed C says:

        It is a temporary phenomenon unrelated to climate change. There I said it. I’m not a climate change denier I just don’t ascribe every weather situation to climate change. Seems like the Mississippi floods a lot more often than it dries up. Texas dries up. Texas floods. Shjt happens.

      • Brant Lee says:

        Yeah, Lake Mead doesn’t look temporary. Forget the Colorado River.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          You mean man–made Lake Mead?

        • Ervin says:

          I saw a graph relating to the Colorado river basin starting from when Hoover Dam was finished until 2021. One line was the annual rainfall in the basin and the other line was the amount of water consumed from the river basin. The rainfall fluctuated in a steady band, BUT the consumption for the last 80+ years has grown year after year. It’s so lazy to look at Lake Mead and yell, climate change, and never consider the other side of the coin. It’s the unrelenting growth of demand on the river. There have been more than a few dams built in the Colorado river head waters since Hoover dam that send water east for Denver and more cities.

      • Between The Lines says:

        And when didn’t the climate change?

      • Happy1 says:

        What’s really tiresome and unscientific is when literally every meteorologic phenomenon anywhere any day in any place is ascribed to human caused climate change. It’s pervasive and lazy and accounts for almost half of all news coverage on NPR by my country (the remainder is evenly split between coverage of transgender teens, cops beating people of color, and January 6th).

    • Rohry says:

      Container rates from China have plummeted recently and are just slightly above what they were two and a half years ago. Not sure what you’re referencing.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Rohry,

        Bill Shortell was referring to the article, wherein it says that rates spiked 578% through the summer of 2021, and then plunged, but are still about 200% above where they’d been before the pandemic. Chart included. And the article gave some reasons for the spike, including an item that Bill alluded to. In case of doubt, it helps to read the article.

        • Rohry says:

          I just re-read it and what I stated is accurate about rates being near what they were 2 1/2 years ago. My question was about what was his “10 fold higher”reference about. Is he comparing truck rates to ocean container rates? Or what?

        • rojogrande says:

          Rohry,

          I don’t think you’re looking at the graph correctly. The 578% increase is for shipping a container from China to the West coast and is the left hand scale (lower of the two dotted lines) which went from a little under $2,000 pre-pandemic to almost $12,000 at the peak.

        • rojogrande says:

          Rohry,

          Oh, I see what you’re asking. I think the “10-fold” increase is just an inexact reference to the 578% figure since the figures in the graph aren’t exact when you just take a look at it.

        • NBay says:

          That directional cost chart was good. Makes me wonder if one-way containers are still being built/used. I know they were really popular late 90’s early 2000’s because I was considering building an off grid container home, when I retired, (or maybe a workshop/house combo) relatives and I could also vacation in.
          Got pretty far during most all of 2013 before I killed my back for good. (decided to use 5 top quality used containers, stacked 2-2-1)

    • phillip jeffreys says:

      What’s happening with shipping fleets? i.e., new construction, maintenance, changed transport patterns, changing insurance rates, etc., etc.????

  9. Green Bay says:

    Wolf, up above you have “about 34,00 barges.”

    Did you mean 34,000? 3,400?

  10. Dr Duration says:

    Interstate fatalities on the rise as everyone hurries to arrive faster. I drove from West Coast to Chicago area this summer, with high gas prices, outrageous hotel costs and definitely didn’t drive at night and learned to be extremely careful and patient when passing vehicles.

    I have fond memories of going past part of a modular home at 85, with about a foot between the ditch on the left and the wobbly modular. Of course, there were two of them, racing to get their baby delivered. To this day, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the Dakota Badlands and I didn’t want those huge sailboats in front of me for hours. Damn!

    Meanwhile:

    Since all of our local highways are more jammed than ever with cars, trucks and 18-wheelers due to our region’s explosive growth, the only possible answer for why I-35 is so dangerous is increased trade due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As a result, we have more and more commercial trucks driving up and down the the highway to deliver goods from Mexico. And we have more trucks because of increased deliveries from purchases from Amazon and other online merchants

  11. Giorgio says:

    Is DEFLATION coming? I know…it sounds strange but I noticed something extraordinary! 💥💥 Today’s Reverse Repo got over 2.5T$!! All time high and it’s 80% of the Total Reserves of Depository Institutions!!! 💥💥

  12. Trucker Guy says:

    Tangentially related, I dread to see how a universal CMV speed limiter mandate will aggravate truck traffic on highways. Every truck bring governed to some nonsense like 65 is going to cause so many 10 mile drag races as one truck runs 65.5 and the other runs 65.3. it’s already annoying with so many negas carriers capping to 65 as it is.

    • Halibut says:

      Yep. That’s aggravating.

      But, I ain’t gonna complain too much.

      If I have it… YOU brought it.

    • Sams says:

      Fine those that do not reach a 2 mile a hour speed difference when ovetaking and problem solved. Or use a silly long time to overtake.

      Around her no ovartaking allowed for trucks is not an uncommon sign on the road. Or rather, no trucks in the left lane.

      • Trucker Guy says:

        You’d do well working for the fmcsa or the dot. Always blame the driver for everything. The guy passing is at fault when the idiot being passed won’t kick down his cruise control for 10 seconds. Hell, just fine both of them, get them fired, and end up with more steering wheel holder children that aren’t truckers and never will be. Industry churn for all, lower and lower talent. As long as we get 18 year olds legal to driver, we’ll have endless talent for slave wages and third world immigrants by allowing companies to lie about making 200k a year driving. They only have to get fired before 12 months to sue the kids for “training costs.” Team driving mandates by companies will ensure it so. Driver shortage… HA! Always will be one, a slave shortage.

        This industry is utter scum, and government bureaucracy married to corporate welfare and corruption will only make it worse and worse. Maybe in 2 years Elon will have the Tesla semi driving for us all and I’ll be unemployed. Greener pastures await, unless you get run over by the Musk-mobile, or a 21 year old child who hasn’t slept in 3 weeks because he is forced to sleep in a violently bouncing truck during the day.

        • Sams says:

          Different in EU it look like. All commercial vehicles get mandated monitors that log speed, position and activity. DOT may require files two years old and do spot checks along the road.

          Most to check working hours. And not just drivers are fined. If systematic the company get fined to.

        • Implicit says:

          Nice!, experience is reality.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Trucker Guy,

      “Congestion” is 0-20 mph, not 65.5 mph, LOL. That’s a race track around here.

      • Trucker Guy says:

        That’s why it’s tangentially related. I only drive northwest states. Most trucks are running 65+. Montana and Wyoming will have bull haulers running 85 on fresh snow. Two lanes roads can be 65 or 70 mph speed limit. I keep it at 65 unless I’m leaned up again the elogs. Then I’ll push hard, 70-75. Imagine that, limiting hours makes us drive unsafe.

        Why? Company gets angry if load is late and punishes driver. On time bonus gets cut, they’ll force you to take another route, give you a garbage load, etc. Big egos from management that don’t even have a CDL. “I coulda made that entire route in under 20 hours. You can drive 60mph on chains. 511 maps show patchy ice, there ain’t no black ice there to drive that slow.”

        I’ve heard enough bullshit I could fertilize the planet thrice over. Even still, I’d never drive in an area where I’m doing 20 mph regularly. I can’t imagine how these guys do it getting paid by the mile and city driving. I did it for a year running the north east. I’d work 70+ hours in a week, fighting traffic all day and take home 400-450 dollars in 2019. Whole industry needs to be burned to the ground and start over. I could write a book as thick as the bible about how horrible the career is. And not even just for the drivers. Everyone from top to bottom have the screws put to them. The drivers catch it the worst but even the absolute filth that are dispatchers get screwed and I almost have felt sympathy for them once or twice. Almost.

        • Happy1 says:

          This is why I love this blog! Inside comments from all corners of the economy!

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Good comment TG:
          Had a really good neighbor/friend running steel in the back roads due to WAAAY overloaded almost always,,, asked him if I could join?
          He said, ”Not only no but HELL NO.”
          When I asked, he said he did not want me to have to keep a loaded gun on the dash to be able to deal with thieves and dirty cops and told me stories of when he had to do repulse both…
          Totally an independent guy with his own truck after many years of ”dogging it” for the biggies…
          And died early due to the stress and aggravation, but did us many a good turn, which WE, in this case the Family WE, tried to return as in watching his place carefully when he was not there…
          Thanks again for your boots on the pedal, this time and other times…

        • Brent says:

          =take home 400-450 dollars in 2019. Whole industry needs to be burned to the ground and start over. I could write a book=

          My friend – you dont have to write yet another book about the horrors of post-deregulation trucking.

          1.”Sweatshops on Wheels” by former UPS driver who drove 800,000 miles then escaped to Academia.

          2.”The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream” by Steve Viscelli, who graduated from truck driving school, then drove for one of those Bottom Feeders Megas. Steve does not disclose which but my educated guess is Werner aka Big Blue Screw.

          Steve too escaped from trucking to the Groves of Academia and became a Prof.

          In 1988-90 I drove indestructible maintenance-and-worry-free Marmon big rig hauling frozen beef from Midwest to NYC/NJ area. Routinely running 4000+ miles per week which, multiplied by 25cpm, resulted in $1000+ weekly pay, cash only please.

          All my needs were well provided for by that huge weekly infusions of cash, in a fit of madness I even bought cowboy boots from alligator skin and sterling silver belt buckle…

          In those days trucks were not governed so I mastered Georgia Overdrive to perfection. It was such fun coasting downhill in neutral at the sedate 160mph to the cheery tune of “Highway Star” by Deep Purple and making it to the top of another hill still in neutral. It saved a lot of diesel fuel which cost 55 cents per gallon.

          Except for snowstorms and road closures I always drove 317 miles on I-80 in PA in less than 3 hours. With 1-2 local hicks in small cars drafting behind me, saving gas too and warning me over CB about Smokey favorite speed traps.

          Nowadays my general impression of truck drivers is fat, deeply unhappy, smelly hairy slobs who buy their clothes at Goodwill and never wash them, their work probably feels like wading thru the thick wall of Jello, they probably think that $800-per-100-hour-week is a tremendous pay.

          The only exceptions being picture-perfect optimistic UPS brownshirts, Walmart drivers in white shirts with ties and a few other drivers from the select trucking companies.

          Adding insult to economic injury-
          Now truckers have inward and outward facing surveillance cameras in their 2 cubic yards of living space. And their $200K shiny space age trucks which are full of computer chips constantly break down in the middle of f…ng nowhere.

        • HowNow says:

          Amazing commentaries, TG and Brent!

        • Dave Kunkel says:

          When I started driving trucks long distances in 1972, I worked for a company in Omaha that contract-hauled for the Armour Meat Co. It was a new, exciting experience for me and I relished it.

          In a relatively short time, I started getting high priority loads. I learned later that I had developed a reputation for reliability. It seems that I was one of the few drivers that could deliver to the west coast without getting waylaid by the whorehouses and casinos in Nevada.

          I was paid by the mile, which was the standard for this type of driving. When I compared the miles I was reporting vs. what I was paid, I found I was getting paid significantly fewer miles than I had actually driven.

          My next high priority load after this discovery was one that HAD to be in L.A. early Monday morning. I was ahead of schedule when I pulled into a Barstow truck stop on Sunday evening.

          I called the dispatcher and told him, “I’m stuck in Barstow and can’t go any farther. I just ran out of miles.”

          “Ran out of miles? What do you mean you ran out of miles?”

          “I drove the same number of miles I was paid for my last trip to L.A. and I’m not there yet.”

  13. Betty says:

    I wonder what these stats mean for truck drivers? Do they represent micro-managing on a national level…

  14. ED Kash says:

    The container prices are not 211 % of pre pandemic
    We imported 40HQ containers prior to pandemic from Guangzhou to Los Angeles for $1895 per container ocean rate ( plus other trucking costs ) now the rate is $1395. That is more than 20% lower than 2019 !

  15. Michael Engel says:

    Trail a truck, because trucks are scouts, show the way after midnight with their back/ side lights…

  16. HR01 says:

    Wolf,

    Remember reading about the barge traffic issue on the Mississippi some months back. Apparently 60% of the grain that moves down the river is for export.

    Barges typically travel about 200 miles per day but at some points this autumn they were moving as little as 15 miles a day. Burning diesel the whole time.

    Also there’s been an acute shortage of skilled deck hands and pilots. Wages are lucrative but the work is arduous and hours are long. Typical work schedule is 28 days on, 28 days off but some are now 42 days on, 14 days off.

    Lots of newer, inexperienced pilots too. Riverbed is constantly shifting so even experienced pilots have difficulty navigating. Yet the old-timers say that despite this year’s drought being a challenge this is nowhere near as bad as it was in 1988.

  17. CreditGB says:

    Nothing to worry about. Mayor Pete is on the case!!

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