Local UAW members prepare to vote on Freightliner contract

Ongoing contract negotiations with Daimler Truck could have a local impact. On Saturday, United Auto Workers union chapters will hold votes on an offer from the company, which operates two Freightliner plants here and one in Upstate South Carolina.

Local union leaders did not want to comment for a story, citing the sensitive nature of ongoing negotiations.

Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the national UAW, said he could not get into details, but that negotiations have been ongoing for a few months across the country.

Locally, there is a Daimler Truck parts facility in Gastonia and a Freightliner truck manufacturing facility in Mount Holly. There is also a Freightliner chassis facility in Gaffney, South Carolina. The facilities employ thousands of people.

Rothenberg says there are 1,102 active UAW members in Gaston County. Local UAW halls are located in Mount Holly and Gastonia.

Ratification votes are scheduled to be held at various times on Saturday. So far, there has been no indication of any sort of strike — such actions would depend on the outcomes of votes taken over the weekend.

Typically, negotiations like this tend to focus on salary, benefits and workplace safety conditions.

“Some progress was made in the Daimler Truck negotiations, but fell way short of reaching a tentative agreement to present to our members,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement posted to the union’s website late last month. “The parties agreed to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement on a day by day basis and schedule additional Bargaining Sessions.”

In 2016, Daimler Trucks North America laid off nearly 300 employees in Gastonia, but several of them were reportedly hired back last year.

The Mount Holly manufacturing plant makes medium-duty trucks. Gastonia’s plant handles stamping, metal fabrication and assembly of cab and chassis parts used in products for Daimler Trucks North America.

EnTrans racks up record 4 TTMA safety awards

EnTrans Juarez location

EnTrans International recently received Plant Safety Awards from the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) for four of its trailer manufacturing facilities, making it the only multi-category winner in the industry.

The awards were presented to Todd Finney, senior vice president for EnTrans International, at TTMA’s 76th annual convention in Santa Ana Pueblo NM.

“We are gratified to have received a record four TTMA Plant Safety Awards for our EnTrans brands,” said Doug Chapple, CEO of EnTrans International.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority at EnTrans. We remain committed to building manufacturing facilities and implementing processes that promote the greatest levels of safety for our valued employees.”

The TTMA awards are given annually based on plant safety data from TTMA member companies that provide their annual OSHA 300A Summary Form. It is the same data used by the National Safety Council and Bureau of Labor Statistics. The awards are given in two categories: Tank and General Trailer Manufacturers. Each category is divided into three classes determined by plant size.

EnTrans International’s largest tank trailer plant, Juarez Trailer Operations in Juarez, Mexico, earned its first TTMA Plant Safety Award in Category A, which is awarded to plants with more than 750,000 man-hours per year. Heil Trailer, Polar Tank Trailer and Jarco products are manufactured at the Juarez facility. That includes every product segment from dry bulk to stainless.

The state-of-the-art Juarez facility opened in 2014. It spans more than 350,000 square feet, holds ASME U and National Board R certificates and boasts the latest fabrication and manufacturing equipment available, the company said, making it one of the most advanced facilities in the world.

Minnesota Trailer Operations in Holdingford MN also won its first TTMA award. It was recognized in Category B for plants with 300,000 to 750,000 man-hours per year. Polar Tank Trailer and Heil Trailer stainless and aluminum products are manufactured at the Minnesota facility.

TTMA recognized Kalyn Siebert’s manufacturing facility in Gatesville TX for being the Most Improved in the Truck Trailer Division for 2017. The ISO-certified Gatesville facility spans 260,000 square feet across 31 acres and has an annual capacity of more than 1,000 units.

Jarco received the TTMA Plant Safety Award for the Most Improved in the Tank Trailer Division for 2017. The 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Salem manufacturing facility was opened in 2015. Barrels used in the production of Jarco tank trucks are sourced through EnTrans International’s Juarez plant.

Endurant auto trans now available on Cummins-powered International LoneStar and LT tractors

The Endurant 12 speed automated transmission, the product of Eaton and Cummins’ joint powertrain venture, is now available for order on International LoneStar and LT Series trucks spec’d with the Cummins X15 engine.

The X15, which Brett Merrit, vice president of Cummins’ on-highway engine business says was the number one selling heavy-duty engine in North America last year, features a 50,000 mile oil drain interval that can be extended up to 80,000 through the Cummins OilGuard program. The Endurant transmission boasts a maintenance-free self-adjusting clutch thanks to advanced clutch prognostics. In addition, the Endurant’s 750,000 mile transmission oil drain interval is the longest in the industry while only consuming half the amount of oil as competitive automated transmissions.

“By offering the X15 and Endurant solution from the Cummins Integrated Power portfolio, we know we’re providing our customers a solution that will help keep their operating costs low while still delivering the power they need to get their job done,” says Jim Nachtman, International‘s heavy-duty product marketing director.

UPS will pilot these adorable electric trucks in Paris and London

UPS and UK technology company Arrival have partnered to develop a fleet of 35 modular electric delivery vehicles for trial in London and Paris. UPS said the first vehicles are expected to be deployed before the end of 2018. The lightweight vehicles have a battery range of over 150 miles (240 kilometers), zero tailpipe emissions, an advanced vehicle display, and feature Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that aids driver safety and helps lower fatigue.

UPS says the range of the vehicle is currently higher than other EVs used in logistics service, and the company has been working with Arrival since 2016 on developing differently sized prototypes. UPS currently has over 300 electric vehicles and nearly 700 hybrid electric vehicles on the road in Europe and the US. UPS says since 2009, it has invested $750 million into high-tech and alternative fuel vehicles.

“UPS is working with Arrival here in the UK because their smart electric vehicles are helping to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. This is a pioneering collaboration that helps UPS develop new ways to reduce our emissions,” said Luke Wake, international director for automative engineering at UPS. The new electric vehicles have a wraparound front window, which offers a wider view for the driver (similar to the Royal Mail’s electric vans, which were also developed in partnership with Arrival).

Companies that provide services like taxis and delivery vehicles are increasingly turning to zero-emission electric vehicles to battle high levels of pollution in dense, environmentally aware cities like London and Paris. Late last year, the London Electric Vehicle Company began deploying the first fully certified electric taxis in London.

UPS says it first introduced its electric vehicle fleet to the US in the 1930s and reintroduced modern versions in 2001. Last year, UPS collaborated with Workhouse Group to deploy and test 50 plug-in electric delivery trucks on urban routes across the US, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and it ordered 125 fully electric semis from Tesla.

Why a trucking company built its own grid

Pitt Ohio terminal

At the Pitt Ohio trucking facility in Harmar, Pennsylvania, tractor trailers roll up to a depot where lights, computers, and electric forklifts are all powered by clean energy produced on-site.

A wind turbine and solar panels supply energy to the facility’s microgrid. During a power outage, it can operate independently from the utility grid and continue supplying power to the depot.

It may seem odd that a trucking company is investing in renewable energy. But there are multiple benefits. Gregory Reed of the University of Pittsburgh designed Pitt Ohio’s system.

Reed: “Part of all of this is trying to include as much renewable energy as they can to reduce their carbon emissions, and at the same time, become more independent in terms of their energy supply and therefore adding resiliency and security.”

Reed says investing in renewables and building a microgrid can be expensive, but it pays off over time.

Reed: “If you begin to look at other – and I think very tangible – components of the cost of carbon, the cost of resiliency and security, then you can make a much stronger case for it.”

Trucking prices calm but remain elevated in the economy

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Data on producer prices shows that overall inflation pressure cooled in the economy last month, as big declines in food prices offset gain in other areas of the economy.  Trucking prices remained essentially unchanged for the second consecutive month, but remain elevated relative to this point last year.

 Wholesale inflation moderated in April

WHOLESALE INFLATION MODERATED IN APRIL

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the producer price index (PPI) rose 0.1% in April from March’s levels, falling short of consensus estimates of a 0.3% gain. Year-over-year wholesale inflation fell to 2.6% in April, easing some fears of mounting overall inflation pressure after the previous month’s jump to 3.0%.

Much of the softness in producer prices during the month was driven by a decline in food prices. The volatile food component of the PPI fell 1.1% in April from March’s levels, partially erasing the surge experienced in the previous month and leaving goods inflation unchanged during the month. Core goods producer prices, excluding food and the also-volatile energy component, rose 0.3%.

Trucking rates stay flat for the 2nd straight month

 Year-over-year gains in truckload and LTL prices remain high

YEAR-OVER-YEAR GAINS IN TRUCKLOAD AND LTL PRICES REMAIN HIGH

Details within the trucking industry showed more signs of calming in April, signaling that rates are normalizing after big monthly gains in January and February. The producer price index for general freight trucking services remained unchanged in for the second consecutive month in April, with both long-distance truckload and LTL registering only small changes in March. There is evidence elsewhere that suggests that contract rates have increased some over the past couple of month within the trucking industry, but softening in spot market rates have helped offset some of those gains.

Despite the flattening over the past couple of months, trucking inflation remains elevated in general in the economy. Year-over-year growth in long distance truckload prices remain near multi-year highs, registering 6.7% in April. Yearly inflation in the LTL space also climbed during the month, remaining near 8% in March.

Behind the Numbers:

The surprise in the headline PPI number was almost entirely driven by food prices during the month, and shouldn’t cause any change in the overall view of inflation in the economy. The bigger deal in this morning’s release was the relative absence of any signs of price increases in response to tariffs. Last month’s report showed some pretty clear signals of higher prices for steel and aluminum products. Carbon steel scrap showed some pretty sizeable increases during the month, but there was little sign of adverse effects elsewhere in the data.

On the freight side, the calmness in the month-to-month changes in trucking prices continues a trend of normalizing prices after abnormal winter conditions in the trucking industry. Intermodal rail had been seeing some spillover effects and surging rates in recent months, but there were some signs of normalization in that industry also as prices fell over a full percentage point in April.  Make no mistake though, year-over-year inflation remains very high and is likely to stay that way in upcoming months. Long distance truckload rates are up nearly 7% year-over-year, LTL rates are up nearly 8%, and intermodal rates are up over 12% despite the monthly decline.  High transportation costs may be calming down, but they will remain an issue for the economy going forward.

Volvo trucks and cars will alert each other in traffic

Volvo trucks Connect cars

Volvo Trucks is introducing a cloud-based service, Connected Safety, that allows Volvo trucks and Volvo cars to automatically alert each other to hazardous traffic situations. Thanks to collaboration, the two independent vehicle manufacturers are allowing their cars and trucks to share real-time traffic hazard information.

The passenger-car version of Connected Safety was launched by Volvo Cars in 2016. With Volvo Trucks now rolling out its version of the service, trucks and cars can alert each other to potential hazards. This is possible because the two companies share safety-related data between their respective clouds.

“Expanded cooperation between different players is one of the most important keys to improved road safety. If more vehicles are able to exchange real-time information about the traffic situation, it will lower the risk of accidents. With Connected Safety we are opening the door to the future, with the hope that more vehicle manufacturers will join in,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks.

Connected Safety was developed to send out alerts to nearby vehicles connected to the service whenever a driver activates the vehicle’s hazard warning lights.

“A vehicle standing still by the roadside in poor visibility risks being hit from the rear, which can have severe consequences. An alert issued well in advance gives all drivers of nearby cars and trucks the same opportunity to reduce speed, adjust their driving to the traffic situation and avoid a collision,” said Almqvist.

In the longer term, the cloud-based service can be expanded with additional safety-enhancing functions.

“As the technology undergoes further refinement and more vehicles are linked to the system, real-time information will become an important complement to the various intelligent safety and driver support systems found in our trucks today. Connected Safety marks the start of a new phase in our ongoing drive to promote safe driving and prevent accidents,” says Emanuele Piga, Director Customer Solutions & New Services Development at Volvo Trucks.

Volvo Trucks will initially introduce Connected Safety on new trucks in Sweden and Norway, where both Volvo Trucks and Volvo Cars account for a significant proportion of annual new-vehicle registrations.