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Bloomberg: “With Truckers in Control, Money Talks and Toilets Sparkle”

May 11, 2018
Once at the mercy of shippers, truckers now are turning the tables, thanks to surging freight demand and a shortage of drivers. Gone are the days when customers used reliability scorecards to reject some truckers and kept others waiting for hours with no place to take a break but portable canopies and grimy restrooms. Now, companies such as Nestle SA are rushing to make drivers feel welcome. And shippers that hinder rigs from quick turnarounds or treat operators shabbily are paying a premium.“Carriers are now starting to score shippers and receivers, and the primary way of keeping score is money,” said Cliff Finkle, vice president of Finkle Trucking, a New Jersey-based company with 250 rigs. “I’m just going to say, ‘Your place sucks, and if you really want me to go in there, I want an extra $300.’ ”Trucking companies’ increased leverage is applying added pressure to cargo costs as accelerating economic growth bolsters transportation demand and exacerbates driver scarcity. With first-quarter trucking spot rates up 27 percent from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, freight expenses are crimping profits at companies from 3M Co. to General Mills Inc.

Relief isn’t in sight. The U.S. has about 280,000 fewer truck drivers than it needs, a shortfall that’s grown more than threefold from 78,000 about two years ago, according to estimates by FTR Transportation Intelligence. The dearth of available trucks got worse in April as regulators stepped up enforcement of limits on driver hours.

Such pressures have prompted customers to go the extra mile to make sure they can get drivers when they need them, whether by sprucing up break areas or taking steps to speed truck turnaround.

Read more here.