REPOST: Free online tool launched to help fleet managers improve HR practices

In Canada, a trucking company has introduced a new and free online tool to help fleet managers effectively address business concerns related to human resources and establish a high-performance work environment. The full article can be read here.

Trucking HR Canada has unveiled a free online tool designed to help fleet managers analyze and improve human resources practices.

The HR Circle Check, now available at http://www.truckingHR.com, asks questions about existing business strategies, and recommends specific tools to address related challenges.

“Every fleet will be familiar with the important role of circle checks in monitoring a truck’s mechanical condition,” said Tamara Miller, Trucking HR Canada’s director – programs and services. “Our new HR Circle Check self-assessment tool offers a similar step-by-step process for analyzing the policies and procedures used to attract, train and retain the people who work with the trucks.”

Millers says these business practices can have a significant financial impact. “It costs between $6,000 and $10,000 to recruit and train a new truck driver – and this is in addition to the business opportunities that are lost when qualified people cannot be found,” Miller said as an example.

Topics covered using the HR Circle Check include:

• Managing the business concerns related to human resources
• Attracting qualified candidates
• Managing the application process
• Screening and assessing candidates
• Hiring and orientation
• Understanding retention and turnover
• Mentoring new employees
• Creating a high-performance workplace

Trucking HR Canada officials say detailed HR Diagnostics explore the individual topics in further detail.

Solutions offered via the online tool include templates for HR-related documents, training manuals or other support, while fleets can also use the results of the Circle Check-generated overviews to focus business-planning efforts, officials said.

Fords, NJ-based Thomas Pecora is the president of H&H Transportation, Inc., a private trucking company that offers dry goods transport services to various American businesses and residents. Visit this Facebook page for more information.

REPOST: Deep sigh of relief

Shale gas is boosting America’s economy, as outlined in this article from The Economist.

WHEN KEN ALEXANDER started working at the J&L steel mill in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, in the 1970s, he was one of 17,000 workers. But the workforce quickly declined as the American steel industry withered in the face of cheaper foreign competition. In 1984 J&L shut the mill. Four years ago another mill where Mr Alexander had found a job, across the Ohio river in Ambridge, also stopped work because of the recession. He was one of a skeleton staff of 20 kept on as watchmen.

Derelict mills pepper the region, loose sidings flapping in the frigid Appalachian wind. The once celebrated steel industry around Pittsburgh (whose football team is called the Steelers) survived a series of crises over the years, notes Mr Alexander, but was further diminished by each of them—until now. These days the Ambridge mill, bought by a Russian conglomerate five years ago, is humming away. Its 400 workers transform solid steel bars produced at another mill nearby into seamless pipes, in demand by oil drillers, among others. The management is taking advantage of a seasonal lull in demand to straighten out kinks in the line and thus increase its capacity.

Other firms are making much bigger bets on the local steel industry. Fifty miles to the north-west, in Youngstown, Ohio, a French firm, Vallourec, has spent $650m building an entirely new mill to make similar pipes. It began production in October, with a staff of 350. Thirty miles in the opposite direction, in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, Allegheny Technologies is spending $1.1 billion on a new mill to produce stainless steel and other specialty metals. US Steel opened a new $100m mill in Ohio in 2011, also to supply the oil and gas industry. Timken, another steelmaker, is spending $200m on its mill in Canton, Ohio.

Image Source: Bloomberg

The main reason for this flurry of investment lies a few thousand feet below the ground: the Marcellus shale, a geological formation containing huge reserves of natural gas trapped in tiny pores in the rock. It is thought to be America’s biggest gas field, stretching 600 miles along the Appalachians, from New York to West Virginia., but has only recently begun to be tapped, thanks to fracking and directional drilling.

Last year the government of Pennsylvania alone issued permits for 2,484 such “unconventional” wells; 1,365 of them were actually drilled. Wells in the Pennsylvanian part of the Marcellus produced 895 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas in the first half of 2012, up from 435bcf in the same period in 2011 and almost nothing as recently as 2008.

Well lubricated
Driving through the south-western corner of the state, the benefits of this “shale gale” are easy to see. New roofs, fences, barns and tractors have sprouted on many local farms; plenty of shiny new pick-up trucks ply the roads. By one estimate, Pennsylvanians who allow drilling on their land earned some $1.2 billion in royalties last year. Suburban office parks are proliferating outside Pittsburgh, the biggest city in the area, with space being snapped up by oil firms, their suppliers and subcontractors, lawyers and environmental consultants. Even the most basic restaurants are overflowing at lunchtime, a local complains.

All told, the Marcellus already supports over 100,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, according to an analysis by IHS, a research firm. That figure is expected to rise to over 220,000 in 2020. Shale gas gave the local economy a $14 billion boost last year, IHS reckons, and will buoy it by almost $27 billion in 2020. All the extra economic activity generated nearly $3 billion in taxes, it calculates. A new “fee” (the Republican word for tax) on gas production adopted by the state legislature last year should help raise yet more in future.

Pennsylvania is just one of several states enjoying a shale-gas boom. Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have all seen similar rushes. Shale-gas production in the United States as a whole rose more than fourfold between 2007 and 2010, says the Department of Energy. That has helped push up its gas output by 20% over the past five years, making the country the world’s biggest gas producer. BP, a big oil and gas firm, forecasts that North American shale-gas output, largely from the United States, will grow by an average of 5.3% a year until 2030.

America is already producing so much shale gas that local gas prices have plummeted, from over $13 per million British thermal units (mmBTU) in 2008 to $1-2 last year. They have since recovered slightly (see chart 3), but America still enjoys remarkably cheap gas by international standards. In 2011 it had the second-lowest gas prices for industry among rich countries, after Canada, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). American factories paid a third of the German gas price and a quarter of the South Korean one, the agency reckons—and prices have fallen further since.

Image Source: The Economist

Cheap gas is also translating into cheap electricity, since America’s marginal power supplies tend to come from gas-fired plants. In 2011, according to the IEA, American factories paid roughly half the going rate for electricity in Chile or Mexico and a quarter of the eye-watering Italian price. In New York last year prices were the lowest they have ever been since the state introduced a competitive wholesale market in 1999.

Investors, naturally enough, are keen to take advantage of such bargain prices. They have been pouring money not only into steelmaking but all manner of energy-intensive industries, from plastics to fertilisers. Just up the Ohio from Ambridge, Shell is contemplating building a multi-billion-dollar “cracker” to turn the ethane that emerges with much of the gas from the Marcellus into ethylene, a feedstock for plastics.

On the Gulf coast (another gas hub), Chevron Phillips, Dow Chemical, Formosa Plastics, Occidental Petroleum and Williams are all expanding existing chemical plants or building new ones. A chemical firm called Methanex is dismantling one of its factories in Chile and shipping it to Louisiana to take advantage of low gas prices. CF Industries is expanding its local fertiliser production. Nucor, a steel firm, is building a new mill. Sasol of South Africa hopes to build a refinery in Louisiana to turn gas into petrol. Several firms want to construct facilities in the region to liquefy gas and export it—a dramatic reversal from a few years ago, when the need was thought to be for import terminals.

America’s big pipeline network creates a relatively liquid and fungible national market for gas, so customers far from any shale beds are still able to take advantage of low gas and chemicals prices. Orascom, an Egyptian conglomerate, plans to build a $1.4 billion fertiliser factory in Iowa. Bridgestone, Continental and Michelin are all planning to make more tyres in South Carolina, reversing a long decline.

Better still, the steep drop in the price of natural gas has driven America’s drillers to hunt for oil instead. Rigs are migrating from gassy places like the Haynesville Shale, in Louisiana, to spots where oil is trapped in tiny rock pores, such as the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, the Bakken formation of North Dakota and the Mississippian Lime, which sits astride the border between Oklahoma and Kansas. Applying the same techniques to such “tight oil” as to gas-laden shales, they have managed to increase America’s oil production by a third over the past four years, to 7m b/d. The government expects it to grow by more than 1m b/d over the next two years. The output of the Bakken Shale alone has risen from 100,000 b/d in 2008 to over 700,000 now. By the end of this year, BP predicts, America will overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest producer of liquid fuel, meaning oil and biofuels.

The newfound oil brings just as much of a bonanza to the places where it is extracted as the shale gas does. Flights to previously obscure airports in North Dakota—Dickinson, Minot and Williston—are full, as are all hotels within striking distance of the Bakken. Property prices have shot up. The oil industry now accounts for 15% of the local economy, according to IHS, and has brought 72,000 jobs to a state with fewer than 700,000 people.

Despite its huge local impact, America’s shale-oil boom has pushed up global oil production by just a percentage point or two, not enough to reduce the price much. However, it has resulted in a big drop in America’s import bill. IHS calculates that unconventional oil reduced the trade deficit in 2012 by $70 billion, or about 10%.

All told, says IHS, unconventional oil and gas accounted for $238 billion in economic activity, 1.7m jobs and $62 billion in taxes in 2012. That includes the exploration and extraction itself, the supply chains they rely on and the extra spending by all those newly employed oilmen. But it leaves out the second-order effects of cheaper gas, electricity and chemicals. Last year the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, forecast that over the next couple of years cheap gas would spur some $72 billion in new investments in eight gas-hungry industries alone. That, in turn, would lead to a further $342 billion in new economic activity in 2015-20, along with the creation of 1.2m new jobs. The different levels of government, for their part, would rake in an extra $26 billion a year in new taxes.

An outsized bonus
In principle, all American companies and consumers benefit from lower energy prices. The effect may not always be big enough to spur heavy new investment, but it might be sufficient to keep American factories with high labour costs going in the face of foreign competition.

Economists at Citigroup and UBS predict that the shale gale will lift America’s GDP growth by half a percentage point a year for the next few years. Indeed, cheap energy is cited as one factor by those who predict a manufacturing renaissance in America. Labour in China is getting more expensive, the argument runs, and so is shipping Chinese-made goods across the Pacific. At the same time ever shorter product cycles confer an advantage on factories located close to the people who consume their goods. Quality is easier to maintain and intellectual property easier to protect if the head office is not far away. Throw in lower bills for power or petrochemicals, and bringing work back home begins to look attractive.

For the moment America’s manufacturing output remains below its 2007 level, and its trade deficit with China is still growing. But some high-profile examples have caught the headlines. GE has moved the production of some white goods from China and Mexico to Kentucky, and Lenovo, the Chinese firm that bought IBM’s personal-computer business, plans to return some manufacturing to North Carolina. In the long run, however, America will not be able to lure and retain investors like these without a better-educated workforce.

Thomas Pecora heads H&H Transportation, Inc., a private trucking company in Fords, NJ. Follow him on Facebook for more discussions on energy and transportation.

REPOST: Diesel reaches highest price point since 2008

Overdrive, a premier magazine for news and information on the trucking industry, reports in this article that the price of diesel has now surpassed its highest national average since 2008.  But there is good news. Read on to find out.

 

Since diesel prices began their ascent in the middle of January, the national average diesel price has shot up 26 cents to $4.159 a gallon, marking the highest national average since Aug. 18, 2008, when diesel averaged $4.207 the previous week.

That year’s peak was at $4.764, coming during the week ended July 14, 2008.

Between Aug. 18, 2008, and this week, the national average price has flirted with the $4.15 mark, reaching that point exactly in October 2012. It didn’t breach it, though, until last week.

The good news, however, is that the climb seems to have slowed, as diesel rose just two-hundredths of a cent for the week ended Feb. 25 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.

Regionally, the Rocky Mountain Region had the nation’s cheapest average, $4.057, while California had the most expensive, $4.365.

H&H Transportation, a private trucking company in Fords, NJ is headed by Thomas Pecora.  Be in the know of the latest developments in the industry by liking this Facebook page.

The future of vehicle telematics

Vehicle telematics is a type of technology that integrates the capabilities of computer systems and remote communications technologies like GPS to gather information from remote automobiles. This in-vehicle technology is commonly used as a tracking system, not just for locating where a vehicle is, but also for monitoring speed, driving habits, and environmental situations.

Image Source: tmr.qld.gov.au

 

But a recent report foretells that telematics could soon become accessorial to an applicant’s resume. The report quips that vehicle telematics has never been more accessible and can even work with the latest smartphones, so the prediction could turn into reality sooner or later.

 

In the report, Scott Cober of Marsh Canada prefigures that it would only take three to five years before smartphones could provide accurate and quality driving performance data in the previous six months which could then be transferred into a USB drive and be presented in an easy-to-read scorecard format. Drivers would just plug their iPhone into a portal and then allow it to stream information based on how they operate the vehicle.

The trucking industry is likely to embrace the telematics not only for its tracking and security purposes, but also for its benefits to the recruitment process. The new technology makes the hiring process faster and more efficient, while allowing applicants to gauge whether they are suited for their choice of career.

Image Source: rmtracking.com

 

Members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and transportation professionals like Thomas Pecora of NJ-based H&H Transportation, Inc. are optimistic about this development and how it could signal a spike in the number of individuals making a career in the trucking industry.

This Facebook page offers more news about trucking and transportation.

Repost: Truckers at war to cut diesel tax

Author: Kevin Schofield

Reposted from: thesun.co.uk

In this article, thousands of truckers in the UK rally against sky-high diesel tax, demanding Chancellor George Osborne to cut fuel duty.

Thousands of lorry drivers have joined forces to demand George Osborne CUTS fuel duty in the Budget, The Sun can reveal.

Truckers delivering 64,000 pallets in the UK every day say they can no longer afford the sky-high tax.

They warn jobs could be at risk and shop prices will continue rising unless the Chancellor acts.

Mr Osborne has ruled out any hikes before September at the earliest after The Sun’s Keep It Down campaign.

But the Association of Pallet Networks, which employs 25,000 drivers and staff, say they now need a cut to bring down members’ massive £8 million-a-week diesel costs.

APN founder Paul Sanders said: “We pay the highest fuel duty in Europe — 58p on every litre. This is a toxic tax on all the small companies we carry goods for. If the Government want to get the economy growing, they need to cut fuel duty. Every 1p cut would save £3,740,000 a year.”

Campaign group Fair Fuel UK backed the calls. Spokesman Quentin Willson said: “Every extra penny the haulage industry pays in diesel is added to the price of everything in the shops.”

George Osborne used last month’s Autumn Statement to scrap a 3p-a-litre rise in fuel duty planned for January 1. The move saved the average driver £7.69 a month. It was the third of the previous Labour Government’s planned rises he had dropped.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The Government recognises that fuel is a significant cost.

“The cancelled January increase alone will save a typical haulier £1,200 a year.”

Thomas Pecora of the NJ-based H&H Transportation would say that resolving oil predicament has never been critical in any government’s further efficiency savings and measures. This Facebook page discusses more about trucking and oil price.

Stack them up: The many uses of shipping containers

Image Credit: sebenzaworld.com

Image Credit: sebenzaworld.com

Shipping containers are those massive corrugated boxes used to carry and transport goods and heavy loads all over the world. Their shipping life usually ranges from three to five years, and castoff containers could sell anywhere from $1,500 to $2000 depending on the type and quality. Buyers of these containers are usually attracted to their durability, size, and ubiquitous appearance, all of which make up for great building materials.

The functional steel block is built to withstand weather and decay so it’s no surprise that they’ve found their new use as a low-cost shelter material. Many architects have been able to transform container units into eco-friendly houses or stylish complexes made up of multiple containers. Ecopod in California is a great example of a single-unit design while London’s Container City is an emblem of good and adaptable complexes.

Image Credit: tinyhouseblog.com

Image Credit: tinyhouseblog.com

If people can build complexes by stacking containers, why not build hotels? London’s eight-storey Travelodge, the world’s first container hotel, was built by stacking 86 modified shipping containers stylishly, cutting up 10 percent of building expenses and making construction 25 percent faster than ordinary hotel buildings.

Castoff shipping containers as business spaces are also becoming common these days. The Puma City container store is a standout on this front. It’s remarkable how designers were able to build a fully dismountable retail store that could be transferred from one location to another through a cargo ship.
Artsy-fartsy people have also drawn inspiration from shipping containers, converting them into museums, activity centers, and art projects.

Image Credit: architecturelist.com

Image Credit: architecturelist.com

At this time of crisis, it’s good to know that people never run out of creative ideas to make this world a fun and amazing place. These builders have contributed greatly on the search for sustainable living while promoting the fact that cost-effective ideas don’t necessarily equate to bland concepts.

Thomas Pecora, president of H&H Transportation, a trucking company based in NJ, may have more information on container shipping on this Facebook page.

REPOST: Webinar slated to discuss truck parking issues

A webinar developed by two of the trucking industry’s biggest organizations will tackle truck parking problems. According to this article, truck parking is an industry concern and the webinar will offer truckers with real-time information on existing parking availability.

 

The Trucking Industry Mobility & Technology Coalition (TIMTC) and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation are sponsoring a free webinar on Dec. 6 to discuss the issues surrounding the truck parking shortage and innovative ways the problems can be addressed.

Recent improvements in trucking economics have put more trucks and freight on the nation’s roads and highways.  At the same time, government budget shortfalls have reduced the number of truck parking spaces available to truck drivers in need of staging and rest.  In fact, truck parking as an industry concern appeared for the first time ever on American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) Top Industry Issues survey in 2012, garnering the 8th spot on the list, webinar sponsors point out.

Until new funding is identified for expanding truck parking capacity, the best solution is providing real-time information to truck drivers on existing parking availability, according to ATRI.  Recent research has identified the trucking industry’s expectations and requirements needed of the various FHWA-sponsored “truck parking information system” tests that are being conducted throughout the U.S.

Industry experts participating in the Truck Parking Issues & Opportunities webinar are Tom Kearney, manager, freight operations, Federal Highway Administration; Dan Murray, vice president, ATRI; Vassilios Morellas, program director, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota; and Dave Miller, founder and COO of Gnosis Management and former senior vice president for Con-way, Inc.

The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EST.

Participants will need access to the internet and a telephone. For free registration, visit the TIMTC website at www.freightmobility.com. An email with instructions for joining the webinar will be sent to all registrants.

The Trucking Industry Mobility & Technology Coalition (TIMTC) is jointly managed by ATRI, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. DOT and the American Trucking Assns. Members include motor carriers, commercial drivers, law enforcement, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, transportation planners and policy makers at the local, state and federal levels.

Participation in TIMTC is free and provides the latest information and updates on trucking industry initiatives that improve the industry’s safety and mobility.  Send contact information to TIMTC@trucking.org to receive a free membership.