Trucking News - Updates on Driver Scorecards, Port Traffic, and Pallet Shortages

 

2020 accident data suggests driver scorecards can be a winning strategy

New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that highway fatalities jumped 7% last year to 38,680 people even though Americans drove 13% fewer miles.

Traffic deaths involving at least one large truck, which NHTSA defines as those with a weight rating higher than 10,000 pounds, were down 2.2% in 2020.

Other trends from NHTSA’s preliminary vehicle crash fatality data:

  • Fatalities on urban interstates were up 15% in 2020 compared to 2019. Fatal crashes on urban local/collector roads increased 12% and rural local/collector roads were up 11%.
  • Fatalities in speeding-related crashes increased 11%.
  • Fatalities where someone was ejected from the vehicle were up 20% last year while deaths of unrestrained occupants increased 15%. Deaths from rollover crashes increased 9% compared to 2019.

NHTSA said the data suggests that drivers who remained on the roads during the COVID-19 public health emergency and associated lockdowns engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Among truck fleets, telematics and electronic logging devices help carriers and drivers track behaviors that can lead to safer outcomes. For example, the Driver Safety Scorecard Report within Transflo’s ELD focuses on three primary elements of unsafe driving: aggressive driving, seat belt usage and speeding.

Fleet and safety managers can use scorecards to track risky behavior and determine which drivers need additional training. They can also use scorecards to identify the best drivers in the fleet, so that those drivers can be rewarded.

Pallet shortage hits supply chains

Trucks and drivers aren’t the only things in demand heading into peak shipping season.

A shortage of shipping pallets has added another constraint to the efficiency of supply chains. Here’s what you should know about the global pallet supply:

  • There are roughly 2 billion pallets in circulation across the United States and 4 billion in Europe, according to the Global Wood Packaging Forum. Nearly 90% of all products are shipped on pallets, and 90% of all those pallets are made of wood.
  • Wood costs account for more than 70% of the price of a pallet, and the price of pallet-grade softwood has more than doubled in the last year. A wood pallet that typically costs $9 to $12 may now be more than $20 or more—if pallets are available.
  • Produce distributors say the shortage is hitting at a time when many North American fruits and vegetables are just beginning seasonal harvests and shipments. The National Watermelon Association calls the shortage of pallets “possibly the most significant (and threatening) issue that we have ever seen.”

Given the need for pallets, large distribution centers and retailers that would previously sell used pallets are now holding onto more of them for internal use, and companies are more likely to instruct drivers to retrieve empty pallets after they make deliveries. A shortage of trucking capacity is affecting shippers’ ability to relocate pallets within supply chains.

“Retailers and wholesalers can help to diminish the severity of this issue by releasing pallets back into the pooling systems as soon as they are emptied rather than holding them or sending them internally to packaged goods suppliers,” the National Watermelon Association said. “Perishable products should take precedence–crops cannot wait.” The group said retailers that have specific pallet requirements can be lenient by providing ‘waivers’ during this crisis at least until Nov. 1.

Port traffic shows no sign of slowing

Imports at the nation’s largest retail container ports saw their busiest April on record with no sign of slowing down, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

U.S. ports monitored by Global Port Tracker handled 2.15 million TEU in April, the latest month for which final numbers are available. It was by far the busiest April on record and an increase of 33% from a year earlier.

The first half of 2021 is forecast at 12.8 million TEU, up 35% over the same period in 2020. Year-over-year comparisons are skewed because imports declined so sharply during the first half of last year, but the six-month estimate would put 2021 on track to easily beat 2020’s full-year total of 22 million TEU, which was up 1.9% over 2019 despite the pandemic.

“Vaccine rates are increasing, shoppers are back in stores and retail supply chains are working overtime,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “There’s no shortage of demand from consumers, but there continue to be shortages of labor, equipment and shipping capacity to meet that demand. Supply chain disruptions, port congestion and rising shipping costs could continue to be challenges through the end of the year.”

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