Moving Grain: White House Outlines Plan To Recruit Truck Drivers

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    White House Outlines Plan To Recruit Truck Drivers

    On December 16, the White House unveiled its Trucking Action Plan. The plan aims to reverse the decline of the trucking workforce with coordinated efforts among the Departments of Labor and Transportation (DOT), including DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Several initiatives aim to foster more registered apprenticeship programs, ensuring the industry has a “steady pipeline of skilled, safe, and experienced drivers.”

    Other efforts focus on helping U.S. military veterans (especially those with previous truck driving experience) transition into commercial driver positions. Yet more actions focus on training commercial drivers aged 18-21; recruiting and advancing women in trucking; investigating predatory truck-leasing agreements; conducting a study on driver compensation and time; and streamlining commercial driver’s license processing and testing.

    At the end of 90 days (March 16), all coordinating Federal agencies intend to deliver a more comprehensive, long-term action plan, informed by listening sessions.

    U.S. Maritime Administration Awards Nine Marine Highway Grants

    The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) recently announced the award of nine grants, worth $12.6 million. Funded by MARAD’s America’s Marine Highway program (AMHP), these grants will address supply chain disruptions and enhance the movement of goods along the Nation’s navigable waterways.

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    The grants will also expand existing waterborne freight services in Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Of the nine new grant recipients, three projects will directly enhance vessel traffic and container movements:

    First, in Indiana and Kentucky, a $1,408,000 project at Nucor Steel Gallatin will support the purchase of a Buy American-compliant bridge crane at the new marine terminal in Ghent, KY.

    Second, in Louisiana and Tennessee, a $847,500 project will support the continued growth of a container shuttle service from Memphis, TN, to Port Allen, LA.

    Third, in Texas, a $3 million project will support the purchase of two purpose-built barges.

    Since 2016, MARAD has received $44.6 million in funding under AMHP, given to a total 24 eligible marine highway projects.

    STB Publishes Updated Rail Rate Study

    On December 17, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) released an updated Rail Rate Index Study, showing real (adjusted for inflation) and nominal rail rates (measured as revenue per ton-mile) from 1985 to 2019. The study uses STB’s confidential Carload Waybill Sample data to show how rates have changed over time, across the entire rail industry, and within specific commodity groups.

    From 1985 through the mid-2000s, for most commodities, real rail rates fell, then increased through the early 2010s, and since then, have remained relatively flat. Notably, from 2004 to 2019, STB’s intermodal and commodity-level rail rate indices show rates for shipping grain increased 35 percentage points (pp)—as compared to increases of 9 pp for chemicals, 14 pp for coal, and 20 pp for intermodal traffic (containers and trailers of any commodity).

    In 2019, rail rates for shipping grain were 6 pp above their 1985 levels—in stark contrast with rates for all other commodities, which were down.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending December 9, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2021/22 totaled 46.5 million metric tons (mmt), down 19 percent from same time last year, and up 1 percent from the previous week.

    Net corn export sales were 1.949 mmt, up 72 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 1.309 mmt, down 20 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.651 mmt, up significantly from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 24,876 grain carloads during the week ending December 11. This was a 12-percent decrease from the previous week, 12 percent fewer than last year, and 3 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $1,003 above tariff for the week ending December 16. This was $124 more than last week and $563 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending December 18, barged grain movements totaled 822,326 tons. This was 2 percent fewer than the previous week and 27 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    For the week ending December 18, 524 grain barges moved down river—31 more barges than the previous week. There were 788 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans region, 6 percent more than last week.


    For the week ending December 16, 33 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—down 23 percent from the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting December 17), 60 vessels were expected to be loaded—15 percent higher than the same period last year.

    As of December 16, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $70.00. This was 3 percent lower than last week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $37.25 per mt, 4 percent lower than last week.

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