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Truck drivers become key EU election issue in Bulgaria

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Eurospeed carrier company trucks parked at a parking lot in Sofia, Bulgaria, on May 8. The future of Bulgaria’s vast number of low-wage truck drivers has become a top campaign issue in the country heading into European Parliament elections, with debates raging on how new EU rules could threaten the workers and deepen divisions between rich and poor nations in the bloc. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The future of Bulgaria’s vast number of low-wage truck drivers has become a top campaign issue in the country heading into European Parliament elections, with debates raging on how new EU rules could threaten the workers and deepen divisions between rich and poor nations in the bloc.

The European Commission wants to put restrictions on cargo transport to ensure adequate rest for truck drivers and limit driving distances. Bulgaria, where the transport sector accounts for 15% of GDP and employs some 200,000 people, fears it will erode its workforce’s low-cost advantage. It says it could cost jobs and force Bulgarian truckers to move to Western Europe, worsening a wealth gap within the EU.

“This package would directly deprive more than 150,000 Bulgarian families of bread and livelihood,” says Angel Dzhambazki, a former member of the European Parliament who is running in this month’s election.

The new rules concern truck drivers’ postings, driving and rest times, and access to the market. Especially worrying for Bulgarian truckers is the requirement that they spend their rest time in a hotel rather than in bunks in their trucks. The rules would also force drivers to return home every three or four weeks with an empty truck.

Dzhambazki said that the European proposal, called the Mobility Package, would cause thousands of Bulgarians to emigrate to wealthier European countries to be closer to the markets they work with. He sees the proposal as an effort by countries like France and Germany to protect their own businesses from the competition of lower-wage countries like Bulgaria.

The proposal has passed a first reading in the European Parliament, with a second approval needed for it to come into force. It has the strong backing of EU heavyweights France and Germany.

Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, will elect 17 members of the European Parliament’s 751 seats on May 26. Germany, by contrast, will provide 96. Bulgaria could seek strength in numbers, as several other countries in Eastern Europe also oppose the new EU transportation rules, but it remains an uphill battle.

“In the year of Brexit and the European elections, decisions like the Mobility Package only deepen divisions and fuel nationalist feelings in the EU member countries,” warned Madlen Kavrakova, legal advisor of Bulgaria’s union of international hauliers.

Kavrakova told the AP that denying truck drivers full access to the single European market would set a dangerous precedent and could lead to restrictions in other sectors.

“Does it mean that Europe is driving at different speeds?” she asked rhetorically.

Under the new restrictions, many Bulgarian haulage companies could be forced to relocate to countries closer to their key markets in Western Europe. That could mean the emigration of thousands of truck drivers, depriving countries like Bulgaria of an established industry.

Dimitar Rashkov, the owner of transport company Eurospeed, has managed trucks driving across the continent since 1994 and says the new rules will “separate us as people from Eastern and Western Europe, like it was once many years ago.”

Truck driver Ivan Gospodinov is convinced that Europe must be equal for all.

“Like the Germans or Italians who come to Bulgaria and feel comfortable here, we also need to feel comfortable when we go there because we are a big family,” he says. “That is what the European Union stands for.”

 

 

 

 

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ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surges 7.4% in April

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Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surged 7.4% in April after decreasing 2% in March. In April, the index equaled 121.8 (2015=100) compared with 113.4 in March.

“The surge in truck tonnage in April is obviously good for trucking, but it is important to examine it in the context of the broader economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “February and March were particularly weak months, as evidenced by the 3.5% dip in tonnage due to weather and other factors, so some of the gain was a catch-up effect. In addition, the Easter holiday was later than usual, likely pushing freight that would ordinarily be moved in March into April.

“I do not think the fundamentals underlying truck tonnage are as strong as April’s figure would indicate, but this may signal that any fears of a looming freight recession may have been overblown,” he said.

March’s reading was revised up compared with our April press release.

Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 117.7 in April, 1% above March level (116.6). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

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ACT says trailer order volume soft in second straight month

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This chart compares trailer order volume for three years. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — ACT Research’s preliminary estimate for April 2019 net trailer orders is 14,500 units.

Final volume will be available later this month. ACT’s methodology allows the company to generate a preliminary estimate of the market that should be within +/- 3% of the final order tally.

“Order volume was soft in April for the second straight month. Several factors appear to be in play. OEMs continue to be reticent to fully open 2020 orderboards. This is evident in our measurement of the extent of the industry’s backlog, which has remained in the November or December timeframe throughout the first four months of 2019,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “While we hear comments of some fleets anxiously awaiting the chance to snap up 2020 build slots, some also appear to be evaluating their existing commitments. Cancellations in April were the highest since August 2016 on both a unit and percent of backlog basis, and have remained elevated since December. That resulted in an interesting dichotomy in April orders; while new orders were actually up versus March, cancellations were significant enough to pull the net order number into the red month-over-month.”

Maly said while down slightly from March, production continues at a brisk pace, although material/component availability and staffing continue to challenge OEMs. Seasonal patterns actually called for a slight increase for April production, so that small sequential decline likely confirms the impact of the aforementioned headwinds.

“Additionally, our discussions indicate that red-tagged units continue to challenge OEM production efficiency,” he said.

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets.

ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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Price of diesel inches up three-tenths of a penny

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Overall, the price for the week ending was down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

WASHINGTON — The average on-highway price of a gallon of diesel increased three-tenths of one cent to $3.163 for the week ending May 20, according to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

The increase was precipitated by a 1.1-cent increase in the Rocky Mountain states (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana) and a 1-center increase in the Central Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland).

The largest decrease was five-tenths of a penny in the Lower Atlantic states (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia).

Two regions remained the same as last week.

Overall, the price is down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

For a complete list of prices by region for the past three weeks, click here.

 

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