Seattle-area shippers contemplate icy roads and absent workers as they try to move freight in rare wintry weather.
Across the nation, less-than-truckload carriers give shippers holiday gifts in the form of lower fuel surcharges. In New York, rail shippers react positively to this week's deal between CP Rail and Consolidated Rail Corp.Shippers and truckers in the Seattle, Wash., area are contemplating icy roads and absent workers as they battle to move freight in the aftermath of a rare winter storm.
Nearly one-third of American Envelope Co.'s workers couldn't make it in over roads covered with ice, according to Gordon Owen, the Seattle-based company's shipping supervisor.
Only 20 of Matlack Inc.'s 50 tanker rigs are operating from the bulk hauler's Seattle terminal, says John Yazzolino, Mat- lack's Seattle service manager. "Traffic is just too slow," he says.
"I've told our drivers to deliver what they can," reports Jack Mallory, manager of Consolidated Freightways Inc.'s South Seattle terminal.
Besides the ice, drivers watch out for scores of stalled vehicles littering the roads, says Stella Cook, customer service manager at Bemis Co., a maker of small paper bags.
"Most of the carriers we deal with have only a fraction of their fleets on the road," notes Mike Carroll, manager, customer service for Hub City Seattle Terminals Inc. in Bellevue, Wash.
At National Frozen Foods Corp., operations are slow in the company's plants outside Seattle, says Tony Alleman, National Frozen Foods' sales service manager. "But we canceled our daily truck run into Seattle."
Most of Seattle's freeways and main roads have been sanded, so driving is possible on the frozen snow, Mr. Carroll says. "But it's still treacherous," he warns. "Side streets are nothing but sheets of ice."
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Motor carriers, who were quick to impose surcharges when hit with higher prices at the pumps, are lowering their rates as diesel costs drop.
Yellow Freight System Inc. reduced its surcharge this week to 2 percent
from 2.6 percent. The surcharge takes effect Monday, says Linda George, spokesman for the Overland Park, Kan.-based trucker.
Yellow was joined by Consolidated Freightways Inc., which pared its 2.2 percent surcharge to 2 percent, also taking effect next week. CF's surcharge had peaked at 2.8 percent on Oct. 26, according to Gary Frantz, a CF spokesman in Palo Alto, Calif.
Akron, Ohio-based Roadway Express Inc.'s surcharge is now 2.2 percent, down from 2.4 percent, according to Jay Davis, a Roadway spokesman.
This week, shippers also got a gift from Watkins Motor Freight Inc. of Lakeland, Fla., which dropped its surcharge to 2.4 percent from 2.8 percent, says Jim Bowers, Watkins' tariff development manager. "We noticed fuel prices declined in the latter part of November, but we waited to see impact of the new 5-cents-a-gallon fuel tax."
Poole Truck Line Inc., an Evergreen, Ala.-based truckload carrier, is reducing its surcharge to 8 cents a mile from 9 cents, next week, a tariff official says.
According to The Journal of Commerce daily fuel oil price survey, posted wholesale truckload prices of diesel fuel were about $1.11 a gallon in New York in mid-October and were as high as $1.14 in some cities.
On Wednesday, the New York price was 82 cents a gallon, although it was over 90 cents in a few places. The JofC survey high was 97.50 cents a gallon.
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New York rail shippers breathed a sigh of relief this week when CP Rail and Consolidated Rail Corp. finally agreed on trackage rights.
"In terms of stability, we think it's great," says Cliff Strohmeyer, manager, marketing services for Glens Falls Cement Co. of Glens Falls, N.Y. ''We can now seek some new opportunities for the north/south line out of our plant."
"In the past, we shied away from rail," says Richard Foran, traffic manager for Finch Pruyn & Co., a Glens Falls paper shipper. "But with the CP, I'm sure some of that will be back."
The way Richard Tripp sees it, shippers will have a new route to the West and more equipment available on the D&H. He's the traffic manager for General Electric Co.'s Schenectady, N.Y., plant.
Under the pact, CP trains can operate over 15 miles of Conrail track connecting the end of CP's system in Niagara Falls, N.Y., to D&H's line in Buffalo, N.Y. The deal also grants CP more improved access to Conrail lines across southern New York state.
Shippers like Leon Aumell, purchasing manager for Packaging Corp. of America in Plattsburgh, N.Y., have clamored long and loud for D&H's future to be finalized. It appears they've gotten their Christmas wish.