US truckers choking on high diesel costs

Herald tribune -- With diesel prices over $4.50 a gallon, independent truckers are parking their rigs, or even getting out of the business.

Trucking is an industry that's suffered from over-capacity (there are 350,000 independent operators), so truckers find it hard to impose fuel surcharges, reported Louis Uchitelle in the New York Times. About 70 percent of the nation's freight tonnage moves by trucks, and profit margins are "minuscule," Uchitelle reported.

The independent fleet has already begun to shrink, with more than 45,000 vehicles withdrawn from service since early last year, and larger operators are also cutting back the size of their operations or shutting down as well, Uchitelle reported.

That surpasses the last great shakeout, in the early 1980s, when deregulation, along with a recession, high interest rates and the second Arab oil embargo, took out 33,000 rigs.

"There are so many used trucks in dealer lots now that some of the larger dealers have stopped buying them," said James McCormack, whose Web site,, markets used trucks. "From what dealers tell me, exports have become their best outlet, particularly to Russia."

Trucks are also going abroad. Nearly 24,000 used, over-the-highway rigs have been exported since early last year, the Commerce Department reports, or nearly three times the number in 2006. The weakness of the dollar makes the prices more attractive to foreigners and less so to potential domestic buyers.