September 14, 2023

Blessing of the Semis – FreightWaves

Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? Newsletter presented by Uber for Business. In this issue, truckers get blessed, UAW prepares to strike, JBH sees green shoots and more.

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We are so back?


Is the freight recession over? Back in April, J.B. Hunt President Shelley Simpson said the quiet part out loud when she stated during an earnings call that, “We’re in a freight recession.”

Since then we’ve had a summer that fellow LTL carrier Yellow didn’t survive. But one carrier’s loss can be an industry’s gain. Now Simpson says, “We’re coming out of a freight recession.”

Why is Simpson bullish, though? — Todd Maiden reports, “She said customers are ‘cautiously optimistic,’ with some indicating freight volumes will be up slightly in the back half of the year.”


Bottoms up — FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller is also seeing positive signals in SONAR. He posted to X, “The freight market bottomed on May 14th. Since then conditions have continued to improve.” He goes on to say, “The Waterfall Theory of Freight suggests the largest carriers are the last to see a slowdown and the first to see the market come back.”

But it’s looking very likely the United Auto Workers will strike tonight. Could that put a wrench in the recovery? Read on.

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UAW may strike when the clock hits midnight

United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit, Sept. 2, 2019. Automaker Stellantis has made a counteroffer to the United Auto Workers that includes wage increases in each year of a new four-year contract totaling 14.5%. The raises, which would be for most workers, doesn’t include any lump sum payments. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Does the industry want a strike? — In a few short hours, the union representing General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler parent Stellantis may take action. I didn’t necessarily think the industry wanted a strike until a large car hauler reached out to me. He pointed out that the companies are sitting on piles of inventory. New cars are at a 50-day supply (the auto manufacturers like a 30-day supply) and EV sales have tanked, leading to a 130-day supply.


Who it impacts — In addition to 146,000 union members, the spot market will suffer too. The longer a strike extends, the more drivers will move into more general freight and lanes. That’s bad news for a market that’s trying to climb out of a bottom.

According to Axios, “Anderson Economic Group reports that a 10-day strike at all three would lead to direct losses of $5.6 billion and a possible one-quarter recession in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.”

The union is currently sitting on an $825 million strike fund. Most sources I have spoken with predict a strike going four to six weeks.


Cross-border freight will also suffer, as Matt Silver noted on X. Hope you bought yourself a car recently, because both the used and new markets may be thrown back into turmoil.

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Blessing of the Semis

Forgive me, broker, for I have sinned — Over in a parking lot at Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Detroit, dozens of drivers are anointed during the annual Blessing of the Semis. According to Detroit Catholic, “Around 40 trucks showed up for the blessing Saturday, Sep. 9; in past years, nearly double that number of trucks have wrapped around the building.”

Blessings like this are common in Mexico but few and far between here in the U.S. Father Adalberto “Beto” Espinoza leads the drivers through a Mass and hits them with the holy water sprinkler. They even have a mariachi band and a meal. No word on whether this will absolve you of any DOT violations though.

Worst and best of NTDAW

Bottled up — We’ve been reaching out to the driver community during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week to learn the best and worst of the week. One post that hit the hardest came from a beverage driver. He says that the corporate team visited his office and greeted everyone but the drivers. In fact, it’s been a rough year for his team. His soda brand also took away free drinks.

“We don’t even get the big discounts we used to get anymore. Used to get 20oz bottle of anything for $0.10 out of the vending machine inside, $1.00 for all energy. Now we have to go down the street and pay full price at the gas station for any cold drinks other than Dasani water” — @AreWhyEhInRyan2 on X


Next generation of drivers — Dave Dein, truck driving coordinator at Patterson High School Truck Driving program, enjoyed some doughnuts for driver appreciation week. Dein runs an incredible program that introduces high school students to what life behind the wheel will be like. It doesn’t take huge gestures; it just takes a thank you and some acknowledgment.

Here’s a pair of Walmart drivers sharing just how far a simple thank you goes.

Meanwhile, can somebody get my buddy Zayy some doughnuts? 

Around the horn

FreightTech industry isn’t what it was a year ago

We’ve got a big-rig parking crisis. Who should solve it?

WTT Friday

NASA’s moon mission logistics and the UAW strike On Friday’s episode of WHAT THE TRUCK?!?, I’m talking to NASA about the logistics of its Artemis mission to the moon. We’re talking to NASA’s Doug Lenhardt, who is the supply chain leader for the Orion capsules.

Larry Long, CEO at General Trucking Inc., breaks down the UAW strike.

Michael Tatarowicz, Enterprise Sales Team at Uber for Business, talks about how Uber for Business is helping drivers get where they need to go when parked and why this could be a key to driver retention.

Trucker AttackDogGaming shares his best recipes drivers can easily cook while on the road.

Plus, news, weirdness and much more.  

Catch new shows live at noon ET Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on FreightWaves LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube or on demand by looking up WHAT THE TRUCK?!? on your favorite podcast player.

Now on demand

Insiders say UAW strike is imminent; best and worst of NTDAW

Walmart’s 6-figure driver program, how dredging works and DOT’s new drug test

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Don’t be a stranger,



The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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