FMCSA Provides HOS Relief to Railroad Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted railroad drivers a 5-year exemption from FMCSA’s 14-hour, 60-hour, and 70-hour rules, based on an application submitted by the Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and member railroads.
Current hours-of-service (HOS) rules prohibit driving after the 14th hour from the start of a work shift (the 14-hour rule). Current rules also prohibit accumulating 60 hours of on-duty time within 7 consecutive days (60-hour rule), or accumulating 70 hours of on-duty time within 8 consecutive days (70-hour rule).
The exemption will enable railroad employees subject to HOS rules to respond to unplanned events that occur beyond an employee’s normal work hours. FMCSA expects the exemption will result in a similar or greater level of safety than without the exemption. The exemption is effective from December 23, 2020, through December 18, 2025.
Grain Inspections Receded but Soybeans Continued To Rise
For the week ending January 14, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions totaled 3.3 million metric tons (mmt). Total grain inspections were down 6 percent from the previous week, up 51 percent from last year, and up 61 percent above the 3-year average.
Grain News on AgFax
The decrease in inspections mainly reflected a 33-percent drop in corn inspections. Corn shipments were down, primarily to Asia. Wheat inspections decreased slightly, and soybean inspections increased 11 percent from the past week.
Total grain inspections were down 14 percent from the previous week in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and in the Mississippi Gulf.
Diesel Fuel Prices Continue To Rise
During the week ending January 18, U.S. Average On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices increased 2.6 cents to reach $2.696 per gallon. Diesel fuel prices have risen for 11 consecutive weeks as demand for truck and other transportation services climbed and fuel oil inventories fell.
The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration forecasts diesel prices will average $2.71 per gallon in 2021 and $2.74 per gallon in 2022. These forecasts are based on expectations U.S. gross domestic product will rise in 2021, boosting demand for fuel energy.
Snapshots by Sector
For the week ending January 7, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 49.5 million metric tons (mmt). This was 3 percent lower than last week, but still represented a significant increase in outstanding sales from the same time last year.
Net corn export sales were 1.438 mmt, up 92 percent from the past week. Net soybean export sales were 0.908 mmt, up significantly from the previous week. Net wheat export sales were 0.222 mmt, down 19 percent from the previous week.
U.S. Class I railroads originated 27,650 grain carloads during the week ending January 9. This was a 12-percent increase from the previous week, 51 percent more than last year, and 32 percent more than the 3-year average.
Average January shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $475 above tariff for the week ending January 14. This was $269 more than last week. There were no shuttle bids/offers this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.
For the week ending January 16, barge grain movements totaled 914,831 tons. This was 40 percent higher than the previous week and 76 percent more than the same period last year.
For the week ending January 16, 563 grain barges moved down river—154 barges more than the previous week. There were 968 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 9 percent fewer than the previous week.
For the week ending January 14, 43 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—54 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting January 15, 2021), 68 vessels were expected to be loaded—42 percent more than the same period last year.
As of January 14, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $46.00. This was 6 percent more than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $26.50 per mt, 8 percent more than the previous week.