A little relief?

| June 01, 2006

Arriving at fuel islands means worrying about what you will pay for diesel as prices remain unpredictable.

President Bush announced measures April 25 to try to stem increases in retail fuel prices, and Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, applauded the initiatives.

Bush is delaying this summer’s deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency stockpile of government-owned crude oil. “So by deferring deposits until the fall, we’ll leave a little more oil on the market,” Bush said during a speech in Washington at the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for the ethanol industry. “Every little bit helps.”

The plan calls for making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly, promoting greater fuel efficiency, boosting the U.S. gasoline supply and investing aggressively in gasoline alternatives. Bush also has ordered a federal investigation into possible cheating, price gouging or illegal manipulation in the gasoline markets. And he gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to suspend regional clean-fuel standards where it would help to maintain adequate fuel supplies.

The EPA option does not mean the agency will relax its engine emission requirements to allow for lower-quality fuel to be sold, said John Millett, an EPA spokesman.

“When there is an extreme or unusual fuel supply circumstance,” he said, EPA can temporarily waive certain standards. “The president was just reminding people of that if it does become a problem, the EPA can act to relieve those problems.”

Millett said such suspensions are formed federally but only over specific areas, and for limited amounts of time.

The U.S. trucking industry, which moves 70 percent of domestic freight, is on schedule to pay $6.6 billion more for fuel this year than last – a total of $94.3 billion, Graves said. “The actions announced by the White House have the support of our motor carriers,” he said. “In the long term, to do our job, we need an assured and adequate supply of fuel along with price stability. While energy conservation and the eventual conversion to new fuels may be the right way to go, each has to be done in a manner that will allow us to continue to move America’s goods ands products efficiently.”
-From Staff Reports


Homeland Security to Check Backgrounds of Port Truckers
In an effort to step up security at U.S. ports, the Department of Homeland Security will begin checking the names of all port workers, including truckers, against lists of suspected terrorists and will expedite its plan to issue identification cards, the agency announced April 25.

“It is fundamental that individuals who pose a security threat do not gain access to our nation’s ports,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “The name-based checks will provide an immediate security boost while we simultaneously complete the work to implement a secure national transportation worker credential.”

DHS will begin conducting name-based background checks on nearly 400,000 port workers in the United States, Chertoff announced. The preliminary name checks, which will cover longshoremen and maritime employees of facility owners and operators, will be completed by summer, Chertoff said. TSA will vet the names against terrorist watch lists through the Terrorist Screening Center and through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to see whether workers are in the country legally.

The checks will be followed by the rollout of a national Transportation Worker Identification Credential later this year.

DHS has been developing such a card for several years but decided to speed up the process. Port security has been broadly criticized recently in the wake of the federal government’s announcement that some port assets were to be sold to a company based in Dubai, a plan since scrapped.

The department’s Transportation Security Administration “has taken preliminary steps to identify a contractor to assist with the enrollment of TWIC,” the department said in a release. TSA will soon issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, the next step in adopting a transport ID card.

Workers who apply for the card will undergo a more thorough criminal background check that will include biometrics, probably a fingerprint check, although the department hasn’t spelled out the details.
-Sean Kelley


NTSB Renews Call for Crash Avoidance Systems
The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that the principal cause of an accident that killed eight people in Illinois was the tractor-trailer driver’s failure to slow as the truck approached vehicles waiting at a toll plaza. A contributing cause, NTSB said, was the intermittent traffic backup created by vehicles stopping for the toll plaza.

The investigation – the results of which were released April 18 – determined that the truck driver did not notice traffic slowing ahead of him and that a collision warning system might have prevented the accident. NTSB, therefore, reiterated its previous recommendations issued in 2001 calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create standards for collision warning systems and to require their installation on all newly-manufactured commercial vehicles.

“It’s terrible to see an accident like this when we have the technology to prevent it,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. “It’s time to put those technologies to work – saving lives.”

However, some trucking associations have opposed mandating the gear, which can cost in excess of $3,000. “They have a tendency to promote overconfidence in the driver,” Todd Spencer, vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told the reporters.

NTSB also recommended guidelines on toll plaza design that emphasize electronic toll collection to reduce queuing. And the board called on the Department of Transportation and NHTSA to conduct more research and, eventually, a rulemaking on how to deal with the large weight differences between heavy trucks and other highway vehicles.
-From Staff Reports


Rollicking Road Show
Until now, truckers saw a truckstop as the place to take a shower, get a clean bathroom and refill tanks and stomachs alike. Things have changed. America’s Traveling Truck
Show has turned the parking lots of the Petro stations into exhibition areas for truck equipment distributors, engine and trucks manufacturers and other suppliers.

The traveling show, which started in Wheeler, Calif., was in New Mexico at the end of April. Shy at first, one by one the truckers jumped off their cabs and approached the booths set up in the middle of the truck parking area of the Petro Truck Stop at Milan.

The truckstop is one driving hour from Albuquerque, in the middle of a desert surrounded by Navajo and other Indian reservations. The sun is high, and the sky has no clouds, but the wind tempers the heat, encouraging the drivers to stretch their legs while roaming freely through the tents and installations.

“What’s this all about?” asks one driver.

“We are bringing the truck shows to the truckstops, getting them closer to the truckers who don’t have the time to go to the big shows like Mid-America in Kentucky, or GATS in Dallas,” says Randy Schwartzenburg, executive director of ATTS.

A U.S. Xpress driver sits under the ATTS tent, filling out her information to enter the sweepstakes for the “Truckers Dream Package,” which offers cash prizes, Nascar tickets, equipment and leather jackets from different sponsors. She used to drive with her late husband and now she is thinking about becoming an owner-operator herself. Next to her, Herman Littig, on his way to Georgia, gets a stub for a free dessert in the Iron Skillet restaurant.

Beyond that area, Frances and Corbitt Bourne, owner-operators leased to Schneider, check closely each detail on the Volvo VT880, a hyper-charged monster whose engine develops up to 625 horsepower. By the Carrier Transicold trailer, Teresa Miller plays with her puppy André, while her husband scrutinizes the Carrier power unit designed to provide cold air in the summer and heat in the winter.

Others surround the flashy Nascar car exhibited by Caterpillar, close to their ACERT technology trailer. Not far from there, representatives of Hendrickson explain the fundamentals of their resilient and smooth air suspensions for tractors and trailers on exhibition.

“This is sort of a break for the truckers; it’s a good thing for everyone,” says Joey Valenzuela, Fuel Island manager at the Milan truckstop for the last four years. “The drivers I have talked to are excited about this happening in the Petro lots. They feel that we care for the drivers for allowing this to come to our locations.”

“This was a good show,” says Al Trujillo from Trucks West, dealers of Volvo and Mack trucks in the Nevada and New Mexico area.

“People come first attracted by the engine and then get amazed by how big the Volvo’s interior is,” says sales agent Bill Kennedy.

“It was a great show for us,” says one of Carrier Transicold’s agents while he is packing and getting his stuff ready for the next show in Amarillo, Texas. “But then we always have a great show!”
-Jorge Arboleda

Show dates/Locations
May 30, 31, June 1/New Paris, Ohio
June 6, 7, 8/Stony Ridge, Ohio
June 13, 14, 15/Carlisle, Pa.
June 20, 21, 22/Bordentown, N.J.
June 27, 28, 29/Ruther Glen, Va.
July 5, 6, 7/Mebane, N.C.
July 11, 12, 13/Florence, S.C.
July 18, 19, 20/Atlanta
July 25, 26, 27/Bucksville, Ala.
August 1, 2, 3/Jackson, Miss.
August 8, 9, 10/Shreveport, La.
August 15, 16, 17/Weatherford, Texas


Truckers Jamboree Set to Blast Off
The 27th Annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree will be held July 13 and 14 at the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa.

This year’s show boasts more than 200 exhibits, plus the Super Truck Beauty Contest, the antique truck display, the Iowa pork chop cookout, the Trucker’s Best Friend pet contest, the Trucker Olympics, carnival games, live bands and a fireworks display.

Admission and parking are free. Shuttles are provided from the parking area.

“We have so many exciting things happening at this year’s Jamboree,” says Delia Moon Meier, the Iowa 80 Truckstop’s senior vice president. “We are bringing back the fireworks display along with many other exciting events. This is sure to be our best Truckers Jamboree yet.”

The Walcott Truckers Jamboree began in 1979 and featured a few exhibits, live music, food and a small display of antique trucks. The first Jamboree only attracted a few hundred drivers, a far cry from the 30,000 it attracts today.
-Lance Orr


CAT Scale, International to Give Away CXT
CAT Scale and International Truck and Engine are giving away an International CXT Pickup in the Weigh to Win Sweepstakes.

Each time Class 8 drivers weigh on any CAT Scale, they have a chance to win prizes instantly and sign up to win the CXT. Five finalists will win a trip for two to the 2007 Walcott Truckers Jamboree and a key that may fit the ignition of the truck. The lucky driver with the working key wins the CXT.

The contest begins Aug. 24, 2006, the first day of the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, and runs through May 1, 2007, the duration of the Weigh To Win Tour sponsored by CAT Scale and International.

Come to GATS in August to see the CXT on display at the CAT Scale booth. Valued at more than $129,000, the pickup is equipped with:

  • An International DT466 I-6 300-hp diesel engine

  • An Allison automatic 3000 HS 5-speed
  • A polished aluminum 70-gallon diesel fuel tank
  • A five-passenger, four-door crew cab with air suspension
  • An 8-foot dually pickup bed
  • Polished aluminum wheels
  • Heated mirrors
  • An exterior sunshade
  • Keyless entry
  • Fog lights
  • An air horn
  • Polished front and rear bumpers
  • Leather multi-position front seats and a leather rear bench seat
  • Back-up assist
  • A drop-down TV screen and DVD player
  • A deluxe center console with burled walnut wood trim
  • A combination radio/CD player/navigation system

Other sweepstakes prizes include CAT Scale jackets and other apparel, Series Seven Super Trucks collector card sets, duffel bags, International Eagle apparel and accessories and radio-controlled CXT models.

For more information, visit this site
-Lance Orr


Highway Deaths Up in 2005
The number of highway fatalities in 2005 was 43,200, more than the 42,636 occurring in 2004, according to a preliminary report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Norman Mineta, U.S. transportation secretary, declared the deaths a “national tragedy” and noted that 55 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who died in 2005 were not wearing seat belts.

“We have the tools to prevent this tragedy,” Mineta said. “Every car has a safety belt, every motorcycle rider should have a helmet, and everyone should have enough sense to never drive while impaired. Every year this country experiences a national tragedy that is as preventable as it is devastating.”

“We could save thousands of lives every year if everyone buckled up,” said Jacqueline Glassman, NHTSA acting administrator.

The report projects a fatality rate of 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from the record low of 1.44 in 2004. The report also found safety belt use at 82 percent nationwide.

On-highway injuries in 2005 dropped 4.1 percent from the year before. There were 2.68 million injuries in 2005 and 2.79 million in 2004.

The report also projected the eighth straight annual increase in motorcycle fatalities: 4,315 in 2005, 7.7 percent more than the year before, when 4,008 died.

The report estimates that highway crashes cost society $230 billion a year, or about $820 per person.

The final 2005 report will be available in late summer.
-Lance Orr


FYI
Another FMSCA Official Resigns
Warren Hoemann, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, resigned, effective last month. Hoemann had been acting administrator since March 31, when former Administrator Annette Sandberg left the agency. The acting administrator and acting deputy administrator is John Hill, who served as assistant administrator and chief safety officer. Neither the White House nor the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a replacement for either Sandberg or Hoemann.

Diesel Fuel Continues Rise
The national average retail price of a gallon of diesel increased 2 cents for the week ending May 1, to $2.896. That increase was much smaller than the 11-cent increases of the previous two weeks, but it still left diesel costing 63 cents more than in the same week of 2005. The West Coast had the most expensive diesel in the country at $3.098.

Tonnage Drops
Following a year-end run-up, the American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped for a second consecutive month. The index fell 3.2 percent in March, following a revised 3.6 percent drop in February. The indicator had increased from September 2005 to January 2006. The dip put the index at 110.1, its lowest level since November 2003. Compared with March 2005, the index was 2.6 percent lower.

Security Council
The American Trucking Associations unveiled a new security council on May 1, to reflect the heightened importance of trucking industry security. The council is comprised of: Brian Shutt, ABF Freight System’s manager of security, as national chairman; Curtis Shewchuk, Con-Way Transportation’s director of corporate protective services, as first vice chairman; William Downey, the vice president of the Kenan Advantage Group, as second vice chairman; Susan Chandler as executive director; and Mike Hodge as director of claims and security.

Best Companies
FedEx and Qualcomm have made the ranks of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.” At No. 23, Qualcomm made the list for the eighth straight year. At No. 64, FedEx made the list for the ninth consecutive year.

SuperRigs Contest
The 24th annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs truck beauty contest is June 22-24 at the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza in Sacramento, Calif. Working truck owners will compete for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes. Twelve winners will appear beside their trucks in the 2007 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar.

I-85 Speed Limit Increase
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine signed a bill increasing the speed limit for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph on Interstate 85 from Petersburg south to the North Carolina line. The law will take effect July 1 after a traffic engineering study.

Hybrid Vans
Freightliner Custom Chassis will produce more than 100 hybrid electric-powered walk-in vans for FedEx Express and other customers in 2006. Designed for lower emissions and better fuel economy, the vans are built on an MT-45 SR chassis platform from Freightliner Custom Chassis and have a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 15,000 pounds. FedEx Express, which initiated the program, already is operating 18 of the vans in Sacramento, Calif., Tampa, Fla., New York City and the District of Columbia.

New IdleAire Locations
IdleAire has opened the first four of approximately 210 new locations planned to be ready by the end of the first quarter of 2007. The company says it expects to be operating 50 locations by the end of June. New locations available to fleets and drivers include the Pilot in Laredo, Texas, the TA in New Braunfels, Texas, the Ontario East TA in Ontario, Calif., and the TA on Lovell Road in Knoxville, Tenn.

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