Court orders FMCSA to issue supporting document rule for HOS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has said it plans to issue a proposed rule by the end of this year on supporting documents for hours-of-service compliance, but now it has no choice.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 30 ordered FMCSA to issue the proposed rule by Dec. 30.
In January, the American Trucking Associations asked the appeals court to issue a “writ of mandamus” to order FMCSA to issue a supporting documents regulation that Congress mandated as part of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994. The regulations were to have been issued by Feb. 26, 1996. FMCSA and ATA set the lawsuit aside this spring to settle their differences, but in July ATA said settlement talks had failed and asked the court to rule.
For many years, FMCSA has used regulatory guidance and policies rather than formal regulations to govern motor carriers’ supporting documents requirements. This approach has been frustrating for many carriers and has led to several court cases. The lack of regulatory language became a major issue in December 2008 when FMCSA declared it considered satellite location data from mobile communications systems to be supporting documents that motor carriers must be able to produce in a compliance review.
To settle the dispute unilaterally, FMCSA issued a new policy in July that relieved carriers using qualified tracking systems from 15 specific paperwork requirements. ATA responded the policy was insufficient because carriers needed regulatory certainty.
Moreover, the policy would hold carriers using tracking systems that didn’t qualify for paperwork relief accountable for using the data it did have for auditing their drivers’ logs.
The appeals court’s one-page order did not discuss the arguments but simply declared ATA had “demonstrated that the delay in this case warrants issuance of the writ.”
Even before ATA filed the lawsuit in January FMCSA had announced that it would deal with HOS supporting documents as part of a new rulemaking that would expand the scope of mandatory electronic onboard recorders. According to the agency’s current schedule published before the Sept. 30 court order the White House would clear a proposed rule by Dec. 30, and FMCSA would publish it a few days later.
FYI NEWS BRIEFS
NAFTA Surface Trade
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and Canada and Mexico in July increased 18.8 percent over July 2009 to $61.3 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. July remained 14.5 percent below the July 2008 level despite the 2009-2010 increase. North American surface freight value fell 12.3 percent in July from June.
ATA Truck Tonnage Index
Truck tonnage rose 2.9 percent in August, the ninth straight year-over-year increase, American Trucking Associations said Sept. 28. But tonnage slipped 2.7 percent from July, the biggest month-to-month decline since March 2009, ATA said with news of its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index.
Used Truck Sales Up in August
Reported sales of used Class 8 commercial vehicles were up 55 percent in August compared to the prior year on a “same dealer” basis, according to ACT Research Co. In the latest release of the used truck report, ACT further reported the average price paid for a used Class 8 truck continued to move slightly higher.
Harbor Group OKs Port Truck Plan
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved a schedule for harbor trucking companies next year to begin phasing in employee drivers working the Port of Los Angeles. Under the plan, 20 percent of trips to the port must be performed by employee drivers by Dec. 31, 2011. The share increases to 66 percent a year later and to 100 percent by Dec. 31, 2013. American Trucking Associations filed notice Sept. 16 it is appealing an Aug. 26 federal ruling that said the port is a proprietary agency that could manage its property like a landlord.
Caltrans Closes Seven Rest Areas
The California Department of Transportation has closed seven rest areas in Southern California because of state budget problems. The rest areas that have been closed include White Water, Brookside and Cactus City sites on I-10, Valley Wells and Clyde V. Kane on I-15 and John Wilkie and Desert Oasis on I-40.
New York Closes Six Rest Areas
Six rest areas on interstates in New York State have closed temporarily to save money in fiscal year 2010/2011. They include the Schroon Lake rest area on southbound I-87, Brewerton/Hastings on I-81 southbound between exits 31 and 32, Schodack on I-90 westbound between exits 11 and 12, Lewis on I-87 (the Adirondack Northway) southbound in Essex County between exits 31 and 32, Schroon Lake northbound on I-87 between exits 27 and 28, Worcester on I-88 eastbound near exit 18, and Wells Bridge on I-88 westbound between exits 11 and 12.
Texting Ban Expands to Hazmat Staff Reports
In kicking off the 2010 national Distracted Driving Summit, Sept. 21, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he was initiating a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials.
In addition, LaHood announced that two rules proposed at last year’s summit have now become law. Rules banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job and restricting train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices while in the driver’s seat have been posted.
The rule governing texting while transporting hazmat closed a loophole in the ban on truck and bus drivers. It will take effect 30 days after posting in the Federal Register.
“We are taking action on a number of fronts to address the epidemic of distracted driving in America,” said LaHood. “With the help of the experts, policymakers, and safety advocates we’ve assembled here, we are going to do everything we can to put an end to distracted driving and save lives.”
DOT has also been working with the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to engage the private sector to promote anti-distracted driving policies in the workplace. NETS, which was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is an employer-led public-private partnership dedicated to improving the safety and health of employees by preventing traffic crashes.
DOT and NETS today announced that almost 1,600 U.S. companies and organizations have adopted distracted driving policies to date, covering approximately 10.5 million workers nationwide. An additional 550 organizations have committed to adopting policies that will cover another 1.5 million employees within the next 12 months.
Arrow Trucks Launches Back On The Road
Arrow Truck Sales has launched its Back On The Road 2011 campaign, presented by Volvo Trucks North America.
In its fourth year, Back On The Road is designed to help a deserving trucker in need of a truck and a job. Country music singer Aaron Tippin is again lending his support to the program, and will help select the winner.
Arrow is soliciting stories from truckers who may have lost their truck and their livelihood through circumstances beyond their control. The 2011 campaign will also consider nominations for truckers who have served as champions for the profession and the trucking industry.
Applications include a compelling 250-word story explaining why the nominee deserves to win. Stories about family loss, loss from natural disaster or a recent return from military service could be considered valid story submissions.
The trucker whose story is selected will receive a one-year lease on a Volvo VNL tractor, courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America; a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express; and other products and services.
“Winning Back On The Road was the best thing that could have happened to me and my family,” said Robert Snyder, 2010 Back On The Road winner. “I now have a steady income, a great truck, and I get to see more of my family. I encourage anyone with a worthy story to apply.”
In addition to the truck and work agreement, the winner will receive:
• X One XDA Energy tires from Michelin
• TriPac auxiliary power unit from Thermo King
• Monthly $500 fuel cards from Pilot Flying J
• Business consulting tools from ATBS
• Insurance from Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
• A 3-year / 300K-mile warranty from National Truck Protection Inc.
• One year’s worth of filter products from Genuine Volvo Parts
• Custom truck paint job from Dickinson Fleet Services
• Truck accessories and fenders from Minimizer Products
• Memory foam mattress from SleepDog Mattress
• Paint from Sherwin-Williams
• Health assessment and check-ups from Roadside Medical Clinic & Lab
Arrow will accept nominations until Dec. 5 at www.backontheroad2011.com. The winner will receive a truck and prizes in March 2011 in Louisville, Ky.
ATA Supports Diesel Tax Hike Proposal for Freight-Planning Fund
On Sept. 30, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) introduced the Freight is the Future of Commerce in the United States Act, or the Freight FOCUS Act.
It would prioritize funding via a new assistant transportation secretary, who would lead a new Office of Freight Policy. H.R. 6291 would have public and private sector involvement in freight planning, use funding to alleviate highway choke points and provide money to mitigate the effect of goods movement on the environment and health.
It would create a Goods Movement Trust Fund for merit-based grants for transportation projects. This fund would require money from a specific mode be limited to projects benefiting that form of transportation. The private sector would have a say in funding through a new National Freight Advisory Committee.
The legislation would be financed by a diesel tax increase and a $3 billion annual transfer from the General Fund into the Goods Movement Trust Fund
The ATA said rather than try and tap the depleted Highway Trust Fund, additional user fees in the different transportation modes would provide much of the funding.
The bill’s diesel tax increase will be insufficient to address current surface transportation problems, it said. For this reason, the association is encouraging Congress to pass a similar hike in gas taxes to fund additional projects
“We appreciate the Congress turning their attention to the importance of freight,” said Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association spokesperson Norita Taylor. “Our members would really like to see a full six year highway authorization bill with a focus on freight. There is already a revenue stream called the Highway Trust Fund and it should be dedicated to highways and freight mobility.”
Agency Amends EOBR Rules
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has amended several of the performance standards in the “Electronic Onboard Recorders for Hours of Service Compliance” final rule, which the agency issued on April 5.
The changes to the final rule were made after FMCSA received petitions for reconsideration from Qualcomm, Xata Corp. and a group of industry stakeholders, including the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council EOBR Task Force.
Qualcomm and the other stakeholders requested FMCSA reconsider the final rule’s requirements for the temperature range in which EOBRs must be able to operate, and the connector type specified for the USB interface. Xata further requested that FMCSA clarify certain reportable events in the diagnostic table, and consider offering an additional alternative for the data transfer between an EOBR and a roadside safety official’s portable computer.
In the April final rule, FMCSA adopted the EOBR operating temperature range to minus 40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) based on an SAE standard for vehicle electronics. Qualcomm and other stakeholders said the temperature operating range is beyond the range of the leading commercially available systems today.
Qualcomm noted that off-the-shelf telematics and onboard recorder systems are typically designed for minus 20 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and that it would require significant added technical features and costs in such devices to meet the requirements of the new regulation.
In response, FMCSA said it does not intend to require an EOBR be so rugged that it operates at extreme temperatures that realistically will not occur in a truck’s normal operating environment. The agency deleted the requirement for a specific operating temperature range from its final rule.
The final rule originally required a single USB compliant interface featuring a Type B connector, that the USB interface must comply with USB V1.1 and V2.0 USB signaling standards, and implement the Mass Storage class (08h) for software driverless operation.
Xata requested that FMCSA more clearly define the frequency, duration and availability for capture of five EOBR Diagnostic Event Codes that the agency listed in its final EOBR rule. Those codes are Low Voltage (LOWVLT), Battery Low (BATLOW), Communications Error (COMERR), Display Error (DYPERR) and Keyboard Error (KEYERR).
The first two of these diagnostic events could occur during a vehicle’s cold start, but would be resolved when the vehicle is warmed up. The third diagnostic events could occur when a CMV is operating in areas with limited cellular coverage.
FMCSA agreed with Xata for a need to clarify thresholds and frequencies for the diagnostic events that would trigger fault codes for these various conditions. The agency determined it would be more appropriate to consider the fault-code reporting thresholds during the implementation period prior to the June 4, 2012, compliance date of the final rule.
Recorder Bill Introduced in Congress
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is against a congressional bill that would require electronic on-board recorders on trucks, although some carriers support the measure.
On Sept. 29, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, which would mandate the devices for commercial vehicles. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill, which would require EOBRs provide real-time tracking of a vehicle’s location and enable law enforcement to access this information during roadside inspections.
If passed, S.3884 would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations within 18 months.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said EOBRs do not track all driver activities and drivers still have to input hours worked. “There is no data that shows these devices will increase highway safety — none,” Spencer said. “EOBRs are a management tool, not a safety device.”
The American Trucking Associations said it supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rule, effective last June, which requires the devices only for trucking companies with more significant compliance problems.
“However, if Congress truly wants to promote technology to improve highway safety, it should provide incentives for a host of ‘active’ safety technologies that proactively assist drivers to prevent automobile and large truck-involved crashes,” said Rob Abbott, ATA vice president of safety policy
Steve Williams, who heads Arkansas-based Maverick USA, said marketplace competition pressures carriers to meet shipper demands. “The mandatory use of EOBRs is the only salvation for the motor carrier community to collectively resist the power of the purse,” Williams said.
Craig Harper, chief operating officer of Arkansas-based J.B. Hunt Transport, and Don Osterberg, a senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Schneider National, support the mandate approach.
“The problem isn’t with the HOS (hours of service) rules, but a lack of compliance with the rules,” Osterberg said. “Electronic logs take the non-compliance issues off the table.”
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Carriers with a 10 percent or greater occurrence of HOS non-compliance in a single compliance review now are mandated to have EOBRs for two years. The regulation’s compliance deadline is June 4, 2012.
OOIDA challenged FMCSA’s regulation in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in June.
OOIDA noted the agency intends to expand mandated EOBR use to a much larger percentage of carriers and drivers. Before federal officials implement a broader mandate, more information is needed, such as if the devices’ effectiveness and if requiring them makes economic sense, the association said.
Safety Agency Seeks Truck Technologies
The National Transportation Safety Board on Sept. 28 determined that driver fatigue stemming from sleep loss, circadian disruption and sleep apnea were at fault in its investigation of a highly publicized multi-vehicle accident in June 2009 involving a tractor-trailer that killed 10 people near Miami, Okla.
According to the NTSB’s analysis, the 76-year-old truck driver failed to react to slowing and stopped traffic ahead by applying brakes or performing any evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision. The accident occurred shortly after a minor accident in the same area caused traffic to back up.
The NTSB identified several major safety issues during its investigation, including the need for a fatigue management system, event recorders and collision warning systems. “The time to act on all three of these safety fundamentals is now so that this kind of horrific tragedy will not occur again,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.
In its recommendations following the investigation, the NTSB called upon the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require all heavy commercial vehicles to be equipped with video event recorders, improve its fatigue educational materials and to require all motor carriers to adopt a fatigue management program based on the North American Fatigue Management Program. In addition, the NTSB urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set performance standards for event data recorders and require that all trucks over 10,000 pounds GVWR be equipped with event data recorders.
A synopsis of the accident investigation report, including the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations, can be found on the Board Meetings page of the NTSB’s website, www.ntsb.gov/events/Boardmeeting.htm.
Anhydrous Ammonia Transport Exemption
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a two-year limited exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations for transportation of anhydrous ammonia from distribution point to a local farm retailer or to the consumer, and from a local farm retailer to the consumer, as long as the transportation takes place within a 100-mile radius of the retail or wholesale distribution point.
The exemption extends the agricultural operations exemption established by section 345 of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, as amended by sections 4115 and 4130 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity: A Legacy for Users, to drivers and motor carriers engaged in distribution of anhydrous ammonia during the planting and harvesting seasons.
The exemption, which preempts inconsistent state and local requirements applicable to interstate commerce, will remain in effect until Oct. 9, 2012, unless revoked earlier by FMCSA.
Study Shows Safety Technology Benefits
Truck crash warning systems enhance driver safety and help prevent potential accidents based on a yearlong field test, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Con-way Freight announced on Sept. 9.
The results were made available in a newly issued report “The Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems Heavy-Truck Field Operational Test, Key Findings Report (DOT HS 811 362).” Program funding was provided by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Con-way Freight supported the study by providing 10 Class 8 commercial freight tractors equipped with the Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety System technology. Over the 10-month study that began in February 2009, 18 Con-way Freight drivers operated the trucks out of the company’s Detroit service center as part of its normal business operations, logging 601,844 miles and 22,724 trips, while generating 13,678 hours of data. While the test vehicles were driven, data acquisition systems recorded driver actions and responses to the integrated warning system. UMTRI researchers then analyzed the data to study the effect that the integrated warning system had on driver acceptance and changes in driver behavior.
Among the study’s key findings:
• The majority of drivers perceived the integrated crash warning system would increase driver safety, and it made them more aware of the traffic environment around their vehicle and their position in the lane;
• Seven drivers reported the integrated system prevented them from having a crash;
• Fifteen out of 18 drivers said they prefer a truck equipped with the integrated safety system and would recommend their employers purchase such a system;
• In terms of satisfaction, drivers rated warnings for lane departures the highest, and second-highest in terms of perceived usefulness;
• The integrated crash warning system had a significant effect helping drivers maintain lane positions closer to the center; and
• Overall, drivers responded more quickly to potential rear-end crash scenarios with the system.
Based on its experience with the study, Con-way Freight chose to invest in the new technologies for all new replacement units added to the fleet this year — more than 1,300 Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 tractors, said Bob Petrancosta, vice president of safety.
“The insight we gained from the IVBSS study confirmed the feedback we got from our drivers — these technologies are ready for prime time and are effective at helping drivers avoid the most common instances of crashes involving commercial trucks,” Petrancosta said.
The 1,300 new tractors each were equipped with an integrated suite of “detect, alert and respond” systems that provide for rollover stability, front collision warning with radar-based adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning. The safety technologies for the new tractors, all of which have gone into service, represent a cumulative investment of about $5 million.
DOT Awards University Grants
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced more than $9.2 million in grants to seven University Transportation Centers that are using new technologies and developing innovative approaches to improve transportation systems.
The awards were made by DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. UTCs conduct research that directly supports DOT’s priorities and are a critical part of the national transportation strategy. “By investing in the research needed to modernize and revitalize transportation in this country, we are finding innovative solutions to problems facing the transportation system today,” says RITA Administrator Peter H. Appel.
The Sustainable Transportation Center, based at the University of California-Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, will use a $462,900 grant to fund research on creating renewable energy distribution systems that are resistant to accidents, the potential for using greenhouse gas pricing to affect consumer behavior, and long-term travel behavior changes resulting from temporary highway shutdowns. The STC also will use the grant to provide educational assistance to students pursuing sustainable transportation studies.
The University of Delaware University Transportation Center will use a $462,900 grant to continue to seek solutions that can be applied to similar challenges in other parts of the country. The center’s research will focus on using data to better understand and improve the interaction between organizations when transportation corridors are compromised during an emergency, and on developing tools to assist various individual transportation agencies in managing the transportation corridor as a system, rather than managing individual assets.
The National Center for Transportation Management, Research and Development, based at Morgan State University in Baltimore, will receive a $1 million grant. The money will help the center continue its research into urban transportation challenges, such as ways to reduce waiting and travel time for passengers using transit rail service and analyzing the transportation needs of the increasing number of elderly individuals caring for young children.
The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, the nation’s largest UTC, will receive a $3.23 million grant. The center will use the funds to continue research activities on safety and operations, winter maintenance and effects, infrastructure maintenance and materials, systems engineering, mobility and public transportation, logistics and freight management as well as transportation planning and economics. The funds also will be used to involve undergraduate and graduate students in research projects and conduct outreach events to share research results.
The Center for Transportation and Materials Engineering at Youngstown State University, Ohio, will use a $463,400 grant to continue investigating the relationship of materials engineering and advanced manufacturing to the sustainability of the transportation infrastructure. Specific efforts focus on the development or adaptation of lighter-weight or stronger materials for use in transportation, including the development of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Research also will look at increasing the longevity of transportation infrastructure, improving bridge safety and improving sustainability in the transportation system.
The Southwest Region University Transportation Center at Texas A&M University will use a $2.08 million grant to continue research, education and technology transfer activities at its consortium universities, which include Texas A&M University, Texas Southern University and the University of Texas at Austin. Research efforts focus on supporting economic growth and trade, enhancing mobility and infrastructure efficiency, and promoting safety, environmental stewardship and transportation work force development.
Also located at Texas A&M University, the University Transportation Center for Mobility will use a $1.5 million grant to continue conducting an integrated, interdisciplinary, competitive program of research, education and technology transfer in mobility, rural public transportation, congestion management and mitigation, and innovative financing.
Stagecoach Driver Named Highway Angel
Jaime Avitia, a truck driver for Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution, LP, of El Paso, Texas, has been named a Truckload Carriers Association Highway Angel for helping an accident victim.
On Aug. 31, Avitia was driving on I-10 near Balmorhea, Texas. Beneath him was Highway 17, which connects to I-10 via a service road and dead-ends into a dirt parking lot.
Avitia noticed a pickup truck below him speeding toward the dead-end. It left the roadway, hit a concrete drainage culvert nose-first, flipped into the air and landed upright. Avitia stopped his truck and ran down the embankment.
The driver had not been wearing a seatbelt and was thrown into the backseat, with his bleeding head hanging halfway out the back window. Unable to find a pulse, Avitia administered CPR on the man.
After four chest compressions, the man finally coughed and began to breathe. Avitia pulled him into the front seat and wrapped a towel around his neck for stability. After about a half hour, paramedics transported the driver to a hospital.
“That particular night, my load was ready early, and I had almost stopped at a truckstop to get coffee, but decided not to because the line was too long,” Avitia said. “Maybe I was supposed to be there at that exact time to help that guy. I’m just very thankful that I could.”
For his kindness, Avitia has received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch. Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution also received a certificate acknowledging one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
Transportation Deaths Drop in 2009
Transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by 9.2 percent in 2009 from 2008, according to preliminary figures released Oct. 6 by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The data indicate that transportation fatalities in all modes totaled 35,928 in 2009, compared to 39,569 in 2008. Although highway, rail and aviation deaths declined, pipeline and marine fatalities increased.
“While statistics show that transportation fatalities have declined this past year,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman, “we continue to see far too many accidents in all segments of the transportation community. There is still much work to do to prevent the loss of life on our roads, rails, waterways, and skies.”
Highway fatalities, which account for nearly 95 percent of all transportation deaths, decreased from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808 in 2009. In fact, highway fatalities decreased in all categories including motorcycle fatalities (down 16 percent) that had been on the rise in recent years.
Aviation statistics are compiled by the NTSB. Marine numbers are provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and numbers for all other modes by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Class 8 Truck Orders Up in Sept.
September Class 8 truck total net orders for all major North American manufacturers increased 21.6 percent over August and were 38.8 percent higher than a year earlier, said FTR Associates. The preliminary total was 14,872 units.
Net order activity for the six-month period including September measures 163,100 units on an annual basis. The figure includes U.S., Canada, Mexico and exports.
“Net orders for September came in about where we expected, and while better than August, aren’t indicative of any significant shift in fleet buying plans that would result in strong growth next year,” said FTR President Eric Starks. “We’ll closely watch the next two months because they are typically the strongest in the seasonal cycle. If orders don’t come in at close to 20,000 in October and higher in November, that will be evidence in our view that many fleets will continue to sit on the sidelines until they are more comfortable of a sustained economic recovery.”