ATA asks for CSA changes but doesn’t join litigation to block implementation
Although the American Trucking Associations is not joining in litigation to block Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, it is asking for further changes before carriers’ rankings under the program are made public. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said at press time it didn’t plan to implement the new system until at least Dec. 12 of last month.
Boyd Stephenson, ATA’s manager of safety & security operations, noted in a Nov. 29 letter to FMCSA’s CSA program manager that carriers’ scores in five of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) are set to be visible to the public. “Before the agency chooses to disclose this data, it should ensure that these BASICs accurately predict crash risk,” Stephenson said.
“Until FMCSA can confirm that the system accurately identifies unsafe carriers in a category, it is inappropriate to make carriers’ scores in that category publicly available, as they may erroneously label safe, responsible carriers as unsafe,” ATA said. To improve the link between BASICs scores and crash risk, ATA recommends several steps:
• Modify severity weights so that they more accurately reflect crash risk;
• Control for risk disparities among “generic” violations (situations where violations of varying degrees are lumped together);
• Ensure industry segments are compared against their peers; and
• Test the system to ensure that it accurately identifies carriers that are unsafe.
ATA pointed to a number of violations, mostly in the Cargo-Related BASIC, where its members have identified severity weights that significantly exceed crash risk. On the other hand, there are some situations — possession or under the influence of alcohol less than four hours before driving or inadequate brakes for safe stopping, for example — where FMCSA’s severity weight appears too low.
ATA noted that in developing its violation severity weightings, FMCSA convened a group of agency and state enforcement officials to examine the severity weights suggested by its research and confirm that those weights conform to experiences in the field.
“However, in ATA’s view, CSA 2010 should be based only upon the statistically demonstrated relationship between violating the FMCSRs and causing a crash, not anecdotal experience and subjective viewpoints,” the association said. The CSA methodology itself states this policy by declaring that violations and severity weights are derived by applying quantitative analysis to historical crash and roadside violation data to the extent possible. “ATA believes that the introduction of subjective viewpoints to the weights distorts the aims of an impartial safety monitoring system.”
While ATA said it would prefer that the system be based solely on the statistical relationship between crash risk and violations, the association argued that if the methodology is to incorporate subjective input, it should be from as broad and experienced a sample of individuals as possible. So ATA recommended that FMCSA expand the panel to include industry representatives.
Despite its concerns, ATA is not supporting litigation to block implementation of CSA or public release. ATA’s counsel believes a lawsuit filed Nov. 29 is unlikely to succeed, and the organization said it is confident that FMCSA remains willing to work with the industry to make further changes.
On Nov. 29, three organizations representing motor carriers asked a federal appeals court to block implementation of the CSA initiative or at least to prohibit the public release of certain CSA data until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration completes a rulemaking on the program that complies with the Administrative Procedures Act.
The groups challenging CSA — National Association of Small Trucking Companies, Expedite Alliance of North America and the Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association — filed a motion for emergency stay with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Trailer Orders Surge
New orders of dry van commercial trailers more than doubled in October from the prior year, leading total net orders of commercial trailers to a 33-month high, according to ACT Research Co. Eight of nine trailer categories tracked by the company increased year over year. ACT noted net orders increased 79 percent over last year to 17,126 units. The strong inflow of orders pushed manufacturer backlogs up by more than 5,000 units.
NAFTA Surface Trade Increases
Surface transportation trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico was 19.3 percent higher in September 2010 than in September 2009, reaching $68.3 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The value of surface trade in September 2010 remained 4.8 percent below the September 2008 level despite the 2009-2010 increase.
Freight Posts Gains in October
Truck tonnage rose from September to October, the American Trucking Associations says. The measurement also rose when adjusted for seasonal factors. Both increases were less than 1 percent.
Year-to-date through October, seasonally adjusted tonnage is up 6.1 percent compared with the same period in 2009.
Used Truck Sales Down
Used Class 8 commercial vehicle sales volume has slowed in recent months, declining 16 percent month-over-month in October, ACT Research Co. said. ACT also reported the average price for units sold increased 4 percent month-over-month as buyers focused on the limited supply of low-mileage vehicles available.
DOT Launches Distracted Driving Video
The U.S. DOT has launched “Faces of Distracted Driving” at www.distraction.gov/faces, an online video series exploring the consequences of texting and cell phone use while driving. The series features people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones in distracted driving crashes. DOT is encouraging others who would like to share their experiences with distracted driving to post videos on YouTube and e-mail the links to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schneider Increases Tanker Pay Rate
The tanker division at Schneider National, Schneider National Bulk Carriers, announced it was increasing owner-operator compensation by 5 cents a mile. The new rate increases owner-operator compensation to $1.05 a mile, plus fuel surcharge, for loaded and unloaded miles. Schneider says its tanker owner-operators average 125,000 miles a year and, with the increase for this group, could see an extra $6,250 a year in revenue with the new mileage rate.
Class 8 Orders Up
Net orders of heavy-duty Class 8 commercial vehicles for North American markets in October rose 24 percent over September to 18,914 units, said ACT Research Co. Medium-duty Classes 5-7 net orders increased 19 percent during the same period.
National Champion Gets New Ride
Carl Krites, a 31-year veteran and 12-year Con-way Freight driver, of Wapakoneta, Ohio, has won a 2010 Freightliner Cascadia given to him by his fleet for winning the National Truck Driving Championship sponsored by the American Trucking Associations. The customized Cascadia is equipped with a Detroit Diesel DD13 and includes heated admiral seats with built-in massagers, Sirius XM Satellie Radio and power windows. He was also awarded a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup and a cash prize.
Court Rules Against ATA in Port Case
A federal court has denied the American Trucking Associations’ request to expedite its appeal in its lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles.
On Nov. 4, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the association’s motion, which the port did not contest. It commented appeals are expedited only if otherwise, irreparable harm will result or the case would become moot.
Judge Christina Snyder, for the U.S. Central District of California, granted the ATA’s motion for a temporary injunction Oct. 25, preventing the port from implementing its driver employee requirement. The port’s plan would require all truckers regularly serving the port be employees, rather than owner-operators.
However, the port will continue to enforce its off-street parking provision. Many ports nationwide have said they want to adopt the Los Angeles port model.
Meanwhile, commissioners for the Los Angeles port and its sister port of Long Beach met Nov. 22 to consider approval of the 2010 San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan Update. This update set more aggressive goals and strategies for reducing air pollution and health risks from the goods transportation industry.
The harbor commissions met on Oct. 6 to consider this modified version of the 2006 plan and the boards voted to continue the matter to allow for additional public review.
Agency Changing CSA Cargo Scoring
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in late November it planned to withhold carrier scores in the Cargo-Related Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) from public view when the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 Safety Measurement System is fully implemented.
FMCSA is recalibrating the BASIC by adjusting the cargo securement violation severity weightings based on comments from experts. The decision to withhold percentile ranking and intervention status stemmed from a need to make certain that the weightings were appropriately identifying carriers with safety risks. Industry groups have protested that this BASIC unfairly elevated exposure and targeted specific segments, namely flatbed carriers.
The American Trucking Associations supported the move. “ATA continues to support the objectives of CSA 2010 … and we are pleased with the Agency’s decision to continue working on its Cargo-Related BASIC to get it right before it’s made public,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.
FMCSA is also analyzing the impact on the different industry segments of a carrier’s exposure in this BASIC. During this analysis period, the BASIC results will continue to be used for intervention prioritization by enforcement personnel. Accordingly, percentile rankings and intervention status will be accessible to the FMCSA enforcement community and motor carriers only.
FMCSA also plans to modify the presentation of BASIC results in the following three areas:
• Change of the term “Deficient” to “Alert” when a motor carrier’s score in one or more BASICs is above the FMCSA threshold for intervention.
• Change of the highlight color from red to orange.
• Improvement of the language to clarify that BASIC results signify the carrier is prioritized for an FMCSA intervention.
Firm to Offer CSA Driver Scorecards
A private firm plans to offer to drivers scorecards that reflect Comprehensive Safety Analysis driver ratings.
By mid-December via www.roadsideresume.com, says Vigillo President Steven Bryan, the company will offer all drivers in their system access to their own scorecard free of charge. CSA, after field testing for months in certain states, at press time was scheduled for full implementation the second week of December.
Other developments related to CSA and the FMCSA’s Pre-employment Screening Program germane to issues were discussed in November at a conference of carrier recruiting personnel in Nashville, Tenn. Driver safety practices were noted as becoming more crucial to driver pay because of the scrutiny CSA puts on carriers.
Jet Express President Kevin Burch envisioned mileage pay scales being tied more specifically to safety. Drivers “can use this scorecard to their advantage,” Burch said, referring to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s internal CSA 2010 methodology, which rates drivers for targeting problems in carrier interventions.
Though FMCSA decided it would not release driver rating information to the public, third-party firm Vigillo says this month it will make available, free of charge, a “Roadside Résumé” to the more than 1 million drivers with data in the firm’s system.
Vigillo has long offered carriers the ability to rate their current drivers using FMCSA’s published Driver Safety Measurement System methodology. Likewise, Vigillo has provided its own version of FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program reports on prospective hires in their system to subscriber carriers.
Driver scorecards will be available through Vigillo to prospective employers with driver consent, making the company for the first time a “specialty credit reporting agency,” Bryan says.
Just as with DAC reports and with the PSP, drivers will have an opportunity to contest erroneous information. The résumé and attendant scoring will be limited to data reported by participating carriers, Bryan says.
FMCSA will provide a PSP report to a driver for $10. The report contains inspection and crash data (looking back three and five years, respectively), but no scoring.
Whitehead Named Highway Angel
Bill Whitehead, a driver with FirstFleet, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association for helping motorists whose car had been struck by a deer.
On Oct. 7, Whitehead was driving on Highway 402 in Georgia when he saw a car collide with a deer. The car, which had been in the right lane, swerved to the left and came to a stop in the median. Two women and two girls were inside.
Seeing flames underneath the vehicle, Whitehead made sure the women escaped from their car. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and began working on the flames. When other motorists stopped to help, he returned to his truck to retrieve a second extinguisher. With the help of the other motorists, he had mostly extinguished the flames and pushed the car back to the right shoulder of the road when police arrived.
“I have a daughter who is a single mother, and I hope someone would help her out if she ever needed it,” said Whitehead, who has been driving for nearly 30 years.
For his efforts, Whitehead received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. FirstFleet also received a certificate acknowledging one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
Study Links Strict Cell Phone Use to Safety
Motor carriers with the highest safety performance records also are likely to have stringent cell phone use policies, according to the latest Strength in Numbers Fleet Benchmarking Study, sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety.
The study of company vehicle fleet crash rates found that leading performers were more likely to have a total ban on mobile phone use, and six of the eight leading companies were also more likely to terminate a driver for violating the company’s mobile device policy. In addition, eight out of nine of the top ranking fleets regularly review drivers’ mobile phone records after a crash to determine if the driver was using a phone at the time of the incident.
By comparison, all 13 companies that fell in the bottom of the rankings had some degree of a mobile device policy, but none had the option to terminate a driver for violating the policy.
The yearlong benchmarking study examined fleets from 45 companies in the pharmaceutical, oil and gas, food and beverage, telecommunications, transportation, package delivery and insurance industries. The companies, including 27 in the Fortune 500, operate a combined fleet of just over 400,000 vehicles that logged more than 8 billion miles in 2009. The study participants’ crash rate per million miles ranged from less than one to nearly 12.
“This is the first evidence we’ve seen that shows the combination of a strong mobile device policy and strict consequences can result in lower crash rates,” said Bill Windsor, NETS Board Chairman. “The benchmark study shows the potential for well-written state laws combined with strong enforcement to eventually reduce crash rates in the general population.”
For more information on the Strength in Numbers program or to become a participant, visit the NETS website at www.trafficsafety.org.
Truckers Discuss Health Problems at Conference
Frank Silo, a company driver for Covenant Transport, knows firsthand how obesity affects truckers, both professionally and personally. His weight reached the point that he couldn’t even wear a wedding ring. “I had to hold my breath to tie my shoes,” Silo said, topping the scales at 268 pounds in summer 2007.
Silo was one of the drivers on a panel discussion at the early November International Conference on Commercial Driver Health and Wellness in Baltimore. He told the attendees that after looking at a photo of himself and his wife while on vacation, he decided to change his lifestyle. “That was my turning point,” he said.
Silo started walking while waiting to be loaded or unloaded. He then got a dorm-size refrigerator for the truck, bought a George Foreman grill and began preparing healthier meals on the road, and when he did eat out, he would walk to restaurants with better food options. “I’m now eating healthier, sleeping better, and I feel better,” said Silo, who now weighs 217 pounds. “I’m more alert and feel I’m a safer driver.”
Silo, along with fellow America’s Road Team member Ralph Garcia, who drives for ABF Freight System, outlined challenges that face drivers’ health. These included time constraints associated with scheduling of loads, a lack of flexibility with hours-of-service compliance, lack of food choices on the road and problems with taking perishable foods in some company trucks that don’t have or don’t allow inverters to run appliances, as well as the demands of family life when at home.
From the owner-operator perspective, there are often other obstacles, including maintaining affordable health insurance.
“I pay close to $5,000 a year for health insurance, and I have a $5,000 deductible in order to keep rates down,” said Rick Ash, an owner-operator leased to HVH Transportation and chairman of the Trucking Solutions Group. “The first $5,000 for medical expenses every year comes out of my pocket. For owner-operators who are diagnosed with conditions such as sleep apnea and other conditions, this can be devastating.”
Gary Hull, who worked for eight years as a long-haul trucker and is one of the founders of Truckers for a Cause, A.W.A.K.E. Chapter, said there is also a culture of mistrust in the industry. Many drivers fail to seek medical attention for fear of losing their CDLs or their jobs.
“Many of today’s truck drivers feel like there are being punished for doing the right thing,” Hull said.
Hull gave the example of a fellow driver who went 12 years beating the system with diabetes. “The man was scared that if he got caught as a diabetic, he would lose his job,” Hull said. “In this case, the man was hurting himself, but it was more important for him to provide for his family. The short-term problem was bigger than the long-term problem.
“If we are going to have a successful wellness program, that’s the No. 1 barrier we’ve got to get across.”
Diesel Price Watch
Prices are the average, self serve, cash at truckstops November 1-30, 2010*
NEW HAMPSHIRE 3.11
NEW JERSEY 3.05
NEW MEXICO 3.13
NEW YORK 3.33
NORTH CAROLINA 3.06
NORTH DAKOTA 3.31
RHODE ISLAND 3.17
SOUTH CAROLINA 2.96
SOUTH DAKOTA 3.10
WEST VIRGINIA 3.21
Source: T-Chek Systems Inc., Eden Prairie, MN.
For more information, (877) SOS-CHEK or www.tchek.com
*Some prices may not include certain state taxes
ATA Names Road Team Finalists
Thirty-four truckers are finalists in the American Trucking Associations’ selection process to become 2011-12 America’s Road Team Captains.
The association created the group in 1986 to positively represent the trucking industry. Nominees must be employed or leased to ATA member companies. The program is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America.
During Jan. 9-11, judges will rate finalists on areas including trucking knowledge, dedication to safety and their driving records. The captains will then receive Road Team blazers and spend the next two years promoting trucking.
The names, hometowns and companies of the finalists are:
• Julian F. Alexander; Chicago Heights, Ill.; YRC
• Willie Atkinson; Florence, S.C.; Con-way Freight
• Gary G. Babbitt; Irving, Texas; Central Freight Lines
• Raleigh Barber; Atlanta; Con-way Freight
• Joe Allen Boyd; Mount Crawford, Va.; Wal-Mart Transportation
• David Boyer; Wytheville, Va.; ABF Freight System
• Randall Dee Briggs; West Valley City, Utah; YRC
• Danny Fuller; Jonesboro, Ark.; Con-way Freight
• Ronald Carl Fuller; Irving, Texas; Central Freight Lines
• Aaron R. Garvey; Glendale, Ore.; A&M Transport
• Earl Wayne Harnage; Tampa, Fla.; Con-way Freight
• Albert Hocket; Rolla, Mo.; Con-way Freight
• Richard W. Kennedy; Charlotte, N.C.; Schneider National
• David Kight; Jacksonville, Fla.; Publix Supermarkets
• Gary R. Konen; Beaver Dam, Wis.; Wal-Mart Transportation
• Samuel Douglas; Lee Greensboro, N.C.; Old Dominion Freight Line
• Alphonso Lewis; Montgomery, Ala.; YRC
• Kenny Lowry; Laurens, S.C.; Wal-Mart Transportation
• Dennis Martin; Gaffney, S.C.; UPS Freight
• Nate McCarty; Denver, Colo.; ABF Freight System
• Tim McElwaney; Conley, Ga.; ABF Freight System
• Chad Miller; Sauk Village, Ill.; ABF Freight System
• John “J.C.” Miller; Kernersville, N.C.; YRC
• Roger L. Nicholson; Savannah, Ga.; UPS Freight
• J.W. Ray; Omaha, Neb.; Werner Enterprises
• Dion Saiz; Albuquerque, N.M.; FedEx Freight
• Jeffrey Wade; Summerville, S.C.; Southeastern Freight Lines
• Brooks Washburn; Albuquerque, N.M.; FedEx Freight
• Clarence Weeks; Ocala, Fla.; AAA Cooper Transportation
• Robert L. Weller; New Market, Md.; Hahn Transportation
• Dale M. Williams; Bessemer, Ala.; Trimac Transportation South
• Gary Augusta Wilson; Halenthorpe, Md.; FedEx Ground
• Kerry M. Wilson; Hickory, N.C.; UPS Freight
• Scott Woodrome; Dayton, Ohio; FedEx National
New Rules Address ABS and Turbos
Two equipment rules — one which makes permanent an existing requirement for antilock brake systems, the other regarding turbochargers — are now federal regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published confirmations of the effective dates of these direct final rules in the Nov. 3 Federal Register.
FMCSA confirmed Nov. 22 as the effective date of the direct final rule titled “Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation: Antilock Brake Systems.” This rule, published Sept. 21, made permanent the existing requirement that trailers with an antilock brake system be equipped with an external malfunction indicator lamp.
The agency also confirmed Nov. 19 is the effective date of the direct final rule titled “Compliance with Interstate Motor Carrier Noise Emission Standards: Exhaust Systems.” That rule, published Sept. 20, eliminates turbochargers from the list of equipment considered to be noise dissipative devices.
When the two direct final rules were published, the agency advised that unless it received written adverse comment or notice of intent to submit adverse comment by deadline dates, it would provide notices confirming effective dates. These direct final rule procedures were used because the rules were not considered to be controversial.
Verdict Awarded Over Fuel Shortchanging
A Texas jury returned a $30 million verdict against a store chain’s owner for providing less than a full gallon of fuel at 86 Houston-area stations.
On Nov. 9, Attorney General Greg Abbott described the verdict as upholding the state charge that SunMart chain owner Petroleum Wholesale defrauded diesel and gasoline buyers.
Petroleum Wholesale did not respond to a request for comment, but the Montgomery County Courier reported the company denied the state’s findings and plans to appeal.
In 2008, the Texas Department of Agriculture conducted a multi-county effort to inspect and test 1,701 fuel pumps at 86 SunMart stores. The agency determined 985 of these pumps were dispensing less than a full gallon of fuel.
While the inspections were ongoing, PW sent company personnel and third-party contractors to recalibrate pumps before state inspectors could reach all 86 locations.
The jury’s $30 million verdict was based upon consumer transactions and penalties per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Petroleum Wholesale is liable for $18,765 in restitution, $8,494 in civil penalties and more than $2.7 million in state fees.
The parent company also owns travel centers and convenience stores in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.