A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposal that all interstate commercial truck and bus carriers that use paper logbooks to track hours-of-service compliance would have to use electronic onboard recorders drew a mostly negative reaction from many in the trucking industry.
The proposal would relieve carriers of the current requirement to retain certain HOS documents, such as delivery and toll receipts, that are now used to verify the number of hours the vehicle is in operation. Approximately 500,000 carriers would be affected by the proposed rule, FMCSA said.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered FMCSA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on HOS supporting documents by yearend. In December, the court gave the agency another month — until Jan. 31 — to comply. The court order stemmed from a lawsuit the American Trucking Associations filed just over a year ago to compel FMCSA to move forward with a regulation as mandated by Congress in the mid-1990s.
By the time ATA filed its lawsuit, FMCSA had already announced it was planning to link new regulations on supporting documents to an expansion of the EOBR mandate. In April 2010, FMCSA issued a final rule requiring carriers that have a history of serious log violations to install EOBRs. That rule takes effect in June 2012.
Interstate carriers that use records of duty status (RODS) logbooks to document drivers’ HOS would be required to use EOBRs. Short-haul interstate carriers that use timecards to document HOS would not be required to use them. Carriers that violate this EOBR requirement would face civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. Noncompliance would also negatively impact a carrier’s safety fitness rating and DOT operating authority.
“This proposal is an important step in our efforts to raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “We believe broader use of EOBRs would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their HOS compliance.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association saw it differently. “EOBRs are nothing more than overpriced record keepers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “This proposal is actually another example of the administration’s determination to wipe out small businesses by continuing to crank out overly burdensome regulations that simply run up costs.”
OOIDA said EOBRs cannot accurately and automatically record a driver’s hours of service and duty status. They can only track the movement and location of a truck and require human interaction to record any change of duty status.
Last year, U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation that would have required all interstate carriers to use EOBRs. The measure won the support of a new coalition, The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, which was formed by five large trucking companies: J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation, Maverick USA, Schneider National and U.S. Xpress. The bill died at the end of the 111th Congress.
To comply with the proposed mandate, carriers and operators could spend less than $1,000 to about $2,400 to install EOBRs according to various industry estimates. In addition, they would spend less than $30-45 for monthly data transmission fees. For as little as $35 a month, an operator could install and use an EOBR application on a cell phone or smart phone.
David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, says mandated EOBRs would cost carriers plenty and enhance compliance but not safety. Owen calculates mandated EOBRs will cost the industry around $12 billion for installation and $500 million in annual fees and communication costs. “An EOBR is nothing more than an expensive device to ‘game’ CSA and allow a company to appear much safer than they truly are,” he said.
The ATA, which represents large carriers, gave a more cautious statement. “Given FMCSA’s prior statements on this issue, ATA was not surprised by the scope of the proposed mandate. Over the coming days, ATA will be carefully evaluating the proposal, especially with respect to the agency’s explanations for expanding its scope, and the accompanying analyses,” a spokeswoman said.
Company driver Jon Harper of Long Shot Trucking expresses grudging acceptance of the proposal. “If it helps, it helps. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said. “Doesn’t matter to us. You just have to do what they tell you to do. It’s just another rule. All of these rules are made by people who don’t drive trucks. They really don’t know anything about it.”
Ricky Gordon, an owner-operator leased to PGT, is less diplomatic. “It’s a crock of crap. I’m an owner-operator. If I own the truck, I ought to be able to do what I want without having the federal government telling me what to do with it. They have to put their hands into everything. It’s an invasion of privacy to me.”
Max Kvidera and James Jaillet contributed to this article.
FYI NEWS BRIEFS
Jazzy Jordan in Runner’s World
Jasmine “Jazzy” Jordan, who was featured in Truckers News’ June 2010 cover story for her cross-county run to support the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund and to generate awareness about driver health issues, is noted in the March issue of Runner’s World magazine. The 17-year-old ran 3,161.2 miles from California to New York in 10 months to lay claim to being the youngest female to ever run across the United States.
Truck Tonnage Increases in December
Truck tonnage calculated by the American Trucking Associations increased 4.2 percent in December from a year earlier, ATA said Jan. 25. In its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage report, ATA said the December index was the highest since September 2008. December’s index increased 2.2 percent from November. For 2010, tonnage rose 5.7 percent from the previous year. Tonnage declined 8.7 percent in 2009.
Trailer Orders, Used Truck Sales Rise
Net orders of commercial trailers rose to 22,915 in December, a 7 percent increase over a strong November, ACT Research Co. said. ACT also reported December factory shipments were up 12 percent from November and 69 percent higher than December 2009. In addition, ACT said unit volume of sales of used Class 8 commercial vehicles increased 21 percent in December from November.
New Class 8 Truck Order Up
December net orders of Class 8 commercial vehicles for North American markets were 27,044 units, up 128 percent year-over-year and 2.9 percent higher than November’s total, according to ACT Research Co. Medium-duty Classes 5-7 net orders fell 9 percent month-over-month from November, but were up 89 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Spot Freight Market Up
TransCore said its North American Freight Index that monitors spot market truckload freight movement throughout the United States and Canada ended the year with a 55 percent increase in December when compared to December 2009. TransCore said spot market freight volumes for the third and fourth quarters in 2010 were the highest since 2005, a peak year for spot market volume
Surface Trade Dips in November
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and Canada and Mexico rose 15.5 percent in November 2010 over November 2009, but dipped 3.6 percent from October, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. BTS reported the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico at $68.1 billion in November 2010.
Overdrive Trucker of the Year
Owner-operator Dan Heister, a 45-year-old steel hauler, has been named Overdrive’s 2011 Trucker of the Year. He has been driving for or leased to Clanton, Ala.-based Boyd Bros. Transportation for 15 years. Heister, who was featured in Overdrive’s February cover story, wins an all-expense-paid trip to the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas and a trip anywhere in the continental United States, with $1,000, from Overdrive, as well as gifts from trucking companies and suppliers.
U.S., Mexico Begin Cross-Border Talks
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with her Mexican counterparts in Mexico in January to discuss implementing a cross-border trucking program.
In a Jan. 24 press conference, Clinton said she and Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s foreign secretary, have reviewed methods of inspecting and clearing legitimate goods away from border stations.
“We are working with our counterparts in each of our governments to create trucking policies that reduce transit costs and enhance safety on our roads,” she said.
On Jan. 12, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Trade Representative Ron Kirk for cross-border trucking discussions at the third annual Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy. The trade representative and the labor department lead the LAC, which is comprised of 30 U.S. union representatives.
The day before, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray called Mexico’s plans to continue the 99 tariffs on U.S. goods “deeply unfair.” It imposed the measure when Congress voted to end its cross-border trucking program with the nation nearly two years ago.
“The United States put a proposal on the table, and Mexico should have responded by ending all punitive tariffs immediately,” the Washington Democrat said.
Mexico has said it will not add additional retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, Murray added.
Also in January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led a two-day trade delegation to Mexico City. It said it would press for a “mutually agreeable solution” in the debate over cross-border trucking with Mexico.
Inspectors Increase UCR Enforcement
Roadside enforcement officers began Feb. 1 verifying if interstate truck operators have 2011 registration with the Unified Carrier Registration.
Individuals and companies operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate or international commerce must register and pay a fee annually. The revenues generated are used for commercial vehicle safety programs.
States have been advised to enforce fee payment only after an officer has verified online or by phone failure to register for 2011, according to the Oregon transportation department. The enforcement action should only apply to payment for 2011, unless the officer gets proof the trucker or company operated in a previous year but did not pay fees for that year.
Fees are $76 for the smallest interstate operator to $73,346 for operators of 1,001 or more power units. Trailers are excluded from registration, but the UCR board raised truck fees to make up for the loss in revenue.
Truckers are not required to carry proof of registration, but may want to, according to information from the National Conference of State Transportation Specialists, a membership of state agencies and partners involved in transportation safety, insurance and consumer protection.
States send UCR compliance information to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration daily at minimum, and the FMCSA then updates its system, according to the NCSTS. The online registration contains two years of data.
The 2005 omnibus transportation funding act established the UCR Agreement, a base-state system administered by federal and state governments and by the motor carrier industry for the collection of fees levied on motor carriers and related entities.
More information is available at www.ucr.in.gov.
Pride & Polish Championship Set
Top truck beauty show winners from across the country will meet in Dallas in August to compete for the Custom Rigs Pride & Polish National Championship.
Best of Show winners from all five Pride & Polish events will be invited to attend the first-ever nationally recognized National Championship at the Dallas Convention Center, Aug. 25-27, during the Great American Trucking Show.
The road to the National Championship began Oct. 8-9 at the Charlotte Diesel Super Show Pride & Polish, followed by the Truckin’ For Kids event in Irwindale, Calif., Oct. 24. Shows leading up to the National Championship will include the 75 Chrome Shop Show in Wildwood, Fla., April 8-10, and the Great West Truck Show, June 9-11, in Las Vegas.
All Best of Show winners who come to Dallas to compete for the National Championship will receive a travel allowance and hotel accommodations during the show. In addition to the regular Pride & Polish contest, Best of Show winners from the four preliminary events will have an area to showcase their trucks. National Championship winners from each Best of Show category will receive trophies and additional cash prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 for first, second and third places, respectively.
“We’re thrilled to offer this opportunity where the trucks and the owners can be recognized nationally for having not just the finest truck at a single show, but the finest truck in the country,” says Alan K. Sims, vice president/executive director of the Randall-Reilly Events Group, which produces the Pride & Polish events and the Great American Trucking Show.
For information about competing in or sponsoring the Custom Rigs Pride & Polish National Championship series, contact Sims at (205) 248-1339, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.prideandpolish.com.
Homeland Security Changing Alert Program
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is replacing its five-color terrorist threat alert system with a two-level system expected to be implemented by May.
Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano announced discarding the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System and introduced the new National Terrorism Advisory System Jan. 27. A 2002 presidential directive created the color-coded alerts.
“This means that the days are numbered for the automated recordings at airports, and announcements about a color code level that were, too often, accompanied by little practical information,” Napolitano said.
NTAS is expected to be more effective in “providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs and the private sector,” according to a DHS statement.
The department and other federal entities will issue alerts, classified as imminent or elevated. It will identify the potential threat, explain public safety actions under way and recommend action for the public.
The new system will have end dates on the threat alerts, although the DHS may extend alerts if the situation warrants.
Sometimes, department officials will send alerts to law enforcement or affected private sector areas, such as shopping malls or hotels. Or they will issue warnings to official channels, the media and the NTAS webpage.
DHS will expand the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, she said. Further information was not immediately available on plans for the program, which credentials truckers and other workers requiring unescorted access to secure port areas.
Over the last two years, the federal government and the military have recognized all of society needs engagement in thwarting terrorism, she said. A 1999-2009 study indicated more than 80 percent of U.S. terrorist plots failed because of observations from law enforcement or the public, she said.
Government entities no longer view the top risks that originate with people coming from abroad. An increasing number of U.S. citizens have been arrested on terror charges in the last two years, Napolitano said.
The department is expanding its “If You See Something, Say Something” and Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative campaigns. The first engages the public to report terrorism indicators and crime to transportation authorities and law enforcement.
The SAR initiative uses a standard process for law enforcement to identify and report suspicious activity so it can be shared nationally and analyzed. It is active in more than 24 states and cities.
Napolitano did not mention First Observer in her speech, funded by a $15.5 million DHS grant. As of September, the 2008 three-year grant had allowed 18,100 truckers to complete this trucking security training program. The program’s partners include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and state trucking associations.
America’s Road Team Selected
The American Trucking Associations Jan. 12 announced Captains of the 2011-12 America’s Road Team. The premier group of million-mile, accident-free truck drivers will spend the next two years representing the trucking industry and delivering its highway safety message.
These 18 drivers, with a collective 483 years behind the wheel and over 36.5 million accident-free miles, were selected from 34 finalists. The competition included a review of trucking industry expertise and a demonstration of their communication skills, combined with their community service and lifetime safety records.
“The America’s Road Team puts an impressive face behind the wheel,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “These ambassadors to the industry have remarkable safe driving records and an unmatched enthusiasm for their job and for the industry.”
ATA created America’s Road Team in 1986. It continues today with the support of Volvo Trucks North America. “Volvo Trucks congratulates the highly skilled drivers chosen to serve as trucking industry ambassadors in 2011 and 2012,” said Ron Huibers, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks North America.
While maintaining their jobs as full-time professional drivers, the new America’s Road Team Captains will travel the country speaking on behalf of the trucking industry to the community, news media and public officials.
The captains are Willie Atkinson and Danny Fuller of Con-way Freight; Gary G. Babbitt of Central Freight Lines; Joe Allen Boyd and Kenny Lowry of Wal-Mart Transportation; David Boyer, Nate McCarty and Tim McElwaney of ABF Freight System; Randall Dee Briggs and Alphonso Lewis of YRC; Samuel Douglas Lee of Old Dominion Freight Line; Dennis Martin and Roger L. Nicholson of UPS Freight; J.W. Ray of Werner Enterprises; Dion Saiz and Brooks Washburn of FedEx Freight; Jeffrey Wade of Southeastern Freight Line; and Robert L. Weller of Hahn Transportation.
For more information go to www.americasroadteam.com.
U.S Xpress Celebrates 25th Anniversary
Marking their 25th anniversary, U.S. Xpress executives are optimistic the trucking industry will gain momentum in the future despite hurdles.
“To use a technical term Bill Strauss with the Chicago [Federal Reserve] uses, it stinks,” U.S. Xpress Co-chairman Max Fuller quipped about the current trucking climate. “If you look at [Gross Domestic Product] running at 3.2 percent, you’d think that business would feel a lot better. The reason it doesn’t feel better right now is the inventory rebuild component that has really affected the economy this past year.”
Fuller said if you take the inventory rebuild component out of the equation, the GDP is really running at about 1 percent and that’s what most companies are feeling. Using Strauss’ forecast, the GDP should hit 4 percent in the second quarter, and business confidence will improve.
“At 4 percent, the consumer will kick in, businesses will kick in and we’ll start consuming some of this inventory that has built up,” Fuller said. “We should then right-side to what GDP is running at so we’ve got a lot of confidence that as we get into the second quarter and the balance of this year and even into 2012, business is going to be extremely good.”
Both Fuller and Co-chairman Patrick Quinn said issues such as the federal government’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, rising fuel prices, increases in new truck prices, driver shortages and wages will challenge fleets to grow and stay competitive. Quinn said CSA will make it especially tough to fill driver seats.
“We’re optimistic where we’ll be going this year,” Quinn added. “But the capacity issue will make for some tight spots and interesting situations. There may be some freight that sits for a day or two longer than some shippers want to get it moved.”
While this will make it tougher for fleets, good drivers will have an advantage.
“A driver with a really clean record in a year or two could become like a free agent in the sports arena,” Quinn said. “He can command higher wages because he’s proven to be compliant. So there is a definite advantage for drivers to be compliant.”
Fuller and Quinn hauled their first load of freight under the company name on Jan. 21, 1986. U.S. Xpress started with 48 trucks and currently has more than 8,000 trucks, 22,000 trailers and annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion. It is recognized as the second largest privately owned truckload fleet in the U.S.
As part of the 25th anniversary at its Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters, U.S. Xpress announced its gold sponsorship of the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to severely injured military service members between active duty and transition to civilian life.
Cargo Theft Rose in 2010 Staff Reports
FreightWatch International reported cargo theft industrywide rose by 4.1 percent in 2010 to an average of 75 cargo theft incidents per month, the most ever recorded.
The food and beverage industry was the most heavily hit by cargo theft, accounting for 21 percent of total theft activity, with an average loss value of $125,000 per incident. Electronics accounted for 19 percent of all cargo theft and an average loss per incident of $512,000. But while the rate of cargo theft continued to grow, FreightWatch data show the average value per loss declined in 2010.
“To address these cargo theft issues, we have seen companies utilize additional layers of security to mitigate risk,” said Barry Conlon, chief executive officer of FreightWatch. “The increase in protection combined with a decrease in total shipping during 2010, primarily due to decreased global demand, has forced cargo theft gangs to become more aggressive and increase active targeting of unprotected loads.”
Cargo theft in the United States is analyzed in FreightWatch’s 2010 Annual Cargo Theft Report and includes theft rates per state, most common locations for thefts, areas with the highest risk and more. For a copy of the report, e-mail email@example.com.
Creditor Forecloses on Willie’s Place
A bankruptcy court permitted Willie Nelson’s Truck Stop’s financial backer to foreclose on the Texas location after it filed Chapter 11.
On Jan. 11, Judge Harlin Hale of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Northern District of Texas lifted the automatic stay on the truck stop, doing business as Willie’s Place. The stay stops foreclosures and collection activity when the debtor petitions for bankruptcy.
The Carl’s Corner convenience store and truckstop opened Willie Nelson’s Truck Stop in late 2008, south of Dallas off of U.S. 35. Carl Cornelius is president and Nelson is an equity holder, court documents stated.
New Jersey-based SBL Capital Funding financed completion of the truck stop in February 2008. SBL, a private direct or hard money lender, specializes in short-term real estate bridge loans to high-risk borrowers.
The loan’s principal amount is nearly $5 million and SBL received a deed of trust and security agreement on Willie’s Place, extended to mature February 2010.
Last May, the business filed Chapter 11, allowing reorganization and payment of creditors over time and then paid $200,000 to SBL. It still owed SBL, not including fees and expenses, nearly $6.5 million in December. That debt excludes legal fees, expenses and per diem interest of $2,750, which continues to accrue.
The bankruptcy court allowed SBL to take over Willie’s Place Feb. 1, according to a Jan. 25 story produced by Waco’s KWTX television station.
Cornelius founded the town of Carl’s Corner in the late 1980s to house Carl’s Corner Truck Stop. He has been the town’s mayor and municipal judge and in 2004, co-founded Willie Nelson Biodiesel Co. with long-time friend Nelson, producing and distributing BioWillie fuel.
In 2005, they opened the concert theater Willie’s Place at the truckstop, located 15 miles from the singer’s Abbot, Texas, birthplace. David Allen Coe performed in a Dec. 28 show with Nelson and family and earlier shows included Leon Russell, Ray Price and Asleep at the Wheel.
Texas-based Earth Biofuels had distributed BioWillie, but in 2008, Nelson obtained an injunction barring Earth from using the names BioWillie or Willie Nelson in any manner, according to a 2008 SEC filing.