For the Record

Truckers News Staff | August 01, 2011

Texas-Sized Schedule

2011 GATS offers diverse slate of events including 5k, concert, truck beauty competition and filming of American Trucker


The Big D could be called the Big E. this month. Exercise, education, exhibits, entertainment and lots of extras are all on the schedule for the 2011 Great American Trucking Show, Aug. 25-27 at the Dallas Convention Center.

BIG RIG RUN -- When: Friday, Aug.26 - Time: 7 a.m. - Where: Katy Trail - Register: www.bigrigrun.com

 The second annual Big Rig Run 5k run/walk offers health-conscious attendees a venue for fresh air fun. The event is being presented by Truckers News’ Fit for the Road program. It is sponsored by Detroit Diesel, Freightliner Trucks, John Christner Trucking, Right Weigh, Swift Transportation and TA/Petro.

Last year’s event attracted about 70 participants and more are expected for this year. If you’re not prepared to run 3.1 miles join your fellow truckers for an invigorating walk.

Pre-register by Aug. 15 to receive a souvenir race t-shirt. There is a $15 entry fee with a portion of proceeds being donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Transportation is available to and from the race.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, the Trucking Solutions Group will hold its Health Awareness Walk inside the convention center starting at 8 a.m. The group plans a health workshop conducted by drivers on Thursday at the Trucking Solutions Group/Fit for the Road booth. The group also will have a blood drive with the American Red Cross on Friday and Saturday at the booth. To register for the health walk and or to get more information other events, visit truckingsolutionsgroup.org.

Jamey Johnson

For entertainment, singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson will headline a free concert Friday night, Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Johnson’s latest work is a 25-song double album entitled The Guitar Song, which went gold and is up for Album of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards. The album also received two Grammy nominations.

Tickets for the Mobil Delvac-sponsored concert will be made available on a first-come, first served basis, beginning Aug. 26 at 9 a.m., under the Mobil Delvac tent in the GATS main registration lobby.

Truckers News will present its annual Great American Trucking Family award prior to the concert.

Robb Mariani

GATS also will have more than 500 exhibitors, the Custom Rigs’ Pride & Polish National Championship, TruckSmart educational sessions and a Driver Recruitment Pavilion.

The inaugural Pride & Polish National Championship will pit winners from four Pride & Polish competitions over the past year, including the Charlotte Diesel Super Show and the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas, against each other.

Speed Channel’s American Trucker host Robb Mariani will be a judge for the truck beauty competition for an episode of the show that is being filmed on location.

Leading up to the opening of the show, the Commercial Ve­hicle Outlook Conference, produced in conjunction with Truckers

News publisher Randall-Reilly and the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, will offer industry insights and projections from noted trucking analysts Noel Perry of FTR Associates and Peter Nesvold of Jefferies & Co. Aug. 24-25.

Speaking on trucking challenges will be Jim Hebe, Navistar senior vice president of North American sales. Rob Abbott of the American Trucking Associations and Ann Wilson of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association will focus on regulatory and legislative issues.

Keynote speaker for the CVOC will be Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to George W. Bush.


FYI — NEWS BRIEFS

Kansas Ups Speed Limits

Speed limits on divided four-lane highways in Kansas recently increased to 75 mph from 70. The more than 800 miles covered under the new law include most of the Kansas Turnpike from the Kansas-Oklahoma border to Kansas City, Kan., and rural sections of interstates 70 and 35.

Used truck sales drop

Used truck sales in all sales channels dropped about 15 percent in May from April, due to a lack of available inventory, according to ACT Research Co. It also reported U.S. trailer net orders fell 9 percent in May from April, the second consecutive monthly decline for the industry. Despite that decline, commercial trailer backlogs grew 1 percent from April to 102,500 units.

Texas OKs 85 MPH

A new Texas law allows highways built after June to post an 85 mph speed limit as long as engineering supports the speed. A toll road under construction near Austin could be the first. Another new law increases to 80 mph the speed limit for all vehicles all day on an estimated 520 miles of interstates 10 and 20 in West Texas. The limit had been for cars only during daylight hours.

Sleep Apnea Conference Set

The American Sleep Apnea Association announced plans for its 2011 Sleep Apnea & Multi-Modal Transportation Conference on Nov. 8-9 at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center. It is co-sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration and focuses on the role of obstructive sleep apnea management within transportation.

Oregon to Restrict Idling

Starting Jan. 1, commercial vehicles in Oregon are limited to five minutes of idling an hour on property open to the public, with exceptions: idling for cooling or heating during a rest or sleep period when the outside temperature is below 50 degrees or above 75 degrees and idling up to 30 minutes while a truck is waiting to load or unload, or while loading or unloading.

Love’s Opens Tire Centers

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores opened six truck tire care centers across the nation in June.

The new tire care locations are in Emerson, Ga., Ocala, Fl., Clanton, Ala., Dublin, Ga., Burbank, Ohio, and Roscoe, Ill. Love’s plans to add 50 tire care centers to current locations as a part of their 2011 planned capital expenditures of $230 million.

NAFTA Surface Trade Rises

Surface transportation trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico rose 12.1 percent to $73.8 billion in April compared with April 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. BTS reported the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico in April remained 0.7 percent below April 2008.

Freight Tonnage Slips

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.3 percent in May after falling a revised 0.6 percent in April. April’s drop was slightly less than the 0.7 percent ATA reported on May 25, but the latest drop put the adjusted index at 112.3 in May, down from the April level of 114.9.



U.S., Mexico Ink Cross-Border Deal

U.S. and Mexican officials have signed an agreement to end the cross-border trucking dispute under which Mexican carriers could be granted provisional operating authority in as early as a month.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and SecretarÌa de Comunicaciones y Transportes Dionisio Arturo Pèrez-Jàcome Friscione signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Mexico City on July 6.

The FMCSA’s cross-border pilot program mandates Mexican carriers meet all U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The FMCSA will provide and pay for electronic monitoring systems to track hours-of-service compliance at a maximum cost of $2.5 million.

For Mexican program participants, the agency will review the complete driving record of each driver and require all drug testing samples to be analyzed in U.S. labs. It will assess drivers of their comprehension of English and U.S. traffic signs.

Mexico will provide reciprocal authority for U.S. carriers to engage in cross-border long-haul operations in that country. Neither nation can engage in domestic carriage of goods point-to-point in the other country.

The memorandum does not apply to hazmat carriers or carriers engaged in the cross-border transportation of passengers.

Mexico agreed to a phased-in lifting of retaliatory tariffs imposed on many U.S. goods following Congress’ vote to end a previous program in March 2009.

Following the agreement announcement, Rep. Peter DeFazio submitted legislation to limit the administration’s authority to “unilaterally decide how and when to open the U.S.-Mexico border without input from Congress.” The Oregon Democrat’s bill would also limit use of the Highway Trust Fund to pay for EOBRs for Mexican truckers.

The American Trucking Associations, business and farming organizations have supported the cross-border program. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters and some safety groups have opposed it.

OOIDA said it has filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It has asked the court to determine if the DOT has legally implemented the program.



Driver Fatigue Tops NTSB Safety List

Staff Reports

The National Transportation Safety Board has announced its new list of the most critical transportation issues that need to be addressed to improve safety and save lives.

The new “Most Wanted List” highlights 10 safety issues that impact transportation nationwide. “NTSB began issuing an annual “Most Wanted List” in 1990, and the latest list is the first one produced under a revised format developed by the agency over the past several months to modernize and streamline the list.

Among this year’s priorities are to address human fatigue, require safety management systems and require image and onboard data recorders.

“I was pleased to see the board and ATA share some of the same views on ways to make highways safer for all motorists,” said Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and chief executive officer.

“ATA shares many of the observations on driver fatigue,” Graves said. “Hours-of-service regulations must be science-based, and hours-of-service regulations alone — though necessary — are an insufficient solution.”

Graves said ATA long has called for more effective measures to address driver fatigue, such as development of fatigue management plans and driver sleep disorder screening programs. “Most recently, ATA members adopted a policy supporting a federal mandate of electronic logging devices to monitor hours of service for truck drivers,” he says. “NTSB has long supported such devices to ensure compliance with federal hours-of-service ­regulations.”


Business Group Opposes Rest Area Commerce Bill

A coalition of highway businesses on June 22 voiced opposition to a bill it says threatens thousands of businesses operating at exits along the nation’s Interstate Highway System, jeopardizing the jobs of more than 2 million Americans.

The legislation, authored by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would permit states to sell food and fuel from interstate rest areas.

The Partnership to Save Highway Communities says Kirk’s legislation would pull the rug out from under the nation’s interstate-based fast-food franchisees, convenience stores, gas stations and truck stops at a time when the businesses are just starting to see signs of recovery from the recession.

“This legislation does nothing more than grant state governments a monopoly directly on the interstate shoulder or median,” said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO, a member of the coalition representing truck stops. “The right-of-way location of the commercial rest areas gives the state a major advantage over the businesses at the exit. “

Kirk hopes his legislation to remove federal restrictions on private-public partnerships would encourage privatization to create more money for transportation projects nationwide, saying his plan could spur more than $100 billion to build new highways, railroads, public transportation, airports and ports. States could earn money by leasing out their highway rest stops as long as parking and restrooms remain free, he says.



SPECIAL REPORT: Going Public?

Report says FMCSA wants to release driver safety data

By Todd Dills

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants authority to release driver safety data, in effect reversing its earlier stance that drivers would not be publicly ranked under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

The agency is seeking increased regulatory authority over drivers via the next highway reauthorization bill, according to a February Government Accountability Office report to Congress on CSA progress.

“If [FMCSA] gains this authority,” the report reads, “the agency plans to make driver safety data public.” This data would come in a form similar to the agency’s motor carrier percentile ranking system.

Asked if this was the intention, FMCSA spokeswoman Candice Tolliver said, “The Department of Transportation is committed to working with Congress to address this issue as part of a comprehensive push to update transportation programs and maintain the highest standards of safety for the American public.” Requests for further clarification went unanswered.

The agency intended years ago to go public with driver data, says John Hill, FMCSA administrator from 2006 to 2008.

“There was a debate among the lawyers in the agency [about if] … the agency had the authority to actually rate drivers,” he says. “We thought we’d make it a part of the next highway bill. We wanted to make sure there was authority to do so, and so would minimize any lawsuits that might arise from some interested party that would not agree with rating drivers.”

A source within FMCSA, who declined to speak on the record, stressed that making public the driver percentile rankings in the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories of the Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS) “has always been the long-term vision.”

Currently, drivers are not ranked against their peers in the BASICs, and data from drivers’ inspection histories is only accessible officially by prospective employers through the Pre-Employment Screening Program.

When FMCSA presented CSA to carriers and drivers in 2009, information about the DSMS was not differentiated from the Carrier Safety Measurement System (SMS) in the same way it is today. Owner-operator Don Bradley recalls considerable apprehension about the program initially. “As we’ve learned more about it, some of that apprehension has gone away,” he says. “The initial thoughts about CSA were, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to rate [all the drivers] and the feds would come down and say, you can’t drive, you can’t drive, you can’t drive.’”

FMCSA has stressed the DSMS is an internal tool that will be used only by FMCSA staff during carrier investigations. “Under CSA, individual CMV drivers are not assigned safety ratings,” says the CSA website, csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The agency’s “long-term vision” may be closer to drivers’ initial impressions than the agency’s current stance on the DSMS.

The DSMS as a public system would reveal drivers ranked with percentile numbers against their peers and by their moving, log and equipment violations, similar to how motor carriers are ranked under CSA. The DSMS methodology, containing inspection data, is available via csa.fmcsa.dot.gov, searching “DSMS methodology document.”

FMCSA’s May-released draft 2011-2016 regulatory goals makes no specific mention of the DSMS. The plan does refer to continuing development of “a methodology to assess the safety fitness of drivers to further identify unsafe drivers who should not be in the industry.” That methodology is not mentioned, however, in the hoped-for outcomes listed in the strategic plan, suggesting achievement of the goal could be more than five years away.

Making driver safety data and rankings public may be a bigger project than today’s FMCSA and Congress will feel is worth the trouble, says Joe Rajkovacz, government affairs specialist with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“I think the whole idea is going to be fraught with significant ‘due process’ issues for the agency,” he says. “Motor carriers have due process under the regulations — and use it to fight adverse safety fitness determinations. There are likely to be constitutional issues in play here since individuals arguably have more protected rights than a company.”

What’s known as “personally identifiable information,” Rajkovacz notes, is widely protected, including under the Driver Privacy Protection Act. Such information will be necessary in any public CSA driver ranking system. “There are a zillion Joe Smiths,” says Rajkovacz. “How are you sure you have the correct one without PII made available?”

Nearly two years since expiration of the last long-term highway funding legislation, Congressional transport and infrastructure committees were set to propose the next surface transportation reauthorization bill as early as the week of July 4.




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