At press time, the White House Office of Management and Budget was reviewing the final rule for truck drivers’ hours of service after receiving the rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation Nov. 1.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had sent the proposal to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for review on Aug. 11.
Under the current proposal, FMCSA is, among other changes, considering whether to reduce the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10 hours and to limit the 34-hour restart provision by requiring that it include two periods from midnight to 6 a.m. and limiting its use to once per week.
The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have said the proposal is costly and unnecessary since studies indicate safety improvements under the 2008 rule.
In 2009, FMCSA had entered into a settlement agreement with safety advocacy groups and the Teamsters union to revisit the 2008 rule and publish a revised rule. This agreement stipulated if the agency produces a “substantially different” rule from the current one, this “may” eliminate the need for further judicial review. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia originally set the Federal Register publication deadline for July 26, which it later extended to Oct. 28.
FMCSA on Oct. 28 announced it would not be able to publish the rule by that day’s court-imposed extended deadline. The deadline was extended to Nov. 28.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) recently proposed to add language to the transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) that would block the planned changes to the hours-of-service regulations. The measure, Senate Amendment 754, states that “none of the funds made available under this heading may be used to finalize, enforce, or implement the hours-of-service regulations proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on December 29, 2010.”
The Senate passed H.R. 2112 Nov. 1, sending the bill to House-Senate committee discussion before going to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
LaHood sent a letter to Ayotte asking the senator to drop her measure.
In a letter to LaHood dated Oct. 21, ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves and Chairman Dan England said LaHood’s contention was well off-base. “There is little or no comprehensive up-to-date evidence, data or science supporting FMCSA’s proposal,” ATA wrote. “FMCSA readily admitted it did not have sufficient data on which to base a driving time limit change, yet the agency argued for and stated it ‘currently favors’ reducing the limit.”
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote a letter to Obama Oct. 5 asking the president to withdraw the proposed hours-of-service revision because its costs would hurt the U.S. economy.
Their letter came two weeks after a similar Sept. 23 letter to Obama from House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica. The Florida Republican wrote that the proposed rule would be an unnecessary and costly regulatory burden on truckers given the improved record of truck safety since the 2008 rule became effective.
FYI — NEWS BRIEFS
SuperRigs calendar available for order
The latest edition of Shell Rotella’s SuperRigs calendar, featuring 12 working trucks, is available for order at www.Rotella.com. The 2012 calendar includes many winners from this year’s Shell Rotella SuperRigs contest that took place at the Kenly 95 Petro in Kenly, N.C.
Daimler to rebrand Detroit Diesel
Daimler Trucks North America will rebrand its Detroit Diesel brand of engines to help expand the scope of the products offered by the engine manufacturer and allow it to offer alternate fuel and unconventional powertrain technologies. Detroit Diesel will become the Detroit brand of powertrain products with the formal name change early next year.
NAFTA trade surges in August
Surface transportation trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico in August was 18.3 percent higher than a year earlier, rising to $80.4 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This was the second time on record that U.S.-North American Free Trade Agreement trade by land exceeded $80 billion in one month.
Truck and trailer orders increase
September Class 8 net orders rose 55 percent year over year and 12 percent over August to 23,600 units, ACT Research Co. reported. Trailer net orders in September were up
22 percent year over year and almost 31 percent over the previous month, ACT said.
Missouri gets grant for truck parking
The Missouri Department of Transportation received a $1 million Federal Highway Administration grant to build new truck parking spaces on Interstate 70. The state will meet with trucking companies to decide where to locate additional truck parking. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2012.
Back on the Road nominations
Arrow Truck Sales is accepting nominations for the Back on the Road program until Dec. 4. Arrow is seeking nominations for truck drivers who are looking for a second chance after facing a loss or unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. For more information, visit www.arrowtruck.com/backontheroad.
Volvo Group leads 13-liter sales
For the first time, 13-liter engines have become the number one choice of U.S. Class 8 truck customers, according to R.L. Polk year-to-date engine registrations. The top seller of 13-liter engines in the United States is the Volvo Group, which includes Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks.
Study: Thousands of U.S. bridges are deficient
A new report shows more than 18,000 of the nation’s busiest bridges, clustered in the nation’s metropolitan areas, are rated as “structurally deficient,” according to Transportation for America.
“The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Nation’s Busiest Bridges” ranks 102 metro areas in three population categories based on the percentage of deficient bridges.
The report found Pittsburgh had the highest percentage of deficient bridges (30.4 percent) for a metro area with a population of more than 2 million (and overall).
Oklahoma City (19.8 percent) topped the chart for metro areas between 1-2 million, as did Tulsa, Okla. (27.5 percent), for metro areas between 500,000-1 million.
At the other end of the spectrum, the metro areas that had the smallest percentage of deficient bridges are Orlando, Fla. (0.60 percent), for the largest metro areas; Las Vegas (0.20 percent) for midsized metro areas; and Fort Myers, Fla. (0.30 percent), for smaller metro areas.
“There are more deficient bridges in our metropolitan areas than there are McDonald’s restaurants in the entire country,” says James Corless, director of Transportation for America — 18,239 versus roughly 14,000 McDonald’s. “These metropolitan-area bridges are most costly and difficult to fix, but they also are the most urgent, because they carry such a large share of the nation’s people and goods.”
Nearly 70,000 bridges nationwide are rated “structurally deficient” and are in need of substantial repair or replacement, according to federal data. Metropolitan-area bridges carry 75 percent of the trips that are made on structurally deficient bridges, Corless says.
Mexican truck crosses border under new program
Mexico had approved three U.S. carriers to deliver beyond its border by Oct. 21, when the first Mexican carrier crossed into Laredo, Texas, marking the beginning of a new cross-border pilot program with Mexico and the end of retaliatory tariffs on American goods.
Mexican and U.S. officials gathered at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, for the event. Transportes Olympic hauled a drilling tower nearly 10 feet high destined for Garland, Texas.
Monterrey-based Transportes Olympic has been approved for two trucks and two drivers.
The Oct. 21 delivery beyond the commercial border zone highlighted the end of more than two years of tariffs of 5 to 25 percent on 99 U.S. goods. On July 8 Mexico dropped 50 percent of tariffs and promised to end the remaining tariffs five days after the first Mexican carrier received operating authority.
On Oct. 20, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General announced it was beginning its interim report to Congress on the pilot program, in accordance with 2007 law.
Its audit objectives will be to decide if it will have sufficient data to determine if the program reduces trucking safety and if monitoring and enforcement activities can ensure program compliance. The OIG will also measure if program participants are a representative and adequate sample of Mexican carriers that would seek cross-border operations.
All trucks that participate in the program will carry GPS-capable electronic onboard recorders to ensure hours-of-service compliance and to monitor trucks to and from assigned U.S. destinations.
Also, FMCSA will review the driving records of each driver and require U.S. labs to analyze all drug testing samples before that driver receives approval.
Trucking groups find solidarity on truck weight
The American Trucking Associations board of directors Oct. 18 voted to expand ATA’s policy on truck productivity to endorse an option for an 88,000-pound five-axle combination with enhanced braking capability. ATA’s policy since 2006 has been to support 97,000-pound six-axle combinations, and the association also favors harmonization of regulations governing longer-combination vehicles.
In a directly related action, the Truckload Carriers Association’s board approved a two-tiered truck productivity policy that supports 88,000 pounds on five axles as well as 97,000 pounds on six axles.
“The trucking industry, like any family, sometimes takes awhile to reach a consensus, but we’re happy that we have been able to bring our respective policies on truck productivity in line,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “It is critical that we petition our elected leaders with one voice, and this brings us closer to our industry unity.”
“Considering all of the challenges we face as an industry, it should always be our priority to find common ground on as many issues as possible,” said TCA President Chris Burruss.
Studies have shown that more productive trucks are safer, more efficient and “greener” than conventional combinations without causing more wear and tear on roads, said new ATA Chairman Dan England. “Now that we and TCA have come together on this issue, we’re in a better position to continue to make that case to policymakers.”
Truckers urged to use social media to be heard
Truckers can use social media to have their voices heard in fighting federal regulations, said Trans Products/Trans Services Regulatory Manager Rich Wilson, at a panel discussion at the first annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention Oct. 15 in Tunica, Miss.
“Fight the bureaucrats with bureaucracy,” Wilson said in responding to driver frustration with numerous new rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and a feeling of powerlessness to do anything about them.
“There are 13 million voices in the United States with CDLs in their back pocket,” Wilson said. “Get enough people in there and start talking” and drivers could have a measurable effect on regulatory planning.
The convention, organized by Allen and Donna Smith of the Truth About Trucking organization, attracted approximately 200 drivers, owner-operators and industry participants.
Communication and networking tools can be effective in spreading a message, promoting a business and sharing information, said Landon Middleton, CEO of Ultimate Marketing Solutions, who manages social media campaigns for Truckers Matter advocacy group. “Facebook is where people are choosing to do life with each other,” he said, citing statistics that showed the online social site accounts for 15 percent of all world Internet traffic. “As a business owner, or someone with a passionate message, doesn’t it make sense that I take advantage of that?”
Wilson gave an example of the power of driver interaction. “Just look at the current hours-of-service revision,” Wilson said. “It was supposed to go into effect in July. The Office of Management and Budget was so overflowed with comments that they had to hire private contractors to sort through them. They’d never had so many comments on a proposed rulemaking in the history of the FMCSA.”