Not While Driving
DOT sends strong message with texting ban for commercial drivers
The U.S Department of Transportation Jan. 26 announced an immediate ban on truck and bus drivers from sending text messages while operating commercial vehicles.
Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. The DOT action doesn’t prohibit the use of cell phones for purposes other than text messaging.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already prohibit all drivers from texting behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Another 10 states restrict texting by novice drivers.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.
The prohibition is the latest in a series of actions taken by DOT to combat distracted driving since DOT Secretary Ray LaHood convened a national summit on the issue last September.
“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” LaHood said. “This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”
Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.
President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment. Federal employees were required to comply with the ban starting Dec. 30.
For more information on distracted driving go to www.distraction.gov
Employees Suing Swift Over Classification
A law firm is seeking class action status in its $5-million suit against Swift Transportation and Interstate Equipment Leasing, whom it charges wrongly classified truckers as owner-operators instead of employees. Getman and Sweeny, a New York law firm, filed the suit Dec. 21, seeking wages required by federal and state wage and hour laws and money it alleges was deducted in violation of state statutes prohibiting deductions from employee pay for tools of the trade, such as accounting fees and equipment such as Qualcomm.
Truck-Related Deaths Decline
Trucking safety is improving, according to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration. The truck-involved fatality rate in 2008 declined 12.3 percent to 1.86 per 100 million miles from 2.12 per 100 million miles in 2007, the FHWA said. This decline marks the largest year-to-year drop ever and the fifth consecutive year the fatality rate has improved.
Virginia Reopens Rest Stops
Acting on an appeal by new Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted Jan. 20 to reopen 19 highway rest stops that were closed last year by the former governor to save money. McDonnell told the board that prison inmate labor and private contributions would help defray costs of reopening the rest stops.
Freight Tonnage Increases
U.S. truck tonnage as calculated by the American Trucking Associations jumped 6.6 percent in December over the same month in 2008, the first year-over-year increase in 15 months, ATA said Jan. 25. ATA’s seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index increased 2.1 percent in December from November after a 2.6 percent decrease from October to November.
NAFTA Trade Drops in November
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and Canada and Mexico was 2.9 percent lower in November 2009 than in November 2008, dropping to $58.9 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Seattle Port Trucks Updated
In the past three months, 59 truck owners working the Port of Seattle have turned in their older polluting diesel trucks for a $5,000 scrap credit. About 85 percent of the trucks have been or are being replaced with a newer truck, according to Kathy Boucher, Cascade Sierra Solutions branch manager in Seattle. Older trucks create as much as 100 times more air pollution than modern trucks.
Volvo Announces Safety Contest
Fleets as small as five trucks are eligible to enter the Volvo Trucks Safety Award contest, which awards two $25,000 prizes to fleets with the best safety records. The entry deadline is May 30. Winners will be announced this fall. All U.S. and Canadian fleets are eligible. Fleets must have at least one Volvo tractor in operation to be eligible for the award. Complete rules and entry forms are at www.volvotruckssafetyaward.com.
Crawford Named Overdrive Trucker of the Year
Long Lane, Mo., resident Mike “Mustang” Crawford is Overdrive’s 2010 Trucker of the Year. His 1994 Freightliner, which he bought outright at the end of his lease period more than 10 years ago, is leased to Springfield, Mo.-based Prime Inc., where he has logged 2.5 million safe miles behind its wheel. Overdrive is a sister publication of Truckers News.
South Carolina Closes Four Rest Areas
South Carolina closed four of its highway rest areas this week to save more than $1 million. The locations are on I-95, both northbound and southbound at mile marker 17; on I-85 at mile marker 89; and on I-26 at mile marker 202. After the closures, the state operates 29 rest areas and welcome centers.
PrePass Adds More Locations
More weigh stations have recently been equipped with PrePass technology. These include new sites in West Point, Iowa (US-218), Hyattstown, Md. (I-270), New Market, Md. (I-70), New Buffalo, Mich. (I-94) and Monroe, Mich. (I-75). PrePass is active at 287 facilities nationwide.
CAT Scale Now on Facebook
CAT Scale has launched a Facebook page with diagrams on how to weigh, videos and information on the CAT Scale Guarantee, as well as tips on what to do if you receive an overweight citation. Drivers can also email CAT Scale photos of their truck weighing on a CAT Scale. CAT Scale will post these photos in their Facebook Photo Gallery. Readers can stay informed with CAT Scale openings and other events, the company announced.
Freightliner Continues NASCAR Support
Freightliner Trucks NASCAR sponsorship for 2010 marks the fifth year the truck maker has been the official heavy duty truck sponsor of the sport. The truck maker will also sponsor nine teams competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, along with sponsoring Revolution Racing and the Drive for Diversity program, the industry’s development initiative for minority and female drivers and crew members.
Navistar Chooses Continental for Serve Service
Navistar International Corp. and Continental Tire North America announced that its truck tires are the standard fitment for all International PayStar, WorkStar, and DuraStar severe service and medium duty vehicles as of Jan. 1, 2010.
Drivers Urge HOS Flexibility
By Max Kvidera
A refrain heard repeatedly at the latest hours of service listening session was a call for more flexibility in duty-hour and sleeper berth regulations.
At the fourth session organized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Jan. 28, many speakers said existing rules are too restrictive and lead to increased fatigue, stress and log book cheating. The public sessions are part of another hours rulemaking FMCSA is conducting as part of a settlement with groups challenging the current regulations.
Instead of letting drivers sleep when they need it, log books are managing drivers’ sleep, said Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association.
Drivers often lose time in emergency situations such as bad weather or a traffic accident, and such delays count against their 14-hour duty clock, said Kathy Gillaspy, an over-the-road driver.
Tom Bower, a small fleet owner of four trucks and an operator from Kentucky, said the duty rule’s inflexibility causes him and his drivers to lose time. “Waiting can make you more tired than working,” he told an FMCSA panel at the session in Davenport, Iowa.
Ralph Pepper, who’s been driving for 36 years, said the current 14-hour duty period hurts his ability to make a living. “It’s coming down to a stranglehold on drivers out there,” said Pepper, one of dozens who called in comments.
Chris Perry, who said he’s driven more than 30 years with more than 3.5 million safe miles, called to say FMCSA treats all drivers the same with the existing regulations. “I’m treated like a rookie,” he said. “I know my limits. I know when I’m tired. I don’t need a babysitter. Before the DOT [Department of Transportation] took over, it seemed a lot easier because we were left alone to do our job, period.”
Attending the session in person, owner-operator Bob Kinsley of Toledo, Iowa, said that though he likes the 14-hour clock and the 11 hours of driving within that, he complained there’s no flexibility to take a nap or a break. “I don’t eat a meal in the truck stop,” he said. “I don’t have the time.”
Sounding the flexibility theme again, 10-year driver Andy Schreiber said, “If I want to pull over and take a nap and wait for rush-hour traffic to die down and do it safely, that should be up to the driver.”
Bob Stanton told the audience “The hours of service guide my life. I have to live by my log.” He also said he has obstructive sleep apnea, which requires him to spend more than four hours per night on pressure on his CPAP machine. He said any split in the sleeper berth time must provide him with at least five hours to maintain his medical certification. “The existing 14-hour and 10-hour rest combination has a major negative impact on my health.”
In his call, William Fields pointed to the excessive demands for speedy delivery as a major problem for drivers. “Ninety percent of our problems with the current rules are created by shippers and receivers,” he said. “They should be included in any new rulemaking.” He also called for more punishment for “companies forcing drivers to violate the rules in the name of money.”
Richard Pingel, an owner-operator who’s leased to an LTL carrier in Wisconsin, suggested simplifying the log book from four lines to two — on-duty and off-duty. Pingel, who has more than 3 million miles without an accident, recommended a “graduated log book” for drivers of different experience levels and mileage without accidents. He further suggested implementation of electronic on-board recorders to solve the hours problem.
Harold Babbitt of Babbitt Transportation of Fremont, Neb., said the closure of many rest areas makes it difficult for truckers to find “safe havens” to get rest during their 10-hour rest periods. If truckers park on Interstate exit ramps, they run the risk of getting ticketed.
IdleAire Shuts Down Electrification Services
By Jill Dunn
IdleAire, the major provider of shore power to truckers, closed Jan. 29 after its investment company owners for the past 18 months failed to find a buyer.
IdleAire is owned by six investment management companies that were working together as IdleAire Acquisition Co. LLC to sell the company, the owners said in a statement. A call to the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company headquarters yielded a recording of the closing date and provided customers with an email address they could contact for receipts until Feb. 4.
A statement released by “the company owners” said they were disappointed they were ceasing the operation that served 150,000 truckers and more than 1,000 fleets.
“The company had made great strides toward profitability in the midst of a very challenging operating environment,” the owners said. “We believe IdleAire had strong growth potential and was well positioned to capitalize on the recovering economy.
“Like many companies in the current economic situation, IdleAire experienced challenges,” they continued. “Due to the economy, our customers had less freight to haul, resulting in reduced truck traffic, and we have had extremely mild weather across the nation, reducing the demand for our climate control service. We continued to stay ahead of the financial issues and make adjustments as needed, but time and operating capital simply ran out.”
Marketing manager Wray Williams said he could not comment further.
In November, IdleAire notified employees layoffs could occur, and the closing affected 315 employees. IdleAire had 131 locations in 34 states.
The current owners had acquired the company after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2008.
The IdleAire closing leaves fewer truckstop electrification options. Shorepower, formerly Shurepower, offers services in Washington, Oregon and North Carolina and a partner site in California.
Cargo Theft Rises in 2009
FreightWatch International announced in its 2009 Annual Cargo Theft Report that cargo theft industrywide rose by 12 percent in 2009 to an average of 72 cargo theft incidents per month, the most ever recorded.
Electronics, the industry most heavily hit by cargo theft, accounted for 23 percent of total theft activity, with an average loss value of $806,000 per incident, closely followed by pharmaceuticals.
“Over the last year, we have seen companies increase their proactive security measures,” said Barry Conlon, chief executive officer of FreightWatch. “This, combined with a decrease in total shipping during 2009, primarily due to decreased global demand resulting from the recession, has forced cargo theft gangs to become more aggressive and increase their active targeting of unprotected high-value loads.”
The research conducted by FreightWatch shows the average loss per incident for virtually every commodity group increased in 2009. Cargo theft in the United States is analyzed in the 2009 Annual Cargo Theft Report and includes theft rates per state, most common locations for thefts and areas with the highest risk.
Bose Introduces Heavy-Duty Seat
Bose Corp., a maker of premium sound systems, has introduced a suspension seat for truck drivers that actively responds to electronically measured cab motions to stabilize the seat.
The Bose Ride system replaces a conventional air ride truck seat with a Bose suspension base and integrated, custom-designed seat top. It provides over-the-road truckers with what the company describes as “an unprecedented level of protection from road-induced shocks and vibration.”
During the announcement Jan. 27 at Bose’s headquarters in Framingham, Mass., officials declined to give the product’s price or say which seat maker is providing the seat top.
The heart of the system is a high-powered linear actuator capable of countering the forces on the seat caused by road disturbances. It includes other components such as sensors, as well as an amplifier that energizes the actuator to counteract road disturbances before they ever reach the driver. It works on a principle similar to noise-canceling microphones, and draws less than 50 watts of power.
The system is compatible with most makes and models of heavy trucks, and can be installed by a trained mechanic in less than two hours.
It will be available on a build-to-order basis for large fleets starting this month, and will be sold to owner-operators following fleet availability.
March 25-27, Mid-America Trucking Show, Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, Ky. www.truckingshow.com.
June 17-19, Great West Truck Show, Las Vegas Convention Center. (888)349-4287, www.greatwesttruckshow.com.
August 13-15, Great Salt Lake Kidney Kamp Truck Show at Thanksgiving Point. Take Lehi Exit 284 from I-15 30 minutes South of Salt Lake City. General & vendor info: Jeff England (800) 877-1320 Judging & Classes: Doyle Elison (208) 251-0987.
Aug. 26-28, Great American Trucking Show, Dallas Convention Center. (888) 349-4287, www.gatsonline.com.
If you have a trucking event you would like to publicize, send information six weeks in advance to Truckers News Events Calendar, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Truckers News makes no guarantee that information submitted will be published.
GATS Adds Economic Recovery Outlook Session
The Great American Trucking Show is adding the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference to its lineup of events for August.
Presented by the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, CVOC will assemble leaders from all segments of the trucking industry to share insights on the state of the recovery and what the industry must do to survive and thrive in the fourth quarter and beyond.
“The Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference promises to be a high-level event that will attract even more key decision makers to GATS and will bring additional informational and networking opportunities to exhibitors and attendees,” said Alan K. Sims, GATS vice president/executive director. “This new conference, in addition to our existing TruckSmart Summit educational sessions, means GATS will truly offer something for every aspect of the trucking industry.”
The CVOC will provide critical information for all segments of the commercial fleet business, including fleet executives, truck OEMs, part and component suppliers, truck dealers, distributors, maintenance and repair specialists, and owner-operators.
“Our goal is to bring vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers, parts and service providers and end-user fleet customers together for a day of information sharing and networking.” said Timothy Kraus, president and chief operating officer of the HDMA.
Held at the Dallas Convention Center on Aug. 25, the day prior to the opening of GATS, CVOC will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. with an industry networking reception immediately following. Session topics will include:
• Outlook for freight
• Future of commercial vehicle technology
• Vehicle and parts maintenance forecasts
• Fleet market pulse
• Government affairs
More detailed CVOC program and registration details will be available in the coming weeks. The 2010 Great American Trucking Show will be held Aug. 26-28 at the Dallas Convention Center. For more information on the CVOC, e-mail email@example.com. For more information on GATS, contact Alan Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Truck Firms to Get ‘SuperTruck’ Funds
Three projects focusing on fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks, or “SuperTrucks,” will receive $115 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In an announcement Jan. 11, at Cummins Inc. headquarters in Columbus, Ind., United States Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu said Cummins, Navistar Inc. and Daimler Trucks North America will get funds to develop and build technologies for Class 8 long-haul trucks by 2015. The goal will be to improve fuel efficiency by 50 percent.
Cummins will partner with Peterbilt Motors on a nearly $39 million project to develop and demonstrate a highly efficient and clean diesel engine, an advanced waste heat recovery system, an aerodynamic Peterbilt tractor-and-trailer combination and a fuel cell auxiliary power unit to reduce engine idling. Cummins also will get $15 million to develop an engine for a light-duty vehicle.
Daimler will receive almost $40 million to develop technologies including engine downsizing, electrification of auxiliary systems such as oil and water pumps, waste heat recovery, improved aerodynamics and hybridization.
Navistar’s $37.3 million grant will go toward technologies to improve truck and trailer aerodynamics, combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, hybridization, idle reduction, and reduced rolling resistance tires. Argonne National Laboratory will work with Navistar to improve the combustion efficiency and waste heat recovery for Class 8 trucks.
Diesel Price Watch
Prices are the average, self serve, cash at truckstops January 1-31, 2010*
NEW HAMPSHIRE 2.92
NEW JERSEY 2.79
NEW MEXICO 2.82
NEW YORK 3.08
NORTH CAROLINA 2.84
NORTH DAKOTA 2.90
RHODE ISLAND 2.93
SOUTH CAROLINA 2.70
SOUTH DAKOTA 2.77
WEST VIRGINIA 2.92
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
TCA Names Driver of Year Finalists
The Truckload Carriers Association has named finalists for its 2009 Company Equipment Driver of the Year and 2009 Owner-Operator Driver of the Year contests.
For the company equipment contest, co-sponsored by TCA and Truckers News, the contenders will be Gordon Colvin of Con-way Truckload, Richard Gassman of Greatwide Dedicated Transfer and Brian Rhodes of Con-way Truckload.
Competing for the owner-operator contest, co-sponsored by TCA and Overdrive magazine, will be Steven Recker of Warren Transport Inc., Larry Severson of Dart Transit Co. and Woodrow Walker, also of Dart Transit.
The winners will be announced at TCA’s annual convention on March 3, at the Wynn Las Vegas in Nevada.
The finalists and grand prize winners will be recognized for their performance record, ability to operate safely, efforts to enhance the trucking industry’s image and contributions to their community.
To be eligible for the contests, applicants had to meet certain minimum criteria, including having driven one million consecutive, accident-free miles and being employed by or leased to a TCA-member trucking company for at least the last three years.
Groups File Suit Over California Fuel
The American Trucking Associations on Feb. 2 joined petroleum refiners and other end-users in a legal challenge to California’s recently enacted low-carbon fuel standard.
The regulation adopted by the California Air Resources Board requires annual reductions in the carbon intensity of gasoline and diesel over the next 10 years. The LCFS regulation falls directly upon fuel providers (refiners, importers and blenders of fuel), but is likely to impact end-users because of associated fuel price increases.
ATA says the legal challenge is based largely on the Commerce Clause with assertions that the “shuffling” of low-carbon fuel to California and away from other states will burden fuel providers and consumers significantly without any net change in fuel’s carbon intensity on a global scale, resulting in no reduction — and a likely increase — in greenhouse gas emissions.
“The LCFS would essentially ban imports to California of fuels derived from unconventional sources such as oil sands from Canada, oil shale from the Western U.S. or domestic coal supplies that can be converted into transportation fuels,” says Rich Moskowitz, ATA vice president. “Discouraging these fuels will simply increase costs while failing to prevent their export to and consumption by other nations.”
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in California, also challenged the regulatory scheme as discriminating in favor of California-produced fuels by assigning them lower carbon-intensity ratings because of shorter transportation distances to users. Others joining the suit include the Center for North American Energy Security, Consumer Energy Alliance and National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
ATA Urges Focus on Driver Behavior
The American Trucking Associations has encouraged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to focus on driver behavior as a top safety priority in its 2010-2015 Strategic Plan. Most of ATA’s recommendations are part of the safety agenda it adopted in 2008.
In comments filed Jan. 5, ATA told NHTSA that distracted driving, speeding and aggressive driving are all dangerous behaviors, particularly as highway congestion worsens as a result of U.S. freight volume growing faster than highway capacity. ATA says congestion is a major factor in highway safety because it is particularly difficult for onboard safety systems to function properly at low speeds and in close-following conditions.
To combat driver-related safety risks, ATA expressed support of more consistent and uniform requirements from state to state on driver licensing and graduated driver licensing for noncommercial teen drivers, as recommended in ATA’s 18-point safety agenda. ATA supports education and enforcement programs, such as Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, that target the problem behaviors of both passenger and commercial motor vehicle drivers.
Pennsylvania’s Tolling Fight Continues
By Jill Dunn
While opposition to tolling Interstate 80 continues, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently told four Pennsylvania congressional delegates a decision on the state’s application to toll would be reached soon.
On Jan. 19, LaHood told Republican Glenn “GT” Thompson and the other representatives the department had been reviewing the Pennsylvania transportation department’s and turnpike commission’s application for permission to toll I-80 and would have an answer soon.
Thompson said he told LaHood that the threat of tolling would hurt the state. “If you approve the tolling of I-80, already turned down twice, you will effectively reroute prosperity around Pennsylvania,” he said.
On Dec. 19, Thompson and other state congressional representatives met with Federal Highway Administration Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau on a similar mission.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the American Trucking Associations, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and the American Highway Users Alliance wrote LaHood advocating against tolling Jan. 12.
The groups argue the state has not met federal requirements to grant permission to toll.
On Oct. 29, Pennsylvania applied for a third time for federal permission to toll, following recent findings that did not support tolling.
In 2007, the state legislature approved a measure meant to establish long-term funding for transportation. Among other things, it tasked the commission with providing annual lease payments to PennDOT in exchange for operating I-80 as a toll road.
Wyoming is also considering tolling its portion of I-80.