On Your Mark …
By James Jaillet
There’s still a chance to run with Jasmine “Jazzy” Jordan.
The 17-year-old runner, who in June completed a 3,000-mile run across the country to benefit the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund, and Jeff Clark, the 2008 Truckers News Health Hero of the Year, will be leading the Too Hot to Trot 5k run/walk sponsored by the Truckers News’ Fit for the Road program at this year’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
Registration for the 5k is free, but donations are being accepted for the St. Christopher Fund. Early registrants will receive a Too Hot to Trot T-shirt. Registration is available online at www.truckersnews.com, and transportation will be provided to the event.
The 5k, which will take place at Katy Trail Friday, Aug. 27, at 7 a.m., is only part of the health-related offerings at the show. The Health, Wellness and Safety Pavilion, sponsored by Fit for the Road and the Healthy Trucking Association of America, will feature exhibits and presentations and will host a 1.5-mile fun walk, health screenings and other events.
Jordan, who was featured in the Truckers News June issue, and Clark, a trucker, marathon runner and a regular contributor to the magazine, will both be available at the Fit for the Road booth on Friday and Saturday of the show. Visit www.truckersnews.com for updates.
Also, the 1.5-mile health-awareness walk is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m, Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Dallas Convention Center. Registered walkers should meet at the HTAA booth no later than 9:15 a.m.
GATS will feature a concert headlined by country artist Randy Houser on Friday night. Bluegrass band The Grascals will open for Houser. The concert, presented by Mobil Delvac, is free to show attendees, and tickets will be available the morning of Friday, Aug. 27, in the registration lobby.
Prior to the concert, Truckers News will present its Great American Trucking Family award to the Douglas family of Andalusia, Ala., (see cover story, page 18).
The show will feature aisles of recruiting and equipment exhibits and daily informational sessions on topics such as fuel management, tax issues, financial efficiency, money-saving technology and the federal Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program.
For show truck enthusiasts, Overdrive’s Custom Rigs’ Pride and Polish competition will be held indoors at the Dallas Convention Center, showcasing trucks customized by both individuals and chrome shops.
Dallas Convention Center
Thursday, Aug. 26: Noon to 5 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 27: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 28: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
REGISTRATION | Attendees can register free online at www.gatsonline.com. On-site registration is $10.
LODGING | Special rates are available at nine hotels near the convention center. Booking online or via telephone is available. There are no penalties for cancellations. Visit www.gatsonline.com or call (800) 221-3531.
TRUCK PARKING | Free truck parking will be available at the convention center’s Reunion lot at the intersection of Hotel Street and Memorial Drive.
ADDITIONAL INFO | Visit www.gatsonline.com or call (888) 349-4287.
NAFTA Surface Trade Increases
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and Canada and Mexico increased 32.4 percent in April compared with a year earlier, reaching $65.8 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is the third consecutive monthly gain of at least 24 percent from the previous year.
Trucking Adds More Jobs
The for-hire trucking industry added jobs for the third consecutive month in June, according to preliminary figures released July 2 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Payroll employment was up 1,000 over May, but BLS also has revised May figures upward by nearly 4,000. Combined with strong gains in April, payroll employment in trucking is up 8,800 jobs since March.
Truck Tonnage Rises Over Year
Truck tonnage rose 7.2 percent in May from a year earlier, but tonnage dipped 0.6 percent from April, the American Trucking Associations said. May’s year-over-year increase was the sixth consecutive annual gain, ATA said in its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index. The year-to-year gain followed a 9.5 percent rise in April that was the biggest increase in more than five years.
Massachusetts Bans Texting
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a new anti-distraction law that bans texting while driving. Massachusetts is the 29th state to implement a texting ban. It will fine adults $100 for texting as a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third. Drivers younger than 18, if caught texting or using a cell phone while driving, will receive a $100 fine in addition to a 60-day license suspension.
Daimler Increasing Truck Production
Daimler Trucks North America LLC announced June 30 it will recall approximately 540 workers to three of its manufacturing facilities in North Carolina. Recalled workers were expected to be in place by mid-July at the company’s truck manufacturing facilities in Mt. Holly and Cleveland, as well as at its components and logistics plant in Gastonia. Daily build rates at the Mt. Holly and Cleveland plants are rising sharply to meet strong order activity.
DOT Adds $6 Million for Parking
The U.S. Department of Transportation added $6 million to help address the parking shortage for commercial trucks on five U.S. interstates: I-15 in Utah, I-10 in Mississippi, I-5 in Oregon, I-40 in Tennessee and I-81 in Pennsylvania. The funds will be used to add parking capacity and continue to develop innovative ways to provide updated information on space availability to commercial trucks.
Kenly 95 Joins Petro
The Kenly 95 Truckstop in Kenly, N.C., at Exit 106 has become a Petro Stopping Center and renamed the Kenly 95 Petro. The full-service stop will change the restaurant to an Iron Skillet and the truck service center to a Petro:Lube. The truckstop is part of the Iowa 80 Group family of companies.
Detroit Diesel Exceeds EPA Challenge
Detroit Diesel’s Engine Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., is one of the first manufacturing plants to reduce energy use in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star challenge, the diesel engine maker announced. The engine maker met goals for reducing its so-called energy intensity by 17 percent, exceeding the federal agency’s reduction goal by 7 percent.
Dallas Highway to Get $1.4 Billion Facelift
An $850 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help reconstruct Interstate 635, which in known as the LBJ Freeway in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and add new toll lanes. DOT also authorized $615 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds issued for the project.
Brake Maker Earns Honor
Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC has been named to a group of suppliers that produce defects in fewer than 50 parts per million, Paccar announced. The Elyria, Ohio-based brake maker, which supplies air foundation brakes to Paccar, earned the distinction by lowering product defects to 41 parts per million at its wheel-end manufacturing facility in Bowling Green, Ky.
The California Air Resources Board has awarded $200 million in Proposition 1B funds to cut emissions from heavy-duty trucks and other sources in the state’s four busiest trade corridors. The trade corridors to receive funding are $110 million for Los Angeles/Inland Empire, $55.5 million for Central Valley and $31 million for both the Bay Area and San Diego/Border regions.
FMCSA Eyes Other In-Truck Distractions
By Jill Dunn
The agency will examine “the full range of other in-vehicle distractions,” Rose McMurray, FMCSA chief safety officer, told the National Association of Small Trucking Companies in June. The goal is for a proposal that “reduces risk, but doesn’t unnecessarily affect the legitimate needs for communication with and by the driver.”
The agency has asked its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee for ways to combat distracted driving, which the committee will report at its August meeting.
The FMCSA will address other high-risk driver distractions in a notice-and-comment rulemaking following the final texting rule, the MCSAC stated. The committee also has reported the agency is developing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), to be published later this year, limiting cell use by certain commercial motor vehicle operators in interstate commerce.
The FMCSA published regulatory guidance in the Federal Register Jan. 27, clarifying that interstate truck and bus driver violators of the texting ban could receive a maximum penalty of $2,750. On April 1, it followed with a NPRM explicitly prohibiting texting and providing disqualification penalties.
Presently, the FMCSA is developing a NPRM to limit wireless telephone use by certain CMV interstate operators, which it will publish later this year.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia ban texting for all drivers. Of these, 24 states and D.C. have primary enforcement, which allows law enforcement to stop and ticket offenders solely on this violation. Texting bans are secondary in the remaining four states, where an officer must have another primary reason for stopping the vehicle.
An additional nine states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Webinar Speakers: Driver Shortage Could Persist
By Max Kvidera
As the economy recovers and truck freight increases, a driver shortage is emerging, but several factors are working against meeting the demand for drivers, speakers said at an online seminar, “The Emerging Driver Shortage,” June 24.
Forecasting below-average economic growth of 5 percent to 6 percent over the next three to four quarters, Noel Perry, a senior consultant at transportation research firm FTR Associates, said, “We don’t have to have a wild recovery to get a driver shortage.”
Perry and Tom Kretsinger Jr., president and chief operating officer at American Central Transport, gave their views at the webinar presented by Overdrive and Truckers News.
Perry said even though the driver shortage could average 200,000 drivers annually over the next couple years, carriers are unwilling to gamble on ramping up hiring significantly “until they see a strong, consistent, long record of earnings.” He said many carriers laid off recruiters, trainers and dispatchers and aren’t about to rehire them right away.
Economic conditions have created a driver shortage that will match the shortfall in 2004, Perry said. Experienced drivers are in short supply because many dropped out of the business or retired during the recession.
Perry pointed out that new federal regulatory initiatives, notably citizenship identification, the ongoing hours-of-service revision and Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 will reduce the supply of needed drivers.
In the past, small fleets provided fill-in capacity during economic rebounds, but Perry said they may not be as available this time or their entry into the market may be delayed.
Kretsinger said the recent recession marked the first time carriers rapidly downsized their fleets. That resulted in measures such as driver surpluses, reduced pay and the weeding out of the worst drivers. He said driver rules and regulations such as CSA 2010, tougher medical exams, sleep apnea problems, electronic onboard recorders and hours requirements, plus attacks on independent contractor status, will make it tougher to rebuild driver ranks.
Kretsinger said owner-operators are facing difficult times on many fronts, including high maintenance costs, stagnant pay rates and government attacks on the independent contractor status. “[The federal government] has already increased the budget of the IRS to start auditing and challenging people, and that’s a frightening thing on the owner-operator side,” he said.
This Month’s Webinar
Topic: Evaluating Prospective Carriers — This free webinar, which is part the How to Become an Owner-Operator series, looks at how to assess a company when shopping for a place to lease your truck. (Sponsored by Schneider National).
Presenter: Richard DeForest, ATBS vice president fleet sales
When: Aug. 19
Time: 8 p.m. (CST)
New national insurance pool begins process to help ‘uninsurable’
By Todd Dills
For drivers whose companies don’t offer health insurance and many owner-operators and small fleet owners, the private, individual policy market has been difficult because of expensive policies and exclusion for pre-existing conditions.
The risks of doing without health insurance are well-known. For owner-operators, particularly, running a business without good health insurance coverage can be costly. Health issues and their associated costs are frequently cited among the biggest reasons for owner-operator business failure.
On the slow road to health insurance reform laid by the national health-care reform bill passed earlier this year, the issue of pre-existing conditions is a big one. In 2014, it will become illegal for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage based on a medical condition. Until then, one of the bill’s first actionable items attempts to address the long wait on preexisting conditions through institution of a nationwide high-risk pool (HRP) through which some uninsured people will be able to obtain benefits as early as this month.
The bill required the pool to be “established” by June 21, and it laid out quite specific directives as to who would be eligible to participate in it: a citizen or other legal resident who has been without coverage for at least six months and who has a pre-existing condition. Preexisting condition is defined broadly to refer to any condition used by an insurance company to deny health insurance to an individual or family. Given the wide array of conditions insurance companies use as contract nonstarters, the reach of the newly established Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan (healthcare.gov) could be quite extensive.
Nearly 20 percent of all owner-operators have no health insurance, according to data compiled by Truckers News’ sister magazine Overdrive. And among studies of the uninsured nationwide, rates as high as 15 percent have been cited for those who are deemed “uninsurable” due to a preexisting condition.
Prior to the health-care reform bill, 35 states already offered their own HRPs. A Government Accountability Office report issued in June 2009 detailing the state pools revealed an average individual premium of $485 monthly. Marked differences between the state HRPs and the new temporary national pool will be evident in the form of greater access to federal monies, as well as regulations pegging premium rates to comparable “standard rates,” i.e. what an individual of similar age and characteristics would pay for a comparable plan in the private market irrespective of any preexisting condition. In the state HRPs analyzed in the GAO report, premium levels were an average 129 percent of standard market rates, which equates to a potential savings of almost $110 monthly in premium costs for national HRP enrollees.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave all states the option of administering the national HRP themselves, in some cases alongside their own HRPs. The applications HHS began receiving July 1 are coming from enrollees in states that had not arranged to administer the national pool themselves. Thirty-one states, listed here, will do so. These states include both 22 states with their own existing HRPs and 9 without.
Providing access to federal dollars, furthermore, the national HRP stands to be a big benefit to high-risk residents of states like California, where enrollment of new insured people in the state HRP has been essentially cut off since 2006, when a waiting list was introduced that reached a peak of more than 1,000 people in recent times. Illinois’ comparable state pool also has a waiting list, and Florida’s HRP has been closed to new enrollees, essentially defunct, for years.
As California began discussing its decision to administer the national HRP alongside its own long-running HRP in June, the Sacramento Bee newspaper noted expert estimates of a more hefty 37 percent potential policy enrollee cost difference in favor of the more affordable national HRP, which “makes the reform real,” Health Access California head Anthony Wright told the paper. “It brings it down to dollars and cents.”
Premium reductions system-wide will be good news for affected haulers, but levels of coverage will also be important. Stats on the state HRPs may provide a guide to what you can expect from the national pool. The GAO noted that the average policy among state HRPs came with an annual deductible of $1,593, almost three times higher than the average employer-sponsored plan deductible. The vast majority of state HRPs, noted GAO, came with lifetime limits to benefits averaging $1.6 million. While limitations such as these are characteristic of somewhat less-expansive plans in the employer-sponsored market, they might well be considered typical of plans for high-risk individuals with turbulent medical histories.
And for the uninsured portion of the truck-driving community with preexisting conditions, particularly among owner-operators, the national HRP will be at least another option in an increasingly tight insurance marketplace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the development of the national HRP, began seeing applications July 1 from enrollees in 19 states that had not applied to administer the pool themselves. Establishment of the national HRP in those states could be slightly longer in coming, HHS said.
Have you ever been turned down for health insurance due to a pre-existing condition?
YES — 43%
NO — 53%
I DON’T KNOW — 4%
How to get high-risk coverage
Have you been denied health coverage because of an existing or past medical condition?
To get coverage, first see if you live in one of 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that are administering the new national high-risk pool (HRP): Check our “States administering the national HRP” list. A full list of states with their own HRPs, including contact information for relevant state departments, is available at www.naschip.org. Click link under “Member States.”
IF YOU’RE IN ONE OF THE 31:
1. Call your state’s health services department for application information. Some states, including California and Illinois, have waiting lists for their state HRPs, but the new national HRP should be open to new applicants.
2. Be sure to request information on the new national HRP, known officially as the “Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan.” The national pool may represent a more affordable option than your state’s HRP, such as it may exist, as long you meet its requirements.
IF YOU’RE NOT IN ONE OF THE 31:
1. Visit healthcare.gov for information on joining the national pool; you may also obtain information about your state’s plan and other insurance options at this newly created site.
2. Be prepared to provide proof of the following to obtain coverage in the national HRP:
• That you have been without creditable health insurance coverage for the last six months.
• That you are a citizen or legal resident of the United States.
• That you have been denied health insurance due to a preexisting condition or something else in your medical history.
ANNUAL SPENDING CAPS: For those enrolled in the national high-risk pool, out-of-pocket spending limits for 2010 are $5,950 for individuals, $11,900 for families. Compare these figures to the average yearly premium costs alone for enrollees in existing state high-risk pools of $5,820. If your state has its own HRP and you qualify for it and the national pool, compare key features, such as monthly premium, level of coverage, deductibles and provider network.
Pilot and Flying J Finalize Merger
Pilot Travel Centers LLC and Flying J Inc. announced June 30, the completion of the merger of the two companies, creating a network of more than 550 interstate travel centers and travel plazas. The combination becomes effective July 1.
The new company, to be called Pilot Flying J, operates in 43 states and six Canadian provinces and employs more than 20,000 people. It is one of the top 10 privately held companies in the United States.
“We are now one great company, two great brands,” said Pilot Flying J President and CEO Jimmy Haslam. “Our new organization is a combination of two of the best-known brands in the travel center industry, both with strong family histories and shared values.
In July 2009, Pilot and Flying J announced a preliminary agreement to merge their travel center operations.
Customers will see the Pilot and Flying J brands on signage at the interstate facilities. Pilot has begun to accept the TCH card, and Flying J has begun to accept Comdata cards. This change gives the trucking community many more options of where to fuel that are not dependent on the card they carry.
Other plans call for enhanced restaurant offerings with national brands in all locations. Brand additions to Flying J locations in the new network include Denny’s, Subway and Pizza Hut. In addition, there will be upgrades to drivers’ lounges, new gasoline and diesel pumps, enhanced showers and remodeled restrooms at many locations.
Pilot Flying J is selling 26 locations to Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores as required by the Federal Trade Commission as a condition for the merger. For a list of the affected locations and additional information about the merger, visit www.pilotflyingj.com.
Also, ConocoPhillips completed selling its 50 percent partnership interest in the CFJ Properties-Flying J truck stops to Pilot for $626 million.
Diesel Price Watch
Prices are the average, self serve, cash at truckstops June 1-30, 2010*
NEW HAMPSHIRE 2.93
NEW JERSEY 2.86
NEW MEXICO 2.94
NEW YORK 3.14
NORTH CAROLINA 2.88
NORTH DAKOTA 3.02
RHODE ISLAND 2.96
SOUTH CAROLINA 2.78
SOUTH DAKOTA 2.86
WEST VIRGINIA 2.98
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
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.