TSA POSTPONES HAZMAT RENEWAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
Fingerprint-based background checks for drivers renewing or transferring hazmat endorsements will be postponed until May 31, but drivers seeking new hazmat endorsements must submit
to the checks beginning Jan. 31, as previously scheduled.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s interim final rule makes other changes in the process as well. TSA will accept applications from people with lawful non-immigrant status, refugees and aliens granted asylum – as long as they are qualified for a commercial driver’s license and can prove they are authorized to work without restriction.
TSA also modified the lengthy list of disqualifying offenses. For example, it removed one felony, simple drug possession, but added the unlawful purchase, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, import, export and storage of a firearm or explosives.
In addition, most drivers who seek to transfer hazmat endorsements from one state to another will not have to undergo a new background check.
TSA estimates 432,000 drivers will apply for a new or renewed endorsement in the first year of the new rules. While the agency has estimated a total of 2.7 million endorsement holders, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau have calculated the actual number of truckers carrying primarily hazardous materials to be only 500,000 to 800,000.
TSA says it expects the number of endorsement holders to drop in the first five years of the program, because getting the endorsement will be more expensive, more difficult and more subject to disqualification.
The agency expects a 20 percent drop the first year of the program and a 5 percent drop in each of the second and third years. By the fourth year, the regulatory effect on the population should have run its course, the agency says, after which it projects a modest annual growth of 1 percent annually.
TSA will require each state to declare whether it will let TSA collect and submit its fingerprints, data and fees, or will do the job itself. Fees for TSA-performed collection will depend on the number of states that ask TSA to handle the task; for now, TSA’s estimate of the eventual fee is $83 to $103.
The more states enlist TSA, the smaller the fee, because “economies of scale would be greater,” the agency says. But states where the TSA does not handle this task could charge whatever they saw fit.
–AVERY VISE AND JILL DUNN
BIG CARRIERS OFFER BETTER PAY, BENEFITS
Many drivers can’t believe their good fortune these days. “We’ve had to battle owner-operators on the phone telling us it’s too good to be true, you can’t do that,” says Doug Albrecht, Barr-Nunn’s director of recruiting.
Albrecht refers to Barr-Nunn’s guaranteed low diesel price, one of a host of pay and benefit incentives that carriers are offering this winter in an industry desperate for drivers.
· Schneider National announced in December what it called the largest pay increase in its 70-year history. The per-mile base rate for Schneider owner-operators jumps from 86 cents to 90 cents, which means an extra $4,000 for someone running 100,000 miles a year.
· Dart Transit announced in December its second round of owner-operator pay increases in a year, to take effect in the first quarter of 2005. “Adding the two increases together, Dart has raised contractor pay about $7,500 a year,” says David Oren, Dart executive vice president.
· Paschall Truck Lines (PTL) offers a $7,000 sign-on bonus, U.S. Xpress a $5,000 sign-on bonus.
Beginning in August, Barr-Nunn, based in Granger, Iowa, guaranteed 99-cent diesel to its owner-operators who fueled within its fleet network, which includes Flying J, Pilot and TA. More than 99 percent of the fleet’s contractors took advantage of the offer, which puts Barr-Nunn in a better position to negotiate fleet discounts. Even more importantly for the carrier, 50 new owner-operators have signed on, and driver turnover has dropped from 90 percent to 60 percent.
“At first it cost us a pretty penny, but now our fuel surcharges have caught up with it,” Albrecht says. “It’s really been innovative. We’ve gone from losing 14 to 15 owner-operators per month to losing four to six per month.”
Barr-Nunn will continue the program through June 30 at least, Albrecht says, though the guaranteed price has inched up a nickel to $1.04. The national average diesel price is nearly twice that.
Some argue that a price war of compensation packages will do little to bring new drivers into a tough industry – but while it lasts, it sure will help owner-operators already in it.
–LINDA LONGTON AND ANDY DUNCAN
TRUCK STOPS LOSE WIRELESS INTERNET IN PROVIDER DISPUTE
The one-year-old partnership between Truckstop.net and Sprint Communications has soured, and hundreds of truck stops have lost wireless Internet services as a result.
Truckstop.net filed suit against Sprint Nov. 15 in U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho, charging breach of contract and negligence. Sprint, which says Truckstop.net is not paying its bills, responded Nov. 23 by cutting off Internet access to most Truckstop.net locations.
Of the 558 Truckstop.net locations, only about 25 percent still have Internet access, says Scott Moscrip, chief executive officer of Truckstop.net, based in New Plymouth, Idaho.
“All Love’s and Rip Griffin truck stop access sites are still functioning,” Moscrip says. “Pilots and Petros … do not have service now, but that might change. Love’s brought in their own Internet access.”
Moscrip says Truckstop.net is looking for a company to replace Sprint. In the meantime, customers who have purchased an account or pre-paid pass for the wireless Internet service can find refund procedures on the Truckstop.net website.
Flying J hopes to recruit Truckstop.net customers to its wireless Internet service, available in 285 locations. “They create a new account with us by signing up for one of our plans, and we give them credit with whatever remains of their Truckstop.net account,” says Brian McCaul, a Flying J vice president.
Debra Peterson, a communication manager for Sprint, says the company cut off service for a simple reason: “They owe us money.” Sprint felt it “had met its requirements to Truckstop.net.”
In the lawsuit filed Nov. 15, Truckstop.net charges Sprint with installing a defective wireless system in a configuration “that Sprint knew or should have known would be unstable in the truck stop environment.”
As a result, the lawsuit charges, “TSN’s subscribers have complained in large numbers that they have been unable to connect to the access points.”
TRUCKER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS NAMED
Six owner-operators with outstanding business and safety records, including one husband-and-wife team, are finalists for Overdrive 2005 Trucker of the Year.
Ted Chapman of King, N.C., is an independent produce hauler.
Harold and Helen Eanes of Christiansburg, Va., are flatbed haulers for Landstar Ligon of Jacksonville, Fla.
Doris Hansen of Lavina, Mont., is a flatbed hauler for Quality Transportation of Baker, Mont.
Richard Paley of Portland, Conn., is an independent hauler of military equipment.
Michael White of Wolfe City, Texas, hauls liquid chemicals for Quality Carriers of Tampa, Fla.
Finalists were selected from the magazine’s 12 2004 Trucker of the Month honorees. The winner, who will receive prizes from many industry manufacturers and service providers, will be announced in the February Overdrive.
FMCSA PLANS BULLETPROOF HOS REVISION
The revised hours-of-service rule due this year must be able to “withstand any assault that might come from an outside party,” Rose McMurray, associate administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Randall Trucking Fall Symposium attendees.
FMCSA is counting on a 10-person team of experts to ensure the agency considers all aspects of the rule, including driver general health, 11 hours of driving, the 34-hour restart and the sleeper berth exception, McMurray said.
“When we promulgated the rule last year, we believed we had sufficient evidence to issue the rule the way it was, including years of fatigue research,” she said. “I think what we’ll see is more evidence that substantiates the rule. I wouldn’t expect to see wholesale changes.”
Interest groups that successfully filed suit to block the 2003 version of the rule included Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).
As FMCSA revamps the rule, it is looking at the feasibility of using electronic onboard recorders to monitor driver hours of service. The agency is mandated by Congress to consider the devices; also, “there is a tremendous push on the safety side of this industry to look at whether recorders are the answer,” McMurray said.
FMCSA will consider comments on the proposal from the trucking industry. “We’re, of course, concerned, as you are, with balancing the benefits of this technology with privacy,” McMurray said.
TRUCKER WINS $1 MILLION AT CASINO
On Dec. 7, on their way east from California to deliver a load to Russellville, Ark., Jimmie Dale Palmer and his wife, Laura, stopped, as they do twice a week, at the Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, N.M.
They walked in truckers and walked out millionaires.
Palmer is the casino’s first million-dollar jackpot winner. He fed the Millioni$er penny slot machine for 40 minutes before he won big.
After the win was confirmed, the Palmers went back to work and completed the haul to Russellville.
“I didn’t tell anybody for a day or so, and then finally when I told my dispatcher, she called me a liar, said I was crazy and on drugs,” Jimmie Palmer said.
Three days after their win, the Palmers bought a house in Russellville.
The Palmers also have bought a 2004 Dodge pickup and a 2005 Chrysler. Before the win, they already had paid off the Freightliner they bought in 2001.
SMALL PLANE LANDS ATOP 18-WHEELER
On the night of Dec. 9, when Mark Taylor Davis’ single-engine plane developed engine trouble over Texas, he tried to set it down on I-10 – and landed on Raymond Bennett White’s 18-wheeler instead.
Davis and his wife, Mercedes, were returning to their El Paso home from Austin when their plane developed engine trouble, says Tom Vinger, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Davis landed atop White’s trailer about 20 miles east of El Paso, Vinger says.
“The trucker didn’t know what was happening,” Vinger says. “He said when the plane hit, it felt like a gust of wind.”
White then saw the plane in his mirror and began decelerating. “When he did that, the plane flipped off the top and landed upside down on the roadway,” Vinger said.
The plane did little damage to the trailer. “There were just scratches on the top,” said Lucila Torres, of the Texas Office of Public Safety. No one was hurt, either.
WERNER GETS EXEMPTION FOR PAPERLESS LOGS
After a six-year pilot project, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration formally has exempted Werner Enterprises drivers from keeping paper logs of their hours of service.
Werner becomes the only U.S. trucking company to be granted such an exemption. Instead of paper logs, the FMCSA will require Werner to record drivers’ hours using the carrier’s global positioning system.
Werner drivers now document their hours of service with a GPS-based paperless log system using Qualcomm equipment and truck-tracking software.
The system is different from other paperless logs in that anyone with network access can see where a truck is, gauge how far it traveled that day and determine the driver’s hours-of-service status, says Della Sanders, Werner associate vice president of safety and compliance.
LAW CHANGES TAXES ON TIRES
The new $136 billion corporate tax law, the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act, modifies the excise tax on tires and eliminates the quarterly installment option for the heavy vehicle use tax. As that can be as much as $550 per vehicle, the change could hurt small fleets and owner-operators.
The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, converts the highway tire tax from one based on the tire’s weight to one based on the tire’s load capacity – the maximum load rating labeled on the tire, as determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Under the new law, the tire tax is 9.45 cents for every 10 pounds of tire load capacity over 3,500 pounds. In the case of non-radial and super-single tires, the tax rate is 4.725 cents for each 10 pounds of tire road capacity over 3,500 pounds. A super single tire, designed to replace two tires in a dual assembly, is greater than 13 inches in cross-section width.
The previous system included a tax of 15 cents per pound on tires between 40 and 70 pounds, a base tax of $4.50 plus 30 cents for each additional pound on tires between 70 and 90 pounds, and a base tax of $10.50 plus 50 cents for each additional pound on tires heavier than 90 pounds.
The changes were designed to ease the measurement and enforcement of the tax. Before, the Internal Revenue Service weighed individual tire batches to determine their weight. Now, all the IRS must do is find the DOT-approved load rating stamped on the side.
DETROIT DIESEL TO BUILD NEW ENGINE
Detroit Diesel plans to build a new heavy-duty diesel engine at the company’s Redford, Mich., plant.
The new engine, being developed by Detroit Diesel and parent company DaimlerChrysler, will be launched in 2007 and will meet the stringent federal emissions requirements that take effect that year. During a period of transition, the new engine will be sold in tandem with the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine.
Detroit Diesel also announced that it plans to begin North American assembly of the MBE 900 medium-duty diesel engine at Redford. That engine platform, too, will be online by 2007.
CANADIAN TRUCKING ENDORSES RECORDERS
The Canadian Trucking Alliance backs mandatory use of electronic onboard data recorders and no longer seeks a longer shift to help truckers deal with delays.
The alliance asked the Canadian government to immediately adopt the hours-of-service regulations OK’d in 2003 by Canada’s highway and transportation ministers.
“CTA does not wish to see the draft regulations agreed to by the federal and provincial ministers held up any longer,” says David Bradley, CTA chief executive officer.
The proposal would require drivers to complete all driving, sleeping and eating within a 16-hour window.
THE TOYO tire section lacks proper identification in the 2005 Overdrive Spec Guide. Toyo products begin on Page 77 with the M1430 and continue until the Yokohama section.
THE PORT OF OAKLAND has allied with a containerized logistics company and the city of Shafter, Calif., to develop a new transportation center to open this fall.
THE CALIFORNIA INTEGRATED LOGISTICS CENTER, developed by Shafter city officials, will combine an inland intermodal center with dedicated rail serving the Oakland marine terminal.
SPLIT SPEED LIMITS on Illinois rural highways are intact thanks to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of a bill that would have ended them. “Raising the speed limit for trucks,” says the governor, a Democrat, “would have meant more accidents, more injuries and more deaths on our roads.”
PHIL TARRANT of Abbotsford, British Columbia, received the 2004 Bridgestone/Firestone Canadian Truck Hero Award. The Vedder Transport company driver maneuvered his crane among live power lines to lift an overturned car out of a water-filled ditch and save the trapped driver’s life.
CITICAPITAL will sell its Transportation Financial Services Group to GE Commercial Finance in a $4.4 billion deal. A recent Overdrive poll found that 4.4 percent of owner-operators financed their trucks through CitiCapital, a unit of Citigroup.
THE FREIGHT COMPONENT of the Transportation Services Index increased 0.5 percent to 126.2 in September from the August level of 125.6, following a one-month decline in August. The September level is 6.4 percent higher than a year ago.
PILOT truck driver challenge winners are Jim Baldwin of Jefferson, N.C., and Lisa Ann Slusser of Decatur, Ala. Each wins $50,000 and a trip to New York City. For info on the 2005 contest, visit this site.
KENWORTH has extended through 2005 its $1,000 rebates to Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association members who buy new trucks with 72-inch or larger sleepers.
FREIGHTLINER has a new online merchandise store at this site.
COOPER KENWORTH has a new location on I-95 in Battleboro, N.C.
THE IOWA 80 TA TRUCKSTOP started construction on the SuperTrucks Center, a 17,000-square-foot addition to its main building that will include a glass elevator and display space for full-size tractors and tractor-trailers. The addition should be finished by fall. Also, the Iowa 80 Group bought the TravelCenters of America location on I-95 in Kenly, N.C., which will be remodeled and expanded this spring.
LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS has a new location on I-74 in Pittsboro, Ind.
PETRO STOPPING CENTERS has a new location on I-90 in Waterloo, N.Y. Petro also now accepts Wright Express cards at all locations.
CATERPILLAR announced a range of new ACERT heavy-duty engines, available in September 2006, that will meet strict new European emissions standards known collectively as Euro IV. Horsepower will range from 190 to 625, and models will include the C7, C9, C13 and C15. Caterpillar also says it will be ready for Euro V standards in 2008.
NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL and MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Ag of Munich, Germany, agreed to collaborate on the design, development and manufacture of commercial truck systems. Neither company released specifics.
RTS CREDIT SERVICE now notifies all members whenever a broker’s credit rating has been lowered. Visit this site.
PACCAR CHAIRMAN and CEO Mark Pigott was named 2004 Manager of the Year by Stark’s Truck and Off-Highway Ledger.
HIGHWAY WATCH will base its Emergency Planning and Education Center at a Mississippi State University branch in Canton, Miss. The center will help the trucking industry develop response plans for terrorist attacks and other national emergencies.