Keeping tabs

| November 01, 2007

The U.S. and Mexican governments plan to track by satellite each vehicle participating in the ongoing cross-border trucking program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Sept. 27.

How much longer the program will last, however, is unclear. Although the U.S. House and U.S. Senate each are on record as wanting to zero out funding for the Bush administration’s program, it apparently will continue for at least a few weeks more.

The new fiscal year began Oct. 1, and the House and Senate have yet to pass a consensus version of the U.S. Department of Transportation appropriations bill. Instead, Congress apparently will pass a so-called continuing resolution that will provide funding while lawmakers resolve differences on the various appropriations bills.

On Sept. 26, the House passed its version of the continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 52), which continues federal funding of all DOT programs through Nov. 16. Although some special provisions are attached, a funding prohibition on the cross-border program is not one of them. The final version of the appropriations bill still could kill the program at a later date.

In the meantime, the FMCSA said it intends to award a contract to provide satellite terminals at no cost to participating U.S. and Mexican carriers. “This will give us the ability to monitor every vehicle from Mexico and ensure all companies are following our strict safety requirements,” said John Hill, FMCSA administrator.

At least some of the cross-border trucks already are tracked by satellite. For example, the website of one of the U.S. carriers certified to haul into Mexico, Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution, says the company provides “satellite tracked equipment for time and service sensitive customers.”

The real-time wireless GPS tracking will be used to monitor hours of service and dates and times of border crossings, including borders of U.S. and Mexican states, the FMCSA said. Tracking also will spot any violators of the rules against foreign operators hauling domestic freight, the agency said.

No driver information will be collected or tracked, only vehicles by number and company, the FMCSA said.

For years, Mexican trucks operating in the United States have been limited to a 25-mile border commercial zone, while U.S. trucks have been barred from all of Mexico. The program launched Sept. 6 allows long-haul operations for up to 100 Mexican carriers throughout the United States and for up to 100 U.S. carriers throughout Mexico.

A list of U.S. and Mexican trucking companies that have received authority to participate in the project is at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/cross-border/cross-border-carriers.htm.
- Avery Vise


Court Stays Hours Change Until Dec. 27
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided late Sept. 28 to hold the current hours-of-service regulations in place until Dec. 27 to give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration time to consider changes in the rule in light of the court’s July 24 decision.

In its July opinion, the court voided the 11 hours of driving and the 34-hour restart on the grounds that the public didn’t have adequate notice of FMCSA’s methodology for analyzing crash risk.

The American Trucking Associations had asked the court for an eight-month stay of the decision. FMCSA, in strongly supporting ATA’s request, asked that the stay remain in place for 12 months.

In other action, the court rejected the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s request for a rehearing on its challenge to various aspects of the current regulations, including the restrictions on split rest in sleeper berths.
- Avery Vise


NATSO, Truckers and Politicos Speak Out Against I-80 Tolls
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, NATSO Vice President of External Affairs Holly Alfano and Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., hosted a rally Sept. 24 in Pennsylvania, calling for the repeal of state-approved tolls on I-80.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, attended the rally at the commonwealth’s capitol in Harrisburg. He says OOIDA is urging the Pennsylvania government to rethink plans to put tolls on the major highway.

“It’s bad for small-business truckers,” he says. Spencer says some drivers in Pennsylvania told him they might have to drive elsewhere because they simply can’t afford the thousands of dollars they would have to pay in tolls. Truckers already have user fees, and it costs $17,500 per truck in state and federal user fees, he says.

Spencer says the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has a provision cutting off funding for tolls in an appropriation spending bill, and the Senate still must decide what to do with the provision.

NATSO said it is urging elected officials to consider the detrimental effect tolls on I-80 would have on interchange-based businesses. Tolls will divert traffic onto secondary roads, away from the interstate, which will impact businesses located at interstate exits around the country, the group says.

But Gov. Ed Rendell said in a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation news release that implementing tolls along I-80 would boost highway, bridge and public transit programs.

According to the PennDOT, in a November 2006 report, the bipartisan Transportation Funding and Reform Commission recommended an annual investment of $1.7 billion a year to meet transportation needs for the Keystone State.

Even at that level, the commission projected it would take 17 years to cut the percentage of structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania from 24 percent to the national average of approximately 11 percent.
- Kristie Busam


Cummins’ 2010 Heavy-Duty Engines Won’t Use SCR
Cummins said its heavy-duty diesel engines that comply with the EPA’s 2010 standards will not require NOx aftertreatment, although its medium-duty engines will use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology.

The decision to meet 2010 standards without SCR in heavy-duty engines stands in contrast with announcements from Detroit Diesel and Volvo/Mack that their 2010 truck engine solutions will employ SCR technology in order to bring NOx levels within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandated maximum levels. SCR introduces urea into heated exhaust, causing it to break down into ammonia. The ammonia, in turn, reacts with the NOx in a catalytic converter to produce nitrogen and water.

At a news conference in Nashville on Sunday, Sept. 23, Steve Charlton, Cummins’ executive director of heavy-duty engineering, announced that the company’s heavy-duty engines instead would meet EPA demands through a combination of the XPI high-pressure common rail (HPCR) fuel system, improved cooled exhaust gas recirculation, advanced electronic controls, variable geometry turbochargers and the Cummins diesel particulate filter.

Cummins also said the 2010 engines in North America will include 11.9-liter and 16-liter diesel engines to complement its 15-liter product. All will share a common architecture that includes the XPI HPCR, said Ed Pence, vice president and general manager of Cummins’ heavy-duty engine business.

The HPCR fuel system, which was designed and built by a Cummins-Scania joint venture, offers improved performance and cleaner exhaust by maintaining high injection pressures regardless of engine speed, Cummins said. The company will continue to use the Cummins Turbo Technologies-designed VG turbo. And the Cummins Particulate Filter, designed and built by Cummins Emission Solutions and introduced in 2007, will be the only aftertreatment required for the 2010 solution.

Cummins’ approach toward lowering NOx for 2010 is to continue reducing the amount of oxygen introduced into the combustion process. Reducing the airflow not only reduces NOx, but it also produces other benefits, including high power density, minimum heat rejection and optimal fuel economy, Charlton said. And with less oxygen introduced into combustion, less oxygen comes out for use in cooled EGR, further improving performance and emissions control. “It’s a virtuous circle,” Charlton said.

In the heavy-duty segment, Cummins said it chose its solution with an eye to the key drivers of uptime, operational efficiency and low cost of ownership.

By staying away from SCR, Cummins also differentiates its engines more clearly from the captive engines offered by truck makers. Volvo’s powertrain group, which supplies engines to Volvo and Mack, and Freightliner’s Detroit Diesel have announced that SCR will be part of their 2010 solutions. Meanwhile, International plans to introduce a heavy-duty engine in a joint venture with Europe’s MAN. And Paccar is leveraging engine technology developed by its DAF unit in Europe to introduce Paccar engines in North America for Kenworth and Peterbilt.

For midrange engines, Cummins well use SCR technology as it does in Europe.
- Avery Vise


UPS Driver Describes Bridge Collapse
“I can’t get the smell of the fire out of my nose,” says UPS driver Bill Wagner of Cottage Grove, Minn.

The late afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 1, was like any other workday rush hour for commuters on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. Traffic inched through the 45 mph construction zone as frazzled parents drove children from school, office workers traveled home, and UPS driver Bill Wagner headed south, hauling an 8-foot pup behind his rig.

“At the time I was on the bridge, I kept thinking, I hope this damn thing doesn’t fall because I don’t want to be in that water,” recalls Wagner, 46, of Cottage Grove, Minn.

In the traffic, Wagner spotted Paul Eickstadt, an old driving buddy from his days with Taystee Bakery. Wagner caught up to the Taystee truck and waved as he and Eickstadt traveled through the construction zone. A school bus full of children was in front of Wagner’s truck, and Wagner honked his horn, to their delight. The Taystee truck was ahead of Wagner’s, and his friend was laughing at Wagner’s antics.

Then the bridge fell.

“Everything got blurry ’cause I was shaking so bad,” Wagner says.

There was no time to think. His truck swayed from left to right. Then Wagner saw air as his truck tumbled down the concrete.

“I saw the treetops through the window, and I thought I was gonna die.

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