Lawsuits multiply after Arrow debacle
Tulsa, Okla.-based Arrow Trucking Co. filed for bankruptcy liquidation when it was swamped with lawsuits after closing its doors three days before Christmas.
The Jan. 8 filing by Arrow Trucking is for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, under which a court-appointed chief liquidation officer seizes and sells the company’s nonexempt assets to repay debt owed an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 creditors. The bankruptcy petition listed the company’s assets at between $100 million and $500 million and debts in a similar range.
Prior to that, Transportation Alliance Bank Inc. of Ogden, Utah, filed suit against Arrow Trucking, accusing the company of fraud and racketeering that cost the bank $12.5 million. TAB alleges that Arrow overbilled the institution and appropriated federal and state tax obligations for its own use.
Other suits have been filed against Arrow Trucking, including one by employees seeking unpaid wages and benefits.
The company’s sudden Dec. 22 shutdown stranded drivers, trucks and cargo around the country. Before that, employees said, payroll checks had bounced.
Former Arrow Trucking CEO Doug Pielsticker is also facing two lawsuits by separate Oklahoma banks for failure to repay promissory notes.
Pielsticker issued a Jan. 1 statement to the Tulsa World newspaper that he had been separated from the 61-year-old company since Dec. 19. He did not elaborate, but added that drivers and employees “do not deserve the hardship they are enduring.”
On Dec. 30, Around the Clock Freightliners sued for $69,408, alleging fraud and breach of contract. On Dec. 29, reorganized debtors Shapes/Arches LLC filed for a judgment for $41,314 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.
On Dec. 28, a class action complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma by at least 30 former employees. They seek compensation under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers of companies with more than 100 employees to provide 60 days’ notice of a shutdown. Violators can be sued for two months pay per employee.
The complaint also alleges the company failed to fund fuel cards and bounced employee paychecks in December. Plaintiffs also charge Arrow failed to forward premiums to insurance carriers, even though it deducted them from paychecks, and did not reimburse out-of-pocket expenses.
— Jill Dunn
DOT prohibits truck driver texting
The U.S Department of Transportation announced it is immediately prohibiting 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 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.
Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.
— Staff reports
TRANSPORTATION IMPROVED modestly from November to early January, but overall economic activity remained low, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book report. Freight transport businesses saw a slight upturn in volume, but shipments remain well below year-earlier levels and margins remained depressed. Businesses expect modest gains in 2010.
A DEADLINE EXTENSION to June 30 for submission of Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports and Driver Vehicle Examination Reports was announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Other provisions of the Dec. 17, 2009, compliance date remain unchanged.
THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency proposed the strictest health standards to date for smog, also known as ground-level ozone, which forms when emissions from motor vehicles, industrial facilities, power plants and landfills mix with sunlight. The agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the Bush administration with stricter levels.
TCA names finalists in driver contests
The Truckload Carriers Association named finalists for its 2009 Owner-Operator Driver of the Year and 2009 Company Equipment Driver of the Year contests.
Competing for the owner-operator title, co-sponsored by TCA and Overdrive, are Steven Recker of Warren Transport, and Larry Severson and Woodrow Walker, both of Dart Transit.
For the company equipment contest, co-sponsored by TCA and Truckers News, the contenders are Gordon Colvin of Con-way Truckload, Richard Gassman of Greatwide Dedicated Transfer and Brian Rhodes of Con-way Truckload.
The winners will be announced at TCA’s annual convention, Feb. 28-March 3, in Las Vegas.
The finalists and grand prize winners will be recognized for their performance record, safety, efforts to enhance the trucking industry’s image and contributions to their community.
— Staff reports
Custom Rigs takes over Pride & Polish
Pride & Polish, founded and managed by Overdrive, will now be produced by Overdrive’s Custom Rigs.
Some of the nation’s finest show trucks competed in Pride & Polish venues in 2009, including the highest-attended event, the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
The 2010 series has truck beauty events scheduled at:
• 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Fla., April 24-25;
• The Great West Truck Show, Las Vegas, June 17-19;
• The Great American Trucking Show, Dallas, Aug. 26-28.
Other show locations are expected to be announced.
Registration and other information is available at www.prideandpolish.com or by calling (888) 349-4287.
Neal Holsomback, Victor Verret, Barbara Holsomback and Suzanne Stempinski will manage logistics, judging and on-site operations for all 2010 Pride & Polish events.
— Staff reports
‘SuperTrucks’ to get DOE funding
Three projects focusing on fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks, or “SuperTrucks,” will receive $115 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In a Jan. 11 announcement at Cummins Inc. headquarters in Columbus, Ind., U.S. 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-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.
The goal of the SuperTruck program is to improve efficiency through advanced and highly efficient engine systems and vehicle technologies that also meet prevailing emissions and safety requirements.
— Staff reports
DRIVER BEHAVIOR should be the top safety priority, the American Trucking Associations recommended to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In comments filed Jan. 5, ATA told NHTSA that distracted driving, speeding and aggressive driving are particularly dangerous as highway congestion worsens due to freight volume growing faster than highway capacity.
THE FEDERAL TAX CREDIT that provided makers of biodiesel $1 for every gallon sold expired Dec. 31. The National Association of Truck Stop Owners in December urged Senate leaders to extend the tax credit to ensure an affordable biodiesel supply for the industry and to support truck stops’ investments.
More funds for Oakland port trucks
The California Air Resources Board on Dec. 31 announced an additional $8 million in compliance assistance funding that, combined with recent $3 million in funding, will partly pay for more than 1,200 retrofits and more than 100 new trucks working the Port of Oakland.
The additional Proposition 1B funding will provide $5,000 per truck for 1,216 additional owners to install particulate matter filters on their rigs, and provide $50,000 for owners of 103 old trucks to purchase newer models.
CARB will continue to work with its local, port and federal partners to seek additional funding. CARB will also consider regulatory changes to provide compliance flexibility while seeking additional matching funds.
Truckers who applied for retrofit funding to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in 2008 and 2009 but were denied funding when the money ran out, and who are unable to enter the port under the new rule, are eligible for the grants. In addition, truckers who applied and qualified for replacement funding in 2008, but were denied in 2009 when the money ran out, are also eligible.
Those who meet all of the Proposition 1B eligibility criteria will receive an extension as soon as possible but no later than February to operate their trucks at ports and rail yards until April 30.
The average cost of a particulate matter filter is $16,000, with the devices removing 85 percent of the diesel emissions from older trucks.
With this recent announcement, state, local and federal air agencies and ports now have provided $37 million in funding to help clean up more than 2,300 trucks at the Port of Oakland.
— Jill Dunn
L.A. port adjusts clean truck deadline
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission announced Dec. 16 it had approved a second set of modifications to the Port of Los Angeles tariff to allow truckers to continue operating their trucks past the Jan. 1 ban date.
The second set of tariff modifications is designed to be consistent with a Drayage Truck Rule Advisory issued by the California Air Resources Board on Dec. 8. The agency ruling allows truckers who have purchased a new truck or retrofit with private funds to continue to operate their trucks until April 30, while waiting for the new truck to be delivered or the retrofit to be installed.
The Port of Los Angeles tariff allows the same extension as CARB for purchase of a truck with private funds. To qualify for the extension based on private purchase of a retrofit, the truck must be a Level 3 retrofit, and it also must have a 25 percent NOx reduction capability in order to be able to operate in the Port of Los Angeles.
The Port of Long Beach recently approved similar provisions to its tariff. If the retrofit on order does not have this additional NOx reduction capability, it will not meet the San Pedro Bay Ports environmental requirements, so the extension will not be allowed in either port.
Officially launched Oct. 1, 2008, the Clean Trucks Program is spurring the replacement of the entire trucking fleet at the nation’s largest port complex. It is on track to achieve an 80 percent reduction in truck-related air pollution nearly two years ahead of schedule, the ports say.
The Clean Trucks Program is phasing out the oldest trucks. In 2008, big rigs 1988 and older were banned. By 2012, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will allow only trucks with 2007 or newer engines. These engines are 80 percent cleaner than the average truck in the fleet a couple of years ago.
— Staff reports
PAYROLL EMPLOYMENT among for-hire trucking companies dropped 7 percent – or 94,200 jobs – in 2009 to approximately 1.25 million workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. For December, payroll employment was down 0.3 percent from November. With the estimated 3,300 jobs lost in December, the trucking industry has lost 208,000 jobs – or 14.3 percent – since seasonally adjusted trucking employment peaked in January 2007 at more than 1.45 million.
THE AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS said its advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.7 percent in November, after a 0.2 percent decrease in October. The latest gain boosted the seasonally adjusted index to 106.4, its highest level in a year.
WISCONSIN has changed its CDL rules to comply with federal law. The updating occurred after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reviewed the state’s CDL program and found discrepancies between state and federal regulations.
NAFTA TRADE using surface transportation among the United States, Canada and Mexico dropped 15.5 percent to $61.4 billion in October, compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The 2008 Air Emissions Inventory reports that while the amount of cargo moving through the port declined by 3 percent in 2008 from 2005, air pollution was cut much more due to efforts to reduce emissions from vessels and vehicles. Overall, it was the port’s best air quality report card since the studies began in 2002.
Air quality initiatives such as the Clean Trucks Program, which began in October 2008, the expanded Green Flag vessel speed reduction program, the use of low-sulfur fuel for ships, and the first use of shore power for ships at berth all have contributed to significant air improvements at the port.
In addition to the 21 percent drop in diesel particulate matter, the 2008 Air Emissions Inventory also showed a 12 percent decline in smog-forming nitrogen oxides and an 18 percent drop in sulfur oxides. Greenhouse gases were cut by 7 percent. Trucks serving the port emitted about 20 percent less pollution overall compared to 2005.
— Staff reports
Hours regs debated at public session
Comments at the first of four public hearings of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s review of the hours of service rule ranged from a request to keep the existing rules to urging a rewrite.
At the Jan. 19 session in Arlington, Va., David Osiecki, senior vice president of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at American Trucking Associations, said the hours regulations are based on extensive research and analysis and should be retained.
“The safety concerns hypothesized by trucking industry critics and those groups opposed to the current rules have simply failed to occur,” Osiecki said. “In January 2009, in a comprehensive response to these organizations, FMCSA strongly refuted these hypotheses with data and rational explanations. Absent new data, these predictions must continue to be rejected by FMCSA and DOT and should, in no way, be a basis for any proposed changes.”
Gerald Donaldson, senior research director for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said too much driving and work time is permitted under the rules. “It is appalling that well into the 21st century we are still using these workers as though they were 19th century laborers,” he said.
Donaldson’s group, along with the Teamsters union, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition, opposes the current rules. LaMont Byrd, director of the Teamsters’ Health and Safety department, said the union is against the part of the rule that allows drivers to restart the work cycle after only 34 hours off duty.
“The agency issued a rule that favors increasing driver productivity and increasing the profits of motor carriers over driver health and safety,” Byrd said. “The current rules regarding hours of service, the 34-hour restart provision and the sleeper berth provision must be changed.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Rod Nofziger called for more flexibility in the regulations. He stated drivers should be allowed to take breaks without the time counting against the daily working hours. He repeated OOIDA’s support for compensating drivers for time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded.
“To give you an idea of how significant the detention time problem is: Industry surveys have estimated upwards of 40 hours per truck per week is wasted waiting to be loaded and unloaded,” Nofziger said.
“In fact, as a part of the Motor Carrier Efficiency Study, your agency has identified loading and unloading as the most cited inefficiency in trucking, costing the industry an estimated $3 billion per year and society over $6.5 billion annually,” Nofziger noted.
Steve Keppler, interim executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said the current regulations are easy to understand and enforce, which should be considered in any rewrite of the rules.
— Staff reports
ILLINOIS. The state is enforcing new laws that ban texting and Internet surfing while driving and talking on a cell phone while passing through a highway construction zone or school zone. Use of a GPS is not covered under the laws.
MICHIGAN. Tolls for commercial vehicles using the U.S. side of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron have been bumped up to $2.50 an axle from $1.75. Another increase to $3.25 an axle is scheduled for April 1. Commercial truck tolls on the Mackinac Bridge have increased to $4.50 an axle, with future increases planned in 2012 to $5 and in 2014 to $6.
NEVADA. Expect delays from construction on about 2.5 miles of I-80 at Sparks. The project is scheduled for completion this summer.
NEW YORK. The state has increased by 5 percent tolls on the New York Thruway. For an east-west Thruway trip from Albany to Buffalo, the toll for a 5-axle truck increases by $3.32 to $66.55 cash, or $63.22 with E-ZPass. On a north-south Thruway trip from Albany to the New York City area, the toll rises to $19.60 cash, or $18.60 with E-ZPass.
TENNESSEE AND NORTH CAROLINA. State Route 40 (U.S. 64) will remain closed until mid-March as construction continues following a Nov. 10 rockslide. The highway had been heavily used by truckers rerouted since late last year by another rockslide that covered I-40 three miles east of the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Work is expected to be completed in March on I-40, which has been closed since Oct. 25.
TEXAS. The most congested highway in the state is I-45 between State Route 8 and I-610 north of Houston. This 9-mile stretch leads to more than 4.2 million hours of delay annually, according to the state Department of Transportation.
VERMONT. A detour is in place indefinitely while the Lake Champlain Bridge that spanned the lake between Crown Point, N.Y, and Chimney Point, Vt., is replaced. The 100-mile detour includes U.S. 4 in New York and Vermont routes 22A and 17.
Distracted driving group formed
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher announced the creation of FocusDriven, the first national nonprofit organization devoted to raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
Group leader Jennifer Smith has been an advocate against distracted driving since her mother was killed by someone talking on a cell phone while driving in 2008. FocusDriven grew out of the September national Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C.
FocusDriven’s new website, www.focusdriven.org, hosts information on distracted driving and help for victims and family members.
FocusDriven is modeled after Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which has changed society’s attitudes towards drinking and driving with the use of advocates who have experienced the terrible consequences firsthand.
FocusDriven also hopes to provide support for victims of distracted driving and to expand its mission to include education and the evaluation of new technologies.
The U.S. DOT recently launched a website, www.distraction.gov, with comprehensive information on distracted driving.
“I first met several of the founding members of FocusDriven at our Distracted Driving Summit, and I’m deeply impressed by their commitment to turn these tragic events into positive actions that will help save lives,” LaHood says. “Their stories are not just heartbreaking – they’re also a clear and compelling call to action.”
— Staff reports
ATA seeks to identify documents for hours verification
The American Trucking Associations is seeking clarification of what documents carriers must keep to prove hours-of-service compliance. The effort is part of a lawsuit ATA filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
What the court calls “supporting documents” are those a carrier must hold for six months that can be used to verify drivers’ HOS records. In 1994, Congress ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a rule that would designate the “number, type, and frequency of [required] supporting document retention” and to ensure that retaining those documents would be at a “reasonable cost” to motor carriers.
In its Jan. 15 filing, ATA requests the court to require DOT to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking within 60 days of the court’s ruling and a final rule within six months of the NPRM publication date.
“In order to comply, trucking companies need to know what the rules are,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.
Congress originally directed the agency to make the rule effective in 1996. Over the years, the agency has adopted informal guidelines for supporting documents. This has resulted in 34 categories of records that could be used to verify HOS records.
— Staff reports
Mark your calendar
FEB. 4-6: 47th ANNUAL CONVENTION AND TRUCK SHOW, Mid-West Truckers Association, Peoria, Ill. (217) 525-0342, www.mid-westtruckers.com.
MARCH 25-27: MID-AMERICA TRUCKING SHOW, Louisville, Ky., (502)899-3892, www.truckingshow.com.
APRIL 24-25: CUSTOM RIGS PRIDE & POLISH 75 CHROME SHOP, Wildwood, Fla., (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.
JUNE 17-19: THE GREAT WEST TRUCK SHOW, Las Vegas, (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.
AUG. 13-15: GREAT SALT LAKE KIDNEY KAMP TRUCK SHOW, Thanksgiving Point, Utah, Lehi exit 284 from I-15, (800) 877-1320.
AUG. 26-28: THE GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING SHOW, Dallas, (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.