Overdrive Staff | January 04, 2011

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico was 19 percent higher in September 2010 than in September 2009, reaching $68 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. BTS reported the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico rose 0.5 percent in September from August.

Execs favor heavier trucks

Infrastructure upgrades and use of heavier trucks can help meet freight demands worldwide, trucking executives said Dec. 1 at a Washington D.C. meeting hosted by Volvo Trucks North America and the American Trucking Associations.

“One strategy that should be well understood and considered is the ability to use more productive trucks as part of the transportation mix,” said Ron Huibers, a senior vice president for Volvo Trucks North America. Huibers said potential solutions include use of heavier trucks and developing truck-only lanes.

Citing increased highway congestion, tougher truck emissions standards and the likelihood of spikes in diesel prices, John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation and Production, outlined a plan to reform vehicle weight limits. The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, a bill in front of the House Ways and Means Committee, would grant individual states the right to adopt 97,000-pound six-axle trucks. If passed, the legislation would allow a 17 percent increase in ton-miles per gallon compared to conventional 80,000-pound trucks and save 2 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually, said Runyan.

Another challenge, said John Woodrooffe, of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, is developing sustainable productivity – moving as much freight as possible per truck more safely while limiting infrastructure consumption. One option is the use of long combination vehicles, essentially two 53-foot trailers per power unit, benefits of which would include productivity gains of up to 44 percent, improved safety, reduced fuel consumption and emissions, and lower shipper costs, Woodrooffe said.

– Jeff Crissey

FMCSA proposes new hours rule

Under a proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers couldn’t drive more than seven hours without a break, would have to rest for at least one hour during their 14-hour driving window and could reset their weekly on-duty limits only with a 34-hour restart that includes two nighttime periods.

The agency proposes that drivers take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving more than seven hours straight. No change in the sleeper berth limits was proposed.

FMCSA released the notice of proposed rulemaking to modify hours-of-service regulations on Dec. 23, as Overdrive was going to press. The NPRM was expected to be published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register, activating a 60-day comment period. A copy of the NPRM is available at fmcsa.dot.gov.

The NPRM follows the 2009 settlement of a lawsuit filed by safety advocacy groups over the current hours rule. Under that settlement, FMCSA is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26, 2011.

One big question had been whether FMCSA would reduce the number of driving hours allowed between off-duty periods from the current 11 to 10. The agency says it will settle the question following public comment, adding that it leans toward a 10-hour limit.

Regardless, FMCSA’s proposal would place new restrictions on drivers’ workdays. Under the current rules, drivers can conduct nondriving work after the 14-hour window for driving time. FMCSA now proposes to require that drivers’ workdays end immediately following the 14-hour window and that there can be no more than 13 hours on-duty during that window. Put more simply, drivers would have to take at least one hour off-duty during their driving shifts.

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