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Overdrive Staff | May 01, 2011

Cross-border plan detailed

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed cross-border trucking project with Mexico will require fewer participants and will equip Mexican trucks with electronic on-board recorders, paid for by the United States.

FMCSA will respond to feedback and consider public comment in forming its final program.

The agency anticipates an average of one long-haul border crossing per week per truck, with each Mexican carrier having two trucks participating in the program, and 46 carriers participating. It assumes an attrition rate of 25 percent after 18 months in the project.

It believes 4,100 inspections can be made within three years, enough to draw reasonable analysis of the program’s effectiveness. The previous pilot program, which ended in 2009, was to run 18 months.

Mexican carriers would have to complete three stages before the FMCSA issues permanent operating authority. Provisional or permanent operating authority may be suspended or revoked during the pilot program if the carrier has a substandard safety performance or violates program rules, such as transporting placardable hazmat or operating beyond the scope of its authority.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asserts that Mexico lacks safety standards equivalent to those of the U.S. OOIDA and some congressional members said the U.S. should have challenged the legality of retaliatory tariffs Mexico imposed on U.S. exports after the first program ended.

The American Trucking Associations welcomed the proposal, which it said requires Mexican carriers to comply with U.S. standards and provides sufficient oversight to enforce these rules.

The notice is available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov under “News & Alerts.” The public may comment on the notice by including the notice’s docket number, FMCSA-2011-0097.

— Jill Dunn



Navy vet named Back on the Road winner

Former owner-operator and Navy veteran David Acosta was named Arrow Truck Sales’ Back on the Road winner April 1 in Louisville, Ky. The Orlando, Fla., native was presented with keys to a 2007 Volvo VNL 780, provided by the used truck retailer.

David Acosta received a 2007 truck and a one-year driving agreement as part of his selection as Arrow Truck Sales’ Back on the Road recipient.

Acosta also receives a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express and several other products and services.

Acosta was nominated by his wife, Angela, after several tough years and a growing list of repair bills forced him to lose his truck. Medical bills for the couple’s daughter, Amanda, put stress on the family’s finances as well. Amanda has been battling a kidney disease that requires around-the-clock care from her mother.

“David constantly puts everybody before himself,” Angela said in her nomination. “Money is extremely tight and our family is struggling more than we ever thought imaginable.”

Acosta is the fourth Back on the Road winner.

“Winning Back on the Road is a blessing for not only me, but my entire family,” Acosta said.

Acosta also received:

• X One XDA Energy tires from Michelin

• Auxiliary power unit from Thermo King

• Monthly $500 fuel cards from Pilot Travel Centers

• Business consulting tools from ATBS

• OOIDA insurance

• 3-year/300-thousand-mile warranty from National Truck Protection

• One year worth of filter products from Genuine Volvo Parts

• Custom truck paint job provided Dickinson Fleet Services

• Truck accessories and fenders from Minimizer Products

• Memory foam mattress provided by SleepDog Mattress

• Truck paint from DuPont

• Personalized health and wellness coaching with “Trucker Trainer” Bob Perry

— Staff reports



SHORT HAULS

FTR’S SHIPPERS CONDITION INDEX continues to decline, reflecting tightening capacity in the trucking sector. The short-term forecast for the SCI calls for continued deterioration as the outlook for capacity shortages worsens.

VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA announced it will recall approximately 700 employees between May 2 and June 13 at its New River Valley, Va. The plant, which employs about 1,500 people, is facing a surge in orders for heavy-duty trucks.

CLASS 8 NET ORDERS in North American rose 159 percent to 29,200 units in March from a year earlier, according to ACT Research Co. Net orders in March represented the largest monthly order intake since May 2006. Meanwhile, net orders of commercial trailers rose 25 percent to 21,990 in February from January.

SURFACE TRADE between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico rose 19.5 percent in January over January 2010 to $67.7 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

TRUCKING COMPANIES accounted for 1,600 seasonally adjusted new jobs in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The increase followed a revised 10,400-job surge in February. Payroll employment at for-hire trucking companies was 40,000 jobs higher than in March 2010.

RUBIK AVETYAN, 55, of Sunland, Calif., was sentenced to 50 months in prison and fined for nearly $1.12 million for operating a double brokering scheme. His sons, Allen Avetyan, 33, also of Sunland, and Alfred Avetyan, 29, of Porter Ranch, Calif., each received 60 months in prison. Judge Yvette Kane of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled in the fraud case.



Owner-operator named Goodyear Highway Hero

An Olympia, Wash., owner-operator who helped save the lives of two people has been named the Goodyear 2010 North America Highway Hero.

Owner-operator Tilden Curl earned Goodyear’s 2010 North America Highway Hero award for pulling an unconscious driver from a car before it was struck by a train.

From among four finalists, Tilden Curl accepted the Highway Hero award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond and ring in Louisville, Ky. Curl has been driving 18 years and operates under his own authority as Tecco Trucking of Olympia.

On Oct. 27, Curl was driving on Highway 99 near Tulare, Calif., when a vehicle went out of control, coming to a stop with its front wheels lodged over railroad tracks. A woman exited the passenger side of the car, and Curl yelled for her to get clear of the tracks because a train was coming.

Curl, seeing the driver was unconscious, unfastened the man’s seatbelt and dragged him away seconds before the train collided with the stranded vehicle.

Other finalists included Jaime Avitia, of El Paso, Texas, a driver for Stagecoach Cartage, who administered CPR on an accident victim who didn’t have a pulse; Bill Howard, of Litchfield, Neb., an operator for Howard Transportation, who called for emergency assistance and provided assurance to a severely injured driver; and David Nelson, of Orlando, Fla., a driver for Werner Enterprises, who performed CPR and revived a 7-year-old girl who was not breathing.

— Staff reports



SHORT HAULS

A PROPOSED 1099 tax reporting mandate has been repealed by the U.S. Senate. The 1099 requirement was passed in 2010 as part of the health care reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This provision would have forced all businesses to issue a Form 1099 to vendors from whom they buy $600 worth of goods or more annually, and was scheduled to take effect in 2012.

FOR-HIRE FREIGHT DECLINED in February in two indices. American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.9 percent after increasing a revised 3.5 percent in January. For-hire freight declined 1.5 percent in February from January, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Freight Transportation Services Index.

TRAFFIC FATALITIES in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949, despite a significant increase in the number of miles driven, reports the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s early projections, the number of traffic fatalities fell 3 percent from 33,808 in 2009 to 32,788 last year. Since 2005, fatalities have dropped 25 percent.



Trucker Buddy recognizes driver pen pals

Trucker Buddy International recognized its monthly winners from 2010 during a luncheon in Louisville, Ky. The program helps educate students via a pen pal relationship between drivers and children in grades K-8.

The December Trucker Buddy honoree, Mercer driver Steven Dyer, got a special treat when four students at the school where he volunteers, Carr Creek Elementary in Hindman, Ky., talked about their relationship with Dyer.

The 2010 honorees were:

• Mike Shultz, who drives for Henderson Trucking.

• Shelia Logan, Interstate Distributor.

• Jacab Person, K&B Transportation.

• Steven Dyer, Mercer Transportation.

• Allen Button, WEL Companies. 

• Carl Ziehlke, Walmart. 

• Herbert Wells, Prime Inc. 

• Richard and Linda Thomas, Interstate Distributor.

• Chuck Lobsiger, Walmart.

• Mike and Kristy Seastrom, Tri-State Motor Transit Co.

• Chris Winkler, Zernicke Trucking.

• Chris Sawyer, Old Dominion.

Trucker Buddy previously announced it would take nominations for its new Teacher of the Month Award. Winning teachers will be recognized at the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas each June.

— Max Heine



SHORT HAULS

METAL COIL HAULERS will get a two-year exemption from certain commodity-specific cargo securement rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided. The Flatbed Carrier Safety Group applied for an exemption to allow carriers to secure coils grouped in rows with eyes crosswise and coils in contact with each other in the longitudinal direction. Operators will be able to use FMCSA’s pre-Jan. 1, 2004 cargo securement procedures.

INTERSTATE DISTRIBUTOR Co. of Tacoma, Wash., doesn’t plan changes in its operations after it was acquired by Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources Inc. Saltchuk has transportation and other operating groups and was formerly known as Totem Resources. IDC is listed as having 1,930 trucks and 2,294 drivers. When the deal is closed, Saltchuk will replace trucks, bring back contract carriers and expand cash flow and liquidity.



Legislators take TWIC program to task

The U.S. House transportation committee blasted the Transportation Security Administration for delays in approving Transportation Worker Identification Credentials readers.

Meanwhile, Congress is considering legislation to address renewal deadlines for TWIC holders.

TSA is still conducting the pilot program for readers to verify the TWIC biometric identifiers, Chairman Rep. John Mica (Rep.-Fla.) said. “Without any readers, TWIC is about as useful as a library card,” he said.

Mica said he would continue inquiries about full deployment of the $420 million TWIC program. The TSA has estimated TWIC could cost taxpayers and the private sector up to $3.2 billion over a 10-year period.

On March 17, Rep. Bennie Thompson introduced the TWIC Program Act. House members referred H.R.1105, which has six co-sponsors, to the transportation subcommittee on March 25. Also called the Transitioning With an Improved Credential Program Act, the legislation should ensure TWIC cards do not expire before the 2014 deadline for full implementation of electronic readers, the Mississippi Democrat said.

The TSA has issued almost 1.8 million TWIC credentials since 2007. A 2002 Congressional mandate requires truckers and other maritime workers needing unescorted escort at ports obtain the card, valid for five years.

A TWIC card costs $132.50, but applicants with comparable background checks, such as Free and Secure Trade card holders, pay $105.25. Renewal price and the original price are the same.

— Jill Dunn



Forecast: Shortage of drivers, capacity

Truckload capacity shortages will accelerate this year and continue through 2013 as the economy recovers and regulatory restrictions limit the driver pool, an FTR Associates economist said in an April 6 online seminar by consulting group FTR.

Noel Perry, an FTR senior consultant, estimated that because of the economic upturn and the federal government’s push for improved safety, “a couple hundred thousand drivers will be taken out of the marketplace between now and the end of next year.” He acknowledged that recent forecasts of shortages have been slow to develop, but will likely hit the market in 2012.

Perry said if the market doesn’t respond by ordering more equipment to improve productivity, “There will be a bunch of loads that don’t get delivered.”

Truckload rate increases haven’t materialized as anticipated, Perry said, because the industry achieved productivity gains last year, which enabled companies to absorb additional freight without adding equipment and drivers. That period has passed and the market has tightened.

“We expect the rest of the year to have relatively strong truck shortages to include price increases,” he said. Perry predicted that prices will continue to rise through next year and into 2013 even as trucking capacity catches up with demand.

Perry noted that truck tonnage will average 5 percent growth this year through 2013.

Current strong new truck orders will primarily replace aging equipment but not add to capacity, Perry said. However, he said if his forecast of higher rates is accurate, he anticipates a “considerable expansion by the industry in 2012 and 2013.”

On another question, the FTR economist said he hadn’t factored in proposed weight-limit increases in calculating productivity gains. But, he said, if allowed weights are increased to 97,000 pounds, it would wipe out the driver shortage he’s attributing to regulatory restrictions.

“Size and weight is a big deal, and has major productivity implications,” he said.

— Max Kvidera



CSA pays more attention to drivers

While the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is putting more emphasis on commercial driver behaviors than past safety programs, CSA isn’t designed to score drivers, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration official said in a March 22 online seminar.

“I can’t emphasize enough that under CSA, we are not rating individual drivers,” said Bryan Price, FMCSA senior transportation specialist, during the webinar presented by Overdrive and Truckers News.

Price said the agency is employing driver safety performance as an internal tool used by FMCSA investigators in deciding which drivers to examine in assessing carrier compliance ratings. The driver safety measurement information isn’t available to roadside inspectors or to carriers. He acknowledged that private companies are using driver information to produce CSA scorecards that aren’t “endorsed or created by FMCSA.”

Price said another new program, the Pre-Employment Screening Program, was developed by FMCSA at about the same time as the driver Safety Measurement System in CSA. PSP isn’t part of CSA but was lobbied for by carriers and mandated by Congress to provide an avenue for prospective employers to a driver’s inspection and crash records. Under PSP, drivers aren’t rated or scored and must sign authorization to release the information to a carrier to review.

In addressing frequently asked questions, Colorado State Patrol Major Mark Savage said CSA doesn’t give FMCSA the authority to revoke CDLs and put drivers out of work.

Savage also said that tickets and warnings drivers receive while operating their personal vehicles don’t impact their carrier’s or their own Safety Measurement System ranking. Only violations documented on commercial vehicle inspection reports will be used in the driver’s SMS and count toward the carrier’s SMS record, he said. “This entire program is dependent on our roadside inspection data,” he said.

— Max Kvidera



Show features seminars, truck competition

Overdrive will host a free Partners in Business seminar presented by Kevin Rutherford at 2 p.m. June 10 at the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas.

Rutherford, an accountant, small-fleet owner and satellite radio host, will be joined by a representative from financial service provider ATBS.

The trucking show will feature a broad range of educational seminars and panels during its June 9-11 run at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Also on hand will be Custom Rigs’ Pride & Polish truck beauty show, part of the National Championship Series.

Free parking will be available across the street from the convention center. For details visit www.greatwesttruckshow.com.


HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS

COLORADO. Three major projects will slow traffic along five miles of I-25 in the Denver area. The I-25 bridge over the South Platte River will be replaced, with construction to continue through August 2013. The I-25 bridges over Santa Fe Drive will be reconstructed and realigned. The Alameda Avenue bridge over I-25 and I-25 under Alameda Avenue will be rebuilt. Work will continue until June 2012.

CONNECTICUT. A state legislative committee has approved a bill that allows tolls on new highways or highway extensions. The state would impose temporary tolls to pay for projects such as State Route 11. Existing highways would remain toll-free.

ILLINOIS. Expect delays on U.S. 20 and I-290 west of Chicago for a construction project that will close eastbound U.S. 20 and shift both directions of traffic to westbound lanes. One lane of eastbound I-290 will be closed in late spring.

INDIANA. Contractors are installing high-tension cable wires along 30 miles of I-65 this year. Cable safety barriers are engineered to prevent vehicles from crossing the center median into the other direction of traffic.

LOUISIANA. The state has raised the speed limit to 75 mph from 70 mph on sections of I-49 between Shreveport and Alexandria. A survey found that 85 percent of drivers were already traveling at or below 75 mph.

MINNESOTA. Various construction projects will cause delays on I-35 eastbound and westbound in the Twin Cities area beginning in May. Interchanges will be reconstructed at County Road 14 over I-35E and County Road 2 from I-35 to Highway 61. Concrete will be replaced on I-35E from CR 96 to junction of I-35W and I-35E.



Coalition backs funding reduction in emissions

A coalition of 444 organizations has sent letters to Congressional leaders requesting funding be restored for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, citing its importance as a national environmental, health and budgetary priority.

When it was reauthorized in December, DERA’s authorization level had been cut from $200 million annually for five years to $100 million annually for five years. In February, DERA was eliminated altogether from President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal.

“The DERA program has proven to be a significant environmental, health and budgetary success throughout the entire United States,” said Allen Schaeffer, of the Diesel Technology Forum.



HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS

NEW HAMPSHIRE. The Memorial Bridge will be replaced with funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the state Department of Transportation. The bridge between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine, is closed to truck traffic. Trucks moving goods from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are forced to detour.

NEW JERSEY. The state began an idling ban on 2007 model year and older trucks on May 1. Idling is permitted by trucks with engines that meet or exceed 2007 model year engine specifications. Idling exemptions also apply to vehicles being serviced or repaired, vehicles slowed in traffic and vehicles stopped for three or more hours when temperatures dip below 25 degrees, which are allowed to idle for 15 minutes.

NORTH CAROLINA. Traffic will be altered over the next three years as construction continues on I-295 in Fayetteville. This project will complete I-295 from N.C. 210 to I-95, giving Fort Bragg a direct connection to the interstate.

TENNESSEE. Lanes of I-24 in Chattanooga will be closed overnight and on various weekends for a resurfacing project. Work will be completed during evenings and early mornings. Work is scheduled through August.

TEXAS. Speeds could ramp up to 85 mph for certain new roads in the state, according to a bill in the state legislature. The higher speeds could be authorized on highways built after June 1. The state already has more than 520 miles of I-10 and I-20 posted at 80 mph during the day for cars. Trucks are limited to 70 mph.



Bill targets higher truck weight limits

Federal truck weight reform legislation that would give each state the flexibility to raise interstate weight limits has been reintroduced in the U.S. Senate.

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (S. 747) is sponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Like identical companion legislation pending in the House of Representatives, SETA would give each state the option to raise interstate weight limits selectively from 80,000 pounds to up to 97,000 pounds. The higher limit applies only to vehicles equipped with six axles instead of the typical five. The additional axle would not affect truck size, but would allow shippers to use extra cargo space.

“SETA is a narrowly drawn bill that enables companies to move a given amount of product in fewer vehicles without adding more weight per tire or increasing stopping distances,” said John Runyan, executive director for the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 180 shippers and allied associations backing the legislation.

Runyan said SETA is supported by data collected from academic, state, federal and international experts who have evaluated the proposal and support the six-axle, 97,000-pound configuration. He pointed out that SETA leaves the decision in the hands of state officials.

The American Trucking Associations has estimated the trucking industry will haul 30 percent more tonnage in 2021 than it does today. If current weight restrictions remain the same, ATA estimates the U.S. economy will require 18 percent more trucks driving 27 percent more miles than now.

The House version of SETA, H.R. 763, was reintroduced in February by Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine).

— Staff reports



Groups oppose diverting highway funds

As Congress prepares its next long-term transportation funding bill, trucking groups have testified before a House subcommittee against using fuel taxes to fund non-highway projects.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations were among 40 witnesses appearing before the House Highways and Transit subcommittee March 29-30.

Congress should not follow a White House proposal to shift Highway Trust Fund dollars to non-highway transportation projects, OOIDA member Kristopher Kane testified. The next highway authorization bill should fund non-highway projects such as transit from the General Fund instead of using fuel taxes, said ATA Chairwoman Barbara Windsor.

Kane said private entities should not be allowed to invest in existing highways and then increase or add tolls. But OOIDA supports allowing states public-private partnerships to add new rest areas and expand services at existing rest areas. The next six-year funding bill should have dedicated funding to expand truck parking, OOIDA said.

Lisa Mullings, president of truck stop trade group NATSO, asked Congress to oppose amending or repealing federal law that prohibits commercial development on interstate right-of-ways. She testified it would signify government intrusion into the private sector and jeopardize related businesses and jobs.

— Jill Dunn



CARB offers filter credit

The California Air Resources Board on April 6 announced an early action compliance credit for trucking fleets that install a particulate filter by July 1 or that make a commitment to purchase a particulate filter by May 1.

By installing a particulate filter early on one truck, a fleet will be able to delay compliance for a second truck in the fleet until Jan. 1, 2017.

The “buy-one-get-one-free” credit applies to trucks with a manufacturer gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds. The number of trucks in the fleet can earn the early action credit is unlimited.

Fleets that install a particulate matter filter by July 1 will get the early action credit.

— Staff reports

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