Cross-border program starts
Mexico had approved three U.S. carriers to deliver beyond its border by Oct. 21, when the first Mexican carrier crossed into Laredo, Texas, marking the beginning of the cross-border pilot program with Mexico and the end of retaliatory tariffs on American goods.
Mexican and U.S. officials gathered at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, for the event. Transportes Olympic hauled a drilling tower destined for Garland, Texas, according to Mexico’s Secretary of Communication and Transportation. Monterrey-based Transportes Olympic has been approved for two trucks and two drivers.
The Oct. 21 delivery beyond the commercial border zone highlighted the end of more than two years of tariffs ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent on 99 U.S. goods. On July 8 Mexico dropped half the tariffs and promised to end the remaining tariffs five days after the first Mexican carrier received operating authority.
On Oct. 20, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General announced it was beginning its interim report to Congress on the pilot program, in accordance with 2007 law.
Its audit objectives will be to decide if it will have sufficient data to determine if the program reduces trucking safety and if monitoring and enforcement activities can ensure program compliance. The OIG will also measure if program participants are a representative and adequate sample of Mexican carriers that would seek cross-border operations.
All trucks that participate in the program will carry GPS-capable electronic onboard recorders to ensure hours-of-service compliance and to monitor trucks to and from assigned U.S. destinations.
Also, FMCSA will review the driving records of each driver and require U.S. labs to analyze all drug testing samples before that driver receives approval.
OOIDA has filed to stop the program in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court rejected its request for an emergency stay of the program, but will schedule oral arguments following the completion of brief filings, with the last brief due by Dec. 5.
The Teamsters union and Public Citizen also have petitioned a federal appeals court to review the agency’s plans to proceed with the program.
— Jill Dunn
THE JANUARY 2012 diesel particulate filter deadline for heavy-duty truck owners is the first of several compliance dates set by California Air Resources Board. Owners of trucks heavier than 26,000 pounds and equipped with 1996-1999 engines can retrofit them with a DPF by Jan. 1 or phase in 30 percent of fleet vehicles and send details about the rigs to CARB by Jan. 31. Call (866) 634-3735 for details and exceptions.
USED TRUCK SALES in August were the second highest of the year, according to a new report by the ATD/NADA Commercial Truck Guide. The average selling price of sleeper tractors also improved more than expected to the highest level since pre-recession 2008. As of August, the average sleeper tractor sold off a dealer’s lot was just less than six years old, had 523,399 miles and sold for $48,348.
FREIGHT CARRIED by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.4 percent in August from July and 4.6 percent from a year earlier, reaching the highest level since July 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. Freight shipments, measured by the Freight Transportation Services Index, rose 2.9 percent in the last three months.
Demand outpacing capacity
Utilization of ready-to-drive trucks is close to the record set in the early 2000s and could hit a record in 2012, said Noel Perry, a senior consultant with FTR Associates. The situation is tight because the trucking recovery is good and because carrier management is conservative about hiring drivers and buying trucks.
“They are not adding capacity at the same rate customers are increasing freight,” he said.
In addition to needing to replace an estimated 200,000 drivers annually to cover normal turnover, the industry is several hundred thousand drivers short of raising capacity to meet demand, Perry noted.
Perry forecast 3 percent growth for trucking through 2012. That’s enough to maintain freight rates but not enough to replace business lost in the recession.
Among indicators, Perry said the Avondale Truckload Spot Market Index is showing increased spot market volatility as more freight moves to dedicated routes, where’s it’s easier to recruit drivers. For small carriers, especially start-ups that provide more spot market capacity, he said, it will be more volatile and, assuming the recovery continues, more profitable.
Perry said the recession clobbered trucking to the point that demand won’t recover to previous levels until at least 2016.
On driver pay, Perry said the increase in capacity shortage is slow enough to keep pay rates mostly stable. “The safe forecast is we’re going to get modest increases over the next six months,” he said.
— Max Kvidera
Cross-border trucking opponents meet
Leading opponents of the cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico united for a press conference near a California border crossing Oct. 19.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, U.S. Reps. Bob Filner and Duncan Hunter, both of California, and the Teamsters union gathered near the Otay Mesa truck inspection facility. The first Mexican carrier approved for program participation, Transportes Olympic, was expected to make its first delivery under the new program on Oct. 20.
The past two presidential administrations have made the program a priority, said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter’s office. Given that, the Republican representative’s hope is the United States will suspend the operating authority of Mexican program participants when the program expires.
To that end, Hunter and Filner, his Democrat counterpart, are among 19 co-sponsors of Protecting America’s Roads Act, or H.R. 2407. The bill would end authority gained by Mexican carrier participants at the end of the program and bar paying for electronic monitoring of Mexican carrier participants with U.S. tax dollars.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore.) introduced the bill, which was referred to the Highways and Transit subcommittee July 7.
— Jill Dunn
EEOC files suit against carriers
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued trucking companies over allegations of discriminatory practices against employees.
Among the commission’s filings are lawsuits against Sutter Transfer Service, Stevens Transport and Joe Ryan Trucking. EEOC first had attempted voluntary settlements with the companies.
Previously, EEOC had sued Prime Inc. over allegations the carrier discriminated against female driver applicants.
A company spokesman said it is confident it will prevail in defending its environment and believes EEOC’s claims are without merit.
EEOC filed a complaint against Sutter Sept. 29 in Sacramento’s U.S. District Court. The commission alleges the family-operated construction hauler allowed its dispatcher to harass employees with racial epithets. Bruce Peacock, STS president and CEO, said he does not discuss matters in litigation.
Also Sept. 29, the agency sued Stevens Transport over allegations the carrier had discriminated against an applicant based on disability. The company did not respond to a request for comment over the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
On Sept. 23, the commission filed against the owner of Joe Ryan Enterprises, doing business as Joe Ryan Trucking in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
It alleges the owner had incessantly sexually harassed female employees. No one was available for comment at the carrier.
The commission also filed charges Sept. 30 against the former Scully Distribution Services in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Eastern Division. It alleged Scully had engaged in discrimination, harassment and retaliation against non-white drivers.
— Jill Dunn
Goodyear accepting Highway Hero nominations
Nov. 30 is the deadline for nominations in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s annual North America Highway Hero program. For consideration, nominees must be a full-time truck driver, reside in the U.S. or Canada, and have been on the job when incident occurred.
Nominations can also be made by calling the Goodyear Highway Hero Hotline at (330) 796-8183.
The nominations will be pared to four finalists, with one individual selected by a trucking industry panel of judges to serve as the ambassador for the program for a year.
— Staff reports
Agency urges CSA driver ratings
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability program would benefit from creating a driver fitness ratings timetable, a federal oversight agency reported.
The Government Accountability Office advised FMCSA to routinely report to Congress on CSA implementation issues and how to develop a timeframe to put driver fitness ratings into effect. The agency told GAO it would consider the recommendations.
FMCSA had indicated consideration of implementing driver fitness ratings, but confirmed this intention to GAO Sept. 23. The agency is seeking clarification on its authority to prohibit drivers, if determined to be unfit based on ratings, from operating. It believes it has this authority, but is seeking congressional clarification as part of the next surface transportation reauthorization. The last extension of that funding expires March 31.
FMCSA has prioritized implementing carrier oversight activities, agency officials told GAO. Also, they have more driver data than before, so implementing the driver component is not as critical to CSA’s ability to improve safety as they had believed when designing the program.
Delays are routine when adding a major program such as CSA, but FMCSA has carried out most CSA oversight activities and briefed congressional staff on CSA periodically, agency representatives said. GAO says FMCSA still lacks a comprehensive document specifically outlining status, implementation delays.
CSA replaced SafeStat with the Safety Measurement System to identify high-risk carriers. Nearly a year after the anticipated completion date, FMCSA has partially implemented two of the three CSA carrier oversight activities, the new SMS and an expanded set of intervention in every state. “However, it still cannot use CSA safety ratings to get unsafe carriers off the road because it has not completed a rulemaking needed to do so,” GAO stated.
FMCSA has added most of the expanded enforcement interventions for at-risk carriers. But it has delayed implementation of two interventions, Off-site Investigations and Cooperative Safety Plans, because the technology necessary will not be completed until at least 2012.
FMCSA has not started using SMS data to suspend unfit carriers. It is two years behind in issuing and completing rulemaking needed to use this instead of time-consuming compliance reviews. The agency expects to have a final rulemaking in 2013.
— Jill Dunn
FREIGHT as measured by TransCore’s North American Freight Index climbed 47 percent in August from a year ago, marking the eighth consecutive month that spot market freight availability reached an all-time same-month high. Spot market freight volume increased 4.5 percent in August over July. Despite the increase in spot market demand, truckload freight rates, excluding fuel surcharges, remained relatively stable in August.
TRANSCORE’S Carrier Benchmark Survey reveals that in 2011 to date, carrier monthly revenue on average was $1,607 higher per truck than in 2010, a 10 percent increase reflecting a 10 percent gain in per-mile rates. The survey also found for-hire carriers who used load boards for 30 percent to 60 percent of their loads saw monthly revenues rise by an additional $1,378, or 7.7 percent, per truck compared with 2010.
TRUCKING HIRED 2,600 new payroll employees in September, according to preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compared with September 2010, trucking employment is up by 3.4 percent. The number of trucking jobs — 1.28 million — remains nearly 169,000 below peak employment in January 2007.
Icahn buys 9.8% of Navistar
Investor Carl Icahn’s purchase of 9.8 percent of Navistar International shares last month sparked market speculation, especially after buying 9.5 percent of truck maker Oshkosh in June.
Icahn, estimated by Forbes magazine at a net worth of $13 billion, bought both stocks because of undervalued shares. He discussed adding board nominees for consideration at Navistar’s 2012 stockholders’ meeting, but an understanding had not been reached, Icahn stated in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
On Oct. 17, the commercial truck and bus maker extended its nominating deadline from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15.
Stock market observers also wonder if the 75-year-old New Yorker hopes to merge the two truck makers, but has not publicly indicated plans. Icahn has criticized many corporate boards as ineffective and is a zealous advocate of stockholders’ active monitoring of investments.
Still, he retreated from attempting to install himself and 10 other nominees to Clorox’s board last month, where with 9.5 percent of shares, Ichan is the largest stockholder.
Icahn leadership includes serving as the long-time chairman of American Railcar Industries and since 2008, the non-executive chairman of Federal-Mogul, an international global automotive supplier.
He described his principal occupation as heading Icahn Capital LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, a diversified holding company for businesses ranging from real estate to consumer goods.
The Oshkosh production line includes vehicles for commercial, emergency and military uses.
— Staff reports
TURNOVER for over-the-road truck drivers rose to 79 percent in the second quarter, according to American Trucking Associations, marking the third quarter in a row of increased churn in the driver market. The turnover rate for drivers at large truckload fleets rose four basis points from the first quarter’s rate of 75 percent, pushing the rate to its highest point since 2008.
California passes used truck sales history law
California has the nation’s first law requiring that used vehicle dealers post a warning on vehicles if flagged in a federal database as junk, salvage or flood-damaged.
State dealers must check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System before offering vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, for sale. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains the NMVTIS and requires every insurer, salvage yard and state motor vehicle department to report updated title information every 30 days.
If a NMVTIS report exists, dealers must provide the purchaser with a copy of it upon request prior to sale. They also must post a warning or disclosure near the vehicle’s Federal Trade Commission’s Buyer’s Guide. The disclosure must be printed in bold black type on a solid-red background and be at least 4 inches by 5.5 inches.
A new service, RigDig, partners with NMVTIS to integrate data from salvage yards, recyclers, insurance carriers and state titling agencies, but provides Truck History Reports that draw upon additional sources, as well.
The Equipment Data Associates division of Randall-Reilly Media and Business Information, Overdrive’s publisher, operates the website at www.rigdig.com.
— Jill Dunn
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico increased 18 percent in July compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. TRANSPORTATION Secretary Ray LaHood Oct. 13 said he would not continue in that post if President Obama is re-elected for a second term. LaHood is the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet.
LOVE’S TRUCK TIRE CARE has been added to the Michelin Commercial Service Network. Dealers in the network provide new tires and retreads and 24-hour service. Love’s is also offering select Michelin Retread Technologies tread designs at its more than 100 U.S. tire care centers.
Congress eyes highway tolling bills
For the second time in three months, Congress is considering a bill that would increase the number of Interstate facilities that could toll and remove the limit on how many states can have Value Pricing Pilot Programs.
Illinois Republicans introduced the bills, both titled the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act, which were referred to committees with no co-sponsors. The legislation is to encourage private-public transportation partnerships to fix federal transportation shortfalls.
A 1998 law created the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRP), which allows the Federal Highway Administration to approve tolling at up to three existing Interstate facilities if reconstruction otherwise could not be adequately maintained or improved without tolls. Each of the facilities, which can be highways, bridges or tunnels, must be in a different state.
On Sept. 14, FHWA granted conditional provisional approval to toll Virginia’s I-95, and seven years earlier, gave Missouri approval to toll I-70. Last year, the agency rejected Pennsylvania’s request to toll I-80.
The bills also would remove the limit on how many Value Pricing Pilot programs, which use highway congestion management strategies, the agency could allow nationally. The VPP is a separate entity from ISRRP and permits tolling, but also non-tolling means, which can be mileage-based charges for insurance, taxes and leasing fees.
Current law allows the FHWA to approve VPP agreements with a maximum of 15 states and each state can have an unlimited number of VPP programs. Fourteen states now have a VPP program, which provides funding to support studies and implementation.
— Jill Dunn
FORMER TRUCK DRIVER Marcos Costa was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison after being convicted of manslaughter and reckless driving charges in the 2009 crash on the Angeles Crest Highway northeast of Los Angeles that killed two people. Costa gets credit for time served, or roughly half the length of the sentence. Costa was driving a 25-ton, double-deck car hauler in the wreck, which killed two people. Later, the California Department of Transportation banned five-axle trucks from a section of the highway.
AAA sues to stop NY port toll increases
The American Automobile Association of New York and New Jersey has sued the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to stop toll increases on New York City bridges that began in September.
The complaint in federal court in Manhattan claims the higher tolls violate a federal law that requires interstate tolls be set at “just and reasonable” rates, AAA says.
Toll increases began Sept. 18 on the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and the George Washington, Bayonne and Goethals bridges.
The Port Authority says the suit “is without merit.”
Toll for E-ZPass customers during peak hours rose from $40 to $50 for a five-axle truck and will rise by another $2 an axle each December in 2012 through 2015. Cash customers pay a $3 per-axle fine. Tolls apply to eastbound crossings.
The current E-ZPass off-peak fee is $35 and the overnight fee is $27.50.
— Staff reports
ARIZONA. Paving of Interstate 40 east of Flagstaff from mile post 218 to 225 is scheduled to continue until mid-November, the state Department of Transportation said. Work runs from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday.
FLORIDA. Tolls on all state toll roads and bridges will increase in 2012 as the state Department of Transportation implements an indexing of toll rates. The 2007 legislature mandated an inflation index every one to five years. A five-axle truck will pay $11 if using SunPass on the Everglades Parkway (Alligator Alley) in South Florida. The cash or toll-by-plate rate will go to $12. Additional axles will cost $2.75 under SunPass and $3 for cash.
IOWA. Closed by Missouri River flooding since June 15, Interstate 29 has reopened from Rock Port, Mo., at exit 110 to U.S. 34 exit 32 near Pacific Junction, Iowa. Exit 1, Iowa 333 to Hamburg, and exit 10, Iowa 2 to Nebraska City, remain closed to repair both roads.
LOUISIANA. Heavy trucks using I-10 are rerouted to the I-210 loop around Lake Charles until repair work is completed on the Calcasieu River Bridge in 2012. Truckers are encouraged to use the I-210 bridge under normal conditions because it carries less traffic and the approach is less steep.
MAINE. Speed limits along Interstate 95 north of Bangor have been increased from 65 mph to 75 mph. The new limit is the highest legal speed east of the Mississippi River.
MARYLAND. Tolls on Baltimore Harbor bridges and tunnels will be increasing the next two years following action by the Maryland Transportation Authority. The increases will be in two steps, Jan. 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. Cash rates for 5-axle vehicles on the JFK Highway (I-95) and the Hatem Memorial Bridge will go from $30 to $36 on Jan. 1 and to $48 on July 1, 2013. For the Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95 and I-395), Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895) and Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695), the cash toll for 5-axle trucks increases from $12 to $18 on Jan. 1 and $24 on July 1, 2013. For the Harry W. Nice Bridge (U.S. 301) and William Preston Lane (Bay) Bridge (U.S. 50 and U.S. 301), the cash rate rises from $15 to $36 by 2013.
MICHIGAN. A new law aligns the state’s commercial driver’s licensing rules with federal regulations. Fines for first offenders of out-of-service violators are set at $2,500, with repeat offenses set at $5,000 each. Carriers convicted of authorizing a driver with OOS status to get behind the wheel face fines of up to $25,000.
MISSOURI. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $2 million in emergency funds for repairs to roads and bridges damaged by summer floods.
OREGON. During a commercial vehicle driver inspection operation Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, 810 inspections resulted in 33 percent of drivers placed out of service for safety violations. This compared with the 27 percent average for a similar exercise in July, and with the 2010 driver out-of-service rate of 26 percent. The national driver out-of-service rate is about 6 percent.
PENNSYLVANIA. Lane closures for resurfacing are under way evenings in both directions on I-476, the Northeastern Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The shutdowns are taking place over 12 miles near Lansdale and will last through November. Speed limits are reduced to 40 mph.
SOUTH CAROLINA. Drivers on northbound I-95 should expect delays or take a detour until Nov. 16 as repairs are made to the Lake Marion Bridge southeast of Columbia. One of two northbound lanes is closed for two miles beginning at Mile Marker 98. Rigs wider than 8.5 feet must take a detour that routes traffic to I-26 east toward Charleston. An alternate route is I-26 west to Columbia, I-77 north to I-20 east and then east to I-95.
UTAH. R Place Truckers Plaza on Interstate 80, Exit 1/410 at Wendover, is the latest truck stop to offer electrification as part of the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project. The AMBEST facility at the Nevada border has 32 electrified spaces.
VIRGINIA. The Federal Highway Administration has granted the state preliminary approval to toll I-95 under a pilot program. The state estimates it could generate $250 million in five years. Virginia will be one of only three states in the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program with authority to toll Interstate facilities.
Court issues final order in Minnesota fatigue suit
A federal judge has stipulated statewide posting for his ruling that Minnesota troopers respect truckers’ constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure during fatigue enforcement.
U.S. Judge Donovan Frank for the Minnesota district upheld his order regarding truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s case against Minnesota State Patrol. Frank required his order be posted conspicuously on locations that include MSP websites and offices and emailed to every commercial vehicle enforcement officer.
The court will continue jurisdiction of the issue until September 2013.
The court required the patrol rescind driver out-of-service orders for the 17-month period ended Sept. 30, 2010, if based solely on a determination of fatigue, then correct this information in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data. The patrol should rescind only the driver fatigue determination and not the out-of service order for drivers criminally convicted for driving fatigue impaired or involved in a motor vehicle crash.
The patrol referred a request for comment to Minnesota’s attorney general office, but no one was immediately available.
— Jill Dunn
House leaders oppose HOS proposal
Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica’s Sept. 23 letter to President Obama asked the hours-of-service proposal be withdrawn and to continue the current rule.
The Florida Republican wrote the proposed rule would be an unnecessary and costly regulatory burden on truckers, given the improved record of truck safety since the 2008 rule became effective. Other Republican committee members signed the letter: Tennessee’s John Duncan, highway subcommittee chairman; Pennsylvania’s Bill Schuster, chairman of the railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials subcommittee; and Missouri’s Sam Graves, committee member and Small Business Committee chairman.
At press time, FMCSA was expected to publish an HOS final rule by its Oct. 28 deadline.
— Jill Dunn