Three compete for award
The three contenders for the 2011 Owner-Operator of the Year award are Kirby Killgore of O&S Trucking, Larry Severson of Dart Transit Co. and Bryan Smith of Art Pape Transfer.
The contest is sponsored by Overdrive and the Truckload Carriers Association. The grand prizewinner will be announced at TCA’s annual convention March 4-7, at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla.
Also announced there will be the 2011 Company Driver of the Year, sponsored by Truckers News and TCA. The three contenders are John Moeller of Roehl Transport, James Coles of MacKinnon Transport, and Ronald Round of Pottle’s Transportation.
The six truckers competing for the honors were among other finalists featured in Overdrive or Truckers News during 2011.
“We are pleased to be able to honor these exemplary truckers in the pages of Overdrive and Truckers News,” said Jeff Mason, senior vice president of trucking for Randall-Reilly Business Media & Information Co., which publishes Overdrive and Truckers News. “And thanks to the generosity of our sponsors – Cummins and Dodge – each winner will receive a Cummins-
powered Dodge pickup truck.”
To be eligible for the contests, driver applicants had to meet certain minimum criteria, such as having driven one million consecutive, accident-free miles.
Selection of the top three in each category was based on safety record, efforts to enhance the
industry’s image and contributions to their communities. For owner operators, judges also reviewed business plans and financial statements.
The 2012 competition is underway. Finalists are being profiled in
both magazines this year. The top three in both categories will be
named in late 2012 and the grand prizewinners will be recognized at TCA’s 2013 Annual Convention in Las Vegas.
— Staff Reports
NEARLY $1.6 BILLION from the Federal Highway Administration will be available to states and territories to help cover the costs of repairing roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters. Vermont, hit by Hurricane Irene, will receive $125.6 million; North Dakota will receive $89.1 million for damage caused by spring 2011 runoff; and Iowa will receive $37.5 million to repair damage caused by Missouri River flooding.
FREIGHT INCREASED 0.3 percent in November from October, as measured by the American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index. For the year, tonnage was up 5.4 percent over the same period in 2010.
CLASS 8 TRUCK ORDERS for December were 46 percent higher than in November and 11 percent greater than a year earlier, says FTR Associates. Modest growth is expected in 2012.
DAIMLER TRUCKS North America will add a second shift and nearly double production at its Freightliner Truck Manufacturing Plant in Cleveland, N.C., this year. The company plans to hire about 1,100 workers to increase production. The increase in production capacity is designed to reduce a six-month order backlog for Cascadias.
Cross-border program lawsuits advance
A court has consolidated lawsuits opposing the U.S. cross-border program with Mexico. Meanwhile, a second Mexican carrier has gained operating authority under the program.
The Teamsters union, Public Citizen and Sierra Club petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Nov. 15. The court granted the Department of Justice’s request to transfer that case to the District of Columbia’s appellate court, where the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had filed suit July 6, also seeking to block the program from proceeding.
On Jan. 6, the court ordered oral arguments in both cases are to be on the same day before the same panel of judges, but no date had been set. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s brief was due Feb. 1 and the petitioners’ reply brief Feb. 22.
The agency had granted provisional operating authority to Moises Alvarez Perez of Tijuana, Baja California Dec. 28. The carrier, DBA Distribuidora Marina El Pescador, lists one truck and one driver, according to a Jan. 9 FMCSA report.
Transportes Olympic, which has one truck and two drivers, was the first program participant to deliver beyond the border zone Oct. 21. The carrier, based in Apodaca, Nuevo León, is the only applicant to receive permanent operating authority.
Distribuidora Marina, Transportes Olympic and Grupo Behr of Apodaca, Nuevo León, have cleared Pre-Authority Screening Audits, which the agency conducts on applicants to verify program compliance.
FMCSA had intended to grant Grupo Behr authority, but announced Oct. 14 it would extend review to investigate questions raised by groups on its PASA results.
The agency reported Jan. 9 it had conducted compliance reviews in Mexico on Distribuidora Marina and Transportes Olympic in February 2009 under the previous cross-border program.
PASA results are pending for three additional program applicants.
On Oct. 20, the agency’s Office of Inspector General began its program audit for Congress, in accordance with 2007 law. It will decide if sufficient data exists to determine if the program reduces trucking safety and whether compliance can be assured.
Turnpike rates rise
Turnpike toll rates in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey increased Jan. 1.
Under the new rates, the cost to travel the entire 241-mile Ohio Turnpike from Indiana to Pennsylvania for five-axle vehicles increases to $44 from $40 for cash customers. The E-ZPass rate for the end-to-end turnpike rises to $35 from $32.
Rates for travel between one or two interchanges may not change, the Ohio Turnpike Commission said. The new rates were approved by the Ohio Turnpike Commission in March 2009. View 2012 rates at ohioturnpike.org.
Cash tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike rose 10 percent on Jan. 1, while E-ZPass rates stayed the same.
For a trucker driving from the Ohio border to the Delaware River Bridge, the five-axle cash rate increased to $185.50 from $168.60. Rates are unchanged for E-ZPass customers, who account for about two-thirds of Turnpike travelers, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said.
The increase is applied to all vehicle classes on all Turnpike sections except the Southern Beltway (Turnpike 576) in Allegheny and Washington counties, where rates are unchanged, the PTC said. For details, go to paturnpike.com.
In New Jersey, cash five-axle rates for the length of the New Jersey Turnpike jumped more than 50 percent to $49.75 from $32.50. E-ZPass tolls increased to $45.45 from $29.70. Garden State Parkway tolls rose 50 percent.
This is the second phase of a two-phase toll increase approved in 2008. Visit www.state.nj.us/turnpike for details.
— Staff reports
— Jill Dunn
A FORMER FEDERAL Motor Carrier Safety Administration official in New York state was sentenced to 18 months in prison for accepting bribes from trucking companies.
James H. Wood, 45, of Delevan, N.Y., former supervisor of the Buffalo office of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, pled guilty in June to taking bribes from third parties working for Canadian trucking companies. Wood also was ordered to forfeit $41,300.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico rose 12 percent in October over a year earlier to $79 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S.-Canada trade increased 14 percent year-over-year, while U.S.-Mexico gained 9 percent.
Baltimore bridge tolls rising
Tolls on Baltimore Harbor bridges and tunnels were raised Jan. 1, the first of two toll hikes over the next 17 months.
The cash rate for five-axle vehicles on the JFK Highway (I-95) and the Hatem Memorial Bridge (U.S. 40) rose from $30 to $36 and will increase 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 five-axle trucks increased from $12 to $18 on Jan. 1 and will go to $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 the $15 to $36 by 2013.
— Staff reports
December strong for trucking jobs
The for-hire trucking industry added 5,100 new payroll employees in December, the most in one month since March, according to preliminary numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics released.
The gain comes on top of small upward adjustments for October and November.
Compared with December 2010, trucking employment is up by 40,100 jobs, or 3.2 percent. The number of trucking jobs, just under 1.3 million, remains 157,200 jobs, or 10.8 percent, below peak employment in January 2007.
The BLS numbers for trucking reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet.
— Avery Vise
TRUCKERS FOR TROOPS campaign by Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association raised $73,560 for care packages for military personnel overseas, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shell Rotella donated $5,000.
TRAILER NET ORDERS increased in November to 28,393, according to ACT Research. The monthly order volume is the strongest since March 2006.
Safety board urges total cell phone use ban
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended banning all U.S. drivers from using mobile phones or sending text messages, even with headsets or portable speakers, to prevent distracted-driving crashes.
Systems built into cars and global positioning systems wouldn’t be affected nor would passengers. Phones could be used to call 911.
NTSB announced its recommenda-tion during a hearing detailing its investigation into an August 2010 crash in Gray Summit, Mo., in which a 19-year-old pickup driver sent or received 11 text messages in 13 minutes before hitting the rear of a tractor-trailer. Two school buses collided with the stopped trucks. The pickup driver and one bus passenger were killed, and the truck driver and 37 other people were injured.
NTSB’s recommendation would have to be adopted separately by each state since states have authority over driver behavior. States should adopt electronic-device bans and support the laws with aggressive enforcement like they have with seatbelt use and drunk driving, NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said.
Fatal accidents caused by distracted operators have increased in all modes of transportation, including trucks, planes, trains, boats, buses and private cars and trucks, Hersman said. The use of phones by operators is so prevalent that securing call records and the devices themselves is one of the first steps investigators now take after accidents, she said.
NTSB called for a total ban on mobile phones for truck and bus drivers in September. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned handheld cell phones for interstate truck and bus drivers last month and banned texting in January 2010.
— Staff reports
TEN TRUCKER FAMILIES from the United States and Canada received $700 each in this year’s Trucker Charity Christmas Group fundraiser. The 10 families were selected from among 23 nominations. Since the all-volunteer Christmas group was formed in 2008, more than $37,000 has been raised and distributed to 59 needy trucking families. The money is donated by drivers and others in the industry.
Groups want hours lawsuit dismissed
Both sides in the lawsuit that resulted in the new hours of service rule have asked a federal court to dismiss the case.
The Washington, D.C., appellate court had asked both parties on Dec. 7 to file motions to govern further court proceedings. They were given until Jan. 23, when the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Teamsters union, Public Citizen, Truck Safety Coalition and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration filed a joint motion requesting voluntary dismissal of the case.
The court, per the parties’ 2009 settlement agreement, is holding the case in abeyance while the agency undertook a new HOS rulemaking to replace the 2008 HOS rule that prompted the lawsuit.
— Jill Dunn
FLORIDA. Two I-75 rest areas near Tampa-St. Petersburg that were torn down have been rebuilt. The new rest area on northbound I-75 north of State Road 56 (Exit 275) has 58 truck parking spaces, while the rest area on the southbound freeway south of County Road 54 (Exit 279) has 53 truck parking spaces.
ILLINOIS. Truck speed limits on non-interstate highways in the state increased Jan. 1. Big rig speeds on various four-lane roads rose to 65 mph from 55 mph on more rural roads outside of Chicago, matching the passenger car speed limit.
KENTUCKY. The U.S. 60 Ledbetter Bridge across the Kentucky River is closed to heavy trucks until 2014 as the state builds a new bridge nearby. Truckers face a 120-mile detour on U.S. 60 to U.S. 641.
MARYLAND. A state pilot program provides truck parking in select park and ride lots during snowstorms of six inches or more. A new smartphone application also is available to locate parking at 45 locations statewide where park and ride lot snow removal also is provided.
NEVADA. The state banned all drivers from texting and using hand-held cell phones while driving. Hands-free cell phone use is allowed if the device is used throughout the call. The law is a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can stop and cite drivers solely for that offense.
NEW HAMPSHIRE. A new law increases the maximum weight limit by up to 400 pounds for trucks equipped with auxiliary power units. A 2005 federal law allows states to permit trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound limit to encourage use of idling-reduction technology.
OHIO. Construction on I-75 in Dayton will continue until 2017. The first phase involved adding a third I-75 lane in the area of Ohio Route 4, while removing a sharp curve and other work to relieve congestion. Work is ongoing to add lanes in the area of U.S. 35, with the last phase of the project ahead to improve the interstate through downtown Dayton.
OREGON. Under a new law, trucks that aren’t equipped with an auxiliary power unit or other idle-reduction technology are prohibited from idling more than five minutes an hour on property open to the public. Idling is permitted for defrosting, air conditioning and heating when outside temperatures are below 50 degrees and above 75 degrees. Idling up to 30 minutes is allowed while a truck is waiting to load or unload, as well as loading or unloading.
PENNSYLVANIA. Cash tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike increased 10 percent on Jan. 1, while E-ZPass rates stayed the same. For a trucker driving from the Ohio border to the Delaware River Bridge, the 5-axle cash rate increased to $185.50 from $168.60. Rates remained the same on the Southern Beltway (Turnpike 576) in Allegheny and Washington counties.
TENNESSEE. A bridge for U.S. Hwy. 41 over the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake is expected to be complete by February 2014. The existing bridge has been closed. A detour route that adds 1.5 miles to the current route has been posted.
Court sets EOBR deadline for FMCSA
A federal court has given the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration until Feb. 6 to answer a cease-and-desist motion regarding truck electronic on-board recorders.
On Jan. 24, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued the deadline for the FMCSA’s response to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s motion.
Last August, the association successfully appealed the agency’s 2010 recorder rule. That regulation would have required EOBRs for all trucks used by a carrier with a greater than 10 percent rate of noncompliance with hours-of-service regulations in any single compliance review
The court determined that “the rule cannot stand because the agency failed to consider an issue that it was statutorily required to address.” The Truck and Bus Safety and Regulatory Reform Act of 1988 “requires the agency to ensure that any such device is not used to ‘harass vehicle operators.’”
— Jill Dunn
TCA Highway Angels named
Guy Knudsen, a driver for ABF Freight System of Fort Smith, Ark.; Gyslain “Juice” Lemelin, a driver for N. Yanke Transfer of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and W. Paul Lothary, a driver for Tom Joy & Son Trucking of Peshtigo, Wis., have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association.
On Jan. 7, 2011, Knudsen was driving westbound on Interstate 80 east of Reno, Nev., when he came around a blind curve in a narrow canyon. Blocking the road was an upside-down car with no lights. He swerved but could not avoid hitting it.
As Knudsen asked his dispatcher to call 911, another truck hit the vehicle. Together, Knudsen and this truck driver attempted to prevent traffic from further hitting the wreck.
Knudsen figured the driver of the original vehicle must have been ejected from the car prior to the collisions. He injured himself and risked his own life by jumping over a barricade and sliding down a steep embankment to the eastbound lanes. There, he found a dazed and confused woman with a head injury near the edge of the freeway.
Knudsen moved her to safety as the ambulance and police arrived at the scene above. Eventually, Knudsen got the disoriented woman to stay in place while he climbed back up the embankment to notify the authorities where she could be found.
On Oct. 23, Lemelin was heading west on the Trans-Canada Highway near Virden, Manitoba, when he was passed by two people in a pickup truck. As they passed by, Lemelin smelled a burning chemical-like odor coming from the pickup. Just moments later, he saw white smoke in the distance and knew the motorists were in trouble.
By the time Lemelin arrived at the scene, the truck was on fire. He used his fire extinguisher to put out the flames while the motorists removed their dogs and valuables from the vehicle. When the fire was out, he allowed the couple to use his cell phone to call for assistance.
On Nov. 7, Lothary used his truck to block traffic from causing further harm in the aftermath of a serious accident on Highway 41 in Germantown, Wis.
One man was pinned inside his vehicle, his nose was split open and had numerous injuries to his eyes and face. Lothary checked his breathing, placed pressure on his wounds and made him comfortable until authorities arrived.
— Staff reports
Cargo theft rises in 2011
FreightWatch International Jan. 19 said the number of U.S. cargo theft incidents reported last year increased 8.8 percent from the year before.
FreightWatch said 974 cargo theft incidents were recorded last year, with an average value of $319,000 per theft incident. Many cargo thefts aren’t reported.
“While the rate of theft continues to rise, we are pleased to see the average value per incident begin to decline,” said Barry Conlon, chief executive officer of FreightWatch, a global logistics security services provider. “This shows that shippers and the industry as a whole are beginning to secure their high-value cargo more effectively, forcing criminals to target less valuable loads.”
According to the firm, the most commonly targeted freight in 2011 was food and beverage products, electronics and building materials. Specific items most targeted by criminals include televisions, canned food products, cell phones, energy drinks and roofing materials. Those items can be sold easily on the black market.
The top four states for cargo theft were California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas. More than 87 percent of the thefts were full truckload or container thefts.
Thefts targeting electronics continued to decline from previous years, accounting for 17 percent of incidents last year, compared with 38 percent five years ago.
One of the reasons the average theft value dropped was the pharmaceutical theft average loss fell sharply from previous years.
— Staff reports
Embezzler gets 13-year sentence
A Kentucky judge has sentenced a former Mercer Transportation employee to 13 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1 million from the company.
On Jan. 11, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Irv Maze sentenced Jennifer Carmichael, 37, of Louisville. Carmichael pleaded guilty to the entire 96-count indictment, according to the Office of Commonwealth Attorney, which had prosecuted the case.
A Louisville Metro Police Financial Crimes Unit investigation indicated the mother of two children had embezzled from the owner-operator truckload carrier over an eight-year period.
— Staff reports
Navistar loses SCR lawsuit
A judge dismissed Navistar’s legal bid to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recall 2010 model year engines using selective catalytic reduction to cut truck emissions.
Navistar is using in-cylinder exhaust gas recirculation-only technology to meet the current standards in conjunction with banked EPA credits for meeting and beating pre-existing emissions regulations in effect prior to the 2010 regulations.
Navistar alleged in the suit filed July 5 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the truck maker, a contractor it hired and the California Air Resources Board all say nitrogen oxide emissions skyrocket when drivers don’t keep diesel exhaust fluid topped off, rendering EPA’s SCR rule “irrelevant” altogether. Furthermore, Navistar accused EPA Director Lisa Jackson of not doing her duty to uphold the Clean Air Act and her agency of not doing its part to protect public health. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed Navistar’s claims.
Navistar said in July the lawsuit was about ensuring a level playing field in the heavy-duty truck market. Testing done by Navistar showed that operators can “defeat” SCR systems by adding water or other substances to the system instead of DEF, allowing the trucks to operate indefinitely, in violation of 2010 emissions regulations. SCR engine manufacturers, however, said the lawsuit was nothing new.
EPA in June had updated its guidance for certification of truck engines using SCR to reduce emissions, calling on SCR engine makers to continue developing warning systems that alert drivers when the truck’s DEF tank is nearly empty or filled with a liquid other than DEF. The June guidance, mostly in response to previous claims made by Navistar that SCR technology can be circumvented, also urged OEMs using SCR to research methods that would inhibit tampering with SCR system operation and incorporate further inducements for drivers to comply.
Navistar previously had sued both EPA and CARB over their acceptance of SCR technology without stronger measures to prevent engine operation without DEF or an operational SCR system. The truck maker in 2010 settled both lawsuits by garnering a commitment for further review.
— Staff reports n