FMCSA nixes EOBR mandate
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule that formally rescinds its April 2010 final rule concerning electronic onboard recorders for hours-of-service compliance. FMCSA’s action responds to a court decision that vacated the rule that would have mandated EOBRs on all trucks used by certain non-compliant carriers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in August 2011 vacated the agency’s EOBR rule following a challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA had argued that the final rule had not met federal regulations stipulating FMCSA ensure the devices not be used to harass vehicle operators.
An EOBR mandate that would cover all carriers, though, is included in Senate’s version of a multiyear highway bill that, at press time, was in a House-Senate conference committee. It’s not known if the committee’s compromise version of the two bills will include the mandate or not.
Despite the appeals court decision, FMCSA on Feb. 10 announced its intent to move forward with rulemaking regarding EOBRs and hours of service. The agency also announced via the Federal Register steps to obtain comprehensive data to support its rulemaking, including:
Listening sessions on the issue of driver harassment (held in March and April).
Tasking the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to assist in developing material to support the rulemaking, including technical specifications for EOBRs and their potential to be used to harass drivers.
Conducting research by surveying drivers, carriers and vendors regarding harassment issues.
The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee on Feb. 8 finalized a report on mitigating the use of EOBRs to harass drivers that provides suggestions to FMCSA. The document contained information the agency should explore in any rulemaking on EOBRs for hours of service compliance.
Harassment issues relative to electronic logs cover driver relationships with law enforcement personnel and carriers, tilting heavily toward the latter and favoring drivers’ positions in certain instances.
— Staff reports
States looking for trucking options
This year, three California ports will begin a project to move freight with barges instead of trucks. Meanwhile, Texas officials hope to decrease truck movement with a shuttle system.
In recent years, government entities facing congested roads, emissions and shrinking maintenance dollars have sought ways to transport cargo by means other than trucks.
The Oakland, Stockton and West Sacramento ports will share a federal stimulus grant to establish a barge container system to move freight between the ports, according to the California Department of Transportation. “The California Green Trade Corridor/Marine Highway Project is a $30 million investment to develop a marine highway system as an alternative to shipping freight by truck,” it stated March 14.
The project, expected to begin this year, will eliminate thousands of truck hauls on the I-580, I-80, I-205 and I-5 corridors, says CDOT.
Last year, Freight Shuttle International submitted the only response to the Texas DOT’s request for proposals for a low-emission freight transportation facility on the I-35 right-of-way. In return for up to 50 years of lease payments, Freight Shuttle would finance, build and maintain a shuttle between San Antonio and Dallas.
Using steel wheels and electric power, FS transporters carry a standard-size freight container or an over-the-road trailer between two points 600 miles apart or shorter. Electrical single-unit transporters, elevated guide ways and a terminal are linked by an intelligent communications network for freight delivery.
— Jill Dunn
U.S. trucker jailed in Mexico
Demco Express driver Jabin Akeem Bogan faces charges on smuggling ammunition into Mexico after he missed his exit in El Paso and wound up in a lane designated for Juarez, Chihuahua. Mexican authorities imprisoned Bogan April 16 for entering the country with 268,000 rounds of ammunition bound for Phoenix.
The 27-year old Dallas resident said a law enforcement officer told him he could continue on the Bridge of the Americas, then do a U-turn and return to El Paso.
Bogan could face up to 30 years in prison on smuggling charges.
He is receiving a swell of support in the U.S., though, from fellow truckers and a congressman. Daniel Fuller of Hotels4Truckers.com started the FreeJabin.com website to provide information and contacts to express support.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said April 27 he wants to “work with the Mexicans to develop a process to deal with individuals who inadvertently enter the bridge lanes and end up in Mexico.”
Carlos Spector, known for his asylum and immigration litigation, is representing Bogan.
— Staff reports
John Anderson to give free show
Award-winning country singer John Anderson will play a free concert for Great American Trucking Show attendees Friday, Aug. 24, at the Dallas Convention Center.
The Mobil Delvac-sponsored concert starts at 5:30 p.m., and tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. at the Mobil Delvac tent in the show’s registration lobby.
In the early 1980s, Anderson gained fame with hits such as “Swingin,’” “Wild and Blue,” “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” “1959,” “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories” and “Black Sheep.” “Swingin’” was the Country Music Association’s 1983 Song of the Year
He returned to prominence in the 1990s with the release of his platinum-plus album, Seminole Wind. The lead single from that album, “Straight Tequila Night,” became a No. 1 hit on country charts. The album’s title track also reached No. 1.
He’s since released five other albums.
The 2012 Great American Trucking Show will have more than 500 exhibitors, the Pride & Polish National Championship, SmartSessions educational seminars and a Driver Recruitment Pavilion.
GATS will also host the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference, produced in conjunction with Overdrive publisher Randall-Reilly and the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, prior to the show.
— Staff reports
ROADCHECK 2012 is scheduled for June 5-7. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual inspection blitz employs 10,000 CVSA-certified federal, state and local enforcement inspectors to conduct truck and bus inspections at 1,500 North American locations.
SURFACE TRADE between the United States and its North American neighbors was up 17.4 percent in February from the same month in 2011. In February, 87.4 percent of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico moved via land.
AFTER SHEDDING jobs in March for the first time since July 2011, for-hire trucking companies added 1,800 payroll jobs in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
AN AMENDED INTERMODAL equipment rule was given to the Office of Management and Budget from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in April. The rule takes responsibility away from motor carriers to prepare a driver-vehicle inspection report of intermodal freight even if no damage, defects or deficiencies are made known to the driver.
Congress piecing together multiyear highway bill
House and Senate conferees have started work to pass a two-year surface transportation funding bill – the first multi-year bill in seven years.
Conference members met for the first time May 8 to work on a compromise between House and Senate proposals. Funding is currently provided through a three-month extension that ends June 30.
While the House and Senate bills are similar in length and scope, the House’s version of the bill addresses practically none of the policy included in the Senate bill. The inclusion of the environmental policy and the Keystone Pipeline, both of which drew veto threats from the White House, indicate that conference could be difficult.
Also in the omnibus bills are other points that could impact owner-operators, including an electronic onboard recorder mandate.
Both versions of the bill propose to increase the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funding from $122 million to $1 billion annually, which has come under fire by OOIDA for funding too many public-private toll projects. The Federal Highway Administration administers the program to distribute loans to major surface transportation projects.
Other groups, like the Truck Rental and Leasing Association, are urging Congress to extend in the bill expiring tax incentives aimed at accelerating the production of natural gas resources and utilizing the alternative fuel in the industry.
The supported incentives include tax credits and rebates for fuel production, fuel purchases, infrastructure development and vehicle purchases.
— Staff reports
CSA change could help flatbedders, hurt hazmat haulers
Flatbed carriers will get some relief on their safety rating under a change in how load securement is weighted in the CSA program.
Bryan Price, CSA program manager for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, spoke about the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program in March in Louisville, Ky., previewing some of the changes that are expected to take effect in July.
Possibly the biggest change in the revised Safety Management System is moving load securement violations from CSA’s cargo BASIC (behavior analysis and safety improvement) into the vehicle BASIC, Price said. That leaves only hazmat standards under cargo, and that BASIC will be renamed hazmat.
Flatbedders have considered the current system’s treatment of securement unfair because their load securement violations are much more obvious than those pulling dry vans or reefers, so the cargo BASIC disproportionately affects their CSA ratings. FMCSA agrees, Price said, and the securement violations in the new framework will have a smaller effect on carrier scores.
However, because of the change, carriers who haul hazmat only occasionally – as opposed to full-time hazmat carriers – may see their scores increase, meaning a less-safe score.
Carriers who haul hazmat just often enough to meet the hazmat BASIC standard will be inspected as such, and because the drivers aren’t regular hazmat haulers, will probably see an increase in violations.
Another change will be to more accurately assign violations involving intermodal equipment so that violations a driver should have addressed in a pre-trip inspection will be assigned to the carrier, not the intermodal equipment provider.
The changes can be previewed until the end of June on the CSA website at csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.
— Max Heine
TRAFFIC SIGN replacement deadlines have been eliminated by the U.S. DOT, giving states and local governments the opportunity to replace traffic signs on an as-needed basis, instead of by a DOT-specified date.
Study: CARB fuel policies will kill 617,000 jobs
The California Trucking Association released a study in April that shows significant job losses directly attributable to the California Air Resources Board’s fuel policies. Goods movement and agriculture sectors especially will be hard hit if the policies are allowed to go into effect as currently designed, CTA says.
CTA says the report, titled “The Impact of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Cap-and-Trade Programs on California Retail Diesel Prices,” attempts to show the effect that CARB’s regulatory actions will have on the state’s retail diesel future. It projects a $6.69 per gallon price tag.
The average price difference between California and neighboring states would be $2.33 per gallon when accounting for taxes.
According to the study, between 2015 and 2020, these higher “California-only” diesel fuel costs will cause a loss of nearly 617,000 jobs in the containerized import sector, $68.5 billion in lost state domestic product, $21.7 billion in lost income and $5.3 billion in lost state and local taxes. CTA says the study states that a “California-only” diesel will put California’s transportation sector at a significant competitive disadvantage.
“CTA is supportive of the production and use of alternative fuels, but the cost gap between CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the diesel fuel that the other 49 states will continue to use is unacceptable,” says Scott Blevins, president of Mountain Valley Express and 2012 CTA president.
“This is a serious setback for any business dependent on diesel fuel for its operations. State regulators need to step down from their ivory tower and understand the impact of these unfair policies on California truckers. CARB’s blind pursuit of policies that will drive many California-based trucking companies out of state or out of business should be of great concern to all Californians.”
CTA says the report states the diesel fuel price increases will cast an even wider net, affecting food, fuel, clothing and other areas.
— Staff reports
Driver gets 18 months for falsifying logs
A Philadelphia trucker was sentenced to 18 months in prison for falsifying his log book in connection to a sentence he was already serving for vehicular homicide.
On May 7, U.S. District Court Judge James Knoll Gardner sentenced Valerijs Nikolaevich Belovs, 58, on 15 counts of making false statements in connection with a falsified log book, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Philadelphia judge also fined Belovs $1,000, levied a $1,500 special assessment and prohibited him from operating a commercial vehicle without court permission.
In October, Belovs pleaded guilty to the charges for 15 false log book entries made in the 13 months leading up to his Jan. 23, 2009 crash. Three days before the crash, he had left Guadalupe, Calif., with a load of broccoli bound for South Philadelphia and New Jersey’s produce markets, according to the U.S. transportation inspector general.
Belovs kept four log books, each falsified to fit possible situations with authorities.
The day of the accident, Belovs rounded a curve on Interstate 76 in Philadelphia when he encountered stopped rush hour traffic. He rear-ended a car, causing a four-car chain reaction accident. The driver of the car Belovs hit died, the passenger sustained serious injuries and four other commuters were injured.
Belovs was sentenced to 23 months in prison and a $300 fine on April 26, 2010. He had pleaded guilty to various state charges, including vehicular homicide.
— Jill Dunn
A STRATEGIC PLAN for 2012-2016 has been posted online by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The plan has three core principles: Raising the bar to enter into trucking, requiring high safety standards and removing high-risk carriers and drivers.
Four Mexican carriers complete safety audit
Four of the 17 carriers that have applied for operating authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pilot program now have completed the Pre-Authorization Safety Audit required for participation. The agency rescinded the preliminary approval of one of those applicants, Grupo Behr, pending further investigation.
Additionally, two other Mexican carriers have dropped out of the applicant pool. In March, the FMCSA dismissed Autotransportes Libre Comercio because of a conditional safety rating, and Trinity Industries De Mexico withdrew because of internal issues.
The agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee met May 23 to continue work on designating a subcommittee to provide independent monitoring of the pilot program.
— Jill Dunn
ALABAMA. Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill that made the state the 38th to ban texting while driving for all drivers. The law takes effect Aug. 1.
ARIZONA. An ongoing pavement improvement project about 80 miles west of downtown Phoenix along 11 miles of I-10 east of Quartzsite will reduce the highway to one lane in each direction for approximately two miles between mileposts 52 and 63 from 7 p.m. to noon daily. Completion is expected in July.
CALIFORNIA. An Interstate 80 Eastbound Cordelia Truck Scales Relocation Project in Fairfield is scheduled to be complete in June 2013. It will include weigh-in-motion scales, multiple truck inspection bays, a new administrative building and additional truck parking.
GEORGIA. The Northwest Corridor transportation improvement project on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties will build two new managed lanes along the west side of I-75 between its interchanges with I-285 and I-575. The project will be completed by 2018.
IOWA. Periodic lane closures on I-19 southbound will be required between Floyd River and Bacon Creek to accommodate retaining wall construction. Completion is expected by Nov. 1.
VIRGINIA. The state will build a new Midtown Tunnel and rehabilitate existing tunnels to help provide congestion relief to drivers in Norfolk and Portsmouth.
Volvo planning 13-liter LNG engine
Volvo Trucks announced plans to launch its own 13-liter liquefied natural gas engine for North America in 2014.
The new LNG engine’s advanced high-pressure diesel ignition technology will provide significant fuel efficiency gains compared with current natural gas products, the company says.
Combined with the company’s previously announced offering of compressed natural gas-powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs, the new engine will round out a complete range of natural gas-powered offerings.
The company is also testing another fuel that can be produced from natural gas, DME (dimethyl ether), which could become an attractive alternative for the North American market.
“We’re already delivering factory-built CNG-powered trucks,” said Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales & Marketing. “As the long-haul fueling infrastructure develops, the advanced technology in our new LNG engine will provide increased range and improved fuel efficiency in a seamlessly integrated Volvo powertrain.”
Volvo’s LNG engine will deliver a 30 percent fuel efficiency improvement compared with spark-ignition engines.
— Staff reports
Mexico clamping down on safety regs
On April 27, Mexican officials announced plans for stricter regulations, including barring loads up to 80 metric tons on two-lane roads. They also will increase the number of inspectors and truck scales and require inspection of all double-trailers in upcoming weeks.
Double-trailer accidents on secondary roads have been a problem in Mexico of late. An April 20 double-trailer truck collision with a bus left 43 dead and 27 injured.
Mexico’s trade organization for carriers, CANACAR, applauded the move for stricter regulations and criticized some trucking interest groups who argue heavier loads are synonymous with competitiveness.
“If the competitiveness of a country is measured by the number of tons transported in a truck, Mexico would be the champion of international competitiveness,” CANACAR said in a prepared statement.
— Jill Dunn