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| November 01, 2009

DOT plans to ban trucker texting

Truck and interstate bus drivers would be prohibited from using text messaging while driving under a rulemaking planned by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition, DOT plans to place restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving.

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A Virginia Tech study shows that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into a crash when texting on their phones.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s Oct. 1 announcement came after a two-day summit on distracted driving. DOT recognizes distracted driving as a problem among all drivers, but the department currently has authority only to regulate commercial vehicle operators.

Separately, the American Trucking Associations Executive Committee voted to support a bill introduced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to ban texting by all drivers. This legislation was drafted after several mass transit crashes were caused by distracted operators.

New research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a handheld cell phone.

As for more broadly targeted initiatives, LaHood pledged to work with Congress to ensure that the issue of distracted driving is appropriately addressed. He also called on state and local governments to work with U.S. DOT by making distracted driving part of their state highway plans, and by continuing to pass state and local laws against distracted driving in all vehicles, especially school buses.

A full webcast of the summit is available at http://www.dot.gov

 

Hepatitis C rate high in driver study

A New Mexico survey of long-haul truckers showed high rates of hepatitis C, but many infected were unaware they had it. The state health department’s research is the first nationwide effort to examine infection rates and high-risk behaviors among truckers.

The researchers examined sexually transmitted infections, HIV and hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus prevalence among 652 truck drivers at 11 New Mexico truck stops. While 8.5 percent of truckers tested positive for hepatitis C, only one trucker tested positive for HIV, one for gonorrhea and one for syphilis.

Eleven percent of drivers had injected drugs at least once, which researchers believe is what accounted for the high rate of hepatitis C.

Dr. Steve Jenison, medical director for New Mexico’s health department’s Infectious Diseases Bureau, conducted the research from 2004 to 2006.

“We know from other international studies that long-haul truck drivers in some countries have high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, but we wanted to learn if that was true in the United States,” Jenison said. “We also learned from the study that some of the truck drivers who were hepatitis C positive also engaged in risky behavior such as binge drinking, which puts them at higher risk for complications if they have hepatitis C.”

Drivers should consider hepatitis C testing and seek medical help if they have the disease, especially if they ever injected drugs or received blood transfusions prior to 1992.

“Despite the low measured prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in the study, many drivers reported sexual behaviors that would place them at risk for acquiring these infections,” he said.

— Jill Dunn

 

Short Hauls

PETERBILT MOTORS CO. said it is permanently closing its Madison, Tenn., truck assembly plant Dec. 1 as part of a realignment of its manufacturing operations. The Madison plant has not built trucks since the summer of 2008, when Peterbilt and United Auto Workers were unable to negotiate a new contract and the economy worsened.

HIGHWAY HERO nominations are being accepted through Nov. 30 by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which runs the annual program to recognize professional drivers whose brave actions helped others on the road. Nomination forms and program details may be found at www.goodyear.com/truck/news or by calling (330) 796-8183.

TRAFFIC DEATHS on U.S. roads fell to a record low in the first half of 2009, according to projections released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Estimates show that 16,626 people died in traffic crashes between January and June – a 7 percent decline from 17,871 for the same period last year. Projected figures for the period also show a record low fatality rate of 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.23 deaths during the same period in 2008.

 

Arrow’s Back On the Road returns

Arrow Truck Sales has launched its Back On The Road 2010 campaign, presented by Volvo Trucks North America.

In its third year, the campaign is designed to benefit a trucker in need of a truck and a job. This year, it will also consider nominations from truckers who help others or otherwise support the trucking industry.

Arrow is soliciting stories from truckers who may have lost their truck – and their livelihood – through circumstances beyond their control. Arrow is also accepting nominations based upon stories of truckers helping others.

The chosen trucker will receive a 2007 Volvo VNL670 and a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express.

In addition to the truck and work agreement, the winner will receive tires, an auxiliary power unit, ATBS consulting, fuel cards, filters and insurance, plus other products.

Country music star Aaron Tippin plans to return as celebrity spokesman for the 2010 campaign. A former truck driver, Tippin also will serve on the winner selection committee. Tippin’s latest album, “In Overdrive,” is dedicated to classic trucker songs.

Arrow will accept nominations until Dec. 6 at www.backontheroad2010.com. Applications must include a personal account of 250 to 750 words. The winner will be announced in March and receive the truck and other prizes during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

— Deirdra Drinkard

 

 

FMCSA to launch online driver records

A Driver Pre-Employment Screening Program will start in December, says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The DPES will allow carriers to access driver inspection and crash records electronically.

The program will effectively expand upon services offered by private companies, notably DAC reports provided by HireRight.

Currently federal and state law enforcement personnel have access to commercial driver safety records, and drivers can obtain the information through the Freedom of Information Act.

After the DPES is triggered, driver safety records will be made available to motor carriers regardless of state or jurisdiction. Under federal privacy laws, drivers must give written consent for their records to be released, as they do for DAC reports.

DPES will allow more carriers to have more information to assess a prospective driver, FMCSA says. Drivers will have additional opportunities to verify their driving history data and to correct discrepancies.

DPES will make use of FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System. MCMIS data includes roadside inspection and compliance review results, enforcement data, state-reported crashes and motor carrier census data.

HireRight still offers information that will not be provided in the new program, says HireRight’s Kent Ferguson. HireRight provides employment motor vehicle reports from 50 states, criminal record checks on a county and state level and a proprietary database of 3,000companies on employment history.

FMCSA has awarded NIC Technologies a one-year contract for DPES, with four, single-year renewals, NIC said. Users will probably pay an annual $100 subscription fee and a $10 transaction fee for each record pulled.

 

Short Hauls

JORGE OROZCO-SANCHEZ is one of 20 individuals from the United States and Canada chosen to receive the Carnegie Medal. The medal is given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Orozco-Sanchez was Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s 2008 Highway Hero.

A TRUCKER MOVIE released last month earned the approval of some movie critics, including some pre-Oscar chatter for Michelle Monaghan for her leading role in Trucker. The movie follows the struggles of mother and son as they are stuck with each other while the boy’s father, played by Benjamin Bratt, is in the hospital.

A SENATE transportation bill includes a pilot program to exempt Maine’s Interstate highway system from the current federal truck weight limit. Currently, trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds can use Interstate 95, designated as the Maine Turnpike and running from the Maine-New Hampshire border to Augusta, Maine. These trucks are also permitted on Interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. Because the Maine Turnpike designation ends at Augusta and I-95 proceeds another 200 miles north to Houlton, heavy truck drivers are forced onto secondary roads.

U.S. House of Representatives transportation leaders have countered calls for an 18-month extension of the highway program reauthorization with a bill (H.R. 3617) that keeps the program going only until year-end.

The House voted to extend the authorization for highway-related programs – including motor carrier safety – for three months beyond its Sept. 30 expiration.

Legislation (S. 1496) that would extend the authorization for FMCSA programs for 18 months is pending in the

 

House extends funding

Senate, along with a separate Senate bill that would extend the authorization for highway spending for 18 months, as well.

Senate leaders and the Obama administration have backed an 18-month extension mostly on the grounds that it will give Congress ample time to consider long-term changes in highway programs, including financing. But House transportation leaders, led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee James Oberstar, D-Minn., are resisting that idea, saying Congress should not wait so long to deal with vital infrastructure and safety challenges.

Oberstar and other House transportation leaders have drafted a full six-year bill that would make significant changes in highway programs, including a mandate for electronic onboard recorders and creation of a clearinghouse of positive drug and alcohol test results. An extension of only three months maintains pressure for Congress to address the highway authorization again in some way before year-end.

— Jill Dunn

 

Daimler execs detail difficult market

Andreas Renschler, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, parent company of Daimler Trucks North America, painted a dark picture of the truck market amid the economic turmoil of the past two years.

“We are used to typical business cycles in the truck market, but this time the so-called downside is longer and deeper than ever before,” he said at an Oct. 7 speech in New York.

He cited a 50 percent decline in the worldwide market for trucks, with close to a 70 percent downturn since 2006 for North America.

And while both he and new DTNA President and CEO Martin Daum insisted that markets around the world had hit bottom in the second quarter, “It remains to be seen if [a recovery] is really sustainable,” Renschler said. “No company anywhere has been immune.”

He said a 9 percent increase in North American orders from July to August was evidence “our countermeasures are working.” Cash flow, meanwhile, remains positive, and the two Daimler executives predicted a 10 percent gain in orders in 2010 over 2009.

Daum said strategies in North America include a focus on operational excellence and efficiency, starting with more flexibility in U.S. plant capacity. That will include shifting workers from a hire/fire model to time banks, prevalent in Europe, to keep pay coming at a consistent rate in down production times.

— Todd Dills

 

Short Hauls

NAVISTAR displayed an all-electric commercial truck built with the help of a $39 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. The trucks are designed for maximum efficiency in urban environments. Navistar says it intends to build 400 all-electric delivery trucks in 2010 at its facility in Elkhart County, Ind., and expects within a few years to be producing several thousand vehicles annually as the market grows.

IN OAKLAND, Calif., the Board of Port Commissioners has adopted a strict truck ban, effective Jan. 1, 2010. Drayage trucks with engine year models earlier than 1994 will be banned at the Port of Oakland, and drayage trucks with engine year models between 1994 and 2003 have to be retrofitted with diesel particulate filters to enter port facilities.

CARB has published transport refrigeration unit information for complying with the state’s Transport Refrigeration Unit Airborne Toxic Control Measure. This compilation of methods to meet the regulation’s In-Use Performance Standards is available at California Air Resources Board’s website, www.arb.ca.gov/diesel/tru.htm. After the Dec. 31 compliance deadline for 2002 and older TRU engines, officials will cite non-compliant TRUs and assess penalties up to $500 per unit.

A NEW FEDERAL initiative, the Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program, is intended to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology and help women in the field to achieve their goals. A partnership between the U.S. DOT and Spelman College will create an internship and mentoring program to bring more female students into transportation-related careers and help them gain hands-on experience. It also will help small women-owned transportation companies to compete for DOT contracts.

MACK TRUCKS will continue as a sponsor of the Share The Road highway safety education program for 2010, while Volvo Trucks North America will continue as the sole sponsor of America’s Road Team in 2010. Share the Road is designed to improve safety on America’s roads by teaching car drivers how to drive safely around large trucks. In America’s Road Team, professional drivers with outstanding driving records advocate publicly for highway safety and other trucking industry issues.

 

Feds issue flu guidance for truckers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for cleaning a truck where an occupant has been suspected of having pandemic influenza.

Hand hygiene, cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene are the main focus of keeping this virus from spreading. However, for effective environmental management of influenza, routine cleaning with soap or detergent and water to remove soil and organic matter, followed by the proper use of disinfectants, are the basic steps.

The guidelines recommend against using compressed air or water under pressure for cleaning, or any other methods that can cause splashing of infectious material.

Vacuum cleaners should be used only after proper disinfection. Vacuum cleaners should be maintained to minimize dust dispersal in general and equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters.

Influenza viruses can persist on nonporous surfaces for 24hours or more.

— Jill Dunn

 

Heavy truck orders up for 4th straight month

FTR Associates’ preliminary data shows Class 8 net orders for all major North American truck makers totaled 10,817 units in September, the fourth consecutive month that orders have shown a month-over-month increase.

Year-to-date orders through September are 5.2 percent ahead of the same period in 2008, reflecting the first year-over-year increase since June 2008. Order activity for September represents an annualized rate of 129,804.

“FTR still believes that any increases we are seeing now are partially driven by abnormal industry activity ahead of the 2010 EPA emissions mandate,” says Eric Starks, president of Nashville, Ind.-based FTR. “The data we track does not support any significant purchasing activity driven by increased freight demand any time soon. We continue to advise our clients to expect a continued soft recovery at least through 2010.”

— Staff reports

 

Economy tops trucking issue survey

The American Transportation Research Institute, the trucking industry’s not-for-profit research institute, unveiled its list of the top 10 critical issues facing the North American trucking industry. The state of the nation’s economy tops the list in ATRI’s survey of more than 5,000 trucking industry executives.

The complete results were released at the 2009 Management Conference and Exhibition of the American Trucking Associations meeting in Las Vegas. The ATRI Top Industry Issues report also solicited and tabulated specific strategies for addressing each issue.

Government regulation, which has been on a steady climb since the inaugural survey in 2005, came in as the No. 2 most pressing issue this year. In addition to the economy and government regulation, other top 10 issues include fuel, congestion, hours-of-service and the environment. Truck size and weight appeared for the first time in the 2009 survey as a key productivity issue that many industry stakeholders feel must be addressed.

“On every legislative and regulatory topic, issues come and go so quickly today,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “If we’re not at the table with sound science-based information and a common-sense plan of action, then we’re going to get left behind, and saddled with solutions that have no bearing on moving America’s freight safely and efficiently.”

Staff reports

 

Mark your calendar

NOV. 1-7: NATIONAL TRUCK DRIVER APPRECIATION WEEK, sponsored by the American Trucking Associations, http://www.ntdaw.org

NOV. 7: PIEDMONT CAROLINA CHAPTER FALL SHOW, American Truck Historical Society, Colfax, N.C., (336) 431-6824.

FEB. 5-6: MID-WEST TRUCK SHOW & CONVENTION, Peoria Civic Center, Peoria, Ill., (217) 525-0342, www.mid-westtruckers.com

MARCH 25-27: MID-AMERICA TRUCKING SHOW, Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, Ky., http://truckingshow.com

In response to an increase in trucks illegally using New York state roads or ones with low clearances, Gov. David Paterson announced legislation that would dramatically crack down on truckers.

 

N.Y. targets trucks on off-limits roads

Truckers increasingly use Global Positioning Systems, which may direct them to take state roads off limits to trucks or with low clearances. The result has been more bridge strikes, where trucks hit overpasses and cause accidents and traffic delays.

The legislation, which reportedly might be introduced in January, would:

• Increase penalties for truckers who illegally use parkways.

• Allow officers on the scene to use their discretion to confiscate trucks stopped and ticketed.

• Require all large trucks to use enhanced GPS that routes them away from restricted roads.

• Allow state and affected localities to recoup many costs associated with the bridge strike from the trucking company or its insurance carrier.

Mike Joyce, legislative director for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says lack of driver training and allowing new drivers to rely too much on technology may be behind the bridge strikes.

— Jill Dunn

 

Short hauls

RANDALL-REILLY EVENTS DIVISION has selected Neal Holsomback, Victor Verret, Barbara Holsomback and Suzanne Stempinski to manage all 2010 Pride & Polish truck beauty events. The 2010 schedule includes: 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Fla., April 24-25; The Great West Truck Show – Las Vegas, Nev., June 17-19; and The Great American Trucking Show, Dallas, Aug. 26-28.

TRUCKERS and other transportation workers can learn to recognize security threats by accessing an online training video, part of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s First Observer program. The program provides individuals with the means for reporting suspicious activities. For information about the 38-minute training session, call (888) 217-5902 or visit the website at http://www.firstobserver.com

THE GRASCALS, a Nashville, Tenn.-based bluegrass band, has begun a year-long Mobil Delvac-sponsored tour. Samples of Mobil Delvac 1300 Super 15w-40 used in the tour bus will be analyzed regularly during the tour. The band will perform at industry events and in retail locations.

CORRECTION. The last line of “Sounds of success,” about Trucker of the Month Howard Salmon, was omitted in the October Overdrive. The complete story can be viewed on Page 37 of the October issue at http://www.OverdriveDigital.com

 

Directors to meet on new UCR fee

The Unified Carrier Registration Plan board plans to meet Nov. 12 to continue work on a new fee plan, expected to begin Jan. 1.

The American Trucking Associations and the Transportation Carriers Association submitted similar comments opposing it, mainly because it would hike fees 122 percent on a per-vehicle basis.

States participating in the program have insufficiently enforced fees, they said. “As a result, the increase would fall almost entirely – and most inequitably – on already compliant motor carriers and other entities,” ATA wrote.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance supports a fee increase and urged timely issuances of a final rule.

Despite the fee hike in the top carrier bracket, these carriers would still pay far less than they would have under the former Single State Registration System program, CVSA says.

— Staff reports n

 

Highway happenings

ALABAMA. Construction has started on the eight-mile, four-lane Anniston Eastern Bypass, State Route 192, that runs through Fort McClellan between I-20 and U.S. 431. Work is expected to run into early 2011 and will be followed by a paving project.

ARIZONA. The state’s transportation department has shut 13 of its 18 rest areas because of budget problems. No estimate was given for when the rest areas will reopen.

ARKANSAS. Sending text messages while driving on state highways is forbidden for all drivers. Offenders face fines up to $100. Exceptions will be made for emergency calls and CB radios.

CONNECTICUT. Drivers are required to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency crews, law enforcement, maintenance vehicles and tow trucks parked by the road with lights flashing. Those cited face $92 fines. If the emergency vehicle operator is injured or is killed, fines can increase to $10,000.

KENTUCKY. Both eastbound and westbound traffic near the 82 mile marker on Interstate 24 will be restricted indefinitely. Traffic is reduced to one lane to allow construction of an overpass for the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway Extension interchange with I-24. This lane restriction includes a maximum load width of 15 feet.

MARYLAND. The state now bans sending text messages while driving. Offenders face up to a $500 fine and one point on their driving record. Exceptions are made for emergencies.

WASHINGTON. Construction is scheduled to be completed early in November on westbound lanes of Interstate 90 east of Seattle. Eastbound and westbound lane restrictions are slowing traffic. Work on another section of the freeway will begin next spring.