Bush Proposes $59.5 Billion Transportation Budget
The Bush administration has proposed a $59.5 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2006.
Most of that money, $35.4 billion, would go to the Federal Highway Administration to be distributed to the states for road-building projects.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would get $465 million. Almost half of that figure, $222 million, would go to the states to fund law enforcement and CDL oversight.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would get $696 million.
The office of U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, which has 635 employees, would get $259 million, less than its 2005 budget. Of that proposed sum, $100 million would build a new headquarters.
Trucking-specific outlays are dwarfed by the proposed budget of the Federal Aviation Administration ($13.7 billion) or the $9 billion proposed to repave much of the National Highway System. Even the Federal Railroad Administration, drastically cut from 2005 levels, would get $552 million, more than the FMCSA.
Mineta introduced the budget by saying, “The transportation sector is the workhorse that drives the American economy, providing mobility and accessibility for passengers and freight, supplying millions of jobs, and creating growth-generating revenue.”
Five-minute Idling Now in Effect in California
California’s new five-minute limit on truck idling allows longer use during driver rest periods, but not when trucks are within 100 feet of homes and schools.
The California Air Resources Board’s rule became effective Feb. 1. It applies to all diesel trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, regardless of what state the truck is registered in, according to the board’s website.
The board’s own truck inspectors will do the most enforcement, but local and state police can also issue citations. Drivers are subject to a minimum $100 civil penalty and potential criminal penalties.
By September, CARB staffers will present the board with a more comprehensive proposal addressing truck idling during rest periods.
For now, truckers during rest periods can idle engines or use diesel-powered auxiliary power systems for more than five minutes only if more than 100 feet from a restricted area, which is a school or any type of dwelling, including apartments.
The idling rule also provides exceptions:
For more information, visit this site.
The Next Challenge
Oils produced for the next generation of low-emissions diesel engines should offer backward compatibility in terms of maintenance practices, but “stricter emission standards don’t mean mineral oils will give way to synthetics,” Mark Nelson, president of ChevronTexaco Global Lubricants, told the Technology & Maintenance Council.
In a speech delivered at the TMC annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., in February, Nelson said that Group II- and Group III-based oils can reduce sulfur and that PC-10 – the American Petroleum Institute’s name for the oil standards being developed for the 2007 engines – will offer backward compatibility with earlier oils.
“PC-10 with low sulfur diesel should extend overall maintenance schedules,” Nelson said. “Guidance will emerge from the manufacturers, who are working very hard to develop them.” PC-10 is slated to replace the CI-4 standard. A fleet could use CI-4 in 2007 but their diesel particulate filters might require more cleaning, Nelson said.
Nelson said low-sulfur diesel is coming online faster than the Environmental Protection Agency mandated but that it will present some challenges to fleets and fuel suppliers. “We concur with the EPA survey that shows 95 percent of fuel will be 15 parts per million (ppm) by mid-2005. We’ll be supplying low-sulfur product through our facilities by that time, too,” Nelson said.
But low-sulfur fuel is much more expensive to manufacture, and “studies showing increased fuel usage due to lower energy density are realistic.” Nelson added, however, that engine and vehicle manufacturers are working hard to minimize the impact on fuel economy. Another problem is that lowering the sulfur level removes lubricity, so additives will be needed and there is a potential for over-treatment, he said.
And there are more challenges. Nelson called the handling and distribution of low-sulfur diesel “the most challenging situation since unleaded gasoline was adopted.” Low-sulfur diesel must be transported by the same facilities that carry other products. During pipeline transfer, there will be sulfur uptake that will depend on the length of the pipeline and other factors. Because of that, the product will be 5 to 10 ppm going into the pipeline. This will be critical for fleets because contaminated fuel will produce higher particulates that will plug particulate filters without more frequent maintenance intervals.
“In spite of the challenges ahead, trucking’s track record shows that it can adapt and move forward,” Nelson concluded. “We are approaching the 30th anniversary of the catalytic converter’s introduction in the automotive market. If we survived that, we can survive this.”
Willie Goes Bio
Willie Nelson’s legend stretches beyond a half-century of country hits to include his annual Farm Aid benefit and the album he produced to pay off his back taxes.
Now Nelson, whose “Beer for My Horses” duet with Toby Keith garnered the Academy of Country Music’s 2004 Video of the Year award, has unveiled another facet of his life: BioWillie.
The 71-year-old music icon founded Willie Nelson’s Biodiesel in December with “the idea of doing something useful for the country, the American family farmer, the economy and the environment,” according to a statement on the company website.
Nelson’s partners in the venture are Monk White, Texas biodiesel supplier Peter Bell and Carl Cornelius, operator of Carl’s Corner Truck Stop on I-35E south of Dallas. The fuel is sold at Carl’s and in Addison, Krum and Fort Worth. The company is negotiating to sell it at truckstops nationwide.
Made mainly from soybeans, the fuel has been used successfully by fleet owners including the City of Dallas and IESI, a 780-vehicle solid waste management company.
In mid-January, BioWillie cost $1.79 a gallon, less than the national diesel average. Nelson uses it in his trucks and tour buses.
Pilot Challenge Increases Prize Money
Pilot Travel Centers is increasing the payout in its annual Pilot Truck Driver Challenge. The grand prize in both categories this year is $50,000.
The first part of the challenge is open to anyone with a Pilot Reward Payback Card. The cardholder who has the most safe miles between Feb. 20, 2005, and Oct. 31, 2005, will win the $50,000.
The second competition is open to all Nextel Cup transport drivers who want to test their skills and demonstrate why they have been labeled the best in the business. More than 20 Nextel Cup drivers are already signed up for the challenge.
The challenge is designed around safe and responsible driving, and the competition includes equipment inspections and safety quizzes. Drivers also must maneuver 80-foot haulers through tight turns and pinpoint stops.
“It is great to see Pilot challenging everybody on the road to raise their awareness toward road safety,” said Jim Baldwin, winner of the 2004 challenge for Nextel Cup drivers. Baldwin is returning for the challenge this year. “Driving these haulers, or any truck for that matter, takes a lot of skill and patience.”
For details, visit this site.
$275 Million Expansion
Dignitaries and union officials recently joined Detroit Diesel and Freightliner to celebrate the coming $275 million expansion and upgrade of the engine maker’s Redford, Mich., plant.
The 3.2-million-square-foot plant will produce Detroit Diesel’s new heavy-duty engine as well as the medium-duty MBE 900 engine currently made only in Germany. Both engines will come off the Redford assembly line in 2007 and will comply with federal emission standards that take effect that year. For an extended transition period, the new heavy-duty engine will be sold in tandem with Detroit Diesel’s popular Series 60 engine and the Mercedes Benz 4000, which are also being modified to meet 2007 emission requirements.
The Redford production of both engines was announced by Detroit Diesel in November, a day after the ratification of a new United Auto Workers contract at the plant.
The Feb. 23 press conference announced that the Redford campus also would house the new headquarters of Sterling Truck and Western Star Trucks, though the manufacturing plants for those two truck lines will remain in Ontario and Oregon, respectively.
Also expanding its operations at the Redford facility is Freightliner’s Axle Alliance Co., which will begin making gear sets as well as axle assemblies.
Both Sterling and Western Star are owned by Freightliner. Freightliner and Detroit Diesel both are owned by DaimlerChrysler.
–Andy Duncan and Andy Haraldson
International Plans to Produce Class 8 Engine in ’07
International Truck and Engine will enter the Class 8 engine market with engines in the 11- to 13-liter range starting in fall 2007, the company announced Feb. 17.
The new International engines will be available only in International trucks, but, “We’ll continue to offer Cummins and Caterpillar engines as well,” said Roy Wiley, a company spokesman.
International also is expected to continue collaborating with Cummins on engine components.
The new engines, which will use exhaust gas recirculation emission technology, are the first fruits of an agreement announced Dec. 6 between International and a German company, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge, to collaborate in designing and manufacturing commercial trucks, Wiley said.
The new engines will be fully compliant with the federal emission standard that takes effect in 2007 and will combine International’s diesel power plant with MAN’s big-bore engine, said Jack Allen, president of International’s Engine Group.
“We are integrating the latest engine technologies and expertise from two long-time diesel leaders,” Allen said. “Together, we have more than 180 years of diesel engine experience, going all the way back to when Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine at MAN in 1893.”
Paccar Hails 2004 as History-making Year
Paccar, maker of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks, announced that 2004 was its best year ever. “Paccar had the best year in its history, exceeding its previous annual net income record,” said Mark Pigott, chairman and chief executive officer.
Net income in 2004 was $906.8 million, 72 percent more than the $526.5 million earned in 2003.
Pigott said 2004 marks 66 consecutive profitable years for the Seattle-based company, originally Pacific Car and Foundry. “This result reflects the innovative contribution and dedication of Paccar’s 20,500 employees worldwide,” Pigott said.
Revenues in 2004 were a record $11.4 billion, an increase of 39 percent from $8.19 billion in 2003. “Paccar produced a record 124,000 trucks in 2004,” said Tom Plimpton, Paccar president. “In the U.S. and Canada, Kenworth and Peterbilt increased their Class 8 retail sales market share to a record 24.6 percent in 2004.”
All Paccar’s truck brands had a good year.
According to J.D. Power, Peterbilt ranked highest in customer satisfaction among medium-duty conventional trucks, while Kenworth ranked highest in customer satisfaction for the vocational Class 8 segment and highest in customer satisfaction for medium-duty truck service.
The company expects continued profit in 2005. “U.S. and Canada Class 8 industry truck retail sales could increase by approximately 15 percent to 270,000-280,000 units in 2005 due to a good economy and additional fleet growth,” Plimpton said.
Besides Kenworth and Peterbilt, Paccar owns European truck makers DAF, Leyland and Foden, which dates its history from 1856 and calls itself the world’s oldest truck maker.
Mack Helping Recruit Future Technicians
Mack Trucks is launching a new program to increase the number of skilled truck technicians entering the job market.
“Dealers today are facing a double challenge – they’re confronted with this severe shortage of qualified help, yet they don’t have the time or resources to systematically address it,” said Al Hertzog, director of Mack’s North American Institute.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates an annual shortage of 35,000 truck technicians through 2010.
Mack’s Technician Recruitment Program is designed to help bridge this gap. The program’s centerpiece is the Technician Recruitment Kit, which features materials and advice to get young people to consider careers as truck technicians. The kit includes a recruitment guide, brochures, video and PowerPoint presentations.
The kit’s audience is high-school students.
“Many of them believe that a four-year college degree is their only option,” Hertzog said. “They have this image of the dirty mechanic.”
Young people need to understand that the nature of the job is changing, thanks to advanced electronics, computerized diagnostics and other new technologies, Hertzog said.
The North American Institute is adding an Entry Level Technician training course to help dealers develop and retain newly recruited employees.
“It’s not enough just to bring them in the door,” Herzog said.
Dealers say they need technicians with basic computer and technical skills who can remove and replace water pumps, alternators and wheel seals, do basic brake overhauls and then program a truck’s electronic control module, Herzog said. “It’s these basic skills that are the focus of our new course.”
The institute offers dealers a similar program for new parts associates.
Ex-trucker Thomas Hamill, who was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents but boldly escaped, has saved his Mississippi farm, the reason he went driving in Iraq in the first place. “Yes, it’s going to stay in my family,” he said at the NATSO Show 2005 in Nashville, Tenn., in February.
Hamill has another project in the works – he’s making an audiobook of his best-selling book, and he says he’ll share the proceeds with the relatives of members of his ambushed Iraq trucking convoy who did not make it out. Hamill says he’ll probably get back behind the wheel of a big rig one day, “but this time I’ll be an owner-operator, so I can be home more; I’ve found out that family is about the most important thing there is.”
Hamill signed his book, Escape in Iraq, for NATSO Show attendees.
Tonnage Index Up
The American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index surged 3.4 percent to 116.5 in January. This was the largest month-to-month gain in several years and a marked improvement over the one-point decrease in December. The index was 6.4 percent higher than in January 2004.
Sirius Gets NASCAR in ’07
Sirius Satellite Radio has signed an exclusive five-year contract to broadcast NASCAR racing and events starting in 2007. XM Satellite Radio holds these rights for the current season and the 2006 season.
The average retail price for a gallon of diesel rose 9.8 cents to $2.118 for the week ending Feb. 28 – the highest price since mid-November and one of the largest increases in fuel prices since the Department of Energy began tracking diesel prices in 1994.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has signed a bill that will allow third parties to give the skills tests required to obtain commercial driver’s licenses. The new law permits state police to designate a private driver-training facility or private instructor as qualified to perform the tests. The third-party tester will pay a testing administration fee determined by the state police director.
Pennsylvania granted $540,000 to IdleAire Technologies for truckstop electrification as part of more than $1 million awarded in Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants. These grants leveraged more than $4.2 million in private funding, according to a statement from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. The funding will also buy hybrid vehicles, install a propane refueling station, support the development of a low-speed hydrogen fuel cell utility vehicle, and finance the demonstration of compressed natural gas and blended fuel in transit buses and vans.
Chattanooga to Lower Speed Limits
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is working with the Hamilton County mayor and the mayor of the county seat, Chattanooga, to reduce the county speed limit from 70 mph to 55 mph for commercial trucks. The move will affect 17 miles of U.S. 27 and 57 miles of Hamilton County interstate, including I-75. The speed limit for automobiles will also be reduced, to 65 mph on interstates and controlled-access highways. New speed-limit signs should be in place around Chattanooga by summer.