Groups Petition FMCSA for HOS Reconsideration
A coalition of groups including Public Citizen and the Teamsters union filed a petition Sept. 23 asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider the hours-of-service rule that took effect Oct. 1.
“This new rule is almost identical to the current rule, and the two additional changes they made – the sleeper berth modification and the new short haul provision – put our drivers at greater risk,” said Teamsters President Jim Hoffa.
The formal Petition for Reconsideration does not constitute a legal challenge to the rule, as many observers expected from Public Citizen and its allies, though such an action could yet come.
Industry leaders say plenty of truckers, too, have voiced questions over the revised split sleeper berth regulation in particular.
Under the old rule, drivers using a sleeper berth had to take 10 hours off duty, but could split sleeper-berth time into two periods if neither period was less than two hours. The new sleeper berth provision requires at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper and an additional two consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
“We’ve had an unbelievable amount of calls and e-mails,” said Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Of course, a lot of it was complaints. A surprising number of drivers, including old-timers, don’t understand the current sleeper berth.”
The eight-and-two split is a dilemma for many callers, said Nancy O’Liddy, public affairs director for the Truckload Carriers Association. “They can’t figure it out because the eight doesn’t count against the clock, but the two does. Mostly the problems are with, ‘When do you restart the clock?'”
The high volume of questions is still less than when the old rule became effective, said Steve Keppler, policy and program director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. “With the previous rule, the questions were all over the map,” Keppler said.
The new rule is “science-based and laid out well,” said Don Osterberg, a Schneider National vice president who serves on the hours subcommittee of the American Trucking Associations. “At 378 pages, it’s long, but it’s less confusing.”
Under the old rule, Osterberg said, a split was used by only 5 percent to 6 percent of Schneider teams and an even smaller percentage of Schneider solo drivers. The old rule’s split confused too many truckers and resulted in hours violations, Osterberg said.
Under the new rule, Schneider does not advocate split sleeper berth for its drivers because it sees no advantage to splitting time, Osterberg said.
The Teamsters oppose the new split sleeper rule. “The only thing this will do is force team drivers to drive for eight hours straight, causing drivers to be more fatigued,” Hoffa said.
The Teamsters also argue that the new short-haul provision is too similar to a proposal backed by Wal-Mart that briefly was considered in Congress earlier this year. “It’s clear that the corporate trucking interests have gotten from the FMCSA what they’ve been unable to get in Congress,” Hoffa said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rule, published Aug. 25 and effective Oct. 1, includes a phase-in period through Dec. 31. “During this transitional period FMCSA will monitor carriers for egregious violations of the new hours-of-service rule and pursue enforcement action when necessary,” the FMCSA stated.
“For mistakes made out of ignorance in many cases, there will be no penalty” during the phase-in period, Keppler said.
Judges Hear Challenge on Minimum Driver Training
U.S. Appeals Court judges heard arguments Sept. 13 on a new national rule for commercial drivers that sets minimum training requirements at 10 hours, none of which must be behind a wheel.
In May 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a rule stipulating that driver training must include topics such as driver wellness, hours-of-service and rules on whistleblower protection. It does not demand road experience.
A petitioner’s brief was filed April 22 by Public Citizen on behalf of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The AHAS petition was consolidated with petitions filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the United Motorcoach Association.
A three-judge panel in Washington heard the case against the FMCSA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reported on its website.
“The government says its rule does meet driver training needs,” said OOIDA attorney Paul Cullen Jr., but OOIDA argued there was no connection “between what the government provided in its final rule and any of the information that it developed in its earlier study.”
In 1991, Congress ordered the creation of a training rule after a number of truck crashes in which poorly trained commercial drivers were faulted.
An earlier model curriculum from the FMCSA’s predecessor, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Motor Carriers, advised 320 instructional hours for truckers.
The request came after a series of reports to Highway Watch in the past month of vehicles moving erratically around fuel tankers and individuals photographing or videotaping the trucks.
Preliminary analysis showed no pattern to the locations, Highway Watch said.
“While there are no concrete indicators that these reports suggest pre-operational surveillance, we take them seriously, and we’d like our partners to do so as well,” said Don Rondeau, director of Highway Watch’s Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
Those wishing to make a report should call Highway Watch at (866) 821-3444.
TCA Narrowing Field for Driver Awards
The Truckload Carriers Association is making finalist selections for this year’s best company driver and best owner-operator.
The winner of TCA’s 2005 Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest, co-sponsored by Truckers News magazine, receives thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.
The grand prize in TCA’s 2005 Independent Contractor of the Year contest, co-sponsored by Overdrive and International Truck and Engine, is a new, fully equipped International tractor.
Each year, TCA and the two magazines honor drivers in their respective contests who consistently provide reliable and safe transport. Nominees are judged on their performance and safety record, how they promote the image of the trucking industry and their contributions to their communities.
Three finalists from each contest will be announced at the TCA Annual Meeting, March 12-15 in Orlando, Fla. The top five contractors of the year will receive cash, equipment and gift certificates.
The Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest is open to any driver employed by a TCA-member company who has at least a million consecutive accident-free miles. Entrants must be nominated by their employer and must have been with that employer for the past three years. Companies may nominate as many as five drivers. Previous grand prize winners are not eligible, and second- and third-place winners may not enter the contest for two years afterward.
The Independent Contractor of the Year contest is open to any independent contractor or team who owns a power unit used in a five-axle or more tractor-trailer combination and drives full-time for a TCA-member company.
Nominees must have at least five years’ experience as a commercial trucker and must have spent at least the past three years as an independent contractor. Previous grand prize winners are not eligible to enter the contest again, and second- and third-place winners are not eligible to enter the contest for two years afterward.
Hurricane Relief Donations
The following trucking-related companies have made contributions to the recent relief efforts in areas impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
International Plans to introduce new tractor for 2007
International Truck and Engine is introducing a Class 8 tractor for 2007 that will replace its 9400i, company officials said in a Sept. 7 teleconference.
International will unveil the truck to the public at the 2006 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Fleets are testing eight units now in North America and reporting “wonderfully successful” results, said Tom Baughman, vice president and general manager of the company’s Heavy Truck Vehicle Center.
The truck will have aerodynamic design and be marketed primarily toward International’s current primary base of small and medium-size fleets.
It will be available with Cummins and Caterpillar engines and, soon after its launch, International’s new big-bore engine, all in compliance with 2007 emissions standards. The horsepower and other engine specs of the International engine are not being made available yet, said Jacob Thomas, vice president of the big-bore division.
The truck will be produced as a daycab and a sleeper available in two lengths.
“Our customers and dealers see real value in our new tractor,” Baughman said. “We’re excited about their enthusiastic response.”
Manufactured in Ontario, the truck will begin shipping in early 2007, International said.
The truck’s other highlights, according to International, include:
Teamsters Sign Up 460 Owner-operators in Miami Port
Four hundred sixty owner-operators, some motivated by a logjam of freight from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have signed up at the Teamsters’ Miami hiring hall, a union representative said.
Local 769 opened Sept. 20, and truckers have held signs outside the Port of Miami encouraging others to join, said Jim Stewart, international representative for the Teamsters’ port division.
Intermodal port truckers have complained of poor pay and working conditions for years, and shutdowns have occurred at ports nationwide during diesel spikes.
This fall’s hurricanes are expected to result in a backlog of freight being diverted to East Coast ports, Stewart said.
“This storm has motivated a lot of people,” Stewart said. “They’ve got all this freight coming their way.”
The union seeks intermodal truckers serving the Port of Miami, Port Everglades and local rail yards, said Mike Scott, Local 769 president.
“We are taking applications from drivers who have canceled their independent contractor leases or who are not currently leased to motor carriers,” Scott said. “Hundreds of drivers are telling us they want to work as employee owner-operators with all the rights under U.S. labor law to which other employees are entitled.”
Members’ seniority is based on the day and time they register with the hiring hall.
The union expects to open a second hall in Charleston, S.C., by mid-October, followed by Savannah, Ga.
By then, the union expects to announce a list of carriers who have committed to hiring Teamsters. Union representatives are negotiating with carriers in Miami and Charleston, Stewart said.
“Every one of the companies who said three months ago they would sell the company if its drivers went union are now sitting down and talking with us,” Stewart said. “A lot went from walking in a complete enemy to asking their attorney to talk to our attorney.”
Establishing a hiring hall in Miami was recommended this past spring in a report commissioned by Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, after an owner-operator protest in summer 2004 brought the Port of Miami to a standstill.
Diesel price passes $3
In the week of Oct. 3, the national average retail price of a gallon of diesel reached a new record of $3.144. That’s $1.09 more than in the same week of 2004. Diesel prices increased to more than $3 a gallon in every region tracked by the U.S. Department of Energy. The highest average diesel price was in the Lower Atlantic region at $3.283, the lowest in New England at $3.012. Department of Energy economist Jacob Bournazian said diesel prices will continue to set records through the rest of 2005 and may fall back somewhat during the January/March time period.
The top environmental agencies of the United States and Canada will work together on reducing emissions and fuel consumption by carriers and shippers involved in cross-border trade. The collaboration brings together EPA’s Smartway Transport Partnership and NCan’s FleetSmart program. The two governments believe the joint initiative could annually save 440 million gallons of fuel and prevent 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
All four lanes on the I-10 bridge in Pascagoula, Miss., have reopened, just weeks after a barge battered the eastbound span during Hurricane Katrina. The bridge reopened sooner than expected thanks to a $100,000 per day incentive for early completion.
Highway Watch Gets Grants
Hal Rogers, a U.S. Representative from Kentucky and the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and the American Trucking Associations will make an additional $4.8 million available for the Highway Watch program in March 2006. Highway Watch trains highway professionals to identify and report safety and security concerns on the nation’s roads.
The Love’s Travel Stop in Mifflinville, Pa is now open. It is located at I-80 and State Road 0339 in Mifflinville. This is the eighth of 13 Travel Stops scheduled to open in 2005.
Coronado Official Show Transporter
Freightliner has entered into a two-year sponsorship with “Legendary Motorcars’ Dream Car Garage” television series on the Speed channel. Freightliner’s heavy-duty Coronado will be the official transporter truck of Dream Car Garage and Legendary Motorcar for the 2006 and 2007 broadcast seasons.