News From the Industry

| December 12, 2008

From special trailers to special freight to special driver training – trucking hasmany unusual hauls that make the industry colorful. Read about some of them in the March MONTHLY FOCUS on eTrucker.com.

WORLD’S BIGGEST TRUCKING SHOW OPENS MARCH 20 IN LOUISVILLE

Thousands of truckers will meet in Louisville, Ky., for the 32nd Annual Mid-America Trucking Show March 20-22 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. The world’s largest trucking show expects to have 1 million square feet of exhibit space and more than 1,000 exhibitors.

Free seminars will be offered daily on topics such as roadside inspections, wheel-end maintenance and hours of service. Among other highlights are:

  • The Trucking Technology Center, featuring Internet and technology-based companies.

  • The Expedited Trucking InfoCenter.

  • The 3rd Annual Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championship.

  • The Mid-America Jamboree, sponsored by Eric Harley & WBAP Radio, which includes autograph signing by country star Pam Tillis March 20.

  • The Mid-America Driver Recruitment Center.

  • The National Day of Prayer for Truckers, March 20, featuring gospel musician Kenny Robbins.

  • Talent search auditions for AmeriSearch Music Group, which is compiling music performed and written by truckers.

  • The Ol’ Blue, USA Safety Center, which includes simulated roadside inspections every hour.

    Pam Tillis will meet fans at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

    No concerts were scheduled at press time. Updated information on the show is available at www.truckingshow.com.

    Online registration is available through March 11. The show’s hours are: March 20, 1-6 p.m.; March 21, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; March 22, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Information on lodging is available by calling (800) 368-4052 or (502) 456-9411, or by visiting www.destinationky.com.

    - Laura Diblasi


    DIESEL HITS $2 IN NORTHEAST

    Diesel fuel was selling around $2 a gallon at some Northeastern truck stops in mid-February, reflecting a 17-cent surge in national average prices over two weeks.

    Diesel in New York went over $2 a gallon Feb. 11, says fleet owner Roland Bellavance, and Vermont prices weren’t far behind.

    Fleets and owner-operators in the Northeast are struggling, says Alice Ennis, executive director of the Vermont Truck and Bus Association. “We’re in a cold wave right now,” she says. “When it’s cold, you use more fuel.”

    Though fuel is cheaper in other regions, truckers nationwide have been hit with huge price hikes due to a cold winter, fears of war with Iraq and a three-month-old labor crisis in Venezuela. The national average price of $1.66 for the week ending Feb. 10 was the highest since October 2000, when it closed at $1.67, according to the weekly U.S. Department of Energy survey.

    Bellavance says his trucking company, Bellavance Trucking in Barre, Vt., hasn’t been able to get surcharges on backhauls, even though it’s been able to get a 7 percent fuel surcharge on some of its outbound freight.

    “We’re trying to put a surcharge on anything we can,” he says. “But prices (on backhauls) are dictated to us. Business is slow anyway.”

    Truckers are paying $1.94 per gallon in Vermont, Bellavance says. “The problem is it’s been going up so fast,” he says. “It went up 10 cents a gallon Thursday night … on Friday, 10 cents, and on Saturday, 7 cents.”

    Ennis says Vermont’s diesel prices are close to $2 a gallon, up more than 20 cents from three weeks ago. “Every time I look at a pump, it’s gone up two to three pennies,” she says.

    Fuel surcharges haven’t helped Vermont’s trucking companies, she says, because shippers don’t want to pay them.

    - Sean Kelley


    ATLANTA PETRO GETS IDLEAIRE ELECTRIFICATION

    IdleAire Technologies Corp. says it expects to have part of its Advanced Travel Center Electrification project up and running at an Atlanta Petro by mid-March.

    The Petro Stopping Center at I-285 and Lee Hollowell Parkway will eventually have electrification available for 250 parking spots. The first phase of construction cost $2.5 million.

    IdleAire’s system allows truckers to turn their engines off and receive heat, air conditioning and electrical power through a module that fits in the truck window. Drivers use a $10 adapter with the module, and the $1.25 per-hour basic service price is less than the cost of idling, according to the company. This includes high-speed Internet access through a touch screen, e-mail accessibility and other offerings.

    Users must have a signed agreement with IdleAire and pay for the service through the module’s card reader. Premium services are also available that include high-speed Internet for truckers with personal computers, television program packages and computer-based interactive driver training and continuing education curricula.

    IdleAire systems are already available at the Knoxville, Tenn., Petro and at Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx. Petro plans another installation at its West Memphis, Ark., location and has said it expects to expand electrification to its travel centers nationally. Two sites are also up and running on the New York State Thruway. A third Thruway site is under review.

    Thruway Authority Chairman John Bruno says the system has proven popular. “It appears that the project has had direct reduction of NOx emissions and diesel usage, and the usage by repeat trucking customers is growing,” he says. If state officials consider the project a success, they will implement it at the Thruway’s 25 other travel plazas.

    As many as 16 additional IdleAire facilities are planned for Alabama, Florida, Texas and California.

    - Jill Dunn


    ECONOMISTS SEE TURNAROUND FOR TRUCKING INDUSTRY

    As the first quarter of 2003 winds to a close, trucking economists are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the recession is behind the industry.

    In a conference call with members of the Truckload Carriers Association last month, two economists said carriers still face major hurdles – like fuel and insurance prices – but the overall sector should be on the mend.

    “As we look through retail … and other segments, we see a much more vibrant economy than is reflected in the financial market,” said Donald Broughton, a transportation analyst for A.G. Edwards & Sons. Broughton predicts a slow but steady recovery.

    Economic news has been mixed in recent months, with many economists blaming the slow recovery on threats of war with Iraq. Economic growth, for instance, slowed to 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 after three quarters of modest growth. But Bob Costello, chief economist and vice president for the American Trucking Associations, says analysts predicted 2.5 percent growth for the first three months of 2003.

    Still, some economists predict slower growth. Trucking, in particular, faces problems because fuel costs are at three-year highs, insurance premiums have risen an average of more than $1,700 a truck since 1999, and economic conditions are more volatile. “The trucking industry has to be prepared for highs and lows that have gotten more severe,” he says.

    The stormy clouds do come with a silver lining: Rates are on the rise, deadhead miles have declined, truck tonnage is recovering and driver pay is expected to improve. “Wage increases are coming in 2003,” Broughton says. While driver wages have been flat since 2000, carriers are starting to have more trouble finding drivers, he says, which usually translates to higher wages.

    Medium-length hauls have seen growth in recent months. Long-haul trucking, which has declined steadily for more than a year, will come back, Broughton said, as the economy rebounds. “Longhaul will pick up because price won’t be as big a motivating factor for shippers as service,” he says.

    Per-mile rates have already improved, at least for large carriers, the pair said. Truckers who have survived the past three years should reap the benefits.

    - Sean Kelley


    OVERDRIVE TRUCKING NEWS ADDS SIX STATIONS

    Overdrive Trucking News can now be heard on six more radio stations. The news show now airs on 58 stations, making it the largest broadcast network in the trucking industry.

    OTN and the Overdrive Top Ten Countdown are the only trucking radio programs broadcast day and night on AM and FM bands.

    The new OTN affiliates are:

  • KRVN AM 880, Lexington, Neb. Airs Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on Big Al’s Bluegrass Show.

  • CFRB AM 1010, Toronto. Airs Monday through Friday at 4:46 a.m. Afternoon time to be announced.

  • KBYR AM, Anchorage, Alaska. Airs Monday through Friday at 3:30 a.m.

  • KTIC AM 840, West Point, Neb. Airs Monday through Friday at 1:45 p.m. on Big Al’s Bluegrass show.

  • WCLM AM 1450, Highland Spring, Va. Airs Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. on Big Al’s Bluegrass Show.

  • WJFC AM 1480, Jefferson City, Tenn. Airs Saturdays at 1 p.m. and Thursdays at 7 p.m. on Big Al’s Bluegrass Show.


    REGULATIONS WOULD AFFECT CANADIAN EXPLOSIVES HAULERS

    Canadian truckers who haul explosives into the United States are facing new U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. The department’s Transportation Security Administration has issued an interim final rule requiring explosive carriers to register with Transport Canada, the Canadian agency overseeing transportation safety. The rule is a temporary measure, which will be used until U.S. and Canadian agencies create more comprehensive regulations regarding background checks for hazardous materials handlers.

    Transport Canada will forward the names of approved carriers, shippers and drivers to the TSA, which will do any necessary checks. The TSA approved list is passed to the U.S. Customs Service.

    The Safe Explosives Act, enacted in November, increases the categories of persons who cannot transport explosives in interstate or foreign commerce without DOT authority. The rule fulfills that act and allows legitimate Canadian explosive carriers to do business in the United States without interruption.

    The United States is also working with the Mexican government to create a similar security system and plans to adapt rules to include Mexican explosives carriers soon.

    -Jill Dunn


    Bill Graves

    ATA HEAD REVIEWS EFFORTS ON PARKING, HOURS, TERRORISM

    The nation’s largest trucking organization can most effectively work for more parking by supporting truck stop operators in their efforts to alleviate the parking problem, said Bill Graves, the new president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.

    Less than one month after taking office with ATA, the former governor of Kansas met with Randall Trucking Media Group editors at ATA headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

    Graves explained why ATA reversed its endorsement of commercialization of interstate highway space as a way to gain additional truck parking.

    “We don’t want to make a competitive disadvantage for them by supporting facilities that would compete,” he said of NATSO, the trade group for truck stops. Instead, ATA supports efforts such as better signage to indicate available spaces, financial incentives for states that donate land to truck stops that agree to expand parking, and federal grants or loans to pay truck stops for better access, better security and additional parking.

    Graves’ immediate predecessor, Bill Canary, last summer cited a 2002 federal study that showed 12 states had an overall shortage of public and private spaces, while 35 states had shortages in public rest areas. He said ATA supported “direct and indirect federal funding for truck parking facilities and the possible commercialization or privatization of public rest areas.”

    On other issues, Graves said:

  • ATA will be able to play a more proactive role when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases its proposed revision of hours-of-service regulations.

  • ATA’s Highway Watch program recently received an initial $100,000 pledge from Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for start-up costs. Graves said the industry will eventually receive about $20 million in funding to train drivers and others and create a communications center.

    - Linda Longton


    PRESIDENT WANTS MORE MONEY FOR TRUCKING AGENCY

    If the Bush administration gets what it is asking for, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will see a big funding increase next year.

    The administration sent Congress a budget at the end of January asking for a 6 percent increase in funding for the Department of Transportation in fiscal 2004. The DOT’s $54.3 billion budget is $2.9 billion higher than the current year’s budget. The FMCSA has requested $447 million, 22 percent more than the agency’s current request.

    The FMCSA budget request includes $223 million in Motor Carrier Safety Grants to states to enforce interstate commercial and bus regulations. The remaining $224 million will provide hazardous waste transportation oversight, federal safety enforcement programs and border safety inspections.

    The agency said it would increase the number of roadside inspections, improve the commercial driver’s license program and implement a hazardous material security program. The FMCSA also will begin its new entrant program, which requires every new carrier in North America applying for authority to operate in the United States to have a safety audit within 18 months.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking for $665 million, $240 more than the 2003 request. The additional request was made because NHTSA will take over the safety belt use and impaired driving law incentive program from the Federal Highway Administration.

    -Jill Dunn


    TEAMSTERS, CARRIERS REACH AGREEMENT

    The Teamsters and the Motor Freight Carriers Association reached a five-year National Master Freight Agreement last month that the union says will increase wages and guarantee health benefits.

    The contract applies to ABF Freight System, Roadway Express, USF Holland and Yellow Transportation.

    Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said the deal is “the largest monetary package ever in the freight industry.”

    “We protected healthcare – no co-pays,” he said. “We won a 73 percent increase in economics alone.”

    Hoffa said hourly wages will increase $2.25 over the contract’s term, making union drivers some of the best paid in the industry. The contract also prevents the carriers from subcontracting to Mexican operators.

    Other features include:

  • An additional, sixth week of vacation for workers with 30 years on the job.

  • Higher minimum-speed standards on all road equipment.

  • Air-conditioned cabs for all city trucks.

  • An open-ended grievance procedure, with arbitration eliminated.

  • Establishment of pay premiums for sleeper teams and premium service.

  • Greater flexibility in vacation policy.

  • Stronger language addressing time off and paid-time issues, as well as qualifying for holidays, banking sick leave and payment for delay time.

  • Limits on 10-hour days.


    SCHNEIDER HIRING 200 DRIVERS

    Schneider National is hiring 200 drivers and owner-operators to fill regional truck driver positions in Virginia.

    The Wisconsin-based carrier is hiring truckers who live within 100 miles of Gordonville, Va., to support Wal-Mart’s new distribution center. No experience is required, but experienced drivers will receive a $2,500 bonus for relocating to this region.

    Inexperienced drivers will receive a $1,000 signing bonus and will average $31,000 to $36,000 their first year. Experienced drivers will get a $2,000 signing bonus and will average $36,000 to $50,000 annually. Owner-operators who lease to Schneider may gross as much as $115,000 annually. Truckers will work six days on and have two days off.

    Interested persons should call (800) 447-7433 or visit www.schneider.com.


    SHELL TO KEEP PENNZOIL, QUAKER STATE BRANDS

    Shell Lubricants says it plans to continue selling Pennzoil and Quaker State oil brands, in addition to Shell brands, following the acquisition of Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. late last year. The company’s four top diesel engine oil brands are: Shell Rotella T, a premium oil; Shell Rimula Premium, for use in extra-high performance heavy-duty engines; Pennzoil Long-Life Heavy Duty Engine Oil, an extra-high performance engine oil; and Quaker State Universal HDX, a high-quality fleet motor oil.



    EPA APPROVES CATERPILLAR’S ACERT SYSTEM

    Caterpillar Inc.’s new engine technology has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, the company says.

    With the approval, Caterpillar’s engines equipped with the technology will now be compliant with stringent emissions standards that went into effect in October. ACERT (advanced combustion emission reduction technology) should be in all Caterpillar on-highway truck engines by the fourth quarter of 2003, the engine maker says. The ACERT system reduces emissions at the point of combustion.

    Caterpillar’s truck engine competitors use exhaust gas recirculation technology to meet the new EPA standards. Most of their engines met the low emissions level last year.

    “ACERT will set a new industry standard for clean diesel engine technology in both on-highway trucks and buses, as well as off-road Caterpillar construction and mining machines,” says Richard Thompson, group president for the engine division.


    NEW FDA RULES COULD SLOW FOOD DELIVERY

    Trucking and manufacturing groups that would be affected by U.S. Food and Drug Administration security proposals say the plan could significantly slow down the food transportation process.

    The agency is proposing a prior notification regulation that would require it to be notified by noon one calendar day before imported food arrives at a border crossing or port. The agency expects to average 20,000 notices daily.

    Affected organizations say the proposal would disrupt freight flow. “There’s been a substantial increase in food, particularly fish and fruit, coming into this country,” says Gary Petty, president of the National Private Truck Council. The proposal would be “onerous to administer,” he says. Others fear the proposal could leave loaded trucks waiting at the border if all paperwork isn’t in order.

    The plan is impractical because the U.S. food supply chain is dependent on just-in-time delivery and around-the-clock food processing facilities and transportation systems, says Susan Stout, a Grocery Manufacturers of America spokesperson.


    DALLAS TRUCK SHOW OFFERS ON-SITE PARKING

    Attendees at the Great American Trucking Show will be able to park their rigs for free at the Reunion Arena parking lot, a 20-acre paved area adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center.

    “GATS is constantly evolving to provide the latest in services, equipment, convenience and fun – all in one location,” says Randy Schwartzenburg, GATS general manager.

    A map and directions to the Reunion Arena parking lot, along with additional information about the Sept. 26-28 show, are available at www.gatsonline.com.


    CLASS STATUS GRANTED IN OOIDA LAWSUIT

    Owner-operators suing Heartland Express in an Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association action have been granted class certification status. A federal judge granted the standing in a lawsuit that alleges that Heartland Express’ lease with owner-operators violates federal truth-in-leasing regulations. The trial is scheduled to start Sept. 8.



    SHORT HAULS

    THE ETRUCKER.COM $1,000 Money for Miles winner for January is Annette Robertson of Bastrop, La.

    NATSO IS FIGHTING a proposed Washington state pilot project that would allow private entities to offer services at interstate rest areas. NATSO, a trade association for truck stop owners, says the move could hurt local business.

    COMPUNET Credit Services credit reports now include general business credit information from Experian, which gives an overall view of an account’s potential risk; a 15-month average-days-to-pay chart for tracking payment trends; and a chart that shows how often a company’s credit report was pulled in the past 15 months.

    TRANSCORE COMMERCIAL SERVICES will add DAT load and information monitors to 30 Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores in the United States and six Fifth Wheel Corp. truck stops in Canada. The DAT monitors also provide weather and other information.

    INDICTMENTS AGAINST a former state tax commission employee, a service agent and tag agent were unsealed in January in an Oklahoma County District Court. The three were charged as part of an ongoing investigation into kickback and bribery allegations involving truck taxes and registrations.

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