News From The Industry
FBI composite sketch of hijacking suspect.
TANKER DRIVER FOILS HIJACK ATTEMPT
A tanker driver who foiled a hijacking attempt March 24 near Bloomington, Ind., handled the situation correctly, says an FBI spokesman.
The driver of a tanker loaded with 88,000 pounds of gasoline reported two people in a GMC Yukon attempted to hijack him March 24. The incident occurred on SR 37, south of Martinsville.
Truckers encountering similar threats should contact local police immediately, says Doug Garrison, an FBI special agent. The trucker, who has not been publicly identified, says he kept driving after a passenger in the GMC brandished a gun at him.
The trucker, a long-time driver for McDaniel Transport of Indianapolis, contacted his company first and was relayed to police, says Trooper Jackie Taylor. Truckers faced with a similar situation should contact police directly or call their dispatchers, who should have police contact numbers for any area where their truckers travel. Truckers should also try to gather as much information about suspects as possible without putting themselves at risk, Garrison says.
The agency received leads soon after releasing a sketch of the armed suspect, described as a bald white male with a puffy face and goatee, Garrison says. He was riding in a recent model white Yukon with flashing red-and-blue lights embedded in the grill. Anyone with further information should contact local police or the FBI at (317) 321-6147.
– Jill Dunn
STATES TARGET PRICE GOUGING
California, Nevada and Michigan have joined other states in addressing consumer accusations of price-gouging at the fuel pump. State and federal initiatives followed the rise of average diesel fuel prices to $1.77 in early March; the average fell to $1.53 by April 21.
The California Energy and Public Utilities Commission reported that there was no evidence of deliberate distribution shortages. But California Gov. Gray Davis referred to a March Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling that natural gas and energy prices were manipulated in recent years by several power companies, including subsidiaries of the bankrupt Enron Corp. He promised continued monitoring of prices.
On April 2, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm launched a website to provide current fuel price information and a complaint form. She said that companion bills were expected to be introduced that would ban fuel price gouging when the governor declares a state of emergency.
When Granholm served as Michigan’s attorney general, she prosecuted 48 gas stations following price hikes after Sept. 11, 2001. The stations had to refund more than $100,000 in overcharges to consumers and pay $30,000 in civil penalties.
Florida, Ohio and Kansas also have agreements with fuel retailers related to post-9-11 pricing and have collected thousands of dollars.
On April 2, Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval announced that his office had not found evidence of price gouging, though there were record price levels. Sandoval said he has increased monitoring efforts in his office and is considering an independent study of the problem.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan made price spike reporting to her office available online and by phone. Madigan pledged to question companies that might use the Middle East situation as an excuse for unwarranted price hikes.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist requested a Federal Trade Commission investigation Feb. 18. He also met with ExxonMobil representatives over fuel prices and asked in a letter for a public explanation if prices did not begin to drop.
On the federal level, several officials have asked for FTC investigations. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a bill March 24 that requires the FTC to investigate possible market manipulation any time average gas prices in any state increase by 20 percent within 90 days.
If market manipulation exists, then the FTC would work with the state attorney general to determine penalties. If not, the federal energy department would be required to decide within 14 days if the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be used.
– Jill Dunn
FAMILY CONTEST DEADLINE NEARS
Time is running out to submit a nomination for the Truckers News Great American Trucking Family for 2003.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation truckers or those with extended family trucking ties can enter. The winner is also chosen on trucking industry and civic involvement.
All entries must be received via e-mail or postmarked by June 1.
Look for an entry form inside Trucker News, which can be found at most major truck stops, or visit www.truckersnews.com for an online form.
TONKA TO SPONSOR TRUCK RACES
The Super Truck Racing Association of North America has a preliminary, multi-year agreement with Hasbro Inc. to use its Tonka brand to promote races. STRANA officials also say the group has an agreement for ESPN2 to be a broadcast partner for this year’s races.
STRANA races this year include: Sonoma, Calif., July 25-27; Bowmanville, Ontario, Aug. 15-17; and Elkhart Lake, Wis., Aug. 22-24.
Under the proposed agreement, STRANA’s events this year would be called the Tonka 2003 Super Truck Celebrity Challenge. “The name Tonka has meant big, tough trucks for generations of North Americans,” says Brian Till, STRANA executive director. “It’s also synonymous with family entertainment.”
Other STRANA sponsors include Alcoa, Continental Tires, Haldex, ArvinMeritor, Truckin’ Bozo Radio network, www.1800drivers.com and America on the Road magazine.
TWO CONTRACTORS ON ROAD TEAM
Thirteen drivers and one alternate were chosen to serve as the American Trucking Association’s 2003 Road Team, a group of industry ambassadors who educate truckers and motorists on safety and represent ATA before the government and the media. They are:
Wood and Nardone are owner-operators. Otto Schmeckenbecher of ABF Freight Systems, Little Rock, Ark., was selected as an alternate.
CUMMINS EXTENDS EGR WARRANTY
Cummins has extended its Uptime Guarantee warranty on its exhaust gas recirculation engines through Dec. 31. Under the guarantee, if any part on an ISX or ISM engine fails and can’t be repaired within 24 hours, Cummins will reimburse the customer for up to three days’ truck rental.
None of the more than 4,200 of the engines on the road have experienced a failure due to EGR components, Cummins officials said at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The company has orders for nearly 8,000 more.
That warranty program now applies to Cummins ISX and ISM engines purchased and built between Oct. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2003, with coverage through Dec. 31, 2003.
The guarantee has helped attract orders from C.R. England, Celadon, Central Trucking, First Fleet, Southeastern Freightlines, Summitt Trucking LLC and the Yanke Group of Companies, officials said.
Cummins also launched a Same Day Or We Pay program. It guarantees qualifying in-shop repair jobs, with a standard repair time of four hours or fewer, will be completed on the same day or Cummins will offer a $75 credit toward future parts and service.
Officials said owner-operators can now access parts and service information online at quickserve.cummins.com.
FREIGHTLINER EXEC SAYS CONSOLIDATION WILL ACCELERATE
The move to streamline the options truckers have when they spec trucks is gaining momentum, according to Freightliner’s chief operating officer.
Roger Nielsen, addressing the Heavy-Duty Manufacturers Association in March, said that truck makers must source components from fewer suppliers and more closely integrate them into the business in order to meet customers’ needs for economical, reliable and durable vehicles.
“We can no longer continue to offer every brand and every component on every truck,” he said. “We must free up resources to focus on meeting customers’ needs.”
While this supply base simplification is driven in part by ever-tightening Environmental Protection Agency regulations, truck manufacturers have been setting up alliances between axle, transmission and other component suppliers since the 1990s. International, for instance, recently announced that Fontaine International will be the only supplier of fifth wheels on the company’s heavy-duty trucks.
The goal of such consolidation, Nielsen said, is to give customers optimally engineered products, while maximizing manufacturers’ resources. “We do not have an unlimited supply of engineers lined up against a wall waiting for something to do,” he said. As an example, he noted that although his company is still tightly linked with all engine makers, when it came to the ’02 engines, “we didn’t have the time or resources to engineer all of them into our products.”
Acknowledging that vertical integration is often viewed as a negative development, Nielsen emphasized that Freightliner will not abandon its legacy of custom trucks.
“We need to offer more than a bunch of components wired together,” he said. Truck makers must evaluate and select the best component choices. “Customers only stand to benefit in this process,” he said.
In this scenario, successful suppliers will be those who offer proprietary technology. “Those who try to be all things to all people will struggle,” Nielsen said.
– Linda Longton
FINE RANGES INCREASE
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made inflationary adjustments on non-compliance penalties for the first time since 1998.
Now a CDL driver convicted of violating an out-of-service order may be fined $2,100 to $3,750 per incident instead of the previous range of $1,100 to $2,750. Employers who allow an employee to violate an order may receive a civil penalty of $3,750 to $16,000 instead of $2,750 to $11,000.
Carriers who do not hold the required insurance can be fined as much as $16,000 daily, and other safety regulation violations now fine carriers $11,000 and drivers $2,750.
Other fine increases include record-keeping violation penalties, which are now $550 to $5,500, and non-compliance with hazmat safety regulations, which carries fines of $275 to $32,500 per incident.
The final rule was published in the March 31 Federal Register. More information is available at www.archives.gov/federal_register/index.html.
WERNER HIRING 150 DRIVERS
Werner Enterprises is hiring 125 drivers to fill positions in Ohio, 15 in Wisconsin and 10 in Michigan. The Omaha-based carrier is hiring truckers who live within 50 miles of Columbus, Ohio; Howell, Mich., and Oconomowoc, Wis. The Ohio and Michigan drivers will support Werner’s new Anheuser-Busch account while the Wisconsin drivers will haul for Target.
Based on experience, the rate for the Anheuser-Busch accounts will vary from 33 cents to 35 cents per mile for daycab drivers who are home daily to 30 cents per mile for road drivers who are home weekly.
The Target account allows drivers to be home on a weekly basis, earning 32 cents per mile with no-touch freight.
Further information is available by calling (800) 637-8452 or visiting www.werner.com.
Fuel surcharges offered comfort for relatively few owner-operators as diesel prices spiked in recent weeks. After diesel prices climbed to their highest recorded average – $1.77 – partly on expectation of war with Iraq, prices dropped to $1.54 by mid-April. Nevertheless, that price was still 20 cents higher than a year ago.
GEORGIA TRUCKER NAMED GOODYEAR HIGHWAY HERO
The 20th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero is Georgia trucker Charles Ingram, who risked his life to break out the windows of a burning car and pull two passengers to safety.
Ingram, a six-year veteran driver for FedEx Ground, accepted the award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Ingram was driving in the Atlanta area when he came upon the burning car. Bystanders were not trying to help the two people trapped in the car.
“I thought, ‘No way am I going to let this guy go out like this,’ so I just reacted,” Ingram said. After removing the victims, Ingram administered first aid.
The other finalists were:
CAT LETS ENGINES OUT OF THE BAG
Completing its most expensive product launch in history, Caterpillar introduced its long-awaited ACERT engines in March at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
Cat’s ACERT engines will be available across Cat’s product line by the end of the year, says Jim McReynolds, manager of the on-highway engine department.
ACERT is a proprietary Caterpillar technology designed to achieve the emissions reduction that was mandated by Oct. 1, 2002, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other engine makers use exhaust gas recirculation, a process in which gases are siphoned out of the exhaust system and fed into the combustion chamber, to meet the emissions standards. Caterpillar did not have the full ACERT technology ready by Oct. 1, so it has paid fines for each engine it produced.
“There are some in the industry who have portrayed ACERT as a figment of Caterpillar’s imagination,” McReynolds says. “Maybe they hoped it was.”
But, he said, ACERT not only meets EPA standards, but it offers reliability, durability, fuel economy and power comparable to pre-October engines.
Cat’s heavy-duty ACERT (Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology) engines feature a double turbo system, which Cat has already used in some mining trucks and marine applications, and an air management system designed for maximum fuel combustion efficiency in the cylinders. It also employs an exhaust treatment system used in other Cat engines. The exhaust system features a tailored aftertreatment, which changes particulate matter into carbon dioxide or water.
Cat will build five ACERT engines: the C7, for mid-range use; the C9 and C11, for vocational operations; and the C13 and C15, for heavy-duty trucks. The C7 and C9 have already received EPA approval, and the other engines will before the end of the year, the company said.
The engines will weigh between 150 and 200 pounds more than the company’s present engines, and they will cost more. McReynolds said the company would charge “a premium” to truck makers, who then work the engines into their own pricing arrangements.
– John latta
ACT WOULD affect LENGTH, WEIGHT
A move is afoot in Congress to bring truck weight and length limits under federal control.
The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, which was expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives, would remove states’ authority to further expand truck weight and length limits. Currently, states’ weight and length limits are set at the state level; some states allow trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds GVW and others restrict trailer length. The legislation, however, would shift that jurisdiction to the federal government.
The American Trucking Associations opposes the bill, and ATA President Bill Graves has asked state transportation departments to support the group’s position.
But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association “has always been an advocate of uniform size and weights,” says Todd Spencer, association executive vice president. “Usually shippers, not truckers, are interested in increasing weight limits. There’s little or no gain for the trucker. What gain you make is eaten up in taxes and fees.”
– Jill Dunn
SHELL EXHIBITS COMPONENTS FROM OUTBACK TEST
After running 186,000 miles in the rugged Outback of Australia, an engine that powered an extra-long tractor-trailer for a year was in excellent condition, say Shell Lubricants officials.
“Engine component after engine component has shown little or no wear,” says Dan Arcy of Shell Lubricants. “We are very proud of the results, especially when you consider the heat and dust in the operating environment, and the high levels of soot and acid that resulted from the massive amount of fuel burned.”
Shell conducted a teardown of the engine in March at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
– John Latta
TALENT SEARCH CHOOSES FIVE WINNERS for CD
After truckers and their family members put their musical skills on display in the Stars of the Road Talent Search at the March 20-22 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., five winners were chosen:
Former trucker Marshall Madison was originally a finalist, but he stepped down after acquiring an investor who is seeking a major recording deal for him.
The audition was the first installment of AmeriSearch Music Group’s nationwide talent search. There were 18 contestants.
Gear Jammer Records, a division of AMG, offers winners a chance to have two songs each placed on a compilation CD. It will be distributed nationwide either by a trucking-related product sponsor or by several transportation company sponsors within six months.
The five winners are invited to showcase their talents and sell their own personal projects, along with the Gear Jammer Records compilation, at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Sept. 26-28.
An audition for a second CD will be held at GATS.
Further information on the talent search is available by visiting gearjammerrecords.com or calling (989) 892-8433.
MICHIGAN NOW CHARGES TAX AT PUMP
Fueling up in Michigan now means paying the full diesel tax upon purchase, as the 6-cent-per-gallon fuel tax discount at the pump ended April 1, according to the state treasury department.
Beginning with the filing period ending in June, the Michigan surcharge on the IFTA return has been removed from the quarterly report.
Also, filing the Supplemental Motor Carrier Tax Report, or Form 3240, is no longer required. Credit for tax paid on diesel used in non-highway equipment that used to be taken on the supplemental report can be taken on a Claim for Refund of Motor Fuel Tax or Form 680-2.
Persons who have claimed a credit for non-highway use of fuel on the supplemental report within the last year will receive a pre-identified refund claim form in the mail.
MANY OWNER-OPERATORS working the New Orleans port shut down their trucks and were protesting for better wages and fuel surcharges last month. Owner-operators say they earn $300 to $400 per week after expenses, receiving $30 to $35 per load and making about eight or nine runs daily. Pay has remained unchanged for 15 to 20 years, they said. The protesters were not attempting to interfere with cargo flow.
CUMMINS RANKED No. 2 on this year’s list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens, released by Business Ethics magazine. The ranking is based on corporate service to stockholders, employees, customers, the community, the environment, overseas stakeholders and women and minorities.
MINERAL OR SYNTHETIC? With various brands and grades of mineral and synthetic oil on the market, it can be hard to make an informed choice about what to put in your engine. May’s Monthly Focus section of eTrucker.com will explore the latest developments in oil and oil filtration.
VEHICLE RECORDERS for trucking and other transportation modes will be the topic of a symposium hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board June 4-5 at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, Va. Further information is available at www.ntsb.gov.
PREPASS has opened two new sites in Florida, bringing the total operational sites to 16 in Florida and 230 nationwide. The new sites are east- and west-bound on I-10 at Ellaville, Fla. PrePass enables qualified trucks to bypass weigh and inspection stations at highway speeds.
IDLEAIRE TECHNOLOGIES has opened a 63-unit installation in Atlanta at the Petro Stopping Center at I-285 and Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, also known as the Bankhead Highway. It is the fourth location for an IdleAire system, which provides drivers with heating and cooling, power and telecommunications through a window unit.
FORD RACING outfitted itself with 35 International 9400i Series 6-by-4 tractors to haul NASCAR teams throughout the country this season. The trucks will transport team vehicles and equipment for Ford teams under Robert Yates Racing, Roush Racing and Wood Brothers Racing. The trucks will be hauling equipment in the NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck series.
TRUCKERS TURNED out in large numbers for the 2003 Mid-America Trucking Show. More than 70,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors filled the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Attendance was up more than 5 percent despite the onset of the war in Iraq. Celebrities including Mario Andretti, Pam Tillis, Ricky Craven, Michael Waltrip, Tanya Tucker and Bill Mack made appearances at the show. Country group Alabama gave its 15th and last Mid-America concert.
BIG BROTHER and the CDL? That’s what the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends. Inspector General Kenneth Mead told a congressional subcommittee that any increased funding in the commercial driver’s license program should be tied to improvements that weed out fraud. States, which administer CDL tests, would have to use “covert procedures to monitor driver examiners,” Mead says.
TEAMSTER FREIGHT members have approved a five-year National Master Freight Agreement that includes wage increases and no health care premium co-pays. It also offers a $2.25 per hour wage increase over the life of the agreement and prohibits employers from subcontracting work in the United States to a Mexican carrier.
OHIO LAWMAKERS plan to hike fuel taxes 6 cents by 2005 but are phasing out a diesel surcharge. Under the plan, truckers and motorists will be hit with a state fuel tax increase of 2 cents per year, but truckers would lose the 3-cent fuel tax differential they pay on top of state fuel taxes by 2005. Ohio’s governor was expected to sign the bill into law.
8,000 INSPECTORS will participate in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Roadcheck, June 3-5, at more than 900 locations across North America. In 2002, 50,000 inspections were conducted, 40,000 of which involved both vehicle and driver.
VOLVO TRUCKS has become the official heavy-duty truck for two of the biggest names in NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Roush Racing The sponsorships include the placement of Volvo Trucks logos on tractors and transporter trailers, show cars and at driver appearances and public events. New Volvo VN780s will pull the teams’ transporters.
FLYING J FOUNDER and Chairman O. Jay Call was killed when a jet he was piloting crashed in Idaho. Also killed in the crash were retired refinery executive Richard “Buzz” Germer and his wife Irene.
HAZMAT HAULERS are being asked by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to be mindful of security. The agency has posted a hijacking brochure for drivers on its website, www.fmcsa.dot.gov. The guide provides tips on how to avoid
hijackings and protect trucks.
CORRECTION. Interstate Connections, which sells telecommunications services in truck stops, does not have a vendor relationship with Nextel or Verizon. The company was mentioned in the April issue.