Status quo

| February 03, 2008

The latest development in the legal challenge to the hours of service rule leaves it unchanged for the immediate future.

Truck drivers will continue to be limited to driving 11 hours within a 14-hour duty period, after which they must go off duty for at least 10 hours, under an interim final rule made public Dec. 11 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The IFR also preserves the ability to restart cumulative limits by resting for 34 hours.

The agency issued the new hours rule in response to the recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating key provisions of the existing hours of service rule, effective Dec. 27. In order to ensure no gap in coverage of these important safety rules, the interim final rule temporarily reinstates those two provisions while the agency gathers public comment on its actions and the underlying safety analysis before issuing a final rule.

The IFR was developed, FMCSA says, after new data showed that safety levels have been maintained since the 11-hour driving limit first was implemented in 2003.

“This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work,” FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill said. “The data makes clear that these rules continue to protect drivers, make our roads safer and keep our economy moving.”

After the IFR becomes effective Dec. 27, there will be a 60-day comment period, Hill said. Analysis after that could take “a few weeks or even a few months,” he said.

Once a final rule has been established, FMCSA will review longstanding concerns from drivers and carriers over the provision that restricts the sleeper berth split to eight-hour and two-hour periods, Hill said.

The agency also is working to finalize a proposed rule that would require drivers and trucking companies with serious or repeat hours-of-service violations to track their hours using electronic on-board recorders, Hill said.

FMCSA noted that in 2006 the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.94 – the lowest rate ever recorded. Similarly, since 2003, the percentage of large trucks involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes in the 11th hour of driving has remained below the average of the years 1991-2002. In 2005 alone, the agency noted, only one large truck was involved in a fatigue-related fatal crash in the 11th hour of driving, while in 2004 there were none.

In addition, between 2003, when the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart were adopted, and 2006, the percent of fatigue-related large truck crashes relative to all fatal large truck crashes has remained consistent. The agency’s estimates show that only 7 percent of large truck crashes are fatigue-related.

The American Trucking Associations applauded the IFR. The existing regulations “have led to a reduction in deaths and injuries over the last several years,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has objected to elements of the hours rule in the past, also indicated support for the FMCSA announcement.

“We agree with the agency’s decision and appreciate its efforts toward ensuring that professional truckers aren’t hamstrung by regulations that limit their discretion and unnecessarily keep them on the road, tired or not,” said Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs.

Craig added, “We are pleased with having the uncertainty removed, but continue to have concerns about other hours-of-service-related matters. We look forward to working with the agency in the coming year through the rulemaking process.”

The IFR is available as an 83-page PDF download at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/news-releases/2007/hos.pdf.

The FMCSA will take public comments through Feb. 15 at www.regulations.gov. The public also can fax comments to (202) 493-2251 or mail them to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

All comments must be identified with the rule’s docket number, FMCSA-2004-19608.
- From Staff Reports


FMCSA Defends Itself; Groups Want HOS Rule Overturned
At a Dec. 19 U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing attended by only two senators, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defended its interim final rule on hours of service. The same day, four groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the rule.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chair of the surface transportation subcommittee, accused the FMCSA of ignoring the recent appeals-court ruling vacating the 11th hour of driving and the 34-hour restart provisions. The interim final rule, announced in December, preserves both provisions.

FMCSA Administrator John Hill defended the agency’s action as a “temporary measure to prevent disruption of hours-of-service enforcement and compliance as we make a final rule.”
FMCSA is in the process of reviewing public comment and conducting peer analysis to address the issues raised by the court, with an expected final rule in 2008, Hill said.

“Only 27 percent of drivers that we surveyed are using the 11th hour of driving,” Hill said.

Besides Lautenberg, the only subcommittee member present was U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and he left before the hearing was over.

Immediately before the hearing, four groups – Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Public Citizen and the Teamsters union – asked the court to overturn the interim final rule. They argued that it defies the court’s July decision and its September order granting the FMCSA a 90-day stay and “flouts” the Administrative Procedures Act.

The petitioners want the court to direct the FMCSA to issue a new guidance for a 10-hour consecutive driving time and a 60-and-70 hour on-duty weekly limit with no 34-hour restart.

At the hearing, Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen, which favors mandatory electronic on-board recorders in all trucks, asked family members of people killed in large-truck crashes to hold up pictures of their lost loved ones. They complied.

Lautenberg called the hearing an occasion to be reminded of “what happens when we get careless or casual about enforcement when we have laws on the books.”

Speaking for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association at the hearing, 26-year owner-operator Walter Krupski of New Jersey testified that hours violations would disappear if truckers were compensated fairly for their hours spent waiting at docks and loading and unloading freight. “Unless these economic issues are addressed, drivers who become disqualified from driving for violating the hours-of-service rules will simply be replaced by a new driver facing the same economic pressures,” Krupski said.
- Todd Dills; Jill Dunn contributed to this report.


NTSB Seeks Onboard Recorders and Tighter Log Controls
In response to a July 2004 multiple-vehicle rear-end collision in a construction zone, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Dec. 17 that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require all interstate carriers to use electronic on-board recorders to monitor compliance with hours-of-service regulations and to take measures in the interim to prevent log tampering and submission of false logs.

Specifically, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker recommended that the FMCSA require motor carriers to create and maintain audit control systems that include, at a minimum, the retention of all original and corrected paper logs and the use of bound and sequentially numbered logs.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash on I-94 near Chelsea, Mich., was a truck driver’s failure to stop upon encountering traffic congestion in a temporary traffic control zone. Using global positioning system data from the driver’s employer, Equity Transportation of Grand Rapids, Mich., NTSB investigators concluded that the driver had been on duty continuously for 19.75 hours, driving almost 14 cumulative hours during that time.

Contributing to the accident were Equity Transportation’s insufficient regard for, and oversight of, driver compliance with hours regulations and the FMCSA’s failure to require tamperproof driver logs, Rosenker told FMCSA Administrator John Hill in a letter.

Another contributor was the Michigan Department of Transportation’s failure to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis as part of a bridge rehabilitation project, Rosenker said.
Commenting on the FMCSA’s current proposal to require recorders only on carriers with a pattern of violations, Rosenker noted that Equity would not be considered a pattern violator since it consistently has received satisfactory ratings before and after the compliance review triggered by the July 2004 accident.

While the FMCSA proposes incentives to get carriers to install recorders voluntarily, “the Safety Board is unconvinced that these incentives are sufficient to override the financial motivation that pattern violators have for continuing to circumvent hours-of-service regulations and to not use EOBRs for tracking hours of service,” Rosenker said.
- From Staff Reports


Agency Seeks to Mandate Behind-the-Wheel Training
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to require that newly licensed commercial driver’s license holders first complete specified minimum classroom and behind-the-wheel training from an accredited institution or program.

The notice of proposed rulemaking was published Dec. 26 in the Federal Register. Comments are due March 25.

FMCSA would exempt drivers who receive their first CDLs or upgrade to another class of CDL before a date that’s three years after the agency issues a final rule. Also exempted would be drivers who intend to operate exclusively intrastate.

Under the proposed rule, a state could issue a CDL only if the applicant presented a valid driver training certificate obtained from an accredited institution or program. The minimum training requirements would be based mostly on a model curriculum published in 1985 by the Federal Highway Administration, FMCSA’s predecessor. The model curriculum addresses basic operation, safe operating practices, vehicle maintenance and non-vehicle activities.

The agency proposes to require entry-level training for all types of commercial motor vehicles but to vary the curriculum according to the class of CDL. For Class A CDLs, FMCSA proposes 120 hours of minimum training: 76 hours in the classroom and 44 hours behind the wheel.

This would be the same amount of behind-the-wheel training recommended as a minimum by the Professional Truck Driver Institute, though PTDI recommends more total hours of minium training, 148.

For Class B and C CDLs, FMCSA proposes 90 hours of training: 58 hours in the classroom and 32 hours behind the wheel.Training institutions would be required to conduct skills tests on entry-level driver students using qualified instructors as determined by FMCSA.

The training provider or program would have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

For a copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking, visit www.regulations.gov and search FMCSA-2007-27748.
- Avery Vise


FMCSA: Cross-Border Trucking Will Continue
President Bush signed an omnibus spending bill Dec. 26 that explicitly cut off funds to any new cross-border trucking program with Mexico – but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the existing program will continue nonetheless.

The language in the appropriations bill prohibiting funds “to establish” such a program doesn’t apply to the program already in place, the FMCSA announced.

“In accordance with the 2008 omnibus appropriations act, the U.S. Department of Transportation will not establish any new demonstration programs with Mexico,” FMCSA said in a statement. “The current cross-border trucking demonstration project – established in September – will continue to operate.”

H.R. 2764, the compromise bill approved by the House on Dec. 17 and the Senate on Dec. 18 and sent to the White House on Dec. 19, wrapped together funding for the entire federal government except the Department of Defense, already funded under separate legislation.

Signed into law by President Bush, the bill included a prohibition denying funds “to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

The bill also retained language that:

  • Prohibits interstate tolling in Texas. The amendment was introduced to the Senate’s version of the transportation bill by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and was kept in the final version.

  • Allows states to adopt tougher chemical-plant security rules than the federal government.
  • Delays a new security rule requiring passports at all U.S. border crossings until June 1, 2009, at the earliest.

The cross-border program, in place since Sept. 6, allows a limited number of Mexican trucking companies to operate beyond the 25-mile commercial zone in the United States and allows a limited number of U.S. carriers likewise to operate into Mexico. Intended as a one-year experiment involving a relative handful of carriers, the program has been termed a “demonstration project” by the Bush administration and a “pilot program” by its opponents. Pilot programs are required by law to satisfy a number of regulations, including public comment periods.

The FMCSA announced Dec. 27, via a website update that did not allude to the new legislation, that it had granted operating authority to an 11th Mexican carrier, leaving the tally at 11 Mexican carriers OK’d to operate a total of 56 trucks in the United States and four U.S. carriers OK’d to operate a total of 41 trucks in Mexico. FMCSA has notified an additional 37 Mexican carriers that they passed a pre-authorization safety audit.

The four U.S. carriers are Stage Coach Cartage & Distribution of El Paso, Texas (seven trucks), IBC of Chula Vista, Calif. (one truck), Plastic Express of City of Industry, Calif. (22 trucks), and A&R Transport of Joliet, Ill. (11 trucks). The complete list of all the carriers is at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/cross-border/cross-border-carriers.htm.
- From Staff Reports


TCA Names Finalists for Driver Contests
The results are in from the final round of judging for the Company Equipment Driver of the Year award sponsored by Truckers News and the Truckload Carriers Association. The three finalists are Doug Ladds of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, driver for MacKinnon Transport; John Pipes of Pacific, Mo., driver for Con-way Truckload; and Steven French of Chase Mills, N.Y., driver for Anderson Trucking Service.

Northeast regional hauler Doug Ladds can claim more than 20 years of on-highway experience and 2.2 million safe miles with no moving or service violations. Today he serves as MacKinnon’s Driver Trainer Supervisor and is part of the Ontario Trucking Association Road Knight Team, a group of 10 drivers dedicated to raising awareness of how all road users can safely share the road.

Dry van hauler John Pipes has logged 2.9 million safe miles in his 27-year career, 20 of them with Contract Freighters, Inc., his current employer. He comes from a long line of truckers, which includes his grandfather, who taught him the importance of trucking. Today, in addition to his driving duties, he’s a certified driver trainer.

Steven French hauls oversize loads with 1.9 million safe miles under his belt. He’s been with Anderson Trucking Service since 1995 and has no preventable accident, incident or cargo claim on his record with the company. A member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, French has earned numerous awards, including a third-place finish in Anderson’s 2004 Truck Rodeo in Gary, Ind.

The finalists for the Independent Contractor of the Year award, sponsored by TCA with Overdrive magazine are Billy Smith of Corpus Christie, Texas, leased to Dart Transit; John Gill of Patriot, Ohio, also with Dart; and Jimmy McSwain of Winterhaven, Fla., with Sunco Carriers.

Winners for each contest will be announced at TCA’s annual convention March 1-4 at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Complete prize packages were not finalized at press time.


New Medical-Clinic Chain Announced
Roadside Medical Clinics, based in Alpharetta, Ga., has announced plans for a coast-to-coast network at Pilot Travel Centers to address the health needs of over-the-road truck drivers.

Roadside Medical said its first clinics are scheduled to open at Pilot locations in Cartersville, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn., in January 2008. Roadside Medical plans to open 16 more in 2008 and 20 more in 2009, the company said.

“Without easy access to medical care, many drivers would put off going to the doctor as long as possible,” said Joe Neely, Roadside Medical chief executive officer.

Roadside Medical plans to offer its services in various subscription packages for an average of $15 to $30 a month, said Bob Perry, Roadside Medical vice president.

Open to both individual drivers and fleets, the program will include health coaching via telephone and Internet. “We want to put together a road map to enable drivers to make small adjustments to eating habits and exercise to get them on a healthier path,” Perry said.

A similar clinic network is envisioned by Professional Drivers Medical Depots, based in Knoxville, Tenn., which has three locations so far and 15 others in the works, the majority of them at Petro Stopping Centers.

For more information on Roadside Medical, visit its website at www.roadsidemed.com.
- From Staff Reports


Great American Trucking Family Entries Due May 1
Truckers News is looking for a family with deep roots in trucking.

The 2008 Great American Trucking Family contest rewards one family each year that has multi-generational family members in trucking.

Members of the winning family will be featured in the August issue of Truckers News. The award will be given at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Aug. 21-23.

Entries must be postmarked by May 1 or e-mailed by that date to Executive Editor John Latta at jlatta@randallpub.com.

Entries can be mailed to Great American Trucking Family / John Latta, 3200 Rice Mine Road N.E., Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.

To submit an entry online, visit www.truckersnews.com and look for the Great American Trucking Family tab.
- From Staff Reports


FYI | News Briefs
Tonnage Index Up Slightly

The seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.8 percent in November after a 0.2 percent contraction in October, the American Trucking Associations reported. The non-seasonally adjusted index decreased 8.5 percent, to 111.8. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index improved to 112.0 in November from 111.1 the previous month.

Volvo Voluntarily Recalls Trucks
Volvo Trucks North America voluntarily is recalling 125,000 Class 8 trucks to replace circuit breakers that might cause fires, according to documentation at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. The models affected are the VHD, VNL and VNM, all from years 2003-2008, and the VT from years 2005, 2007 and 2008. For more information call Volvo at (800) 528-6586.

New Beltway HOT Lanes
Nearly $1.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation in the form of a direct loan and tax-exempt private-activity bonds will jump-start the construction of high-technology express lanes on the Virginia stretch of I-495, the Capital Beltway around Washington, D.C. The 14-mile, $1.9 billion project will include two new variably priced high-occupancy-toll lanes between Georgetown Pike and the Springfield Interchange. The HOT lanes’ prices will fluctuate according to traffic volume.

Los Angeles OKs Cargo Fee
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted Dec. 20 to charge a $35 fee on cargo containers moving through the port, part of a plan to reduce air pollution by replacing thousands of older trucks with cleaner-burning models. The Long Beach Harbor Commission OK’d a similar plan three days earlier.

Big Honkin’ Makeover Finalists
Tim Heddins of Gruver, Texas, Hendrik Kramer of Albuquerque, N.M., and Donald Wolford Jr. of Greencastle, Pa., are the finalists in the 2008 Castrol Tection Extra Big Honkin’ Truck Makeover contest. The winner gets a $50,000 truck makeover by the Chrome Shop Mafia. The contest will be decided by visitors to the contest website in an online vote that ends Feb. 28 and by attendees at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The winner will be announced March 29. To vote online, visit www.castroltruckmakeover.com.

Forward Air Opens Chicago Hub
Forward Air opened a regional sorting center in Chicago in January. The company’s 12th regional hub, it will provide direct overnight service between Chicago and 20 cities in the Midwest and Southeast. Forward Air laid the groundwork for its newest hub in March 2007 with the opening of a 126,000-square-foot cross-dock terminal near O’Hare International Airport.

Navistar Buys GM Medium-Duty Business
General Motors and International Truck and Engine, principal subsidiary of Navistar, have entered a non-binding agreement for Navistar to buy GM’s medium-duty truck business, the two companies announced Dec. 20. Terms were not announced, but Wall Street has estimated the GM unit’s annual revenue at $2 billion and its value at $500 million with about 12 percent of the medium-duty truck market.

Saved by the Belt Award
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance announced it has launched its Saved by the Belt Award program to recognize commercial motor vehicle drivers who have buckled up and whose lives were saved or injuries significantly reduced as a result. Anyone interested in nominating a person must submit a completed nomination form and a brief narrative of the crash, along with the accident or incident report and other supporting documents, and indicate why the nominee should be considered for the award. See www.cvsa.org for more information.

Freightliner Gives Away Cascadia
Nick Goodell won a Freightliner Cascadia just by attending the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in October. Goodell, director of The TruckGuardian Group for ThoughtDrivers LLC of Pittsburgh, was chosen randomly from 175 registrants Nov. 7 in a drawing to receive a Cascadia, Freightliner’s newest Class 8 on-highway commercial truck.

TA Opens New Petro:Lube
TravelCenters of America LLC has opened a new Petro:Lube facility in Gadsden, Ala. This marks the 68th truck maintenance and repair center now operating under the Petro:Lube brand. The new shop facility features six bays and further enhances customer services offered at the Petro Stopping Center at 1724 West Grand Ave. on a critical length of I-59 about 55 miles northeast of Birmingham.

Old Dominion Buys Bullocks Express
Old Dominion Freight Line announced that it is buying Bullocks Express Transportation of Denver, which has eight terminals in five states generating about $17 million in annual sales. Terms were not announced. The purchase includes all revenue equipment and all sales records. Old Dominion, based in Thomasville, N.C., will combine Bullocks Express’ terminals and routes into the Old Dominion network, increasing it to 192 terminals.

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