January 2002

CUSTOMS SAYS NO TO TAX-FREE DIESEL

The U.S. Customs Service says tax-free diesel sales at U.S. borders must cease, even though a federal court ruled in August 2000 that Customs had no authority to stop them.

So far, the dispute centers around the eight diesel pumps at the Ammex duty-free store on Lafayette Street in Detroit, near the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario. But NATSO, which represents U.S. truck stops and travel plazas, fears dozens of other duty-free stores will start selling diesel, too, undercutting its members by as much as 15 cents per gallon.

Customs says IRS rules require all fuel brought into the country to be taxed; therefore, the agency reasons, duty-free diesel sales are illegal. But the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled in 2000 that federal law includes no such prohibition. NATSO wants Congress to enact one.

About a month before the Customs announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Ammex’s claim that it needn’t collect Michigan sales and fuel taxes, upholding a Michigan ruling that a tank full of diesel isn’t an export if a trucker fills up in the United States.

– Jess Nicholas



GARBAGE COMPANIES TURN FROM DIESEL TO NATURAL GAS

Refuse trucks in emissions-conscious California are increasingly running on natural gas, instead of diesel fuel.

Early this year, Autocar will deliver 33 Xpeditor models with natural gas engines to Solano Garbage Co. in Fairfield, Calif. Solano plans to take 33 diesel trucks out of service and use natural gas to haul 90 percent of its loads. “We are interested in doing our part to help clean up the environment,” says Loyd Bonfante Jr., Solano’s maintenance manager.

Solano’s new fleet will feature Cummins Westport’s 8.3-liter C Gas Plus engine, which can run on compressed or liquefied natural gas.

Natural gas engines by Cummins Westport already power 14 heavy-duty Peterbilts operated by Sanitary Fill Co. in San Francisco, which has ordered nine more of the trucks. Each is powered by a Cummins Westport ISX-G engine, the low-emission natural-gas version of the Cummins ISX.

– Andy Duncan


SMART MONEY

How are you getting by week to week? Overdrive wants to share with other readers your most innovative and effective tips, on and off the road, for running a profitable owner-operator business in hard times. All published Smart Money entries will receive an Overdrive cap and a Partners in Business manual. The best entry will also receive a scale-model Overdrive Mack B-61.

Entries should say how much money was saved or earned. Include your name, address, telephone number and, if possible, a photograph of yourself. Send entries to Laura Crackel/Smart Money at Overdrive, 3200 Rice Mine Road N.E., Tuscaloosa, AL 35406, or by e-mail to lcrackel@etrucker.com, or by fax to (205) 750-8070.


“If an owner-operator wants a Cat engine, he can get a Cat engine from us.”

– Rainer Schmueckle

NEW FREIGHTLINER CHIEF: USED TRUCK SURPLUS, EMISSIONS REGULATIONS POSE CHALLENGES

The glut of used trucks continues to haunt the industry, Freightliner’s new president and CEO, Rainer Schmueckle, told Overdrive. “A wave has just rolled over us,” he said, “but there’s more coming.”

The bulk of the used trucks will hit the market in the next two years, but in the meantime, sales of used trucks could worsen in the next few months, he said. “Our used truck organization, for instance, sold 1,200 units in the first half of September; in the second half of September, it sold 200,” he said.

To help deplete the used truck surplus, Schmueckle suggests an industry program that would give owners incentives to park older trucks. “We’re going to such tight emissions standards in new trucks that by 2007, the air that comes out will actually be cleaner than the air that goes in,” he said. “At the same time, we are running very old vehicles. I think there should be some incentives to help take them out.”

Freightliner is investing $50 million to ready its trucks to meet the 2002 emissions regulations, an expense that makes a good case for vertical integration for the trucks’ major components, but “we should not necessarily throw vertical integration and customization into the same bucket,” Schmueckle said. “We will be fostering integration, but that doesn’t mean there will only be captive engines or captive axles. That will take a long, long, long time.”

What could speed the process, at least for engines, are the Environmental Protection Agency mandates, which will require engineering changes within the engine and its compartments. “It’s an enormous expense to carry a model range through three major engine overhauls over the next five years,” he said.

Even as truck makers work more closely with engine and component manufacturers to optimize designs, Schmueckle doesn’t see customization going away. Freightliner will continue to offer engine, axle and drivetrain options. “If an owner-operator wants a Cat engine, he can get a Cat engine from us,” he said.

Freightliner will continue to offer owner-operators a range of vehicles to meet their needs, Schmueckle said. The Classic XL will remain Freightliner’s flagship owner-operator truck. The company also plans to relaunch its premium Coronado product, while focusing its Sterling and Western Star products more closely on vocational markets.

– Linda Longton and Avery Vise


COOL CUSTOMERS

BFGoodrich Commercial Truck Tires selected six winners in its third annual Cool Rigs truck beauty contest: Johnny and Virginia Allen of Plymouth, N.C.; Kim Woods of Waterford, Wis.; Glen Mills of Prosperity, S.C.; Mathew Justiana of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Luis Enrique Sanchez Flores of Mexicali, Baja California; and Blue Line Distribution of Milton, Ontario. Winners each receive 10 BFGoodrich tires and a pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses, and their trucks will be featured in the 2002 Cool Rigs calendar. Details on entering the 2003 calendar contest will be in BFGoodrich Commercial Truck Tires dealerships this spring.

Short hauls

AN ANTHRAX HOAX at the Hoosier Heartland Truck Stop on I-69 in Delaware County, Ind., resulted in a 10-year prison sentence for employee David W. Jones, 27, on a probation violation. “Timing is everything in comedy,” says prosecutor Brian Williams, “and his timing was really bad.”

OAK GROVE PETRO at I-70 Exit 28 in Oak Grove, Mo., opened a 24-hour Petro:Lube with two dedicated oil and lube bays, two tire bays and one repair bay.

LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS added a new location in Zanesville, Ohio, the chain’s first in the state. It features shower rooms, a phone room, FedEx and UPS services, CAT Scales and an Arby’s.

FREDERICK G. “BUD” WRIGHT JR., an economist and a 26-year veteran of the agency, is the new executive director of the Federal Highway Administration.

RECENT $1,000 WINNERS in the weekly Money for Miles Sweepstakes at eTrucker.com include Joe David of Emmaus, Pa.; Cindy Gannon of Fort Worth, Texas; and Jamie Krc of Moreno Valley, Calif. One registered user of the site will win $1,000 each week through May.

THE POLICE CHIEF of Woodville, Ohio, chasing a drunken driver he clocked at 107 mph, radioed ahead to truckers on U.S. 20. They formed a rolling roadblock, and the driver was pulled over and arrested.

TRUCKER Robert m. Beaudoin of Niagara Falls, N.Y., was found shot to death in his cab Nov. 29 at Bosselman’s Truck Plaza on I-80 in Big Springs, Neb. Police seek a thin white man with red-blond hair who recharged the battery of his dark sedan at Bosselman’s late on Nov. 24. If you have information, call (308) 632-1211.

CAT SCALE celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2002. Iowa 80 founder Bill Moon installed the first automated, full-length platform scale in South Holland, Ill., in 1977. Today there are more than 825 CAT Scales across North America.

JAMES P. HOFFA easily won re-election as president of the Teamsters union with 64 percent of the vote.

THE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM of Dickinson State University in North Dakota was rescued by a trucker after the team’s van overturned on I-94 in Montana during a snowstorm. No one was seriously hurt.

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