November 2002


Sterling Truck Corp. has made enhancements to its Acterra line of Class 5-8 trucks. The changes are focused on the chassis, and bring further advantages in handling, maneuverability, ride, weight savings, serviceability and ease of body installation. Sterling is already producing the trucks.

The truck’s frame features stronger single-channel steel rails rated at 50,000, 80,000 and 120,000 pounds per square inch, reducing the need for rail inserts for many applications. With less need for rail inserts, the frame is lighter. The rails’ single-channel design also helps diminish the chance of corrosion and reduces maintenance requirements.

The new front suspension incorporates single-leaf springs as standard equipment. Taper-leaf suspensions are also available in a range of capacities and feature maintenance-free rubber bushings.

– John Baxter


Federal changes to commercial driver’s license regulations that went into effect Sept. 30 could force some truckers off the road.

The CDL rule, which was revised over the past two years as part of a Congressional mandate, has seven new provisions ranging from disqualification for driving on a suspended license to emergency disqualification of a driver posing an imminent hazard.

There are also new notification requirements for states that administer CDLs and new regulations requiring disqualifications of CDL holders for violations that occur in a car or other non-commercial motor vehicle. Those changes remove avenues such as driving school that truckers could use in the past to keep a violation from showing up on their records, says Jim Klepper, an attorney with Interstate Trucker. Now truckers have only two choices: accept a conviction or fight the ticket.

“As a CDL holder, I can no longer go to traffic school or get probation,” he says. “Every trucker who gets a ticket will get punished.”

Klepper expects drivers to fight citations more often because they have more on the line. A conviction for a moving violation in an automobile could affect their ability to earn a living. Spending $500 to fight a ticket may save thousands if pleading guilty means a 60-day suspension.

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Fleets are concerned, too, because many drivers are unaware of the changes. Donnie Sims, recruiting manager for Merit Distribution Services, says his company sent out copies of the changes in recent pay settlements. “They needed to know,” he says. “A driver makes his living with a license.”

Sims says he favors the changes because they will affect only marginal or bad drivers. A driver’s record in his car is a good indication of his safety on the job, Sims says. “We support those regulations,” he says.

In the past, some drivers had circumvented suspension by applying for a CDL in a state where their driving records were blank. The new rule seeks to stop that illegal practice and puts big penalties in place for drivers and states that fail to follow the rules. Under the rule, applicants for a new CDL and those transferring or renewing a CDL must provide the name of all states where they held any kind of vehicular license in the past decade.

States will now be required to check a driver’s history and to maintain a CDL driver-history record noting an individual’s convictions for state or local traffic law violations. Information on these convictions and other licensing actions must be kept at least three years.

The regulations also add several serious traffic violations to the list of potentially disqualifying events: driving a truck without obtaining a CDL; driving a truck without a CDL in the driver’s possession; and driving a truck without the proper CDL and/or endorsement.

-Sean Kelley


A 10-day shutdown of West Coast ports last month stranded hundreds of long-haul truckers and idled thousands of drayage drivers from Seattle to San Diego.

After just three days, Nevada owner-operators Jim and Athena Shannon said they were out more than $1,200. The couple were among dozens of drivers stranded at the Port of Oakland. “It’s easy to sit back and analyze this,” Jim Shannon said. “We’re familiar with both sides of the argument. But we’re losing money.”

The couple delivers meat weekly to the port, but couldn’t get unloaded when the shutdown began. They spent their time talking to other truckers at a makeshift holding pen, just yards from where they would normally unload. The Port of Oakland provided a parking lot for truckers and pulled in portable restrooms.

“We had to beg for bathrooms,” Athena Shannon said. “We’re not used to this lifestyle. We’re used to moving.”

The work stoppage, which began Sept. 29 when shipping lines locked out longshoreman over stalled labor talks and a work slowdown, ended Oct. 9 when dock workers were ordered back to their jobs by President Bush, who used his authority under the Taft-Hartley Act.

“The work stoppage is hurting our entire economy,” Bush said. “It is hurting truckers and rail operators who carry goods to other parts of America.”

Port workers and shipping lines are battling over technology advancements at the ports. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members are among the best paid blue-collar workers in the world, wants any jobs created by technological improvements at the port to be union jobs. The Pacific Maritime Association, representing shippers and terminals, would like to outsource such jobs.

Under the Bush order, federal mediators will work with the two sides for 80 days while the ports remain open. If no agreement is reached, the ports could close again.

John Gross, a company driver for Nebraska-based R.E. Monson, said his load of meat was idled along with fruit and nuts, all freshly harvested and headed for ports in Asia and the Pacific. “I’m losing about $150 a day sitting here,” he said. “We’re usually turned around in 35 to 40 minutes,” Gross said.

Gross said he didn’t expect compensation for the downtime. Neither did Spencer, Iowa, owner-operator Rick Southerland. “It’s going to take something to move these people,” said Southerland, who correctly predicted that presidential action would be required.

– Sean Kelley

Read about the newest tire and wheel products, such as super singles, as well as smart maintenance of the components you depend upon for a good ride, in’s November Monthly Focus.


International, Peterbilt and Kenworth are offering deals on trucks equipped with new low-emissions engines. The deals are intended to ease concerns truck buyers have about the engines, which pollute less but run hotter, cost and weigh more, and may run less efficiently.

For its latest deal, Peterbilt has teamed with body maker Heil Environmental Industries for a program that provides a $2,000 list discount on Class 8 Peterbilt trucks spec’ed with Heil dump bodies and emissions-compliant engines.

Kenworth will provide a Cummins extended warranty at no additional charge for certain trucks purchased by Jan. 31. Kenworth says customers will save between $750 and $1,400 with the warranty, which applies to heavy-duty trucks powered by a Cummins ISX or ISM 2002 engine. Under the plan, buyers will receive a three-year, 300,000-mile extended warranty at no charge.

The Cummins base warranty provides Kenworth new truck buyers with five-year, 500,000-mile standard coverage for major engine components, including all major castings and forgings. Vocational warranties are also available.

International offered incentives worth up to $2,500 on certain models for purchases made by Oct. 31.

Close to the Oct. 1 start of the new emissions standards, Cummins and Caterpillar received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to sell certain model engines. Cummins received certification for its heavy-duty ISM engine. The company earlier received approval of its ISX and ISB engines. The engines meet the EPA’s new 2.5 grams of NOx and particulates compliance level. The 11-liter ISM engine features horsepower ranging from 280 to 385.

Caterpillar received conditional approval to sell its on-highway truck engines, even though the engines, producing more pollution than the standard allows, will mean Cat will have to pay penalties to the EPA. Caterpillar has said it will not pass the costs to buyers.

Its engines produced after the deadline will contain some elements of its Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology. Engines with full ACERT technology, which will fully comply with EPA emissions standards, will be out in early 2003.


The Truckload Carriers Association voted to support fuel surcharge legislation backed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said TCA chairman Clifton Parker.

At the September meeting of TCA’s Independent Contractor Division in Dallas, Parker said, “We’re going to have to work closer with associations – state, OOIDA, whatever – if we’re going to accomplish anything.”

The Motor Carrier Fuel Cost Equity Act of 2002 (S. 1914) also picked up two additional sponsors in September, Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ind. Other sponsors are Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., and Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga.

The bill, introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Feb. 7, was referred to the Commerce Committee. It requires that a minimum surcharge based on mileage or percentage of revenue be paid to the fuel buyer once fuel exceeds $1.15 per gallon. It does not specify the amount, but states that the surcharge be sufficient to compensate the fuel buyer.

In June 2001, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., introduced in the House a similar fuel charge bill that OOIDA supported. He is expected to introduce it again as an amended bill.


Michelin’s new eTire System, allows users to track temperature-adjusted air pressure in each tractor and trailer tire using drive-by or handheld readers.

The total cost per tire should be less than $30, says Randy Clark, vice president of marketing for Michelin Americas Truck Tires. The system, available through Michelin dealers, can be used to track any commercial tires.

The system relies on a sensor mounted inside each tire and designed to stay attached to the tire through its entire life – even through retreadings. Because the sensor does not include a power source, it never needs to be replaced.

Wireless signals from drive-by or handheld readers activate the sensor, which records the air pressure and temperature at that moment and transmits that information, along with that tire’s identification number.

The system takes into account the difference between the tire’s temperature and ambient air temperature to calculate the tire’s “cold-equivalent pressure.” That’s important because tires that have traveled and heated up could appear to have normal air pressure when in fact they are underinflated.

By driving slowly past a reader located, for example, at the entrance to a yard or at a truck stop, a driver can identify any tires with improper pressure.

Owner operators can circumvent the need for drive-by readings by using a handheld device. Other data, such as tread depth, can be entered into a laptop, allowing owner-operators to better track all tire costs.

– By Avery Vise and Tim Barton

Grant helps fund additional IdleAire units at Knoxville, Tenn., Petro.


With a U.S. congressman in attendance, IdleAire Technologies Corp. announced it will install 120 additional parking spaces equipped with IdleAire units at a Knoxville, Tenn., Petro Stopping Center. The addition is made possible by a state grant that recognizes the technology’s potential to help reduce air pollution.

IdleAire units provide heating, cooling and power, as well as telephone, high-speed Internet and television connections to the cabs of parked trucks. The retail cost to use the system is $1.50 an hour. Fleets that sign up are charged $1.25 an hour, and drivers can charge the cost directly to their fleet card, the company says.

Congressman Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., a ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, visited the Petro at Watt Road and I-40/75 Sept. 30 to speak with truckers and fleet executives during an IdleAire demonstration.

The addition will bring to 225 the number of units planned for the Petro, said IdleAire, which is based in Knoxville. Construction on the first phase has been completed and is being used by drivers at the Petro. IdleAire says other units will be installed in truck stops in Atlanta, Hunts Point and Chittenango, N.Y., West Memphis, Ark., and Lebanon, Tenn.

Tony Alderman of Fayetteville, N.C., an owner-operator leased to Landstar, demonstrated to Duncan how he uses a high-speed Internet connection to search for loads while listening to music and watching his favorite channels inside an air-conditioned cab with the engine turned off.

Bud Hallahan, an owner-operator from Houston leased to Sitton Motor Lines, said he thinks IdleAire is the only way both drivers and fleets can agree about when to turn the truck off.

– Aaron Huff

CANADA CHANGED its 104-hour workweek for commercial drivers to 70 hours. Truckers and bus drivers now must quit working for 36 hours once they reach 70 hours on-duty in a week. Allowable daily driving time has been shortened from 16 to 13 hours; minimum daily rest goes from eight to 10 hours. David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, called the new rules “a brave and innovative step.”

HAZMAT DRIVERS will no longer have to stop periodically to check their tires after Nov. 4. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that the requirement is outdated due to advancements in tire technology and that it increases the risk of hijacking and theft. Hazmat drivers must still check each tire at the beginning of each trip and each time the vehicle is parked.

DAVE CALLIN of Nokesville, Va., is a recent $1,000 winner in the Money for Miles program.

PREPASS opened 11 new sites over the past two months, bringing the total sites with pre-clearance technology to 215 in 24 states. New sites include: Mayview, Mo., east- and westbound on I-70 near Blue Springs, Mo.; St. Clair, Mo., westbound on I-44 near Union, Mo.; Foristell, Mo., east- and westbound on I-70; Harrisonville, Mo., southbound on U.S. 71; Kearney, Mo., northbound on I-35; Platte City, Mo., northbound I-29; St. Clair, Mo., eastbound I-44; Menominee, Wis., westbound on I-94 near Eau Claire, Wis.; and Calexico, Calif., northbound on SR-111 near the Mexican border.

NEW HAMPSHIRE has expanded oversize limits for manufactured and modular housing units moved from New Hampshire to Maine on some routes. Officials can immediately issue a permit for a unit taller than the legal limit of 13 feet 6 inches, but less than 14 feet 3 inches, to be moved from New Hampshire to Maine.

A NEW FEDERAL RULE requires truckers to comply with new standards for inspecting and securing cargo. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule clarifies how to determine the working load limit of cargo securement systems and the way carriers should use these tiedown devices to secure cargo so it does not leak, spill, blow or fall from a truck. The final rule is effective Dec. 26. It can be viewed by searching for docket number FMCSA-97-2289 at gov/. Motor carriers have until Jan. 1, 2004 to comply.

LICENSING ISSUES prompted the Oklahoma Tax Commission to hire an attorney to work with other states and to create the position of internal audit director. The changes follow a grand jury investigation of tag fees paid by out-of-state truckers. Seven people have been indicted on felony charges of conspiring to defraud the state. Some states are demanding more than $15 million from Oklahoma, saying the commission looked the other way while truckers’ agents filed false mileage projections to get cheaper tags.

IDAHO TRUCKERS licensed under the International Fuel Tax Agreement can now file IFTA tax returns and payments free at the Idaho State Tax Commission website. Filing online allows the IFTA program to calculate what is owed, including penalties and interest. Users may pay online by credit card, electronic debit or by printing a voucher to mail with a check. Taxpayers filing electronically can claim a $2 credit against the tax owed on the return. The IFTA return is located at

UP TO 210 NEW TROOPERS will be on Alabama highways by the end of next year, starting with 75 state troopers scheduled to be hired immediately. Another 45 recruits are expected to graduate this December and 90 new troopers are budgeted for next year, said Dorris Teague, a public safety department spokeswoman.

CONGRESS may block the U.S. Department of Transportation from conducting a test of drivers under 21 in interstate operations. The measure is tucked away in the House version of the DOT appropriations bill (H.R. 5559), which would fund the department’s activities through September 2003. The Truckload Carriers Association has proposed a limited pilot program, with intensive training of drivers between 18 and 20, to determine whether and under what circumstances individuals under 21 should be allowed to drive interstate. Many states allow CDL holders under 21 to drive within the state.