Industry News

LOOKING TO THE NEXT EMISSIONS HURDLE

With the 2002 emissions changes behind them, engine and equipment makers are considering the implications of the next big environmental challenge – meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 deadline for further reductions in nitrogen oxides and particulates.

Representatives of some of the industry’s key truck and engine suppliers, at an American Trucking Associations conference in October, expressed confidence that truckers will find the post-Oct. 1 low-emission engines satisfactory. More than 100 fleets had placed orders for the new Cummins products, said Cummins Vice President Ed Pence.

Despite the new engines’ success in meeting a major reduction in emissions standards, panelists agreed that the next generation is a greater hurdle. “2007 is a challenge for which the industry has not developed a strong answer,” said Michel Gigou, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America.

Not long after the engine makers signed the 1998 consent decree pushing up the 2004 emissions requirements to 2002, most engine makers knew the technology they would use to achieve those standards, Gigou said. The same can’t be said for the 2007 requirements, he warned.

One approach is to continue with cooled exhaust gas recirculation, the technology most engine makers chose to achieve current standards, and combine that with a yet-to-be-settled after-treatment. That approach depends on lowering diesel’s sulfur content from 500 parts per million to 15 ppm, as mandated by EPA. But diesel refiners and truck stop operators are fighting to reverse that standard.

Another approach, selective catalytic reduction, involves introducing urea into diesel fuel, causing some chemical reactions that sharply reduce emissions.

Mark Lampert, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Freightliner Trucks, said that the industry should learn from the previous year. “The push shouldn’t be to delay ’07, but to establish a better implementation process,” Lampert said.

Lampert expressed optimism that the truck sales market leading up to 2007 would change once the industry gets past the current delay in purchases due to reservations over new engine technology.

For now, “The push out can only last so long,” Lampert said, predicting that sales would turn up by the second half of 2003. “We should have three and one-half good years.”

-Avery Vise


OOIDA SCORES VICTORY, LAUNCHES ADDITIONAL SUITS

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has won a partial summary judgment in a lawsuit against Mayflower Transit Inc. The U.S. District Court of Indianapolis ruled that the Missouri-based carrier had violated federal truth-in-leasing regulations by keeping fuel tax credits from owner-operators, according to an OOIDA press release.

Mayflower spokesperson Carl Walter says he could not comment on ongoing litigation. OOIDA’s lawsuit charged that the carrier did not return fuel tax credits on a current basis. Also, OOIDA says the company did not return fuel tax credits and escrow account funds within the required time period after leases expired. U.S. District Judge Sarah Barker said the fuel tax credits were, in effect, escrow funds.

But Barker also ruled against OOIDA in its request for a summary judgment on its allegations that Mayflower had violated Indiana law by taking unauthorized control over another party’s property. She ruled Mayflower was entitled to a jury trial in that case.

OOIDA also filed class action lawsuits against Landstar Systems over allegations the company violated federal truth-in-leasing regulations and against individual officers of the former Burlington Motor Carrier to recover owner-operators’ escrow funds.

In the Landstar suit, OOIDA seeks refunds of alleged overcharges for fuel that the company buys from truck stops when owner-operators use their Comdata-issued fuel card. It charges that Landstar does not fully pass on to owner-operators significant discounts on these transactions. OOIDA additionally alleges that Landstar imposes excessive chargebacks for fees the company was charged by Comdata.

Landstar officials say the leasing program complies with the law. “Landstar believes the OOIDA lawsuit is self-serving,” says a company statement. “Landstar’s business model is designed to serve its community of owner-operators.”

In the other suit, OOIDA and three of its owner-operator members are trying to recoup escrow funds from five people who were executives at Indiana-based Burlington. Burlington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2001, months after OOIDA filed a lawsuit alleging violations of federal truth-in-leasing regulations. The association pursued its complaints in bankruptcy court, but in May 2002 the carrier converted its bankruptcy filing to Chapter 7 and ceased operations.

– Jill Dunn


DOCKWORKERS, SHIPPERS MAKE PROGRESS TOWARDS CONTRACT

Hoping to head off another port shutdown at the end of December, West Coast dockworkers and shipping lines continued to make progress towards a new contract through early November.

According to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports, the union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers and terminal operators, reached agreement on a technology package – a key area of dispute for the two groups because it would affect the number of jobs.

For 10 days in September and October, the PMA locked out dockworkers, shutting down ports along the West Coast, stranding hundreds of long-haul truckers and idling thousands more. The Bush administration eventually stepped in and ordered the docks reopened as part of an 80-day cooling off period.

Trucking companies have reported a 60 percent drop in productivity since the ports reopened, says Stephanie Williams, a vice president with the California Trucking Association. A trucker who normally would pick up three loads daily might handle only one. “Terminal operators are concentrating on ships because they’re their bread and butter,” she says.

– Jill Dunn


An additional $200 million in new capital, combined with $240 million in available cash, is expected to give Sirius enough money to operate into the second quarter of 2004, officials say.

REFINANCING DEAL STRENGTHENS SIRIUS

Sirius Satellite Radio says that it has reached a refinancing agreement that will give it strong footing at least until 2004. An additional $200 million in new capital, combined with $240 million in available cash, is expected to give Sirius enough money to operate into the second quarter of 2004, officials say.

Sirius is completing deals with Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Mack and Volvo for factory installation of Sirius hardware, says Joseph Clayton, president and CEO. Other deals have been made or are in the works with major automotive makers, as well as manufacturers of boats and recreational vehicles, and retail chains that carry satellite radio hardware.

“We’re starting to hit on all cylinders,” Clayton says. “We’re getting stronger every single deal.”

In a routine Security and Exchange Commission filing last August, Sirius said it was concerned about raising capital. News reports that cited the bankruptcy option mentioned in that filing were misleading, Clayton says, especially in light of the new financing.

He says Sirius has reached an agreement with holders of more than $1 billion of its debt and $525 million in preferred stock to convert the debt and stock into common stock. Sirius is also raising $200 million from newly issued common stock.

Sirius had 14,000 subscribers in October and expected to have 30,000 to 40,000 by year-end, Clayton says. Next year, when the company’s improved hardware reaches retail outlets and deals with car and truck makers begin to generate sales, the subscriber base should swell to 400,000, he says. Sirius launched its service this year, months after its chief competitor, XM Satellite Radio, went live.

– Sean Kelley


TCA ANNOUNCES CONTEST FINALISTS

The Truckload Carriers Association, along with co-sponsor Overdrive, has selected the Independent Contractor of the Year finalists.

After completing the second part of the application by Dec. 16, finalists will be narrowed to five, all of whom receive prizes. Those winners will be announced in January, along with the winners in TCA’s Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest.

The grand prize winners for both contests will be announced at the 2003 Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., March 9-12.

Independent Contractor of the Year finalists are: Michael Austin, Crete Carriers Corp.; Bruce Barnes, Witte Brothers Exchange; Marian Bruton, Contract Freighters; Leo Buss, PFT Roberson; Donald Cocine, FFE Transportation; Leonard Domina, Sr., Contract Freighters; Thomas Grady, Smithway Motor Xpress; James Grimmet, PFT Roberson; Casey Hayward, CK Hayward Trucks Arizona; Charles Maly, Sunflower Carriers; Gary Melavic, Triple Crown Services; Robert Miller, Rolling B Enterprises; Charles Parrish, Warren Transport; Artie Reid, Dart Transit; Thomas Rice, Contract Freighters; CarolAnn Schlussler, Dart Transit; Charles Shireman, PFT Roberson; Joel Shorey, Smithway Motor Xpress; Henry Shriver, Smithway Motor Xpress; Henry Stephens, Marten Transport; Robert (Bob) Stewart, Interstate Distributor Co.; Michael Toomire, ATS Specialized; Jerry Waddoups, Dick Simon Trucking Central Refrigeration; David Werner, Smithway Motor Xpress; Larry Williams, Sherman Bros. Heavy Trucking; and Ray Wells, Sherman Bros. Heavy Trucking. – Max Heine


TRUCKER HERO IN SNIPER CASE

A Kentucky truck driver helped police capture two suspects in one of the highest-profile serial killing sprees in U.S. history.

The sniper killings in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. came to a halt when Ron Lantz, a driver from Ludlow, Ky., spotted the Chevrolet Caprice sought by police. Lantz, acting on a description of the suspects’ car he heard on the Truckin’ Bozo radio show, saw the car at a Maryland rest stop.

Lantz, who drives for Bass Transportation, called police and used his truck as a roadblock.

“I’m no hero. I just want people to think what I did is what I should have done,” Lantz told news outlets.

Lantz helped stop a shooting spree that included the attempted murder of a trucker’s wife in Alabama. Kellie Adams, wife of Alabama trucker Lyn Adams, was shot in September in what police believed was a random robbery of a liquor store. But the case was eventually linked to the sniper shootings and helped bring about the suspects’ arrest. The Adams have been featured in Overdrive because they mounted campaigns for political office this fall; both lost their elections. Kellie Adams, 24, is still recovering from her wounds.


OVERDRIVE WINS AWARD

Overdrive received a gold award in the Transportation category of the Editorial Excellence Awards, given by Folio, a magazine that covers the magazine industry. The winners were announced during the 2002 Celebration of Excellence banquet at the New York Hilton.

“You can feel the connection with the reader,” one judge wrote of Overdrive. “It’s very personal. The reader has a great menu to choose from and a wide range of stories and opinions from and about peers with which to relate.”

Entrants in the Editorial Excellence awards are judged by how well they meet the standards set by their editors. Entrants were judged by a who’s who of editors from leading magazines, including Time, Field & Stream, Entrepreneur and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

“This award confirms what our readers know: That they can depend on Overdrive to provide the information they need to run successful businesses in a format that’s unique and entertaining,” says Jeff Mason, vice president and group publisher. The magazine has received numerous editorial and design awards, including a Folio Editorial Excellence award in 2000.


FIRST MACK AC RETURNS HOME

A truck from the first Mack AC series ever built returned to the company’s Allentown, Pa., headquarters in October so Mack employees could get a glimpse at one of Mack’s most famous products. The AC, in military versions, helped the British fight World War I and prompted Mack to adopt the British bulldog symbol.

The late Bill Moon, the truck stop entrepreneur who started Iowa 80 and Cat Scale, collected the truck, numbered 7,000 and built in 1915. His widow Carolyn Moon and other members of the family had the truck restored by Spencer Restorations of Nesquehoning, Pa., at a cost of about $100,000. The most difficult part of the restoration was finding tools and techniques to reinstall the solid rubber tires onto the wooden wheels.

The truck featured a 48-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine governed at 1,000 rpm, and a three-speed, sliding gear transaxle, a combination transmission and differential much like those used in modern front-wheel-drive cars. The transaxle drove the truck through two chains. The chains linked sprockets mounted at the ends of the transaxle’s two output shafts to larger sprockets on the rear wheels.

– John Baxter


TEAMSTERS QUIT OVERNITE STRIKE

The Teamsters ended their bitter three-year strike against Overnite Transportation after voting setbacks at three Overnite service centers.

“Recent legal decisions

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