Diesel prices averaged $2 in New England.
DIESEL PRICES HIT RECORD HIGHS
Truckers are paying hundreds of dollars more to fill their tanks now than they did one year ago, following a meteoric rise in the price of diesel.
With a cold winter, oil supply problems and the looming threat of war in Iraq driving up fuel, owner-operators were hit hard by prices that averaged $1.77 nationally and $2 in New England. It was the highest national retail average in the 10 years such prices have been tracked by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Linda Wooten said her husband Tommy spent more than $1,000 on 642 gallons of fuel for a trip from Dothan, Ala., to Woodland, Calif., in February. A similar trip last year cost the couple $300 less.
“We’re struggling,” Wooten says. “The fuel prices are killing us.”
The American Trucking Associations is asking the 50 state attorneys general to watch out for “potential diesel fuel price gouging.” ATA President Bill Graves wants each to be prepared “to utilize your state’s general consumer protection laws to combat” illegal pricing.
“We saw numerous examples of gouging following Sept. 11, 2001, and, through the vigilance of the states’ attorneys general, many successful prosecutions of this illegal activity,” Graves says. Should the nation go to war with Iraq, there would be even more pressure to raise fuel prices, he notes. Graves has also asked the federal government for help.
The president of NATSO, the truck stop trade group, fired a letter off to ATA crying foul. “It is sad that the trucking industry has decided to ignore the geopolitical factors that have sent crude oil prices skyrocketing and instead point fingers at a trucking community partner, America’s truck stops,” said President and CEO William Fay.
Many owner-operators continue to receive little or no fuel surcharge to defray fuel expenses. Wooten says many brokers lump surcharges in with rates, in which case the brokers take a cut of the surcharge, as does the carrier the Wootens are leased to – all before the Wootens see their settlement.
“Because it’s not broken down, our fleet can’t tell the difference,” she says. “We’re running the truck for the truck and making very little money for ourselves.”
The national average price of diesel was more than 58 cents higher in early March than for the same period last year. It might stay high this spring due to short supplies of oil and diesel. Oil imports rose slightly in early March, but inventories were still at historically low averages.
30 DRIVERS COMPETE FOR 2003 AMERICA’S ROAD TEAM
The American Trucking Associations named 30 truck drivers as finalists to become captains on the 2003 America’s Road Team.
America’s Road Team, the industry’s top ambassador group, is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America.
The drivers will move to the final competition April 6-9, at ATA headquarters in Alexandria, Va. A panel from the trucking industry and trucking news media will quiz the contestants on their knowledge of the trucking industry and safety issues. The 2003 Road Team, to be announced April 9, will spend the next 12 months representing the industry to the news media, civic organizations and legislative bodies.
To be nominated as a Road Team Captain, a driver must be employed as a company driver for an ATA member carrier or as an owner-operator leased to an ATA member.
The 30 finalists are: Ruben Armendariz, Arthur (Otto) Schmeckenbecher, Garland Woods, David Gardner, Richard Hinkle, John Maddox, Ross Reynolds, Gerard Avossa, Craig Farnham, Michael Nardone, Bill Wood, Richard Gorham, Robert Carter Jr., Richard Proctor, Ralph Hamilton, William Adams, Anthony Cesenaro, Charles “Skip” Goodrich Jr., William Gray Jr., Clarence Jenkins Jr., Jeff Arnold, Dennis McBride Jr., Albert Adams, Charon Crites, James Wages, Michael Belter, Danny Ewell, Joseph Drugo, Herb McArthur and Michael Smucker.
AGENCY REQUESTS PUBLIC COMMENT ON GRADUATED CDL
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment about beginning a graduated commercial driver’s license program.
The agency is surveying truckers and carriers about a graduated CDL, where new drivers learn commercial driving “under controlled exposure to progressively more difficult driving experiences.” New drivers could improve skills with less risk as they progress through driver licensing stages before reaching unrestricted licensure.
The agency has developed a questionnaire for drivers and trucking companies designed to measure if respondents believe a graduated CDL is needed. The form includes questions about an applicant’s driving record, experience and testing, and what the program might cost an applicant or carrier. Also, the agency wants to know what restrictions on cargo or equipment a new driver should face, and whether drivers ages 18 to 21 should be eligible for the program.
Comments may be submitted electronically at dms.dot.gov and should include docket number FMCSA-2002-12334.
FINAL HOURS RULE DUE BY MAY 31
To settle a lawsuit, federal officials have agreed to publish a final hours-of-service rule by May 31 and meet new deadlines for issuing other final rules regarding trucking safety.
The U.S. Department of Transportation will publish final rules by deadlines that stretch through June 2004.
Safety groups sued DOT, charging the department with missing congressional deadlines set for issuing final rules regarding truck safety by as much as 11 years. The petitioners succeeded in getting deadlines for most of what they asked for.
Because the rule will be issued in final form, it will not be subject to public comment, as in 2000. For this version of the rule, FMCSA took into consideration the thousands of comments submitted on the 2000 proposal.
Once the rule is issued, there still might be opportunity to resolve problems, said Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, during an interview at the Truckload Carriers Convention last month in Orlando, Fla. “Words on paper are one thing, but it’s how those words are translated into policy,” he said.
Both parties in the lawsuit agreed on deadlines for rules covering: