News From the Industry

Diesel prices averaged $2 in New England.


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.

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“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.


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.


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 and should include docket number FMCSA-2002-12334.

-Jill Dunn


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:

  • Training standards for new commercial driver’s license holders.
  • Background checks for new CDL holders.
  • Minimum training requirements for drivers of longer-combination vehicles.
  • Hazmat permits.
  • Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Teamsters for a Democratic Union filed the lawsuit last year.

    -Jill Dunn and Linda Longton


    Professional drivers across the United States and Canada will again have the opportunity to test drive the new Volvo VN as the “Drive the Future” tour stops at Petro Stopping Centers and other truck stops.

    Four new Volvo VNs will be part of the tour: two VN780s with 500-hp Cummins ISX engines and a VN670 and VN630, both with the newly released 465-hp Volvo VE 465 engine.

    More than 600 drivers participated in the first Drive the Future tour in late 2002.
    The tour dates are:

  • April 22-25: I-285 Exit 12, Atlanta, Petro Stopping Center.
  • April 27-29: I-40 Exit 280 and I-55 Exit 5, West Memphis, Ark., Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 1-3: I-40/I-35 at Martin Luther King Blvd., Oklahoma City, Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 5-6: I-20 Exit 409, Weatherford, Texas, Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 8-10: I-10 Exit 37, El Paso, Texas, Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 12-13: I-10 Exit 200, Casa Grande, Ariz., Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 15-16: I-5 at Laval Road West, Lebec, Calif., Petro Stopping Center.
  • May 19-21: I-5 Exit 307, Portland, Ore., Jubitz Truck Stop.
  • May 22-24: Highway 1, Exit 116, Sardis, B.C., Lickman Truck Stop.
  • May 26-27: 4949 Barlow Trail S.E., Calgary, Alberta, Roadking Travel Centre.
  • May 30-31: I-15 and UT 39 – Exit 347, Ogden, Utah, Pilot Travel Center.
  • June 2-3: I-80 Exit 310, Laramie, Wyo., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 5-6: I-80 and U.S. Hwy. 81, Exit 353., York, Neb., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 8-10: I-57 Exit 335, Monee, Ill., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 12-14: Hwy 401 Exit 538, Belleville, Ontario, 10 Acres Truck Stop.
  • June 16-17: I-81 Exit 178 B, DuPont, Pa., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 19-20: I-295, Exit 57, New Jersey Turnpike, Exit 7, Bordentown, N.J., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 22-23: I-81 and I-76, Pennsylvania Turnpike at Exit 52, Carlisle, Pa., Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 25-27: Ohio Turnpike, Exit 1B at I-280, Perrysburg, Ohio, Petro Stopping Center.
  • June 29-30: I-65, Exit 86, Glendale, Ky., Petro Stopping Center.

  • A new class of engines hits the streets six months ago when tighter emissions regulations forced the introduction of new technologies. Read about the new engines and how truck makers are accommodating them in’s MONTHLY FOCUS.


    Overdrive Editor Linda Longton’s “Viewpoint” editorial was a finalist in the 2003 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards, which were presented at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

    “This latest Overdrive editorial honor reflects the continuing commitment of our editors to help owner-operators manage their businesses,” says Jeff Mason, group publisher of Randall Trucking Media. “It’s encouraging to see our peers recognize Overdrive as being the best in its field.”

    Overdrive’s editorial honors, in addition to being a Neal finalist in prior years, include Folio magazine’s Editorial Excellence award and many awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.


    Carol Ann Schlussler of Dothan, Ala., was named Independent Contractor of the Year last month in the contest sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association, International Truck and Engine and Overdrive.

    The award comes with many prizes, including a 2003 International 9000i Series tractor.
    Schlussler, who is leased to Dart Transit Company of Lancaster, Texas, was honored at TCA’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. She has been contracted to Dart Transit since 1987 and has driven over two million accident free miles. Schlussler will be featured in
    the May Overdrive.

    TCA also presented the Company Driver of the Year, George G. Dieu of Coquille, Ore., who has driven for Team Transport Inc. since 1966. That contest is sponsored by TCA, Detroit Diesel and Truckers News.

    Voyager Express of Denver, Colo., won the Grand Prize in the 2002 National Fleet Safety Awards for truckload companies operating under 25 million miles annually. Hogan Transports of St. Louis won the Grand Prize for operations over 25 million miles.

    Kevin Smith matched his number of accident-free miles with dollars when he became the first million-dollar winner on daytime television’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” Feb. 18.

    The 52-year-old Smith, a retired over-the-road company driver, said he wanted to win to “provide a secure future for my mother and sisters.”

    Asked if he planned to change his lifestyle, the Los Angeles bachelor and former Teamster said, “Not if I can help it.” Smith said his only two “vices” were reference book buying and a “God-awful craving for well-done onion pizzas.”

    -Jill Dunn

    Shell Lubricants will hold its 23rd annual Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Contest June 19-21 at the TravelCenters of America truck stop in Lodi, Ohio.


    Shell Lubricants will hold its 23rd annual Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Contest June 19-21 at the TravelCenters of America truck stop in Lodi, Ohio.

    Last year, more than 100 contestants participated in the event, which moves to different venues each year. Contestants will compete for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes, plus the opportunity to appear in the 2004 Rotella SuperRigs calendar.

    Eighteen working trucks will receive awards in Best of Show, Tractor, Tractor/Trailer Combination and Classic categories. Rigs will be judged on exterior appearance, design, detail and workmanship.

    Participation is free. Every entrant will receive a $60 value gift package, including one gallon of Shell Rotella T 15W-40 multigrade engine oil, one gallon of Shell Rotella ELC Extended Life Coolant/Antifreeze, a bottle of Shell Rotella DFA Diesel Fuel Additive, a tube of Shell Retinax LC grease, a SuperRigs hat and T-shirt and a Shell Rotella T Farther Down the Road music CD. Entrants can register onsite.

    The Lodi TravelCenters of America truck stop is near Cleveland on I-71 and I-76 at Route 224, Exit 209.

    Additional information is available at


    A NEW LAW in Pennsylvania requires all vehicles to turn on their headlights when in a work zone or risk a $25 fine. County maintenance departments are posting signs to remind drivers to use headlights.

    FANS AND OWNERS of the now-discontinued Marmon trucks will come together in Anna, Texas, April 18-19 at the annual Marmon Truck Gathering. For more information about the show, see, call 972-924-4204 or e-mail [email protected].

    AN OWNER-OPERATOR has lost his six-year legal battle to force his former carrier to classify him as an employee instead of an independent contractor. Tobias Renteria had sued K&R Transportation for damages and restitution after he was no longer leased to the California-based company.

    A NEW CLASS of engines hit the street six months ago when tighter emissions regulations forced the introduction of new technologies. Read about the new engines and how truck makers are accommodating them in’s MONTHLY FOCUS.

    KENTUCKY will end tolls on its Daniel Boone and Louie B. Nunn Cumberland parkways because of recently approved federal funding, says the state. After the tolls are eliminated, only the Audubon and the William H. Natcher parkways will remain toll roads in the state. No timeline was given for the tolls’ elimination.

    THE PENNSYLVANIA Turnpike Commission has implemented a defibrillation program to assist heart attack victims at all of its 21 service plazas and three administration offices. The comprehensive automated external defibrillation program includes training for key personnel at each location as well as public access to the defibrillators.

    TEXAS LEGISLATORS may raise diesel taxes, auto inspection fees and auto purchase taxes in an effort to curb diesel emissions, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports. Several plans are making their way through the Texas Legislature, including one that would increase diesel taxes by 5 cents.

    A PROPOSED LAW introduced in Congress last month would allow individuals and states to use consumer protection laws against dishonest interstate movers. U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., proposed the legislation because state courts say they lack jurisdiction over interstate movers. Household goods carriers were sent a strong message by the federal government when 16 Florida household goods carriers and 74 individuals were indicted last month for engaging in illegal moving schemes.

    FOUR-WHEELERS went under the microscope last month at a National Transportation Safety Board meeting. The NTSB held a public hearing on medical oversight of non-commercial drivers and studied fatal accidents that involved drivers with potentially impairing medical conditions. The hearing looked at medical conditions that might affect an individual’s ability to drive and state oversight of licensed drivers. Details of the hearing can be found on

    VIRGINIA OFFICIALS are evaluating two plans to improve I-81 – one of which would raise truck tolls to 27.4 cents per mile, or $87 for the 325-mile route, by 2009. Another plan would share the toll costs with motorists, but would restrict truckers to two lanes. Further review is expected before a plan is picked for implementation this fall.