FBI composite sketch of hijacking suspect.
TANKER DRIVER FOILS HIJACK ATTEMPT
A tanker driver who foiled a hijacking attempt March 24 near Bloomington, Ind., handled the situation correctly, says an FBI spokesman.
The driver of a tanker loaded with 88,000 pounds of gasoline reported two people in a GMC Yukon attempted to hijack him March 24. The incident occurred on SR 37, south of Martinsville.
Truckers encountering similar threats should contact local police immediately, says Doug Garrison, an FBI special agent. The trucker, who has not been publicly identified, says he kept driving after a passenger in the GMC brandished a gun at him.
The trucker, a long-time driver for McDaniel Transport of Indianapolis, contacted his company first and was relayed to police, says Trooper Jackie Taylor. Truckers faced with a similar situation should contact police directly or call their dispatchers, who should have police contact numbers for any area where their truckers travel. Truckers should also try to gather as much information about suspects as possible without putting themselves at risk, Garrison says.
The agency received leads soon after releasing a sketch of the armed suspect, described as a bald white male with a puffy face and goatee, Garrison says. He was riding in a recent model white Yukon with flashing red-and-blue lights embedded in the grill. Anyone with further information should contact local police or the FBI at (317) 321-6147.
– Jill Dunn
STATES TARGET PRICE GOUGING
California, Nevada and Michigan have joined other states in addressing consumer accusations of price-gouging at the fuel pump. State and federal initiatives followed the rise of average diesel fuel prices to $1.77 in early March; the average fell to $1.53 by April 21.
The California Energy and Public Utilities Commission reported that there was no evidence of deliberate distribution shortages. But California Gov. Gray Davis referred to a March Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling that natural gas and energy prices were manipulated in recent years by several power companies, including subsidiaries of the bankrupt Enron Corp. He promised continued monitoring of prices.
On April 2, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm launched a website to provide current fuel price information and a complaint form. She said that companion bills were expected to be introduced that would ban fuel price gouging when the governor declares a state of emergency.
When Granholm served as Michigan’s attorney general, she prosecuted 48 gas stations following price hikes after Sept. 11, 2001. The stations had to refund more than $100,000 in overcharges to consumers and pay $30,000 in civil penalties.
Florida, Ohio and Kansas also have agreements with fuel retailers related to post-9-11 pricing and have collected thousands of dollars.
On April 2, Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval announced that his office had not found evidence of price gouging, though there were record price levels. Sandoval said he has increased monitoring efforts in his office and is considering an independent study of the problem.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan made price spike reporting to her office available online and by phone. Madigan pledged to question companies that might use the Middle East situation as an excuse for unwarranted price hikes.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist requested a Federal Trade Commission investigation Feb. 18. He also met with ExxonMobil representatives over fuel prices and asked in a letter for a public explanation if prices did not begin to drop.
On the federal level, several officials have asked for FTC investigations. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a bill March 24 that requires the FTC to investigate possible market manipulation any time average gas prices in any state increase by 20 percent within 90 days.
If market manipulation exists, then the FTC would work with the state attorney general to determine penalties. If not, the federal energy department would be required to decide within 14 days if the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be used.
– Jill Dunn
FAMILY CONTEST DEADLINE NEARS
Time is running out to submit a nomination for the Truckers News Great American Trucking Family for 2003.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation truckers or those with extended family trucking ties can enter. The winner is also chosen on trucking industry and civic involvement.
All entries must be received via e-mail or postmarked by June 1.
Look for an entry form inside Trucker News, which can be found at most major truck stops, or visit www.truckersnews.com for an online form.
TONKA TO SPONSOR TRUCK RACES
The Super Truck Racing Association of North America has a preliminary, multi-year agreement with Hasbro Inc. to use its Tonka brand to promote races. STRANA officials also say the group has an agreement for ESPN2 to be a broadcast partner for this year’s races.
STRANA races this year include: Sonoma, Calif., July 25-27; Bowmanville, Ontario, Aug. 15-17; and Elkhart Lake, Wis., Aug. 22-24.
Under the proposed agreement, STRANA’s events this year would be called the Tonka 2003 Super Truck Celebrity Challenge. “The name Tonka has meant big, tough trucks for generations of North Americans,” says Brian Till, STRANA executive director. “It’s also synonymous with family entertainment.”
Other STRANA sponsors include Alcoa, Continental Tires, Haldex, ArvinMeritor, Truckin’ Bozo Radio network, www.1800drivers.com and America on the Road magazine.
TWO CONTRACTORS ON ROAD TEAM
Thirteen drivers and one alternate were chosen to serve as the American Trucking Association’s 2003 Road Team, a group of industry ambassadors who educate truckers and motorists on safety and represent ATA before the government and the media. They are:
Wood and Nardone are owner-operators. Otto Schmeckenbecher of ABF Freight Systems, Little Rock, Ark., was selected as an alternate.
CUMMINS EXTENDS EGR WARRANTY
Cummins has extended its Uptime Guarantee warranty on its exhaust gas recirculation engines through Dec. 31. Under the guarantee, if any part on an ISX or ISM engine fails and can’t be repaired within 24 hours, Cummins will reimburse the customer for up to three days’ truck rental.
None of the more than 4,200 of the engines on the road have experienced a failure due to EGR components, Cummins officials said at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The company has orders for nearly 8,000 more.
That warranty program now applies to Cummins ISX and ISM engines purchased and built between Oct. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2003, with coverage through Dec. 31, 2003.
The guarantee has helped attract orders from C.R. England, Celadon, Central Trucking, First Fleet, Southeastern Freightlines, Summitt Trucking LLC and the Yanke Group of Companies, officials said.
Cummins also launched a Same Day Or We Pay program. It guarantees qualifying in-shop repair jobs, with a standard repair time of four hours or fewer, will be completed on the same day or Cummins will offer a $75 credit toward future parts and service.
Officials said owner-operators can now access parts and service information online at quickserve.cummins.com.
FREIGHTLINER EXEC SAYS CONSOLIDATION WILL ACCELERATE
The move to streamline the options truckers have when they spec trucks is gaining momentum, according to Freightliner’s chief operating officer.
Roger Nielsen, addressing the Heavy-Duty Manufacturers Association in March, said that truck makers must source components from fewer suppliers and more closely integrate them into the business in order to meet customers’ needs for economical, reliable and durable vehicles.
“We can no longer continue to offer every brand and every component on every truck,” he said. “We must free up resources to focus on meeting customers’ needs.”
While this supply base simplification is driven in part by ever-tightening Environmental Protection Agency regulations, truck manufacturers have been setting up alliances between axle, transmission and other component suppliers since the 1990s. International, for instance, recently announced that Fontaine International will be the only supplier of fifth wheels on the company’s heavy-duty trucks.
The goal of such consolidation, Nielsen said, is to give customers optimally engineered products, while maximizing manufacturers’ resources. “We do not have an unlimited supply of engineers lined up against a wall waiting for something to do,” he said. As an example, he noted that although his company is still tightly linked with all engine makers, when it came to the ’02 engines, “we didn’t have the time or resources to engineer all of them into our products.”
Acknowledging that vertical integration is often viewed as a negative development, Nielsen emphasized that Freightliner will not abandon its legacy of custom trucks.
“We need to offer more than a bunch of components wired together,” he said. Truck makers must evaluate and select the best component choices. “Customers only stand to benefit in this process,” he said.
In this scenario, successful suppliers will be those who offer proprietary technology. “Those who try to be all things to all people will struggle,” Nielsen said.
– Linda Longton
FINE RANGES INCREASE
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made inflationary adjustments on non-compliance penalties for the first time since 1998.
Now a CDL driver convicted of violating an out-of-service order may be fined $2,100 to $3,750 per incident instead of the previous range of $1,100 to $2,750. Employers who allow an employee to violate an order may receive a civil penalty of $3,750 to $16,000 instead of $2,750 to $11,000.
Carriers who do not hold the required insurance can be fined as much as $16,000 daily, and other safety regulation violations now fine carriers $11,000 and drivers $2,750.
Other fine increases include record-keeping violation penalties, which are now $550 to $5,500, and non-compliance with hazmat safety regulations, which carries fines of $275 to $32,500 per incident.
The final rule was published in the March 31 Federal Register. More information is available at www.archives.gov/federal_register/index.html.
WERNER HIRING 150 DRIVERS
Werner Enterprises is hiring 125 drivers to fill positions in Ohio, 15 in Wisconsin and 10 in Michigan. The Omaha-based carrier is hiring truckers who live within 50 miles of Columbus, Ohio; Howell, Mich., and Oconomowoc, Wis. The Ohio and Michigan drivers will support Werner’s new Anheuser-Busch account while the Wisconsin drivers will haul for Target.
Based on experience, the rate for the Anheuser-Busch accounts will vary from 33 cents to 35 cents per mile for daycab drivers who are home daily to 30 cents per mile for road drivers who are home weekly.
The Target account allows drivers to be home on a weekly basis, earning 32 cents per mile with no-touch freight.
Further information is available by calling (800) 637-8452 or visiting www.werner.com.
Fuel surcharges offered comfort for relatively few owner-operators as diesel prices spiked in recent weeks. After diesel prices climbed to their highest recorded average – $1.77 – partly on expectation of war with Iraq, prices dropped to $1.54 by mid-April. Nevertheless, that price was still 20 cents higher than a year ago.
GEORGIA TRUCKER NAMED GOODYEAR HIGHWAY HERO
The 20th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero is Georgia trucker Charles Ingram, who risked his life to break out the windows of a burning car and pull two passengers to safety.
Ingram, a six-year veteran driver for FedEx Ground, accepted the award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Ingram was driving in the Atlanta area when he came upon the burning car. Bystanders were not trying to help the two people trapped in the car.
“I thought, ‘No way am I going to let this guy go out like this,’ so I just reacted,” Ingram said. After removing the victims, Ingram administered first aid.
The other finalists were: