News From The Industry

TRUCKER WINS $3.8 MILLION

A Florida trucker says he may resume scuba diving in his newfound retirement after learning that he won $3.8 million in the state lotto jackpot.

Lindsay Randall, 49, was the first of three jackpot winners to redeem his ticket May 13.

He stored his ticket at his house May 12 while he worked. “I told my dispatcher when I returned this would be my last run because I had won the lottery,” Randall said. “He said good luck to me and wished me well.”

Randall, a former owner-operator, most recently drove for Cypress Truck Lines.

Randall will pay federal taxes at 27 percent on his winnings, but Florida has no state taxes.

– Jill Dunn

If you have a hazardous material endorsement on your commercial driver’s license, the feds will soon be searching your background. New rules announced last month will require allhazmat-endorsed CDL holders to undergo background checks as part of the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Truckers who have violated immigration laws, are mentally incompetent or have a felony conviction for certain violent crimes will have their endorsements revoked.

The Transportation Security Administration, which checks drivers’ names and ultimately their fingerprints against federal criminal, immigration and terrorism databases, estimates more than 3.5 million CDL holders have the endorsement. TSA officials said they would begin checking the names of truckers this summer.

By November, all new applications, renewals and transfers of hazmat-endorsed CDLs will require a driver to be fingerprinted and have his background checked for crimes and immigration violations. States will be unable to issue an endorsement until TSA has approved a driver.

Disqualified drivers will lose only their hazmat endorsement, however, and will continue to hold a CDL. Truckers or their companies will have to pay for fingerprinting costs and will also absorb the cost of the background checks. The rules also require drivers with the endorsement to renew and undergo security screenings every five years. Carriers will not have access to the background check information.

Drivers can appeal a TSA decision. Those who fail to qualify can also apply for a waiver if they prove they are rehabilitated and capable of transporting hazardous materials safely, a TSA spokesman says.

Disqualifying crimes include: terrorism, murder, assault with intent to murder, espionage, sedition, kidnapping, hostage taking, treason, rape, aggravated sexual abuse, extortion, robbery, arson, bribery and smuggling. Felony convictions involving drugs, weapons and explosives can also disqualify a trucker, as can immigration issues or any transportation violations involving a hazardous material. The rule applies only to those violent crimes and violations that have occurred during the past seven years.

The interim final rules, issued simultaneously by TSA and two Department of Transportation agencies, are available at http://dms.dot.gov by searching for docket numbers 11117, 14982 and 14610. Questions can be sent to patriotact@dhs.gov.

– Sean Kelley


PETRO CARRYING OVERDRIVE

Overdrive is now available in Petro Stopping Centers.

“We get lots of phone calls from readers wanting to know which truck stops carry Overdrive,” says Publisher Brad Holthaus. “We’re excited to let them know now that they can find Overdrive where they work – in Petro facilities from coast to coast.”

The magazine will still be delivered to homes of owner-operators and other subscribers, which is the main method of distribution.


GROUP STUDYING TRUCKER ID CARD

The Transportation Security Administration has taken its first major step toward developing an identification card for transportation workers who need unescorted access to secure areas of transportation facilities.

TSA Administrator James Loy announced that a $3.8 million, 150-day contract was awarded to Virginia-based Maximus Corp. to oversee the field testing of various technologies that will result in a universally recognized Transportation Workers Identification Credential.

When the TWIC program is implemented, it will create common credentials for more than 12 million employees working in trucking and other modes of transportation.

Maximus will evaluate various technologies at transportation facilities at pilot sites in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.

When finalized, TWICs will rely on biometric standards to identify employees. The program will protect workers’ privacy by keeping limited information on the card and in central databases run by the Department of Homeland Security, Loy says. The system could use fingerprints, hand geometry, iris patterns or voice and face recognition along with personal information to authenticate truckers’ identifications.

-Jill Dunn


ILLINOIS GROUPS FIGHT TAX CHANGE

Thirty-two Illinois transportation groups and the state chamber of commerce are battling a plan to eliminate a sales tax exemption that includes trucks.

The Illinois Rolling Stock Alliance formed after the governor announced plans to eliminate the state’s rolling stock exemption as part of his plan to address a $5 billion budget deficit.

The group, which includes the Mid-West Truckers Association, Roadway Express and UPS, says the proposal will send trucking companies to surrounding states that offer the sales tax break.

Don Schaefer, Mid-West Truckers Association vice president, says he knew of one carrier that would lose $350,000 if the proposal passes. “Of course, they’re seriously looking at transferring their operation to St. Louis,” Schaefer says.

Removing the exemption is expected to cost business an extra $92 million annually. The chamber says the tax measure increases doing business in the state by an extra $2.2 billion, assuming there also is an increase in the state’s minimum wage law.

The current sales tax exemption has been in place since 1968 and covers trailers, railcars, aircraft and buses. The exemption includes repairs and replacement parts to the equipment.

– Jill Dunn


WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS PLANNED

High-speed Internet access will become available at more than 1,000 truck stops nationwide, announced Columbia Advanced Wireless Network.

Washington-based CAW already markets and provides wireless local area networks to some truck stops, including a Flying J Truck Stop in Federal Way, Wash., Baker Truck Corral in Baker City, Ore., and Jimco Truck Plaza in Rippon, Calif.

Truckers can access the wireless high-speed network via a laptop equipped with a PCMCIA card, an antenna used to send and receive data. CAW said its wireless network is 20 times faster than a dial-up connection.

“We wanted truck drivers to be able to enter a truck stop and purchase a prepaid card to gain access to the network, much like a pre-paid phone card,” said William Read, CAW chief executive officer. CAW is receiving support from IBM for its venture.

– Jill Dunn


VOLVO LAUNCHES CONTEST FOR TRUCKS, MOTORCYCLES

Volvo Trucks North America is giving truckers the chance to win four Volvo VN780s, Indian motorcycles, computers and thousands of other prizes through the “Get In & Win” sweepstakes.

Drivers use scratch-off game pieces to play “Get In & Win.” Each of the 2.7 million game pieces offers three chances to win:

  • Instant win: prizes such as food, beverages and Mobil Delvac oil can be claimed immediately at Petro Stopping Centers.
  • A coded ID number on the piece can be taken to a Volvo dealer to be decoded for a chance to win three Volvo VN780 tractors, Indian motorcycles, laptop computers, Michelin steer tires, satellite radios and more.
  • Drivers can fill in an entry form to compete for a Volvo VN780 and other owner-operator prize packages to be given away at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
  • The game pieces are available through participating Volvo Truck dealers and suppliers, at Petro Stopping Centers and on the Volvo “Drive the Future” Tour.

    – Laura DiBlasi


    HEAVY-TRUCK ACCIDENT FATALITIES DECLINE

    Truck-related deaths dropped significantly last year, according to preliminary data released by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    NHTSA data shows truck-related fatalities decreased from 5,082 to 4,902 between 2001 and 2002. The 2002 figure is the lowest in almost a decade, and the first figure below 5,000 since 1995.

    “Although this 3.5 percent decline in fatalities is a positive trend, the American trucking industry believes more common-sense steps can be taken to save lives,” ATA president Bill Graves says. “If we all insist on increased, visible traffic enforcement for cars and trucks – especially for speeders – then we’ll continue to see the numbers move in the right direction.”

    But the news was not all good. The number of truck drivers killed in wrecks rose to 712 from 704. The total number of motorists killed in all wrecks – not just those involving large trucks – rose 1.7 percent – the largest increase in that category since 1990.

    More than half of those fatalities – 53 percent – involved rollover crashes of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The number of persons injured in crashes dropped nearly 4 percent.

    The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled remained unchanged at 1.51.

    Other findings included:

  • Motorcycle deaths climbed 3 percent, marking the fifth consecutive year of increases.
  • Among all highway fatalities, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 42 percent. These fatalities have increased steadily since 1999.
  • The estimates will be replaced when full-year data is released this summer. More information is available at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.


    PLAN DOUBLES SAFETY SPENDING

    The Bush administration’s six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal provides increased funding for commercial vehicle safety and research programs, and expands safety auditing of new motor carriers.

    U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta unveiled the $247 billion proposal May 14. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) serves as the largest surface and public transportation investment in U.S. history, he says. The proposal next must be passed by Congress.

    It more than doubles funding for highway safety over levels provided by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, Mineta says.

    He also says that SAFETEA would help modernize federal safety programs, create jobs and sustain economic growth, reduce congestion and minimize project delays, increase funding flexibility for states and localities, improve public transit efficiency and help protect the environment.

    Combining and expanding several safety programs into one consolidated grant program, the proposal also grants states flexibility to transfer safety funds among the diverse safety programs administered by the department.

    A copy of the proposal is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov.

    – Holly Hunter


    VIDEO LEADS TO TRUCKER’S CONVICTION

    An Oklahoma trucker who arm-wrestled at his company picnic will do time and pay a fine after pleading guilty to one count of worker’s compensation fraud.

    Robert Leon McCarty, 41 was sentenced to 10 years with all but three years suspended and must pay $7,158 in restitution.

    McCarty drove a truck for Steagall Oil Co. in Chickasha when he filed a worker’s compensation claim stating that he had injured himself when his right hand and wrist became caught between a 55-gallon barrel and the railing of his truck. McCarty received medical treatment and told the physician he had intense pain and inability to grip.

    But state investigators said they found a video showing him using the arm he said was injured to arm-wrestle at the company Christmas party, the same month he began collecting benefits. Also, while he was collecting benefits and claiming to be unable to work, he worked as a diesel mechanic.



    CONVOY BENEFIT EVENT EXPANDING

    The third annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy will roll in various North American sites Sept. 13 in an effort to raise money for Special Olympics.

    As many as 500 trucks will participate in an estimated 10-mile convoy along Highway 408 in Orlando, Fla., the original location of the event. This year, thousands of rigs are expected to take part in convoys in at least 23 states and in Canada.

    “Each year we’ve done this, the amount of money we raise for Special Olympics Florida has tripled,” says event organizer Corp. Norm Schneiderhan. “We raised $17,000 in trucker donations the first year, $51,500 last year and we expect to hit at least $150,000 this year. The number of rigs has gone from 97 the first year to 248 last year, with each of those setting a Guinness World Record.”

    The Florida convoy’s growth and strong interest by trucking companies and drivers around the country led to Schneiderhan teaming with the Special Olympics International Committee to expand the event to other states on the same day.

    Trucking companies and truckers who want to participate in this year’s event can visit the convoy’s website, www.worldslargesttruckconvoy.com.

    The minimum donation to participate in the Special Olympics convoy is $100 per truck. Many owner-operators gain a sponsorship from the companies for which they drive.


    OKLAHOMA TAX SCANDAL CONTINUES

    A former Oklahoma Tax Commission employee became the second person sentenced in the state’s continuing investigation into wrongdoing involving trucking service agents and the commission office.

    On April 16, Herbert Coles, 36, of Oklahoma City, was sentenced in Oklahoma County District Court to a 10-year suspended sentence with three months incarceration. The former commission encoder was ordered to pay $31,953 in restitution after entering a blind plea Jan. 22, according to a statement from Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma attorney general.

    Also sentenced was Jason Frias, also of Oklahoma City. He will serve 10 years in prison with the last six years suspended. Frias, 23, pled guilty in December and was ordered to pay $14,026 in restitution and a $50 victim compensation assessment.

    The men allegedly submitted a tax commission bill to carriers who would pay either Frias or Coles. The two would provide the trucking companies with documentation of state registration but would keep the money.

    A grand jury has indicted 15 people, including four trucking agents, since it began investigating allegations in 2001 of bribery and kickbacks among the state tax commission and service agents.

    – Jill Dunn


    EXPEDITED PAVILION PLANNED FOR GATS

    The Great American Trucking Show will once again feature an Expedited Pavilion to consolidate exhibitors that focus on the expedited industry. The pavilion will be sponsored by ExpressTrucking.com, a website for expediters.

    “The pavilion last year was a tremendous success and will be bigger and better in 2003,” says Randy Schwartzenburg, GATS general manager. GATS will be held at the Dallas Convention Center Sept. 26-28. Show registration is free before Aug. 31. For current show information, visit www.gatsonline.com or call (888) 349-4287.


    SWIFT TO ACQUIRE MERIT DISTRIBUTION

    Swift Transportation Co. Inc. has reached an agreement to purchase Merit Distribution Services from grocery and food service distributor McLane Company, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores.
    Swift and Texas-based McLane were expected to complete the $50 million transaction by late May. Merit’s primary business consists of a series of dedicated regional trucking fleets that serve Wal-Mart’s grocery distribution centers and retail outlets.

    -Jill Dunn


    SHORT HAULS

    THE ETRUCKER.COM $1,000 Money for Miles winner for March is
    Laurie Demaree of Cross Plains, Ind.

    IDAHO has re-established a pilot program to allow trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds to use certain roads in the southern part of the state. The law allows specially configured trucks to max out at the new weight with a $50 permit.

    NEW ORLEANS port owner-operators have ended a contentious work stoppage over pay, and terminal officials in May expected workloads to return to normal. The truckers met individually with their carriers to work out pay issues they could not discuss as a group because of federal anti-trust laws, says port spokesman Paul Daughin.

    JEVIC TRANSPORTATION’S new driver identification system allows shippers and receivers to instantly verify a driver’s identification. The New Jersey-based company says the system is the first of its kind in the trucking industry. It uses bar codes and a website to verify the driver by photograph.

    SHELL LUBRICANTS’ new Rotella Road Show, a tractor-trailer combination featuring a six-seat surround-sound theater, interactive displays and information on Rotella products, is visiting some 80 U.S. cities through November. Stops this summer include the Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Contest June 19-21 at the TravelCenters of America truck stop in Lodi, Ohio; the Walcott Truckers Jamboree July 10-11 in Walcott, Iowa; and the Jamboree Truck Rodeo July 31-Aug. 1 in Lexington, Va. A complete list of all stops, is available at www.rotella.com/roadshows.

    DIESEL PRICES returned to pre-war levels – below $1.50 per gallon – last month even though the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries says it will reduce oil production. Government energy analysts attribute the fall to increased oil imports and less international tension. OPEC said it would cut production to stem falling oil prices caused by overproduction and reduced demand.

    DANIEL USTIAN, Navistar International Corp.’s president and chief executive officer, added truck division president to his title in April after Steve Keate resigned. Someone else will be named truck division president, says spokesman Roy Wiley, but no timeline has been set.

    ALASKAN TRUCKERS will have to conform to new trucking laws if the state’s governor signs a bill passed by its legislature. The bill prohibits an employer from encouraging or allowing a driver to violate any regulation related to highway-railroad crossings, and requires state courts to disqualify CDL holders if convicted of violating any federal, state or municipal regulation relating to these crossings.

    LOVE’S has opened a new travel stop in Greenwood, La., located on I-20, Exit 3.

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