Industry News

IDLEAIRE EXPANDING WITH FLEETS, TRUCK STOPS

Several major fleets inked service contracts in June with truck stop electrification and anti-idling company IdleAire, which announced a national rollout of its facilities.

Drivers for National Freight, J.B. Hunt, Celadon, Quality Carriers and FedEx Custom Critical will gain access to climate, electrical, communication and entertainment services at reduced rates. The service normally costs $1.50 an hour. Carriers say they will be able to cut idling expenses, save fuel and help retain drivers with a new benefit.

“The big thing is to improve fuel economy,” says Joe Monteleone, vice president of maintenance for National Freight, during an announcement at an Atlanta Petro Stopping Center. “But it’s also something we can offer drivers.”

Mowbrey Jemmott, a New York-based driver for National Freight, says he looks forward to banking through the Internet. “Now I don’t have to go into the truck stop and find a phone,” Jemmott says. “I can pay my bills online.”

IdleAire’s system can pump cool or hot air into a cab, and it gives drivers access to communication and entertainment services as well as 110-volt power. A built-in computer allows drivers to surf the Internet and use other services, such as e-mail.

IdleAire has announced expansion deals with several major truck stop chains. Already deployed in some Petro Stopping Centers and with plans to build at independent stops, the company signed deals with Love’s Travel Stops and Travel Centers of America.

Under the deal with TA, IdleAire will deploy its system at Dallas South and two other properties this summer. The company will also install services at Love’s Lost Hills and Ripon, Calif., locations.

Tom Badgett, IdleAire chief operations officer, said the company plans to install 225 locations nationwide by the end of the year. Five new sites – four of them in California – were to be complete by June 30, bringing the total number of IdleAire facilities to nine.

IdleAire officials also plan to install high-speed wireless Internet services in 35 states this summer.

– Sean Kelley

RULING COULD DELAY BORDER OPENING

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has “substantially complied” with safety requirements to allow long-haul Mexican carriers to operate throughout the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Still, a court ruling could delay opening the border another two years – or even longer. FMCSA officials say the delay could lengthen if “environmental mitigation measures are required” as part of a lawsuit filed by labor, industry and environmental groups.

In April the agency lost that lawsuit, filed by Public Citizen, the California Trucking Association and labor groups, among others. FMCSA officials are reviewing their options, including if they should appeal to the Supreme Court. They are also deciding if they should prepare an environmental impact statement in addition to appealing.

Despite the setbacks, the agency insists it has met all the legal requirements to open the border. A report from the U.S. Office of Inspector General seems to confirm that. Last month, the OIG released a report noting the agency’s compliance in areas such as hiring and training inspectors, inspection facilities and inspectors’ abilities to access information on Mexican trucks and drivers electronically.

In November the Bush Administration lifted a moratorium on Mexican carriers operating in the United States and authorized the DOT to begin processing Mexican applications for long-haul authority. But environmental groups said the agency failed to complete a full environmental impact statement and a Clean Air Act analysis, so they filed suit along with labor and industry groups.

As of March 28, the agency had received 232 Mexican applications for long-haul authority; 212 of these carriers said they would operate a total of 1,431 trucks. Five of the applicants were passenger bus companies.

Until FMCSA completes the required environmental analysis and statement or wins a legal appeal, the agency will be unable to proceed further with opening the border.

-Jill Dunn


RULE TARGETS DISHONEST MOVERS

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued an interim final rule it hopes will help protect consumers from unscrupulous interstate household movers and brokers.

Under the rule, carriers must provide written estimates, deliver goods on dates agreed upon and publish accurate advertisements with their names and U.S. Department of Transportation numbers. They also must offer an arbitration program for individual shippers and weigh shipments of customers given non-binding cost estimates.

The rule takes effect March 1.

“This rule promotes fair dealing by movers and provides consumers with the necessary information to make educated decisions about moving their belongings across state lines,” says Annette Sandberg, FMCSA administrator-designate.

The same advertising requirements applicable to movers will apply to household goods brokers, while movers will be held to the estimates of brokers with whom they have written agreements.

The rule stipulates that a carrier may demand no more than 100 percent of a binding estimate before delivery or 110 percent of a non-binding estimate upon delivery.

Movers who determine extra services are required after the goods are in transit must now inform the shipper before doing any extra service. Also, the customer must sign a written attachment to the contract if the customer agrees to pay for these extra charges.

FMCSA can levy civil fines against violators of the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations, including a $500 per day minimum penalty against carriers for each violation.

FMCSA does not have the power to resolve consumer complaints over loss and damage, settle disputes or obtain reimbursement for consumers.

Also, legislation is pending in Congress that would allow individuals and states to use consumer protection law against dishonest interstate movers.

-Jill Dunn


DRIVING CONTEST BENEFITS CHILDREN

Three years ago, the Mid-Atlantic Professional Truck Drivers Association decided it wanted to do something to help sick children and the trucking industry at the same time.

The organization teamed with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to found the Charity FunDrive, a truck driving competition held in Lexington, Va., that raises money for children with life-threatening illnesses each September.

The competition includes eight classes of trucks and features 10 simulated driving problems, “things they would do in everyday driving,” says Chuck Wilson, president of Wilson Trucking of Fisherville, Va., and head of the FunDrive.

Last year, 144 truckers participated in the competition – double the number from the first year’s competition. This year, Wilson expects 200 entrants.

Truckers pay a $50 fee to enter the competition, and they are encouraged to find sponsors to increase that amount. Last year, the competition raised $26,000 to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation make the dreams of children with life-threatening medical conditions come true.

This year’s competition will be held Sept. 6. For further information, call Mark Chase at (540) 949-3231 or e-mail the Mid-Atlantic Professional Truck Drivers Association at maptda@yahoo.com.


FMSCA SEEKS HELP WITH ENFORCEMENT

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking to Congress for help in closing enforcement loopholes.

Administrator-designate Annette Sandberg testified before a U.S. Senate Committee considering the FMCSA’s reauthorization in June, saying she wants to extend the agency’s safety enforcement reach beyond interstate operations to include intrastate operations.

“When our investigators examine a carrier’s operations, they must discard intrastate safety violations they discover,” Sandberg said.

Congress has eliminated interstate and intrastate distinctions in other motor carrier safety programs, including hazardous waste and commercial driver’s license regulations.

FMCSA officials also want to give carriers who require drivers to violate out-of-service orders a bigger incentive to quit that practice: upping the civil penalty for authorizing drivers to violate the order from a $16,000 maximum to an $100,000 maximum, a year in prison or both.

Additionally, the agency proposes increased fines for carriers who falsify safety violations or deliberately interfere with agency investigators’ access to relevant records, buildings and equipment.

Agency officials also hope to establish a standing medical review board to provide advice on driver qualifications and standards instead of assembling medical specialists on an ad hoc basis.

-Jill Dunn


DIESEL PRICE DOWNTREND MIGHT HAVE REACHED BOTTOM

After three months of declines, petroleum experts say diesel price decreases may be on the wane. National diesel prices slowed their descent in mid-June, dropping less than a penny from week to week and resting at $1.42, 4 cents higher than a year ago.

Department of Energy analysts predict diesel prices will remain constant over the next few months as summer driving increases and oil production cuts take effect. The Oil Price Information Service says prices might even rise this summer.

Petroleum inventory traditionally rises in May, but Iraqi oil production has not bounced back as expected because of post-war looting, according to the DOE. Top exporters of crude oil to the United States shipped high amounts of crude in late May, but that was before production cuts promised by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries took effect.

-Jill Dunn


EPA HEAD ENVISIONS IDLE-FREE CORRIDORS

With dozens of trucks idling on a hot Atlanta truck stop parking lot, Christie Todd Whitman, outgoing administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced in June a new federal anti-idling initiative.

She was joined by officials of IdleAire, an idling-alternative technology that provides power, climate and communication utilities to truck cabs. The company announced the national rollout of its truck stop program.

While freight transport is very important, Whitman said, “The trucks that carry all that freight are a big source of emissions.”She said EPA is going forward with a plan to produce idle-free trucking and rail corridors along major freight routes. The National Transportation Idle Free Corridor program is in its infancy, but EPA officials say the plan will ultimately fund initiatives such as IdleAire to create entire shipping lanes where idling is unnecessary. The EPA is mapping out the corridors even though there is no funding in the agency’s proposed budget.

“This new initiative will help support emissions reductions technology at truck stops and railheads along these corridors,” Whitman said.

– Sean Kelley


SHORT HAULS

ASPIRING TEENAGE truckers will have to wait until they turn 21 to get behind the wheel of an interstate big rig after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration torpedoed a pilot program designed to allow interstate hauling by drivers ages 18 to 20. The program, sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association, would have allowed younger drivers to drive trucks in interstate commerce under certain conditions.

FEDEX FREIGHT will add an expected 836 new tractors equipped with Cummins engines during its fiscal 2004. FedEx Freight, a regional less-than-truckload carrier, has a fleet of approximately 9,000 tractors and 25,000 trailers.

A NEW LAW in Colorado prevents movers from withholding delivery if the customer pays the fee as specified in the shipping document. It also requires the mover to provide consumers with a list of costs and services. Further, regardless of circumstances, movers must turn over customer prescription medicine and medical supplies, as well as children’s furniture, clothing and toys. It also demands movers carry minimum levels of insurance and register annually with the state Public Utilities Commission.

HALDEX’S PRECISION RESPONSE height control valve has been selected as standard equipment on all U.S. and Canadian Kenworth Class 8 trucks equipped with air suspensions. The company says that by applying the valve to its new lightweight AG400 Series air ride suspension, Kenworth has improved reliability and simplified the suspension’s installation.

MAY’S ETRUCKER.COM Money for Miles winner is Rachel Hebert of Alvin, Texas. She wins $1,000 in the eTrucker.com Money for Miles II Sweepstakes.

PETERBILT’S 379X, a polished aluminum-on-chrome special edition truck, will visit the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, Walcott, Iowa, July 10-11, and TruckerFest at Hot August Nights, Reno, Nev., Aug. 6-9.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT plans to study fatigue in 2,000 union truckers on overnight runs. Some drivers will wear actigraphy watches to measure their sleep and wake time. Comments are open through July 29. The docket No. FMCSA-2003-15025 needs to be included with comments, which may be mailed to: Docket Clerk, U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Comments also may be submitted via http://dms.dot.gov. Use reference number 15025.

KENWORTH has added a full-service central California dealership in Paso Robles.

CATERPILLAR’S C15 engine, equipped with Caterpillar’s ACERT emissions reduction system, has been certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It will be offered in the 435 to 550 horsepower range. Full production will start in the third quarter of this year.

PETER KARLSTEN will replace Michel Gigou, current president and chief executive officer of Volvo Trucks North America, in October. Karlsten has been president of Volvo Trucks in Brazil since 2001. Gigou will continue to serve as chairman of Mack Trucks, which is also owned by Volvo, until the end of 2003.

OLD DOMINION Freight Line, a less-than-truckload carrier, opened a 38-door service center with 12,000 square feet of dock space in Des Moines, Iowa. A spokesman said the move will increase the company’s Midwestern coverage.

PREPASS ANNOUNCED a flat monthly service charge of $14.99 per truck, or less in some cases, would replace its 99 cents-per-pass fee. The new monthly charge is available to all new PrePass customers and will be phased in for current users.


CORRECTIONS

“Keep your cool,” an air conditioning maintenance article in the June edition, listed incorrect contact information for Index Sensors and Controls. The correct phone and website are (360) 629-5200 and www.indexsensors.com.

In “The Savvy Seven,” in the May edition, the Mack Vision and Volvo VN780 axle specs listed as Eaton should have been listed as Dana.

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