News From The Industry

VOLVO, OTHERS AWARD PRIZES AT GATS

U.S. Xpress owner-operator Dale Brown is one lucky trucker.

Brown, who previously owned two Volvo trucks, won a new Volvo VN 780 at the Great American Trucking Show in September. Volvo Trucks of North America gave away the shiny new ride as part of a months-long contest that came down to seeing which of four finalists had the key that fit the 780.

“It took a while to get that key to work,” said Brown, the first to try his key. Volvo is paying Brown’s sales tax and other costs, except insurance, to get the VN on the road. Three runners-up – Ray Lilly, Joseph Mitchell and Frank Bless – won owner-operator prize packages worth $5,000 each.

Other giveaways at the Dallas show included:

  • Darlene Woods of Fort Worth, Texas, won $1,000 from Midnight Cowboy Radio Network.
  • Chris Harper, a driver for C&J Trucking, won six Alcoa Durabrite wheels.
  • Jackie Burnen Jones won $1,000 in Randall Truck Media Group’s Proud American Giveaway, sponsored by Overdrive and Truckers News.
  • Bridgestone/Firestone gave away six sets of steering tires.
  • Detroit Diesel gave away two tickets to NASCAR’s Daytona 500.
  • – Tim Barton

    CARRIERS VOICE CONCERNS ABOUT HOURS RULE

    Major impacts on productivity and profitability are expected from the revised hours-of-service regulations, said experts at two September events in Dallas.

    In sessions at the Great American Trucking Show and the Truckload Carriers Association’s Independent Contractor Division meeting, carrier and law enforcement officials said the new HOS rule will cut capacity and could put scrutiny on what happens at loading docks.

    Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new regulations, which take effect Jan. 4, drivers will have an additional hour of driving time, but must take two more hours of rest each day. The 11 available driving hours must be completed within 14 consecutive hours on duty.

    The biggest question is whether drivers will be able to use the sleeper berth to stop the clock for counting on-duty time, said Collin Mooney, director of training for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The clarification regarding sleeper berth time issued by FMCSA in late September did not fully address certain circumstances, say many in the industry.

    “We’ve held off on training our managers, drivers and customer base because we don’t know what the answer [to the sleeper berth question] will be,” said David Hedgpeth, FFE vice president of compliance and safety. “Once we get that information, we will start cranking up the training.”

    In addition, the rule’s impact on productivity will be significant. For example, Schneider National’s productivity will drop by as much as 9 percent, said Don Osterberg, vice president of capacity development and safety. But merely adding capacity is not the answer.

    “I clearly believe that many carriers are going to show discipline in this regard in that we can’t just throw capacity at this,” he said, adding that implementing the rules will cost Schneider $1 million.

    Other fleets will also feel the pinch. Joyce Jordan, COO and executive vice president of Dart Transit Co., estimates Dart’s costs will increase 5.8 cents per mile due to additional trailers and labor “just to maintain what we have now.” Carriers must be compensated for time spent waiting, she said.

    “We’re looking at paying detention as a way to compensate drivers,” said Tom Kretsinger Jr., executive vice president of American Central Transport. “Competition for drivers is already pretty intense. And, of course, the shippers are going to have to pay for that.”

    Despite questions that remain about the rule’s interpretation and the many challenges they present, carriers must find ways to make them work. “The cow’s already out of the barn, as we say in Texas,” Hedgpeth said of the rule.

    – Linda Longton


    FREIGHTLINER INTRODUCES UPDATED ENGINES, AUTOMATED TRANSMISSION

    The 2004 model Mercedes-Benz MBE4000 and MBE900 diesel engines for Freightliner heavy- and medium-duty trucks will be available in the first quarter of 2004.

    Both the MBE4000 and MBE900 will use exhaust gas recirculation to achieve the upcoming 2004 emissions standards. The engines did not have to meet the Oct. 1, 2002, deadline because Mercedes was not among the engine makers under the consent decree that advanced the emissions deadline.

    The engines combine advanced electronic controls and fuel injection with extended maintenance cycles, the company says.

    The 12.8-liter MBE4000 is a heavy-duty engine that can be used for regional distribution, vocational, truckload and bulk-haul applications. The engine is offered in Freightliner’s Century Class S/T and Columbia, as well as in heavier-duty Business Class M2 vehicles.

    The 4.3- through 7.2-liter MBE900 is for medium-duty truck applications. It, too, is offered in M2 models.

    Freightliner also says it will make the Mercedes-Benz Automated Gear Shift transmission available for Freightliner Business Class M2 vehicles beginning in the first quarter of 2004.

    The new AGS transmission features a two-pedal, automated clutch actuation system. A manual shift option is offered. The transmission is available with Mercedes-Benz MBE900 engines with horsepower range from 170 to 250.

    – Max Heine


    CATERPILLAR, EATON FULLER, CUMMINS FARE WELL IN STUDY

    A J.D. Power and Associates study ranked Caterpillar’s C15 engine highest for customer satisfaction in the vocational Class 8 engine category.

    Eaton Fuller had “particularly strong ratings” in quality, warranty and design of its transmissions, announced the independent marketing company. J.D. Power also said that the Cummins M11 “performed above industry average” in the vocational category.

    Study results are based on responses from 2,675 customers of 2-year-old heavy-duty trucks.

    Caterpillar C15 owners reported fewer than average problems – 19 problems per 100 vehicles – compared with the heavy-engine average of 40 problems per 100 vehicles.

    Eighteen percent of C15 owners said they had an engine problem in the past two years, while 31 percent of all vocational truck owners reported problems.


    WINTER COULD MEAN MORE THAN ICY ROADS

    If winter is normal this year, truckers will have to put up with a few icy roads and a minor blizzard or two. But if it turns cold, those inconveniences will be the least of their problems, according to the Department of Energy’s winter fuel forecasts.

    A cold winter will likely mean sharply higher diesel prices.

    That’s because diesel, unlike gasoline, is directly affected by the consumption of home heating oil, which comes from the same stocks. If demand for heating oil goes up, the amount of oil available for diesel refining goes down.

    If things stay normal, however, the DOE’s Energy Information Administration expects the cost of home heating oil to remain the same as last year or even decrease slightly. “Now that the heating season … has begun, diesel prices are expected to rise, pulled up by the seasonal demand patterns of heating oil,” the agency predicted last month. “Cold weather could add an additional 8 to 16 cents” to the national average and even more at local levels.

    Diesel prices fell through September but rose slightly in early October.

    – Sean Kelley


    GIVEAWAYS, EDITORS AT shell ROTELLA TRUCK TOUR STOP

    The Shell Rotella Road Show, which offers a surround-sound theater and interactive displays, will continue through this month before kicking off another tour in January. The tour includes a game in which participants can scan a card to win a pocketknife, a cap or a jacket.

    The show is aimed at over-the-road truckers and consists of a 53-foot Kentucky Air Ride trailer pulled by a 2003 Peterbilt 379 with a Cummins ISX 475-hp engine.

    Shell’s movie illustrates truck performance in the Australian Outback, at Pikes Peak and on the ice roads of the Arctic.

    The schedule of remaining stops can be seen at www.rotella.com.


    FIVE STATES, NYC OFFER TAX AMNESTY

    Five states and New York City currently are offering tax amnesty periods, with deadlines ranging from Nov. 17 until Jan. 31, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.

    Some state programs are lenient, allowing returns as old as 1983 to be filed without risk of civil or criminal penalties, and paying reduced interest.

    States impose penalties, such as double interest, for tax violators who don’t take advantage of the program.

    States with current amnesty programs are: Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Kansas and North Dakota. For more information, contact the state’s revenue department or visit its website.

    – Jill Dunn


    TRUCKERS FLOCK TO DALLAS SHOW

    A heavy turnout of truckers eager to see an expanded show and two big-name concerts gave the fifth annual Great American Trucking Show its largest attendance in three years.

    The industry’s second largest trade show, held Sept. 26-28 at the Dallas Convention Center, drew nearly 40,000 truckers, owner-operators and carrier personnel. Owner-operator and fleet management attendees, in particular, pushed the show’s 2003 attendance nearly 10 percent higher than 2002.

    “We are very pleased with the increase in attendance and quality of visitors at this year’s GATS,” says Alan Sims, GATS director of event sales and marketing. “Exhibitors from component manufacturers through truck and trailer manufacturers put their stamp of approval on this year’s event.”

    GATS’ exhibit space increased by more than 5 percent in 2003, with a total of 421 exhibitors.

    Truckers took advantage of 20 acres of free truck parking adjacent to the convention center.

    Tracy Byrd, sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America, and Diamond Rio, sponsored by Mobil Delvac, gave free concerts for GATS attendees.

    The Truckload Carriers Association also held its annual Independent Contractor Division Meeting at the Dallas Hyatt Regency Reunion in conjunction with GATS.

    Next year’s Great American Trucking Show will be Sept. 10-12.


    SLEEPER BERTH RULE AMENDED

    With just a few months left before truckers convert to a new system for logging the hours they work, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is trying to clarify the rules.

    FMCSA amended its new hours-of-service rule regarding time spent in sleeper berths.

    Under the current rule, off-duty time, including sleeper berth time, is not included in calculating the 15-hour on-duty limit.

    Beginning Jan. 4, when a trucker’s workday drops to a 14-hour maximum, some sleeper berth periods will be counted as on-duty. However, if the driver spends at least two two-hour periods in the sleeper berth, that does not have to be counted as on-duty.

    Two areas not covered clearly in the April HOS rule were off-duty time out of the sleeper berth and sleeper berth periods of less than two hours. These time periods do not qualify for exclusion and must be counted when calculating on-duty time.

    The agency clarified situations where the driver takes three or more sleeper berth periods, each of which lasts at least two hours.

    The amended rule states that any two sleeper-berth periods totaling 10 hours may be used in calculating the 10-hour off-duty period. Any remaining sleeper-berth periods of two hours or more must be included in calculating the 14-hour on-duty time limit.

    Officials provided this example: A trucker is off-duty for 10 hours before driving four hours, followed by two hours in the sleeper berth. Then the driver drives for another three hours, spends three more hours in the sleeper berth, then is on duty for five hours and then spends seven hours in the sleeper berth.

    The amended rule spells out that the second and third periods in the sleeper meet the off-duty requirement because they total 10 hours. The remaining first sleeper berth period would have to be included in on-duty time.

    The changes also address off-duty sleeper berth time in operations at natural gas or oil well locations and clarify the provision for short-haul drivers, intended to allow them one 16-hour on-duty limit in a seven-day period.

    More information is available on the amended final rule at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

    – Jill Dunn


    SEX HABITS STUDY TARGETS TRUCKERS

    How’s your sex life? That’s what a federally funded health study wants to know.

    The National Institute of Health recently granted $1.1 million to Emory University’s Medical School for a four-year, large-scale study of the sex lives of truckers.

    Researchers ultimately hope to develop disease-prevention programs for truckers and those they interact with on the road.

    NIH guarantees the information shared will be used only for research purposes.

    Long-haul truckers willing to participate anonymously in online discussion groups should call (404) 616-3617.

    – Jill Dunn


    WIRELESS INTERNET TREND EXPANDS TO RIP GRIFFIN, LOVE’S

    Truckstop.net and Sprint have begun offering wireless Internet service at some Rip Griffin Travel Centers and Love’s Travel Stops.

    The $69 million deal between Idaho-based Truckstop.net and Kansas-based Sprint uses Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, to deliver high-speed Internet. Truckstop.net offers unlimited Wi-Fi services for $29.95 a month. The company is considering prepaid fees and other non-subscription user fees.

    A computer with a wireless network card or a Wi-Fi enabled personal digital assistant is needed to use Wi-Fi. Truckstop.net plans to bring the service to about 300 new locations every quarter.

    Mark Griffin, president of Rip Griffin Travel Centers, estimates more than 25 percent of truckers have laptops. Wi-Fi gives customers “a chance to connect home, to communicate with their base of operations, and to better run their business by managing information, directing their routes and picking up new loads on the fly,” says Griffin.

    Sprint says that plans include offering hardware such as laptops, personal computers and wireless network cards to customers who need equipment.

    Truckstop.net has also announced Wi-Fi plans with Petro. Tennessee-based IdleAire Technologies said last summer it had plans to introduce wireless Internet at truck stops that offer IdleAire’s Advanced Travel Center Electrification system.

    In April, Texas-based Petro Stopping Centers, the Utah-based Flying J and SmartStop Wireless Solutions of Oregon formed the Travel Plaza Alliance Network to a provide a Wi-Fi network at Flying J Travel and Petro facilities.

    – Jill Dunn


    HIGHWAY HERO NOMINATIONS DUE

    Nominations for Goodyear’s North America Highway Hero program will be accepted through Nov. 30.”We know there are many brave professional truck drivers out there who deserve to be recognized for their selfless and heroic deeds for coming to the aid of others,” says Steve McClellan, Goodyear’s vice president of commercial systems.
    Nomination forms and program details may be obtained by calling (330) 796-8183. The form also is available at www.highwayhero.net.


    SHORT HAULS

    HEAVY IDLERS might want to check out a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency summary of state and local idling restrictions. The agency has charted the restrictions for the 13 states with statewide restrictions, as well as eight cities and counties with individual regulations. Some locations offer exemptions, such as during loading and unloading. The list is available at www.epa.gov.

    CORRECTION: The Turbo 3000D fuel-saving device works by changing the fuel flow pattern; it does not eliminate air from fuel. The process was incorrectly described in the September issue’s “Better burns.” Also, the correct telephone for Andy Matuch, maker of the Turbo 3000D, is (877) 526-7728.

    MONTHLY FOCUS The trucking lifestyle is different than any other, and in many ways more difficult. Read the November Monthly Focus on eTrucker.com about the best ways to face the challenges of life on the road.

    VOLVO’S NEW LEASING system has 160 North American service locations and offers a complete line of Volvo trucks, contract maintenance, full-service leases, finance leases and truck rentals. Volvo also offers parts, tax service, tires, permits, licensing, fuel cards, road service, insurance and credit cards. The Volvo Trucks Leasing System is comprised of the members of the Mack Leasing System, 23 of whom are also Volvo dealers.

    TRUCKERS WOULD pay $55 to $67 in tolls to drive through Virginia on I-81 under two proposals state officials are considering to improve the 325-mile road. The Virginia Trucking Association says it favors one plan, but opposes the toll increases in both plans because they would shift an unfair cost burden to truckers.

    TRUCK REPOSSESSIONS were down by about a third in the first two quarters of 2003 compared with the same time last year, according to an industry index, which could indicate that the economy is improving for the trucking industry. The NasTrac Quarterly Index was issued by Nassau Asset Management, a company that performs repossessions and other services.

    DORIS HANSEN, who is leased to Quality Transportation in Baker, Mont., has been named the American Trucking Associations 2003 National Driver of the Year. Hansen is the first woman ever to receive the award.

    CLASS 8 VEHICLES entered Michelin Tire’s Challenge Bibendum environmental vehicle competition for the first time in September. Volvo, competing in the overnight idling competition, received an A for its VN780 with a fuel cell-powered auxiliary power unit. Freightliner received an A in energy efficiency, using a 2001 FL70 powered by standard diesel technology coupled with compressed natural gas capability.

    LANDSTAR SYSTEM ranked 298th on InformationWeek’s list of 500 Leading Innovative Companies. It is the fourth time Landstar has been recognized on the list of leading information technology users.

    VOLVO’S PARENT company will spend $150 million over the next four years to expand a Hagerstown, Md., truck engine plant. The Volvo Powertrain facility will deliver the next generation diesel engine family for the Volvo Group’s two North American truck brands, Mack and Volvo.

    PACCAR PROMOTED Nick Panza to senior vice president of Paccar, the parent company of Peterbilt and Kenworth. Panza, formerly general manager of Peterbilt Motors, was replaced at Peterbilt by Dan Sobic.

    SCHNEIDER NATIONAL expects to announce before year-end a “significant” hike in its compensation for owner-operators and company drivers, said spokesman Mike Norder during the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Schneider expects the size of its owner-operator base – now a third of its 15,500 driver units – to grow in 2004, Norder said. Schneider is also installing Webasto heaters in all the 2004 model trucks it has ordered, Norder said, and will install them in subsequent truck orders.

    FATALITIES THROUGHOUT the U.S. transportation system increased slightly in 2002, even though there were 24 fewer deaths in the medium and heavy truck category. The National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary figures Oct. 2 on 2002 transportation fatalities, which increased to 45,098 from 44,969 the previous year. Highway fatalities caused more than 94 percent of all transportation deaths last year. In 2002 there were 42,815 deaths, compared to 2001’s 42,196.

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