News From The Industry

Truckers renewing or adding hazardous material endorsements may not face fingerprint-based criminal history checks at their state licensing agency until April 1. That doesn’t mean drivers who no longer qualify to hold the endorsements are off the hook.

NOVEMBER DEADLINE EXTENDED ON HAZMAT BACKGROUND CHECKS

Truckers renewing or adding hazardous material endorsements may not face fingerprint-based criminal history checks at their state licensing agency until April 1. That doesn’t mean drivers who no longer qualify to hold the endorsements are off the hook.

The Transportation Security Administration extended the original Nov. 3 deadline to April 1 for states to comply with new regulations that will ultimately require all commercial driver’s license holders with hazmat endorsements to undergo fingerprinting and criminal background checks. But it left intact two other deadlines related to drivers who have been convicted of certain felonies or who have violated immigration laws in the past seven years.

The agency says it amended its original fingerprint deadline because 23 states were unable to meet it. Instead, states must begin collecting biographical and criminal history information for individuals applying for, renewing or transferring hazmat endorsements by April 1.

Truckers with current hazmat endorsements will undergo background checks as they renew or transfer after the new deadline. New applicants after April 1 will undergo a background check. States may request an extension if they cannot comply with the April deadline, but all states are expected to comply no later than Dec. 1, 2004.

TSA did not delay a Sept. 2 compliance date for drivers to surrender their hazmat endorsement if they do not meet security threat assessment standards. And as of Nov. 3, hazmat drivers were required to report disqualifying offenses that would appear on a fingerprint-based criminal history records check.

Disqualifying crimes include: terrorism, murder, assault with intent to murder, espionage, sedition, kidnapping or hostage taking, treason, rape or 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 hazardous material. TSA may also remove drivers who have been declared mentally incompetent. The rule applies only to those violent crimes and violations that have occurred during the past seven years.

The agency also promised to conduct name-based background checks this summer, but announced it would complete that search of databases containing information on terrorist activity by Dec. 4. Once the background checks are fully implemented, TSA will decide who is a security threat.

– Jill Dunn


EXPERTS FORECAST ROSIER 2004

Trucking economists speaking at a trade show said a recovery is well under way, and the trucking industry should start reaping the benefits in 2004.

“The economy grew robustly in the third quarter,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of Global Insight. He told attendees at an American Trucking Associations forum in October that the combination of low interest rates, tax cuts by the Bush administration and a weakened dollar “puts the economy in a good position going into 2004 for a sustained recovery.”

Behravesh said he believes there should be steady increases in capital spending, consumer confidence and the job markets.

Donald Broughton, an analyst for A.G. Edwards and Sons, said brighter days are ahead for trucking, following more than two years of troubled times. Recent increases in freight tonnage and the lower inventory of used trucks, he said, are good signs for fleets and truck and engine manufacturers. “Intermodal and less-than-truckload seem to be doing well,” Broughton said. “The only trucking sector that we didn’t see improve in the third quarter was line-haul, but that will change. I believe 2004 and 2005 are going to be good years.”

-Randy Grider


CHANGE PROVIDERS, NOT PHONE NUMBERS

Truckers with cell phones can now keep their numbers when they change wireless carriers, and some may even be able to adopt their landline number for their cell phone.

Some wireless customers in the 100 largest U.S. cities began transferring their number from one wireless provider to another last month. Customers must stay with a cellular service based in the same city as the one from which they are switching. Those who use wireless carriers based in smaller cities will be able to move a number by May 24. Customers who want to transfer their landline number to their cell phone should check when shopping cell phone companies to see if they provide this option.

Under the new Federal Communications Commission rules, wireless companies may charge a fee to customers when their number is transferred and customers must pay any early termination fees. Once a customer has asked for service from a new carrier, the current carrier cannot delay or refuse to move his number, even if he owes the current carrier money.

– Jill Dunn


CALIFORNIA COPS DISABLE TANKER BY REMOTE

In a demonstration of technology that may one day be required in California, state troopers used a remote wireless device to disable a moving tanker 530 miles away.

The California Highway Patrol is evaluating devices that could be used to prevent terrorists from stealing a truck loaded with hazardous materials.

The loaded truck, which belongs to Interstate Oil Co., was disabled using equipment and software developed by Satellite Security Systems. Police at the company’s San Diego headquarters disabled the truck using FleetGuard, a desktop application that works with GlobalGuard, a satellite-based communications system.

California lawmakers are considering a measure requiring disabling equipment on trucks hauling hazmat. The bill is opposed by the California Trucking Association.

-Jill Dunn


ARCTIC EXPRESS FILES CHAPTER 11

Arctic Express filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the cost of litigating a lawsuit drained the refrigerated carrier’s finances, said owner Dick Durst. Chapter 11 allows a company to continue operations while it reorganizes its debt.

The company filed for bankruptcy Oct. 31, 13 days after it lost an appeal in a lawsuit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Court battles with OOIDA cost the Ohio-based carrier several hundred thousand dollars, and appealing the case would cost several hundred thousand more, Durst said.

“We did not have the money to continue to fight an uphill battle,” he said. “We can’t take everything from hauling freight to pay attorneys.” D&A Associates, an equipment leasing company affiliated with the carrier, also filed Chapter 11.

“We will file a reorganization plan in 60 days that will propose 100 percent payout to all unsecured creditors,” Durst said. “We don’t intend to let employees go. We do intend to re-evaluate fleet size but don’t intend to dramatically downsize the fleet.”

Durst said he had not lost any suppliers, employees or contractors since the filing. “We’ve gotten wonderful support and response from drivers and owner-operators,” he said.

Durst founded the company in 1981 under the name of G&D Transport. He is second vice chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association.

– Jill Dunn


TCA NAMES FINALISTS FOR CONTRACTOR AWARD

The Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive have named the finalists for TCA’s Independent Contractor of the Year contest.

Finalists will complete a more rigorous application by Dec. 19, and judges will whittle the list to five truckers. The grand prize winner will be announced at TCA’s 2004 Annual Convention in Waikoloa, Hawaii, March 14-17.

The finalists are: Bruce Barnes, Witte Bros. Exchange; Ezra “Carroll” Benn, Dart Transit Co.; Richard Cary, PFT Roberson; Gregory Coulter, Coastal Transport; Donald Cozine, FFE Transportation Services; William Gross, John Christner Trucking; Carl James, MacKinnon Transport; Jerry Johnson, O&S Trucking; William Loving, PFT Roberson; Charles Maly, Shaffer Trucking; Jimmy McSwain, Sunco Carriers; Roger Mullenberg, GMR Transportation; Thomas Rice, Contract Freighters; Rick Shank, Arnold Transportation Services; Dennis Siler, Dart Transit Co.; Ronald Warner, Davis Transport; Larry Williams, SB, Inc. (Sherman Bros. Heavy Trucking); Gary Fink, Willis Shaw Express; Houston Smith, John Christner Trucking; and Richard Johnson, Yellowstone Trucking 2000.

The winner will receive a new International tractor, along with numerous other prizes.

– Jill Dunn


EX-TRUCKER ARRESTED IN WATKINS SHOOTING

A former employee of Watkins Motor Lines is facing two counts of aggravated murder and three counts of attempted murder after a workplace shooting at a company terminal last month.

Tom Christopher West, 50, has been charged with the shootings at the Watkins terminal in West Chester, Ohio. The Las Vegas resident was being held without bond in Hamilton, city police said.

West worked for Watkins from 1998 until 2001, when he resigned from his over-the-road driving position in Atlanta. The victims did not know West, according to a statement from the less-than-truckload carrier.

Police say West entered the terminal in the Cincinnati suburb and began firing two handguns. Donald Haury, 50, of Bellbrook, died at the scene and Bob Lines, 65, of Cincinnati, died at a local hospital. Three other men were wounded.

West’s birth name is Joseph Eschenbrenner III, according to police Capt. Dave Kelly. Investigators know he began going by West years ago, but were not sure if he changed his name legally.

– Jill Dunn


INDUSTRY ALERTED AFTER RICIN THREAT

A trucking organization has asked companies and drivers to be alert for disgruntled trucking employees who may have made threatening statements toward the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The alert was posted on the American Trucking Associations website after U.S. Postal Service employees discovered a vial of the deadly chemical ricin along with a threatening note about the DOT’s new hours-of-service rule.

The announcement was part of ATA’s Information Sharing and Analysis Center. ATA operates ISAC in cooperation with its state trucking associations, the Trucking Security and Anti-Terrorism Working Group and the Department of Homeland Security.

Specifically, the warning asks truckers to look for persons in the trucking industry who may have made threatening statements, or displayed suspicious actions regarding the DOT, especially the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The letter threatening the FMCSA and containing ricin, a poison made from castor beans, was discovered at a Greenville, S.C., postal facility in October. “The letter ‘holds hostage’ the new hours-of-service rule, stating that if the regulation is not rolled back before January of next year, the writer threatens to stage an incident using large quantities of this material,” ISAC stated.

Officials say truckers should be on the look out for:

  • Persons who follow trucks, especially ones bearing hazardous waste loads, for extended periods.
  • Individuals who photograph trucks or truck facilities from their vehicle or from public areas.
  • Those who ask questions about routes, origins, destinations, cargo and truck capacities.


  • OVERDRIVE WINS AWARD

    For the second year in a row, Overdrive received the Gold “Eddie” Editorial Excellence Award in the transportation category from Folio magazine.

    Folio is the premier magazine for the magazine publishing industry.

    Entrants in the Editorial Excellence awards are judged by the standards set by their editors and how well they meet their mission statements. Winners are chosen based on judges’ evaluations, quality of content, overall design and production.

    “This award once again recognizes the quality and attention to detail that Overdrive‘s editors and designers bring to each issue,” says Jeff Mason, vice president and group publisher.

    Overdrive has received numerous editorial and design awards, including a third Folio Editorial Excellence award in 2000.


    MICHELIN RANKS FIRST IN SURVEY

    Michelin medium truck tires were ranked first in quality and innovation in the 11th annual brand study by Tire Review, a tire dealer trade magazine.

    The study analyzed 500 tire dealers’ perceptions of brands and asked the dealers to rate medium truck tires in 19.5-inch to 24.5-inch sizes. Michelin tires scored 9.2 on product quality and 8.6 on product innovation on a 10-point scale.

    – Jill Dunn



    SHORT HAULS

    TRUCKERS IN ILLINOIS will still be subject to slower speed limits than motorists, despite legislative efforts to end split limits in rural areas. The state’s legislature sent a bill to the governor last summer that would have equalized car and truck speeds at 65 mph on rural divided four-lane highways, but the governor vetoed the bill and the House of Representatives failed to override his veto.

    BORDER CROSSING delays on the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River could get worse for truckers unless a tunnel is built, a study says. The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership endorses building a tunnel that it says would transform an existing train passage into a truck route and rail line. Otherwise, thousands of automotive manufacturing jobs will be jeopardized by growing delays and increased transportation costs, the study says.

    TRUCKERS MAY PAY more to cross the Delaware River Jan. 1, but it will be less than they were originally scheduled to pay. The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission raised the per-axle toll from $2.25 to $2.75, effective Jan. 1. That’s 50 cents less than planned. Car tolls dropped to 75 cents Nov 1.

    DIESEL REFINERS say they can meet demand for lower-sulfur diesel by the time federal law phases it into use between 2006 and 2010. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released an analysis of 126 refiners’ data that projects 96 percent of the nearly 3 million barrels of highway diesel produced per day will meet the 15 parts per million sulfur standard by 2006. Until mid-2010, fuel that has both the current sulfur content standard of 500 ppm and the new 15 ppm will be sold.

    SAPP BROS. TRUCK STOPS has joined Truckstop.net to offer wireless Internet access at its 16 locations throughout the Midwest and East. Sapp Bros. expects to introduce the wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, by January. Subscriptions will be available at the truck stops. Truckstop.net offers unlimited Wi-Fi services for $29.95 a month.

    FRED BURNS JR. has been named 2004 chairman of the American Trucking Associations. Burns, of Marlinton, W.Va., is president of Burns Motor Freight, a family-run carrier that operates 100 tractor-trailer units out of its Marlinton headquarters and terminals in Beverly and Sam Black Church, W.Va. It specializes in service to the wood products industry.

    THREE NEW YORK MOVERS were found guilty of extortion by a Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S. District Court judge, according to the Department of Transportation. Avinoam Damti, owner of Starving Students Moving and Storage, On-Time Van Lines and Newstart Moving, was fined $1 million, the OIG stated. Damti and Ofer Yosef, president of On-Time Van Lines, will each serve 12 years and 7 months in prison and pay $437,753 in restitution. Yosef was also fined $10,000. Shlomo Hababa, president of Newstart Moving, was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay $776.

    TRUCKLOAD CARRIERS ASSOCIATION President Robert Hirsch agreed to step down in October due to a difference with the association’s officers over managerial approach. TCA Chairman Clifton Parker said the organization will be run by an interim leadership team composed of himself and other officers.

    SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA groups are considering proposals to reduce truck traffic during peak commuter hours. One new group is looking at extending the Port of Long Beach/Los Angeles’ gate hours while another group is considering a truck expressway to improve traffic.

    THE 2004 PETERBILT calendar is available for purchase through the company’s website, www.peterbilt.com, or by phone, (800) 552-0024. The calendar’s trucks were photographed in British Columbia and Seattle. Appointment calendars feature 12 monthly photos and cost $10.95. Wall calendars feature six two-month pages and cost $15.95. Prices do not include shipping and handling.

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