The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in November issued a five-point update regarding the new hours-of-service rule.
FMCSA ADDRESSES SLEEPER BERTH REGS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in November issued a five-point update regarding the new hours-of-service rule. The memorandum aims to clarify some aspects of the rule, notably split sleeper berth periods, that law enforcement and industry representatives have said are muddy or that FMCSA believes are misunderstood by industry or the law enforcement community.
Some of the memo’s topics were part of a petition for rulemaking filed by the American Trucking Associations. “ATA’s request has raised genuine issues in need of resolution,” said FMCSA Assistant Administration John Hill in the memorandum.
The outcome of ATA’s petition remained unclear last month.
Under the rule, which became effective Jan. 4, drivers can drive as much as 11 hours and work as many as 14, but must take 10 consecutive hours off. All work, driving or otherwise, must be completed within 14 hours from the time work begins. The only way for drivers to extend the 14-hour period is by using the sleeper berth.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the memo is FMCSA’s interpretation that drivers who violate the 11-hour or 14-hour rules while using the sleeper berth to split rest should be placed out of service only for as long as needed to obtain 10 hours off duty when combined with the prior qualifying sleeper berth period. For example, if a driver had taken a four-hour sleeper berth period before violating the time limits, he would be placed out of service for six hours.
SEATBELT CAMPAIGN TARGETS TRUCKERS
Saying that less than half of truck drivers use seatbelts, the Department of Transportation and several trucking associations began a campaign last month to get truckers to buckle up.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, speaking at a Roadway Express terminal in Atlanta, cited a 2002 federal study of thousands of Class 7 and 8 drivers.
“There seems to be a myth out there that the big rig itself will provide all the safety that is needed so that there is no point in wearing a safety belt,” said Mineta. “The facts suggest otherwise.”
Mineta said that of the 588 truck drivers who lost their lives in crashes in 2002, half were not wearing their seatbelts; only 20 percent of the 178 drivers ejected in crashes last year had seatbelts on.
The study, completed in November, found that while only 48 percent of truckers use seatbelts, the disuse was more pronounced among local haulers in single-trailer dump trucks. Only 26 percent of those drivers used their seatbelts. But the highest rate of use amongst any group of truckers, hazardous material haulers, was still only 67 percent – 12 percentage points less than the national average for motorists.
The American Trucking Associations, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Motor Freight Carriers Association and the National Private Truck Council will join the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in promoting safety belt use among truckers.
– Sean Kelley
TRUCKER WINS $10,000
A 60-year-old truck driver is now $10,000 richer, thanks to TravelCenters of America and Shell Lubricants.
Elliot Lycette of Oak Hill, Fla., scratched off the winning game piece after stopping for an oil change at the TravelCenters of America in Brunswick, Ga. The game pieces were being given to drivers changing oil with Shell Rotella T at any of more than 150 T/A facilities.
“I actually remained pretty calm, says Lycette, who primarily hauls sugar on the East Coast. But when I showed the ticket to two of the employees who were working at the desk, they both started screaming, and everybody in the place knew that I had won.”
Lycette is going to use the money to pay off bills, buy tires for his pickup truck and try to find time for a camping trip and a visit to Disney World.
– Kristin Walters
NTSB RANKS FMCSA’S SAFETY PROGRESS
The government’s trucking agency has received mixed reviews on its safety progress.
The National Transportation Safety Board, revising its Most Wanted list of safety recommendations, gave the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration a green rating (signifying acceptable response and progress) for preventing motor carriers from operating if they use vehicles with mechanical problems or allow unqualified drivers to drive.
The board also assigned the agency a yellow rating (signifying acceptable response, but slow progress) for its prevention of medically unqualified drivers from operating commercial vehicles. Its recommendations include tracking all medical certificate applications and enhancing oversight of invalid certificates.
– Jill Dunn
ILLINOIS TRUCKERS FIGHT HIGHER FEES
Illinois truckers will resume their fight against higher trucking fees this month, according to the Mid-West Truckers Association.
The association wants to repeal a commercial distribution fee and reinstate a rolling stock exemption that was changed in July. The commercial distribution fee adds a 36 percent surcharge to state truck registration. The fee and the exemption change were part of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s effort to find revenue for the state budget.
Also, the state legislature passed a bill to equalize car and truck speeds on rural divided four-lane highways, but it was vetoed by Blagojevich.
CANNON EXPRESS TO FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION
Cannon Express says it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the “earliest practical date.”
The truckload carrier made the statement in a Dec. 2 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, six weeks after the Arkansas-based company voluntarily delisted its securities on the American Stock Exchange.
A Chapter 11 filing allows a company to continue operating while reorganizing its debt.
In May, Cannon company founders sold 60 percent of the outstanding stock to Arizona Diversified Equity. John Pacheco, ADE president and founder, became Cannon’s chairman and chief executive officer.
– Jill Dunn
SWIFT ORDERS 4,000 VOLVO VN TRACTORS
Volvo Trucks North America received the largest order ever for its Volvo VN tractors – 4,000 trucks for Swift Transportation.
The order, an initial two-year agreement with a third-year option to supply Phoenix-based Swift, means Volvo will now be the major supplier of highway tractors to Swift, the largest publicly held truckload carrier in the United States.
Volvo will supply Swift with VN670 tractors equipped with Cummins ISX and Volvo D12 engines, all with electronic idle management systems. The VN670 has a 66-inch integral sleeper and is Volvo’s best-selling model.
“It has been over a decade since we changed our preferred supplier of power units,” said Jerry Moyes, chairman, president and CEO of Swift. “This brings us full circle to 1986, when Volvo was our prime supplier. Times have definitely changed. The last order with Volvo in 1986 was for 60 units; today’s order is for over 4,000.”
The Volvo VN and VHD trucks are assembled at the New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Va.
– Kristin Walters
CALIFORNIA TELLS TRUCKERS: THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL
California truckers who paid a higher vehicle license fee before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled back the fee should receive refunds soon.
State law allowed former Gov. Gray Davis to reinstate the 2 percent vehicle license fee Oct. 1 in the face of a budget crisis. That tripled the fee for vehicle owners, who had been enjoying the lower rate since 1998.
After voters recalled Davis, one of Schwarzenegger’s first acts as governor was to reduce the fee to its pre-October rate. Vehicle owners don’t need to do anything to get their refund, which should arrive in the first months of 2004, says Armando Botello, a motor vehicle department spokesman.
Had the fee remained at 2 percent of the current vehicle value, it would have generated an annual $4 billion.
The DMV began mailing out vehicle tax bills at the reduced rate, 0.65 percent, on Nov. 24.
– Jill Dunn
NEW MEXICO HIKES TRUCKING FEES
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says the “vast majority” of revenue generated through a $1.6 billion transportation bill he signed will come from overweight trucks.
Richardson says the bill will target 75 percent to 80 percent of the trucks using New Mexico highways that are based out of state. “It will actually generate work for New Mexico trucking companies,” he says.
The legislation will fund dozens of road projects throughout the state and will generate $60.3 million in new revenue for the state’s roads fund in its first full year, 2005.
The bill increases vehicle registration fees 33 percent beginning March 1. Effective July 1, the bill also: