News From The Industry

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:

  • Increases diesel tax from 18 to 21 cents per gallon.
  • Hikes overweight/oversize vehicle fees, upping annual permit fees from $60 to $250 and single trip permits from $15 to $25.
  • Increases weight-distance tax for all weight categories by 38 percent.
  • Requires a new weight-distance tax identification permit for a $10 fee, which identifies a vehicle as subject to the weight-distance tax.
  • – Jill Dunn


    FAST PROGRAM LAUNCHED AT MEXICAN BORDER

    The Free and Secure Trade program, operational on the Canadian border since September 2002, was inaugurated on the U.S.-Mexico border last month.

    “I anticipate the same degree of success with FAST on the Mexican border as we’ve seen on the Canadian border,” said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge during a ceremony at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas.

    The program, which allows participants quicker passage through the border, is set to expand to other U.S.-Mexico border crossings over the next few months.

    To hinder drug smuggling, manufacturers and carriers participating in U.S.-Mexico FAST must use high security mechanical seals on all containers or trailers destined for the United States.

    To be eligible for FAST, carriers, manufacturers and importers must participate in another customs and border protection antiterrorism program, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. The C-TPAT program requires companies to have security plans approved by customs officials.

    Truck drivers who pass the customs department screening receive a FAST-Commercial Driver Identification Card.

    – Jill Dunn


    REPORT CRITICIZES FAST CARS, SPEEDING

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports more motorists are speeding and choosing faster cars, resulting in significantly more deaths per million vehicle miles.

    Higher speeds on rural interstates are responsible for a 35 percent increase in death rates, according to a report from the institute, which is funded by auto insurers.

    Researchers examined U.S. rural interstate deaths following the 1995 repeal of the national maximum speed limit. States that increased speed limits to 75 mph were estimated to have 38 percent more deaths per million vehicle miles than expected, while states that increased speed limits to 70 mph were estimated to have a 35 percent increase.

    The estimations are based on comparisons to states that did not hike speeds, although geographic differences may have affected the estimations.

    “Whenever vehicle speeds increase, death rates also increase,” says Allan Williams, the study’s chief scientist.

    This year’s speeds are the highest the institute has logged since it began measuring them in 1987, says Richard Retting, a senior transportation engineer.

    The report highlighted New Mexico, where rural interstate speed limits were changed from 65 mph to 75 mph in 1996. In 1988, New Mexico motorists’ mean speed on rural interstates was 66 mph, and 6 percent exceeded 75 mph. Their speed increased in 1996 when the speed limit became 75 mph, and by last March, 55 percent of motorists exceeded 75 mph on rural interstates. Sixteen percent of four-wheelers were going 80 mph or more.

    Institute researchers also studied urban interstates, such as in Atlanta, where the mean speed was 75 mph when the speed limit was 55 mph. Seventy-eight percent of drivers drove at least 70 mph and 18 percent exceeded 80 mph.

    “Drivers tend to choose speeds they perceive as unlikely to result in a ticket,” Retting says. “Presumably, differences in the perception of the amount of enforcement among these areas were major factors in the higher or lower travel speeds.”

    – Jill Dunn


    FMCSA ADDRESSES SLEEPER BERTH REGS

    That’s how violations were handled under the prior hours regulations when a driver who split rest violated the 10-hour or 15-hour rules. But based on what it says is the clear meaning of the language in the new rule, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance had been telling state law enforcement officials that the penalty for violating the 11-hour or 14-hour rules is 10 consecutive hours out of service, regardless of an earlier split-rest period.

    FMCSA’s more liberal interpretation works to the trucking industry’s advantage. Nevertheless, industry and law enforcement observers have complained that the agency effectively is changing the rule without following the required procedures.

    FMCSA also used the memo to clarify interpretations of how drivers calculate the 14-hour clock when they are using split sleeper berth rest. Some industry officials say the rule’s language allows drivers to completely restart their 14-hour work cycle after 10 hours of cumulative rest. But the agency said that the correct way to calculate the 14-hour rule is to count the time on each side of a qualifying sleeper berth period.

    Driving time also works the same way, according to the memo. A driver can accumulate only 11 hours driving per every 10 hours of rest. If the driver is splitting rest, the 11 hours is calculated in the same manner as the 14-hour period.

    One of the consequences of this interpretation of the 14-hour rule is that off-duty time taken immediately after the second qualifying sleeper berth period – a meal or shower in a truck stop, for example – is to be counted against the 14 hours. But in another portion of the enforcement memorandum, FMCSA carves out an exception. A driver can go off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours following a second qualifying sleeper berth period and continue to stop the 14-hour clock. But if a driver has only one sleeper berth period, that off-duty period will count toward the 14-hour calculation.

    ATA’s petition for rulemaking essentially seeks a reversal of the interpretation that drivers can’t combine a single sleeper berth period with 10 hours off-duty. ATA believes that encouraging drivers to use the sleeper berth between two on-duty periods would improve rest and promote safety.

    The FMCSA memo also seeks to clarify the rule’s 34-hour restart provision. If a driver exceeds 60 hours in a seven-day week or 70 hours in an eight-day week, he cannot use the 34-hour restart to reset his hours and must instead wait until the full week period has lapsed.

    In a related interpretation, FMCSA said that if a driver is found in a roadside inspection to have violated the 60/70-hour limit, he must be placed out of service until the beginning of the next seven/eight-day period.

    – Staff reports


    ENGINE MAKERS REJECT SCR FOR 2007

    Caterpillar, Cummins and International Truck and Engine Corp. announced that they will be able to comply with 2007 federal emissions standards, but do not plan to use selective catalytic reduction.

    SCR is an aftertreatment technology that requires ammonia-based urea to be injected into the exhaust to decrease the nitrogen oxide emissions.

    All of Caterpillar’s engines are certified as complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2004 standard and use the company’s proprietary Advanced Combustion Emission Reduction Technology.

    Cummins had announced in 2001 that cooled-exhaust gas recirculation would be the basis for meeting 2007 requirements and the 2002 standards. It tested aftertreatment technologies in early 2002 before choosing the cooled-EGR and particulate filters for 2007, the company said.

    Patrick Charbonneau, International vice president, said all engines used in International’s 2007 trucks will meet federal emissions requirements without using SCR. International uses Caterpillar and Cummins engines in its Class 8 trucks.

    The EPA’s ultra-low-sulfur diesel rule requires that diesel fuel contain 97 percent less sulfur in 2006. It also requires heavy-duty diesel engines to have emissions controls to dramatically reduce nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and hydrocarbons emissions in 2007.


    SHORT HAULS

    TRUCK TONNAGE fell in October after a large bump in September, according to the American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index. The index fell 1.2 percent in October. It grew 10.6 percent in September. Still, the October index was higher than for the same month in 2002 and the index was up 3 percent for the year.

    ARVINMERITOR withdrew a $2.67 billon bid to buy Dana Corp. after Dana rejected its final offer. Michigan-based ArvinMeritor had tried to buy the Ohio-based company since June, ultimately increasing its cash offer from $15 to $18 per share.

    U.S. REP. DON YOUNG wants to hike fuel taxes to help pay for expensive transportation projects. Young, the Republican transportation and infrastructure committee chairman, introduced a $375 billion, six-year transportation package. The Bush administration has proposed a $247 billion transportation bill, while a Senate version allocates $311 billion. Young has proposed increasing the federal gas tax to help fund the transportation package.

    FLORIDA TRUCKER Vicki Tibbettt won a new $135,000 International 9900i in a drawing at Dancing Eagle Casino in Casa Blanca, N.M.

    A MOVIE ABOUT a young woman becoming a lot lizard won the Special Jury Prize for Artistic Merit and Emotional Truth at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. “What Alice Found” snagged the Sundance award, received honors at other independent film festivals and was lauded by several major reviewers. More information is available at www.whatalicefound.com.

    LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS has opened a location in Marion, N.C., on I-40 at

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