Charlie Daniels will perform at the Louisville show this month.
CONCERT, PARTNERS IN BUSINESS HIGHLIGHT MID-AMERICA SHOW
A free concert and Overdrive‘s Partners in Business seminar will be among the 2004 Mid-America Trucking Show events this month.
The show will be held March 25-27 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Organizers expect it to be similar in scope to last year’s, when more than 70,000 people visited more than 1,000 exhibitors spread over 1 million square feet.
Truck parking is available onsite. For registration, updated information and tips about lodging, visit www.truckingshow.com.
Kenworth Truck Co. will present The Charlie Daniels Band Friday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. Phil Vassar, the Country Music Association’s Top New Male Vocalist for 2002, will open the concert. Tickets will be given out at the show prior to the concert.
“Charlie Daniels sings about freedom, family and the flag, so it’s appropriate for this performance to take place at Freedom Hall,” says Steve Gilligan of Kenworth.
Charlie Daniels Band has won numerous awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Overdrive will present its free Partners in Business seminar 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning in conjunction with The Alliance, an owner-operator financial services firm. Accountant Kevin Rutherford of The Alliance, a former owner-operator who now runs a three-truck fleet, will discuss business advice and money-saving ideas for new and experienced owner-operators.
Other Mid-America attractions include:
– Lorna Lindquist
FBI PROBES INDUSTRY AFTER RICIN SCARES
The FBI is asking truckers to be on the lookout for anyone using the CB handle Fallen Angel or who has access to castor beans.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is targeting the industry because a letter containing a vial of the deadly poison ricin, which showed up at a South Carolina postal facility in October, mentioned the new hours of service rule and threatened to dump more ricin if the rule went into effect. The letter sender claimed to be a small fleet owner and signed his note Fallen Angel.
The investigation turned national last month when ricin was discovered in a U.S. Senate mailroom, shutting the body down. At press time, the FBI, which is offering a $100,000 reward in the case, would not link the two incidents, nor would it confirm reports that a second letter containing ricin and authored by Fallen Angel was sent to the White House in November. Nor would it confirm what kind of person the agency is looking for, but a truck driver the FBI questioned in October says he thinks the incidents are related and the agency suspects an owner-operator.
Tom O’Neill, FBI spokesman in Columbia, S.C., where part of the nationwide investigation is centered, said the agency thinks the letter originated from within the trucking industry. Fallen Angel “certainly could be a CB handle,” O’Neill said. “We’re just hoping for some help for the industry.”
Anyone with information related to the incidents should call (866) 839-6241.
A few days after the South Carolina letter was found Oct. 15, the FBI knocked on the door of former trucker Daniel Somerson, who has clashed repeatedly with former carriers, the Department of Labor, the FBI and various judges. He told Overdrive last month that the agency interviewed him before the first letter was made public in late October. Somerson, who denies any involvement with the ricin scares, thinks the FBI interviewed him because he has a history of truck safety-related activism, including a website that targets various trucking executives and transportation officials. Since his October interview, Somerson says, the FBI hasn’t been back.
“They suspect an owner-operator,” says Somerson’s lawyer, Ed Slavin. “Someone who owns one truck or a few.”
Somerson says he heard the CB handle Fallen Angel dozens of times during his trucking days. “This is an owner-operator that’s afraid of the government telling him to sleep for 10 hours straight,” he says. “He used to be able to cheat. Now he can’t do it. He’s [upset] because he can’t make any money.”
Ricin is a poison that can be created from waste left over from processing castor beans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No antidote exists.
– Sean Kelley
THOUSANDS CALL HOURS HELP LINE
Truckers contacting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about the new hours-of-service rule appear to be committed to following it, but still have questions about it.
The majority of questions concerned the sleeper-berth exemption, the 34-hour restart provision, the definition of a 14-hour workday and procedures for recording hours in log books, says FMCSA.
The agency reviewed almost 5,500 calls commercial drivers made to a 24-hour, toll-free help line, (800) 598-5664, established to answer questions about changes made to the 60-year old regulations. The new rule became effective Jan. 4.
“Despite some dramatic predictions about the impact of the new rules, drivers are telling us they are working to comply,” says FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg. “We’re hearing thoughtful questions and witnessing a sincere desire to follow the new regulations.”
Eighteen percent of calls concerned the 34-hour restart period. Another 16 percent of callers wanted to know more about the sleeper berth provision. Nine percent asked about the 60/70-hour workweek change. Five percent called about record keeping. The remaining calls varied widely, including questions specific to unique driving scenarios, questions on the difference between drive time and on-duty time, and inquiries into the use of electronic on-board recorders.
EPA, CARRIERS TEAM UP TO FIGHT AIR POLLUTION
The Environmental Protection Agency and 52 carriers and shippers kicked off a partnership to reduce air pollution and promote better fuel efficiency Feb. 9.
EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt joined carriers such as Schneider National, UPS, FedEx Freight, Swift Transportation and Yellow Freight, as well as shippers such as Home Depot, to announce the SmartWay Transportation Partnership. The voluntary program is designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.
Carriers in the partnership will be evaluated by the EPA for their environmental efforts, such as reducing idling and employing aerodynamic trucks. Fleets who meet a certain standard and pledge to continue to reduce their emissions and improve efficiency can sport a SmartWay logo. The program is similar to another EPA effort, EnergyStar, where appliance manufacturers can sport the energy-friendly label.
Carriers can advertise their participation and gain access to shipper partners in the program. Shippers who join must pledge to send 50 percent of their loads on SmartWay Transportation carriers.
“With this program we can achieve a fuel savings of 33 million metric tons of pollutants,” Leavitt told trucking company leaders at the American Trucking Associations winter meeting in Washington, D.C. “That’s like taking 6 million cars off the road.”
Fleets can get credits in the program for using technologies like low-viscosity lubricants, improving routing and scheduling, and reducing idling.
UPS Vice President for Environmental Affairs Mike Herr says his company will meet the EPA’s standards and has already employed many of the on-truck technologies suggested by the EPA. Now it is focusing on improving routing and shifting its loads from plane to truck and from truck to rail to cut down on fuel usage.
“The things EPA wants us to do we’ve been doing a long time,” Herr said. “It’s part of our strategy to improve our business. We’ve set aggressive goals for reducing emissions and increasing fuel efficiency.”
– Sean Kelley
COST BIGGEST CONCERN FOR 2007 ENGINES
The life-cycle cost for new, lower emissions 2007 engines may be as much as $25,000 more than for 2002 models, at least as estimated by the nation’s largest truckload carrier, said Steve Duley, vice president of purchasing for Schneider National. Engines produced in 2007 must meet lower 1.2-gram nitrogen oxide emissions, along with a lower level of particulate emissions.
Duley spoke in Atlanta during a panel discussion on the impact of 2007 emissions regulations at the recent Heavy Duty Dialogue 2004, presented by the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. Duley’s cost projection includes increased purchase price, lower fuel economy, increased maintenance costs and the higher price of low-sulfur diesel mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Beyond cost, Duley is also concerned about whether he’ll be able to get “production-like product” early enough to make an informed decision about the new engines. Most engine makers Schneider is talking to say they will have engines available for testing the first half of 2005. Bob Wessels, a Caterpillar representative on the panel, confirmed that Cat engines will be available in 2005.
Even if test engines are available in time to allow adequate testing, Schneider will still pre-buy some trucks, “mainly because of cost,” Duley said. Fleets face not only higher equipment costs, but also rising insurance rates and increased driver wages. “We have to be very careful managing that cost creep,” he said.
In the past, Duley said, increased equipment costs always came with a benefit. That changed with the 2002 engines, where fleets saw “a tremendous increase in costs with nothing on the benefit side,” he said.
But as the EPA sees it, there is a benefit – to public health. “The cost of the rule is by far offset by billions saved from fewer asthma attacks and people not having to go to the hospital,” said Don Kopinski, EPA senior product manager.
– Linda Longton
CARRIER SAFETY WEBSITE CONCEDES DATA PROBLEMS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is warning visitors to a website displaying carriers’ safety data that delays by various states in supplying crash and inspection data may make the system unsuitable for any purpose other than targeting enforcement resources. The system, known as SafeStat, helps FMCSA quantify and monitor the safety status of individual motor carriers so it can best focus on carriers posing the greatest potential safety risk.
In recent years, numerous parties, including insurers, shippers and even trial lawyers, had begun using FMCSA’s SafeStat Online (ai.volpe.dot.gov) to assess the safety of motor carriers. The website has developed to the point that it offers quite detailed information on accidents, inspections and audits.
Previously, SafeStat Online warned users that inaccurate or out-of-date normalizing data, such as the number of power units, can skew SafeStat results. Now FMCSA posts a much longer disclaimer that users must acknowledge before obtaining detailed information on carriers.
According to the new disclaimer under the heading “Caution Urged in the Use of SafeStat Data,” states vary in their adherence to the requirements that truck and bus crash information be submitted to FMCSA within 90 days and that roadside inspection data be submitted within 21 days. “Accordingly, SafeStat’s ability to accurately and objectively assess the safety fitness of individual motor carriers may be inconsistent and not conclusive without additional analysis,” FMCSA says.
Then, a red-type “Warning” gives further caution: “Because of State data variations, FMCSA cautions those who seek to use the SafeStat data analysis system in ways not intended by FMCSA. Please be aware that use of SafeStat for purposes other than identifying and prioritizing carriers for FMCSA and state safety improvement and enforcement programs may produce unintended results and not be suitable for certain uses.”
“Some who don’t use the system often aren’t aware of the intended purpose,” says FMCSA spokesman Andy Beck. “We wanted to better inform those using the system of its potential limitations.”
– Avery Vise
BUYING POWER DRIVING REBOUND, ECONOMIST SAYS
Record low interest rates in the 5 percent range are making it cheaper for consumers to buy houses, cars – even Class 8 trucks, says Larry Chimerine, economist and president of Radnor International Consulting.
Chimerine spoke to trucking industry supplier attendees in Atlanta at the Heavy Duty Dialogue 2004, presented by the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association.
This improved buying power is one reason the economy is stronger today than it’s been since the 1990s boom ended in the spring of 2000, Chimerine said. Other factors driving economic growth include:
Assuming another 12 months of fairly stable long-term interest rates, “the only thing that can derail the economy is something from the outside,” such as another terrorist attack, Chimerine said.
– Linda Longton
VOLVO TO USE EGR, FILTERS FOR 2007
Volvo Trucks North America says it will use exhaust gas recirculation technology and diesel particulate filters to meet the 2007 federal diesel emissions standard.
The company already uses EGR to meet the federal emissions standard for nitrogen oxides that became effective in 2002. The 2007 engines will use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, a formula that should be widely available in North America as early as 2006.
Peter Karlsten, president and chief executive officer, said 2007 should be a seamless transition for Volvo customers. Selected customers will field test 30 engines in spring 2005.
“Our customers are already familiar with EGR and have accepted it as a reliable, everyday part of their operation,” Karlsten said. “Despite the concern in the trucking industry leading up to the 2002 engines, Volvo customers experienced a smooth transition with no disruption of operations.”
Volvo has investigated other technologies that would meet 2007 requirements, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR), but dismissed it for the 2007 emission challenge. Like other engine makers, Volvo will face an even lower emissions standard in 2010. Company officials have described SCR, which uses urea to reduce nitrous oxides, as “a promising technology for future engine applications that Volvo will continue to explore for North America.”
Caterpillar, Cummins and International Truck and Engine Corp. are also avoiding SCR for the 2007 emissions standard. Caterpillar says it will rely on its proprietary Advanced Combustion Emission Reduction Technology “to meet emissions standards in 2007 and beyond.”
Cummins has said it will meet 2007 standards through using particulate filters in the exhaust system and slight tweaking of its EGR engines. International uses Caterpillar and Cummins engines in its Class 8 trucks.
– Jill Dunn
ATA TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX SOARS TO ALL-TIME HIGH
The American Trucking Associations said its seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index surged 14.6 percent to an all-time high of 164.2 in December.
The previous high point was December 1999, at 157.2. December’s jump followed a revised decrease of 6.5 percent in November. The index has grown from a base of 100 in 1993.
“I believe that inventory rebuilding likely added to December’s strength in addition to stronger volumes from an improving economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I’m also hearing several reports that January freight volumes are quite strong. If true, it is a good sign for the industry since the first month of the year tends to be weak.”
ATA has calculated the index, based on member surveys, since the 1970s. The December report is preliminary and subject to change.
Compared to December 2002, the unadjusted index rose 7.2 percent, which was the biggest year-over-year growth rate since December 2002.
OOIDA PETITIONS FOR HIGHER BROKER BOND
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation to raise transportation brokers’ bond from $10,000 to between $300,000 and $500,000.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston says on the association’s website that “when brokers run up debts of $100,000 or more with truckers, the $10,000 bond does not come close to providing the type of protection intended by Congress.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires a broker to have a surety bond or trust fund in effect for $10,000. Federal officials set that amount in 1977, when 70 brokers were registered; today there are more than 15,000 brokers, he says.
Determining which broker is fiscally sound is difficult for the average trucker, Johnston says.
A bond increase would result in carriers experiencing fewer losses, and shippers would be less likely to face double liability on a single load, the association says.
– Jill Dunn
FEDS WILL INSPECT INTERMODAL CHASSIS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will create a program to inspect the equipment used to move intermodal containers, and the agency will hold equipment owners responsible for problems.
The move is a reversal of sorts for the agency, which has inspected the chassis of intermodal carriers but has held the operators instead of the owners of such equipment responsible for defects. Early this year, the agency had said it could not craft a rule “that would resolve the maintenance responsibility disputes between equipment providers and motor carriers, and be supported with sufficient safety data to prove its necessity and subsequently its effectiveness.”
But soon after that announcement, the FMCSA announced it would begin an intermodal container chassis inspection program. “It will be modeled on the compliance review program already in place for the nation’s trucking community,” the agency said Jan. 26.
The new program will require equipment providers to get a USDOT number and display it on their chassis. FMCSA will use the same penalty and enforcement system that it uses in compliance reviews and will issue out-of-service orders and revoke USDOT numbers.
DOT officials indicated program information and a timeline for a notice of proposed rulemaking is forthcoming.
The condition of container chassis has been a big issue because so much freight moves intermodally and the chassis tend to be older and in worse shape than most over-the-road trailers. Truckers, in particular, have complained about the units because they or their carriers are often stuck with the bill for fines or placed out of service when a unit is inspected.
Two federal bills were introduced last year to deal with the issue. Both are pending in committees.
– Jill Dunn
MISSING CHILDREN PROJECTS SEEK TRUCKERS’ HELP
Two efforts to locate missing children are enlisting the help of truck drivers.
Attorney General Jim Petro recently launched Truckers Helping to Recover Ohio’s Missing Children. In this effort, the Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse will broadcast, fax or e-mail the child’s information to participating trucking companies.
Carriers will post this information in their drivers’ lounges and dispatch offices and in driver dispatches.
The Ohio Trucking Association was the first of several organizations that joined in this effort. More information is available through Petro’s office at www.ag.state.oh.us.
Also, the non-profit organization Project Jason recently started 18-wheel Angels to enlist the help of truckers in finding missing children.
Kelly and Jim Jolkowski of Omaha started the program after their son Jason disappeared in 2001. Initially, they spread the word of his disappearance through their website. Many of the people who offered to post flyers did not know the family, and many were truckers.
The Jolkowskis began Project Jason to help others in similar situations. Project Jason gave birth to 18-wheel Angels, which asks participating truckers to spread the word of a missing child. Organizers feature a printable poster of a missing child on their website, which they change bi-monthly.
More information is available at www.projectjason.org.
– Jill Dunn
MACK CHIEF EXPECTS BIGGER SALES IN 2004
“Call it what you want, there are people out there who need to buy trucks,” Paul Vikner, president of Mack Trucks, told Overdrive editors last month. Vikner points to a backlog of truck orders that grew by 3,100 in January – 60 percent higher than the previous two months. “We are building as many as we can,” he says.
Mack plans to grow the on-highway portion of its business in 2004, “but we’re not going after traditional long-haul,” Vikner says. Although the high-rise version of Mack’s Vision is no longer available, the truck is offered in a full range of models from day cabs through a 70-inch mid-rise. (The company plans to introduce a new Vision sleeper configuration at the Mid-America Trucking Show this month.)
Since Volvo’s purchase of Mack and its parent company, Renault, the two companies are focusing on their strengths, Vikner says. “But we didn’t get out of [the long-haul] market because Volvo bought us,” he says. “It wasn’t profitable. It was not core to us.”
As part of the acquisition, Mack and Volvo are integrating their dealer organizations. Mack has 214 parts and service-only outlets and 252 full-line dealer locations, of which 133 carry both brands. Added volume from the Volvo franchises allows many dealers to stay open 24/7. “From a customer support standpoint and a parts standpoint, it’s a win-win,” Vikner says.
On the engine front, Mack and Volvo plan to share a common architecture as they develop engines that meet the 2007 emissions requirements. But horsepower, torque curve and other features will be different,Vikner says. “There are people out there who buy Mack who wouldn’t buy a Volvo. People need to feel like they’re driving a Mack truck. Volvo has to do the same.”
– Linda Longton
PA TURNPIKE INCREASES TOLLS
After Aug. 1, Pennsylvania Turnpike motorists will pay an average toll increase of 42 percent.
The turnpike commission unanimously approved the hike Jan. 20, which is expected to allow the state to double capital spending on road improvements through 2014. Commissioners have said without the increase, they would be limited to improving four miles of road per year.
A Class 5 truck, which the turnpike classifies as 30,000 to 45,000 pounds, currently pays $41.50 in tolls if it travels from New Jersey on the Delaware River Bridge and exits at Warrendale, 30 miles from the Ohio border.
The average trucker would see an increase of 5.3 cents per mile, and passenger vehicles would pay 1.8 cents per mile more.
Toll hikes, Pennsylvania’s 31-cent-per-gallon diesel tax and other cost increases have given pause to York resident Steve Eberly. He used the turnpike as a company driver and has been shopping for a truck while recuperating from back surgery.
“I wanted to own my own truck since I was a child, but all the taxes involved have really made me think twice about becoming an owner-operator,” Eberly said. “You have owner-operators who have been struggling the past few years. Who knows if this will put them out of business?”
Turnpike CEO Joseph Brimmeier said the turnpike was designed before World War II, when planners estimated 1 million vehicles annually would use the road, instead of today’s 180 million vehicles per year.
– JILL DUNN
MARYLAND POLICE SEEK SUSPECT IN TRUCKER SHOOTING
Maryland state police are seeking information concerning a trucker who shot another trucker.
Brian Cherry, 35, of East Berlin, Pa., was hospitalized with minor injuries following the shooting in the parking lot of Hagerstown’s Valley Mall about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 4, according to state police.
Apparently Cherry and the shooter began arguing on the CB while traveling on Interstate 81 near the Halfway Boulevard exit.
The suspect was described as a white male in his late 50s, with short gray hair, mustache and glasses. He was driving a flat-top, cherry-red truck with white stripes and pulling a white box van. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the police at (301) 739-2101.
– Jill Dunn
LONG-HAUL FREIGHT REVENUES UP IN 2002
In long-distance trucking for 2002, for-hire general freight revenues increased 2 percent, to $95 billion, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.
Truck transportation revenues were $198 billion in 2002. Sixty-five percent of all trucking revenue was represented by general freight trucking, with $111 billion in revenue. Specialized freight such as flatbeds, tankers or reefers constituted the revenue remainder at $59 billion.
A U.S. DISTRICT COURT awarded Prime Inc. $559,718 for court costs incurred battling a lawsuit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association over alleged federal leasing violations. Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said the association will appeal the decision.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO. acquired an additional 51 percent interest in Trans-Mex Inc., giving Swift 100 percent ownership of the Mexican truckload carrier. The purchase price for this 51 percent interest was $31 million. Trans-Mex is one of the top five international trucking companies operating in Mexico. Through this acquisition, Swift becomes the only United States trucking company with a 100 percent ownership interest in a Mexican carrier.
THEY’RE A LABOR OF LOVE for their owners and things of beauty to the crowds who behold them. Read all about the gleaming trucks that turn heads in the March MONTHLY FOCUS on eTrucker.com.
SHELL LUBRICANTS will launch a buyer loyalty program for its Rotella T multigrade oil at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The Road to Rewards program rewards buyers with points that can be redeemed through Rotella.com for prizes such as free DVDs and CDs, vacation packages, discounts at national restaurant chains, and handheld computers. The program will be available wherever Rotella T is sold.
SUE HAWK, the ex-trucker made famous in the first “Survivor” series, returned to the reality television program as one 18 castaways reunited for the “Survivor: All Stars,” which began Feb. 1. Since the first series, Hawk, 42, and her husband Tim have moved from Wisconsin to Las Vegas and opened Juices Wild, a juice bar. Hawk has also been a correspondent for the TV Guide Channel.
U.S. BANK opened its first corporate branch site in Utah at the C.R. England headquarters in Salt Lake City.
CRST FLATBED has added van services to its flatbed operations and changed its name to CRST Malone. Malone Freight Lines was purchased by CRST International in 1984 and evolved into CRST Flatbed. The company says its diversification of services will allow it to meet the shipping demands of certain flatbed customers.
LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS signed an agreement with Pegasus TransTech to offer Pegasus’ Transflo Express truck stop scanning service. The addition will extend the Transflo Express network to more than 370 travel centers across the U.S. Implementation of the service in more than 100 Love’s locations is expected to be completed by April.
A DIXIE TRUCKERS HOME former owner was to be sentenced March 5 on a tax evasion charge. Mark G. Beeler pled guilty to failing to pay at least $1 million in motor fuel taxes. The 49-year-old Bloomington, Ill., resident is the former president of Dixie Management Group, which operated the truck stop on I-55.
NORTH DAKOTA has installed four weigh-in-motion sites and plans to add eight more this year. Three of the state’s eight current fixed scales will be closed down and the state is considering closing three more, said Capt. Mark Bethke of the state troopers.
THE 2002 FATAL CRASH RATE for large trucks is 1.9 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, an 11 percent reduction from the previous year, says the U.S. Department of Transportation. This puts the rate at its lowest point since the DOT began keeping large truck safety records in 1975. In 2002, trucking was the only highway user group to record a decline in fatalities.
NEW JERSEY has joined New York and the District of Columbia in passing legislation to curb handheld cell phone use. Gov. James McGreevey was expected to sign a bill that will make New Jersey the second state to ban handheld cell phone use while driving. The bill specifies that law is only enforceable if a law enforcement officer stops a driver for another offense, such as a traffic violation, according to the state assembly’s website. Tickets are $100 to $250; the driver loses no points off his driver’s license for the offense. New York passed a similar law in 2001 that fines first-time violators $100.
THREE TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS support the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in an hours-of-service lawsuit brought by safety and consumer groups. On Jan. 23, the American Trucking Associations, Distribution and LTL Carriers Association and the Truckload Carriers Association filed a brief supporting the agency. On April 15, the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court will hear the case, which was brought against FMCSA by Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers.