News From The Industry

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TRUCK SALES, PRODUCTION RISING

Truck production and sales are off to a strong start in 2004, based on manufacturers’ reports, and it appears more growth is in store. U.S. sales were up for all truck classes, and Class 8 sales have risen 33 percent this year from last, according to the National Truck Equipment Association. Heavy-duty truck production jumped 51 percent in December and nearly 30 percent in January.

“A rebound in the heavy truck market is just around the corner,” forecasts Ken Kramer, a trucking analyst with Global Insight. Sales and orders have improved, motor carrier business is expanding, and 2004-2005 is expected to be a good period for the North American economy. Carriers will need to replace older trucks and some will expand fleets, Kramer wrote in a report.

U.S. heavy-truck sales will increase to 180,000 to 190,000 units this year and 240,000 to 250,000 units in 2005, Kramer predicted. That’s a lot of truck sales in comparison to the past three years, which saw sales averages at about 142,000 trucks. 2000 was the last year when Class 8 sales exceeded 200,000.

In its first-quarter report this year, Navistar International Corp. increased its forecast for 2004 total industry sales in the United States and Canada. Navistar expects heavy-truck sales to increase to 208,000 units this year. In December, it had estimated sales of 191,000.

The company recently announced plans to double in size, which includes a $150 million capital investment to introduce a new Class 8 truck in 2007.

Volvo Trucks says deliveries this year have increased 5 percent for Mack Trucks and 19 percent for Volvo Trucks compared to the same year-ago period. In May, Volvo will add a second shift to its Dublin, Va. plant.

Mark Pigott, chairman and chief executive officer of Paccar, which produces Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, estimates “that the North American Class 8 truck market will improve 10 percent to 15 percent in 2004 as customers replace aging trucks and benefit from a gradual economic recovery.”

DaimlerChrysler expects sales to be up globally for its commercial truck division, which includes Freightliner, Sterling and Western Star Class 8 brands.

Also, the Truck Renting and Leasing Association report commercial trucks sales increased in late 2003. The group expects that trend to continue this year.

– JILL DUNN


FUEL PRICES ARE SOARING

Truck drivers are being hit with high fuel prices on the road and at home. Diesel prices have risen 12.5 cents nationally since the beginning of the year, and the average retail cost of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped more than 24 cents.

The national average retail price for a gallon of diesel climbed to more than $1.60 for the first time in a year during March.

The normally conservative Energy Information Administration, which track fuel prices for the U.S. Department of Energy, says prices will probably be up for the foreseeable future. In fact, in testimony to Congress in March, Guy Caruso, EIA’s administrator, said the national gasoline average might reach $2 a gallon this year.

“The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has kept oil supplies tight and oil prices relatively high,” Caruso told U.S. senators. “Many signs are pointing to a tight [fuel] market this driving season.”

One indicator was that OPEC pledged to further cut oil production April 1, limiting an already tight crude oil market and pushing up prices of diesel and gasoline. However, some of those cuts are already being seen in the current price for fuel, energy analysts say.

In March, scheduled maintenance on several refineries sent prices of diesel skyrocketing on the West Coast. Truckers in California were paying more than $1.92 a gallon.

Finally, a percolating economy is increasing miles for truckers and motorists. That increase in demand, ahead of the country’s normal summer driving season, is having a big impact on the price as well, Caruso says.

– SEAN KELLEY


GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING FAMILY NOMINEES SOUGHT

Truckers News is looking for the third annual Great American Trucking Family. The magazine is searching for related drivers who have deep roots in the industry. Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation truckers, along with other relatives with trucking ties, can enter for a chance to be named the Great American Trucking Family. Industry honors and general civic involvement are taken into consideration, too.

The winning family will be announced at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Sept. 10-12. That family will also be featured in the September issue of Truckers News. Entries, which must be received by June 1, should include a detailed family history and should be mailed to:

GATF c/o Truckers News, 3200 Rice Mine Road NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406


DISPLACED WORKER AID COULD INCLUDE TRUCK DRIVERS

Congress introduced bills to extend federal Trade Adjustment Assistance to truckers and other displaced service workers.

On March 2, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance Equity for Service Workers Act of 2004. Since 1962, the Trade Adjustment Assistance has provided retraining, income support, and other benefits to restart careers of displaced manufacturing and agricultural workers.

TAA was aimed at helping employees who lose jobs when trade policy is liberalized. But the U.S. economy has shifted its focus from manufacturing, Baucus said.

“In 2001, the service sector accounted for 81 percent of U.S. private sector gross domestic product and a similar percentage of total U.S. employment,” Baucus said during the bill’s introduction. Also in 2001, cross-border services trade increased to 21 percent of the total value of U.S. trade, he said.

In 1993, Congress instituted a new TAA program for workers dislocated as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and later overhauled the TAA program in the Trade Act of 2002.

Currently, if a factory relocates overseas, its workers can receive TAA assistance. But if a company that provides a service, such as a call center, moves overseas, its employees are ineligible for the assistance.

The new legislation would target American service workers who lose their jobs to competition from foreign services. “For example, if a U.S. truck driver loses his job because his employer loses routes to a Mexican-domiciled trucking company, the U.S. driver would be eligible for TAA,” said Baucus, a Montana Democrat.

SB 2157 was immediately moved to the Senate Finance Committee.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith introduced the House version of the bill March 3. It was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means that day.

– JILL DUNN


GROUP PROPOSES TOLLED ROUTES FOR TRUCK-ONLY LANES

A Los Angeles-based think tank has identified the best Interstate corridors to test truck-only toll lanes.

Truckers’ tolls would pay for the building and operating costs of the lanes, which would be separated from other traffic by concrete jersey barriers, says a proposal by the Reason Foundation.

“But trucks using the toll lanes would be exempt from federal fuel taxes and other federal user charges for miles traveled on the truck-only toll lanes to avoid double taxation,” the report states.

Because the trucks would safely separate from other vehicles, longer combination vehicles would be permitted on truck-only toll lanes. When LCVs reached metro areas, the trucks would be broken down at staging areas and would not operate on urban freeways.

The American Trucking Associations, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the National Safety Council have supported the plan. U.S. Rep. Don Young, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is reviewing the report for a possible test program.

The report identifies some of the best candidates for the plan, based on revenue potential, construction costs and feedback from carriers. In most cases, the corridors would link existing LCV operations.

For example, the plan notes, “Interstate 75 from Toledo to Detroit is a spur off the nation’s largest existing LCV operation on the Indiana Toll Road and the Ohio Turnpike.” The major manufacturing areas of Detroit and Ontario, Canada, would be linked this way.

Researchers say other corridors that would work in the plan include:

  • I-90, from Cleveland to the New York state line.
  • I-80 from Chicago west through Iowa.
  • I-15 in California to Nevada, the High Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
  • More information is available on Reason’s website at www.rppi.org.

    – JILL DUNN


    FEDEX TO APPEAL $3.2 MILLION VERDICT

    FedEx plans to appeal a $3.2 million verdict award to a trucker who alleges she encountered physical intimidation and sabotage of her truck brakes after she complained about sexual harassment.

    A jury for the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania, returned the verdict Feb. 25 in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Marion Shaub of Wrightstown, Pa. The jury found that FedEx had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was guilty of the “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to an EEOC statement.

    Shaub was awarded $391,400 in back pay and front pay, $350,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and distress, and $2.5 million in punitive damages.

    Sally Davenport, a FedEx spokeswoman, said the Tennessee-based shipping company will appeal the case. “We investigated and found no grounds for her allegations,” Davenport said.

    According to the EEOC, Shaub was the only female tractor-trailer driver at the company’s Middletown facility when she filed the EEOC complaint in February 2002. Shaub claims she was “constantly subjected to anti-female remarks and threats from male co-workers” before FedEx terminated her in 2000.

    – JILL DUNN


    INDUSTRY GROUPS OPPOSE TOLLS ON INTERSTATES

    Trucking industry groups are campaigning against Congressional proposals that would allow states to levy tolls on interstates.

    The American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and others don’t want the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to allow states to collect tolls on interstates. The House committee is considering just such a move as part of a highway funding bill. The Senate is considering similar legislation.

    “Highway users already pay more than $100 billion per year in federal, state and local highway user fees,” the associations wrote to the committee. “Tolls on existing, general-purpose freeways would amount to charging highway users rent on a facility that they have already paid for and continue to support through continued payment of fuel taxes, registration fees and other highway use taxes.”

    OOIDA has placed advertisements against the toll idea in Roll Call and The Hill, two newspapers covering Congressional activities.

    Other letter signers included AAA, American Highway Users Alliance, National Association of Manufacturers, National Private Truck Council, Motor-Freight Carriers Association and the truck stop trade association, NATSO.

    The controversy is just one of many surrounding the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, which will fund road and transportation projects over the next six years. The bill has been delayed for months and may face a presidential veto if it ever gets passed.

    – JILL DUNN


    FORMER ROAD TEAM CAPTAIN KILLED IN IRAQ

    A former captain of America’s Road Team was killed Feb. 23 while serving as a civilian employee in the rebuilding of Iraq. Albert Luther “Al” Cayton was killed in Northern Iraq when an explosive device detonated while he was traveling on a highway, according to the American Trucking Associations. He was 60.

    He had signed on as a truck driver in Iraq after a 32-year career with Consolidated Freightways, which filed for bankruptcy in 2002. While at CF, he logged more than 3 million accident-free miles and toured with the some of the World Trade Center remains before delivering them to the West Coast.

    He became a member of ATA’s America’s Road Team in 1996. His service on the team included providing Congressional testimony on transportation issues.

    He is survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons.

    – JILL DUNN


    TRUCK STOPS MAY COLLECT HAZMAT HAULER FINGERPRINTS

    Truck stops would become a fingerprint collection point for hazardous waste haulers via a proposed partnership between NATSO and the National Air Transportation Association.

    The plan is for NATA, an association of aviation business service providers, to furnish the means to fingerprint truckers, according to information posted on the NATSO website. NATA coordinates the fingerprinting of U.S. airport employees.

    In turn, NATSO members would receive a fee for each fingerprint NATA collects.

    The Patriot Act requires the Transportation Security Administration, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, to fingerprint hazardous materials drivers. Those fingerprints are added to the FBI’s national data bank.

    TSA was scheduled to begin fingerprint collection in April. States unable to do so by April 1 were supposed to request an extension from TSA.

    NATSO President Bill Fay said he has met regularly with TSA and trucking industry leaders about the plan and believes it will progress quickly in 2004.

    – JILL DUNN


    ATA PUSHING ROADABILITY BILL

    The American Trucking Associations is seeking support for a roadability bill to prevent the issue from being addressed only in what it calls a “watered-down version” in U.S. Department of Transportation policy.

    The roadability bill, HB 2863, would require intermodal chassis owners to be accountable for inspecting and repairing them. The ATA, the Teamsters and the International Longshoremen’s Association support that bill, the Intermodal Equipment Safety and Responsibility Act.

    ATA wants HB 2863 adopted into the highway reauthorization bill. That bill was introduced July 24 and was referred to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines the following day.

    The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee could finish its version of reauthorization before April, but a vote by House members was not expected until that month at the earliest, according to ATA. The reauthorization bill provides transportation funding for six years, although House leaders are reportedly considering a two-year funding bill.

    Currently, federal regulations make drivers and carriers responsible for the well-being of chassis, which are often owned by other companies. Intermodal chassis have a history of substandard performance and many are not part of preventive maintenance programs.
    In January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it would create a program to inspect equipment used to move intermodal containers, and to hold equipment owners responsible for any problems.

    – JILL DUNN


    TRUCK AND TRAILER REPOS DROP 56 PERCENT

    Truck and trailer repossessions dropped 56 percent last year, according to a Nassau Asset Management report.

    The company says trucks and trailer repossessions were the only equipment category of the five tracked by Nassau to consistently improve throughout 2003.

    Other industry entities report good news, as well. Paccar Financial Services, which lends to Peterbilt and Kenworth buyers, noted a decrease in truck possessions in its third quarter report, released Nov. 7. It attributed revenue improvements to higher-earning assets and finance margins, and lower credit losses. The latter reflected a drop in truck repossessions and higher used truck prices, according to the report.

    – JILL DUNN


    TRUCKING ADVOCATE RETIRING FROM SENATE

    U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a commercial driver’s license holder who sponsored the Senate version of the roadability bill, announced he will not seek re-election in November.

    The 70-year-old Republican made the announcement March 3, a week after a brief visit to George Washington Hospital following mild chest pains. Campbell was released without any restrictions, said a hospital spokesman.

    Campbell was the first American Indian chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee and is an award-winning jewelry maker and horse trainer.

    Campbell, who has driven a truck during congressional breaks, introduced the roadability bill July 24, which would require intermodal chassis owners to be accountable for inspecting and repairing them.


    SHORT HAULS

    TOSSING URINE BOTTLES on Wyoming highways will become a misdemeanor on July 1. A bill signed in March will make violators subject to a $1,000 maximum fine, jail or both.

    TRAVELCENTERS OF AMERICA selected Chevron-branded coolants for use in T/A service bays and for retail sales.

    WOODY HARRELSON will star in Jack Tucker: Trucker, a comedy written by the authors of the recent movie Bad Santa.

    LOCALIZED REPORTS for traffic and weather are now offered every six minutes on a dedicated channel of Sirius Satellite Radio.

    SHELL ROTELLA T emergency road kits are being given away by participating truck dealers. The kits, which come in five sizes and range in cost from $15 to $45, can also be ordered by calling (800) 272-7222.

    KENWORTH OF BIRMINGHAM, 2220 Finley Blvd. at the Finley exit from I-65, has opened Alabama’s largest truck dealership facility.

    FULL LINES of Michelin and BFGoodrich truck tires will be available at 30 Pilot Travel Centers by 2005.

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