Long-haul driving offers plenty of good and bad things and lots of oddities in between. Read stories about The Trucking Lifestyle in the May Monthly Focus on www.eTrucker.com.
IDLING ISSUES GENERATE BIG BUZZ
Announcements by engine and truck manufacturers at the Mid-America Trucking Show, regulatory efforts in New York and California, and spiraling diesel prices have given efforts to
reduce idling new life.
In California, regulators are considering expanding to other locations idling laws that limit truckers from idling longer than five minutes at the state’s ocean ports. They are also looking at requiring idle shutoff devices on large diesel engines. In New York, the state attorney general announced an agreement in late March with a second major food market to enforce state and city big-rig idling laws.
While new regulations are forcing some truckers to shut down, the price of diesel exceeded $1.70 in April, making it expensive for owner-operators who insist on idling. Still, the news isn’t all bad for truckers. Several major equipment manufacturers announced efforts to build trucks that don’t have to idle in order to power climate control systems and electrical appliances.
At Mid-America, Cummins announced a new auxiliary power unit it will produce as a factory option in 2005. Called ComfortGuard, the two-cylinder diesel gen-set, which will be made by Onan, will be integrated with a truck’s climate systems and provide 110-watt power.
Engine makers estimate an idling truck burns about 1 gallon per hour; Cummins’ gen-set will burn only 0.2 gallon per hour. Cummins’ Ric Kleine said the engine will allow carriers and owner-operators to save as much as $2,000 a year in fuel and other idling costs.
Gen-sets have been popular with owner-operators for years, but the cost – as much as $8,000 installed – has kept most fleets and drivers away. Cummins, however, said prices will be much closer to $3,000, enabling a driver to reach a return on investment much sooner, perhaps 18 months, Kleine said.
Also at the show, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a major anti-idling effort, unveiling a Kenworth it equipped with a gen-set, shore-power hookups and a Caterpillar engine with fewer belt belt-driven components. The truck features an advanced heating and air conditioning unit, a high-efficiency 30kw SR generator, electrically driven brake air compressor and electrically driven oil and water pumps.
Peterbilt also addressed idling issues at the show, saying that it is looking at ways to accommodate a wide range of APUs on trucks and may prewire trucks this year.
TROOPERS IN TENNESSEE are targeting truckers guilty of moving violations, especially speeding, as part of a new program. Officials are concentrating on Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville. Between mid-March, when the program began, and April 1, officers gave out 353 citations for moving violations and 145 warnings to truckers.
WILLIAM FAY stepped down as president and chief executive officer of NATSO, the trade organization representing truck stops, on April 1. Lisa Mullings, who had served as vice president of public affairs and counsel, assumed his duties as acting president.
RETIRED TRUCKER J.R. Triplett, of Winchester, Va., drove a truck 47 years, but he may be able to upgrade to a fancier vehicle after winning the second largest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history – $239 million.
NEW YORK’S HUNTS POINT Meat Market has agreed to enforce the city’s three-minute idling law and allow trucks from other markets free entry to use its 28 electrification bays. Fines start at $350. State laws, which allow truckers to idle for five minutes, are also being enforced there. Fines start at $1,000.
THE HIGHWAY WATCH PROGRAM will be expanded with the help of a $19.3 million federal grant to The American Trucking Associations.
A CONGRESSIONAL REPORT says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Congress should provide financial incentives to lessen truckers’ concerns over 2007 engines. A General Accounting Office report recommended such incentives as a way to encourage early adoption of the engines and to keep fleets from pre-buying trucks with older engines, as happened just before the Oct. 1, 2002, emission standards took effect.
CCJ INSURANCE SERIES WINS NEAL AWARD
Commercial Carrier Journal Editorial Director Avery Vise won the 2004 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series of Articles with his entry, “The Cost of Risk,” in the mid-size magazine division.
The Neal Awards, announced March 18 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, are the most prestigious business press awards.
Editors of Truckers News, who wrote about cargo theft, were among three finalists in the 2004 Neal category of Best Single Article, also in the mid-size magazine division.
CCJ and Truckers News, as well as Overdrive, all published by Randall Publishing Co., have won many trade journalism awards, including Neal finalist honors.
FIRST QUARTER FREIGHT GIVES YEAR PROMISING START
Two key freight indices rose significantly in the first quarter of 2004. The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.8 percent to 154.9 in February, and Cass Information Systems, which processes $8 billion in annual freight payables, says its freight index climbed in January, February and March.
ATA’s increase followed a decrease of 2.3 percent in January. The February reading was the second highest level ever, below only the 155.8 registered in December. The index was 100 in 1993, its base year.
“This was the fifth increase in the last six months for the adjusted index,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. He says he believed the strength in manufacturing and retail sales helped tonnage grow robustly in February, both on a month-to-month and year-over-year basis.
Cass Info, which uses 1990 as its base year, saw its expenditures index climb from 1.302 in January to 1.430 in March, while its shipments index climbed from 1.019 in January to 1.169 in March.
FINGERPRINT BACKGROUND CHECK DELAYED
The deadline for states to collect fingerprints of truckers with hazardous material endorsements on their commercial driver’s licenses has again been extended to Jan. 31.
Originally, states were to begin supplying fingerprints to the FBI by Nov. 3, 2003. Trucking, law enforcement and state motor vehicle departments asked federal agencies to delay that deadline because of time and cost issues.
TSA initially extended the deadline to April 1. States could apply for an extension until Dec. 1.
States were asked by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to collect the fingerprints as part of stepped-up security measures following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Under TSA’s proposed plan, states would collect fingerprints of new hazmat endorsement applicants and truckers renewing their licenses and supply them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which would compare them to criminal and terrorism databases.
SCHNEIDER national DRIVER NAMED 2003 HIGHWAY HERO
Derrick Harris was named the 2003 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The three other finalists were David Dunham, Joe Sines and Anne Spriggs.
All four finalists aided victims of traffic accidents or other emergencies in 2003. Harris, of Hopewell, Va., a driver for Schneider National, saved the life of a person who had been set on fire near the side of the road. Harris stopped, grabbed a blanket and cooler of water and extinguished the fire by wrapping the person in the blanket, then soaked it with water for more comfort for the victim. Though the victim suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, Harris’ quick actions helped save his life. He also provided information to police, which led to the arrest of a suspect.
Dunham, of Fitchburg, Mass., pulled truck driver Azem Rizvanovic of Arizona from a burning truck. Rizvanovic fully recovered from the accident. Dunham, employed at the time of the rescue by Ronnie Dowdy Inc., now drives for U.S. Xpress.
Sines, of Horse Shoe Run, W.Va., a driver for Schneider National, used a pocketknife to cut the safety straps and free two young girls from the back seat of a badly wrecked van.
Spriggs, of Willow Springs, Mo., a driver for CRST, revived a 5-year-old girl who was unconscious and suffering from a grand mal seizure. Spriggs moved the girl’s tongue and administered CPR. After a few minutes, the girl was breathing, and an ambulance took her to a hospital.
“Stories like these make us all thankful that there are courageous individuals such as professional truck drivers on our roadways,” said Steve McClellan, Goodyear’s vice president for Commercial Tire Systems.
To nominate a professional truck driver for the 2004 Goodyear Highway Hero Award, visit this site.
CARRIERS SAY WAITING TIME MAIN CONCERN UNDER HOURS RULE
Time spent loading and unloading trucks is by far the biggest issue impacting productivity under the new hours-of-service rule, said fleet managers at a roundtable held during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual meeting in March.
Carrier attendees agreed that communication with customers is key to regaining lost productivity. Bryan Molinaro-Blonigan with Warren Transport, Waterloo, Iowa, said his company has been holding a series of focus groups with customers. Too often, he said, when calculating a driver’s hours for a load, customers assume they are getting a “fresh truck” every time. “They don’t understand that the guy may already have four or five hours out of the day,” he said.
The new rule has led many carriers to charge for detention time. “I don’t know if we’re collecting that much, but we’re billing it,” said Bill Wilson, vice president of safety and risk management for John Christner Trucking, Sapulpa, Okla.
Detention time becomes especially critical on multi-stop loads, said Dave Scureman, executive vice president for Louis J. Kennedy Trucking, Kearny, N.J. “Some customers were trying to turn us into an LTL carrier,” he said, by asking drivers to make six to eight stops on a truckload. But now “customers are working with us to reduce our detention time drastically,” he said.
Working with his customers has also helped convert many accounts to drop-and-hook operations, said Vern Garner, owner of Garner Transportation Group. That change, he said, has also helped with recruitment and retention. “Even though we paid for detention, the drivers want to be driving, not sitting,” he said.
O&S Trucking began paying detention time to drivers in April “whether or not we collect it,” said Jim O’Neal. “We’re not going to do this on the backs of drivers,” he said. O’Neal, who is chairman of TCA’s shipper-carrier relations committee, says TCA will work to revisit the issue of shipper-carrier best practices.
Asked to raise their hands if they believed drivers and owner-operators will come out winners under the new rule, no participants gave a positive response. “The last thing we want to do is push people over the edge who are already way too close to being on the verge of not being able to make a decent living,” said Brian Griffin, president and CEO of Roberson Transportation Services, Mahomet, Ill., who moderated the panel. “That’s one of the issues this association needs to focus on.”
CONSULTANT SAYS LOG DOCUMENTS MIGHT BE REQUIRED
A provision to require drivers to provide documentation to support their log books is the next development on the horizon with hours of service, said Bradley Penneau, a senior safety consultant with publishing company J.J. Keller. Penneau led an hours-of-service forum during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
Penneau said the added log requirement is expected “imminently.” It would also require carriers to verify the accuracy of each driver’s record-of-duty status. “What constitutes supporting documents has not been determined,” he said.
Under the new hours rule, “the temptation to falsify [log books] is going to dramatically increase,” he said. Rather than giving in to temptation, truckers should educate their customers about the new rule so they could work together to find ways to reduce downtime and recoup lost productivity, Penneau suggested.
J.J. Keller, Chevron and the Kentucky Motor Truck Association sponsored the forum.
MAGAZINE TO HONOR TRUCKING FAMILY
Truckers News continues its search for the third annual Great American Trucking Family.
The magazine is looking for drivers who have deep roots in the industry. Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation truckers or drivers with extended trucking ties can enter for a chance to be named the Great American Trucking Family. Industry honors and general civic involvement should be noted, too.
The winner will be announced at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Sept. 10-12. The top family will also be featured in the September Truckers News.
To enter, mail a detailed history of your trucking family to:
GATF c/o Truckers News
3200 Rice Mine Road NE
Tuscaloosa, AL 35406
Entries must be postmarked by June 15.
CDL APPLICANTS TO FACE TOUGHER CHECKS
A proposal would require states to check an applicant’s driving record through both the National Driver Register and Commercial Driver’s License Information System before issuing any type of driving license.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a proposed rule to strengthen license checks, requiring states to check both the NDR and the CDLIS before issuing any type of driver’s license to an applicant. This change is meant to keep CDL holders from using multiple licenses to avoid the consequences of traffic violations.
The CDLIS maintains driving records of CDL holders, while the NDR keeps records only on those drivers with serious traffic offenses.
The proposal also would:
- Clarify that the only records reported to the NDR are ones of individuals who have been convicted or whose license has been denied, canceled, revoked or suspended for certain offenses.
- Update the NDR reporting codes.
Written comments on the notice must be received by June 1, and the docket number, NHTSA-04-17326, must be included.
Comments may be submitted by logging onto Docket Management System at http://dms.dot.gov.
RULE STRENGTHENS CARRIERS’ REPORTING OF SAFETY HISTORY
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule requiring employers to review the safety records of applicants for bus and truck driving positions and mandating that former employers make that information available to prospective employers.
The rule helps carriers considering hiring a driver to get more driver safety information. It also limits the liability of those required to provide and use driver safety performance information. Carriers had expressed concern over liability issues when the rule was being considered.
The agency also stated that the new rule deals with concerns expressed by the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association over the rights of a driver when his record is inaccurate.
Employers are required to tell applicants that they have the right to review, request correction, or refute what a previous employer provided in his safety history. The new regulation requires previous employers to respond within 30 days to questions by prospective employers investigating an applicant.
Previous employers will be required to confirm employment up to three years back and provide other information, such as crash involvement. Finally, past employers must provide to potential employers alcohol and controlled substance violations, rehabilitation efforts and reversion to illegal alcohol or controlled substances if rehabilitation was unsuccessful.
The FMCSA has stated it will investigate situations where carriers fail to comply with this rule. Carriers can be cited and could be subject to civil penalties.
FREIGHTLINER OPENS TRUCK WIND TUNNEL
Freightliner’s new 12,000-square-foot wind tunnel at its Portland, Ore., base, allows the truck maker more flexibility in researching and testing the aerodynamics of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Until now, Freightliner has had to use other wind tunnel facilities at a high per-use charge. More importantly, company officials say, the new Portland facility was designed specifically to accommodate a heavy-duty truck.
“The wind tunnel will help us make further gains in aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, which will ultimately lower operating costs for our customers,” says Freightliner President and CEO Rainer Schmueckle. Long-term, the company has set a goal of a 15 percent reduction in drag, which engineers estimate would translate into a 5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.
Wind tunnels are typically very expensive facilities, but Freightliner officials say the Portland wind tunnel was built at a fraction of the cost of similar facilities.
ILLINOIS CONSIDERS WORK ZONE CRACKDOWN
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is backing a bill to fight speeding in work zones through higher fines and a pilot program using cameras.
In 2003, seven workers were killed by motorists, and five of those workers were in highway work zones, Blagojevich said. He pledged support for HB 7015, which would:
- Implement a pilot program allowing use of cameras to capture images of license plates of drivers speeding through work zones.
- More than double fines for the first offense of speeding in a work zone, from the current $150 to a minimum of $375. For subsequent offenses, fines would increase from $300 to a minimum of $750.
- Increase the use of law enforcement in work zones. The bill would allow for the immediately arrest of drivers traveling in a work zone who exceed the posted speed limit by 20 miles per hour.
TRUCK BUILDERS SAY SALES ARE UP
The heads of North America’s major Class 8 truck makers say truck orders are up and they expect robust sales through 2006.
“We are at the beginning of a very strong recovery,” Rainer Schmueckle, president and CEO of Freightliner, told trade journalists at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March. “We have the most optimistic outlook we’ve had in several years.” Schmueckle predicted 2004 North American sales of 220,000 Class 8 vehicles, an increase of 20 percent over 2003.
Leaders from Mack, Volvo, International, Kenworth and Peterbilt echoed those sentiments, citing strong freight demand and improving economic conditions. Class 8 orders are being driven not only by big line-haul operations, but also medium- and small-fleet customers, the truck makers said.
“We had extremely strong orders in January,” said Peterbilt General Manager and Paccar Vice President Dan Sobic “We anticipate 2004 to continue on this upward trend. We estimate Class 8 truck production for the year will be between 210,000 and 220,000 units in North America.”
Sobic said sales and orders are being helped by stable insurance premiums and by customers’ increasing confidence in the 2002-emissions engines.
The same is true at sister company Kenworth, which is estimating solid growth in Class 7 sales, as well. “During 2004, the industry’s Class 8 retail sales will be about 220,000 units in the United States and Canada, with Class 7 retail sales about 85,000 units,” said Bob Christensen, Kenworth general manager and Paccar vice president.
Volvo Trucks North America’s orders began picking up in the last quarter of 2003, said Scott Kress, senior vice president of sales and marketing. That trend should continue this year because of a “tremendous pent-up demand from fleets” that have not replaced trucks in recent years.
“The market is coming back strong,” said Paul Vikner, Mack president and CEO. “Our March order intake is very strong, and we don’t anticipate it falling off yet.”
International forecasts, estimates North American heavy-duty sales to be about 208,000 units, while sales of Class 6 and 7 medium trucks are projected at 93,000 units.