Industry News

“I don’t believe you can pat a driver on the head and put candy in the terminal and draw in
– Kirk Thompson, CEO of J.B. Hunt

Trucker pay must increase substantially before fleets will have enough drivers to meet demand, said fleet heads at a forum for shippers and carriers in Atlanta. Covenant Transportationfounder and CEO David Parker said his fleet expects to raise driver pay again in the first quarter of 2005, as many fleets did in 2004, but per-mile incremental pay raises may not be enough to draw the tens of thousands of drivers that the industry needs.

“Should we go up to $65,000 tomorrow?” Parker asked at the Oct. 11-12 forum organized by Schneider National. “I don’t have the guts to do it.”

While the national average pay for drivers currently hovers around $40,000, Parker and Duane Acklie, chairman of Crete Carrier Corp., speculated that salaries between $60,000 and $65,000 would be needed to fill the current shortfall.

“LTLs are paying $65,000 and have less than 20 percent turnover,” Parker said. “We’re paying $42,000 and have 100 percent turnover … I think you’re going to see driver pay increase over the next few years, 5 or 6 cents a year for the next five years.”

“We don’t have a shortage of drivers,” Acklie said, “just a shortage of drivers willing to work for what we pay.”

The discussion of driver pay is being driven by a torrid freight market, more restrictive operating regulations and a limited pool of qualified drivers. The industry is theoretically at 100 percent capacity, said Jim Meil, an Eaton economist. Still, few carriers are expanding their fleets, and because railroads are just as burdened by the freight increase, shipping rates are shooting upward.

Trucking companies compete for the same laborers as construction and manufacturing, which offer fewer hours and more home time, carriers and economists said. But pay is still the dominant motivator.

“Even if things ease back, we will still have a driver shortage, and demand for drivers will still outpace supply,” said Erick Starkes of Freight Transportation Research. “This problem is putting a strain on the industry’s ability to add capacity in a hurry.”

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“We have to take an abnormal share of the labor pool,” to meet the demand, said Scott Arves, Schneider president. Arves said the only way to grab that share is to significantly raise wages, something fleets are reluctant to do. “Most people have focused on $60,000 or more to attract new entrants to the driver pool,” he said.

President Bush signed legislation that keeps the current hours-of-service regulations in place until Sept. 30, 2005, or until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration completes a new rulemaking as ordered by a federal court, whichever comes first.

The measure was part of a new law that extends highway development and safety programs for eight months.

On July 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declared that FMCSA had failed to consider the effect of its final rule on the health of drivers, as required by Congress in 1995. The court also expressed strong skepticism of the agency’s rationale in other respects, including the additional hour of driving time, the 34-hour restart of cumulative hours, the retention of split rest using sleeper berths and the failure to test and consider a requirement for electronic onboard recorders.

The appeals court ordered a new rulemaking and vacated the current rule, effectively requiring that the rule in place before Jan. 4, 2004, take effect once again in the meantime.

FMCSA chose not to appeal the decision to a higher court, but instead asked the court to keep the current regulations in place while it considers a new rule to address the court’s concerns. FMCSA’s motion for a stay of the court’s mandate received support from the trucking industry, the shipper community and law enforcement agencies.

In its filings with the court, FMCSA said that requiring the trucking industry to return suddenly to the old rule would “produce a potentially uncertain and problematic patchwork of enforcement obligations, resulting in significant confusion and substantially hampered enforcement” of the hours rule.

The non-profit group Public Citizen asked the court to reinstate the old rule, arguing that a stay of the court’s mandate likely would leave the current rule in place for several years.

Enactment of H.R. 5183 holds the current rule in place, but it doesn’t overturn the court’s opinion as to the rule’s flaws. In fact, the legislation refers to “a new final rule addressing the issues raised by the July 16, 2004, decision” of the appeals court.

So far in 2004, trucker Thomas Hamill has escaped from captors in Iraq, has been praised by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, and has launched a national book tour.

And the year isn’t even over for the 44-year-old Macon, Miss., resident. The former owner-operator and over-the-road trucker of more than two decades worked in Iraq as a truck convoy commander delivering fuel to U.S. troops. Hamill drove for KBR, a Houston-based subsidiary of Halliburton.

During an attack near Baghdad, Hamill was shot in the forearm, hit in the head with a rifle butt and taken prisoner by masked gunmen. He later escaped.

Stoeger Publishing published Escape in Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story, by Hamill and Mississippi-based outdoors writer Paul T. Brown. The 304-page book has a cover price of $24.95.

Hamill, also a former dairy farmer, will sign books nationwide and promote the book on national television. Scheduled TV appearances include the Nov. 14 broadcasts of Hour of Power and Reflections, both from Robert A. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Check local listings for times.

A massive pre-buy to avoid more expensive, lower-emissions ’07 engines “doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion,” said Rainer Schmueckle, Freightliner president and CEO. “If you went over to the sports books, you’d get even money for a pre-buy in 2006,” Schmueckle told carrier attendees at the American Trucking Associations annual meeting in Las Vegas. “But those odds should be a lot longer.”

Truck sales in 2007 “may not be the big cliff event that everyone feared,” said Peter Karlsten, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America, referring to the sharp decline in truck sales after the lower-emissions ’02 engines were introduced in October of that year.

Truck makers may not have enough manufacturing capacity to allow a pre-buy, said Paul Vikner, president and CEO of Mack Trucks. Instead, there will be market demand for trucks through 2007, he said.

In 2002, the technologies engine makers used to meet the lower emissions standards – cooled exhaust gas recirculation and Caterpillar’s ACERT – were unproven, the truck makers said. That’s not the case for 2007. “We will have four and a half years of experience with the engines by 2007,” Schmueckle said.

“Both our partners, Caterpillar and Cummins, are ready to clear the next hurdle,” said Tom Plimpton, president of Paccar, the parent company of Peterbilt and Kenworth.

Vikner said Mack has more than 40,000 EGR engines in service today and assured attendees that fuel economy in the 2007 engines will be “as good as or better than today.” Most engine makers will meet 2007 emissions using advanced cooled EGR and diesel particulate filters. The CEO panelists plan to have trucks equipped with the new engines available for testing in mid-to late 2005.

Daniel Ustian, chairman and CEO of Navistar International, called the new emissions technology an “evolution, not a revolution.”

Schmueckle and Karlsten cautioned attendees about extending their trade cycles to delay buying the new engines. “We’ve seen what extended trade cycles mean in cost,” Schmueckle said. “As an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t change a proven operating procedure” just to avoid new technology, he said.

Schmueckle estimated the increased cost of the new engines at $4,500 to $6,000 during a meeting with Overdrive editors at the ATA meeting.

Texas will become the latest state to offer free wi-fi at rest areas, charging for use only in excess of two hours.

The state’s transportation department signed with a vendor to provide wireless computer access at its 102 rest areas, with installation expected to be complete by October 2005. The service will be available on U.S. 90 near Hondo and on Interstate 10 near Columbus by December, TDOT says.

Michigan announced plans to bring wi-fi to rest areas, its 10 state parks and welcome centers. The state is offering free access this year to, the Michigan state government Web site, and next year to, a state-sponsored site promoting tourism, jobs and industry.

Otherwise, the service at Michigan recreational areas will cost $7.95 for 24-hour sessions and $19.95 for unlimited access.

In June, Iowa equipped six rest areas with free wi-fi as part of a six-month feasibility project. In Wisconsin, the rest area near Kenosha on Interstate 94 offers free wi-fi.

In addition to rest areas and truck stops, many public libraries offer wi-fi access. So do many college and university libraries, though most restrict usage to students, faculty and staff.

Restaurant and retail chains that offer free wi-fi access include:

  • Apple Computer’s Apple Stores nationwide.
  • Atlanta Bread Company: about 40 of the cafe chain’s locations from Colorado to New Jersey. A list is at this site.
  • Krystal: 50 of the fast-food chain’s locations from Texas to Florida. A list is at this site.
  • Panera Bread Company/St.Louis Bread Company: 400 cafes nationwide. Look for the Wi-Fi sticker in the window.
  • Port City Java: all the chain’s 30 locations, from Texas to New Jersey.
  • Schlotzsky’s Cool Cloud network: 40 of the deli chain’s locations from Arizona to the District of Columbia. A list is at this site.


Beginning Jan. 1, Illinois five-axle truck drivers will pay $3 to $4 at tollway plazas instead of the current $1.25 to $1.50 to help fund a 10-year road improvement plan.

On Sept. 30, the state tollway board approved a $5.3 billion plan to reduce congestion and driving times by fixing nearly the entire tollway system.

Tollway officials said they plan to rebuild and widen the system’s roads, most of which have not been rebuilt since the late 1950s. A south extension of Interstate 355 is planned.

The toll rate for passenger vehicles using I-PASS will not increase, while plaza rates for four-wheelers without I-PASS will increase, the new top rate being $1.

Large trucks will pay $3 with I-PASS, $4 without it, unless traveling between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when the toll will be $3 for all, or during peak periods, when the toll will be $4 for all.

State troopers will use portable weigh stations to crack down on trucks avoiding the tolls on parallel highways.

By February, tolls for the heaviest trucks using the Ohio Turnpike will be rolled back to 1982 rates – on an 18-month trial basis.

The Northern Ohio Freight Plan, announced Oct. 11 by Gov. Bob Taft, aims to reduce truck traffic on routes parallel to the turnpike. Taft’s plan lowers truck tolls on the turnpike and steps up weight and speed enforcement off the turnpike. An increase in the turnpike speed limit for trucks, from 55 mph to 65 mph, took effect in September.

Taft’s 18-month trial toll reduction for trucks ranges from 2 percent for the lightest trucks to 57 percent for the heaviest trucks. These cheaper tolls represent a rollback of 58 percent to 60 percent of the toll increases that were phased in from 1995 to 1999 for Classes 7 and 8, which account for nearly half the turnpike truck traffic. The toll increases apparently caused too many truckers to use alternate routes.

The turnpike also announced new service plazas with designated trucker areas offering sofas, tables, televisions, coin-operated laundries and separate restrooms and showers.

Illinois is lowering its commercial distribution fee and has restored its rolling stock exemption for trucks, repealing much of a law passed in 2003.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill that lowers in stages the commercial distribution fee, currently calculated as a 36 percent surcharge on truck registrations.

When the Democratic governor took office in January 2003, he created a budget plan to remedy the state’s $5 billion debt. That included a narrowly passed measure to institute the fee and eliminate the exemption. Illinois had just raised truck registration fees 40 percent in 2000.

In fall 2003, in-state truckers who paid their registrations received bills retroactive to July 1 demanding $50 to $1,005 for the new fee.

But this newest legislation reduces the CDF to 21.5 percent on July 1, 2005, and to 14.35 percent on July 1, 2006.

Also, as of July 1, 2005, the rolling stock exemption on truck and trailer sales tax will be restored. Truckers qualify if their truck has a gross vehicle weight of more than 16,000 pounds and is used in interstate commerce for at least 50 percent of its trips or miles. Shipments picked up or delivered outside Illinois qualify for the exemption.

Responsibility for latent equipment defects will be shifted away from carriers in the new standard intermodal industry contract.

The Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement is the contract that intermodal truckers and drayage companies sign with water and rail carriers and with equipment providers. The agreement is designed to make procedures uniform and efficient across the industry, but the current agreement places on carriers the responsibility for maintenance or repair of equipment that isn’t theirs.

After many intermodal truckers complained of receiving unsafe chassis, the American Trucking Associations and labor groups began lobbying for a “roadability” bill that would shift that responsibility.

On Sept. 29, the Intermodal Interchange Executive Committee made changes to the indemnity provisions of the UIIA that are expected to become effective in January. In the new contract, equipment providers will be held accountable for their own equipment. Motor carriers still must perform a pre-trip inspection of specific equipment components, as part of the federally mandated walk-around that drivers make.

Months after targeting idling truckers, California air regulators have turned their sights on four-wheelers.

In a landmark move Sept. 24, the California Air Resources Board passed new restrictions on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be released from new light cars, sport-utility vehicles and trucks sold in California starting in model year 2009.

“This decision sets a course for California that is likely to be copied throughout the U.S. and other countries,” said CARB Chairman Alan Lloyd. California represents more than 10 percent of the automobile market, and a number of states and municipalities model their regulations on the Golden State’s.

The new rules are supported by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but will be fought by the automobile industry.

According to CARB, the average reduction of greenhouse gases from new California cars and light trucks will be about 22 percent in 2012 and about 30 percent in 2016, compared to today’s vehicles. CARB says costs for the added technology needed to meet the rule are expected to average about $325 per vehicle in 2012 and about $1,050 per vehicle in 2016. Carmakers disagree, saying the new equipment will cost as much as $3,000 a vehicle.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s political action committee favored Republicans over Democrats, two to one, during the 2004 campaigns. OOIDA contributed to 16 House members and five senators.

Among trucking organizations, the American Trucking Associations donated the most PAC money, according to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics. OOIDA was second in donations and the American Moving and Storage Association third.

The following amounts represent donations as of early October.

OOIDA’s PAC contributed $60,780 to candidates, none of them a presidential candidate. ATA’s PAC gave $4,500 to Republican nominee President Bush, and AMSA’s PAC gave $500 to Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who lost a bid for president in the Democratic primaries.

OOIDA’s top two recipients, both Republicans, represented the organization’s home state of Missouri: Sen. Christopher Bond, who received $9,000, and Rep. Roy Blunt, $8,500. Bond is in his fifth term; Blunt, the House majority whip, is in his fourth term.

The next tier of OOIDA recipients included Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., $5,500; Sen. Frank Launtenberg, D-N.J., $5,000; and Rep. Mac Collins, R-Ga., $4,000.

ATA contributed $363,431, with 82 percent to Republicans and 18 percent to Democrats.
AMSA’s PAC contributed $44,500, with 63 percent of it to Republicans.

Volvo Truck will build a new engine assembly line at its Hagerstown, Md., facility that will assemble engines for Mack trucks and North American Volvos by 2007, announced Lars-Goran Moberg, president of Volvo Powertrain.

Volvo plans to invest $150 million or more in the line. Production of the Mack ASET engines will continue there.

The new engine will have common architecture – that is, many common elements such as the block, crankshaft, connecting rods and basic design, Moberg said. But the parts that give the engine its distinctive flavor, such as the pistons, which form the combustion chamber and the programming of the torque and power curves into the ECM, will be different for Macks and Volvos, said Tony Greszler, vice president of engineering for Volvo Powertrain.

The result will be engines that sound and feel quite different, just as they do today, and a Mack engine that lives up to the brand’s reputation for fuel economy and durability in vocational applications, the company says.

The new architecture will include a number of features, including an overhead camshaft for both engines, four valves per cylinder, and timing gears for driving the camshaft located at the rear of the block instead of the front, Moberg said. The reason for this change is that the rear of the crankshaft, near the flywheel, is much less “torsionally active,” which means it turns much more smoothly. As a result, the gears will run more quietly and be more durable.

The engine will also feature an integral engine and exhaust brake, likely similar to the one used on the Volvo VED12. This brake is incorporated into the exhaust valve rocker and uses simple hydraulic actuation. Combining this style engine brake with an exhaust brake gives especially powerful braking at low rpm.

The new engine will have stronger internal parts than either the VED12 or Mack ASET engines, to allow higher peak cylinder pressures.
–John Baxter

Truckers no longer have to take a 130-mile detour now that Florida’s I-10 bridge over Escambia Bay has reopened. On Oct. 5, Gov. Jeb Bush heralded the bridge reopening a week ahead of its target date, noting nearly 8,000 trucks travel that stretch daily.

State officials set up a 130-mile detour for truckers after Hurricane Ivan damaged the bridge Sept. 16.

On Sept. 18, the state DOT signed a $26.4 million emergency contract with two construction companies to open one lane of traffic in each direction on the westbound side of the bridge. The speed limit was lowered to 40 mph.

The target date to open all four lanes of the bridge is mid-December. However, Ivan damaged the bridge so much that eventually a new replacement bridge will have to be built across Escambia Bay, according to Florida DOT officials.

By summer 2005, some utility workers will drive trucks powered by new diesel/electric hybrid engines that pollute less, achieve 40 percent to 60 percent better fuel economy than their diesel-only counterparts, and allow operators to run power takeoffs for up to two hours without running the engine.

International Truck and Engine Corp. and Eaton Corp. launched a pilot program Oct. 15 to put 20 International utility trucks on the road in 2005 equipped with a diesel/electric powertrain developed by the two companies.

The initial powertrain will couple an International DT 466 in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with an Eaton hybrid-electric drivetrain, incorporating a transmission, batteries and permanent magnet motor. Power from the engine is converted directly into electrical energy, which then incorporates the conventional drivetrain to power the truck.

Like conventional gas/electric hybrids built by Honda and Toyota for car buyers, the diesel/electric system recovers kinetic energy during braking, charging the batteries while the truck is slowing down. This provides additional power for acceleration, making the hybrid trucks ideal for in-city driving situations with frequent starting and stopping.

Eventually the technology will migrate up to Class 8 trucks, says V.K. Sharma, director of engineering for International. “Basically it can be applied to Class 8 trucks anywhere there is stop-and-go operation,” Sharma says. For highway users, the applications may be less beneficial because trucks don’t brake as much.

If you know a heroic trucker who risked life and limb to rescue a fellow motorist, Goodyear wants to hear from you.
Nominations for Goodyear’s 22nd annual North America Highway Hero program will be accepted through Nov. 30. For a driver to be considered for this year’s award:

    The nominee must be a full-time truck driver who is a resident of the United States or Canada.

  • The heroic incident must have occurred between Nov. 16, 2003, and Nov. 15, 2004, in the United States or Canada while the nominee was in his or her rig, either on the job or on the way to or from work.
  • The truck must have had at least 14 wheels.

For nomination forms, call (330) 796-8183 or visit this site.

Peterbilt displayed a Model 320 spec’d for refuse applications with the Hydraulic Launch Assist system at last month’s Hybrid Truck Users Forum in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The HLA is being jointly developed by Peterbilt and Eaton Corp.

“The technology could have a significant impact on improving the operating costs of customers involved in stop-and-go applications, such as refuse,” says Peterbilt Chief Engineer Craig Brewster. “Hydraulic Launch Assist can be quickly tailored for maximum fuel economy or enhanced productivity through quicker acceleration and shorter cycle times. Additionally, the system increases brake life and reduces engine and transmission wear, potentially extending component life and lowering service costs.”

HLA works by recovering a portion of the energy normally lost as heat by the vehicle’s brakes, in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid. This fluid is stored in on-board accumulators until the driver next accelerates the vehicle.

Fuel savings occur when the stored energy is then used to launch the vehicle during the initial, high fuel consumption start from stop, followed seamlessly by power from the primary engine.

A recent survey indicates truckload capacity is the tightest in years and less-than-truckload capacity is “modestly tighter” than a year ago, with both trends expected to continue in the next 12 months.

Bear, Stearns & Company, an investment banking, securities trading and brokerage firm, released its Second-Quarter 2004 Shippers Survey results. Truckload carrier capacity was the tightest ever in the survey’s seven-year history.

The survey says 55 percent of LTL shippers use Yellow-Roadway, while 21 percent use ABF Freight System, the long-haul LTL subsidiary of Arkansas Best. Nine percent use Watkins Motor Lines, and 15 percent use other regional LTL carriers for national LTL freight.

Truckload shippers expected to pay a rate increase of 2.7 percent in the second quarter, LTL shippers a rate increase of 2.3 percent.

Eighty-two percent of the shippers stated they paid some incremental charges related to the new hours-of-service rule.

An International Truck and Engine executive says the company’s first-place ranking for dealer service reflects a quick turnaround time for repairs. J.D. Power and Associates’s recently released 2004 Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study gives International significantly improved marks in nearly all areas of dealer service, especially “people” factors, says J.D. Power.

THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX reached the highest level in its 14-year history in July, rising 0.4 percent. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s TSI measures services provided by the trucking and other transportation industries.

EMERGENCY WAIVERS for trucks providing hurricane relief in Florida were extended by Gov. Jeb Bush through late November. The waived regulations include size and weight limits, hours of service, registrations and fuel taxes. A printable permit is at, or call (850) 410-5777.

A NEW LOOK and new address for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website, which tracks motor carrier safety records, debuted Oct. 1:

RIP GRIFFIN’S interstate travel centers will be bought by TravelCenters of America. The sale does not include Rip Griffin travel centers off the interstate and the Rip Griffin gas station convenience stores across Texas.

FREIGHTLINER has initiated a voluntary program to install retrofit kits on some engines produced by its subsidiary, Detroit Diesel, between October 2002 and Nov. 30, 2003. Freightliner dealers and Detroit Diesel distributors will install the kits – a five-hour job – on a “fix as fail” basis, says Detroit Diesel.

TRANSCORE Holdings of Harrisburg, Pa., best known to truckers for its load-matching service formerly known as DAT, will be bought by Roper Industries of Duluth, Ga. Roper Industries owns more than two dozen high-tech manufacturing companies in North America and Europe, including Roper Pumps, which makes valves familiar to many tanker drivers.

THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES voted 339-70 against the Bush administration’s plan to exempt some foreign trucks and buses from U.S. safety requirements for two years of operation in the United States. The Sept. 22 vote amended the $90 billion transportation and treasury bill for fiscal 2005.

CON-WAY Transportation Services, Ann Arbor, Mich., will become the first national motor carrier to participate corporate-wide in the American Trucking Associations’ Highway Watch program, administered by ATA with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A CHICAGO federal court sentenced Lidia A. Rodezno, owner and instructor of the Reliable Driving School, to three years of probation for bribing a former state employee to pass unqualified commercial driver’s license applicants.

THREE CARRIERS were named winners of the American Trucking Associations’ 2004 National Truck Safety Contest. The companies, representing large, mid-size and small fleets, are FedEx Ground, Moon Township, Pa.; Central Freight Lines, Waco, Texas; and Sinclair Trucking, Salt Lake City.

NATSO, the largest truck stop trade association, named Lisa Mullings president and chief executive officer. Officers for 2005 are: chairman, Roger Cole, Highway Service Ventures; secretary-treasurer, Jimmy Haslam, Pilot Travel Centers; officers at large, Ed Kuhn, TravelCenters of America; James Goetz, Goetz Cos.; and Ed Flynn, Flynn’s Truck Plaza.

JOHN STOKES, the trucker involved in a 1999 Illinois train derailment that killed 11 people, was sentenced Sept. 28 to two years in prison for falsifying his log book and violating hours-of-service regulations. His commercial driver’s license was revoked permanently.

SAFETY DIRECTOR of the Year, announced by the American Trucking Associations, is Sam Dunbar of Con-Way Western Express, Buena Park, Calif.

CALIFORNIA. A 5-mile extension of Newport Road to connect I-215 and Highway 79 southeast of Los Angeles will be finished in February 2006.

FLORIDA. A 4.6-mile section of I-95 in West Palm Beach is being widened to 10 lanes, with lane closures at night. Completion date is 2008.

MICHIGAN. Only two lanes of I-94 are open in Taylor, just west of Detroit, until November 2005.

NORTH CAROLINA. Traffic on I-40 East in Durham, between Exits 273 and 278, is being shifted at night through November.

SOUTH CAROLINA. I-385 is being upgraded from I-85 into Greenville. The work will be finished in 2005.