Industry News

“The manufacturing base in the U.S. is strong.”
– Bob Costello, ATA vice president

“It’s a good time to be a survivor,” Bob Costello, American Trucking Associations vice president and chief economist, told more than 200 attendees at the Randall Trucking Fall Symposium in Phoenix in November. Strong manufacturing production and increased consumer spending are driving robust freight volumes, yet truck capacity remains tight, Costello said.

Through September, truck tonnage for the year is up 7 percent over the same period last year, Costello said. Even small carriers, which ATA defines as less than $30 million in revenue, are seeing an increase in demand for their services. Costello predicted revenue per mile for long-haul truckload carriers will increase about 8 percent over last year.

Despite press reports to the contrary, “the manufacturing base in the U.S. is strong,” Costello said. He predicted that manufacturing production will remain high into 2005 and beyond. While manufacturers have been building up inventories lately, inventories remain low relative to sales.

Retail sales, which make up about two-thirds of the economy, were up 8 percent in September compared to September 2003. Retail sales through the upcoming holiday season are projected to be up about 4.5 percent, which is average, Costello said.

On the cost side, trucking spent $8 billion more on diesel in 2004 than in 2003, and diesel fuel prices will remain very high, Costello said. The Department of Energy is forecasting $2.04 per gallon average diesel price for the fourth quarter, but with the current price of diesel fuel at $2.13 per gallon, Costello called DOE’s outlook – which also showed lower prices for 2005 – “too optimistic.” He cited predictions of a cold winter on the East Coast, which would put additional pressure on diesel fuel prices because heating oil is made from the same distillates as diesel fuel.

Carriers’ biggest cost, labor, is also on the rise, Costello said. Truck driver wages have not increased as fast as other blue collar wages in the past few years, yet turnover among large carriers is at 116 percent. Given simple supply and demand, “I just don’t see how wages are not going up,” he said.

The Truckload Carriers Association and its contest co-sponsors, Overdrive and Truckers News, have announced 32 finalists in TCA’s trucker contests.

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The grand prize of the Independent Contractor of the Year Contest is a new fully loaded International truck. The top five winners in that contest, as well as the Company Driver of the Year contest, will receive cash, trucking supplies, gift cards and other prizes.
The top three winners for both contests will be announced and presented during the TCA 2005 annual convention March 6-9 in Las Vegas.

Independent Contractor of the Year finalists are:
Daniel Beber, Polk, Neb.; Warren Transport

  • Albert Beck, Big Lake, Minn.; Dart Transit
  • Constance and Lanny Beyer, Hancock, Minn.; Midwest Coast Transport
  • Donald Choulward, Sabattus, Maine; Pottle’s Transportation
  • Earl Faro, Trout Creek, Mont.; Sammons Trucking
  • Jerry Johnson, West Plains, Mo.; O&S Trucking
  • Debra and Robert Jurashen, Bedford, Ind.; Landstar Ranger
  • Robert McCray, Chatham, Ill.; Warren Transport
  • Roy McKenzie, Chatham, Va.; Epes Transport
  • Jimmy McSwain, Winter Haven, Fla.; Sunco Carriers
  • Steven Recker, New Hampton, Iowa; Warren Transport
  • Larry Severson, Vadnais Heights, Minn.; Dart Transit
  • Dennis Siler, Okeechobee, Fla.; Dart Transit
  • James Thompson, Woodland, Calif.; Swift Transportation
  • Charles Valentine, Mount Hope, W.Va.; Epes Transport
  • Ronald Warner, Missoula, Mont.; Davis Transport
  • Michael Wiest, Fredericksburg, Pa.; FedEx Ground


    President Bush’s victorious re-election campaign was supported by the American Trucking Associations, while trucking’s candidates on Capitol Hill won their races, as well.

    In races for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, ATA and the Missouri-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association lent the most financial support to two Missouri Republicans, who both won. U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond retained his seat in a race against Democratic state treasurer Nancy Farmer, and in U.S. House District 7, Rep. Roy Blunt, the U.S. House majority whip, was re-elected over Democrat Jim Newberry.

    Financial support information was provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group that uses data from the Federal Election Commission.

    Other ATA-supported candidates in both House and Senate races, all Republicans, won as well.

    In Ohio, incumbent U.S. Sen. George Voinovich easily won over Democratic challenger Eric Fingerhut. In New Hampshire, incumbent U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg scored a clear victory over Democrat Doris “Granny D” Haddock, and in Kansas, incumbent U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback won a second term against Democrat Lee Jones.

    In South Carolina, Jim DeMint edged Democrat Inez Tenenbaum for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democrat Ernest Hollings, while incumbent 1st District Congressman Henry E. Brown Jr. beat the Green Party’s James Dunn.

    OOIDA support also went to U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who was re-elected over Republican Mark Groettum.

    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.

    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.

    New federal rules affecting driver hiring took effect Oct. 30.

    The regulation requires employers to review the safety records of prospective truck and bus drivers and mandates that former employers make that information available to prospective employers.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule, issued March 30, outlines the minimum driver safety performance history data that new or prospective employers must seek. The regulation is meant to help carriers obtain more driver safety information and limits the liability of those required to provide and use the information.

    Employers must tell applicants that they have the right to request correction or refute what a previous employer provided in their safety history. Previous employers must respond within 30 days to questions by prospective employers investigating an applicant.

    Previous employers are now required to confirm employment up to three years back and provide other information, such as crash involvement. Finally, past employers must report alcohol and controlled substance violations, rehabilitation efforts and any reversion to illegal alcohol or controlled substances if rehabilitation was unsuccessful.

    The FMCSA has stated it will investigate carriers that fail to check compliance. The final rule is at this site. It is Docket No. FMCSA-97-2277.

    Pennsylvania Turnpike officials say that if their workers strike, commercial vehicle drivers who use E-ZPass or cash will have to pay a flat toll of $15, regardless of distance traveled.

    After management and union employees, represented by Teamsters, reached a negotiations impasse Oct. 26, turnpike management issued a statement that toll collectors and maintenance workers had alerted them of their right to strike without notice.

    The union employees have been working without a contract since their three-year contract expired Sept. 30.

    Joseph Brimmeier, the turnpike’s chief executive officer, said the commission will keep the interchanges staffed with toll collectors in the event of a strike.

    No toll tickets will be issued at entry, and toll collectors will accept cash only. Commercial credit cards will not be accepted.

    Truck is the main mode for transporting grain in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

    “Transportation of U.S. Grains: A Modal Share Analysis, 1978-2000” is an update of a 1998 study. All transportation modes showed an increase in absolute tons moved since 1998, but rail and barge shares decreased while trucking’s share increased, the study said. In 2000, the most recent year covered by the study, trucks transported 68.4 percent of all U.S. grains.

    “There is a reason that trucks now move the majority of all the major agricultural and food commodities transported in the United States,” said Charles Whittington, chairman of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference and a vice chairman of the American Trucking Associations. “Shippers see us as highly efficient, cost effective and able to provide problem-free service.”

    The report covers changes in the competitiveness and relative efficiencies among trucking, rail and barge – the major transportation modes for grain. The report is posted at this site.

    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 I-10 near Columbus by December, TxDOT 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 and next year to, both state-sponsored sites.

    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.
    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
    • Krystal: 50 of the fast-food chain’s locations from Texas to Florida. A list is at
    • Panera Bread Company/St. Louis Bread Company: 400 cafes nationwide. Look for the Wi-Fi sticker in the window.
    • Port City Java: all 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


    “Truckers welcome” and “No trucks” signs at the same exit can be confusing. But truckers on New York Highway 17 – soon to be I-86 – east of Elmira, near Ashland, just have to deal with it.

    Route 17 Video and Gifts, an adult bookstore at Exit 58, has billboards on either side of the exit welcoming truckers. But Chemung County officials have placed “No trucks” signs on the off-ramps.

    When owner-operator Chuck Colley of Endicott, N.Y., visited the store to buy a birthday card, a New York state trooper ticketed him. “I thought they meant no through trucks,” Colley says. “It’s ridiculous. It’s less than 200 feet from the exit ramp to the parking lot.”

    Truckers who don’t heed the sign will be ticketed for failure to obey, which is a points violation, says Sgt. Arthur Cady of the New York State Police in Horseheads. Moreover, “If they park on the highway shoulder and walk to the store, they’ll get a parking ticket.” The top fine in either case is $100 plus a surcharge.

    “It’s an ongoing pattern of harassment,” says store owner Ed Braunstein, who adds that big trucks used the exit all the time until a neighboring truck stop closed. The exit is for County Road 60, from which big trucks have been banned. County Road 60 is also the only access to the store, since the conversion of Highway 17 to the limited-access I-86.

    Braunstein argues that federal law guarantees truckers access from interstates to other primary highways, as well as access to service and rest facilities. “I’m asking any driver who lives in the area and gets a ticket to contact me,” Braunstein says. “If he will agree to plead not guilty and appear in court, my lawyer will take the case. I will pay all the legal fees.”

    Ashland Town Justice Robert Green believes the dispute will be settled not by lawyers but by developers. “This thing is going to take care of itself when the access road that runs alongside the highway is finished,” Green says. “That will allow access for big trucks to the hotels along the highway.”

    Trucker and journalist Tim Barton, former equipment editor for Overdrive and Truckers News, begins the second leg of his around-the-world trucking odyssey in Ireland in January.

    Barton proposes in 2005 to drive a series of big rigs across Europe through the Balkans to China, Turkey, India, Mongolia and Russia, arriving in Moscow in June. Between India and Mongolia, Barton will fly to Australia to drive across that continent, too.

    Barton’s Nomad World Truck Tour, sponsored by Volvo, Michelin Tire, Shell Oil and Flying J, began April 6 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The first leg of the trip included Madrid, Spain; Marrakesh, Morocco; Cape Town, South Africa; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Vancouver, British Columbia. If all goes well, by June 2005 Barton will have driven a big rig across every continent but Antarctica. So far, Barton has driven into anti-European Union riots in Barcelona, Spain, and into an uprising of native peoples in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

    Web travelers can follow his progress at this site.

    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.

    But this newest legislation reduces the fee 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.

    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, which 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.

    ALABAMA. A fiery tanker crash Oct. 21 destroyed an overpass at the intersection of I-20/59 and I-65 in Birmingham, and trucks are advised to avoid the area during repairs, which officials hope to complete by Jan. 1. I-459 south of the city is an option for east-west traffic.

    FLORIDA. One lane remains open in each direction on the I-10 Escambia Bay bridge damaged by Hurricane Ivan. The speed limit is 40 mph, and oversized and overweight vehicles are prohibited. Detour information is at this site.

    MARYLAND. Two westbound lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are closed for much of each weekday until resurfacing is completed. Eastbound lanes are unaffected. A complete schedule is at this site.

    NORTH CAROLINA. A newly opened seven-mile leg of I-485 connects I-77 and I-85 west of Charlotte, offering a less congested alternative to the Billy Graham Parkway, but I-485 east of I-77 is more congested than ever.

    OHIO. The Wyandot and Blue Heron service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike at Woodville Township are scheduled to reopen by May. The renovated plazas will include restaurants, gift shops and truckers’ lounges with showers and washer/dryers.

    CINGULAR WIRELESS will buy AT&T Wireless in a $41 billion deal approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Cingular is used by 14 percent of owner-operators, AT&T by 20 percent, according to the 2004 Overdrive Reader Profile.

    OPERATION AIR BRAKE, an annual event organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, resulted in 20.2 percent of inspected vehicles placed out of service for brake component or brake adjustment violations in September, an increase from 2003.

    INTERMODAL CARRIERS won’t be responsible for latent equipment defects in the new standard industry contract, expected to take effect in January. Equipment providers will be held accountable for their own equipment, but carriers still must perform a pre-trip inspection.

    PETRO HAS EXPANDED its Petro:Lube Truck Service Center in Ruther Glen, Va.

    WESTERN STAR has 11 new dealer locations: Transwest Trucks, Commerce City, Colo.; Delta Truck Center, French Camp, Calif.; Bakersfield Truck Center, Bakersfield, Calif.; Centre du Camion Mont-Laurier, Des Ruisseaux, Quebec; Western Star and Freightliner of Laredo, Laredo, Texas; Stoops Western Star and Freightliner/Quality Trailer, Fremont, Ind.; Pacific Detroit Diesel-Allison, Kapolei, Hawaii; Farmington Freightliner, Sterling and Western Star, Farmington, N.M.; Peach State Truck Center, Byron, Ga.; Kansas Truck Center, Wichita, Kan.; and Papé Machinery, Tangent, Ore.

    STERLING TRUCK has six new dealer locations: Western Star and Sterling Trucks of Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie, Alberta; Tri State Truck Center, Shrewsbury, Mass.; Quality Truck Care Center, Fond du Lac, Wis.; Peach State Truck Center, Byron, Ga.; Kansas Truck Center, Wichita, Kan.; and Papé Machinery, Tangent, Ore.

    PILOT TRAVEL CENTERS bought the Davis Brothers travel center on I-75 in Vienna, Ga.

    DONALDSON has a new online Emissions Resource Center at

    IDLEAIRE units will be installed in 160 parking spaces along I-85 in Georgia and the Carolinas, thanks to a federal grant. Sites include the Anderson Auto Truck Plaza in Anderson, S.C., the Petro in Mebane, N.C., and the Pilot in Newnan, Ga. IdleAire units also have been installed at the TravelCenters of America on I-295 in Paulsboro, N.J.

    RUSH ENTERPRISES has bought both Dallas Peterbilt and Nashville Peterbilt.

    GREAT DANE TRAILERS bought the Wabash National plant in Scott County, Tenn.

    EXPEDITER TRAINING will be offered by Jan. 21 in Las Vegas. Visit this site.

    TRAVELCENTERS OF AMERICA now accepts Wright Express cards at all its locations.

    THE 9TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS upheld a lower court’s award of more than $1 million to Internet Truckstop in its lawsuit, claiming computer fraud and abuse, against competitor

    LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS has a new location on U.S. 60 in Clovis, N.M.

    TRUCKER BUDDY’S 2005 calendar, of children’s artwork, sponsored by Kenworth, is free with a donation to Trucker Buddy by year’s end: (800) 692-8339.

    GREATWEST KENWORTH has a new 35,000-square-foot facility in Clairmont, Alberta, replacing its location in nearby Grande Prairie.

    THE MIDNIGHT TRUCKING Radio Network added these accident-free drivers to its Million Mile Club, sponsored by Chevron Delo: Cal Cavendish of Calgary, Alberta; Richard Gonzalez of South Houston, Texas; Steven Craig of Mundelein, Ill.; William Isom of Morristown, Tenn.; Keith Lovette of Lowell, Ariz.; Steven Peterson of Lowell, Ariz.; George French of Joplin, Mo.; and Jesse Milburn of Little Rock, Ark.

    CANADA NATIONAL DRIVER OF THE YEAR is Georges Leblanc, who hauls for Armour Transportation Systems of Moncton, New Brunswick. He wins prizes courtesy of Volvo Trucks Canada.

    THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL and Prevention awarded researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts a $3 million grant to help truckers stop smoking and lose weight via the telephone. The institute will partner with Teamsters.

    THE CAPITOL HOLIDAY TREE for 2004 was to be hauled from the George Washington National
    Forest in Virginia to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., by Camrett Logistics on a Great Dane Freedom flatbed.

    NEW CHASSIS SAFETY RULES have been postponed until spring by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration because it is busy working on new hours-of-service rules.

    AMERICA’S ROAD TEAM finalists were named by the American Trucking Associations. The 30 drivers will compete in a final round Jan. 10-12, 2005, at ATA headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

    SLOAN TRANSPORTATION PRODUCTS now awards $1,000 scholarships to students in the automotive aftermarket management program at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., who plan careers in the heavy-duty industry.