Industry News

The rate of fatalities from big truck accidents declined in 2004, after a small increase in 2003, according to preliminary data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Cautioning the data was still being tabulated, Warren Hoeman, deputy administrator for FMCSA, says commercial motor vehicle fatality rates fell from 2.31 per 100 million miles traveled to an estimated 2.23. The agency’s goal is 1.65 fatalities for every 100 million trucking miles by 2008.

In 2003, the truck fatality rate rose, though slightly, for the first time since 1997, climbing from 2.30 to 2.31. Overall, the agency has traced an 18 percent decline in the truck fatality rate from 1996 to 2003.

Hoeman’s remarks came at a forum on FMCSA safety initiatives Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C.

Preliminary data was also released from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, an ambitious FMCSA project to gather data on why truck crashes occur. Ralph Craft, a crash data analyst, says vehicle condition and environmental issues play only a small role in crashes, while driver behavior is the chief culprit.

Craft studied 287 accidents in which cars and trucks collided. When the truck driver was at fault, the following factors played a critical role:

  • Driver nonperformance/sickness or sleep – 3 percent.
  • Driver recognition/inattention – 46 percent.
  • Driver decision/misjudging a distance – 36 percent.
  • Driver performance/poor control over the vehicle – 5 percent.

When motorists were to blame, driver nonperformance, recognition and decision also played heavy roles. In the sample, truckers were blamed for 87 of the 287 accidents; motorists were responsible for the remainder.

Overdrive and American Truck Business Services will present the magazine’s Partners in Business seminar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 2 during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

The program teaches basic and advanced business skills to current and future owner-operators. Admission is free.

Jeff Amen and Richard DeForest, ATBS vice presidents, will present “How To Make More Money and Keep It.” As the nation’s largest owner-operator financial services company, ATBS tracks industry averages for all aspects of contractor operations and helps its clients maximize revenue and cut costs. The seminar will cover, in addition to revenue and costs, such topics as choosing loads and the importance of attitude.

The trucking community is reaching into its pockets to help tsunami victims.

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More than 225,000 people died in the Dec. 26 tidal wave that affected 12 countries around the Indian Ocean.

UPS will provide $3 million in cash and services to tsunami relief, including a match of up to $100,000 in employee contributions. The company plans to ship up to 1 million pounds of emergency supplies weekly.

Royal Dutch/Shell pledged $3 million through the American Red Cross with another $1 million from Shell divisions worldwide, including $350,000 from Shell Oil and refiner Motiva Enterprises, both based in Houston.

The Caterpillar Foundation has committed $1 million. Caterpillar will also match employee contributions up to $2,000 per person. Caterpillar dealers in the Asia-Pacific region have made equipment and personnel available to help in the recovery.

Michelin pledged $2 million to be divided between the Thai government and non-governmental organizations in other affected countries.

Paccar, parent company of Kenworth and Peterbilt, pledged $1 million through the American Red Cross.

Dana Corp. contributed $100,000 to Red Cross relief efforts.

The Alcoa Foundation, supported by the aluminum manufacturer, contributed $25,000 to the American Red Cross and will match employee contributions as well. Alcoa of Australia donated $30,000 to other relief groups.

Randall Publishing Co., which produces the Great American Trucking Show and publishes Overdrive, will match employee contributions to the American Red Cross tsunami fund up to $5,000.

A list of tsunami relief organizations is online at this site. Those interested in contributing via the American Red Cross can do so at this site or (800) 435-7669.

Carroll Benn, an owner-operator leased to Dart Transit, took delivery in December of a new International 9900ix, part of his prize package as the 2003 Truckload Carriers Association Independent Contractor of the Year.

Benn picked up the keys to the truck, built to his specifications, at the Prairie International dealership in Quincy, Ill. Benn has been driving professionally for 35 years, 18 of them as an owner-operator, and has more than 3 million miles without an accident or a late delivery.

“Driving a truck was my childhood dream,” says Benn, a native of Center, Mo. “I wouldn’t do anything else, no matter how much it paid.”

The Independent Contractor of the Year contest is co-sponsored by TCA and Overdrive.

Benn’s new truck has all aluminum wheels, a 525-hp Cummins ISX engine, a Road Ranger 18-speed transmission and a 72-inch integrated Sky Rise Pro Sleeper that includes swivel and reclining seats, a TV/VCR, a refrigerator, keyless entry and power windows.

Thirteen truck drivers from nine major carriers have been named to the 2005-2006 America’s Road Team:

Jerry Adams, Bi-Lo
Richard Alford, ABF Freight Systems
Jerry Avossa, FedEx Freight East
Randy Broderick, FedEx Freight East
Ted Cash, CR England
Ralph Garcia, ABF Freight Systems
Charles “Skip” Goodrich Jr., Overnite Transportation
Phillip Gould, Jevic Transportation
David May, Con-Way Central Express
Steven Norbeck, Roadway Express
Joseph Orie, FedEx Ground
Linda Schriner, FedEx Ground
Jeff Vermillion, Con-Way Western Express

The group is diverse. Schriner, for example, is an owner-operator and driver-trainer for the FedEx Ground Line Haul Orientation Program. In addition to driving, she oversees the day-to-day operations of more than 20 trucks and 30 drivers.

Garcia volunteers as a Little League coach, has been a truck driving champion and counts power lifting among his hobbies. Cash, twice named a Highway Angel for his life-saving efforts on the road, is a Vietnam veteran who enjoys teaching schoolchildren about safety around large trucks. Adams plays harmonica in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

The group will spend the next two years representing the trucking industry for the American Trucking Associations.

America’s Road Team is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America. The program is in its 20th year.

Arctic Express emerged from bankruptcy Nov. 2, when the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbus, Ohio, approved its reorganization.

The temperature-controlled freight carrier, based in Hilliard, Ohio, filed for Chapter 11 protection Oct. 31, 2003. One of the contributing factors was a lawsuit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which contended that Arctic had wrongly withheld escrow money from owner-operators who leased trucks from Arctic.

A federal judge agreed, saying Arctic had violated federal leasing regulations. A trial to determine damages was to have begun in November 2003, but Arctic’s bankruptcy filing canceled that proceeding.

OOIDA had sought $16 million in damages. Under the reorganization plan, Arctic pledges to pay $900,000 to OOIDA over the next four years.

“The resolution of the OOIDA lawsuit was key to the success of the bankruptcy case,” says Richard Durst, Arctic’s owner and CEO. With both bankruptcy and lawsuit over, Durst says, Arctic can focus its attention on improving business.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on all counts in its class-action suit against Ledar Transport.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. of the Western District of Missouri ruled that the leases and conduct of Carl and Scott Higgs, owners of the Kansas City-based carrier, “were not in substantial compliance with the federal truth-in-leasing regulations.” Damages have not been determined.

A Ledar spokesperson declined comment.

Jim Johnston, association president and chief executive officer, said the ruling in favor of more than 650 drivers was a victory because the court held the carrier owners “personally liable.”

“This should send shivers down the spines of those folks who have heretofore felt they could rip off truckers and avoid personal liability by hiding behind the corporate veil,” Johnston said.

OOIDA filed the suit in March 2000, alleging that the company took “questionable and excessive chargebacks from their pay settlements.”

Rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court, air-pollution regulators in the Los Angeles area are asking the state of California for help in their crusade against diesel engines.

According to an 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April 2004, only the state of California, not the thousands of smaller governments within California, has the authority to mandate that private fleets shift to lower-emission vehicles, as the South Coast Air Quality Management District mandated in 2000 and 2001 for the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside.

Undaunted, the district has asked the California Air Resource Board to endorse its mandate. The district also is soliciting public comment with fliers headlined, “Clean Air Is Under Attack!”

“We don’t think they’ll be able to do it, but it would be a disaster” if they did, said Stephanie Williams, senior vice president of the California Trucking Association, which is lobbying the district’s board members to reverse their position. “What they are doing is clearly illegal under the Clean Air Act.”

The New York Thruway Authority Board has initially approved a toll hike that would mean a 35 percent increase for commercial vehicle drivers May 1.

The board passed the proposal Dec. 16 to fund a $2 billion road improvement plan for the 641-mile Thruway. The proposal has to pass the review process, which includes public hearings. Board members will vote on the final proposal in April. The increase would be the Thruway’s first since 1988.

William Joyce, president of the New York Motor Truck Association, notes that passenger vehicles would pay only a 25 percent increase.

“What strikes me as funny is what little opposition there has been,” Joyce says. “If there’s a bright light out there, it’s that they [truckers] would no longer have to pay a premium for 53-foot trailers.”

Commercial E-ZPass customers would get a 5 percent discount and be eligible for volume discounts.

As of Jan. 1, five-axle truck drivers pay $3 to $4 at Illinois tollway plazas instead of the previous $1.25 to $1.50.

The truck rate increases whether or not trucks use I-Pass. Passenger vehicles that use I-PASS, on the other hand, haven’t seen their tolls increase at all. To trucker Larry Eslick, who figures the toll increase will cost him more than $4,000 a year, that difference is a clear case of “discrimination against truckers.”

“It was shotgunned through, and nobody had time to react to it,” says Eslick, who complained to the governor, his congressman, his U.S. senators and the American Civil Liberties Union, to no avail.

Highway administrators argue that trucks should pay higher tolls than automobiles because they cause more wear and tear on the roadway. The tollway authority says the toll per mile for a five-axle truck will be 31 cents.

“The tolls are not discriminatory,” says Joelle McGinnis, tollway authority press secretary.

The Midwest Truckers Association views the new rates – Illinois’ first toll increase in 20 years – as good for trucking in the long run, because they will pay for road improvements that will speed travel and make it safer, such as the south extension of I-355 and the long-term elimination of toll booths. “We view the increase as a necessary evil,” says Don Schaefer, MTA executive vice president.

On Jan. 1 the Colorado State Patrol began ticketing all vehicles that drive in the left lane while not passing.

The officers are enforcing a 2004 law passed by the state Legislature.

“We gave them a six-month grace period, and now we are ticketing offenders,” says Don Moseman, a Colorado State Patrol public information officer.

The law allows troopers to ticket anyone traveling in the far left lane on a multilane road with a speed limit of 65 mph or greater.

A driver can’t be ticketed if the traffic does not allow a return from the left lane, Moseman says. This would occur during rush hour or any other time of dense traffic when all lanes are in use.

“People get mad when they are trying to pass someone, and there is someone going too slow in the passing lane,” Moseman says. “This legislation seeks to reduce that.”

A furniture delivery truck in Little Rock, Ark., was taken for a ride – by a 10-year-old boy.

The boy, whose name was not released, was involved in a Dec. 7 disturbance on a Little Rock School District bus for children with special needs. When the driver stopped the bus, the boy escaped through the rear door and ran to a Pettus Office Supply truck, which was sitting unattended with the engine running, Little Rock police said.

The boy drove off in the vehicle, and police gave chase along I-630, though speeds never climbed above 40 mph. After 15 minutes, the boy lost control, drove off the road and got stuck in the mud.

The boy’s guardian said he had a history of health problems, and she planned to have him admitted to a behavioral hospital. A Pettus Office Supply spokesman said the company would not press charges.

Oklahoma troopers say they found 610 pounds of marijuana inside a truckload of coffins.

On Dec. 10, a State Patrol officer pulled over a truck hauling caskets on I-40 eastbound in Sallisaw, Okla. It was going 67 in a 60 mph zone.

The trooper noted that driver Timothy Hynd and passenger Robert Harper seemed nervous and gave inconsistent stories, so he asked permission to search the vehicle.

When the K-9 unit arrived, troopers found four of the caskets stuffed with marijuana.

The suspects, who were driving from Tucson, Ariz., to Atlanta, were released on bond Dec. 13. Both said they had no idea the marijuana was in the coffins.

The possible misuse of security checks and the giving of hazmat endorsements to foreign drivers are among concerns raised with the federal government by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The comments were submitted Dec. 27 to the Transportation Security Administration in response to its interim final rule to require states to deny hazmat endorsements to commercial driver’s license holders if the agency identifies them as security threats.

Drivers’ biggest worry “is that private information will be misused or that incorrect or ambiguous information will become attached to their professional reputation and work history,” the association wrote.

The association would like TSA to design a quicker procedure so drivers who believe they have been wrongly labeled as security threats can act quickly to clear their names.

The association also stated its opposition to giving endorsements to non-citizens and non-permanent residents because their backgrounds cannot be as effectively checked as those of American drivers.

OOIDA also advocated a precaution not proposed by the TSA. If the agency identifies drivers as security threats, then OOIDA believes those drivers should be denied not only their hazmat endorsements but their CDLs as well. Trucks containing non-hazmat loads also can be used to commit terrorism, the association noted.

The American Trucking Associations believes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest hours of service proposal errs in not specifying the number and type of supporting documents that may be used by motor carriers to prove they are in compliance.
The FMCSA proposes “that any piece of electronic data must be maintained as a supporting document,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA vice president.

Osiecki said the FMCSA needs either to specify the documentation or to allow the industry to create its own documentation system.

The oversight office of the U.S. Department of Transportation has reported that the agency is now issuing rules more expediently, though some are more than 13 years overdue – and counting.

The DOT’s Office of Inspector General said the DOT completed 39 percent more rules in 2004 than it did in 1999, but the average time to complete those rules increased from 3.9 years to 5.4 years.

TRUCK TONNAGE in 2004 through November was up 6.5 percent over the same period in 2003, said the American Trucking Associations. Also, the freight component of the federal Transportation Services Index increased in October to 127.6, a figure 5.9 percent higher than the previous October.

LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPS opened new locations on I-75 in Corbin, Ky., and on I-95 in Skippers, Va.

PILOT TRAVEL CENTERS bought two I-65 locations in Kentucky from Davis Brothers Oil: Lebanon Junction and Sonora, both south of Louisville.

PETRO:LUBE opened a new location on I-44 in Joplin, Mo.

TRUCK TRANSPORTATION revenues reached $172 billion in 2003, up 2.5 percent from the year before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. General freight contributed about two-thirds of all trucking revenue; specialized freight accounted for the rest. The figures did not count private fleet revenue.

AN ONLINE CDL COURSE that entry-level drivers can take at their own pace is offered by Wichita Area Technical College in Kansas, at this site.

SIRIUS has the best satellite radio programming, according to automotive website Sirius also signed an agreement with NAVTEQ to provide real-time traffic data to listeners in 30 initial markets. Freightliner is offering buyers a year of free Sirius radio with a factory-installed Delphi stereo system and Sirius Satellite Radio tuner.

JIM GRANT of Trebar Kenworth Sales in Boise, Idaho, was named chair of the 2005 Kenworth
Service Council.

VOLVO TRUCKS North America opened a parts distribution center in Dallas, its sixth.

ST. JUDE Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., received $86,250 from Petro Stopping Centers customers during the hospital’s 13th annual Halloween fund-raiser.

TRAVELCENTERS OF AMERICA bought 11 Rip Griffin interstate travel centers from Truck Service Center.

THE GREAT RACE, an annual cross-country rally for automobiles, will make a pit stop July 1 at the Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa. Further information is available at

THE MIDNIGHT TRUCKING Radio Network added 18 accident-free drivers to its Million Mile Club, sponsored by Chevron Delo: Tony Sutherland, Garnett Patterson, Mike Sigman, James Bleil, David Slama, Steve Smith, Cindy Dressler, Rick Pfeiffer, Stanley Sipula, Steven Buggs, Steven Bell, Jim Peck, Ronald Constance, Alan Orr, Juan Salinas, Bobby Chilcoat, Mike Williams and Bruce Griffin.

WRIGHT EXPRESS cards are now accepted at more than 4,000 DaimlerChrysler dealerships.

PILOT TRAVEL CENTERS was fined $125,000 by the Federal Communications Commission on charges of selling unauthorized CB transmitters mislabeled as amateur radio systems. ARS devices are not subject to the same authorization requirements as CB transmitters, but some ARS transmitters have switches that allow CB operation after minor internal modifications.


CALIFORNIA. A third northbound lane opens in February at the intersection of I-15 and I-215 at Devore, west of San Bernardino.

MICHIGAN. A new truck-only parking area is on I-69 northbound at Tekonsha, just north of state Highway 60. There are no restrooms.

NORTH CAROLINA. Through the spring, I-40 just east of the Tennessee line is reduced to one lane in each direction. The state suggests I-26 and I-81 via Johnson City, Tenn., as an alternate Asheville-to-Knoxville route at peak times.

OKLAHOMA. Beginning in May, and lasting for as long as eight months, construction will reduce U.S. 69 in Muskogee to one lane in each direction. Trucks are urged to use the Muskogee Turnpike instead.

VIRGINIA. A height limit of 13 feet, 6 inches is now strictly enforced in the westbound lanes of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, I-64 between Norfolk and Hampton. Trucks higher than that are forced to detour through the I-664 tunnel. Also, a 2-mile stretch of the new U.S. 29 bypass, between U.S. 460 and the Virginia 210 Connector, is open at Madison Heights, north of Lynchburg.