ATA ECONOMIST EXPECTS YEARS OF STRONG FREIGHT
Expect plenty of freight in the coming years, but no relief from costly fuel, said a top trucking economist. Freight has slacked a little, “but when we get back to the fall freight season, it’s going to be very tight again,” said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. He addressed about 400 industry executives at the May 24-25 Randall Trucking Spring Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Reports that U.S. manufacturing is dying because production is moving out of the country are misleading because they look only at jobs, Costello said. Technology gains allowed U.S. manufacturers to increase production by 60 percent during the 1990s, yet the manufacturing work force dropped 1 percent.
“U.S. manufacturers are going to continue to produce more – more to be hauled in trucks,” he said. “What they’re not going to do is create jobs.”
The Gross Domestic Product should continue growing at about 3.3 percent each year, Costello said – a steady rate that should deter the Federal Reserve from frequent interest rate changes. Combine those trends with expectations of low inflation and reduced federal spending, and GDP growth should be good for the next five years, he said.
For-hire truck tonnage grew 5.7 percent in 2004, the biggest increase since 1998, Costello said. Less-than-truckload has seen the strongest increase in freight volumes, 16.4 percent, based on year-to-date figures through March versus a year ago, Costello said. Reefer is next highest, followed by flatbed.
During the same period there have been “unprecedented increases in average revenue per mile,” Costello said. Truckload revenue per mile is up 13.3 percent. LTL revenue per ton is up 7.7 percent.
The industry appears to be adding enough trucks to keep up with demand, he said. Working against capacity, however, are the inability of startup carriers to quickly assume the roles played by larger carriers that failed during the recession, loss of productivity from hours-of-service changes, a tight lending market, and a shortage of drivers, Costello said.
Fuel costs, too, will be a long-term problem. Increasing price volatility makes predictions difficult, but Costello said forecasts of lower prices from 2007 to 2010 are probably too optimistic.
The Randall Trucking Spring Symposium was sponsored by Randall Publishing Co., parent of Overdrive, Truckers News and CCJ magazines and eTrucker.com.
TRUCKER WHO WAS CAPTIVE IN IRAQ TELLS HIS STORY
Thomas Hamill, a Macon, Miss., trucker and dairy farmer, went to Iraq to haul freight for the war effort and make good money. Shot and kidnapped April 9, 2004, by insurgents who attacked his convoy, Hamill spent 24 days in captivity.
Hamill told about 400 attendees at Randall Publishing’s Spring Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., May 25, that prayer sustained him and that he had God to thank for his escape. “I never did get discouraged,” he said.
He also signed copies of his book Escape in Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story, accompanied by his co-writer, journalist Paul T. Brown.
Of his experience leading truck convoys in Iraq, Hamill said: “Most days we’d go out and things were fine. Some days just like driving over here – you had to stay out of the way of crazy Iraqi drivers.” Other days, a roadside bomb would go off, or small-arms fire would spray the truck.
The day of his capture, however, Hamill’s convoy drove into a sustained, miles-long barrage of enemy fire. Tractor-trailers exploded, jackknifed and overturned, while the trucks still moving slowed to a crawl on a slick of spilled diesel. Hamill was shot in the arm and fell into enemy hands when his rig finally died and he was unable to reach a U.S. Army Humvee in time.
For the next few weeks, in a series of hideouts, Hamill tried unsuccessfully to signal to U.S. helicopters and passing U.S. convoys. Finally he made a successful break to freedom May 2.
He told fleet owners at the symposium, “If you have drivers working over there or thinking about working over there, give them your blessing. I hope you’ll open your arms and give them a job back when they come home.”
GINGRICH CHAMPIONS HYDROGEN TRUCK ENGINE
“If you aren’t an optimist about the future, you don’t understand America,” Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House, told about 400 Randall Trucking Spring Symposium attendees May 24.
“It doesn’t matter what anyone else does,” Gingrich said. “It matters what we do. A free people can change anything.”
Speaking in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Gingrich did not allude to talk that he is considering a 2008 Republican run for president, but he shared his views on “litigation, taxation, regulation and education,” as well as health-care costs, oil imports and other hot issues. He also directed attendees to his website, www.newt.org, and his new book, Winning the Future: A 21st-Century Contract with Americ.
Gingrich strongly advocates new engine technology. “A hydrogen engine changes the whole economy. It wipes out all the problems of the Kyoto accords, because its only byproduct is water. It eliminates our dependence on the Middle East. And when it happens, it’ll happen in trucks first.”
To ensure a consistent energy supply, “the United States must invest in more alternate fuels” rather than being economically dependent on “medieval kingdoms,” Gingrich said. “Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan – these are not stable places.”
Gingrich added that while the long-term price of gasoline and diesel fuel will go up a bit, he doesn’t expect it to go “through the roof” unless a major oil producer such as Saudi Arabia or Venezuela collapses politically.
The next 25 years, Gingrich said, will bring more change than the past century did. “Even Wal-Mart has to wake up every morning and worry. You’ve got to plan for continuous change. We’re headed toward big changes, and we need big ideas.”
Gingrich’s biggest applause came when he told attendees, primarily fleet executives, that he thinks the Internal Revenue Service should allow all equipment purchases to be written off on taxes the first year, as an incentive to companies to keep buying.
PRIDE & POLISH, PARTNERS IN BUSINESS RETURN TO GATS
What does it take to succeed as an owner-operator? Attendees at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas will have a chance to find out Aug. 26, when Overdrive holds its next Partners in Business seminar. Presented by American Truck Business Services of Denver, the nation’s largest owner-operator financial services firm, the seminar will be 1-3 p.m. Friday in the Dallas Convention Center. Admission is free.
Another GATS highlight is the Overdrive Pride & Polish competition. The show trucks will be displayed inside the convention center, rain or shine.
GATS’ attendees will also enjoy free concerts by two country stars. Sponsored by Mobil Delvac, Terri Clark will perform Aug. 26. Sammy Kershaw, sponsored by Volvo Trucks, will perform Aug. 27. Free tickets for both shows will be distributed at GATS to registered attendees on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also at the show will be a Highway Watch certification program, free seminars and the Freightliner Big Rig Redo, in which trucks will get interior and exterior makeovers.
On Friday, Aug. 26, Mobil Delvac will celebrate its 80th anniversary by giving away $80 worth of oil every 80 minutes.
On-site truck parking is free. For more information, call (800) 349-4287 or visit www.gatsonline.com.
WANTED: ONE UGLY TRUCK FOR A MAJOR MAKEOVER
Castrol wants to give the roughest looking truck it can find a makeover.
The grand prize winner of the Big Honkin’ Truck Makeover, sponsored by BP Lubricants Castrol Tection Extra, will receive an internal, external and communication makeover valued at $50,000. Vehicles Class 3 and above are eligible.
The first runner-up will receive a trip for two to the 2005 ACDelco National Hot Rod Association Nationals in Las Vegas.
The second runner-up wins a portable DVD player and a selection of DVDs.
Online registration has begun at the Castrol website. All submissions must include a vehicle photo and an essay of 50 words or less describing why your truck deserves to win. July 15 is the deadline for online entries, as well as the postmark deadline for mailed entries.
The three finalists will be announced at the Castrol booth at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Aug. 25-26. Convention attendees will rank the winners, and the grand prize winner will be announced Aug. 27, the final day of GATS.
Before and after photos of the winning truck will be featured on the Castrol website in December.
WORLD’S LARGEST TRUCK CONVOY IS SEPT. 24
Truckers and law enforcement are preparing for the 2005 World’s Largest Truck Convoy, Sept. 24.
Three thousand truck drivers and law enforcement representatives are expected to participate via separate convoys in 35 states and two Canadian provinces. Proceeds will benefit Special Olympics.
The convoy also seeks to maintain its place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Cpl. Norm Schneiderhan, special project coordinator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, Fla., started the convoy as a local event in 2001. Schneiderhan drove a truck for his father’s trucking company for three years before entering law enforcement. He launched the event not only to help Special Olympics, but also to highlight the camaraderie among truckers.
Participants must donate a $100 registration fee to their local Special Olympics and report to a designated staging location Sept. 24. For more information, visit this site and click “Support,” call (800) 700-8585, or e-mail.
FUEL TAX INCREASES: YES, NO AND MAYBE
Washington’s governor has signed a fuel tax increase of 9.5 cents per gallon, to be phased in during the next four years.
Minnesota’s governor, on the other hand, has vetoed a fuel tax increase of 10 cents per gallon.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma voters will decide in a special election the fate of a fuel tax increase of 8 cents per gallon for diesel and 5 cents per gallon for gasoline.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, signed an $8.5 billion state transportation budget that increases the tax from 28 cents per gallon. Each July, the tax will increase: 3 cents the first year, 3 cents the second year, 2 cents the third year and 1.5 cents the fourth year.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican sometimes mentioned as a 2008 presidential candidate, vetoed a bill that would have added a dime to the state’s current tax of 20 cents per gallon to fund road projects. The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates that road projects will face an annual $1 billion shortfall every year beginning in 2007.
Oklahoma voters will decide Sept. 13 whether to raise that state’s fuel taxes. Currently, Oklahoma taxes diesel at 14 cents per gallon and gasoline at 17 cents per gallon.
ONE IN 10 FOUR-WHEELERS WOULD FLUNK DRIVING TEST
A new survey found that many American drivers lack basic knowledge of driving rules and safety procedures.
The inaugural GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, which questioned almost 5,000 drivers nationwide, found that one in 10 would fail a state drivers exam if tested today.
Many drivers have difficulty with standard driving practices such as yielding for left turns and interpreting road signs. Half the respondents reported that they do not know how to merge into heavy traffic.
The results also show that one in five drivers do not know that pedestrians have the right of way at marked or unmarked crosswalks; one in three drivers speed up at yellow lights even when pedestrians are in crosswalks; and one in four drivers roll through stop signs instead of coming to a complete stop.
Twenty-nine percent admitted that they have driven with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit if they “felt okay.”
EPA GRANTS EXTENSION ON LOW-SULFUR DIESEL SALES
Retailers will have six more weeks to start selling ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in fall 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.
The retail compliance date will be pushed back from Sept. 1, 2006, to Oct. 15, 2006, to allow terminals and retail outlets more time to comply, EPA said.
The mandated fuel contains much less polluting sulfur than normal diesel fuel, 15 parts per million rather than the current standard of 500 ppm.
During the six weeks between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, diesel fuel with a 22-ppm sulfur level can be marketed as ultra-low-sulfur. The transition period reflects a concern that the new fuel, when traveling through existing pipelines, will be contaminated by old sulfur residues so that it comes out above 15 ppm.
EPA also announced it would establish a testing program, in cooperation with the fuel industry, to determine whether its current 2-ppm testing tolerance is sufficient.
The EPA’s announcements on the sulfur content do not affect the cleaner-burning diesel engines mandated for sale in 2007.
FMCSA PROPOSES REVISED REGISTRATION SYSTEM
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a revised registration system that would require every motor carrier, freight forwarder and broker to register with the agency.
The plan is designed to replace the four current identification and registration systems with a single on-line federal system. This should simplify registration and increase public access to data about interstate motor carriers, property brokers and freight forwarders, according to the notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register.
Currently, non-exempt for-hire motor carriers, freight forwarders and brokers who initially seek operating authority pay a $300 filing fee. Private carriers and exempt for-hire carriers, however, pay no filing fee when requesting a USDOT number.
The latest proposal would require all entities under FMCSA jurisdiction to pay a $200 registration fee.
The agency has changed the fee scale in an effort to make it more equitable. For example, carriers subject to Chapter 139 registration requirements now pay $14 for each name change request, whereas private and exempt for-hire carriers pay nothing. The new proposal would eliminate the fee for all registrants.
To access the full text of the proposal, go to this site and request DOT DMS Docket No FMCSA-97-2349. Those wishing to comment on the plan must do so by Aug. 17.
INTERNATIONAL OFFERS FACTORY-INSTALLED TRACKING
International Truck and Engine now offers factory-installed electronic tracking systems for medium and heavy trucks.
The comprehensive International Aware Vehicle Intelligence system prevents truck thefts, said Rob Swim, an International marketing director.
The engine shuts down unless an access code is entered within 7 seconds after starting, Swim said. If the code is incorrectly entered repeatedly, the system can be programmed to alert a phone number, beeper or e-mail address.
The technology tracks the truck’s location, speed and direction and offers a “geofence,” a virtual boundary on an electronic map beyond which trucks cannot cross without triggering an alert.
International debuted the system at the recent Homeland Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
FEDS ARREST 52 IN FLORIDA CDL SCHEME
Federal officials recently arrested 36 people on charges of illegally obtaining Florida commercial driver’s licenses, certifications to haul hazardous materials, or access to South Florida ports.
The arrests were part of a five-month investigation led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that led to 52 people being taken into custody, including several Florida driver’s license examiners, the ICE announced.
Similar enforcement efforts were conducted in Maryland and Michigan, resulting in seven arrests, the ICE announced.
The corrupt Florida examiners charged fees of $100 to $200 to falsely certify an illegal alien as a legal citizen, while the illegals paid go-betweens $1,500 to $3,000 for the service, the ICE announced.
FUEL SURCHARGE LEFT TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE
The highway bill passed in May by the U.S. Senate includes a limit on tolls on interstate highways, but no mandatory fuel surcharge.
The U.S. House version passed in March includes the surcharge but no toll limits. These and many other differences in the bills remain to be worked out in conference between the two bodies.
Leaders in both houses said they hoped to send a compromise version to the Oval Office before the current highway bill expired again June 30.
The conference committee tasked with ironing out the differences is chaired by U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who reminded conferees at their first meeting June 9 that they were celebrating the first anniversary of the last time the bill reached conferee stage. The long-term highway and mass transit funding bill that formally expired in 2003 received its seventh extension in May.
“We are making progress, and if we continue to meet and to discuss our concerns, there is simply no reason this bill cannot be sent to the president before the current extension expires on June 30,” Young said. “There must be no more extensions.”
The Senate passed the $295 billion bill by a vote of 89-11 on May 17 despite President Bush’s threat to veto any highway funding beyond the $284 billion approved by the House.
The amendment that would prevent tolls on existing interstate highway lanes passed the Senate by a voice vote May 10. It was sponsored by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, and Bill Nelson, D-Neb., and was popular among constituents who let their wishes be known through thousands of letters and phone calls.
A federally mandated fuel surcharge is supported by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and by the Truckload Carriers Association but opposed by the American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It also is opposed by the Bush administration; the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration testified against it in April.
The House bill would require any carrier, broker or freight forwarder using fuel that it didn’t pay for to pass along a surcharge to the person who bought the fuel.
The surcharge would apply during any period in which the current diesel price surpasses a benchmark price by 5 cents per gallon. It would expire once the current diesel fuel price equals or is less than the benchmark price. The House set the initial benchmark price at $1.10, with a provision to adjust it annually.
–JILL DUNN AND LANCE ORR
FLORIDA STORM DOESN’T DAMPEN SUPERRIGS SPIRITS
This past December, Kim and Tom Turner of Cynthiana, Ky., finally found their dream truck, a 1995 Peterbilt 379 with an oversized sleeper. So they gave it a name of dreams.
“El Dorado was the lost city of gold and jewels and gems,” Tom says. “I found my El Dorado.”
At the 2005 Shell Rotella SuperRigs truck beauty show, held June 9-11 at the 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Fla., El Dorado took home the gold for best truck, best interior and best theme. The truck also will be featured in the 2006 SuperRigs calendar.
More than 70 trucks braved Tropical Storm Arlene for the three-day show. Shell Rotella SuperRigs, in its 23rd year, is open only to working trucks; entrants must put at least 80,000 miles a year on their rigs. Winners included:
BEST OF SHOW. Kim and Tom Turner, Cynthiana, Ky., 1995 Peterbilt 379
TRACTOR. Clint Dicks, Lake City, Fla., 2000 Peterbilt 379
CLASSIC. Neal Holsomback, Sugar Valley, Ga., 1988 Peterbilt 379
TRACTOR-TRAILER. Paul Feigelson, Ocala, Fla., 2003 Peterbilt 379
BEST MURAL. Mike Penrod, Fargo, N.D., 2000 Freightliner Classic
BEST THEME. Kim and Tom Turner, Cynthiana, Ky., 1995 Peterbilt 379
BEST LIGHTS. Jerry and Allan Asbury, Vandalia, Ohio, 1999 Kenworth W900
BEST CHROME. Justin Ippolito, Jacksboro, Tenn., 2000 Peterbilt 379
BEST INTERIOR. Kim and Tom Turner, Cynthiana, Ky., 1995 Peterbilt 379
GOODYEAR HIGHWAY HERO finalist Pat Foraker of Quaker City, Ohio, is a company driver for Transport America of Eagan, Minn. Foraker’s company was incorrectly identified in the May Overdrive.
THE ANNUAL DELAY from rush hour traffic in U.S. urban areas has nearly tripled since 1982, from 16 hours to 47 hours per traveler, according to a Texas Transportation Institute study.
MAINTENANCE EXPENSES are highest for owner-operators, averaging 25 cents per mile, according to a Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association study. Production/distribution fleets enjoy the lowest maintenance expenses at 12 cents per mile.
CARBON MONOXIDE exposure worsens the effect of workplace noise and puts truckers at high risk of hearing loss, says a University of Montreal study.
EDMUND “KIP” HAWLEY, a former rail executive at Union Pacific, is President Bush’s choice to be the fourth Transportation Security Administration director in as many years.
STERLING TRUCKS now offers items such as jackets, shirts and tote bags online at this site.
TRUCK REPOSSESSIONS during the first quarter of 2005 increased 45 percent from the year before, reported Nassau Asset Management, though it cautions the figure does not necessarily indicate a trend.
THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX fell 0.9 percent in April to 114.3, the third consecutive monthly decline, the American Trucking Associations reported.
THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX for freight fell 1 percent to 129.5 in February, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported. The February level of freight traffic was still 4.5 percent higher than in February 2004.
THE MIDNIGHT TRUCKING Radio Network inducted 10 new members in May into its Million Mile Club, sponsored by Chevron Delo: Tommy Brazel Sr., Denis Franklin Cornwell Jr., Nicolas Deschenes, Phillip Fortin, David Layman, J. Melanie Longinotti, Darrel Miller, Mark Anthony Neal, Paul Nicholson and Roger Smith.
MACK TRUCKS opened a new parts distribution center in Memphis, Tenn., the company’s eighth in North America.
PETERBILT now offers automated service reminders via e-mail to TruckCare Maintenance Manager customers.
CATERPILLAR demonstrated a 2007 emission-compliant truck for President Bush in West Point, Va.
ARVINMERITOR announced a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer First Auto Works to make brakes in China for both the domestic and foreign markets.
ALABAMA. Resurfacing I-65 in Autauga County north of Montgomery may cause congestion and delays until fall.
COLORADO. Construction begins this summer on the Colorado Springs Metro Interstate Expansion, or COSMIX, which will widen 12 miles of I-25 to three lanes in each direction between the Bijou Interchange and North Academy Boulevard, with scheduled completion in winter 2007. For updates and a schedule, visit this site.
FLORIDA. A median guardrail is being installed along 180 miles of Florida’s Turnpike. Watch for slowdowns, traffic shifts and lane closures.
ILLINOIS. Construction of a massive flyover bridge south of Chicago will cause nighttime closures of I-80/294 this summer. For updates and a schedule, visit this site.
VIRGINIA. The new, lower speed limit is 50 mph on I-495 south of Washington, from Telegraph Road in Virginia to the Indian Head Highway in Maryland, including the Wilson Bridge across the Potomac.