Industry news

The U.S. Department of Energy’s updated long-term forecast predicts crude oil prices more than $20 per barrel higher than its previous forecast a year ago, though diesel prices
will decrease during the next six years.

The preliminary Annual Energy Outlook 2006, published Dec. 12 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, predicts that crude oil prices will fall from current levels to about $47 per barrel (in 2004 dollars) in 2014, then rise to $54 per barrel in 2025 and $57 per barrel in 2030. The reason: Demand is outpacing supply.

“There is now demand in China, Asia and India, and the demand there is growing,” says Denton Cinquegrana, markets editor for the Oil Price Information Service.

“This should keep oil prices relatively high, but like any other market there are boom-and-bust cycles, and right now we are in the middle of a tremendous boom cycle.”

The DOE’s long-term estimate may be exaggerated, Cinquegrana says. Oil prices could drop if more supplies are found or new technologies are invented that make it easier to pull hard-to-reach oil out of the ground.

Price increases, too, will make some hard-to-reach oil more profitable and more likely to be extracted.

“In the long run, all of these things will pull the price of oil down,” Cinquegrana says.

The AEO 2006 report also points to those factors for the decline in oil prices through 2014. Today’s oil prices will “increase the demand for unconventional sources of transportation fuel, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Higher oil prices stimulate domestic coal-to-liquids production and, in some of the alternative scenarios with even higher oil prices, domestic gas-to-liquids and shale oil production.”

Chris Lee of ProMiles, a fuel management and routing company, suggests a grain of salt may be order.

“I am skeptical at best on long-range forecasts because they can be affected by so many unknown factors,” he says.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rejected a Teamsters request that it reconsider its decision to eliminate most split rest periods in sleeper berths for team drivers.

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a petition for reconsideration of FMCSA’s decision to treat team drivers the same as solo drivers in the Oct. 1 final rule, which requires that drivers spend at least eight hours in a sleeper berth if they want to use the sleeper berth to shorten the 10-hour consecutive rest requirement.

In addition, another two-hour break would have to be taken during the work day, and that break doesn’t stop the clock on the 14-hour window for completing driving time.

“Although the sleeper-berth provisions of the 2005 rule will require most, if not all, team driver operations to revise their scheduling practices, the elimination of fragmented rest periods in the final rule ensures that drivers can obtain 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep during one sleeper-berth period,” FMCSA said in a letter to Teamsters General President James Hoffa. “This action provides drivers with a work/rest schedule that is more likely to prevent fatigue.”

Meanwhile, FMCSA granted a request from the American Trucking Associations for a rulemaking to consider whether a driver who is part of a team could record a two-hour period sitting in the passenger seat as off-duty time if it were taken in conjunction with a consecutive eight-hour sleeper-berth period.

The Truckload Carriers Association has named finalists for its Independent Contractor of the Year.

Finalists were chosen based on safety criteria measured by accident-free miles, driving record, moving violations and hours-of-service violations.

Overdrive and International Truck and Engine co-sponsor the contest. The winner will receive a new, fully loaded International tractor. The top five honorees will receive cash, savings bonds and trucking supplies.

The top three finalists will be announced at the TCA 2006 Annual Convention at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida, March 12 to 15.

Finalists are:
· Daniel Beber, Warren Transport
· Albert Beck, Dart Transit
· Constance and Lanny Beyer, Midwest Coast Transport
· Alvin Courte, Contract Freighters
· Dennis Grills, Sherman Brothers Trucking
· Mark Hohensee, O&S Trucking
· Elizabeth and Paul Jordan, Christenson Transportation
· Debra and Robert Jurashen, Landstar System
· Theodore Kasparie, Sammons Trucking
· James Lyle, Dart Transit
· Robert McCray, Warren Transport
· Stacy Moran, Contract Freighters
· Steven Recker, Warren Transport
· Artie Reid, Dart Transit
· Henry Shriver, Smithway Motor Xpress
· Paul Stallibrass, Contract Freighters
· Bridget Stanton, Pottle’s Transportation
· Ronald Warner, Davis Transport
· Carter Williams, National Carriers
· Dean Winkcompleck, Ace Doran Hauling and Rigging

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s minimum standards for entry-level truck driver training are inadequate, a federal appeals court ruled Dec. 2.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is leaving them in place, however, until a new rule is written.

As required by a settlement with safety advocates, FMCSA in May 2004 issued long-overdue regulations implementing entry-level training requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.

The minimum requirements involve only classroom education and in only four areas: medical qualification and drug and alcohol testing; hours-of-service regulations; wellness; and whistleblower protection.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety challenged those regulations, saying the agency ignored its own earlier recommendations about the need for more rigorous minimum training standards.

The appeals court agreed with Advocates that the sharp contrast between FMCSA’s earlier conclusions and the terms of the final rule shows the agency’s actions to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

A J.D. Power and Associates study documents industrywide dissatisfaction with 2002-compliant engines.

The 2005 Heavy-Duty Truck Engine/Transmission study was based on responses from more than 2,400 drivers of 2-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. It measured three engine factors: quality and warranty, performance, and noise and vibration.

The study examines engines from the 2003 model year, the first affected by tougher emissions technology standards. “It appears the new emission technology may have affected engine performance and quality, as customer satisfaction with both factors dropped significantly in 2005,” says Brian Etchells, a J.D. Power senior research manager.

Average fuel economy ratings for all engines also declined considerably, dropping below 6 miles per gallon for the first time in the study’s history, J.D. Power reports.

“This is a common pattern whenever new technologies are introduced in an industry, and the assumption is that the scores for these engines will improve over time,” Etchells says.

Additional study indications that the new technology is adversely affecting customer satisfaction include low scores on acceleration for fully loaded trucks and a sharp increase in the number of engine-related repairs.

Among vocational heavy-duty truck diesel engines, the Caterpillar C-15 performed significantly above the competition in all categories, J.D. Power reports. This is the fifth year in a row that the marketing firm has ranked a Caterpillar engine highest in the vocational segment.

The only heavy-duty engine manufacturer not using exhaust gas recirculation, Caterpillar relies on its proprietary ACERT technology for meeting federal emissions standards. Caterpillar, though, will introduce a variation of EGR in 2007.

For carriers and owner-operators still considering whether to replace traditional duals with the new generation of wider single tires – marketed as a lighter, more fuel-efficient alternative – there may be evidence of another advantage.

In recent tests, researchers at the Center for Transportation Analysis at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee found a decreased propensity for rollover when tractors and dry vans were equipped with modern super singles over standard duals. A study of the tests was released Nov. 14 at the 2005 International Truck and Bus Safety and Security Symposium in Alexandria, Va.

A wider suspension spreads out the center of weight, as do super singles, says H.E. “Bill” Knee, a study leader.

“Replacing the standard duals with the new generation of super singles effectively moved out the center of where the weight was on either end by 3 inches,” Knee says. “That gives you a 6-inch wider area.”

Further tests are planned for tankers and flatbeds, Knee says.

The Rev. Sherry Hicks of Love Walk Ministries has shut down her attempt to raise money by giving away a 2006 Peterbilt.

By giving each person who donated $100 a chance to win the Pete, Hicks hoped to raise enough money to buy a catering truck for her food ministry for over-the-road haulers and the impoverished, she says. Love Walk Ministries is operated by Living Word Fellowship, a church in Hickory, N.C.

Hicks called off the fund-raiser after selling only 159 tickets, the equivalent of $15,900, she says.

Hicks says she is calling donors to offer a refund. Further information is available by calling Love Walk Ministries at (828) 325-4773, ext. 206.

Fleets should not be limited to visual-only rear-detection devices, the American Trucking Associations said in response to a federal proposal to require rear-detection systems on straight trucks.

The group’s comment, filed Nov. 14, responded to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal that straight trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds have a detection system to alert drivers of anything directly behind the vehicle.

Vehicle manufacturers could satisfy the proposal by installing mirrors or video cameras that would make the space behind the truck visible to the driver.

WILLIAM MERINGOLA, a retired truck driver from Geneva, N.Y., used the numbers he found inside a fortune cookie to buy a ticket for the New York Lottery’s Nov. 9 Lotto jackpot. The ticket won $13 million.

OCT. 15, 2006, is the new deadline for terminals and retail outlets to provide ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. In granting the 45-day extension, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would cause some OEMs to delay introduction of 2007 models that exclusively use ULSD.

WAL-MART pledged to reduce truck idling at its 4,000 facilities nationwide to settle an enforcement action by the New England Environmental Protection Agency office. The retail chain will post “no idling” signs at every facility, train drivers, notify delivery companies of its new policy and pay a $50,000 penalty.

NEW JERSEY VOTERS passed a measure Nov. 8 to reallocate $160 million from the state’s corporate business tax revenue to retrofit the diesel engines of more than 30,000 buses and trucks. The move was supported by environmentalists and the Diesel Technology Forum.

THE FEDERAL HIGHWAy TRUST FUND is on the verge of bankruptcy, says the Associated General Contractors of America, an organization of highway builders.

Its recommendations include a higher federal gas tax and more toll roads.

THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE is asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an hours-of-service exemption for truckers who haul mail under contract.

The USPS asks that its contract carriers be allowed to operate under the hours rule in effect before January 4, 2004.

HIGHWAY WATCH, a program in which truckers report suspicious activity that could threaten national security, reached an agreement to share its information directly with law enforcement and emergency personnel.

THE DEATH RATE from highway crashes is almost 400 times higher than the death rate from international terrorism, according to a study published in the November issue of Injury Prevention, a British journal.

The study didn’t count domestic terrorism and focused only on the years 1994 to 2003 in 29 nations, including the United States.HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS

COLORADO. To talk drivers through the I-70 corridor, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association has updated its CD Crossing the Rockies, with narration by Bill “C.W. McCall” Fries and music by Mannheim Steamroller. Pick up a free copy at an I-70 port of entry or order one at (303) 433-3375, Ext. 304, or [email protected].

NEW YORK. Truck traffic through the U.S. Plaza on the Buffalo side of the Peace Bridge has been quickened by three new truck inspection lanes, three new motorist inspection booths and a new traffic pattern.

OREGON. Beginning at mountain passes, troopers are enforcing the state law that truckers must carry snow chains. Fines range from $111 in good weather to $493 in snow and ice. Also, more than a mile of I-84 through Ladd Canyon, between La Grande and North Powder, is being heated this winter to slow accumulation. Caution is still advised.

TENNESSEE. State law now requires big rigs to keep to the right-hand lanes on Interstates with three or more lanes in each direction, which includes 235 miles of highway. The $50 fine applies only in areas where signs are posted, but the state plans to have all the signs up this month.