INTERNATIONAL NAMES TRACTOR
International Truck and Engine Corp.’s new 2007 Class 8 tractor is ProStar, the company announced Jan. 11. The ProStar will debut at the March 23-25 Mid-America Trucking
Show in Louisville, Ky., where International will unveil four levels of the truck, said Tom Baughman, vice president of International’s Heavy Vehicle Center. These will range from a basic fleet-oriented model to a premium owner-operator model.
“Star” echoes the name of the parent company, Navistar, while “Pro” represents the professionalism associated with designing and driving the truck, officials said.
International has invested $300 million to develop the new tractor, said Dee Kapur, Truck Group president. ProStar will reflect improvements in comfort, ergonomics, noise reduction, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, officials said.
In a separate announcement, International said that its 5000 Series trucks will now go by the name PayStar. International introduced its trucks and tractors under the PayStar name in the late 1970s to fit in with the company’s Transtar, Fleetstar, Loadstar and Cargostar truck lines.
The new PayStar lightweight mixer packages allow customers to haul more payload and still meet federal bridge formula limits.
IDLEAIRE TO BEGIN MAJOR EXPANSION
In a deal worth $320 million, IdleAire Technologies will install its electrification system in about 13,200 truck stop parking spaces, the company announced. Those units will be in 210 locations in up to 35 states.
IdleAire now operates its anti-idling system in 1,365 spaces in 24 locations and 11 states. Financing for the expansion came from the sale of discount notes and warrants.
Using adapters that fit in truck windows, the system provides filtered in-cab heating and air conditioning along with various communications and entertainment options for truck drivers.
Upon completion of the expansion, IdleAire’s network will include 160 travel centers and 50 truck fleet terminals.
Construction is set to start immediately among IdleAire’s nationwide travel center partners – TravelCenters of America, Petro Stopping Centers and Pilot Travel Centers – as well as sites owned by smaller chains and independently owned travel centers.
FORECASTERS UPBEAT ABOUT TRUCKING
Strong demand and good prices for trucking services are expected to continue in 2006, according to Fitch Ratings.
The global rating agency, based in New York and London, said the economy has been somewhat slowed by higher energy costs, but truck transport should remain relatively strong in 2006.
Fitch expects real gross domestic product to grow by 2.8 percent this year, compared to 4.2 percent in 2004 and a forecast 3.6 percent in 2005.
Long-haul less-than-truckload volumes are stable, and regional LTL has continued to grow because of just-in-time inventory management, the company said. Raw materials shipments are expected to moderate, although truckers serving foreign-owned auto factories in the Southeast are expected to grow.
Fuel surcharges have become key in shipping prices, accounting for more than 50 percent of some trucking firms’ revenue increases, Fitch said.
“As fuel surcharges have become a larger component of the pricing structure, shipping customers are paying more attention to the effect it is having on their overall shipping costs and will likely begin to more actively negotiate the surcharge along with the base rate,” stated the report. “As a result, the distinction between base rates and surcharges may begin to blur.”
Although fuel costs and increased demand for CDL holders will affect expenses, trucking should see increases in profitability and operating cash flow, Fitch said. Some carriers are expected to buy trucks before the lower emissions requirements become effective in 2007.
Some trucking companies will have more cash flow than has been typical. This cash may be used for acquisitions, especially in the LTL sector, and the largest companies are expected to invest overseas, according to the report.
SHIPPERS EXPECT HIGHER SURCHARGES
Shippers are more likely to pay a higher fuel surcharge than a base rate increase in 2006, according to a third-quarter shipper survey.
Moreover, the fuel surcharges being paid to truckload carriers vary little with the size of the carrier, according to The Supply Chain Indicator from the investment firm Bear Stearns.
Although the first quarter of the year traditionally is slow, shippers stated they did not expect to push back on the fuel surcharge.
Truckload capacity remains tight but is more balanced than a year ago, while LTL capacity has stayed mostly balanced, according to the report. Its survey, however, was conducted in early October, before the full impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Yield growth among both truckload and LTL carriers was slower compared to a year ago, Bear Stearns said.
COURT BACKS VOLVO IN ANTITRUST CASE
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Volvo Trucks North America in its dispute with a dealer over pricing practices.
Reeder-Simco GMC of Fort Smith, Ark., alleged that Volvo caused a decline in sales and profits because Volvo offered other dealers more favorable price concessions than those offered to Reeder.
The court ruled Jan. 10 that Volvo’s actions do not violate the Robinson-Patman Act, a federal antitrust law forbidding certain forms of price discrimination. Volvo hailed the ruling as an affirmation of competitive pricing in the heavy-duty truck industry.
“These practices create and foster competition that leads to lower prices not just for our customers, but for consumers of many other commercial goods,” said Peter Karlsten, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America.
Bill Heck, vice president of Reeder-Simco, says he disagrees with the court’s interpretation of the law, and that Volvo’s practices amount to price discrimination, not fair discounts.
GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING FAMILY ENTRIES DUE MAY 1
Truckers News is looking for a family with deep roots in trucking.
The Great American Trucking Family contest rewards one family each year with a strong background in trucking, especially those who have been active in the industry and their communities.
The August Truckers News cover story will feature the winning family. Some family members will be flown to Dallas for the Aug. 24-26 Great American Trucking Show, where they’ll dine at one of the city’s most famous restaurants, help judge the Overdrive Pride and Polish contest, and receive the award on stage at a GATS concert.
For an entry form, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be postmarked by May 1 and mailed to GATF, Truckers News, 3200 Rice Mine Road NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.
TRAVELING SHOW ROLLS OUT IN APRIL
America’s Traveling Truck Show will stop at 20 Petro locations across the nation, beginning April 4-6 in Wheeler Ridge, Calif., south of Bakersfield.
The show will open from 1-7 p.m. daily and will feature truck makers, carriers, product and services providers and entertainment. It will end Aug. 15-17 in Weatherford, Texas, one week before the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Attandance is free.
“We’ll have a delineated area in the parking lot with the truckers and we’ll roll in exhibits, and we’ll have a three-day trade show,” said Randy Schwartzenburg, executive director of ATTS.
The show is operated by Randall-Reilly Publishing, publisher of Overdrive, Truckers News, Commercial Carrier Journal and eTrucker.com.
For information on exhibiting at ATTS, call (800) 633-5953, or check out this site.
TRUCKERS’ BALL TO FUND CHARITY
The first annual Truckers’ Ball will begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Antique Automobile Museum in Hershey, Pa., off I-81’s Exit 77.
The $50 admission fee will support the Teddy Bear Education and Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps truck drivers and their dependents through financial crises. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the museum.
“The museum has plenty of room for truck parking,” said organizer Sheryl Youngblood, host of the KnightTime trucker radio program. “One of the hotels with which we have negotiated discounted rates is adjacent to the museum, and several others also accommodate truck parking.” Parking also is available at the two Exit 77 truck stops.
The ball is a black-tie event. Arrangements have been made with Tuxedo Junction to have discounted tuxedos available on site the day of the ball.
Attendees should call (570) 346-3456 and give their measurements in advance. Gowns will also be lent.
For more information, call (877) 234-6362 or visit this site.
TRUCK LANES INCLUDED IN PLAN
New truck-only lanes are part of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $107 billion investment over the next decade to improve the state’s transportation system.
Schwarzenegger outlined his plan to lawmakers Jan. 5 in his annual State of the State speech. The governor’s office expanded little on the truck lanes, although it appears likely they would include toll lanes.
The plan calls for reducing congestion 18 percent by 2016 through building 1,200 miles of new highway and high-occupancy lanes in the most congested regions and adding 600 miles of mass transit.
The Reason Foundation, a widely quoted libertarian think tank that has advised Schwarzenegger, last year called for a new state tolling and public-private partnership law.
The foundation proposed truck-only toll lanes from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports through San Bernardino and up Interstate 15 to Nevada.
A project to link the Port of Oakland and the Silicon Valley with Interstate 5 via Interstate 580 also was advocated.
GROUP BACKS PHASED TOLL HIKES
The Indiana Motor Truck Association endorsed Gov. Mitch Daniel’s 10-year transportation improvement plan after the governor agreed to phase in truck toll hikes.
Daniel’s project would fund $10.6 billion in road improvements, according to the governor’s office. Association President Kenneth Cragen said the group’s endorsement followed the governor’s Jan. 3 revision of the plan.
The plan includes rate hikes for the Indiana Toll Road, which, before the phase-in announcement, would have increased tolls for a five-axle truck from $14.55 to $32 in April. Daniel’s revised plan raises the toll in increments each year until it reaches $32 in 2009.
The association was concerned that truckers would divert to secondary roads rather than pay the full hike, which would have represented a 113 percent increase.
“It will enable the state to build $2.5 billon to $3 billion in new construction over 10 years,” Cragen said.
Trucks were the only class of vehicles that Daniel changed to a gradual rate increase plan. Passenger vehicles, which currently pay $4.65, will pay $8 in April. The last toll increase for the 157-mile road was in 1985.
Hearings on the toll increase are set for March 2 in South Bend and March 3 in Indianapolis.
KENWORTH RANKS HIGH IN MEDIUM DUTY
Kenworth continues its winning streak with J.D. Power and Associates’s awards.
The truck maker was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among truck owners in the conventional truck segment and dealer service segment, according to J.D. Power’s 2005 medium-duty truck study.
Kenworth received five of the six available awards in two major J.D. Power studies. The company received three awards from the 2005 heavy-duty truck customer satisfaction study. In that study, Kenworth ranked highest among Class 8 truck owners in over the road, pickup and delivery, and dealer service segments.
Customers gave Kenworth top scores in all six of the medium duty conventional product categories: vehicle quality, cab interior, exterior design and styling, transmission, engine, and ride, handling and braking.
OOIDA SUES SUPERVALU OVER LUMPING FEES
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 6 in St. Paul, Minn., against the Supervalu grocery store chain, claiming the store is practicing illegal lumping procedures.
The case could involve an unknown number of truckers who delivered to the grocer since March 2005, when Supervalu introduced tougher insurance requirements. “We interpreted those requirements as a means for illegally requiring drivers to pay for unloading services,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president. “We had guys paying $60-70 to get a couple of palettes taken off their trucks.”
Supervalu officials did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking comment.
Johnston said Supervalu now requires truckers to have costly liability insurance – $1 million in general liability, $1 million per occurrence, $1 million in worker’s compensation and $1 million in auto liability. If they cannot show proof of such coverage, Supervalu will unload the cargo, but only after a fee is paid, Johnston said.
“Since we filed the suit, they now only require the standard $750,000 liability coverage that everyone must have, and [they] gave the hand palette jacks free of charge,” Johnston said.
Those changes don’t mean OOIDA is dropping the suit, he said.
“The issue now is making that a court-instructed requirement because they can always go back to the other requirements,” Johnston said. “And we want money for the drivers for those illegally extorted monies.”
LAWSUIT PLANNED OVER HOURS RULE
With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s refusal to change the new hours of service team driver sleeper berth provision, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says it will take the agency to court.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said his organization petitioned FMCSA Dec. 5, asking that the sleeper berth provision for team drivers be changed back to the 2003 rule. The FMCSA rejected the petition, but OOIDA did not receive word until two weeks later, Spencer said. OOIDA had 60 days to file suit after the original petition was offered.
“What we asked the agency to do was keep the sleeper berth provision for team drivers to what it was before,” Spencer said. “They told us no. The severity of that issue [requires that] we have to go after it in the courts.”
The current provision requires the team driver to have at least eight straight hours of uninterrupted sleep in the berth while the other driver is behind the wheel.
The 2003 provision allows the team drivers to switch positions more often, which means less continuous drive time. This, OOIDA argues, leads to more alert drivers.
FMCSA said it does not comment on potential legal action.
FINES LEVIED IN FAKE LOG BOOK CASE
The former owners and a former driver for a Wilber, Neb., trucking company have been fined $50,000 in a logbook falsification case.
The penalties came after a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
On Dec. 27, Rose and Robert Vyhnalek, former co-owners of R.J. Vyhnalek Trucking, were fined $12,500 each and ordered to jointly pay $20,000 in restitution by a U.S. District Court judge in Omaha, Neb., for conspiracy to violate FMCSA regulations governing maximum daily driving hours and for falsifying driver log books, respectively.
Rose Vyhnalek pleaded guilty in October to the felony conspiracy charge, admitting to directing drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations. Robert Vyhnalek pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor charges.
Richard Crawford, a driver-mechanic for the company, also pleaded guilty in October and was fined $5,000 for falsifying driver log books.
AMERICA’S ROAD TEAM SEEKS NOMINATIONS
The nomination process for the American Trucking Associations’ 2007-08 America’s Road Team has begun.
The 12-member team will serve as national representatives, advocating highway safety and a positive industry standard. Members also will discuss safety with their professional colleagues in driver meetings and at annual truck shows. Scheduled Road Team events include appearances on Sirius Satellite Radio. The team also appears at numerous state truck driving championships and at the ATA’s National Truck Driving Championships.
Candidates must be full-time company drivers or owner-operators. They also must have an outstanding safety record and be able to clearly communicate safety and professional standards. The nominating company must be a full dues-paying ATA member. Volvo Trucks sponsors the team.
The nomination deadline is Aug. 31. Semi-finalists will be announced in October at the 2006 ATA Management Conference and Exhibition in Dallas. Final judging and member selection will take place at ATA headquarters in early January. For more information, visit www.truckline.com.
HUSBAND KILLS WIFE IN TRUCK ACCIDENT
A trucker accidentally ran over and killed his wife Dec. 29 in a truck-stop parking lot in Maine, police said.
Owner-operator Kermit Badger, 56, of K&B Trucking of Hartland, Maine, had just returned from a haul to Chicago. After a meal in Hermon, he and his wife, Barbara, 63, had returned to the Irving Big Stop parking lot in Newport so that she could get her car.
It was raining hard, and police believe that kept Kermit Badger from seeing his wife had walked around the front of his truck, rather than the back.
He pulled his truck forward to let another trucker into the lot and, in doing so, ran over and killed his wife, police said. The other trucker tried to stop Badger by blowing his horn.
No charges will be filed against Badger, police said.
WISCONSIN REPEALS FUEL TAX INCREASE
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed bills that repeal the state’s automatic fuel tax increase in 2007 and prohibit credit card companies from penalizing merchants that provide discounts to cash-paying customers.
Also repealed is the annual indexing of the state’s motor vehicle fuel tax rate. The tax began in 1985 and is adjusted annually for inflation.
The Wisconsin fuel tax is among the highest nationwide at 32.9 cents per gallon of diesel and 29.9 cents per gallon of gas.
The repeal will become effective April 2007.
In July, Doyle approved a state budget that included a penny fuel tax reduction.
The governor also signed a bill to conform the state’s consumer law to federal standards. The new law prohibits credit card issuers from penalizing merchants who offer customer discounts for paying by cash or check instead of a credit card.
THE HEAT IS ON
A cylinder bore is flame-sprayed with new metal before being machined at Detroit Diesel’s remanufacturing plant in Tooele, Utah. The plant machines Detroit and Mercedes-Benz engines back to original specs and incorporates the latest engineering advancements. Every engine is tested on a dynamometer, using new-engine performance standards. The remanufactured Series 60 engines are covered by a standard two-year/200,000-mile warranty; an extended coverage plan is available.
STERLING TRUCK plans to debut its new low cabover March 1-3 at the Work Truck Show in Atlanta. Class 3, 4 and 5 models will be on sale at dealerships this spring. It is available with a 4.9-liter diesel engine, a six-speed automatic and as many as five wheelbases to accommodate 12- to 20-foot bodies.
THE RATE OF FATAL ACCIDENTs involving large trucks fell to an all-time low in 2004: 1.96 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s the lowest rate since the U.S. Department of Transportation began tracking such accidents in 1975.
EATON CORP., the maker of VORAD collision warning systems, was awarded a $6.7 million contract by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The contract is part of a $31.6 million program to develop an integrated crash warning system for passenger cars and commercial heavy-duty trucks.
CFI raised $20,000 through an in-house raffle to purchase Christmas gifts for children and senior citizens around Joplin, Mo. Executive management donated prizes that were raffled to CFI employees. Raffle tickets were sold for $1 apiece.
THE TWO WESTBOUND LANES of the I-10 twin-span bridge over Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans have reopened. Because the repaired bridge has no shoulder, oversize and overweight loads traveling between New Orleans and Slidell in either direction still must detour around Lake Pontchartrain via I-55, adding 59 miles to the route. For more information, call
CLASSROOMS in the Gulf Coast area affected by Hurricane Katrina received assistance from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association and Trucker Buddy International. Association members and other donors adopted nine classrooms through Trucker Buddy, and each donated $250 to the association’s Trucker Buddy Fund.
FREIGHT WING received a $250,000 U.S. Department of Energy Inventions and Innovation grant so the company could offer fleets 50 percent cost-share trials of its fuel-
saving aerodynamic attachments for trailers.
Freight Wing’s belly fairings and gap fairings streamline the trailer undercarriage and front face.
LOVE’S TRAVEL STOPs opened a new location in Fort Mill, S.C., at Sutton Road and I-77.
ALABAMA. Expect delays from resurfacing on I-65 north of Exit 114 near Georgiana.
FLORIDA. Drivers now can get updates on traffic, construction, lane closures, severe weather and travel times by calling 511 or visiting this site.
NEW MEXICO. Report drunken drivers on the state’s new Drunkbuster hot line, (877) DWI-HALT.
PENNSYLVANIA. The westernmost Turnpike toll plaza now charges drivers only when they enter the state from Ohio, not when exiting the state. Eastbound five-axle trucks now pay $12, or $3 for the first two axles plus $3 per additional axle. More information is at this site.
UTAH. PrePass is being installed at all major weigh stations during the first quarter of the year, beginning with the Perry stations on I-15 and continuing with the Wendover stations on I-80, the southbound Echo station on I-15 and the northbound St. George station on I-15.
WEST VIRGINIA. Turnpike tolls for big rigs increased 65 percent Jan. 1, from $4.25 to $7 for a five-axle truck. Automobile tolls increased 60 percent, from $1.25 to $2. Turnpike officials called this the first rate increase in 25 years.