Industry news

Safety and trucking groups are challenging provisions of the hours of service rule in court, though for different reasons. Four safety groups – Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and
Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety – were joined by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in asking a federal court Feb. 27 to review the section that allows truckers to drive 11 consecutive hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour break.

Before 2004, drivers were allowed to drive 10 hours, but when the rule was revised the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration upped the total driving hours while increasing the required rest period.

“That FMCSA chose to expand driving hours is astounding,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

Public Citizen, CRASH and PATT have challenged the law before. The groups won when the court ruled that FMCSA failed to take driver health into consideration when drafting the rule in 2003. But actions by Congress and the agency mitigated the effects of that court ruling.
The agency reissued the rule last summer, modifying regulations concerning sleeper berths but leaving on-duty driving provisions unchanged.

The sleeper-berth changes also have spawned a court challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

It also wants to change a provision of the rule that limits a driver’s day to a total of 14 hours once on duty, unless the trucker takes a long enough break. That challenge, which was filed earlier in 2006, is gaining momentum. The Truckload Carriers Association, the Ohio Trucking Association and the California Trucking Association have filed supporting documents to help the challenge; so has the Teamsters union.

Diesel-electric hybrids may not be readily available yet, but interest is growing in the United States, as two recent developments indicate.

At the Work Truck Show in Atlanta, Mitsubishi Fuso showed off its medium-duty diesel-electric hybrid cabover, destined for Japanese streets later this year.

Meanwhile, the Eaton Corp. announced it will provide the hybrid power systems for 50 UPS step-van vehicles made by International Truck and Engine Corp. and Freightliner Custom Chassis. The vehicles will be placed into service in Dallas in June.

The two hybrid power plants are similar in concept. The new Fuso system, the Canter Eco Hybrid, combines a small, clean-burning diesel engine, an ultra-slim electric motor/generator and advanced lithium-ion batteries in a drivetrain that also includes a high-efficiency automated mechanical transmission. The truck increased fuel efficiency as much 30 percent over similarly equipped trucks in urban pickup and delivery applications in Japan, said a Mitsubishi Fuso spokesman.

As with the Mitsubishi project, the UPS trucks will feature proven components in a new arrangement. The Freightliner Custom Chassis truck will use a Mercedes-Benz MBE 904 4-cylinder diesel engine, and the International Truck and Engine vehicle will employ an International VT-275 6-cylinder diesel. Those systems will combine with an Eaton automated transmission, an integrated motor/generator and advanced batteries. The trucks can achieve a 35 percent increase in fuel efficiency, Eaton said.

Mike Donoughe, a Dodge vice president, introduces the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab at the Work Truck Show in Atlanta. The truck has the highest single rear-wheel gross vehicle weight rating in Class 3 at 10,200 pounds, the company said. The truck can be spec’d with either the new 6.7-liter Cummins High Output Turbo Diesel with 305 hp or the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 gasoline engine with 330 hp. It will be available in single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel models and two cab-axle lengths, 60 and 84 inches.

Medium- and light-duty truck manufacturers met with buyers and body builders at the Work Truck Show in Atlanta to say they may face more limitations from 2007 engine designs than their heavy-duty colleagues.

The new hardware will increase truck prices $3,500 to $5,000, they said.

Body manufacturers will be forced in some cases to move mounting bolts and other equipment. Front-mounted PTOs, for example, might not be available in certain models because of new cooling requirements. Also, hood size, engine designs, fuel efficiency and overall weight will change in many models. Radiators are as much as 20 percent larger, which will affect frame extensions, says Landon Grogan, a Freightliner engineer.

Cab-mounted diesel particulate filters in T300s featuring Cat C7 and Cummins ISB and ISC engines will likely be located under the passenger door, says George Bondor, a Kenworth engineer. “You may have used that space in the past for equipment, and that space may not be available anymore,” he said.

The Volvo Group has unveiled its I-SAM hybrid technology for heavy vehicles.

Volvo’s I-SAM consists of a starter motor, drive motor and alternator, along with an electronic control unit. I-SAM interacts with Volvo’s I-Shift automatic gearshifting system. The batteries are recharged by the diesel engine and whenever the brakes are applied.

The electric motor offers smooth performance at low speeds and supplements the diesel engine’s performance as speed increases, Volvo said. This allows the truck to accelerate via electric power alone and promotes lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise levels.

The technology can deliver savings as high as 35 percent on routes with frequent braking and accelerations, the company said. Vehicle maintenance costs also can be reduced through reduced wear on the braking system.

At press time, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire was expected to sign a bill mandating that at least 2 percent of all gasoline sold in the state be ethanol and that at least 2 percent of the state’s aggregate consumption of diesel be biodiesel. The bill also requires that state-owned vehicles use at least 20 percent biodiesel.

The new requirements would take effect December 2008, while diesel-powered state vehicles and equipment would have to comply by June 2009.

California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana and Ohio also require a certain percentage of fuel to be obtained from renewable sources such as ethanol or biodiesel. Only Minnesota requires a percentage of each diesel fill-up to be biodiesel.

Biodiesel is a non-petroleum fuel produced from soybean and other agricultural sources.

Freightliner Trucks will sponsor 13 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and Busch Series racing teams this season, including a new relationship with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Freightliner also recently debuted its 2006 Freightliner Run Smart Hauler Challenge, a series of five pre-race competitions in which NASCAR haulers will demonstrate their driving skills on racetracks behind the wheel of a Freightliner Coronado.

The grand prize is $35,000, the second prize $15,000, and the third prize $5,000.

The first competition will narrow the contenders to 16, and the final competition will pit the top two haulers against each other. Upcoming dates are:
May 18, Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C.
July 7, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.
Oct. 7, Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.
Nov. 5, Texas Motor Speedway, Dallas.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on March 15 made law a plan allowing a private Spanish-Australian consortium to lease the state’s toll road for 75 years for $3.8 billion.

Possible tweaks, according to media reports, include the forming of a trust fund for future road construction, allotment of grants to nearby counties and designs of a new Interstate road.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the measure, accusing Daniels of “mortgaging the future of the state.” The Indiana Motor Truck Association, however, has endorsed Major Moves, Daniels’ plan for transportation improvements that includes the toll road.

In a decision that could ultimately dampen some of the industry’s most aggressive driver recruiting tactics, a federal judge in Oklahoma issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting J.B. Hunt Transportation from recruiting and hiring drivers known to be within the primary term of their employment contract with CRST Van Expedited.

In his Feb. 14 order, Judge Stephen Friot of the Western District of Oklahoma said that based on the record in the litigation between the carriers, J.B. Hunt will continue to recruit CRST contract drivers, most of them trained at a CRST school at company expense, unless it’s blocked from doing so.

Owner-operator Lyndon Nutt of Las Cruces, N.M., with Pennsylvania resident Shelly White, was among nearly 60 well-dressed people who danced until midnight at the first Truckers’ Ball, held Feb. 18 at the Antique Automobile Museum in Hershey, Pa. “I’m not here to look pretty,” Nutt said, “but it’s a chance to relax and meet people.” White, said the event “really opened my eyes to truck drivers. They’re a great bunch of people.” Organizer Sheryl Youngblood plans to make the ball an annual event.

Sterling Truck Corp. launched the Sterling 360, a low cab-over-engine truck for light medium-duty applications, Feb. 28 at the Work Truck Show.

To be introduced this spring in Classes 4 and 5 and next year in Class 3, the 360 was developed through DaimlerChrysler’s Global Excellence initiative and built on a Fuso platform. Like Sterling and its parent Freightliner, Fuso is a DaimlerChrysler brand.

“Sterling is now the only truck OEM to offer customers a full line of Class 3-8 vehicles, which allows us to reach a wider customer base and provides us with a platform for future product introductions,” said John Merrifield, senior vice president of distribution for Freightliner Group.

Sterling 360 features include:

  • 4.9-liter turbo diesel engine with 175 hp at 2,700 rpm and 391 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm
  • Six-speed automatic transmission with final reduction gear ratio of 5.285
  • GVWs of 14,050 lbs, 14,500 lbs and 17,995 lbs.

For more information, visit this site.

TRACTOR-TRAILER repossessions increased in the fourth quarter of 2005 by 145 percent over the fourth quarter of the previous year, even though the fourth quarter traditionally is the slowest for repossessions, reported Nassau Asset Management.

“We believe fuel costs in 2005 have contributed directly to the rise in truck repossessions,” says Edward Castagna, Nassau president.

THE VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE passed a measure that would allow the commonwealth to toll interstates 85 and 95 and share the revenue with North Carolina. So far, however, the compact is a bit one-sided, as North Carolina leaders have yet to endorse the idea.

A FEDERAL JUDGE in New Jersey granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and seven drivers against Bridge Terminal Transport, based in Charlotte, N.C., one of the largest marine container haulers in the United States.

OOIDA alleges that BTT violated federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

UNITED PACIFIC donated a train horn to the Overdrive Trucker of the Year 2006 prize package

MANUALLY ADJUSTING automatic slack adjusters is dangerous, says a warning issued by the National Transportation Safety Board. Manual adjustment should be done only during installation or for an emergency move to a repair facility, NTSB said.

WABASH NATIONAL completed its purchase of Transcraft, making Wabash, based in Lafayette, Ind., the largest semi-trailer manufacturer in North America. The purchase won’t affect any Transcraft brands.

YRC WORLDWIDE, formerly Yellow Roadway, leads Fortune magazine’s list of America’s Most Admired Companies in the Trucking category. Additional companies on the Trucking or Transportation and Logistics lists are: Alexander & Baldwin, Americo, Arkansas Best, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, CNF, EGL, FedEx, Hub Group, J.B. Hunt Transportation, Laidlaw International, Landstar System, Pacer International, Ryder Systems, Sirva, Swift Transportation, UPS, USF and Werner Enterprises. FedEx is No. 2 on the overall Most Admired Companies list.

PETRO STOPPING CENTERS selected SiriCOMM to provide wireless Internet at its 64 locations. SiriCOMM wi-fi hot spots already are at more than 300 locations nationwide.

ILLINOIS. Express lanes on Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway, I-90/94, close this spring for reconstruction. Through fall, the expressway will be reduced to three lanes from 13th Street to I-57. While cars will be encouraged to take alternate routes, heavy trucks should stay on the expressway. The 57th Street Bridge has been fully reopened to traffic. For travel updates, visit

INDIANA. When daylight-saving time began April 2, eight Indiana counties moved from the Eastern time zone to Central: Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Pulaski and Starke. Affected highways include I-64, U.S. 30, U.S. 35, U.S. 150 and U.S. 231.

NEW YORK. The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge north of Niagara Falls now has a reversible fifth lane for trucks enrolled in the FAST program. More than a million trucks a year make the bridge the fourth busiest commercial crossing between the United States and Canada.

OHIO. Reduced truck tolls on the Ohio Turnpike, originally scheduled to expire June 30, have been extended through Dec. 31.

WEST VIRGINIA. Turnpike tolls were rolled back to 2005 rates by a state circuit judge who issued a temporary injunction Feb. 13 against a 65 percent increase for trucks.

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