Industry news

Freightliner’s Class 8 factories expect a decrease as high as 50 percent in 2007 output, said Roger Nielsen, Freightliner’s chief operating officer. His remarks came at the 15th annual Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association breakfast at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

That anticipated drop will come on the heels of two banner years in North American Class 8 truck sales: 310,000 trucks sold in 2005 and a projected 315,000 sold in 2006.

Those record sales have been prompted by a strong economy and customers’ desire to avoid pricey 2007 low-emissions engines, which Freightliner expects will run between $7,000 and $10,000 for heavy-duty models, $4,500 to $6,000 for medium-duty trucks. But as long as the economy continues moderate growth and fuel prices don’t spike to post-Katrina levels, “we think by 2008 normal market conditions will prevail,” Nielsen said.

Also at MATS, Chris Patterson, Freightliner president and CEO, said the company plans to introduce a completely new Class 8 truck at the 2007 show, one that “ultimately will replace many models on display today.”

Saying Freightliner’s preparations for meeting the ’07 emissions regulations represent “more investment, resources, testing and preparation than we’ve ever put into a component launch,” Patterson announced that Detroit Diesel’s Series 60, MBE 4000 and MBE 900 diesel engines will be ready for the road in January.

“That man saved my life,” said Leesburg, Ga., trucker Herman Langford about Douglas Crawford, named the 23rd Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America awards banquet at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

Crawford, a Saia Motor Freight driver from Ashford, Ala., was southbound on Interstate 85 in Georgia when he saw an 18-wheeler cross the median and hit Langford’s rig.

Crawford dodged swerving cars, parked his truck on the shoulder, grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the wrecked trucks. He saw the cab of the runaway had disintegrated in flames.

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“I knew nobody could survive that,” Crawford said, so he ran to Langford’s burning truck and put out the blaze. It had destroyed the back wall of the sleeper, so Crawford walked in and found Langford conscious, unable to move and soaked with diesel fuel.

“I heard the truck hissing and popping, and I told him, ‘We got to get out of here,'” Crawford said. “He grabbed hold of me, and I carried him out.” Just moments after they got to safety, the truck exploded.

For his heroism, Crawford was awarded a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a custom-designed Goodyear Highway Hero ring and a commemorative plaque.

Highway Hero finalists were:

  • Michael Knott, a FedEx Ground driver from Casselberry, Fla., who rescued a mother and her child who lay helpless on the Florida Turnpike after being struck by a car.
  • Robert Starr, a state senator and owner-operator from North Troy, Vt., who saved a woman from a burning car.
  • Danny Wallen, an ABF Freight Systems driver from Conover, Ohio, who saved a couple from a burning car.

“In our eyes, they are all heroes,” said Peter Christoffersen of Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.

Father-and-son reality TV stars Paul Teutul Sr. and Mikey Teutul, of the Discovery Channel’s American Chopper, presented a customized bike to Speedco at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., to give away as part of the company’s “Tribute to the American Trucker,” which raised $100,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

To the delight of the Freedom Hall crowd, Paul Teutul fired up the hand-crafted super bike while flashbulbs and spotlights bounced off its chrome and stunning graphics.

“I’m real proud of the outcome,” Teutul said. “You start with nothing, and when you’ve finished you stand back, and there’s a ‘Wow’ factor.”

While the Road Hammers rocked onstage, the Teutuls met backstage with Make-A-Wish children and other young fans.

Truckers and bikers are both “part of the American image,” Paul Teutul said. “There’s a crossover.”

The American Trucking Associations has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in Public Citizen’s latest challenge to FMCSA’s hours of service rule.

Public Citizen filed suit Feb. 27 in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, demanding changes in the new rule. Joining the suit were Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Teamsters union.

The contested FMCSA rule allows truckers to drive 11 consecutive hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour off-duty break. Before 2004, drivers were allowed to drive 10 hours, but the agency upped the total number of driving hours while increasing the required rest period. Also disputed by the safety groups: No mandate for electronic onboard recorders and an alleged lack of consideration for drivers’ health.

ATA says it will show that the rule advances public safety while meeting the operational needs of the trucking industry. “The final rule will directly impact the efficiency, productivity and safety of the national trucking industry,” wrote Robert Digges Jr., ATA deputy general counsel.

Public Citizen, CRASH and PATT have challenged the HOS law before. The groups previously 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. Those sleeper-berth changes spawned their own court challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA wants the split-rest provision changed so that the 2-hour rest period stops the 14-hour clock. It also wants team drivers to be able to split rest as under the previous rule.

Filed earlier this year, that challenge is gaining momentum. The Truckload Carriers Association, the Ohio Trucking Association and the California Trucking Association have filed supporting documents to help OOIDA’s challenge; so has the Teamsters union.

Avery Vise, editorial director of Commercial Carrier Journal, won the Jesse H. Neal Award for staff-written editorials March 23 in New York City. The award is the highest honor for business-to-business magazines. This is the second Neal Award for Vise and the 12th for CCJ, a sister publication of Overdrive at Randall-Reilly Publishing.

A group of Hoosiers, including an owner-operator, filed suit against Gov. Mitch Daniels and his Indiana Toll Road plan that would have a private Spanish-Australian consortium leasing the state road for 75 years for $3.8 billion.

The plaintiffs, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and seven individuals, say the plan is unconstitutional under state law. The complaint was filed April 12 in the St. Joseph Superior Court; its district falls along the Indiana Toll Road.

The group is seeking a permanent injunction to stop the plan, which the governor’s office says will fund Daniels’ $10.6 billion Major Moves program, which includes the building of Interstate 69 between Evansville and Indianapolis.

Daniels has said the plan will provide $150 million over two years to all 92 counties for roads and bridges.

The plaintiffs argue that very funding violates Indiana law, which stipulates that proceeds from the sale of public utilities must be used to pay public debt. The suit also contends, among other complaints, that a special 15-day limit on challenges to the lease is unlawful.

The lease could mean tolls above $32 for trucks, the group says. Dave Menzer, a spokesman for the Citizens Action Coalition, says the high tolls will add to the operating costs of truckers. Those costs, he adds, will be passed onto consumers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposed the measure from the start, accusing Daniels of “mortgaging the future of the state.” The owner-operator listed as a plaintiff is Randy Nace, an OOIDA member from White County, Ind.

OOIDA donated $10,000 to help fund the suit, Menzer says.

Not all truckers are against the plan, however. The Indiana Motor Truck Association endorsed Major Moves early on, citing transportation improvement needs.

The state is expected to formally close the deal June 30, giving control of the road to Statewide Mobility Partners, a business owned by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia and Cintra Concessions de Infraestructuras de Transport S.A. of Spain.

The behavior of drivers, both truckers and four-wheelers, is 10 times more likely to cause large-truck crashes than outside factors, says a new study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

While previous studies focused on specific crashes and/or individual causes of crashes, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study is the first nationwide examination of all pre-crash factors.

“This study makes it clear that we need to spend more time addressing driver behavior, as well as making sure trucks and buses are fit for the road,” said exiting FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg.

Conducted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the study investigated a sample of crashes in 17 states between April 2001 and December 2003.

Each crash involved at least one large truck and resulted in at least one fatality or injury. The total sample of 967 crashes included 1,127 large trucks, 959 non-truck motor vehicles, 251 fatalities and 1,408 injuries. Action or inaction by the driver of either the truck or the other vehicle was the critical reason for 88 percent of the crashes.

The American Trucking Associations said the study “confirms the findings of earlier studies that car drivers are coded more frequently than truck drivers for both driving performance errors and non-performance problems.”

Fatigue was more often a crash factor for car drivers, the ATA noted. The study confirms the industry’s positive record of negligible illegal drug or alcohol abuse, the ATA said.

Cummins said its 2007 heavy-duty engines will be available in several new ratings, including a 600-hp rating for its ISX. The company also showed off three heavy- and medium-duty diesel engine installations featuring 2007 emissions technology in a Louisville, Ky., press event preceding the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Despite the emissions changes, Cummins said a full lineup of ratings will be available for the ’07 ISX and ISM, including three new ratings for the 2007 ISX: the ISX 425 SmartTorque, designed for truckload fleets; the ISX 485 SmartTorque, designed for the premium truckload market; and the ISX 600, designed for heavy-haul applications and owner-operators, featuring 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2007 engines will be available late this year.

Caterpillar’s line of medium- and heavy-duty engines, the C7, C9, C13 and C15, will continue to rely on its ACERT technology to meet 2007 emissions standards and will be available this year, the company announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

At the top end, Cat’s heavy-duty 15.2-liter C15 engine features ratings from 435 to 625 hp with torque ratings of 1,550 to 1,850 lb.-ft. The 625-hp version has a torque rating of 1,850 to 2,150 lb.-ft. The 12.5-liter C13 is available in on-highway vocational and heavy-duty linehaul configurations. Ratings run from 305 to 370 hp and 1,150 to 1,750 lb.-ft. of torque.

Horsepower ratings for the 9.3-liter C9 range from 285 to 350 hp, and torque ratings range from 890 to 1,350 lb.-ft. The 7.2-liter mid-range C7 engine has ratings of 190 to 300 hp with 520 to 860 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,440 rpm.

Sirius Satellite Radio has revamped Channel 147 to create a new Road Dog Trucking network. New shows include Carl P. Mayfield and the P-Team, weekdays from 4-8 p.m. Eastern, and Blue Collar Comedy from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. weeknights, featuring Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.

Other new shows include Freewheelin’ with Meredith “High Priestess of the Hammer Lanes” Ochs and Chris “Ol’ Leadfoot” Tsakis; Hammerdown Radio with Diesel Only Records owner-operator Jeremy Tepper, a.k.a. DJ RigRocker; and custom weather reports from the Weather Channel.
These will join popular Sirius offerings such as Open Road Café and the Midnight Trucking Radio Network.

Truckers have gotten better about buckling up in the last year, says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

FMCSA launched the “Be Ready. Be Buckled” campaign in March 2005 to target truckers, who have much lower rates of seat belt use than four-wheelers.

In a 2005 study, FMCSA found Class 7 and 8 drivers increased belt use from 48 percent in 2002 to 54 percent in 2005, compared to 83 percent belt use for passenger vehicles in 2005.

During that three-year period, national and regional fleets improved belt use from 55 percent to 63 percent, while independent and local fleets remained at 44 percent.

Single tankers and hazmat tractor-trailer combinations had the most compliance, while the lowest rates of seatbelt use were in single dump trucks and bobtails.

An audit of structurally deficient National Highway System bridges showed that Rhode Island had the highest percentage of such bridges, but Delaware and California led the country in average daily vehicle traffic on deficient bridges.

In Delaware and California, more than 50,000 vehicles cross deficient bridges daily.

The report by the DOT Office of Inspector General audited state transportation department efforts in calculating load ratings and posting weight limits on structurally deficient NHS bridges and the Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of these state actions.

The FHWA’s 2003 National Bridge Inventory identified a total 592,000 highway bridges.

The inventory’s 6,491 structurally deficient NHS bridges are spread across the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and were classified as such because they had major problems such as deterioration or cracks.

“The FHWA can do more to oversee states’ actions in inspecting bridges, calculating load limits and posting maximum weight limits,” many of which are inaccurate or outdated, the audit stated.

Auditors concluded that bridge inspections in Massachusetts, New York and Texas were adequate and used the states as a sample.

Still, they found errors in such items as the calculation of load ratings or the posting of maximum weight limits for 33 of the 43 reviewed bridges. Some bridges lacked the necessary postings altogether.

On at least 12 of the 33 bridges, errors allowed vehicles to cross that were heavier than the bridge’s maximum weight limit.

A bridge south of Pittsburgh partially collapsed in December, dropping 125 tons of debris onto eastbound I-70.

It and a neighboring bridge were demolished and are being replaced, with delays expected through summer.

The American Trucking Associations has thrown its support behind a U.S. Senate bill designed to ease the transition of military veterans as they move into civilian jobs.

Introduced by U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., the Veterans Employment Training Act of 2006 would add trucking to the list of industry sectors for which servicemen and women moving to the civilian job market could receive expedited financial aid.

Under the current Montgomery GI Bill, the federal government covers up to 60 percent of the cost of some educational benefits to make short-term, high-cost training programs more attractive to veterans.

That training, however, doesn’t include trucking.

ATA reports that trucking is short 20,000 drivers. That deficit could grow to 111,000 by 2014 if current labor trends – and high demand for freight – continue.

Undercover federal investigators successfully bought enough radioactive material to make “dirty bombs” and transported it across U.S. borders using fake documentation.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations learned from the Government Accountability Office that less than 40 percent of maritime containers entering the U.S. are screened for radiation; and that the Department of Homeland Security’s deployment of portal monitors is behind schedule and may cost $342 million more than expected.

The investigators bought radioactive material and containers from a commercial source over the phone. An “employee” of the fake company explained that it would be used to calibrate personal radiation detectors.

The seller obligingly shipped the radioactive material to the provided Washington, D.C., address.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not require suppliers to determine whether the buyer has a legitimate use for the radioactive material, a measure the GAO recommended in 2003. Nor are suppliers required to ask the buyer to produce an NRC document when selling small amounts of the material.

On Dec. 14, undercover agents made simultaneous trips into the United States from Canada and Mexico with the radioactive material in the trunks of their rental cars.

The radiation portal monitors properly alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors to the presence of radioactive material, and the inspectors properly searched the investigators’ vehicles. However, the inspectors didn’t question the agents’ fake documents.

ExxonMobil continues to celebrate the 80-year-old Mobil Delvac heavy-duty engine oils by giving away a trip to the World Series of Poker’s No Limit Hold ’em Championship, which begins July 15 at Harrah’s Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The prize package is valued at more than $12,000. Through June 15, specially marked gallon bottles of Mobil Delvac 1300 Super will feature a mail-in sweepstakes entry form. For more information, visit this site.

TRUCKER BUDDY INTERNATIONAL announced its new executive director, Roxane Campbell Rose, at the Mid-America Trucking Show. One of the founders of RPM for Truckers magazine, Rose also has worked in marketing at Great Dane Trailers. Additionally, American Trucking Associations spokesman Mike Russell was named to the Trucker Buddy board of directors.

THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX fell 2.5 percent in February, its first monthly decline since August 2005 and its largest month-to-month decline in a year, the American Trucking Associations reported. The February index was 0.2 percent lower than it was a year before.

THE FEDERAL RESERVE reported a robust demand for trucking in the Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas districts in January and February, while the overall economy continued to grow. High fuel costs remained a concern, the report said.

CORRECTION: The full weight of Craig and Lisa Ringelstetter’s rig, sleeper and trailer was incorrectly given in a March story. The correct combined weight is 54,000 pounds. Overdrive regrets the error.

FEWER THAN 10 PERCENT of hazmat shippers and transporters have the technology to track their shipments in real time, according to a survey conducted for a logistics company. The research firm markITelligence, which did the survey for New Jersey-based DP&C Enterprises, concluded that the lack of information can represent a national security risk.

WARREN HOEMANN, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, resigned effective May 13. Hoemann had been acting administrator since March 31, when former Administrator Annette Sandberg left the agency. At press time, the White House had not announced a replacement for either officer.

A CDL LEARNER’S PERMIT, an idea proposed in 1990, finally was scrapped by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which also promised to examine the issue of student drivers who want to take their CDL skills tests outside their state of domicile. The Truckload Carriers Association has asked the agency to replace the domicile rule with one that merely requires proof of U.S. citizenship.

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