Industry news

You’ll experience few surprises with the official changeover to ultra-low-sulfur diesel Oct. 15 because 85 percent of diesel sold since Sept. 1 already has been ULSD, says Al Mannato, American Petroleum Institute fuel issues manager.

“The vast majority of truckers already have it in their tank,” Mannato says.

Refiners have been producing the new fuel since June. October’s deadline is largely for labeling purposes at the pump.

Though ULSD is now the main highway fuel produced, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not require retail outlets to sell it, according to the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance, a group that includes the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.

“It is possible that ULSD fuel might not be available initially at every service station or truck stop and that a diesel retailer may choose to sell low-sulfur diesel fuel instead of ULSD fuel,” the alliance says.

Trucks with engines produced after Dec. 31, 2006, must use only ULSD, and they will be so marked on the tank and on the dashboard. Owners of pre-2007 engines may use low-sulfur diesel or ULSD, but only ULSD will be sold for highway use as of Dec. 1, 2010.

Power should be unaffected by ULSD, although fuel economy may be slightly less because the process that removes sulfur also can reduce the energy content of fuel, the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance says. That energy loss would be tiny, perhaps 1 percent, but any mileage changes would be difficult to predict because wind speed and many other factors affect mileage, Mannato says.

A new report on 2005 highway crashes shows a small decline in the number of fatalities and a significant reduction in the number of people injured in large truck crashes.

Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the report shows that truck-involved fatalities declined to 5,212 in 2005 from 5,235 the year before. Injuries decreased by 2,000 cases to 114,000 from 2004.

“These numbers highlight the successful efforts of the trucking industry to increase safety on the nation’s highways,” says Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.

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The total number of highway fatalities involving all types of vehicles, however, increased 1.4 percent to 43,443 in 2005 from 42,836 a year earlier, according to NHTSA.

The decline in truck-involved fatalities comes after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last fall that the fatality and injury crash rates for large trucks had fallen to their lowest point – measured on a vehicle miles basis – since the DOT began keeping records in 1975. The 2004 rate for large trucks was 1.96 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

According to ATA data, truck vehicle-miles-traveled figures were virtually the same in 2004 and 2005, mirroring the NHTSA’s report of the overall trend for all vehicles.

Arguments made by Public Citizen and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against the current hours-of-service rule are hollow, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stated in its response to the groups’ petitions.

The agency filed its response in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in August.

FMCSA says Public Citizen’s petition should be denied because regulators properly measured the risk of driving 11 hours instead of 10. “Even if there is an increased risk associated with driving 11 hours, the costs of imposing a 10-hour limit far outweigh the safety benefits,” the FMCSA stated.

Moreover, the agency argues that evidence indicates the 34-hour recovery period is sufficient. Major improvements in truck design and more opportunity for rest under the new rule also influenced the agency’s decision, FMCSA stated.

OOIDA’s petition is without merit because loading and unloading time already was taken into account and discussed in the rule’s preamble, the agency stated.

FMCSA added the public had sufficient notice that the sleeper berth provision could change because the agency noted that provision in its Notice of Proposed Rule Making, which is required to have “a description of the subjects and issues involved.”

“The sleeper berth provision is not arbitrary or capricious,” FMCSA argued. “The provision is based upon sound science demonstrating the risk of split sleep and higher crash rates for sleeper berth drivers.”

Federal courts in 2005 denied the original petitions by OOIDA and Public Citizen for reconsideration of the rule. The groups then filed a new petition for review in the spring, an action that was followed by a plethora of other interested parties filing their own comments in court for one side or the other.

Petitioning with Public Citizen are Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has filed a friend of the court brief in support of the petitioners.

Supporting OOIDA are the Truckload Carriers Association, the Ohio Trucking Association and the California Trucking Association.

The Teamsters filed in support of both Public Citizen and OOIDA.

Supporting FMCSA are the American Trucking Associations, the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, the Health & Personal Care Logistics Conference, UPS and the National Industrial Transportation League.

Con-way Freight driver Dale Duncan was named the grand champion at the 69th National Truck Driving Championships in New Orleans, Aug. 15-19. He has driven for Con-way 16 years and has 1.1 million accident-free miles.

Duncan bested 381 other drivers at the event, sponsored by the American Trucking Associations. To win, he navigated his tractor and 42-foot tanker trailer through an obstacle course and completed an interview, a written test and a pre-trip inspection.

Other winners and their respective categories:

  • James Hines, Wal-Mart Transportation, Five-Axle Class
  • Ryland Hogan, Wilson Trucking, Five-Axle Sleeper Class
  • Mark Hassemer, Yellow Transportation, Four-Axle Class
  • Daniel Shamrell, FedEx Freight, Three-Axle Class
  • Robert French, Con-way, Twins Class
  • Anthony Spero, ABF Freight System, Flatbed Class
  • Randy DeVault, Roadway, Straight Truck Class
  • Timothy Cohen, FedEx Ground, Rookie of the Year
  • Bruce Green, Yellow Transportation, Professional Excellence Award
  • Daniel Shamrell, FedEx Freight, Neill Darmstadter Vehicle Condition Award


A newspaper series has prompted discussion of a fact many truckers already know too well: Because hot temperatures expand fuel, drivers receive less bang for the buck in hot weather.

The Kansas City Star’s two-part investigative story, published Aug. 27-28, noted that while the federal retail standard for fuel is 60 degrees, the law does not require retailers to adjust the pump in summertime.

Fuel expands when temperatures top 60 degrees, but pumps don’t account for the bigger volume, the newspaper reported. Americans will pay $2.3 billion more for fuel in 2006 than they would if pumps were adjusted to account for fuel expansion, the newspaper reported.

In Canada, such adjustments at the pump are routine, the Star reported. Some big fuel buyers, including the U.S. military, negotiate temperature-adjusted fuel.

The report examined the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s database of fuel temperatures at 1,000 retail stations. Averaged nationwide and year-round, fuel is sold to drivers at nearly 65 degrees.

Hawaii is the only state to adjust pumps for hotter fuel. The Hawaiian gallon at the pump contains nearly 234 cubic inches of fuel, or almost 3 cubic inches more than is dispensed at U.S. pumps outside the state. The extra amount – about 1 percent – helps compensate for the state’s year-round warm temperature.

Accounting for the difference would be costly, says the American Petroleum Institute. Some retailers use older mechanical equipment, which are “virtually impossible to accurately temperature compensate,” API says. “The benefit to the consumer is negligible.”

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched an investigation into hot fuel, the Star reported.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is accepting comment on its plan to raise fees for many hazmat carriers and eliminate the option of expedited telephone registration.

For fleets that don’t qualify as a small business or as a nonprofit organization, the agency proposes to increase the fee from $975 to $1,975, with an additional $25 administrative fee for registration year 2007-2008. The fee would increase again, to $2,975 plus the $25 administration fee, beginning in registration year 2008-2009.

In 2000, to meet a congressional funding mandate, the agency expanded the registrant base and adopted a two-tier fee schedule. The registration fee was set at $275 for small businesses and $1,975 for everyone else, with a $25 processing fee in all cases.

A 2003 budget surplus resulted in a temporary fee adjustment to $125 for small businesses and $275 for everyone else, again with a $25 fee in all cases.

This year, officials increased the fees to $250 for small businesses and nonprofits and $975 for everyone else, again with the $25 fee in all cases.

The proposed increase will fund the national Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grants program at $28 million, as required in the Bush administration’s budget proposal to Congress for fiscal year 2007.

A normal day on the job turned into an opportunity to save a life for American Central Transport driver Barry Byram of Jonesboro, Ark.

On July 24, Byram stopped when a car spun out of control on I-40 at Brownsville, Tenn. He crawled through the back window of the rolled-over Volkswagen to find the injured driver had a weak pulse. Drawing from training he received during 12 years in a military helicopter unit, he used his shirt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He also gathered identification and other vital information that would help police and medical professionals later.

“I was always raised to respect people and help them out,” Byram said. “I’ve told my children that they should strive to do something for someone every day, even if it is just opening a door.”

President Bush on Sept. 5 nominated Mary Peters as his new U.S. Secretary of Transportation. She would replace Norman Mineta, who resigned in July. The U.S. Senate must confirm Peters’ nomination.

Currently senior vice president at the engineering firm HDR Inc., Peters also serves as co-vice chairman of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

From 2001 to 2005, she served as the head of the Federal Highway Administration, where she worked to modernize the country’s roads and bridges. She also led a national campaign to improve safety in highway work zones and led the FHA’s efforts to complete a multi-year authorization of surface transportation programs.

Before coming to Washington, Peters worked with the Arizona Department of Transportation for more than 15 years and was appointed director in 1998.

Freightliner will shutter its day cab reconfiguring operation in Tooele, Utah, by November.
The first of its kind, the Tooele Reconfigured Day Cab operation started in 2000 amid decreasing sleeper cab values and a shortage of used day cabs.

Freightliner says improved resale values of used trucks, an increased demand for used sleeper cabs and a more balanced availability of as-built day cabs all led to the decision.

“We intend to channel our supply of used sleeper cabs directly to the market, as opposed to reconfiguring them,” says Rich Ferguson, president of Freightliner Market Development.

A laptop belonging to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was stolen from a government-owned vehicle on Aug. 22 in Baltimore. The computer contains personal information – including names, dates of birth, and CDL numbers – of 193 CDL holders from 40 motor carrier companies.

Investigators say the laptop contained no financial or medical information. Further, the agency says it has no reason to believe that the perpetrators targeted the computer based on knowledge of the CDL data.

The 40 motor carrier companies have been notified of the potential security breach and they have also been given the names of employees whose information may be on the laptop.

Affected individuals can contact a hotline at (800) 832-5660 for more information.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will keep brokers and freight forwarders on its radar screen, according to a notice of determination published in the Federal Register.

FMCSA acknowledged its authority over brokers and freight forwarders when it announced the continued registration requirement.

“Registration of brokers and freight forwarders of non-household goods is needed for the protection of shippers,” the notice stated. “Accordingly, the agency will continue to register all general commodities brokers and freight forwarders subject to its jurisdiction.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association lauded that decision, saying that letting brokers off the registration hook would have been a big step in the wrong direction.

“The problems with unscrupulous brokers have continued to worsen,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

When the current highway funding legislation was signed into law last year, it raised big questions in some minds about broker and freight forwarder registration.

The Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users included a reference that some people took to mean that brokers and freight forwarders no longer would have to register with FMCSA.

Broker oversight is needed more than ever, Spencer wrote to members of Congress: “Just as brokers have proliferated in the household goods industry, and have used modern technology to take advantage of consumers, unscrupulous brokers of general freight transportation take advantage of small business motor carriers on a daily basis.”

Covenant Transport of Chattanooga, Tenn., has acquired Star Transportation of Nashville for about $40 million in cash.

Beth Franklin, Star’s chief executive officer, has agreed to consult with Covenant on transition issues for one year. Jim Brower, a 20-year veteran of Star and its current president, along with his staff, will remain in place to run Star.

Star Transportation is a short- to medium-haul dry van regional truckload carrier. Star operates primarily in the Southeast, with shipments concentrated from Texas to Virginia. The carrier generated $7.1 million in net income for the 12 months ended June 30.
“Covenant is strongly committed to a significant regional presence because of the large freight volumes that move in regional lanes,” said David R. Parker, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Covenant.

Covenant has reported net losses in its most recent quarterly financial statements.

A large banner at Swift Enterprises’ corporate office in Phoenix reads “Goodbye fuel islands, hello Hawaiian Islands.” The banner is one of several “fantasies” designed by Swift to promote the company’s new driver appreciation program.

On Sept. 12, the fantasies came true for Robert Goar, of Fontana, Calif., who picked up a check for $1 million from Swift’s Thanks a Million program.

To enter the contest, Swift drivers had to meet minimum safety standards. Ten drivers, including the grand-prize winner, then were selected at random by an accounting firm and flown to Phoenix, where they were picked up in limousines.

Eight finalists were each presented with a $10,000 check from Bob Cunningham, chief executive officer of Swift. The runner-up to the grand-prize winner, Cosmas Lowate of Denver, received $10,000 plus the keys to a new Volvo 880 that he will drive for one year.

The company is going to give away another $1 million in 12 weeks and $10,000 each to nine finalists. Continuing the program beyond that will hinge on factors such as driver retention and productivity, Cunningham says.

Goar says he plans to keep driving. It’s “one of the last jobs where you can make all the decisions yourself,” he says. Goar has been with Swift for about two years as a driver and driver trainer – a role he plans to continue as a millionaire. “It is a lot of money, but not enough to retire on,” he says. “But it changes my whole attitude.”

The other finalists were Carmen Alfonso, Atlanta; Alvin Arrington, Richmond, Va.; Melvin Dawkins, Lancaster, Texas; Gary Devones, Lancaster, Texas; Radames Laboy, Menasha, Wis.; Thomas Meyers, Greer, S.C.; Jennifer Sportsman, Minneapolis; and Woody Williams, Oklahoma City.

The updated Rotella Road Show, featuring new Shell Rotella T with Triple Protection technology, was unveiled at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Catch the exhibit at one of these locations:

  • Oct. 5: Bessemer, Ala., Veteran’s Oil Co.
  • Oct. 10: Midway, Fla., Trucker’s 24 Hour Service
  • Oct. 12: Atlanta, Sike’s Fleet Services
  • Oct. 16: Indianapolis, Speedco
  • Oct. 25: Springfield, Mo., Jenkin’s Diesel
  • Oct. 26: Joplin, Mo., Petro
  • Oct. 27: Russellville, Ark., Peak Express Truck Lube
  • Oct. 31: West Memphis, Ark., Pilot Truck Center
  • Nov. 1: West Memphis, Ark., Speedco Truck Lube
  • Nov. 2: West Memphis, Ark., Petro Lube

For more information, visit this site.

A NEW BIODIESEL HOTLINE, (866) 246-3437 (or 866-BIODIESEL), enables truckers to find biodiesel retailers 24 hours a day. Operators tell callers exact locations, which blends they sell and what fuel cards they accept.

THE KENWORTH T660 introduction TOUR is traveling to nearly 60 Kenworth dealerships through early December to showcase the new aerodynamic truck. It is equipped with a GPS navigation system, a new driver’s display and advanced forward lighting. Visit this site.

LOUISIANA’S GOVERNOR denied backing tolls on I-10 and I-12 after U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said her administration was pursuing them. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, said her administration was compiling information on tolls, among other funding options, but called the idea “dead on arrival.”

SCHNEIDER NATIONAL announced that it will eliminate about 170 positions, about 120 of them at its Green Bay, Wis., headquarters, and move an additional 85 employees to growth areas of the business. Schneider pointed out that the realignment, which affects less than 1 percent of the company’s 22,300 employees, comes after recent acquisitions added more than 1,100 employees.

JAMES H. MOON, an owner-operator leased to Rocking M Trucking of Anna, Texas, won a set of DT-404 active drive balancers in a Balance Masters drawing at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

IDLEAIRE now offers a reservation system at selected TravelCenters of America and Petro truck stops, with plans to expand it nationwide. IdleAire also has a new 32-space installation at Arrow Trucking’s Tulsa, Okla., terminal.

THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX increased 0.7 percent in July, the third increase in four months, the American Trucking Associations reported. Year-to-date, the index was down 1.8 percent, compared with the same period in 2005.

THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX for freight fell 0.8 percent in July, turning down for the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported. The freight TSI measures output in for-hire trucking and other modes of transportation.