Industry news

While Democrats were winning Capitol Hill majorities in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in the Nov. 7 election, Democrats also took back the Indiana House in the wake of a controversial GOP-led leasing of the Indiana Toll Road.

Voters in 14 states also decided the fate of transportation-related ballot initiatives, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Of the 30 measures, 28 asked voters to fund improvements through taxes or bonds; 23 were approved.

In Minnesota, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that all revenue from car and truck sales taxes must be used for highways and transit, without diversion to other causes.

The national trend to send Democrats to Washington did not create a win for John Bradbury of Rising Fawn, Ga., a trucker who lost to a seven-term GOP incumbent in Georgia’s heavily Republican 9th Congressional District.

Bradbury, a Path Truck Lines company driver, garnered 24 percent of the vote against U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., who had run unopposed in the previous three elections. Bradbury encourages other truckers to consider politics. “If they think they need a change and they think they can do it, go for it,” he says. “Too many people dismiss truckers. We are as eligible and as intelligent as anyone with a law degree.”

Among the Republican incumbents who lost their seats to Democrats Nov. 7 were the two who had received, as of October, the most contributions from the trucking industry, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics: U.S. Sen. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., and U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo.

The Indiana Motor Truck Association supported the 75-year lease of the toll road to a private Spanish-Australian company, and a graduated three-year increase in the truck toll from $14 to $32, as a way to fund highway improvements statewide. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association urged Indianans to vote out the legislators who approved the lease, saying a message needed to be sent to other states considering similar public-private road partnerships.

The Nov. 7 vote turned the 52-48 Republican majority in the Indiana House into a 51-49 Democratic majority. The Indiana House now has changed hands in seven of the past 10 elections. Indiana voters also ousted three Republican congressmen, replacing them with Democrats.

Country duo Big & Rich, of “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” fame, will headline Kenworth’s 19th annual Customer Appreciation Concert at the 2007 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The concert is 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, in Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Cowboy Troy is the opening act. Free tickets will be available to CDL holders only, with a limit of two tickets per person. Tickets will be distributed in the South Hall Lobby Booth No. 2 starting at 10 a.m. on March 22 and March 23.

International Truck and Engine has announced its lineup of MaxxForce International Diesel Power engines for 2008 model year trucks.

The company says it will not release specs on its largest engines, the MaxxForce 11 and MaxxForce 13, until next year.

The engines include:

  • MaxxForce 5, a V-6 that features an upgraded intake throttle, a larger EGR cooler and enhanced electronics. It will power Class 4 and 5 International CityStar commercial trucks with 200 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • MaxxForce 7, International’s all-new V-8 turbo, which will power Class 5-7 International DuraStar series medium-duty trucks and other vehicles. MaxxForce 7 offers ratings of 200 hp to 230 hp and 560 lb.-ft. to 620 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • MaxxForce DT, built on the DT 466 Inline 6-cylinder platform, will power Class 6 and 8 DuraStar and WorkStar trucks with 210 hp to 300 hp and 520 lb.-ft. to 860 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • The inline-6 MaxxForce 9, which will feature a bigger EGR system, foam-molded wiring harnesses and closed-crankcase ventilation system. It will power Class 7 and 8 DuraStar and WorkStar trucks with 300 hp to 330 hp and 800 lb.-ft. to 950 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • MaxxForce 10, also an inline 6 that includes the same enhancements, and which will power Class 8 WorkStar and TranStar trucks with 310 hp to 350 hp and 1,050 lb.-ft. to 1,150 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • MaxxForce 11 and MaxxForce 13, the new big-bore diesel engines for the Class 8 market. The MaxxForce 11 will be offered in the TranStar, while the MaxxForce 13 will be available in the ProStar. Production is slated for fall 2007.

Beginning in spring 2008, the MaxxForce 11 and 13 engines will be built at a new facility near International’s V-6 and V-8 plant in Huntsville, Ala. Until then, the engines will be partially assembled in Germany and finished and trimmed in Huntsville.

Market experts say truckers should be able to shop a decent supply of ’06 engines into early 2007.

Class 8 inventories will end 2006 at about 65,000 units, which is a historically large inventory, but not out of line relative to current sales rates, said Kenny Vieth of A.C.T. Research.

“Presently, the new Class 8 inventory is equivalent to about two months of supply at the present strong rate of sales,” Vieth said.

Strong new-truck sales also mean a lot of trades are on the market, which should act as a check on used-truck prices, Vieth said.

September ended with 52,000 trucks on dealer lots, said Chris Brady, president of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting. “Fifty-two thousand is a lot anytime,” Brady said, but that backlog is quickly decreasing, he added.

Estimating how many leftover 2006 engines will be available for assembly into new trucks early next year is difficult, Vieth said.

“Our estimate is about six weeks of production at the end of 2006 build rate, or about double the normal supply-chain volume,” Vieth said. “Using 1,600 units per day (a proxy for recent build rates) gives us a carryover estimate of 48,000 units (1,600 units per day for 30 days).”

Engines built from Jan. 1 onward must meet stringent new emissions guidelines, but 2006 engines may be placed in ’07 trucks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation sees great promise for technologies such as electronic stability control, forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems, but don’t expect the feds to require such technologies anytime soon, said President Bush’s new transportation secretary.

“I prefer that we use incentives and education rather than mandates,” Mary Peters told reporters Oct. 31 at the American Trucking Associations meeting in Dallas.

In response to a question about the status of plans to allow expanded operations by Mexican trucks, Peters said there is no timetable. The Bush administration remains committed to expanded operations, as called for under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it won’t do so at the expense of safety, Peters said.

Peters said she agreed with ATA that a greater emphasis on freight movement is warranted in the federal highway program, and she noted that DOT and Congress made strides toward that in the 2005 highway act. “We made sure that freight is at the table,” said Peters, who led the Federal Highway Administration during the effort to reauthorize highway programs.

Fifteen owner-operators are finalists for the Truckload Carriers Association’s Independent Contractor of the Year award, which is co-sponsored by Overdrive.The contest is open to TCA carrier members’ owner-operators who have logged more than a million miles while adhering to strict safety standards. The grand prize winner will receive a new International tractor.

The top five winners in this contest and TCA’s Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest, co-sponsored by Truckers News, will receive numerous prizes donated by industry companies.

The top three prizewinners for both contests will be announced at the TCA 2007 Annual Convention in Las Vegas, Nev., March 11-14.

The Independent Contractor of the Year finalists are: Bruce Barnes, Witte Brothers Exchange; Albert Beck, Dart Transit Co.; Constance and Lanny Beyer, MCT Transportation; Charles Boyles, Landstar Ranger; Joe Chitwood, O&S Trucking; Jack Laughlin, Regal Service Company; Charles Maly, Shaffer Trucking; Kerry Marvin, Cornhusker Motor Lines; Robert McCray, Warren Transport; Stacy Moran, Contract Freighters; Gary Nelson, Robert Transport; Steven Recker, Warren Transport; Paul Tetrault, Robert Transport; and Gibert Wolf, Bradway Trucking.

Fueled by a declining housing market, the slowing economy is being felt in some segments of the trucking industry, especially flatbed. But brighter days are ahead, attendees at an American Trucking Associations conference were told Oct. 30.

“Freight has been weak this fall, but in the long run, trucking looks good,” said Bob Costello, the organization’s chief economist, at ATA’s annual Management Conference and Exhibition in Dallas.

“Freight tonnage has been flat this year,” Costello said. “The flatbed segment has been the star before the housing decline, but now it is not as strong, and part of that is due to the slowdown of construction materials for new housing starts.”

The strongest segment of the trucking industry has been reefers, with less-than-truckload showing positive gains, but overall long-haul is down 1 percent for the year, Costello said. Revenue is still strong even though productivity has failed to recover since the market downturn five years ago, Costello said.

Various factors are keeping a recession at bay, said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of Global Insight, though he believes the housing market is a year away from an upturn. He also expects to see the first depreciation in home values since the Great Depression.

“We all know the economy is slowing, but our bottom line is that it’s a soft landing,” Behravesh said. Exports and capital spending are strong, the Federal Reserve is keeping inflation in check by curbing interest rates, and a drop in fuel prices is “like a huge tax break for consumers,” Behravesh said.

The Truck Manufacturers Association and Freightliner, International, Mack and Volvo showcased the fruit of two years of aerodynamics research Nov. 14 outside the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Department of Energy, which helped fund the project.

“Implementation of the results of this research could ultimately save nearly 1 billion gallons of fuel annually,” said Robert Clarke, president of TMA, which organized the project.
Subtleties on display included a small outward angle at the rear of the side skirts on the International ProStar and an unusual wheel-and-axle fairing on the trailer behind the Volvo.

Mack had a boat tail that folded so the driver could open the trailer doors fully when getting ready to unload. Freightliner showed improved mirror designs and plastic glass panels that demonstrated both airflow around mirrors and the paths taken by raindrops.

Wind-tunnel tests proved that reducing turbulence around mirrors and windshield improves visibility by reducing the number and velocity of raindrops hitting the glass, said Freightliner’s Scott Smith.

One of International’s partners on the research project, Wal-Mart, already has put into service a trailer incorporating some of the improvements, said Ron Schoon, International chief engineer of aerodynamics.

Compared to recent industry efforts focusing on tractor aerodynamics, Schoon said relatively little has been done to trailers. “There is still an awful lot of opportunity in the area of tractor and trailer integration,” he added.

Twenty-six percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to a national nonprofit that advocates road construction.

TRIP, The Road Information Program, analyzed federal and state data to come up with its numbers.

In engineering circles, a structurally deficient bridge is one in serious need of repair, while a functionally obsolete bridge is one with a design or capacity no longer adequate for traffic demands. The percentage of substandard bridges nationwide is about evenly divided between the deficient and the obsolete at 13 percent each, TRIP says.

Jurisdictions earning bad grades from TRIP for their high percentage of deficient or obsolete bridges include the Michigan cities of Detroit (41 percent) and Lansing (33 percent) and the states of New Hampshire (32 percent) and Mississippi (20 percent).

Thirty-six percent of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, TRIP says. Most bridges are designed to last only 50 to 80 years, and half of Maine’s bridges are at least 50 years old, TRIP says.

The group also says 35 percent of major roads in the United States are in poor or mediocre condition. Between 1990 and 2004, TRIP points out, the U.S. population grew 13 percent, and vehicle travel on the nation’s highways increased 38 percent.
For more information, visit TRIP’s website at

On Oct. 30, the New York Thruway Authority voted to stop collecting tolls in Buffalo, which had been the only town with Thruway tollbooths within its city limits.

Developer Carl Paladino had filed a lawsuit to end the tolls, which for a five-axle truck had cost $4.25. He argued that the tolls had become illegal under state law in 1996, when the federal government reimbursed the Thruway for the cost of the decades-old tollbooths.

No plans exist to remove further tolls, said Thruway spokesman Patrick Noonan. Besides the lawsuit, a factor in the Thruway’s decision was the state Senate’s pledge to cover one year’s lost revenue from the tolls, or $14 million.

The authority also voted to give the state Department of Transportation one year’s notice of its intent to return the maintenance and operation of Interstate 84 back to the state. This 71-mile stretch costs an annual $14 million to maintain.

The authority’s vote was greeted with cheers by a crowd of anti-toll politicians waiting with champagne at the Buffalo tollbooths, which were closed within minutes. The tollbooth speed limit will be enforced, however, until the booths are razed.

When 2007 Mercedes-Benz truck engines go into production in January, prototypes will have accumulated more than 14.5 million miles of testing, 6 million on the heavy-duty MBE 4000 and 8.5 million on the medium-duty MBE 900.

Freightliner announced Oct. 20 that the first tests of those engines began in Michigan, Germany and Brazil more than two years ago. Freightliner says the testing program is one of the most “aggressive and comprehensive” in its history.

So far 10.4 million miles have been put on 79 test engines, including cold-weather tests in Finland and Minnesota, hot-weather tests in the Nevada desert, high-humidity tests in Texas and high-altitude tests in Colorado.

Clarence James “Mac” McCormick III, the founder of Bestway Express, was killed Oct. 26 in a private plane crash near Lawrenceville, Ill. He was slated to become chairman of the American Trucking Associations at a meeting the following week in Dallas.

“Mac was a tireless ambassador for the trucking industry,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “This is truly an enormous loss. Our hearts go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Current ATA Chairman Pat Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress, called McCormick’s death “a devastating loss. He was more than a rising star in the industry. He was also a great friend.”

Quinn will continue as chairman until June 2007, when First Vice Chairman Ray Kuntz, CEO of Watkins Shepard Trucking, will assume the post.

McCormick started Bestway in Vincennes in 1981 with four trucks. The company now operates a regional and dedicated fleet of more than 400 trucks, as well as warehousing and logistics services.

The Iowa Soybean Association and Decker Truck Line have announced the Million Mile Haul, a comprehensive comparison of 20 percent soy biodiesel to regular petroleum diesel in eight over-the-road trucks operated by the Fort Dodge, Iowa, fleet.

This will be the first such comparison program in the nation to be made public, officials of the two partners said at a joint press conference Oct. 31.

Caterpillar will participate in gathering technical information and analyzing the use of B20 in its engines.

Other entities supporting the study include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Biodiesel Board, Iowa Central Community College and the Renewable Energy Group, a Ralston, Iowa, company that develops biodiesel plants.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson recognized the trucking industry’s top environmental performers at the 2006 SmartWay awards ceremony, which took place in Dallas during the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

The SmartWay ATA-EPA partnership is designed to popularize practical, money-saving techniques to increase fuel efficiency, reduce idling and cut emissions.

“The trucking industry is strongly committed to transporting freight in an environmentally sound and efficient manner,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.

2006 SmartWay awards were presented to:

  • APL Logistics, Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Bison Transport, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Cascade Sierra Solutions, Brownsville, Ore.
  • Contract Freighters Inc., Joplin, Mo.
  • Epes Logistics, Greensboro, N.C.
  • H-E-B, San Antonio
  • Ikea Distribution Services, North America, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
  • Interface Inc., Atlanta
  • Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, Springfield, Ore.
  • Langford Inc., St. Cloud, Minn.
  • Meridian IQ, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Minnesota Trucking Association
  • National Freight, Vineland, N.J.
  • New Century Transportation, Westampton, N.J.
  • New Jersey Motor Truck Association
  • O&S Trucking, Springfield, Mo.
  • Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio
  • Quad Graphics, Sussex, Wis.
  • Roehl Transport, Marshfield, Wis.
  • Schneider National, Green Bay, Wis.
  • Sharp Electronics, Mahwah, N.J.
  • Smithfield Transportation, Smithfield, Va.
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.
  • YRC Worldwide, Overland Park, Kan.

    Factors that drive freight present a mixed picture for 2007 with a 1 in 3 chance of recession, most likely in the first half of the year, according to transportation forecasting and research firm FTR Associates of Nashville, Ind.

    A declining housing market and cuts in automobile production likely will be a drag on continued growth in other segments of the economy, but exports and capital investment should balance those out, the firm said.

    “We think that housing will find a floor and that the economy will expand at slightly below its long-term rate of growth at about 3 percent in 2007,” said Steve Graham, FTR vice president of market analysis.

    With solid balance sheets and a fairly tight labor market, companies will continue to invest in productivity-enhancing equipment, and exports will be bolstered by a weak dollar, Graham said.

    “The global economy is still experiencing strong broadly-based growth,” Graham said. “However, there is a significant danger that secondary effects from housing and the slowing auto sector could spill over to the wider economy. And if businesses in other industries respond to the weakening activity by curtailing their own investment and hiring plans, the economy could devolve into recession.”

    Although the White House gave its approval in mid-September, a new rule governing supporting documents that motor carriers must use to verify drivers’ logs won’t be issued until the staff is ready to implement it, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill said Oct. 20.

    “I am holding it because I want to be sure our field staff is fully trained so it will be applied accurately and uniformly,” Hill said in comments to journalists in Washington, D.C.
    The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the final rule Sept. 14. As of mid-November, the rule still had not been issued.

    A delay of two months is unusual; federal regulations typically are issued and published in the Federal Register within a few days of OMB approval.

    In a speech at the National Press Club, Hill said that motor carriers have become safer but that “we’re seeing a plateauing” of fatalities and other key metrics involving large trucks. Given the anticipated growth in transportation along with greater congestion and other factors, fatalities likely will increase “unless we see a reinvigorating of safety initiatives,” Hill said.

    CALIFORNIA’S GOVERNOR again has vetoed a bill that would have granted collective bargaining rights to port owner-operators. Arnold Schwarzenegger, easily re-elected Nov. 7, said it was identical to the legislation he vetoed in 2006.

    A FEDERAL JURY in Tucson, Ariz., ordered Little Bear Transport of Salt Lake City to pay $15 million to a tow-truck operator who lost his right leg after being hit by a tractor-trailer on Christmas Eve 2002. According to court documents, the trucker had falsified his log book before the crash in hopes of making it home for Christmas.

    OVERNITE TRANSPORTATION will pay $232,250 in back pay and interest to settle U.S. Department of Labor allegations of discrimination against 260 black applicants for dockworker jobs in South Holland, Ill. The company also will give jobs to 15 of the applicants. The alleged discrimination occurred before UPS bought the company and renamed it UPS Freight.

    THE PRESIDENT of Genesis Petroleum, a Miami tanker fleet, and six employees have been charged by federal prosecutors with systematically putting into their own company and
    private vehicles more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel that should have been delivered to customers.

    SWIFT TRANSPORTATION’s founder and former CEO, Jerry Moyes, who resigned in the wake of a federal lawsuit over his stock transactions, offered Nov. 3 to buy the company at $29 per share, or $2.2 billion. Swift, based in Phoenix, is evaluating the offer.

    VOLUNTEER TRUCKING of Dayton, Tenn., has been bought by a private equity firm, Creo Capital Partners of Los Angeles, for an undisclosed sum. Creo’s other investments include construction, food and textile companies.

    AN INTERSTATE OASIS must be within three miles of an exit, with restrooms, drinking water, round-the-clock staffing, food, fuel, oil, and free, well-lighted parking, says the Federal Highway Administration. Truck stops will be designated “oases” on roads where rest areas don’t offer truck parking.

    FORBES magazine named Knight Transportation (No. 82), Heartland Express (No. 123) and Marten Transport (No. 141) among America’s 200 Best Small Companies, those with sales of $5 million to $750 million.

    ROADS WEST TRANSPORTATION of Phoenix has been bought for $15.6 million by another Phoenix carrier, Knight Transportation. Roads West will continue to operate separately.

    THE DRIVER SHORTAGE and diesel fuel top the list of critical issues facing the industry, according to an American Trucking Associations survey of more than 4,000 trucking executives. The rest of the Top 10: driver retention, hours of service, congestion, regulation, highway infrastructure, tort reform, tolls/highway funding and the environment.

    AN EX-TRUCKER was sentenced to three years in prison for abetting the sale of 12 fake New Jersey CDLs. Arsenio Aguilar was a driver for Covitta Trucking of Lorton, Va.

    ORAL ARGUMENTS were scheduled for Dec. 4 in lawsuits challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest changes to the hours-of-service regulations. The separate challenges by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and by safety advocates are before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

    WISCONSIN’S GOVERNOR distributed 58 state grants totaling $1 million to reimburse fleets 70 percent of the cost of idling-reduction equipment. Grants ranged from $98,847 to Schneider National, based in Green Bay, to $4,970 each to Ronald K. Henchen of Eau Claire and B&J Transport of Park Falls.

    JOHN BARBER AND GENA SEIBEL were recognized by the Truckload Carriers Association as Highway Angels. Barber, a Schneider National driver from Des Moines, Iowa, helped a driver who flipped her SUV on I-530 near Little Rock, Ark. Seibel, a Cloverleaf Transport driver from Sioux City, Iowa, awakened a family whose house was on fire and helped them get to safety.

    ELECTRONIC MANIFESTS will be mandatory beginning Jan. 25, 2007, for truckers entering the U.S. through all ports of entry in Arizona and Washington and through seven ports of entry in North Dakota. E-manifests for truckers eventually will be mandatory at all U.S. ports of entry. For more information, e-mail [email protected].

    AN EX-CDL EXAMINER, Jimmy D. Halcomb of Durham, N.C., pleaded guilty to making false statements involving 151 driving tests. North Carolina removed Halcomb as an examiner, revoked all the questionable CDLs and retested the drivers.

    DRIVER TRAINING COURSES newly certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute include Swift Driving Academy in Phoenix; Swift Driving Academy in Lewiston, Idaho; and Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C. For a complete list of schools with certified courses, visit

    THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX gained 1.7 percent in September after falling 1.9 percent in August, the American Trucking Associations reported. Year-to-date, the index was down 1.9 percent from the same period in 2005. “The jump in hurricane-related freight last year is making year-over-year comparisons very difficult,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

    CALIFORNIA. Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, periods of sleep or rest in a sleeper no longer will be exempt from the state’s five-minute idling rule, and new trucks must be sold with a five-minute engine shutdown device.

    MARYLAND. Bright pink panels that drivers on the eastbound Bay Bridge can use to track their distance from other vehicles have reduced collisions by 30 percent since their installation in May, the Maryland Transportation Authority reports.

    NEW JERSEY. Truckers are asked to complete an online survey at this site to help the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority decide how many new truck rest areas are needed and where.

    NEW YORK. The five-year-long, $62 million repainting of the George Washington Bridge was finished just in time for the span’s 75th anniversary in October. The 49,000-gallon paint job is designed to ward off rust and decay.

    UTAH. Fee-charging express lanes are now open on 38 miles of I-15 between Salt Lake City and Orem. A limited number of solo drivers will be allowed to use carpool lanes for $50 a month. The initial offering of 600 passes sold out quickly. Visit this site.

    WASHINGTON. Failing to have chains on board a big rig now is a $155 fine, and failing to chain up when required garners a $500 fine.