Industry news

A number of the most influential highway advocacy groups announced a coalition to combat the growing trend toward privatizing or leasing existing toll facilities to private investors. Called Americans for a Strong National Highway Network, the coalition includes the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, NATSO, the American Automobile Association, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and the American Highway Users Alliance.

Called Americans for a Strong National Highway Network, the coalition includes the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, NATSO, the American Automobile Association, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and the American Highway Users Alliance.

“Having these prominent organizations joining the charge against selling off our nation’s highways is an indication of just how opposed the public is to these deals,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “These groups are willing to fight to save the highways that were bought, and continued to be paid for, by the public.”

“The sale or lease of existing toll facilities generates revenue at great expense to taxpayers and the trucking industry and carries potential negative impacts on highway safety, security and the motoring public,” said Bill Graves, ATA president.

The Bush administration has encouraged states to explore public-private partnerships in highway construction as a way of affordably alleviating congestion.

Federal officials are seeking comment on petitions from the American Trucking Associations and others to require truck governors capping speeds at 68 mph.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published the notice and request for comments Jan. 26 in the Federal Register. Written comments must be submitted no later than March 27.

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The ATA, nine motor carriers and the organization Road Safe America petitioned the agencies last fall, requesting that trucks manufactured after 1990 with a gross vehicle weight of more than 26,000 pounds be equipped with electronic speed governors. They also asked for a prohibition on tampering with the governors to allow higher speeds.

In its petition, the ATA, which supports a national speed limit of 65 mph, said the governors on trucks would highlight the speed issue for all drivers. Most carriers that use governors already do so at 68 mph or lower, the association said.

The motor carriers that co-signed the Road Safe America petition are ATS Intermodal, Covenant Transport, C.R. England., Dart Transit, H.O. Wolding, J.B. Hunt Transport, Jet Express, Schneider National and U.S. Xpress.

Comments must be accompanied by the docket number, which is NHTSA-2007-26851.

Comments may be submitted to Docket Management, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh St. S.W., Washington DC 20590, or by logging onto the Docket Management System website at

Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing two separate incentives to encourage motor carriers to install electronic on-board recorders, the agency is seeking additional perks that would improve productivity without diminishing safety or driver health.

For example, FMCSA is asking for evidence that could support granting more scheduling flexibility to the 14-hour rule or the use of the sleeper berth to satisfy off-duty minimums.

In comments filed already, motor carriers frequently suggested that tax incentives and the shielding of recorder data from crash litigation would be desirable incentives. In both cases, however, legislation would be required, so those incentives are beyond the scope of a rulemaking absent further action by Congress.

The two incentives FMCSA already has proposed if carriers voluntarily adopt recorders are: random sampling of hours-of-service records to establish the carrier’s safety fitness rating; and relief from required supporting documents except for those needed to verify on-duty not-driving activities and off-duty status.

For a copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking and various related documents, go to this site and search Docket No. 18940. Select “Reverse Order” for the most recent documents.

Randall-Reilly Publishing has purchased all assets of Truck Show Las Vegas, held each June at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Furthermore, the California Trucking Association has signed a multi-year agreement to sponsor the show and will discontinue its International Trucking Show in Southern California, the Randall-Reilly Events Group announced.

The Truck Show is June 7-9. The 2006 event attracted 15,002 attendees and 366 exhibitors.

“This is an opportunity to grow our trade-show platform while serving the marketing needs of our customers,” says Mike Reilly, Randall-Reilly president and chief executive officer.

Randall-Reilly, publisher of Overdrive, also produces the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

“We are pleased to sponsor The Truck Show Las Vegas,” said Michael Campbell, CTA executive vice president and CEO. “It will be good for our members – and the entire industry – to be able to attend one annual event in the West where they can meet face to face with manufacturers and suppliers.”

Randall-Reilly Publishing’s Commercial Carrier Journal named Pitt Ohio Express its 2007 Innovator of the Year at a Feb. 1 awards banquet in Florida.

Pitt Ohio Express was recognized for its use of data mining to uncover a trend toward lighter loads in customers’ shipping patterns, and for responding by adding a fleet of delivery vans to improve service and lower costs. At the same time, the addition of non-CDL equipment enabled the company to attract a more diverse driver work force, including women and minorities.

Pitt Ohio Express “strives to improve its management by delving into its data and the best information available to it, not by relying on intuition or outdated conventional wisdom,” said Avery Vise, CCJ editorial director, when presenting the award.

The event was sponsored by Freightliner Trucks and PeopleNet.

Projecting a $230 million deficit in the fuel-tax-dependent Highway Trust Fund by the end of fiscal year 2009, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters outlined the agency’s fiscal 2008 budget request in a Feb. 5 teleconference.

Almost two-thirds of the $67 billion total, $42 billion, is for highway safety and construction programs. Of that, $175 million is for the Congestion Relief Initiative announced a year ago, a mostly administrative effort to examine such ideas as public-private partnerships in highway construction.

Included in the congestion package is $25 million to implement the Corridors of the Future program, which encourages public-private partnerships across state lines.

Raising the federal fuel tax is not among the Bush administration’s congestion proposals, but “congestion pricing” is, Peters said – for example, having different toll prices at different times of day to encourage more off-peak traffic on certain routes. “By using tolls or pricing, you can price a more consistent and a better use of the system,” Peters said.

Coming up with alternatives to fuel taxes for highway funding is among the tasks of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, created by Congress in 2005. Peters is a member of that panel, which is required to submit its recommendations by July 1 of this year.

The budget requests $528 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety improvement initiatives, including $300 million toward interstate regulation enforcement.

The Terror-Free Oil Initiative, which demands that companies get oil from non-Middle Eastern nations, opened its first gas station Feb. 1 in Omaha, Neb., but the station has no diesel pumps.

According to the group’s website (, it is “dedicated to encouraging Americans to buy gasoline that originated from countries that do not export or finance terrorism. We educate the public by promoting those companies that acquire their crude oil supply from nations outside the Middle East and by exposing those companies that do not.”

The website lists only one truck stop chain, Flying J, under the heading “Brands that do not support Middle Eastern oil.” However, no truck-stop chains are on the much longer list labeled “Companies that finance terrorism by importing oil from the Middle East,” though that list includes many convenience-store chains that sell diesel.

Oil experts argue that determining the origins of all the oil traded on the open market and all the oil commingled in U.S. pipelines at any given time is nearly impossible, and that boycotting Company A in favor of Company B has little effect as long as the same amount of oil is being bought.

In January through October 2006, the most recent period for which data is available, 18 percent of U.S. oil imports were from Persian Gulf nations, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Of the top five sources of U.S. oil imports during that time, only one, Saudi Arabia, is in the Middle East. According to the API, the top five were:

  • Canada (17 percent of U.S. imports)
  • Saudi Arabia (12 percent)
  • Mexico (11 percent)
  • Venezuela (11 percent)
  • Nigeria (9 percent)

Supporting the Terror-Free Oil Initiative is American Truckers at War (website), an organization founded by Mark R. Taylor, a civilian veteran of Halliburton’s trucking operation in Iraq. “We must do our best to purchase fuel from those companies who do not sponsor terrorism,” said Renee Taylor, the group’s webmaster.

While some current economic indicators don’t paint a rosy picture for trucking in the next few months, it’s not as bad as the previous market turndown, according to Bob Costello, chief economist at the American Trucking Associations.

“Is trucking predicting another recession? I don’t think so,” Costello told members of NATSO Feb. 1 at the national truck stop association’s annual meeting in San Antonio.

While for-hire freight tonnage is down significantly from record highs in 2005, Costello said, year-over-year freight tonnage is not down nearly as much as it was during the most recent recession, which ended in 2003.

“We just don’t see the magnitude of factors we had in the last recession,” Costello said. Tonnage numbers are down in part because of a declining housing market, which has greatly affected the flatbed sector, Costello said. The strong tonnage figures of 2005 were thanks in part to the goods shipped to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Costello said.

Truck shipments, as opposed to tonnage, are down only 0.2 percent, he said.

Truck sales are expected to drop after the record year of 2006 because of the new technology in the 2007 engines. While Costello wouldn’t predict the number of trucks that will be sold in 2007, he said he’s seen forecasts around 150,000 units in North America.

Projections of 2007 real GDP – the gross domestic product adjusted for inflation – show growth, but slower than in recent years, Costello said.

“The good news is that 2008 is looking much better than 2007,” Costello said. And for the long term, he said, the picture is even brighter. In the next decade, freight tonnage is expected to increase 31 percent, resulting in trucks hauling 14 billion tons annually by 2017, Costello said.

Freightliner announced Jan. 26 its intention to lay off nearly 1,700 workers, split among plants in Portland, Ore., and Cleveland and a parts facility in Gastonia, N.C.

Up to 800 people will be laid off in Portland, nearly half the plant’s workforce. In Cleveland, the number is 1,180; in Gastonia, 260. Layoffs were expected to take effect by April 1.

The move is part of an adjustment to reduce overhead in the face of an expected downturn in sales in 2007, the company said. That downturn is driven by customers’ hesitation to buy vehicles with new low-emissions engines, estimated by the company to be from $4,600 to $12,500 more expensive than previous engines, depending on the application.

In December, Freightliner announced a reduction of up to 800 employees at its St. Thomas, Ontario, plant – and intentions to build a new $300 million plant in Saltillo, Mexico. Freightliner has denied any connection between the U.S. layoffs and its new plant in Mexico.

In November came announcements that Peterbilt would lay off more than half the 1,200 workers at its Madison, Tenn., facility; that Kenworth would lay off a couple hundred workers at its Renton, Wash., plant; and that Volvo would cut 1,000 positions at its New River Valley truck plant in Dublin, Va., and about 600 at its powertrain plant in Hagerstown, Md. Mack’s Macungie, Pa., truck plant was also affected. In December, International announced a layoff of about 600 employees from its Chatham, Ontario, plant.

In addition to regular D975, future technical standards for diesel will include two for biodiesel blends, one at 5 percent and one at higher concentrations up to 20 percent, according to the chairman of ASTM International’s biodiesel task force.

Steve Howell, who also is the National Biodiesel Board’s technical director, made his remarks to attendees of the National Biodiesel Conference in San Antonio.

Standards currently exist for both 100 percent petroleum diesel (D975) and 100 percent biodiesel, or B100 (D6751), but not the blends in between, including the B5 endorsed by Class 8 engine manufacturers, Howell said.

Currently, D975 can guarantee good fuel only for petroleum diesel, meaning even biodiesel that passes that standard might not be suitable in operation, Howell said.

The D975 diesel standard has changed little since 1948, said Steve Westbrook of Southwest Research Institute. “We have been trying to figure out how to fit biodiesel into this specification since 1994,” Westbrook said.

ASTM International, formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials, develops technical and engineering standards for many industries.

On a Feb. 5 panel in San Antonio, Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel representatives reminded National Biodiesel Conference attendees that their companies support biodiesel – but only certain types and blends in certain pre-2007 engines.

Moreover, their warranties won’t pay for damage caused by any bad fuel, including biodiesel.
For example, Hind Abi-Akar of Caterpillar said: “Use of acceptable biodiesel blends does not affect Caterpillar warranty. But if bad fuel clogs a filter prematurely, that is not a defect in materials or workmanship.” Therefore, she said, it isn’t covered.

By “acceptable,” Caterpillar means biodiesel that meets D6751 or EN 14214 specifications in blends up to B30, or 30 percent biodiesel. Detroit Diesel specifies D6751 biodiesel and approves only B5 blends.

For the 2007 engines – which incorporate diesel particulate filters and run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and new engine oil – the jury’s still out, panelists said. Detroit Diesel is testing biodiesel in 2007 engines in concentrations as high as B20.

Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, left, welcomes President Bush – and the press – during Bush’s Jan. 30 visit to Caterpillar’s plant in East Peoria, Ill. Bush said the engine and equipment manufacturer proves that U.S. companies can compete successfully around the world. Cat exported $10 billion in products in 2006, a company record.

This 2003 Kenworth owned by Joseph Tartaglia and Jeff Blom of Thomaston, Conn., highlights February in the 2007 Shell Rotella SuperRigs Calendar, featuring winners of the 24th annual truck beauty contest. The calendars are $10.95 plus shipping and handling by calling (800) 759-5228, ext. 28, or visiting this site.

A STATE SENATOR introduced bills that would outlaw truck retreads and require student truck drivers in Florida to complete a six-year training course. At press time, no action had been taken on either bill introduced by Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX jumped 3.9 percent in December after falling 3.6 percent in November, the American Trucking Associations reported.

JUST MORE THAN HALF the respondents in the latest Fleet Sentiment Report say they plan to order trucks with 2007 engines before the end of the year. Another 49 percent say they have no plans to buy ’07 units until 2008 or later.

SWIFT TRANSPORTATION announced that an entity formed by Jerry Moyes would buy the carrier for about $2.74 billion in cash. Moyes founded Swift in 1966 and ran it for decades, but stepped down in the wake of a federal lawsuit regarding his stock transactions. He agreed in 2005 to pay $1.26 million to settle charges of insider trading.

PACCAR will begin building a $400 million powertrain manufacturing and assembly plant in the Southeast United States by mid-year but has not yet named a location.

A FEDERAL JURY in Houston sentenced trucker Tyrone Mapletoft Williams Jr., 36, of Schenectady, N.Y., to life without parole Jan. 18 after finding him guilty of abandoning a reefer trailer stuffed with dozens of illegal aliens in broiling heat near Victoria, Texas, in 2003. Nineteen people died.

BOYD BROS. honored Nathaniel Blue of Camden, Ala., for being its first driver to reach 4 million accident-free miles. He joined the Clayton, Ala., fleet in 1977.

AN UPDATED GUIDE to idling regulations in 34 jurisdictions nationwide is available as a free download at this site

BRIAN BROWN of Eskridge, Kan., a company driver for United Petroleum Transports, was honored as a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association for pulling a woman out of a burning SUV.

MADISON FREIGHT SYSTEMS, based in Wisconsin, was bought by Saia, based in Georgia, for $2.5 million. The integration should finish in March.

USF BESTWAY is being absorbed into USF Reddaway, and USF Holland is expanding to acquire three USF Bestway service facilities. All are part of YRC Worldwide.

THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES will test all-electric tractors to tow cargo containers to warehouses and rail yards, to see whether they could replace diesel trucks.

KENTUCKY GOV. Ernie Fletcher joined Hendrickson officials Jan. 22 to break ground for a $24.3 million trailer axle and suspension plant in Somerset.

THE FORBES PLATINUM 400, also known as “The Best Big Companies in America,” has 17 transportation companies, including airlines and railroads as well as trucking fleets: Burlington Santa Fe, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, EGL, Expeditors International, Federal Express, Hub Group, Landstar System, Norfolk Southern, Old Dominion Freight, Pacer International, SkyWest, Southwest Airlines, Swift Transportation, Union Pacific, United Parcel Service, U.S. Xpress and YRC Worldwide.

THE DIESEL TECHNOLOGY FORUM announced that all major heavy truck and engine manufacturers now comply with 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, the world’s most stringent, and have been certified for full production.

A SURVEY of teen drivers by State Farm and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reveals that 48 percent talk on phones at least part of the time while driving, 90 percent have seen peers driving while fatigued, and 90 percent have noticed distracting passenger behavior. Interestingly, 39 percent said their parents have total financial responsibility for their driving, including fuel and maintenance.

GEORGIA. PrePass is now available or soon will be available at 19 weigh stations along I-16, I-20, I-75, I-85 and I-95. Visit this site.

INDIANA. A 6-mile stretch of I-70 in Indianapolis, from downtown to I-465 East, is being rebuilt. Trucks weighing more than 13 tons and vehicles pulling trailers are prohibited from the construction zone. Through traffic is being routed south around I-465. Trucks making deliveries along I-70 must find alternate routes on city streets. For details, visit this site.

KENTUCKY. A new state law enables police to pull over vehicles and ticket drivers for not wearing seat belts. The fine is $25.

MARYLAND. While Exit 43A from I-68 in Cumberland, toward Ridgeley, W.Va., has no posted height warning, it routes traffic beneath a railroad trestle that has a clearance of only 11 feet, 11 inches. Tractor-trailers southbound across the Potomac into West Virginia should take Exits 39 or 40 onto U.S. 220 instead.

WASHINGTON. The repaving of 9 miles of southbound I-5 between Everett and Lynnwood is complete, but rebuilding all the I-5 ramps in Everett between the Boeing Freeway (SR 526) and Marine View Drive will continue through June 2008.