Industry news

HOUSE TRIES TO SLOW BORDER PLAN
By a 411-3 vote May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives sought to restrict a cross-border trucking program with Mexico. U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., sponsored the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, which gained support from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters union. The American Trucking Associations, on the other hand, has endorsed President Bush’s plan to allow Mexican trucks to deliver across the United States.

Boyda’s bill would require the DOT to provide notice for public comment on the details, as federal rules dictate for pilot programs, before starting the program. The Bush administration has been careful to call its plan a “demonstration,” not a pilot program. A coalition including OOIDA and the Teamsters has filed a federal lawsuit in California over the terminology.

The bill also would require the program to meet all 22 mandates listed in the DOT Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2002; require termination of the program no later than three years after enactment of the bill; create an independent review panel to monitor and evaluate the program after its launch; and require an inspector general review and a DOT report to Congress after the program’s completion.

While published reports citing the Department of Transportation and the Congressional Budget Office indicated it could be as late as 2008 before Congress’ criteria are met, the House vote does not necessarily mean “summer is out” as a target start date, says Melissa Delaney, spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Another effort to put brakes on the program passed the House May 10 as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush vetoed an earlier version of the bill.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced April 30 that U.S. trucks will begin operating in Mexico at the same time Mexican trucks do so in the United States, another condition that had been sought by Congress.

In the May 1 Federal Register, the DOT said its inspector general found that the cross-border program meets inspection and safety criteria. The DOT said that all participating Mexican drivers must hold a valid commercial driver’s license, comply with U.S. medical requirements and hours-of-service regulations, and be able to understand questions and directions in English; and that participating Mexican fleets must be insured by a firm licensed in the United States, meet all U.S. safety standards including drug and alcohol testing, consent to in-person safety audits by U.S. inspectors, and haul only cross-border cargo.

As of April 26, the FMCSA had finished compliance reviews, including vehicle inspections, on 31 Mexican carriers that had applied to do business in the United States, and 27 had passed, agency spokesman Ian Grossman says. Reviews will continue until 100 Mexican carriers have qualified.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Senate voted to negotiate a delay until July, troubled by claims that U.S. trucks were on the verge of flooding the country.
– STAFF REPORTS


MOVING FLEETS AGREE TO REWRITE CONTRACTS
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reached a settlement in two class-action lawsuits against Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines that alleged violations of federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

Allied and North American will pay $8 million over two years to 6,000 owner-operators: all Allied drivers who leased to Allied after May 5, 2000, and all North American and Global Van Lines drivers who leased to North American after March 2001.

As part of the settlement, Allied and North American are implementing a new independent contractor operating agreement.

Each owner-operator likely will receive a sum based on the number of days each of his trucks was under lease, in the form of three checks over two years from the date the court grants final approval to the settlement.
– STAFF REPORTS


COVENANT IS ORDERED TO HONOR WORKER COMP
Covenant Transport no longer can ask its employees to sign paperwork stating they waive their rights to seek workers’ compensation, according to court documents.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development took the Chattanooga-based company to court after it learned of the practice.

Covenant officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In an order signed April 24 in Hamilton County Chancery Court, Chancellor Frank Brown III declared Covenant’s waiver void, relieving the company of none of its obligations under state workers’ compensation law.

According to court documents, the company agreed to stop using the forms or any similar documents. It also agreed to contact any past or present employees presented with the waiver to inform them that their rights are unaffected, whether they signed or not, and agreed to give current employees a summary of their rights under state workers’ compensation law.

When these provisions are satisfied, the court will issue a final order dismissing the matter, the order read.

The publicly traded truckload carrier operates more than 3,600 trucks.
– JILL DUNN


VEGAS SHOW IS JUNE 7-9
About 400 exhibitors, including Mack, Volvo, Great Dane and Utility Trailer, will be at Truck Show Las Vegas, June 7-9 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Randall-Reilly Publishing Co., which also produces Overdrive magazine and the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, bought the Vegas show this year and has partnered with the California Trucking Association to sponsor the event.

The show offers exhibits, educational seminars, all the fun of the West’s entertainment capital, and the Stars and Stripes Truck Beauty Contest. Winners will be announced at 10 a.m. June 9.

“We anticipate the show growing and continuing to improve under our management,” said Alan Sims, vice president and executive director of the Randall-Reilly Event Group.
Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 7-8, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 9. Advance registration for the show and the truck beauty contest is free. On-site entrance is $10 without pre-registration.

To register, visit this site.
– RACHEL TELEHANY


NO NEW TOLL PROJECTS, TEXAS LAWMAKERS SAY
The Texas House, in an amendment to a larger transportation bill, voted May 1 to place a moratorium on new public-private toll road projects.

The amendment to HB1892 was aimed at comprehensive design-construct contracts that have attracted hefty attention from high-profile foreign investors, including the Spanish firm Cintra, currently part of the consortium operating the Indiana Toll Road and the Chicago Skyway with 75- and 99-year leases, respectively.

Cintra and Zachry Construction, based in San Antonio, already have contracted to build and operate, at a profit, the southern 40 miles of state Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin, an I-35 alternate, in addition to various projects around Dallas-Fort Worth.

With the bill under threat of veto by Gov. Rick Perry, a staunch public-private proponent, Senate lawmakers revisited it, exempting projects in Houston and Rio Grade Valley from the moratorium and adjusting certain requirements of new public-private toll projects, including a longer max lease term of 50 years.

The amendment in both original and revised versions also mandates study into “the public policy implications” of “selling an existing and operating toll project to a private entity,” as well as entering into design-build contracts with private entities that will be able to collect toll revenue at a profit, specifying a deadline of Dec. 1, 2008.

At press time, the bill had been referred to the House for approval, after which it would go to Perry.
– TODD DILLS


8% OF TRUCKERS FLUNK DRUG TEST
Oregon State Police checked hundreds of urine samples collected anonymously and voluntarily from truckers over three days and found 8.4 percent had controlled substances in their systems.

The samples were collected April 10-12 during Operation Trucker Check XII at the southbound Woodburn port of entry on I-5.

“The unacceptable part is that nearly one in 10 commercial drivers had controlled substances in their system while operating 80,000-pound vehicle combinations on our highways,” said Sgt. Alan Hageman of the Patrol Services Division.

Unlike the first Operation Trucker Check in 1998, when nearly 20 percent of the drivers refused to provide urine samples, only 4 percent refused this year.
– JILL DUNN


SPEEDY REPAIR OF EXCHANGE UNDER WAY
California officials say the I-580 overpass that collapsed April 29 after a truck accident will be rebuilt by June 28.

The connector ramp between eastbound I-80 and eastbound I-580 links San Francisco to its East Bay suburbs. Another part of the interchange, the ramp connecting westbound I-80 to southbound I-880, reopened May 7.

Caltrans awarded the I-580 upper-deck contract May 8 to Rancho Cordova construction company CC Myers.

The accident occurred when a loaded tanker hit a guardrail and exploded.
– JILL DUNN


NEW CABLE SERIES BRAVES THE ICE ROADS
“Ice Road Truckers,” a new History Channel documentary series premiering June 17, profiles six long-haulers during two months of nerve-racking hauls over frozen Canadian lakes that may – or may not – bear their rigs’ weight. For more information, visit this site.


MOBIL DELVAC RODEO
Mobil Delvac is giving away a VIP trip for four to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which begins Dec. 6 in Las Vegas. Will Lowe, pictured, won his third world title in bareback riding at the 2006 event. To enter, look for specially marked 1-gallon bottles of Mobil Delvac 1300 Super. The entry deadline is Aug. 31. For more information, visit this site.


SHORT HAULS
THE TRUCK TONNAGE INDEX increased 1.2 percent in March, its second consecutive monthly gain, the American Trucking Associations reported. Trucking should see a gradual improvement in volume through 2007, says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.

THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX for freight increased 1.3 percent in March after two consecutive monthly declines, for the largest monthly increase since May 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported. Compared to the previous March, however, the index was down 1.4 percent.

PETERBILT announced a “Models of Innovation” demonstration program, designed to allow customers to test a 2008 Pete in their own operations. For more information, contact a Peterbilt dealer.

BRUCE DOERING of Janesville, Wis., won a 2002 Freightliner Classic XL customized by the Chrome Shop Mafia in the Great American Insurance Group’s Big Rig Giveaway at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

MAJOR TRANSPORT has been bought by Major Transport of Indiana, a new company established by the Oren family, which also owns Dart Transit. Major will contract its trucks and drivers to Dart, with the two companies operating as separate but cooperating entities – Major mainly in the West, Dart mainly in the East.

TYSON FOODS and Conoco-Phillips announced an alliance to produce and market biodiesel made from byproduct beef, pork and poultry fat. Production is expected to begin late this year.

TEAMSTERS EMPLOYEES of Allied Holdings, one of the nation’s biggest car-hauling fleets, have approved a company reorganization submitted by Allied’s biggest creditor, the Yucaipa Cos., which also owns rival car hauler Performance Transportation Services. Allied has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 2005.

AUXILIARY POWER UNITS installed on tractors within six months of the tractors being placed into service typically would be subject to the 12 percent federal excise tax on heavy vehicles, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service confirmed in March.

A FINAL RULE issued May 1 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel, including ethanol and biodiesel, must be blended into motor vehicle fuel sold in the United States by 2012.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS, such as turnpike leases, are opposed by 70 percent of drivers polled by AAA Mid-Atlantic as a means of generating transportation funds, reports the American Automobile Association.

ELECTRONIC MANIFESTS now are mandatory for trucks entering the United States through all land border ports in California, New Mexico and Texas. For more information on the implementation of e-manifests at all U.S. land border ports, visit this site.

CONTAINER SHIPPING into the United States is up, and most of those containers enter the country not at ocean ports but by truck or rail from Canada and Mexico, according to a new federal report.

CRST VAN EXPEDITED may proceed with its case against Werner Enterprises for hiring away CRST drivers bound by employment contracts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled. CRST’s complaint against Werner essentially is the same as its complaint against J.B. Hunt, a dispute both parties quietly settled in September 2006.

ANTI-ROLLOVER SYSTEMS, also known as electronic stability controls, will be standard equipment on every new U.S. passenger vehicle by 2012, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced April 5. The estimated added cost is $111 per vehicle.

REDEFINING COMMERCIAL VEHICLES to include only those that weigh more than 26,000 pounds is the goal of a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla. He said this would help Oklahoma farmers who are fined when crossing state lines for not having CDLs.

U.S. FOODSERVICE, the second-largest U.S. food-service distributor, will be bought for $7.1 billion by an American private-equity consortium. U.S. Foodservice, currently owned by the Dutch company Ahold, hauls to more than 250,000 customers, including restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals. The deal is expected to close this summer.

A survey by the American Trucking Associations found that 15 percent of diesel pumps were incorrectly labeled – saying ultra-low-sulfur diesel was low-sulfur diesel, or vice versa – and more than 9 percent were not labeled at all. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had issued 150 notices of violation, with penalties ranging from $500 to $1,000.

ARKANSAS RESIDENTS can apply for up to $3,500 to cover tuition and expenses of training for the trucking industry if they pledge to stay in the state, and in the industry, for a year. The program runs from July 2007 to June 30, 2009, at 11 state college campuses. For more information, visit this site.


HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS
CALIFORNIA. Effective Jan. 1, 2008, sleeping or resting in a sleeper berth will no longer be exempt from the state’s five-minute idling limit. Trucking companies doing business in California are asked to complete an idling survey at this site.

IDAHO. As of July 1, additional roads are open to multiple-trailer trucks with overweight permits weighing up to 129,000 pounds, which is 24,000 pounds over the state’s weight limit. The exception now covers 1,200 highway miles.

KANSAS. The Highway Patrol is ticketing offenders this summer with the help of tractor-trailers equipped with traffic cameras and troopers riding shotgun.

MARYLAND. The state plans to plant 5,000 trees along highways by the end of June, which will bring to 17,000 the number planted along highways in the past two years.

MISSOURI. The Highway Patrol has a new commercial-vehicle enforcement unit with eight full-time troopers. One team will work the Springfield area, including I-44, and the other the Jefferson City area, including I-70.

OREGON. The southbound Cow Creek rest area, on I-5 north of Glendale, will be closed until July for a paving project.

PENNSYLVANIA. A statewide crackdown on aggressive driving, dubbed Smooth Operator, resulted in 342 arrests and more than 20,000 citations in March. Smooth Operator enforcement is scheduled again July 1-7, Aug. 5-11 and Sept. 2-15.

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