Industry news

The court rejected the OOIDA petition calling for greater flexibility in use of the sleeper berth.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 24 invalidated two significant pieces of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service regulations, rejecting the increase of the daily driving limit from 10 hours to 11 and the 34-hour restart option for drivers’ weekly on-duty limits.

In addition, the court’s three-judge panel rejected the petition filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Among other things, OOIDA objected to changes in use of the sleeper berth to satisfy rest requirements.

FMCSA’s failings in the case may stem from how it formulated the rule, rather than in what the rule contained. The panel concluded that FMCSA “violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it failed to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash-risk model that the agency used to justify an increase in the maximum number of daily and weekly hours that truck drivers may drive and work.”

The American Trucking Associations says that because the flaws cited by the court are procedural, they can be corrected by FMCSA. “ATA will work to provide support to the agency for re-adoption of the 11-hour daily drive time and 34-hour restart,” says ATA. “In the meantime, ATA will seek a stay from the court that would allow those provisions to stay in place pending the agency’s re-evaluation of them.”

According to court rules, the decision will not take effect for at least 52 days, ATA says. During the first 45 days, FMCSA can petition for reconsideration.

When the appeals court rejected the first revised hours-of-service regulation in July 2004, the Republican-led Congress held the new rules in place for about a year while FMCSA worked on a new version.

After the 2005 rule was issued, FMCSA denied the petitions by OOIDA and Public Citizen for reconsideration. The groups then filed court challenges in 2006, and other trucking and safety advocacy groups filed comments on one side or the other.

More than 10,000 people attended the 25th annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs competition June 21-23 at the Petro Stopping Center in Joplin, Mo. The event had 118 entries in the truck beauty contest for working trucks.

The Best of Show prize of $10,000 went to Curtis Christians of Rockford, Mo.

The other big winners at SuperRigs were Bob and Geri Martin of Lafayette, Ind., who were awarded a $50,000 truck makeover for their 1995 Peterbilt 379. S&J Truck Sales of Fort Wayne, Ind., will do the makeover, to be unveiled in August at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Partners for the makeover include Alcoa, Bridgestone and Pana-Pacific.

The 2000 Freightliner Classic XL of Bob and Shelley Brinker of Grayling, Mich., took home the People’s Choice award, selected by contestants and spectators.

A select group of 13 truckers also won the bragging rights to appear beside their trucks in the 2008 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar.

The congressionally mandated safety audit of President Bush’s proposed cross-border trucking program with Mexico is under way. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General announced the audit June 19, to begin immediately.

The next day, the leading opponents of the proposal – a coalition that includes Public Citizen, the Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety – said it ignored the will of Congress and the American public.

The number of Mexican carriers that applied to the program as of May 31 was 107, but only 24 of those had had any trucks inspected for U.S. operation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported June 8. The total number of vehicles inspected as of May 31 was 117. All but two of the 24 carriers had fewer than 10 vehicles inspected.

The largest fleet to undergo inspections, with 36 vehicles, was Servicios de Transportacion Jaguar, which currently operates in the commercial zone near Laredo, Texas. The next largest, with 17, was Juan Martin Ramirez Amez, which operates in the San Diego area.

In February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced a one-year plan to allow up to 100 Mexican motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zone along the U.S. border.

Nine of America’s most congested cities are semifinalists for a federal $1.1 billion grant to fight traffic jams.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will consider Urban Partnership proposals from Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced June 7.

“We’re asking cities to try something different, innovative and daring when it comes to fighting traffic,” Peters said. “In the next few weeks, we will work with New York and the other eight cities to further evaluate their traffic fighting plans to see if they reduce traffic now – not years from now.”

These nine cities represent one-third of all congestion in the top 85 metros of the United States and are home to one-fifth of all the travel in the nation, Peters said.

The applications all propose to levy tolls that vary based on traffic volumes and to improve mass-transit options for locals, Peters said.

Four-wheelers who tailgate trucks to improve gas mileage have made headlines recently, despite safety warnings against the dangerous practice.

With gas prices up and no relief in sight, some four-wheelers, termed “hypermilers,” have become obsessed with bettering their fuel mileage by any means necessary. A common technique is drafting, tailgating big rigs to ride the vacuum the truck creates as it goes forward.

Too many car-truck crashes occur because cars are following trucks too closely, said Stephen Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

“If motorists are drafting, the truck driver more than likely cannot see them,” Campbell said. “Enforcement officers are on the lookout for, and will take action on, these unsafe and dangerous driving behaviors.”

Few driving behaviors are more dangerous than drafting, which generally prevents the motorist from seeing around the truck, said Bill Graves, ATA president.

“Drafting is unsafe, illegal and significantly increases the chances of injury and death,” Graves said.

Although a discontinued owner-operator contract at C.R. England violated federal truth-in-leasing regulations, the revision in force since August 2002 does not, a federal judge in Utah ruled June 20 in a class-action lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart also rejected the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s bid to force C.R. England to return undisclosed markups and administrative fees as restitution for its past violations. The judge also declined to issue injunctions against either version of the lease. Instead, Stewart ruled that C.R. England’s past violations warrant a class-wide accounting within 30 days.

Federal regulations don’t prevent motor carriers from making a profit on “marked-up optional programs,” Stewart ruled. But he said the C.R. England lease in effect from June 1998 to summer 2002 did violate several federal disclosure requirements: by not specifying certain charge-backs against compensation, by not making clear that contractors were not required to buy certain goods and services from the fleet, and by not clearly explaining the specific items to which escrow funds could be applied.

C.R. England began revising that contract in fall 2001 because of court challenges brought against other carriers. OOIDA sued C.R. England in June 2002, just before the fleetwide roll-out of the revised lease.

“We are pleased generally with the court’s ruling,” said C.R. England Chairman Dan England. “We will proceed with the accounting requested by the court.”

The carrier still may appeal, however, to contest Stewart’s assertion that “strict compliance” with truth-in-leasing regulations is the standard, not the “substantial compliance” that the fleet considers “the better reasoned rule of law,” England said.

OOIDA declared victory on that point. “The court found that the leasing regulations mean what they say and that motor carriers must come clean in their lease agreements and disclose all markups, profits and any administrative fees,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. OOIDA said it likely would appeal as well, however, on the restitution issue.

An over-the-road trucker suspected of being a serial killer was arrested July 12 at the same Nashville truck stop where a woman’s body had been found.

Bruce Mendenhall, 56, of Albion Ill., was charged with criminal homicide in the shooting death of Sara Nicole Hulbert, whose body was found June 26 in the parking lot of the TravelCenters of America at Exit 48 from I-24.

Mendenhall “gave statements implicating himself in Hulbert’s murder,” says the Metro Nashville Police Department. Mendenhall further “implicated himself” in the murder of Symantha Winters, 48, of Nashville, who was found June 6 in Lebanon, Tenn., “as well as one homicide in Alabama, one in Georgia and two in Indiana,” the department said. All the victims were found at truck stops, news reports say.

New York state lawmakers agreed July 19 to move forward with a plan to charge fees to motorists entering midtown Manhattan, maintaining New York City’s eligibility for $500 million in U.S. transit aid, news media reported.

The agreement will set up a 17-member commission made up of representatives from the city and the state to review Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “congestion pricing” plan to charge $21 for trucks and $8 for cars entering Manhattan south of 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays to relieve traffic and pollution, according to news reports. The commission would recommend ways to reduce traffic, which would need legislative approval.

The American Trucking Associations has opposed the proposal, arguing that it does more to raise revenue than to relieve congestion.

The Volvo Group, which includes Mack Trucks, announced it will work with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop environmentally friendly commercial vehicle technologies, with an initial goal of reducing heavy-duty fuel consumption and primary carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 percent.

The combined investment of Volvo and the DOE on the project to produce alternative-fuel heavy-duty powertrains is roughly $9 million.

The Volvo Group will be a partner in a number of projects conducted under this agreement, including the development of hybrid technology for heavy vehicles and analyses of how various biofuels affect diesel engines.

Mack will investigate the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions from heavy-duty trucks through a focus on high fuel economy. This includes advanced hybrid technologies and conversion of exhaust heat to useful energy.

$2,500 WINNER
Nancy Thomas won the $2,500 grand prize in the 2006 reader sweepstakes conducted by Overdrive’s publisher, Randall-Reilly Publishing. Samuel Alcott and Brian Shaw each won $500. Winning $100 each were Bob Arel, Milan Crawford, Larry Heinrichs, Rod Mejia, David Singano, Justin Stahl and Beth Zelten.

The American Moving and Storage Association has asked two courts to dismiss antitrust class-action lawsuits that accuse it and several major van lines of acting illegally when they charged customers fuel surcharges over a four-year period.

The two lawsuits were filed earlier this year in federal courts in South Carolina and Illinois. The requests for dismissal were filed June 8.

The interstate moving industry has been using fuel surcharges since the 1970s with the permission of first the Interstate Commerce Commission and later, when the ICC was eliminated by Congress, the Surface Transportation Board. The association says it asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuits because the proper jurisdiction for determining whether the fuel surcharges have been reasonable lies with the STB.

The association says all the fuel surcharges paid by customers have been passed directly to owner-operators.

65 MPH SPEED LIMITERS on virtually all tractor-trailers operating in Ontario will be proposed by the provincial government after this fall’s election, the transport minister announced. The Ontario Trucking Association says Ontario would be the first jurisdiction in North America to take such a step.

REQUIRING ALL TRUCKERS serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to be employees, not owner-operators, was put off for further study at a June 27 meeting. The requirement would be part of the ports’ Clean Truck Program, which presumes that employees would be more accountable and their actions easier to regulate.

OWNER-OPERATOR Don Harvey won Oklahoma’s $105.8 million Powerball jackpot. The 64-year-old Muldrow resident, whose truck broke down the day he won, says he will buy a used truck as a replacement because it doesn’t immediately depreciate in value.

PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE tolls will increase 25 percent in 2009 and 3 percent annually after that, according to a $1 billion transportation spending bill that Gov. Edward Rendell signed. Tolls would be added to I-80 pending federal approval, and would be in line with turnpike tolls, said the governor’s office.
I-95 will not be tolled more.

THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX for freight fell 0.1 percent in April for the fourth decline in seven months, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported. The index was up 1.2 percent from a year earlier, however.

GLENDA CAMPBELL, a Schneider National driver, received the first Woman Trucker Award from Women in Trucking. The award is designed to encourage women to enter the profession.

THE TURNOVER RATE among drivers at large truckload carriers was 127 percent in the first quarter of 2007, up from the previous quarter, but only 102 percent at small truckload carriers, down from the previous quarter, the American Trucking Associations reported. ATA considers small carriers to be those with annual revenue of less than $300 million.

HOT FUEL is the subject of, a website created by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in hopes of encouraging consumer action.

WERNER ENTERPRISES was denied a new trial in the case of a Texas Ranger injured in a 2004 wreck with a Werner truck during a high-speed pursuit of suspected bank robbers. Yet, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disallowed almost $30,000 of the $300,000 judgment.

SEAT BELTS are more common among truckers, according to the results of Roadcheck 2007, a June 5-7 enforcement blitz throughout North America. Seat belt violations decreased to 829 from 1,223 a year earlier.

WAL-MART is appealing the class-action status granted plaintiffs in a lawsuit charging the retailer with discriminating against black applicants for trucking jobs. According to court documents, only 4 percent to 6 percent of drivers hired by Wal-Mart in a five-year period were black, at a time when blacks made up 15 percent of truckers nationwide.

INDICTED in a scheme to provide easy tests to hundreds of CDL applicants in Missouri were Troy Parr of Dexter, a former Sikeston license examiner; and Mustafa Redzic, who formerly operated Bonsa Truck Driving School in St. Louis.

ALLISON TRANSMISSION will be sold by General Motors to The Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm, and Onex Corp., one of Canada’s largest corporations, for about $5.6 billion in a deal expected to close as early as this summer.

P&P TRANSPORT was bought by New Century Transportation, bringing that fleet to more than 1,000 tractors.

ALASKA. The state is finally compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, which means more vehicle and driver inspections and stronger penalties, as well as stricter CDL testing and recordkeeping. Federal officials threatened to withhold the state’s federal highway money if it didn’t comply.

CONNECTICUT. A two-year study by the state Department of Transportation recommends upgrading service plazas and rest areas and creating 1,000 new truck parking spaces. Next step: public hearings.

GEORGIA. New cable barriers in the I-85 median west of Lake Hartwell prevented four cross-over wrecks in May alone.

INDIANA. On July 1, the fine for speeding in a construction zone doubled, to $300 for first offenders. The fine for aggressive driving in a construction zone is now $5,000.

KENTUCKY. On July 10, the speed limit on most interstates and parkways was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph. Exceptions include the congested loops around Louisville and Covington and the mountainous parkways in the east.

NEVADA. State inspectors are using a fuel-tank “breathalyzer” to crack down on highway trucks burning untaxed off-road diesel. The fine for a first offense is $2,500.

NEW YORK. Fears of terrorism have led to random police checkpoints across New York City for commercial vehicles, especially those hauling chlorine.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
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