Interim hours rule preserves existing limits

The latest development in the legal challenge to the hours of service rule leaves it unchanged while comments are gathered.

Truck drivers will continue to be limited to driving 11 hours within a 14-hour duty period, after which they must go off duty for at least 10 hours, under an interim final rule made public Dec. 11 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The IFR also preserves the ability to restart cumulative limits by resting for 34 hours.

The agency issued the new hours rule in response to the recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating key provisions of the existing hours of service rule, effective Dec. 27. The interim final rule temporarily reinstates key provisions while the agency gathers public comment on its actions and the underlying safety analysis before issuing a final rule.

The IFR was developed, FMCSA says, after new data showed that safety levels have been maintained since the 11-hour driving limit first was implemented in 2003.

“This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested,” FMCSA Administrator John Hill said.

After the IFR became effective Dec. 27, a 60-day comment period began. Analysis after that could take “a few weeks or even a few months,” Hill said.

Once a final rule has been established, FMCSA will review longstanding concerns from drivers and carriers over the provision that restricts the sleeper berth split to eight-hour and two-hour periods, Hill said.

The agency also is working to finalize a proposed rule that would require drivers and trucking companies with serious or repeat hours-of-service violations to track their hours using electronic on-board recorders, Hill said.

FMCSA noted that, in 2006, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.94 – the lowest rate ever recorded. Similarly, since 2003, the percentage of large trucks involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes in the 11th hour of driving has remained below the average of the years 1991-2002. In 2005 alone, the agency noted, only one large truck was involved in a fatigue-related fatal crash in the 11th hour of driving, while in 2004 there were none.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association indicated support for the FMCSA announcement.

“We agree with the agency’s decision and appreciate its efforts toward ensuring that professional truckers aren’t hamstrung by regulations that limit their discretion and unnecessarily keep them on the road, tired or not,” said Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs.
– Staff reports


Atlas agent flies the flag
Across Maine on Veterans Day, 2,600 U.S. flags were on display for an American Legion observance, thanks in part to Atlas Van Lines agent Bisson Moving and Storage of West Bath, Maine, which donated the transport of the flags from Utah, home of the Colonial Flag Co. and the nonprofit Healing Fields campaign. This Healing Field was at Morse High School in Bath. Visit www.healingfield.org.


SuperRigs 2008 calendar includes DVD
The Shell Rotella SuperRigs 2008 25th anniversary calendar includes a DVD that chronicles all three days of the silver anniversary event in Joplin, Mo. Almost 120 working trucks competed for $25,000 in cash prizes and the honor of appearing in the calendar.

Curtis Christians of Rockford, Mo., won $10,000 and Best of Show for his 2005 Peterbilt 379 tractor and Great Dane trailer combination.

The back cover of the calendar includes before and after images of Bob and Geri Martin’s 1995 Peterbilt 379, which received a $50,000 truck makeover from Shell Rotella.

The calendar can be purchased online at rotella.com.
– Staff reports


California senator wants on-board recorders
U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider electronic on-board recorders, citing recent high-profile truck accidents in her state.

Her Nov. 15 letter to John Hill, FMCSA administrator, asked whether the agency is considering mandating the devices. She also asked whether Hill proposed another way to address driver fatigue.

Feinstein cited the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which claims that a third of drivers omit hours from log books and that the percentage of truckers asleep at the wheel at least once in the past month increased from 13 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2005.

European trucks already have non-electronic tachographs, and two years ago, the European Union began requiring new trucks to have electronic recorders, Feinstein said.

In January 2007, the FMCSA proposed a rule to establish performance standards for recorders and incentives to encourage their voluntary installation. The proposed rule would mandate the recorders, however, only for carriers that have serious and continued violations of the hours rule twice within a two-year period.

Although the American Trucking Associations generally supports the proposal’s approach, “the agency must make important changes to the proposed rule to make it effective and promote use of EOBRs,” the ATA stated in its submitted comments. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the devices.

In her opening paragraph, Feinstein mentioned a May 4 wreck on I-5 in Orange County that killed three children and an Oct. 12 pile-up that killed three people and destroyed the tunnel beneath the Golden State and Antelope Valley freeways.

Whether trucker fatigue or hours violations were involved in either incident is unclear.
– Jill Dunn


Dart Transit seeks hours exemption to test fatigue management system
Dart Transit wants a two-year exemption from two hours-of-service regulations so that 200 of its owner-operators can try a fatigue management system that emphasizes nighttime sleep and uses electronic on-board recorders to monitor their rest schedules.

In June, the Eagan, Minn., truckload carrier filed a petition to exempt 200 drivers from the 14-hour clock as well as the split-rest limitations adopted in 2005. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a notice of the exemption request Nov. 26.

“What we want is a rested driver behind the wheel,” says Gary Volkman, Dart’s vice president of safety and compliance. “But we want a little more flexibility around when he gets that rest.”

Dart argues that the 14-hour rule often penalizes drivers who stop to take a nap or sleep for less than eight hours, even when this opportunity occurs at night and is sensible for reducing fatigue. Moreover, the requirement that split rest be taken in blocks of at least eight hours and two hours encourages drivers who have been on duty at night to try to obtain all or most of their sleep during the day, even though studies have shown that nighttime sleep is more restful, Dart says.

All other hours-of-service regulations – 10 hours minimum daily rest, maximum 14 hours on duty per 24 hours, 11 hours driving per day and 70 hours per 8 days – would still apply.

Dart would use recorders and wireless communications to ensure that each driver’s truck was stopped for a minimum of six consecutive hours between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. each night. Dart also would use Circadian Technologies software to analyze driver fatigue risk daily. Drivers and their fleet managers would get these scores along with instructions on how to improve them, such as temporary reductions in workload.

If FMCSA authorizes the exemption, Dart will take applications from owner-operators and conduct health screenings to exclude applicants at risk for untreated sleep disorders.
– Avery Vise


FedEx loses appeal over employee/contractor classification
Without elaboration, California’s Supreme Court on Nov. 29 denied FedEx Ground Package System’s final appeal to overturn a state trial court’s decision finding the company’s drivers to be employees, not independent contractors.

A previous appeal of the ruling in Estrada vs. FedEx Ground Package System Inc. was denied in August by the California Court of Appeals, which determined that FedEx drivers were entitled to reimbursement for about $6 million in additional expenses, bringing the total damages to about $11 million for 200 drivers.

“FedEx’s control over every exquisite detail of the drivers’ performance, including the color of their socks and the style of their hair, supports the trial court’s conclusion that the drivers are employees,” the Court of Appeals ruled.

“The California Supreme Court decision may be only one line, but it speaks volumes about the dedication of these incredibly courageous drivers who have never given up hope and have never lost faith in the American legal system,” said Lynn Rossman Faris, attorney for the plaintiffs.
– Staff reports


Cross-border audit program begins
The U.S. Department of Transpor-tation’s Office of Inspector General is beginning an audit of President Bush’s cross-border trucking program that Congress mandated in the appropriations bill passed in May.

The office says the audit’s objectives will be to determine whether:

  • Sufficient mechanisms exist to decide if the project is hurting motor-carrier safety.
  • Sufficient federal and state monitoring and enforcement exist to make sure participants are obeying all laws and regulations.
  • The project involves a representative and adequate sample of Mexican carriers likely to haul deep within the United States.

Audits aside, the future of the cross-border program – vehemently opposed by the Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – is uncertain. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to cut its funding in separate versions of the next transportation spending bill. That language is retained in the compromise bill agreed upon by House and Senate conferees and in the version subsequently passed by the House. The Senate was to take up the bill after its December recess. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

The program envisions reciprocal cross-border operating authority for 100 Mexican carriers and 100 U.S. carriers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in December that 10 Mexican carriers have been granted authority to operate a total of 55 trucks in the United States, while four U.S. carriers have been granted authority to operate a total of 41 trucks in Mexico.

FMCSA also has notified an additional 37 Mexican carriers that they passed a pre-authorization safety audit.
– Staff reports


September trade up from a year ago
The value of surface trade between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners, Canada and Mexico, was 5.5 percent higher in September 2007 than in September 2006, reaching $66.8 billion, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Nov. 29.

Compared with August, however, the value of surface trade with Canada and Mexico fell 3.5 percent in September.

Surface trade consists largely of freight movements by truck, rail and pipeline. About 90 percent of U.S. trade by value with Canada and Mexico moves on land.

The September 2007 trade level, which counts both imports and exports, was up 45.8 percent from September 2002 and up 78.4 percent compared to September 1997.

Imports in September 2007 were up 88.8 percent from September 1997, while exports were up 66.6 percent.

U.S.-Canada surface trade totaled $42.7 billion in September, up 5.6 percent from September 2006. The value of imports carried by truck was 0.5 percent lower, while the value of exports carried by truck was 8.5 percent higher. Michigan led all states in surface trade with Canada in September 2007 with $6.6 billion.

U.S.-Mexico surface trade totaled $24.1 billion in September, up 5.4 percent from September 2006. The value of imports carried by truck was 5.6 percent higher, while the value of exports carried by truck was 0.8 percent lower. Texas led all states in surface trade with Mexico in September with $7.5 billion.
– Staff reports


FMCSA seeks input on 2010 initiative
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was told Dec. 4 that its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 initiative will require safety data more reliable and better analyzed than today’s. FMCSA officials said they are aware of some of those challenges and are trying to address them.

Beginning in January 2008, most carriers in four U.S. states – Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey – will be selected randomly as either test subjects or members of the control group in a test of whether a new approach that emphasizes progressive intervention on specific safety behaviors could be more effective in reducing crashes than the current system, which relies principally on compliance reviews of entire safety management programs. FMCSA has the budget, personnel and time to conduct those on only about 2 percent of carriers each year.

Today’s system looks broadly at data on crashes, vehicles, drivers and safety management to flag carriers as high safety risks, but it isn’t very effective in quickly identifying what the specific problems are, officials say.

Instead, within the next couple of years, FMCSA wants to implement a system that monitors performance in seven Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICS. These are unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, drugs and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement and crash history.

Rather than wait for the problems to build until an audit was called for, the new system would review data every 30 days and highlight deficiencies and intervene as needed.

At the Arlington, Texas, listening session, many participants approved of FMCSA’s plans in concept but emphasized that such extensive reliance on data collection and analysis poses challenges. One of the biggest concerns voiced was whether a carrier should be held accountable for specific crashes.

Another concern voiced in Texas is that FMCSA needs to account for differences in the carriers’ operational profiles, since trips in the congested Northeast face greater risks of crashes than those in the Midwest and West.

Meanwhile, the agency is asking for more comments on CSA 2010, at least through Jan. 31. Visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/csa2010 and www.regulations.gov; search for FMCSA-2004-18898.
– Avery Vise


Trucks travel 91 billion miles as part of $312B industry
Total revenue for truck transportation, couriers and messengers, and warehousing and storage reached $312 billion in 2006, up from $293 billion the year before, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

U.S. commercial trucks traveled 91 billion miles in 2006, with revenue reaching $220 billion. Of that amount, motor carrier revenue equaled $204 billion, with two-thirds from long-distance trucking and the rest from local trucking, according to the bureau’s 2006 Service Annual Survey: Truck Transportation, Couriers and Messengers, and Warehousing and Storage. The report excludes private motor carriers.

Trucking within U.S. borders accounted for 96 percent, or $196 billion, of motor carrier revenue in 2006. Revenue generated from truck transportation with Canada, Mexico and all other foreign destinations was $8 billion.

Among the largest dollar volume of truck shipments were new furniture and miscellaneous manufactured products, agricultural and fish products, base metal and machinery, and wood products, textiles and leathers.

Other highlights include:

  • General freight trucking, which handles commodities transported on pallets in a container or van trailer, contributed two-thirds of all trucking revenue with $147 billion.
  • Trucks transporting specialized freight accounted for the remainder of trucking revenue at $73 billion.
  • Local general freight trucking revenue grew 12.3 percent to $25 billion.
  • Long-distance general freight revenue increased 4.3 percent to $122 billion.

– Staff reports


Grants support new technologies
The Federal Highway Administration recently awarded $1.59 million in grants to five companies developing innovative technologies to improve highway quality and safety.

The Highways for LIFE grants – LIFE standing for Long-lasting, Innovative, Fast and Efficient – will help move from prototype to testing the following technologies:

  • EZ Asphalt Technology’s devices that can indicate at what temperature levels asphalt can crack.
  • Haskell Lemon Construction’s sensors that determine when asphalt is set, saving the time it takes to compact the material.
  • Pine Instrument’s imaging technology that detects before surfacing whether changes in pavement mix are needed to make it more durable.
  • Stay Alert Safety Services’ devices that install pavement markers quickly into the roadway, reducing time and risk for workers.
  • 3M’s wet-reflective pavement markings, more easily seen in the rain.
    For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/hfl.

– Staff reports


Beware of static at diesel pumps
The belief that cell phones will start a fire at the pump is a myth, but static electricity can spark a fire during fueling, as illustrated on a YouTube video.

Static electricity flash fires at the pump are extremely rare and preventable, according to the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Equipment Institute. They are more likely to occur in cool, dry conditions, especially in fall and winter.

“Static electricity – the same thing that shocks you after you drag your feet on the carpet – can ignite gasoline vapors at the pump,” says the Petroleum Equipment Institute. The same is possible at diesel pumps, though diesel is less volatile than gasoline.

The main way to avoid it is to stay outside the vehicle while fueling, industry experts say. If you must re-enter your vehicle during fueling, don’t touch the nozzle again until you have touched a metal part of the vehicle away from the nozzle. This will discharge any static that may have built up.

If a fire does start while you’re pumping, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe, which will help prevent the fire from getting worse. Back away from the pump and tell the attendant to shut off dispensing devices and pumps. If no attendant is available, use the pump’s emergency shutdown button to shut it off and use the emergency intercom to summon help.

For more information, visit www.pei.org. Click on “Resources,” then “Stop Static.”
– Jill Dunn


Supreme Court lets overtime decision stand
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a Washington Supreme Court ruling declaring that truck drivers are entitled to overtime pay beyond 40 hours regardless of how much of their driving took place in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s action ends legal challenges by Food Express, the Washington Trucking Association and the American Trucking Associations to the overtime ruling.

Washington’s minimum wage law “unambiguously requires that overtime be paid to a Washington employee based on all hours worked,” Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority in the March 1 decision.
– Avery Vise


Legislation would delay truck fuel standards
The Senate on Dec. 13 passed compromise legislation (H.R. 6) aimed at reducing energy use overall and promoting the use of renewable energy. H.R. 6 as passed by the Senate is similar to a version approved recently in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would pass the Senate version, clearing it for President Bush, who was expected to sign it.

The final bill discards specific fuel economy standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty on-highway trucks and instead orders the Department of Transportation to establish fuel economy standards for those vehicles as well as work trucks following a National Academy of Sciences study. NAS will examine the prospects for technologies that could improve the fuel economy of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. It also will look at the costs of those technologies as well as the cost and impact of other factors, such as congestion.

Under the legislation, any DOT fuel economy standards for work trucks and commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway trucks must give truck makers four full model years of regulatory lead time and provide three full model years of regulatory stability for a given fuel economy standard.
– Avery Vise


Meca-South Florida winners
Jeremy Trout of Britton, Mich., won Best of Show Bobtail at the 2007 Meca-South Florida Truck Show with his Civil War-themed 2007 Kenworth W900, owned and operated by Bogies Express of Tecumseh, Mich. Gerald Kissinger of Stoughton, Wis., won Best of Show Combo; Bob and Joyce Thrift of Umatilla, Fla., won Non-Working Best of Show. Qualifying for the Truck-lite Trophy Series championship in Louisville, Ky., was Phil Knowlen of Coldwater, Mich.

Visit www.mecatruck.com.


DOT to conduct audit of CDLIS
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General plans to initiate a performance audit of the Commercial Driver’s License Information System as required by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

The objectives of this audit are to determine:

  • Whether convictions and other personal information recorded in CDLIS and state DMV systems are accurate, timely and complete.
  • Whether CDLIS and state DMV systems are adequately secured according to minimum security standards to prevent unauthorized access to privacy data.
  • Whether an adequate contingency plan exists to ensure continual CDLIS service to state DMVs in the event of a disaster.

The audit will be conducted at FMCSA headquarters, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ CDLIS contractor sites, and selected state motor vehicle administration offices.
– Kristie Busam


California targets drayage trucks
Older trucks serving major ports and rail yards must be replaced or retrofitted, according to a regulation approved Dec. 7 by the California Air Resources Board.

Pre-1994 drayage truck engines must be retired or replaced with 1994 and newer engines by the end of 2009. By the same deadline, trucks with 1994-2003 engines must be either replaced or retrofitted to achieve an 85 percent reduction in diesel particulate.

The rule also requires compliant trucks working at the 14 affected ports and 11 affected rail yards to be entered into a special registry by late 2009.

In 2008, the board will consider a similar measure focused on reducing emissions from private heavy-duty truck fleets.

CARB already adopted rules in 2005 that require cleaner engines in cargo handling equipment and clean fuel on ships. Thanks to this regulation and the new one, CARB estimates that diesel particulate matter emissions from container and cruise ship terminals will be reduced by almost two-thirds by 2010 and by 75 percent by 2014.

The California Trucking Association argued that the plan fails to address critical uncertainties, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argued that CARB’s definition of a drayage truck is overly broad.
– Jill Dunn


SHORT HAULS
SIRIUS AND XM stockholders overwhelmingly approved a merger of the two satellite radio companies Nov. 13, as expected, but the process can’t move forward until the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice give their OK. Lobbying against the merger are local radio and TV stations represented by the National Association of Broadcasters, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies. They have set up an anti-merger website, www.xmsiriusmonopoly.org.

TEAMSTERS members have approved a five-year contract with UPS, says the union, which represents 238,000 of the company’s 427,700 employees. The contract raises wages annually, increases funds that provide pension, health and welfare bene-fits, and allows UPS to withdraw from the Central States Pension Fund while contributing $6.1 billion to the fund. UPS has said it plans to move employees into a single pension fund administered by UPS and the Teamsters.

USA TRUCK’S motions for relief in its lost breach-of-contract dispute with All-Ways Logistics were denied by a U.S. District Court in Arkansas, which also added $1.6 million in attorney’s fees and other costs to the $3 million jury verdict. USA said it would consider an appeal.

PETRO STOPPING CENTERS raised more than $106,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during its 16th annual Halloween promotion. Petro and Iron Skillet patrons were asked to make $1 donations to St. Jude to support its fight against catastrophic childhood diseases.

MICHELIN North America has settled its infringement dispute with China Manufacturers Alliance. The financial settlement was not disclosed, but in return for Michelin dropping its legal actions, the Chinese companies agreed to change tread patterns on certain Double Coin and Dyna Trac tires and to remove all versions of Michelin-copyrighted content from their websites.

INTERSTATE 10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, a 55-mile stretch over the Atchafalaya Basin, was closed for nine days after a natural gas well blew out Nov. 15 and ignited only 300 feet from the I-10 bridge near Ramah. Louisiana now has a 120-day moratorium on drilling new oil and gas wells within a quarter-mile of an interstate, according to the state’s conservation office.

TRUCKERS’ HEALTH will be the focus of a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health survey that will be conducted at 40 truck stops. Details have not been announced. The 2004 fatality rate among truckers was 11 times that of the general worker population, and the number of non-fatal injuries among truckers was second highest among all occupations, the agency said.

BIODIESEL PLANTS in operation in the United States as of September numbered 165, with 80 more under construction and another four being expanded, according to the National Biodiesel Board.


HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS
COLORADO. Trucks weighing more than six tons are barred from the Highway 120 bridge over the Arkansas River four miles east of Florence. Alternate routes are U.S. 50 and Highway 115.

MINNESOTA. The demolition of the 46th Street Bridge over I-35W in Minneapolis has been postponed until spring, but the ramps already are closed. The exit and entrance ramps on I-35W north will be closed until October 2009; the exit ramp from I-35W south will be closed until October 2010.

TENNESSEE. The I-75 South rest area near Old Lee Highway (Route 2/U.S. 11) in Chattanooga is closed during a widening and bridge-replacement project that will last until December 2010. The Old Lee Highway overpass is closed to through traffic until Sept. 1.

VIRGINIA. Trucks weighing more than three tons are barred from the Route 3 bridge over the Rappahannock River between Grey’s Point and White Stone. The alternate route is the U.S. 360 bridge between Tappahannock and Warsaw, reached via U.S. 17 on the west bank and Route 3 on the east bank.

WASHINGTON. Route 543 at the Canadian border is now five lanes, including a designated truck lane. At the grand opening, a Ludtke Trucking rig drove through a yellow ribbon, and the Blaine High School marching band played “Louie Louie.”

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