Federal judges to rule on cross-border case
Both sides await a ruling from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a hearing on whether the federal cross-border trucking program with Mexico should continue.
On Feb. 12, attorneys for the Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club argued that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration broke the law by continuing the project in defiance of the fiscal 2008 omnibus spending bill that President Bush signed Dec. 26. About 450 Teamsters rallied against the program outside the San Francisco courtroom, said Leslie Miller, a union spokeswoman.
The court decided Jan. 23 that it would consider in its ruling an amendment – part of the package signed by President Bush – that was intended by its sponsor, U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to cut off money to the cross-border program. The FMCSA maintains the ban on funding to “establish” such a program bars it only from creating any new cross-border project with Mexico, not from continuing the program started Sept. 6.
Dorgan is trying to schedule a hearing to ask Mary Peters, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to justify that decision.
“Why isn’t this case moot with the act of Congress?” asked Judge Dorothy Nelson.
Jonathan Weissglass, who represented the plaintiffs other than OOIDA, replied that the program had proceeded even after the amendment was signed into law.
“They’re continuing on, even with the low number of truckers?” Nelson asked – a reference to the congressional mandate that the program be statistically valid.
Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the low number of participants – a total of 42 Mexican trucks so far – does not make the project invalid as a test of opening the border, as opponents have argued. “You can get statistical significance out of 42 trucks,” he said.
It’s not known when the three-judge panel will issue its ruling.
– Jill Dunn
Drivers vie for Goodyear Highway Hero award
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. nominated four truck drivers who risked their lives during 2007 to save others for its 25th annual North America Highway Hero Award.
This year’s finalsists are:
Rick Tower. The Yreka, Calif., driver was heading home on Highway 96 when a car veered off the road into an adjacent river. Tower swam to the car and freed a woman from the car before it sank.
Richard Filiczkowski. The Bountiful, Utah, resident saved a young girl after her father inadvertently drove his car into a South Dakota pond along I-90.
David Glenn Virgoe. The Ontario driver was killed after forcing his truck into a ditch to avoid oncoming traffic after being forced off the road by reckless drivers on Highway 400 near Bradford, Ontario.
Ronnie Greene. The Regina, N.M., resident and another driver rescued a pregnant woman who was being attacked. According to reports, the woman’s boyfriend reportedly tried to pull her into his truck before hitting her with the vehicle’s door and running her over and trying to run over Greene.
The winner will be named March 27 at the Mid-America Trucking Show. He will receive a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque and a specially designed ring.
– Steven Mackay
Biodiesel now fuels Safeway fleet
Safeway has converted its fleet of more than 1,000 trucks to biodiesel, which the California-based grocery chain says equals removing almost 7,500 cars from the road annually.
Announced Jan. 18, the change is part of Safeway’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Initiative and its effort to manage its carbon footprint, address climate change and reduce air pollution.
Steve Burd, company CEO, and Calif. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi declared the conversion at Safeway’s “green” store in Dublin, Calif., which operates on solar and wind energy.
The company’s environmental programs include participation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership for companies and organizations that commit to a baseline fleet fuel efficiency and a decrease in carbon emissions.
Safeway also is part of the EPA’s Grow & Go program, which promotes the benefits of renewable fuels.
Safeway buys enough wind energy annually to power 300 fuel stations and more than 50 of its 1,738 stores across North America.
Some city fleets have converted entirely to biodiesel, including San Francisco’s 1,500 diesel vehicles.
– Jill Dunn
Paccar to use SCR in 2010 engines
Paccar announced that it will join Detroit Diesel, Volvo and Mack in using selective catalytic reduction as an element in its engine platform to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 standards for nitrogen oxide emissions.
In the Paccar platform, SCR will be used in concert with exhaust gas recirculation, the primary emissions component of most 2002 and 2007 heavy-duty engines.
“The combination of SCR and EGR will provide Paccar customers a highly efficient solution to meet the rigorous 2010 emission requirements,” says Craig Brewster, Paccar assistant vice president. The company’s vehicles successfully have used SCR in Europe for years, he says.
“Paccar is working with SCR distributors to ensure a nationwide infrastructure is in place to serve our customers,” Brewster says, referring to the urea required as a fuel additive in SCR engines.
Work on Paccar’s $400 million engine production facility in Columbia, Miss., is expected to wrap up in late 2009. The facility will produce 12.9-liter and 9.2-liter engines for Kenworth and Peterbilt tractors, respectively, launching Paccar heavy-duty engines in the North American market.
“Paccar premium-quality engines will be offered to our customers to complement the engines available from our existing suppliers in North America in 2010,” Brewster said.
– Todd Dills
Trucker found who clipped trooper’s door
The Tennessee Highway Patrol said it found the driver of a big rig that sideswiped a trooper’s car during a Jan. 12 traffic stop, nearly taking off its door.
At about 11:30 p.m., Trooper Charles Melhorn helped a motorist secure a loose tailpipe on northbound I-75, near milepost 42 in McMinn County. Melhorn just had gotten back into his patrol car when the truck roared past without slowing, hitting the still-open door, the patrol said.
Melhorn’s dash-mounted video camera showed that his blue lights were on and that his car was completely in the emergency lane.
The patrol said the camera also revealed that the truck bore the logo of Smithway Motor Express, recently bought by Western Express, the patrol said. The company fully cooperated with the investigation by helping find the driver and his rig in Ohio.
No charges were filed immediately, but the case was turned over to the McMinn County prosecutor for grand jury consideration.
Tennessee is one of a number of states with a “move over” law that requires drivers to slow down and, if at all possible, move to a farther lane whenever approaching a parked emergency vehicle on the shoulder. Violations are punishable by a maximum of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. More serious charges are possible if the grand jury concludes that the trucker intended to hit the trooper or his car.
– Jill Dunn
Court denies Public Citizen’s hours of service request
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a denial Jan. 24 of Public Citizen’s request to invalidate the recent interim final rule on hours of service, which means the 11-hour daily limit and 34-hour restart will remain in effect pending a final rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Public Citizen argued the court’s prior decisions in the case effectively prohibited FMCSA from issuing a rule that included the two provisions.
FMCSA, the American Trucking Associations and shippers filed briefs opposing Public Citizen’s motion, arguing that the provisions must be retained to avoid significant disruptions in the industry and in law enforcement.
The court noted that its denial did not prevent Public Citizen from challenging the rule in a separate legal proceeding, though a final hours rule likely will be issued before any such litigation could be completed.
Under the Dec. 11 rule, truck drivers continue to be limited to driving only 11 hours within a 14-hour duty period, after which they must go off duty for at least 10 hours. The rule also retains the ability of drivers to restart their cumulative on-duty limits by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.
The FMCSA issued the interim rule in response to a decision by the D.C. appeals court vacating those two key provisions of the existing rule on the grounds that the public did not have adequate notice of the agency’s methodology for analyzing crash risk. The interim rule took effect Dec. 27, the same day a stay granted by the appeals court expired.
– Staff reports
Sterling adds DD15 engine, safety features
Sterling Truck, based in Redford, Mich., announced that the DD15 engine is available for order and introduced a number of new factory-installed safety options.
The DD15, designed for on-highway applications, will be available in Set-Back A-Line and Set-Back L-Line models. The DD15 is offered in output and torque variants from 455 hp to 560 hp and 1,550 to 1,850 lb.-ft, including dual torque ratings for special applications.
“The DD15 is a great addition to our component offerings,” said Richard Shearing, Sterling manager of product strategy.
At its rated speed, thanks to turbo compounding technology, the engine delivers up to 50 “free” horsepower without sacrificing fuel economy, the company said.
The DD15 is part of the Heavy-Duty Engine Platform that eventually will be available in all heavy-duty Daimler Trucks worldwide. Daimler owns Sterling, Detroit Diesel, Freightliner and Western Star.
Sterling’s newly announced factory-installed safety options – air disc brakes, a new collision warning system from Eaton, and roll stability control from Meritor WABCO – will be available on Sterling Set-Back A-Line, Set-Back L-Line, Set-Forward L-Line and Acterra models.
– Dean Smallwood
OOIDA asks Bush for help on diesel
The Owner-Operator Indepen-dent Drivers Association has asked President Bush to do all he can to stabilize diesel prices.
In his Jan. 30 letter, OOIDA President Jim Johnston told Bush that in the past six months, the average price of diesel has climbed by more than 40 cents per gallon, burdening owner-operators with six or fewer trucks, who make up close to 90 percent of the nation’s trucking companies.
Each time the price of fuel increases by 5 cents per gallon, Johnston wrote, a trucker’s annual costs jump by roughly $1,000.
Johnston urged Bush to:
- Stop shipping oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a practice Johnston argued effectively takes oil off the market.
- Get American fuel producers and refiners to stop exporting diesel and biodiesel.
- Encourage domestic production, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the outer continental shelf to drilling.
As of early February, the national average price of a gallon of diesel had been above $3 for a record 20 straight weeks.
Experts say the increasing global price of gasoline and diesel is the result of global oil demand outpacing global oil supply. Demand especially has spiked in the booming economies of China and India – though demand also increases annually in the United States, where oil production peaked in 1970.
OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor said that Bush had not responded to the letter so far.
– Jill Dunn
Critics assail Bush’s last DOT budget
President Bush’s final budget proposal for the U.S. Depart-ment of Transportation, covering fiscal 2009, is being criticized by state officials, labor and construction lobbies and the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
The Teamsters union, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Associated General Contractors of America all criticized the budget for providing $39.4 billion for highways, which they argue would be $1.8 billion (or 4.4 percent) less than guaranteed for 2009 by 2005 legislation.
Moreover, Bush’s proposal to borrow up to $3.2 billion from mass transit to cover a projected 2009 gap in the highway budget is a “rob Peter to pay Paul” plan that “will only serve to delay by one year the necessity to act to ensure sufficient revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to sustain highway programs at current levels,” said John Horsley, executive director of the state highway officials.
“Instead of a practical solution to fix the looming Highway Trust Fund crisis, which would guarantee full funding to states, the administration relies on smoke and mirrors by shifting money from the transit account,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the contractors’ association.
Bush also proposes cutting discretionary funding for transportation – i.e., congressional earmarks – by $4 billion, or 26 percent.
“Instead of having our transportation dollars whittled away with hundreds of congressional earmarks, we need to direct funding to projects that have the most impact on highway performance and congestion relief,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in announcing the budget Feb. 4.
The proposed budget funds critical safety and congestion-fighting programs, honors all SAFETEA-LU commitments and provides a record $10.1 billion for transit programs, Peters said.
– Andy Duncan
Diagnostics to complicate engines
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to be sure that when the 2010 engines hit the highways, they will continue to meet mandated emissions levels over the course of their useful life.
How will EPA ensure continued compliance? By also mandating the use of certified onboard diagnostic systems (OBD) for the engines and their fuel and aftertreatment systems, engine manufacturers said in a Feb. 4 panel at the Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
With OBD, a computer alerts the operator when any problem arises, electrical or mechanical, that could affect emissions. For example, a fleet running a 2010 engine with a cracked particulate filter would be able to catch the problem before emissions passed the regulated level.
The California Air Resources Board originally created OBD rules for passenger vehicles. Similar rules will be applied to heavy-duty vehicles, phased in through 2019.
Systems monitored by OBD will include the crankcase vent, fuel, exhaust gas recirculation, boost pressure control, particulate filter, cooling and NOx reduction catalyst. OBD requirements include:
- All diagnostics should run at least once per drive cycle, typically defined as engine start, engine running and engine off.
- The system must have an operator interface, called a malfunction indicator lamp, that exclusively indicates emissions faults.
- Service information must be adequate to guide a technician to the condition causing the problem and must be available to any service provider at reasonable cost.
– Linda Longton
AMERICA’S ROAD TEAM nominations for 2009-2010 are being sought by the American Trucking Associations. To recommend an exemplary truck driver, visit www.americasroadteam.com.
MACK TRUCKS announced that Dennis Slagle will succeed Paul Vikner as president and chief executive officer, effective April 1. Slagle, 53, has served since 2003 as president and CEO of Volvo Construction Equipment North America, based in Asheville, N.C. Vikner will become vice chairman of the Mack board of directors.
INTERSTATE SCALES, based in Evansville, Ind., is being bought by CAT Scale, based in Walcott, Iowa. For the time being, CAT will keep open all 143 Interstate Scales locations while sites are evaluated. The world’s largest truck-scale network, CAT has more than 1,000 locations in North America.
THE 9TH CIRCUIT U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a district court to reconsider its rejection of the UPS requirement that its delivery drivers meet the same federal hearing standards as drivers of heavier vehicles.
NEXT GENERATION 911, which will allow emergency dispatchers to receive digital photos and videos, e-mails and text messages as well as phone calls, will be tested in St. Paul, Minn.; Helena, Mont.; Rochester, N.Y.; Seattle; and the state of Indiana beginning in April, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced.
O&S TRUCKING seeks participants in its Truckers’ Challenge, part of the Bowl For Kids’ Sake fund-raiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks, 1 p.m. March 16 in Springfield, Mo. The fee is $250 per team. Call (800) 395-4780 for information.
VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA will continue to offer the 15-liter Cummins ISX engine in the Volvo VN in 2010.
Kenworth will launch production of T800 liquefied natural gas trucks at its Renton, Wash., plant in 2009. The announcement follows the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach approval of a $1.6 billion fund to replace many of the 16,800 Class 8 trucks serving the ports with LNG vehicles.
Renewable Energy Group announced a new service making biodiesel more available at truck stops. The Retail Biodiesel Blending Program will offer truck stops both biodiesel injection equipment and a regular supply of biodiesel.
The Unified Carrier Registration Agreement’s board of directors voted to keep 2008 fees at their 2007 level. The decision was made to avoid a time-consuming federal rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
CORRECTION. Flame Graphics on Les Sullivan’s 2007 Western Star, a Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar truck featured in the January Overdrive, were produced by Doug Canham of Canham Graphics in Springfield, Ill.
ALABAMA. Seven-day trip and fuel permits, oversize/overweight permits, hazmat endorsements, full-fee registration and renewals now are available through a single website, trucking.alabama.gov.
CALIFORNIA. Every truck entering the state now must have a manufacturer-issued Engine Emission Certification label. Inspectors can issue violators a $300 fine immediately and another $500 fine if “proof of repair” isn’t provided within 45 days. If your engine lacks a label, contact your local dealership.
DELAWARE. Grain haulers demonstrated to lawmakers and state DOT officials that the new roundabout on Bunker Hill Road west of Middletown is too small for the turning radius of big rigs. The DOT pledged to fix it.
FLORIDA. Trucks now are barred from the left lane on 40 miles of Florida’s Turnpike between the Golden Glades interchange in Miami-Dade County and the Lantana toll plaza at milepost 88. The move expands the successful restriction imposed on the Homestead Extension in spring 2005. Violators face fines up to $130.
MARYLAND. A new runaway-truck warning sign on Backbone Mountain in Allegany County, where Highway 135 descends to a 90-degree right turn, flashes whenever a truck exceeds the maximum safe speed. An emergency ramp is a mile downhill from the sign.
PENNSYLVANIA. Part of U.S. 219 through Somerset County near Shanksville has been named the Flight 93 Memorial Highway in honor of those who died fighting their captors aboard a hijacked airliner Sept. 11, 2001.
UTAH. The state DOT has warned truckers to heed restrictions against triple trailers during severe rain, wind and snow.
VIRGINIA. The U.S. Department of Transportation is making nearly $1.2 billion available in loans and tax-exempt bonds to build express toll lanes on 14 miles of the Capital Beltway outside Washington, D.C., between Georgetown Pike and the Springfield interchange. The new toll lanes will be privately operated.