Logbook: Daimler to drop Sterling brand

As recently as August, Sterling was promoting its truck lineup in a renewed marketing effort. At the time, the company introduced the NightShift (pictured), a model focused on the short-haul, over-the-road market.

Daimler Trucks North America will discontinue its Sterling Trucks brand in March as part of a response to continued low truck sales and structural changes in the market, the company announced.

Other elements of the plan include closing the St. Thomas, Ontario, manufacturing plant – where Sterling trucks are built – in March when the existing agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers expires. The 39-year-old Portland, Ore., plant will close in June 2010, sending Western Star production to Santiago, Mexico, and Freightliner military truck production to a plant in the Carolinas. A migrating supplier base and high logistics costs had resulted in higher production costs in Portland.

Daimler said it would expand the Freightliner and Western Star product ranges to address market segments that had been served exclusively by Sterling.

Sterling’s models have substantial overlap with Freightliner models and have achieved only one-fourth the Freightliner market share, Daimler noted. The company launched Sterling in 1998 as a replacement brand for the newly acquired Ford heavy-duty truck business.

Daimler said it expects that the Sterling dealer network will continue to perform warranty repairs and maintenance services, supply replacement parts and provide technical support for Sterling owners. Dealers will continue to accept orders until Jan. 15.

The decision to close the Portland plant will not affect the location or operation of the company’s headquarters in Portland, Daimler said. The company recently moved sales, marketing and customer support functions to Fort Mill, S.C., leaving 2,200 administration, product development, procurement and information technology employees in Portland.

Daimler said production at its new Saltillo, Mexico, plant, which will produce the Cascadia, will begin as planned in February.
– Staff Reports

Economy tamps down turnover, payrolls
Driver turnover rates and payrolls continued to fall during the second quarter, the American Trucking Associations says.

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The large-truckload line-haul driver turnover annualized rate dropped to 85 percent during the quarter, the lowest since 1998’s first quarter. Large-truckload driver turnover peaked at 136 percent in the fourth quarters of 2004 and 2005 and was 103 percent in the first quarter of this year.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the lower turnover rate actually points to a negative for the industry and is a result of the economic downturn.

“Turnover is the lowest in 10 years for large fleets because motor carriers are shrinking their fleet size,” he said. “There isn’t a big push to hire additional drivers and, as a result, drivers are not jumping company to company as much as they did. However, turnover is down because the economy is very weak and truck freight is lackluster, not because of a fundamental change in the driver market.”

The small-truckload rate decreased 4 percentage points to 76 percent in this year’s second quarter, the lowest rate since the first quarter of 1999. The LTL turnover rate decreased from a 14 percent annualized rate in the first quarter to 6 percent in the second quarter.
During this year’s second quarter, the three trucking categories reduced payrolls, following a trend of five consecutive quarters of increases.

Small truckload carriers reported reductions in all employee types, with a total decrease of 0.8 percent. Large truckload carriers recorded a 0.3 percent cut in total employment. LTL payrolls fell 0.4 percent in the second quarter.
– Staff reports

Troubling times facing industry
Tough times for the trucking industry are not likely to get easier in the near future, said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves.

Graves gave a keynote speech at the group’s annual conference in New Orleans in October.

“The economic slowdown, highlighted by the housing and automotive industries, has had a devastating impact on our tonnage, and the recent financial meltdown on Wall Street severely impacts the credit markets you rely on for the capital to run your businesses,” he told conference attendees. “All of this has contributed to a collapse in consumer confidence.”

Celadon Vice President of Operations Brett Terchila said the company had to “do some consolidation where it was necessary, and where it was possible to do more with less, we’ve been forced to do that in some cases.”

Although Con-way Truckload has added 300 trucks in 2008, the company is still affected by the slowdown, says President Herb Schmidt. “Regardless of the [credit] bailout, I think the recovery process is going to be a long and tenuous one,” Schmidt said. “I suspect that the transportation companies that are heavily in debt, that are over-capitalized, will still struggle for the next six to nine months. I would be surprised if a lot don’t go out of business.”

Graves encouraged planning, teamwork and acquiring greater knowledge of the nation’s infrastructure, as well as being involved with upcoming elections and legislative issues, such highway reauthorization.
– Misty Bell

A sneak peek at Volvo’s 2010 SCR technology
During a press event at its headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., last month, Volvo showcased a 2010 VN 670 powered by a 485-hp D13 that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emissions standards using selective catalytic reduction. SCR technology treats exhaust with urea, also called diesel exhaust fluid, downstream of EGR treatment to reduce NOx emissions.

DEF tanks on all 2010 trucks will have a blue cap imprinted with the letters DEF. The tank opening and filler nozzle are restrictive to prevent accidental introduction of diesel into the DEF tank.

Volvo trucks with the 2010 SCR technology will offer 2 percent to 3 percent better fuel economy than the company’s 2007 models, according to Jim Fancher of Volvo.
– Linda Longton

California enforcing idling regulations
The California Air Resources Board said its staff began hitting the road in early October to enforce the agency’s anti-idling program, which generally limits idling to five minutes – even if the driver is resting in the sleeper.

CARB staff and local air quality officials throughout the state will enforce the idling regulations by monitoring sleeper berths and commercial on- and off-road diesel vehicles where they operate.

First-time violators will receive a minimum civil penalty of $300. Subsequent penalties can be from $1,000 to $10,000.

Regulations limiting idling of on-road commercial diesel-engine vehicles to five minutes have been in effect for years and for sleeper-berth trucks since January. CARB granted a grace period to allow managers and employees to learn the new requirements.

Because of the nature of those operations, enforcement officials first will contact the operator and site supervisor for off-road vehicles to determine the reason for idling in excess of five minutes before levying the fine. If the reason is not covered by the regulation’s exemptions, and the instance is a first-time violation, a $300-per-day citation will be issued.
– Avery Vise

ATA recognizes Driver of the Year
David May, a West Seneca, N.Y.-based relay and city driver for Con-way Freight, has been named the American Trucking Associations 2008 National Truck Driver of the Year. May has driven more than 1.4 million accident-free miles in 27 years’ trucking.

Since 2005, May has advocated highway safety, first as a 2005 America’s Road Team Captain. In 2007, he advised an FMCSA committee on CDL requirements and spoke at the state legislatures’ national conference on safe driving.
– Staff reports

Tippin joins Arrow’s Back on the Road
Country artist Aaron Tippin has teamed up with Arrow Truck Sales’ Back on the Road 2009 campaign. The program is designed to help a deserving trucker in need of a truck and a job.

Arrow, which is part of the Volvo Group, is soliciting stories from truckers who lost their truck and their livelihood through unfortunate circumstances. The winning trucker will receive a 2006 Volvo VNL 670, courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America, a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express and products and services from ATBS, Chevron, Michelin, Minimizer Products, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, National Truck Protection and Volvo Parts.

Entries should include a 250-word explanation of why the entrant deserves to win. Arrow will accept nominations through Jan. 16 at www.backontheroad2009.com and will announce the winner during the Mid-America Trucking Show, March 19-21, in Louisville, Ky.

Tippin, a former truck driver, will play an active role throughout Back on The Road, including selection of the winner.
– Staff reports

ATA board approves safety priorities
The American Trucking Associations’ board of directors adopted 18 recommendations aimed at reducing highway-related fatalities and injuries through improved safety performance of drivers, vehicles and motor carriers.

A majority of the 18 recommendations address the performance of drivers – both commercial and noncommercial – and include support for:

  • A policy on the use of, potentially distracting technologies while the vehicle is moving.
  • Uniform commercial driver’s license testing standards;
  • A study of CDL graduated licensing;
  • Additional parking facilities for trucks;
  • A national maximum 65 mph speed limit;
  • Strategies to increase the use of seatbelts;
  • A national car-truck driver behavior improvement program;
  • Increased use of red-light cameras and automated speed enforcement;
  • Graduated licensing in all states for noncommercial teen drivers; and
  • More stringent laws to reduce drinking and driving.

– Avery Vise

Pass-through fuel surcharge OK’d for DOD loads
President Bush is expected to sign a bill that would require a pass-through fuel surcharge on U.S. Department of Defense loads.

On Sept. 27, senators passed the stipulation sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in a defense department authorization bill.

Rod Nofziger, government affairs director for the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, said it probably won’t change the department’s payment method but that DOD contractors and subcontractors may no longer negotiate the surcharge.

“The department has had a fuel surcharge policy in place for quite some time to ensure that adequate freight hauling capacity will always be available to them,” Nofziger said.
– Jill Dunn

Board calls for action on driver fatigue
In response to a tractor-trailer rollover that triggered a collision of a motorcoach, the National Transportation Safety Board called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take action to counteract the effects of fatigued commercial drivers and to reduce the occurrence of fatigue in the first place.

NTSB recommended that:

  • FMCSA develop and implement a plan to deploy technologies in commercial vehicles to reduce the occurrence of fatigue-related accidents;
  • FMCSA develop and use a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of the fatigue management plans implemented by motor carriers, including their ability to improve sleep and alertness, mitigate performance errors, and prevent incidents and accidents;
  • NHTSA determine whether equipping commercial vehicles with collision warning systems with active braking and electronic stability control systems will reduce commercial vehicle accidents and require their use on commercial vehicles if they are found effective.

NTSB also reiterated its previous recommendation that NHTSA complete a rulemaking on adaptive cruise control and collision warning system performance standards for new commercial vehicles.
– Avery Vise

Board fines Navistar for emissions violations
The California Air Resources Board has fined Illinois-based Navistar Inc. more than $281,000 for failing to implement required emissions controls and, in a separate case, to properly label and document installed emissions controls.

“Our auditors make sure engine manufacturers comply with our stringent requirements in order to ensure air quality and public health goals are met,” says CARB Chairman Mary Nichols.
The first case involved certification of Navistar’s onboard diagnostic system in 2005-07

Ford E-series diesel medium-duty vans. According to CARB, Navistar failed to disclose, document and implement onboard diagnostic system requirements for the coolant temperature sensor. Navistar will pay $250,000 to settle the case.

In the other court case, Navistar failed to provide purchasers of retrofit emissions devices with proper labeling as required by state law. In this settlement, Navistar will pay a total of $31,500.

“The settlement was for the complaint of failing to have proper electronic software related to the malfunction indicator light,” said Roy Wiley, Navistar manager of external communications. “There was no emissions impact, product integrity, product warranty, product performance nor any safety issue relating to the settlement.”
– Staff reports

Projects to reduce border congestion
Drivers and freight shippers may experience less delay at U.S. border crossings in California, Texas and Washington state due to congestion-reduction projects that emphasize public-private partnerships, said the Department of Transportation.

Projects will explore partnerships that combine traditional federal and state funds with private sector expertise. These types of partnerships can reduce project costs, speed project delivery and protect the taxpayer from project risks, DOT said.

“Congestion at our borders is choking both travelers and commerce with excessive wait times and negatively impacting air quality,” DOT Secretary Mary Peters said.

San Diego’s Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project will create a new port of entry and a 2.7-mile, four-lane highway that links to the existing California highway system to provide more traffic capacity through the region.

In Laredo, Texas, the East Loop Bypass Project will build a new rail bridge across the border and new rail bypass around the city, adding rail capacity and improving safety.

In Blaine, Wash., a project proposes to provide real-time, border-crossing wait-times and other travel information through technologies.
– Staff reports

EPA awards $3.4 million in fuel-related grants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $3.4 million in grants to three organizations to help cut truckers’ fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diesel pollution.

Coburg, Ore.-based Cascade Sierra Solutions will use a $1.13 million EPA grant, and leverage an additional $17.1 million, to provide below-market interest rate loans to truckers, allowing them to install idle-reduction technologies on more than 1,700 trucks.

To date, CSS has provided funding for more than 1,500 trucks, many of them acquired by owner-operators, on the west coast.

In addition to CSS, two other organizations also were awarded $2.27 million in grants: Community Development Transportation Lending Services of Washington, D.C., and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association of Grain Valley, Mo.
– Staff reports

‘Marine highways’ to relieve roadway traffic
The federal government will establish a new national network of waterways to help move cargo across the country to cut congestion on some of the nation’s busiest highways, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Thomas Barrett said Oct. 8.

DOT’s “Marine Highways” initiative calls for the selection and designation of key maritime inland and coastal maritime corridors as marine highways, Barrett said. These routes will be eligible for up to $25 million in existing federal capital construction funds, he says, and the initiative also ensures that these communities will continue to qualify for up to $1.7 billion in federal highway congestion mitigation and air quality funds.

“This initiative does more than simply add new lines to a map,” Barrett says. “It makes our roads safer, expands our capacity for moving goods and reflects the kind of 21st century innovation we are going to need to be competitive in today’s global marketplace.”

Barrett says the initiative makes it easier for companies to take advantage of the new maritime routes by providing businesses with assistance in locating shippers willing to move goods by water. “These highways have no stoplights, traffic or potholes,” he says. “Sometimes transportation solutions require new concrete, but other times, the answer is as simple as using existing water.”
– Staff reports

GREAT AMERICAN INSURANCE Group’s trucking division launched its third annual Big Rig Giveaway sweepstakes during a charity event for the Special Olympics. As a participant in the “World’s Largest Truck Convoy” on Sept. 20, Great American joined truckers in the Ohio leg of the convoy that traveled around the Toledo area in support of Special Olympics athletes. The company’s entry in the convoy was a customized Kenworth W900 that will be given away at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., March 21.

AN EXEMPTION from the excise tax for auxiliary power units would be covered under the bailout plan signed by President Bush. The exemption would apply to new APUs when they are bought with new trucks. New truck purchases include a 12 percent excise tax, and new APU purchases with new trucks also include an excise tax equal to 12 percent of the APU’s retail price.

INTERSTATE 35W over the Mississippi River was reopened Sept. 18 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The new bridge was completed just more than 13 months after its predecessor collapsed Aug. 1, 2007.

PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION Partners – the consortium that made the winning bid in the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll road tender – announced it has decided not to extend its offer, which expired Sept. 30. After extending its offer twice to help comply with the legislative process in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, PTP says it believes the situation doesn’t make sense for a third extension.

SURFACE TRADE between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 15.9 percent higher year-over year in July, reaching $71.6 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico fell 3.4 percent in July from June.

MERCEDES-BENZ ranks highest among heavy-duty engine manufacturers in satisfying customers with vocational trucks, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Heavy-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Study. The study measures customer satisfaction with engines in two-year-old Class 8 trucks by examining four factors: quality, performance, cost of ownership and warranty. Cummins and Mack engines, respectively, follow Mercedes Benz in the rankings.

PILOT HAS BOUGHT Marathon Oil’s 50 percent ownership interest in Pilot Travel Centers and formed a partnership with equity firm CVC Partners.

ALABAMA. Expect delays on reconstruction projects affecting I-20, I-59 and I-65. The I-20 work in Talladega County involves the junction with Coldwater Road to the junction with AL-21 and from mile markers 173 to 179. On I-59 the work is between mile markers 81 and 87 and between 181 and 199. On I-65 there will be bridge work from 6th Avenue to 41st Avenue in Jefferson County and between mile markers 167 and 170 in Montgomery.

ARIZONA. Construction is under way on I-10 between mile marker 219 and 260 in Pima County. Work includes ramp closures and road widening. Ramps are closed on I-17 at Yorkshire Road at mile marker 214.

COLORADO. Road work is under way along I-25. Reconstruction includes the I-76, I-270 and US-36 interchange, the CO-66 interchange, the US-87/US-85 interchange and Fort Carson/CO-16 interchange. On I-70, there will be lane closures from mile markers 43 to 50, 117 to 119, 195-198 and 435 to 439 for roadwork, plus work on the Golden/Co-58 interchange.

FLORIDA. I-4 is being widened 4.1 miles from FL-472 to FL-44 and the I-4/FL-408 interchange is being reconstructed.

NEW YORK. Bridges and tunnels in the New York City areas are undergoing periodic lane closures for construction. Affected structures include the Bayonne Bridge, Hudson Bridge, George Washington Bridge, Triborough Bridge, Willis Avenue Bridge, Tappan Zee Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge and Holland Tunnel.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Nighttime lane closures are in effect on I-95 daily from mile markers 68 to 85, 114 to 131 and 171 to 193.

CORRECTION: Wayne Baker’s 2002 Peterbilt 379 with a 2007 Great Dane reefer won First in its class for working combination at the Great American Trucking Show Pride & Polish. The wrong photo was published with news of his award in the October issue. Overdrive regrets the error.