Log Book

Air Force vet named Back on the Road winner
Retired U.S. Air Force veteran Dennis Lott has had his share of bad luck, but that changed when he received a 2006 Volvo VNL 670 as the winner of Arrow Truck Sales’ Back On The Road 2009 campaign. The announcement was made at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

“I hope to use this opportunity to contribute to all corners of the trucking industry and serve as an outlet for ideas from other members of this business to promote positive outcomes,” Lott said.

He became an owner-operator in 2000, but a lingering back injury from a survival school parachute training exercise in late 1999 forced him to come off the road by the end of 2000. To give his back time to heal, he began flying full-time for the Air Force Reserve and was one of the many called up after 9/11. Lott flew missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lott’s back has healed and he is retired from the Air Force.

In addition to winning the truck, courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America, and a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express, Lott also receives:

· Custom truck paint job and graphics from Dickinson Fleet Services
· TriPac auxiliary power unit from Thermo-King
· X One tires from Michelin
· Services from the owner-operator financial services firm ATBS
· Insurance from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
· A three-year/300,000 mile warranty from National Truck Protection
· Monthly $500 fuel cards from Pilot Travel Centers
· One year’s worth of filter products from Genuine Volvo Parts
· Truck accessories and fenders from Minimizer Products
· One year’s worth of oil changes from Chevron.
– Max Heine

FBI links truckers with serial killings
The FBI is publicizing its investigation of more than 500 murder victims near highways, and of the 200 potential suspects, most of which are truckers.

On April 6, the agency announced its Highway Serial Killings initiative to raise awareness of the issue and the assistance the FBI offers. The agency’s efforts have resulted in the arrest of at least 10 homicide suspects who are believed responsible for 30 murders. That includes a trucker arrested in Tennessee on four murder charges and a trucker charged with murders in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

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The FBI’s investigations began in 2004, when an Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation analyst detected a crime pattern. Murdered women were being found along the Interstate 40 corridor in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.

That analyst and a colleague from the Grapevine, Texas, police department referred these cases to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. ViCAP analysts looked at the FBI’s database for similar patterns of highway killings elsewhere. In turn, the agency began to support other law enforcement with open investigations of highway murders.

Today, in the Interstate 40 corridor cases, two people have been charged with some of the murders and investigators continue to tie the suspects to other murders. The suspects are “predominantly long-haul truck drivers,” according to the FBI.
– Jill Dunn

Highway Hero saved 2 girls
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has honored Colorado owner-operator Jorge Orozco Sanchez with the 26th Goodyear North American Highway Hero Award for his effort in saving two young girls after a horrific highway accident last October.

Orozco Sanchez was named the 2008 Highway Hero at a special awards banquet during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville. With the award, he also received a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque, a Goodyear GPS unit and a specially designed ring.

Orozco Sanchez was hauling grain on Oct. 28, 2008, on Highway 392, north of Greeley, Colo., when an SUV suddenly crossed the center line and crashed head-on into his tractor-trailer rig. Orozco Sanchez quickly jumped from his cab and went to the other vehicle.

With flames beginning to surround the vehicles, he saw two girls, strapped into their car seats and crying, and a woman up front who was not moving. Working with a passer-by who used a fire extinguisher to fight back the flames, Orozco Sanchez rescued the two girls. Their 27-year-old mother died in the crash.

“Jorge’s quick thinking and bravery will be reflected in the lives of these two girls, just 1 and 4 years old, in years to come,” says Joseph Copeland, vice president of Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “His heroics and those of the truck drivers honored through this award are truly inspiring.”
– Staff reports

Event shows green trucks
The green movement, with its evolving and increasingly stringent regulations, is “a tidal wave and it’s only getting bigger coming at us,” Rusty Rush, president and CEO of Rush Enterprises, told attendees at a Go Green event, hosted by Rush Truck Centers and Peterbilt.
The day-long event, held April 1 at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., drew about 160 fleet customers.

It showcased Peterbilt vehicles featuring alternative technologies designed to lower emissions and improve air quality while reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and taking advantage of domestic resources such as natural gas.

Attendees heard presentations on the latest green technologies from Peterbilt, Cummins, Eaton and Westport, along with details on available grants and tax incentives to encourage fleets to convert to greener equipment. Guests also had the opportunity to test drive Peterbilt’s greenest vehicles, including the Model 386 heavy duty hybrid, which is still in development.

The Model 386 hybrid features a 400-hp Cummins ISX engine; Eaton Fuller Ultrashift transmission; 60-hp, 30 lb.-ft. electric motor and a 340-volt DC electrical system. Through fuel savings and idle reduction, Peterbilt hopes to achieve 15 percent better fuel economy than a diesel-powered Model 386.
– Linda Longton

FMCSA tightens policy on fines
Motor carriers likely will face maximum penalties more often under a new enforcement policy that took effect April 1.

In a March 30 Federal Register notice, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a supplemental policy that will change how it now will implement Section 222 of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Section 222 requires FMCSA to assess maximum statutory penalties if a person or company is found to have committed a pattern of violations of critical or acute regulations, or previously committed the same or a related violation of critical or acute regulations.

Until now, FMCSA has defined “pattern of violations” and “previously committed the same or related violation” as three cases closed with findings of violation occurring within the last six years. The “three strikes” also could be two cases that have closed followed by a third case in which violations were discovered during a compliance review or similar audit.

In recent years, both the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General have faulted FMCSA’s approach toward implementing the 1999 legislation. For example, GAO recommended a “two strikes” policy and a meaning of “pattern of violations” that is distinct from repeated violations of the same regulation. OIG recommended that FMCSA count all acute and critical violations discovered during a compliance review.

FMCSA also is adopting a “two strikes” policy that is similar to the existing “three strikes” policy. FMCSA will apply maximum penalties in cases where an acute violation is discovered during an investigation within six years of a previously closed case that contained a finding of violation of a critical or acute regulation in the same part of the federal motor carrier or hazardous materials regulations. FMCSA will apply the same standards under the “two strikes” policy as it did under the “three strikes” policy.

FMCSA will use the new “two strikes” policy only for investigations and cases initiated on or after April 1, 2009. Investigations and cases initiated prior to that date will continue to be considered for maximum penalty assessment under the “three strikes” policy.
– Avery Vise

Peterbilt offers fuel-saving improvements
Peterbilt has introduced its Aerodynamic Package for its on-highway Models 386 and 384, as well as a Fuel-Efficiency Package for its traditionally styled Models 388 and 389.

Both packages are designed to reduce vehicle drag by up to 24 percent and to provide fuel savings gains of up to 12 percent, resulting in an estimated $5,600 in savings annually versus comparable models without the package.

The Aerodynamic Package includes: roof fairing and trim tabs, new sleeper roof transition, enhanced chassis fairings, aero battery box/toolbox, composite sun visor, sleeper extender and aerodynamic mirrors. The Aerodynamic Package will also be available from Paccar Parts for Model 386 and 384 retrofit.

The Fuel-Efficiency Package includes aerodynamic mirrors, sleeper extender, roof fairing and trim tabs, composite sun visor and a sleeper roof transition. It also will be available from Paccar Parts for Models 388 and 389, as well as earlier Models 378 and 379.

Peterbilt is also introducing interior enhancements for on-highway and vocational trucks that include a more efficient air conditioning system and more durable and attractive dash material. The new designs are included on all three interior levels for Models 386, 384, 389, 388, 367 and 365.
– Max Heine

Study points to screening for truckers’ sleep apnea
A new 15-month study has confirmed previous research that obesity-driven testing identifies commercial truck drivers with a high likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea and suggests that requiring OSA screenings could reduce the risk of truck crashes resulting from driver fatigue and sleepiness.

“Truck drivers with sleep apnea have up to a seven-fold increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash,” said Dr. Philip Parks, a medical director at health care provider Lifespan and the study’s lead author. The study results were published in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

OSA is a syndrome characterized by sleep-disordered breathing, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, psychomotor deficits and disrupted nighttime sleep. It increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Approximately 2.4 million to 3.9 million licensed commercial drivers in the U.S. are expected to have OSA. In addition to being unrecognized or unreported by drivers, OSA often remains undiagnosed by many primary care clinicians despite the fact that OSA increases the risks of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering recommendations to require sleep apnea screening for all obese drivers based on body mass index, which is calculated based on height and weight.

“OSA screenings of truck drivers will be ineffective unless they are federally mandated or required by employers,” Dr. Kales said.
– Staff reports

Daimler’s CEO: Business-savvy owners will survive
Reports of the demise of the owner-operator have no basis, said Chris Patterson, outgoing president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. “Every time there’s a downturn you hear this.”

Patterson spoke with Overdrive editors during the Mid-America Trucking Show, shortly after he announced plans to retire June 1. He will be succeeded by Martin Daum, who is head of operations at Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz plant in Woerth, Germany.

While the current economic climate is hurting fleets and owner-operators alike, Patterson said, some owner-operators are better positioned to deal with the downturn. “The guys that are in trouble are driving trucks powered by 600-hp ACERT engines. If they endure, they’ll have to get on a different program to make money,” viewing trucking more as a business and less as a lifestyle, he said.

Patterson sees little chance of a pre-buy by carriers seeking to avoid the more costly 2010 model trucks featuring new low-emissions technology. He even suggested carriers might be “better off waiting for new engines because of fuel economy.” Once the economy picks up, “fuel will be back to $3 to $4 per gallon,” he predicted, making fuel economy top of mind for truckers again. Daimler projects its 2010 Detroit Diesel engines using selective catalytic reduction will use 5 percent less fuel than previous models.

When the economy rebounds and carriers need to add trucks or replace aging equipment, they will have little choice but to buy new because “there won’t be enough reasonable trucks available to meet demand,” Patterson said. Currently, there are ample used trucks equipped with EPA ’04 engines, but when carriers are ready to buy, those trucks will be “getting pretty long in the tooth,” he said. Beyond that, much of the surplus capacity has been sold offshore.

Those who might want to buy trucks may not be able to get financing. “Daimler is a very strong company and can still borrow and lend money,” Patterson said. But qualifiying for credit is harder now. The situation is “especially difficult for owner-operators,” whose personal finances may make them poor credit risks, he said.
– Linda Longton

TSA issues warning to U.S. truckers in Mexico
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is warning tuckers of danger while doing business in Mexico.

Mexican drug cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexican border has significantly increased in recent years, including robberies, homicides, kidnappings, and carjackings, with notable spikes in Tijuana and northern Baja California. The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens in Mexico.

“Truck drivers may face an elevated risk of being a crime victim as their loads represent a potentially easy payoff for criminals,” says Don Rondeau, director of the TSA’s Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center. “We’re strongly urging American trucking companies and owner-operators to exercise extreme caution when making deliveries or pick-ups along the Mexican border.”

He advises truckers to report in with operations headquarters or dispatchers at every scheduled or non-scheduled stop. They should also provide dispatchers with detailed location and next destination information.

Navistar’s CEO says trucking key to economy
Trucking is key to a turnaround of the U.S. economy, Dan Ustian, chairman, president and CEO of Navistar International, said at the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association Breakfast & Briefing at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

While headlines focus on what’s wrong with the economy – the housing market, credit crisis, unemployment, consumer spending – “What’s missing is truckers,” he said. “Who knows better the state of the economy?”

Pointing to the federal government’s bailout of some automakers and suppliers, Ustian said, “We’d like them to stand on their own two feet, but we need them to be successful.” From the suppliers’ perspective, “if one of those goes belly up, we’re going to have trouble and it will affect the trucking industry.” Ustian showed a chart indicating auto sales are down about 25 percent and truck sales are down 50 percent since 2006. “Trucks are way more volatile,” he said.

Meeting new emissions regulations will impact truck sales, Ustian said. While noting that everyone in the room favored environmental initiatives, “we should be part of that clean air decision,” he said. He cited the need for getting older trucks off the road by encouraging truckers to buy new, but acknowledged that emissions technology has increased the cost of trucks $25,000 since 2004. And if the Obama administration allows each state to make its own emissions rules, as the President has suggested, that could pose serious problems long-term for truck makers, he said.

Fixing economic problems will require more voices to be heard, Ustian said. Some of the efforts being discussed by Congress and the administration – card check and higher taxes on businesses, for example – are under consideration because the constituencies that embrace them have been the loudest. To change that course, the trucking industry must educate government leaders, he said. There are signs of improvement, he said, “and when the government understands the impact of some of what they are doing, it will move even faster.”
– Linda Longton

Schneider National said it has endorsed FuelSurchargeIndex.org, a fuel surcharge mechanism from ProMiles Software Development Corp., as an alternative to other sources of fuel prices for surcharges, such as the federal Energy Information Administration’s weekly retail average.

“The best fuel surcharge program offers neutrality for both the shipper and carrier, low cost of administration, verifiable and auditable data, and a direct link to the day and route of a load,” says Mark Rourke, president of transportation services at Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National.

Instead of EIA’s weekly average, which is based on pricing at 350 truck stops, FuelSurchargeIndex.org provides fuel prices at more than 5,500 truck stops that are updated every 24 hours and specific to the route that a load actually is traveling, ProMiles says.

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