Updated Mar 2, 2010
Long-term financial problems, followed by a weak freight market and unseasonably warm temperatures, forced IdleAire to shut down Jan. 29.Long-term financial problems, followed by a weak freight market and unseasonably warm temperatures, forced IdleAire to shut down Jan. 29.

IdleAire pulls the plug

IdleAire, the major provider of shore power to truckers, closed Jan. 29 after its investment company owners of the past 18 months failed to find a buyer. IdleAire had 131 locations in 34 states.

IdleAire is owned by six investment management companies that were working together as Knoxville, Tenn.-based IdleAire Acquisition Co. LLC to sell the company, the owners said in a prepared statement.

“The company had made great strides toward profitability in the midst of a very challenging operating environment,” the owners said. “We believe IdleAire had strong growth potential.”

However, they continued, “Due to the economy, our customers had less freight to haul, resulting in reduced truck traffic and we have had extremely mild weather across the nation, reducing the demand for our climate control service.”

The current owners had acquired the company after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2008.

The IdleAire closing leaves fewer truck stop electrification options. Shorepower, formerly Shurepower, offers services in Washington, Oregon and North Carolina and a partner site in California.

IdleAire’s closing affected 315 employees.

— Jill Dunn

Listen up: Truckers urge hours flexibility

At the last scheduled listening session for the proposed hours of service revision, many requested more flexibility in duty-hour and sleeper berth regulations.

At the fourth session organized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Jan. 28, many speakers said existing rules are too restrictive and lead to increased fatigue, stress and log book cheating. The public sessions are part of another hours rulemaking FMCSA is conducting under a settlement with groups challenging the current regulations. A fifth session may be scheduled for March, officials say.

Instead of letting drivers sleep when they need it, log book demands are managing drivers’ sleep, said Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association.

Drivers often lose time in emergency situations such as bad weather or a traffic accident that count against their 14-hour duty clock, said Kathy Gillaspy, an over-the-road driver.

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Tom Bower, a small fleet owner of four trucks and an operator from Kentucky, said the duty rule’s inflexibility causes him and his drivers to lose time. “Waiting can make you more tired than working,” he told an FMCSA panel at the session in Davenport, Iowa.

Ralph Pepper, who’s been driving for 36 years, said the 14-hour limit hurts his ability to make a living. “It’s coming down to a stranglehold on drivers out there,” said Pepper, one of dozens of who called in comments.

Chris Perry, who said he’s driven for more than 30 years with more than 3.5 million safe miles, called to say FMCSA treats all drivers the same with the existing regulations. “I know when I’m tired,” he said. “I don’t need a babysitter. Before the DOT took over, it seemed a lot easier because we were left alone to do our job, period.”

Attending the session in person, owner-operator Bob Kinsley of Toledo, Iowa, said that although he likes the 14-hour clock and the 11 hours of driving within that, he noted there’s no flexibility to take a nap or a break. “I don’t eat a meal in the truck stop,” he said. “I don’t have the time.”

— Max Kvidera

Short hauls

SCHNEIDER NATIONAL plans to hire an estimated 2,100 drivers to expand its regional driving force to 2,500 drivers by December. The drivers will serve short-haul routes in the company’s West, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast regions.

IN RECENT MONTHS, 59 truck owners working the Port of Seattle have turned in their older polluting diesel trucks for a $5,000 scrap credit. About 85 percent of the trucks have been or are being replaced with a newer truck, according to Cascade Sierra Solutions. As of Dec. 31, 2010, no pre-1994 engine trucks will be allowed access to the port.

Analysis: Intermodal transport gains

Intermodal transport gained market share from trucking in 2009’s fourth quarter, according to analysis by transportation research firm FTR Associates.Intermodal transport gained market share from trucking in 2009’s fourth quarter, according to analysis by transportation research firm FTR Associates.

Intermodal transport gained market share against trucks in the fourth quarter of 2009, reaching a new high in the process, an analysis by FTR Associates shows.

Intermodal’s share of U.S. long-haul (550-plus miles) movements of international and domestic containerized freight was estimated to be 13.3 percent in the fourth quarter, up 0.2 percent from the third quarter and slightly above the previous high-water mark achieved in the 2008 fourth quarter.

“Intermodal has gained share for three consecutive quarters since the freight meltdown late last year,” says Lawrence Gross, FTR senior consultant. “This latest increase has been driven by improvement in the international intermodal sector, an indication that imports and exports are rebounding faster than domestic traffic.”

The market share of the domestic intermodal sector, which had been growing earlier in the year, was flat in the fourth quarter, says Gross, who expects the overall positive trend to continue. “Provided that the railroads maintain their current high levels of service, we see a variety of factors leading to a resumption of domestic share growth even as the international sector continues to rebound,” he says.

— Staff reports

EPA revises DEF stance

Under legal pressure from Navistar, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revised its 2010 engine emissions guidance for the number of miles and hours a vehicle using selective catalytic reduction technology can operate after the diesel exhaust fluid is exhausted.

The original guidance issued in February 2009 required engine performance to be degraded after a truck travels 2,000 miles or 40 hours on an empty DEF tank. The revision removes this provision and eliminates specific limits on mileage or time trucks should operate with empty DEF tanks. 

Navistar sued EPA over the February 2009 guidance, saying that the agency could not allow SCR without an opportunity for public comment. The truck maker, which is not using SCR to comply with 2010 emissions-reduction rules, argued that EPA’s regulation in 2001 stated that SCR would not be feasible.

In October, EPA asked a federal appeals court for a 60-day stay to halt legal proceedings. The court rejected EPA’s request, but the agency reissued the guidance anyway. In a Dec. 30, 2009, letter to engine manufacturers, EPA’s Karl Simon explained the revision as clarifying the intent of the original guidance, which was not intended as “binding requirements.”

In a supplemental brief filed last month, Navistar said the new guidance merely renames the previous “certification requirements” as “possible approaches” and substitutes the words “reasonably short” mileage for the specific mileage during which no NOx control is required.

EPA has until March 11 to respond to Navistar’s claims.

— Avery Vise

Short hauls

U.S. TRUCK TONNAGE calculated by the American Trucking Associations jumped 6.6 percent in December over the same month in 2008, the first year-over-year increase in 15 months, ATA said. ATA’s seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index increased 2.1 percent in December from November after a 2.6 percent decrease from October to November.

VIRGINIA is reopening 19 highway rest stops that were closed last year to save money. Twelve of the rest stops were scheduled to reopen by March 17, and the final seven by April 17.

NAFTA TRADE using surface transportation was 2.9 percent lower in November 2009 than in November 2008, dropping to $58.9 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico fell 4 percent in November 2009 from October 2009.

DIESEL FUEL will average $2.95 a gallon this year and climb to $3.16 in 2011, the Department of Energy predicts. Diesel averaged $2.46 in 2009.

Paccar’s engines due this year

Paccar announced the official introduction of its MX series diesel engines and the opening this summer of its new engine plant in Columbus, Miss., during a press event at the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon, Wash., on Feb. 5.

Not many companies are taking such steps during “the worst economy in decades,” said Paccar Chairman and CEO Mark Pigott. He credited Paccar’s ability to invest more than $1 billion in its engine initiative over the last decade to “a conservative business approach and long-term focus.”

The MX series, which will be standard on all Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks, features an in-line, six-cylinder design with four valves per cylinder. Five separate engines make up the MX series, with power ratings ranging from 380 to 485 horsepower and 1,450 to 1,750 pound-feet of torque.

Paccar recently completed its 71st year of profitability and has paid cash dividends every year since 1941, Pigott said. “When markets are booming, every company looks good. But when you turn the lights off, only a few are still shining and that’s Paccar.”

When Paccar realized the economy was slipping into a recession, the company made some “challenging decisions,” Pigott said. Those included closing down factories, reducing the company’s head count by 40 percent, going “line-by-line” through the capital budget and working with suppliers. “You have to align your business with the recession,” he said. “Every year we go in focusing: We’re going to make money. Let’s figure out how we’re going to do that.”

— Linda Longton

SuperTruck draws Navistar attention

A smoke stream glides over a Navistar ProStar and trailer during Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory testing at the NASA Ames Center in California.A smoke stream glides over a Navistar ProStar and trailer during Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory testing at the NASA Ames Center in California.

At the March 25-27 Mid-America Trucking Show, Navistar will display a prototype of a system that will move the fifth wheel to adjust the gap between the back of the truck cab and the trailer to optimize aerodynamics.

This project is among other SuperTruck research that Navistar and other truck and engine makers are working on. The SuperTruck projects are receiving $115 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding.

Ron Schoon, the truck maker’s chief aerodynamics engineer, said the “radical” system would slide the trailer back and forth to minimize airflow at highway speeds. The system would operate independently of the driver but react almost instantly in an emergency.

“The key is safety,” Schoon said. “We’re testing exactly how far the device can move before its locking feature engages. Depending on your configuration and how your trailer is loaded, it will always run as close to the [truck] as possible.”

Schoon said Navistar is talking with fifth wheel makers and may partner with a company to hasten the product’s development.

Navistar has been testing for the last 15 months aerodynamic devices attached to a 53-foot trailer behind one of its ProStar tractors at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the truck maker announced.

NASA’s Ames and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are conducting the tests under a $2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant with the purpose of increasing fuel efficiency by more closely integrating the tractor with the trailer.

In another DOE project, Navistar was awarded $37.3 million in matching funds over five years to develop systems to increase heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency by 50 percent.

Advanced Transit Dynamics, trailer manufacturer Wabash National, Swift Transportation, Safeway and a tire maker are collaborating on the project.

— Staff reports

Trucking, oil groups file Calif. lawsuit

The American Trucking Associations on Feb. 2 joined petroleum refiners and other end-users in a legal challenge to California’s recently enacted low-carbon fuel standard.

The regulation adopted by the California Air Resources Board requires annual reductions in the carbon intensity of gasoline and diesel over the next 10 years. The LCFS regulation falls directly upon fuel providers (refiners, importers and blenders of fuel), but is likely to impact end-users because of associated fuel price increases.

ATA says the legal challenge is based largely on the federal Commerce Clause with assertions that the “shuffling” of low-carbon fuel to California and away from other states will burden fuel providers and consumers significantly without any net change in fuel’s carbon intensity on a global scale, resulting in no reduction – and a likely increase – in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The LCFS would essentially ban imports to California of fuels derived from unconventional sources such as oil sands from Canada, oil shale from the Western U.S. or domestic coal supplies that can be converted into transportation fuels,” says Rich Moskowitz, ATA vice president. “Discouraging these fuels will simply increase costs while failing to prevent their export to and consumption by other nations.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in California, also challenged the regulatory scheme as discriminating in favor of California-produced fuels by assigning them lower carbon-intensity ratings because of shorter transportation distances to users. Others joining the suit include the Center for North American Energy Security, Consumer Energy Alliance and National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

— Staff reports

TCA names Best Fleets

Seventeen carriers, including seven based in Canada, are winners in the Truckload Carriers Association’s second annual Best Fleets to Drive For contest.

Best Fleets to Drive For is an annual survey and contest identifying the North American for-hire trucking companies that provide the best workplace experiences for their drivers. To qualify, carriers operating 10 trucks or more had to be nominated by a company driver or owner-operator.

CarriersEdge conducted the survey and compiled the research data, evaluating each nominee on the range and depth of offered programs, the overall effectiveness of those programs across key areas, and the responses of surveyed drivers.

Mark Murrell, president of CarriersEdge, said, “For example, the survey reveals that fleet sizes went down overall last year, but a number of the best fleets actually grew in size. Many of the best fleets also took advantage of low prices and interest rates to invest in new equipment.”

In March, TCA will announce the names of the highest scoring fleets for owner-operators and for company drivers. These winners will be recognized at the TCA Annual Convention, Feb. 28 to March 3, in Las Vegas.

The winners are: Bison Transport, Winnipeg, Man.; Boyd Bros. Transportation, Clayton, Ala.; Brian Kurtz Trucking, Breslau, Ont.; CalArk Trucking, Mabelvale, Ark.; Central Hauling, Mabelvale, Ark.; Coastline Transport, Fowler, Calif.; Con-way Truckload, Joplin, Mo.; Dart Transit, Eagan, Minn.; Don Hummer Trucking, Oxford, Iowa; Kennesaw Transportation, Rydal, Ga.; Laidlaw Carriers Van, Guelph, Ont.; MacKinnon Transport, Guelph, Ont.; Melton Truck Lines, Tulsa, Okla.; MSM Transportation, Bolton, Ont.; Schneider National, Green Bay, Wis.; Shulist Trucking, Maple, Ont.; and Yanke Group of Companies, Saskatoon, Sask.

— Staff reports

DOT proposes drug test changes

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed amending provisions of its urine drug testing procedures, included testing for lower amounts of amphetamines and cocaine.

Some proposals will apply to collectors and medical review officers and are meant to create consistency with new requirements established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS has estimated there might be 10 percent more users of amphetamine and cocaine identified using the lowered cutoffs.

The proposal would allow DOT employers to choose between a full service laboratory and instrumented initial test facilities.

The notice of proposed rulemaking makes changes to some confirmatory and initial drug tests. The confirmatory drug test is a second analytical procedure performed on a different portion of the sample. An initial drug test differentiates a negative specimen from one requiring further testing.

— Jill Dunn

CVSA to release out-of-service guide

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will release the 2010 North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria April 1. The annually published guide provides law enforcement and the motor carrier industry with guidelines for promoting uniformity in compliance and enforcement throughout North America.

The CVSA has maintained, updated and published the guide for more than 20 years. The Out-of-Service Criteria guidelines are used by state, provincial, territorial and federal law enforcement personnel in identifying Critical Vehicle Inspection Item violations following a roadside inspection. Officials are trained to identify hazards, and they can prohibit a motor carrier or operator from driving until the defective condition is corrected. The OOSC is a component of the North American Standard Inspection Program, and is developed through a collaborative process that includes government and industry experts.

For more information on the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria, visit www.CVSA.ort.

— Staff reports

CRST awarded fees in suit

In a Feb. 9 decision, a federal judge ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pay CRST Van Expedited Inc. more than $4.5 million of attorney fees, costs and expenses in an alleged EEOC Title VII sexual harassment case.

The EEOC filed suit against CRST in September 2007, alleging the carrier had engaged in a pattern or practice of tolerating sexual harassment of its female drivers. CRST denied the allegations.

On Oct. 1, 2009, Chief Judge Linda R. Reade of the Northern District of Iowa issued a final judgment dismissing all of the EEOC’s claims against CRST. In particular, Judge Reade rejected the EEOC’s claim that CRST management tolerated sexual harassment of the company’s drivers.

In her Feb. 9 decision, Judge Reade found the financial award against the EEOC was warranted because the EEOC, among other things, acted unreasonably by suing CRST without conducting a proper investigation.

— Staff reports

California fines reefer violators

The California Air Resources Board issued about 100 citations for violations of the Transport Refrigeration Unit Airborne Toxic Control Measure in-use performance standards during the first two weeks of enforcement.

Inspectors have issued citations carrying penalties up to $1,000 per violation for the new rule, which began Jan. 1. Any truck operating in the state is affected, regardless of where it is based.

CARB inspectors also are continuing to cite owners of California-based TRUs who have failed to register in the board’s Equipment Registration system. Penalties are up to $500 per violation. Registration is required for California-based TRUs, but it is voluntary for TRUs registered in other states but operating in California.

The board said it had received numerous calls mistakenly believing the TRU ATCM is on hold.

— Jill Dunn

CARB starts hybrid funding plan

The California Air Resources Board on Feb. 3 launched a $20 million funding assistance program designed to spur the purchase of hybrid trucks and buses to help reduce smog-forming pollution and address climate change.

Funding incentives range from $10,000 to $45,000.

The program is expected to put up to 800 vehicles on the road on a first-come first-served basis. CARB says it created the financial incentive program from funding that helps Californians purchase cleaner but more costly hybrid vehicles.

“California is taking an aggressive approach to getting lower-polluting vehicles on the road more quickly,” says CARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols.

Learn more about the program at californiahvip.org.

— Staff reports

Highway Happenings

ARIZONA. Eleven state motor vehicle offices have been closed to help reduce a budget shortfall. The closures follow last fall’s shutdown of 13 highway rest areas in the state.

FLORIDA. Lanes may close at night for the next few months on a six-mile segment of the Florida Turnpike Homestead Extension for road resurfacing. The work is ongoing from the Interstate 75 interchange (Exit 39) to the NW 57th Avenue/Red Road interchange (Exit 43).

INDIANA. The Department of Transportation has closed State Road 13 north of S.R. 67 for several months. The detour routes drivers from Fortville along S.R. 67 to Interstate 69 at Exit 22 and back to S.R. 13 at Lapel. 

MISSOURI. The state is using a sugar beet mixture to help keep roads clear and reduce the corrosiveness of salt. Beet juice mixed with rock salt or salt brine can keep ice from forming on roads before a storm, officials say.

OREGON. A replacement structure for the I-5 bridge that crosses the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Wash., could carry tolls. Tolls would vary according to time of day for the bridge proposed for 2017.

SOUTH CAROLINA. South Carolina closed four rest areas to save more than $1 million. The locations are on I-95, both northbound and southbound at mile marker 17; on I-85 at mile marker 89; and on I-26 at mile marker 202. Last year, the state reopened several parking areas for trucks.

WEST VIRGINIA. Under a state senate bill, fines for drivers ticketed for violating out-of-service orders would more than double to $2,500 from $1,100. Subsequent offenses would result in $5,000 fines. Another provision in the bill would increase a driver’s suspension for violating an OOS order to six months from the current 90 days.

WYOMING. Drivers of heavy trucks caught topping the speed limit by more than 5 mph will face a $300 surcharge, formerly $100, on their speeding tickets.

West Virginia eyes idling limits, tolls

The West Virginia Legislature is considering bills that would limit truck and bus idling, allow tolling beyond the state turnpike and bring state commercial driver license laws into federal compliance.

Sentate Bill 183 would restrict idling to five minutes in any hour for trucks and buses weighing more than 10,000 pounds, but allow for some exceptions. Fines would range from $150 to $300. Many states and municipalities limit idling from three to 15 minutes.

— Staff reports

Mark your calendar

MARCH 13: BAYOU STATE CHAPTER Truck Show, American Truck Historical Society, Calvin, La., (318) 332-5547 or (313) 727-8833.

MARCH 25-27: MID-AMERICA TRUCKING SHOW, Louisville, Ky., (502) 899-3892, www.truckingshow.com.

APRIL 9-10: SMOKY MOUNTAIN CHAPTER 3rd Annual Truck Show, American Truck Historical Society, Chilhowee Park, Knoxville, Tenn., (865) 789-7771.

APRIL 10: YELLOW ROSE CHAPTER Antique Truck Show, American Truck Historical Society, City Park, Highway 71, Smithville, Texas, (830) 743-3179.

APRIL 16-17: EAST TEXAS ANTIQUE TRACTOR & ENGINE ASSOCIATION, American Truck Historical Society, Rusk County Youth Expo Center, Henderson, Texas, (903) 889-2671.

APRIL 23-25: CENTRAL CALIFORNIA CHAPTER Kirkland Show, American Truck Historical Society, Kirkland Ranch, Plymouth, Calif., (916) 381-6063.

APRIL 24: NORTHWEST CHAPTER Antique Trucks Show, American Truck Historical Society, Harold E. LeMay Marymount Museum, Spanaway, Wash., (360) 866-7716.

APRIL 24-25: OVERDRIVE PRIDE & POLISH AT 75 CHROME SHOP, Wildwood, Fla., (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.

MAY 15: GREATER CINCINNATI CHAPTER 10th ANNUAL TRUCK SHOW, American Truck Historical Society, Howard Trucking, Fairborn, Ohio, [email protected], (937) 878-6154.

MAY 21-23: NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SHOW TRUCKS/Eau Claire Truck Show, Carson Park, Eau Claire, Wis., Bo Trout at (734) 323-3397.

JUNE 17-19: THE GREAT WEST TRUCK SHOW, Las Vegas, (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.

JULY 8-9: WALCOTT TRUCKERS JAMBOREE, Iowa 80 Truckstop, Walcott, Iowa, iowa80truckstop.com, (563) 284-6961.

AUG. 26-28: THE GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING SHOW, Dallas, (888) 349-4287, www.prideandpolish.com.

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