Freight plan bill favors rail
Some transportation groups are backing a congressional bill meant to improve public freight policy while adding an infrastructure grants program. The bill includes funding eligibility for rail projects, but trucking is not mentioned.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act July 22. The bill was sent to the Commerce Committee and had not been reported out by mid-August.
The FREIGHT Act, or S. 3629, would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop and implement a National Freight Transportation Strategic Plan and create an Office of Freight Planning and Development.
Projects that can receive grants are for port development or improvement, multi-modal terminal facilities, land port of entries, freight rail improvement or capacity expansion and an intelligent transportation system project primarily for freight benefit that reduces congestion, improves safety or plans that improve port or terminal access.
Rail has received increased attention nationally as a method to reduce diesel pollution and road traffic. Some ports are adding short-haul freight services to decrease truck trips.
The groups backing the legislation include the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, Environmental Defense Fund, Transportation for America and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Trucking organizations have not publicly issued a statement on the proposed legislation.
The act’s goals include reducing freight transportation-related fatalities 10 percent by 2015 and cutting national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide by 40 percent by 2030.
— Jill Dunn
Bill would increase truck weight
The Senate has referred a bill to committee that would increase the Interstate truck weight allowance from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds in states choosing this plan.
On Aug. 4, Sen. Mike Crapo introduced the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2010, or S. 3705. The Idaho Republican’s bill, which has three co-sponsors, would require the heavier trucks have at least six axles.
In 2009, 54 House members co-sponsored similar legislation. H.R. 1799 was referred to the transportation and infrastructure and the ways and means committees.
The American Trucking Associations says the bill would reduce emissions, decrease the number of trucks on the road and fuel usage. Some other nations, including Canada, allow heavier weights.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said such increases endanger road users and hasten infrastructure deterioration. Many transportation safety groups oppose the legislation and say past size and weight increases have not yielded fewer trucks, trips or miles traveled.
In March 2009, a bill to freeze Interstate truck lengths, the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or H.R. 1618, was referred to committee with 128 co-sponsors. The following month, a Senate committee held hearings on an identical bill, S. 779, which has seven co-sponsors.
— Jill Dunn
CARL KRITES, a Con-way Freight truck driver based in Wapakoneta, Ohio, was named the 2010 National Truck Driving Grand Champion. A driver for 31 years, he topped 415 other professional drivers from across the U.S.
FOR-HIRE TRUCKING continued to add jobs in July, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since March 1, trucking companies have added 13,000 jobs.
SPOT FREIGHT MARKET in July increased 122 percent over a year earlier, TransCore reported. July’s North American load volume, however, was 14 percent lower than June. Spot freight loads for dry vans and refrigerated vans each dipped 8 percent in July compared to June, while flatbed load availability declined 17 percent.
THE DEADLINE for carriers to use updated alcohol testing forms has been extended from Aug. 1 to Jan. 1, says the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. Xpress founder gets milestone truck
Few trucking executives buy 50,000 trucks over the course of their careers, but Max Fuller has accomplished something even more unusual. On Aug. 5, the co-chairman and chief executive officer of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based U.S. Xpress took delivery of his 50,000th truck of a single make – Freightliner.
In a ceremony at U.S. Xpress headquarters, Fuller officially took possession of the 2010 Freightliner Cascadia 72-inch sleeper with Detroit Diesel DD15 engine. Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, also presented Fuller with a memento – a Freightliner etched into a block of crystal. “It might be the only Freightliner you ever get for free,” Daum quipped as he handed the trophy to Fuller.
Closing out the ceremony, Fuller handed the Cascadia keys to driver James Waldo, who has worked for U.S. Xpress and Southwest Motor Freight for 38 years.
In 1974, Fuller took over purchasing responsibilities from his father Clyde, owner of Southwest Motor Freight, representing the beginning of his relationship with Freightliner. Fuller’s first order was about 150 trucks, which was almost half the Southwest Motor Freight fleet.
Fuller continued to buy Freightliners when he and Patrick Quinn launched U.S. Xpress in 1985. As the company grew, U.S. Xpress bought as many as 3,000 or 4,000 trucks a year.
— Avery Vise
FedEx Ground settles driver suit
FedEx Ground will pay $3 million to Massachusetts to settle claims that the company misclassified drivers as independent contractors.
State Attorney General Martha Coakley announced the agreement with Pittsburgh-based FedEx Ground. She alleged the misclassification resulted in less revenue in payroll taxes, worker’s compensation and unemployment assistance for Massachusetts.
FedEx Ground denies liability in the settlement. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania-based subsidiary of FedEx didn’t return a request for comment.
In 2007, Coakley’s office cited FedEx Ground for violations of the state’s independent contractor law, which included failing to provide drivers with a proper pay stub and not paying overtime to certain drivers.
FedEx Ground appealed this to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals over penalties of more than $190,000. The AG then did further investigation with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Revenue, which indicated significant underpayments to the revenue department, Coakley said.
The settlement amount is for these underpayments and to 13 drivers named in the AG’s citation. These drivers have a separate pending suit not affected by this settlement.
In May, FedEx Ground issued new standards for its then 12,000 owner-operators, including requiring independent contractors to be incorporated.
— Jill Dunn
NET ORDERS for heavy-duty Class 8 commercial vehicles reached the highest level of the year in June, increasing 93 percent over a year earlier, according to ACT Research Co. On a year-to-date basis, net orders for Class 8 vehicles are up by 50 percent.
U.S. SURFACE TRADE with Canada and Mexico was 39.5 percent higher in May than in May 2009, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. May was the third month in the last four with a record percentage year-over-year increase.
THE U.S. DOT’s freight transportation services index rose 4.1 percent in June from a year earlier, the fourth straight year-over-year increase. However, the index is relatively low, having fallen 11.8 percent in five years.
MAYFLOWER TRANSIT may assess a 10-cent per mile fee on its owner-operators to cover the cost of insurance, a federal appeals court confirmed Aug. 9. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had sued Mayflower, arguing the chargeback amounted to a mandatory purchase of insurance, which is prohibited by federal regulations governing lease arrangements.
Pride & Polish and more at new Charlotte show
The first Charlotte Diesel Super Show will be Oct. 8-9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway z-Max Dragway in Concord, N.C. Activities will include industry displays, truck drag races, a Custom Rigs Pride & Polish truck beauty contest and a free concert.
Attendees can register to win a free 150-mph ride around the Charlotte Motor Speedway track in a NASCAR race car.
Free truck and vehicle parking. P&P RV parking and campsites are available on-site. Tickets can be purchased at the event, or group sales are available at a discount for 10 or more tickets by calling (888) 349-4287.
Randall-Reilly Business Media and Information, which produces the Great American Trucking Show and Overdrive, will produce the outdoor Charlotte show. For event and ticket information, go to www.dieselsupershow.com.
— Staff Reports
Carrier safety ratings available
To help carriers comply with CSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has released individual carrier safety assessments as part of Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 on its website at https://www.csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov.
This update allows carriers to see where they stand in each Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC), based on roadside data and investigation findings.
BASIC assessments are visible only to carriers and enforcement staff until December, when assessments will be open to the public. Also, enforcement agencies will use these assessments to prioritize the agency’s enforcement and compliance assistance workload.
FMCSA recommends that carriers verify and update their carrier census data, in particular power units and vehicle miles traveled on the MCS-150 form, and take steps to correct unsafe practices.
— Jeff Crissey
DOT issues final rule on drug testing
The U.S. Department of Transportation has amended its drug testing procedures, including adding initial and confirmation testing for Ecstasy, lowering the initial and confirmation cutoff concentrations for amphetamines and cocaine, and adding rules affecting heroin testing.
The DOT amended urine specimen testing procedures to create consistency with many provisions of the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule, it said in its Aug. 16 final rule. The department’s final rule is effective Oct. 1.
The new rule requires testing for 6-acetylemorphine, or 6-AM, an intermediate metabolite between heroin and morphine, present for a short time after using heroin.
— Jill Dunn
ARIZONA. Eastbound I-40 at the Canyon Diablo bridge is restricted to a single lane and the speed limit reduced to 45 mph for a construction project.
CALIFORNIA. The Doyle Drive Replacement Project in San Francisco will make new access to the Golden Gate Bridge, which will feature six lanes and a southbound auxiliary lane of new roadway for 1.5 miles from the bridge through the Presidio Trust to Richardson Avenue/Lombard Street. Completion date is 2013.
MISSOURI. The state will begin upgrading U.S. 71 between Kansas City and Joplin to get I-49 designation. The upgrade will be between I-435 in Kansas City and I-44 near Joplin. Also, repairs are scheduled to be finished no later than Sept. 15 on a section of the I-470 interchange to I-435.
NEW JERSEY. The state and Pennsylvania requested the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to charge five-axle trucks $20 to replace the Scudder Falls Bridge on I-95.
NEW MEXICO. Thirty-two rest areas. may close, which could save as much as $1.6 million in maintenance costs.
PENNSYLVANIA. Tolls on most of the state’s toll roads will increase 3 percent for E-Z Pass customers and 10 percent for cash payers beginning Jan. 2.
RHODE ISLAND. Trucks violating the state’s weight restriction on the I-95 bridge over the Pawtucket River are being fined $85 for the driver and $3,000 for the motor carrier for weight and axle violations. Weight on the bridge is limited to 18 tons.
TENNESSEE. Beginning Sept. 7, Tennessee Department of Transportation crews will reduce I-40 to one lane in each direction in Memphis until the week of Nov. 15. Crews will close the I-40 westbound entrance ramp from Front Street and Riverside Drive in mid-October through mid-November.
Bill sets cross-border trucking deadline
Next fiscal year’s federal transportation bill directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish and report on a cross-border trucking program with Mexico by October.
Sen. Patty Murray inserted the requirement in the Fiscal Year 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill July 26. The Washington state Democrat added the language to S. 3644 to end retaliatory tariffs Mexico instituted last year following Congress’ vote to discontinue the pilot project program, which allowed a limited number of carriers from both nations to deliver beyond the commercial border zone.
The amendment requires the program to maintain road safety, enhance efficient movement of commerce and eliminate retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products.
The bill passed the Senate subcommittee, which Murray chairs, and the Appropriations committee, and will go to the full Senate for consideration.
President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón discussed cross-border trucking May 19, but the issue was not resolved, according to a congressional report released last month.
— Jill Dunn
Mexico adds more tariffs
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association and the Teamsters union want the Obama administration to challenge Mexico for imposing more retaliatory tariffs.
In March 2009, Mexico placed tariffs on 89 U.S. products in response to the United States discontinuing its cross-border trucking program. On Aug. 16, Mexico increased to 99 the number of U.S. products with retaliatory tariffs, said Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative.
OOIDA’s Todd Spencer said Mexico should raise safety, security and environmental standards for its trucking industry, noting the U.S. should not be “blackmailed into lowering our standards.”
— Jill Dunn
Study cites federal funds diverted from interstates
Without raising the federal gas tax, the federal government could increase spending on interstate highways by $10 billion a year, according to a study by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based public policy organization. That’s how much money is diverted to projects with no national benefits, such as ferryboats, trails and mass transit programs, Reason found.
The funding for such programs, which are unable to generate significant user revenues and require large subsidies, should come from state and local governments, the think tank contends.
“Sooner or later Congress is going to have to deal with the highway bill and the major shortfall in highway investment,” says Robert Poole, principal author of the report.
– Staff reports
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
SEPT. 10-12: MIDWEST ALL-TRUCK NATIONALS, Riverside, Mo., www.alltrucknats.com.
SEPT. 12-18: CVSA BRAKE SAFETY WEEK, www.cvsa.org, or (202) 775-1623.
SEPT. 17-19: RICHARD CRANE MEMORIAL TRUCK SHOW, St. Ignace, Mich., Ed Reavie, (906) 643-8087.
SEPT. 24-25: MUSIC CITY CHAPTER 20th Annual Antique and Working Truck Show, American Truck Historical Society and Middle Tenn. Antique and Engine Tractor Show, Hyder-Burks Agriculture Pavilion, Cookeville Tenn., (931) 235-1311.
OCT. 1-2: “GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION” TRUCK SHOW & CUSTOMER EXPO, Chrome Shop Mafia/4 State Trucks, www.chromeshopmafia.com, (417) 624-2900.
OCT. 1-3: BOBBY LINDAMOOD MEMORIAL TRUCK SHOW, Cabela’s, Fort Worth, Texas, (734) 323-3397 or (214) 384-0802.
OCT. 8-9: CHARLOTTE DIESEL SUPER SHOW, Charlotte, N.C., www.dieselsupershow.com, (888) 349-4287.
OCT. 16-17: GOLDEN STATE TRUCKING EXPO, Fairplex, Pomona, Calif., www.thetruckshowlatino.com.
OCT. 23-24: TRUCKIN’ FOR KIDS, Toyota Speedway, Irwindale, Calif., www.prideandpolish.com, click on Truckin’ For Kids.
NOV. 12-14: MECA SOUTH FLORIDA TRUCK SHOW, Medley, Fla., Eric Garcia, (305) 884-2028.