The Bush administration proposed legislation in February that would convert the current hours-of-service regulations into statutory law, a move that would keep the rule in effect despite a federal court’s action to overturn them.
The White House also is proposing to limit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s jurisdiction over driver health to conditions that would cause death or serious injury, FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg said.
The appeals court ruled in July that FMCSA had failed to consider driver health to the extent the court interpreted its obligation to do so.
Speaking at the American Trucking Associations’ Winter Leadership Meeting in Washington, D.C., Sandberg said the failure of Congress to enact a highway programs authorization bill last year presented an opportunity to end the litigation initiated by Public Citizen and its allies. In November, Sandberg proposed that the Bush administration ask Congress to make the hours-of-service regulations permanent. “As of [Feb. 7], that has been approved,” she told ATA’s board of directors.
Under the Bush administration’s new highway bill proposal, the rules issued in April 2003 and implemented in January 2004 would be “adopted and confirmed as fully legalized, as if it had, by prior Act of Congress, been specifically adopted on the date that rule (including the subsequent technical amendment) was originally issued.”
The proposed legislation would, however, give FMCSA authority to make changes to the rules in the future through the normal rulemaking process.
If enacted by Congress, the proposed legislation would trump the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit because the court’s opinion was based on its interpretation of congressional intent.
In an explanation that accompanied its proposal to Congress, the Bush administration said that many motor carriers have reported accident experience under the new regulations that is comparable to, if not better than, their experience under the old rules:
“Definitive statistics on accidents and fatalities are not yet available, but the industry has already concluded that the rule is responsible – directly and indirectly – for producing more rest for drivers, better use of driver time, more efficient handling of freight by shippers and receivers, and increased productivity for motor carriers.”
The explanation further states that work on the hours rules is time-consuming and involves a tremendous allocation of agency resources:
“Because the safety and operational results of the 2003 final rule appear to be favorable, and FMCSA may be required to undertake additional rulemaking activities without a significant increase in staff, the department believes that it would be beneficial to end the prolonged struggle over hours of service and to ratify permanently the 2003 rule. This will also enable the motor carrier industry and state and federal enforcement officials to plan their training and compliance activities without having to worry about the expense and effort of adapting to some as-yet-unknown hours-of-service regulation.”
The proposed legislation on driver health would establish that FMCSA’s authority over driver health in all regulations is limited to ensuring that “the operations of commercial motor vehicles are free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the operators.”
Sandberg told reporters that the court’s broad reading of FMCSA’s obligation to consider driver health made it very difficult for the agency to pinpoint whether health conditions were truly related to the hours rules or to numerous other factors, including drivers’ own decisions regarding exercise, diet and so on.
The White House hopes to gain enactment of a new highway bill by May. If Congress does enact the bill and includes the codification of the hours rules into law, FMCSA will stop work on its current rulemaking to reconsider the regulations, Sandberg said. She emphasized, however, that in the meantime, the agency will proceed with the rulemaking and strongly encouraged interested parties to submit comments. Comments are due March 10.
To view FMCSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking, visit this site and search Docket No. 19608.
Trucks, Music and the Legendary Pettys
The trucking industry sets its sights on Louisville, Ky., at the end of the month for the 34th consecutive time.
The Mid-America Trucking Show – March 31-April 2 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center – is the largest show in the industry. The show will offer exhibits from more than 1,000 companies representing 46 states and 13 countries.
Show attendance increased last year by more than 4,000 to 74,454 people from all 50 states and 57 foreign countries. With an improving economy, attendance is expected to be strong again this year.
Attendees can enjoy the music of country group Sawyer Brown at Kenworth’s 17th annual Trucker Appreciation Concert on Friday, April 1. Sawyer Brown recently debuted a new album featuring the song “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand,” and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in December. The award-winning band has put out muliple hits over the past 20 years.
Amy Dalley, who has a popular new single, “I Would Cry”, is scheduled to open for Sawyer Brown. The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Freedom Hall next to the Mid-America Trucking Show.
Free Sawyer Brown concert tickets will be available to CDL holders only (limit of two tickets per person). Tickets, while supplies last, will be distributed in the South Hall Lobby Booth #2 on both Thursday, March 31, starting at 1 p.m., and again on Friday, April 1, starting at 10 a.m.
Other show highlights include singer Patty Loveless, a Kentucky native and country music superstar, who will sign autographs at the Midnight Trucking Radio Network booth from 1-4 p.m. on Thursday, March 31. Loveless will also participate in a live music broadcast on the MTR Network from midnight to 5 a.m. Friday, April 1, from the lobby of the Executive West Hotel, next door to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition center. MTR’s star announcers, Eric Harley and Joe Kelley, will host the show.
Show attendees can also register at the MTR booth for a $1,000 cash giveaway that will be announced at the end of the show.
Freightliner will have NASCAR driver Kyle Petty in its booth on Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and his legendary stock car racing daddy, Richard Petty, on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Also taking place at the convention will be a Partners in Business seminar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, which is sponsored by Overdrive magazine and American Truck Business Services. All seminars are free and will address issues pertinent to current and prospective owner-operators, including, “How to Make More Money and Keep It.” Other seminars include “Truckers’ Legal Rights,” sponsored by Interstate Trucker, and “Roadside Inspections: What to Expect & How to Prepare,” sponsored by the Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement and the Kentucky Motor Transport Association.
An annual event patrons can expect this year is the 5th Annual Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship, which will showcase more than 120 trucks.
The Mid-America Trucking and Technology Center will feature Internet and technology-based companies showcasing some of the most advanced technology in the trucking industry, including personal computers and laptops, global positioning and freight-tracking software, truck and engine maintenance systems, and in-cab and handheld CE devices.
The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center is located a mile south of downtown Louisville at the junction of I-65 and I-264, and offers more than 26 acres of parking, some with recreational vehicle hookups available for $35 a night.
Trucking Gives to Tsunami Relief
Caterpillar, PACCAR and UPS are among the trucking community members that have reached deep into their pockets for aid to tsunami victims.
More than 150,000 people died as a result of the Dec. 26 tidal wave that affected 12 countries around the Indian Ocean. Thousands more are injured, and a million are believed homeless.
UPS will provide $3 million in aid to tsunami relief: $2.5 million in in-kind services, $400,000 in cash to relief organizations and a match of up to $100,000 in employee contributions.
The Georgia-based company is airlifting medical and other emergency supplies to Asia in upcoming weeks and plans to ship up to 1 million pounds of emergency supplies weekly via air, ocean and ground from Europe, Asia and the Americas.
The Caterpillar Foundation has committed $1 million to relief and recovery efforts in the region. Caterpillar also will match employee contributions up to $2,000 per person.
The Illinois-based company announced that foundation contributions will be divided among the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Oxfam and the Salvation Army.
Caterpillar dealers in the Asia-Pacific region have made equipment and personnel available to help in the recovery. “Thankfully, all Caterpillar employees and their families and Caterpillar dealer employees in the region have been accounted for, and no casualties have been reported,” the company noted.
PACCAR has pledged $1 million to the Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross.
PACCAR, based in Washington state, is the parent company of Kenworth and Peterbilt. It manufactures and distributes commercial vehicles and aftermarket parts to many countries, including those affected by the tsunami. “This tragedy has had a terrible impact throughout Asia and the east coast of Africa,” said Mark Pigott, chairman and chief executive officer. “All PACCAR employees worldwide send their prayers and support to the families impacted by the devastation.”
Trucking media company Randall Publishing will match employee contributions to the American Red Cross tsunami fund up to $5,000. Based in Alabama, Randall publishes a number of magazines and the website eTrucker.com and produces the Great American Trucking Show.
“Everyone here has been devastated at the news of the disaster in South Asia,” said Catherine J. Randall, company chairman. “So many are contributing in various ways, including prayers for the victims and their families.”
Tire manufacturer Michelin and aluminum manufacturer Alcoa were among the first to become involved with the effort.
Michelin, based in France, pledged $2 million to be divided between the Thai government and non-governmental organizations that operate in the other countries hit by the disaster.
The Pennsylvania-based Alcoa Foundation contributed an initial $25,000 grant to the American Red Cross International Response Fund and will match employee contributions to the American Red Cross. Also, Alcoa of Australia donated $30,000 to Care Australia, World Vision, the Australian Red Cross and Oxfam to assist the devastated countries.
BF Goodrich Names Cool Rigs Calendar Contest Winners
Six truckers have been named grand prize winners of the fifth annual Cool Rigs calendar contest sponsored by BF Goodrich Commercial Truck Tires.
Winners are Ben Findlay of Waterloo, Ontario, Bobby Ipsen of Riverdale, Calif., Rick Walker of Denver, Michael Blittersdorf of Toughkenamon, Pa., Jake Eilen of Hampton, Minn., and Rodolfo Nunez Valdez of Ensenada, Baja California.
Hundreds of entries came in from three countries, and the competition is becoming more and more competitive, said Marc Laferriere, Goodrich vice president of marketing.
“This contest not only recognizes the unique rig, but the owner,” Laferriere said. “It’s important to take time to recognize those who utilize and depend on our product every day.”
The grand prize winners each received 50 copies of the 2005 Cool Rigs calendar, a framed photo of their rig as it appears in the calendar and a set of Goodrich commercial truck tires plus mounting.
The contest was open to Class 6, 7 and 8 trucks only. Applicants mailed in two side-view photos of their rig. The grand prize winners were chosen from a pool of 60 first-place contestants: 40 from the United States, 10 from Canada and 10 from Mexico.
Contestants garnered points in four categories: Overall Aspect, Overall Originality, Vehicle Appearance (subdivided into Painting/ Design/Color and Special Add-Ons) and Chrome/Lights/ Aerodynamic Package.
Winning rigs can be seen at this site.
Truck Limits Bill Resurfaces in Senate
A bill that would extend the Interstate Highway System truck weight and length limits to the National Highway System, instead of allowing states that jurisdiction, has been reintroduced in the Senate.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, introduced the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or S.95, on Jan. 25.
“Fifteen years ago, I got a provision into the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act to ban triple-trailer trucks and other so-called ‘longer combination vehicles’ from New Jersey and most other states,” Lautenberg said when he introduced the bill.
“At that time and ever since, the trucking industry has fought to defeat and repeal this ban, under the guise of arguments for ‘states’ rights’ and ‘unfair redistribution of business to railroad.'”
The current bill would extend a freeze of truck size and weight limits set by states, which now applies only to the 44,000-mile Interstate Highway System, to the entire 156,000-mile National Highway System.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that multi-trailer trucks are 11 percent more likely than single-trailer trucks to be involved in fatal accidents, Lautenberg said.
The bill has been introduced before but has not passed. The American Trucking Associations opposes it, but the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports a uniform system of sizes and weights.
Volvo Unveils New Owner-operator Truck, 625-hp Engine
Volvo Trucks North America unveiled its newest addition to the on-highway market at a February press event in Phoenix. The new VT 880 features Volvo’s biggest engine, the D16, a 16-liter powerhouse that can rate up to 625 horsepower with 2250 pounds-feet of torque.
Aimed at the owner-operator market, the VT 880 is designed for applications where high speeds must be maintained over steep grades with heavy loads. Customers can order the truck now with deliveries beginning in June. Full production will begin in the fourth quarter.
The company says the truck, combined with its new D16 power plant, can maintain 65 mph on a 3-percent grade while running at 1,400 rpm.
“The D16 is the most powerful truck engine Volvo has ever built, but it is powerful for a reason,” said Peter Karlsten, president and CEO. “This engine is for customers who haul heavy loads or need to maintain a high average speed through the mountains for reduced trip times. And since it is paired with the bold new Volvo VT 880 owner-operator truck, it will be very popular with customers who seek a strong image and serious performance.”
Volvo says the truck was designed to deliver lower operating costs, including better fuel economy, driver productivity and lower maintenance. The truck features a large grille and long hood in addition to aerodynamic features designed to channel airflow around the engine. This design should help Volvo meet the cooling requirements of low-emission engines scheduled to hit the market in 2007 and 2010.
Other design features:
- A chrome grille that is 15 percent larger than other Volvo grilles.
- Chrome bezels for headlights.
- A polished, all-steel bumper with available inset fog lamps.
- Chrome air intake surrounds.
- Polished steps, fuel tanks, tank straps and quarter fenders, and polished twin exhaust stacks mounted outside the body for a more classic look.
The truck also features a longer hood and a set-forward axle. The truck’s cab is set back on the chassis from the engine, giving the truck a quieter ride. The truck is 200 inches from bumper to back of cab.
The 77-inch sleeper features more than 374 cubic feet of space and has a high-roof design. Customers can choose between three interior trip packages, including Premier, which is not available on other Volvo models. The Premier interior features a light tan color, leather seats and brick-colored trim. An optional work station functions as a dining table, office desk and den. Bench seats convert to a full-length lower bunk. An upper bunk folds down from the back of the cab.
Volvo VT 880 Specifications
BBC: 200 inches (bumper to back of sleeper cab)
Front axle position: 43.1 inches
Cab size: 77-inch raised roof sleeper
Engines: Volvo D16, from 500 hp @ 1850 lb.-ft. to 625 hp @ 2250 lb.-ft. Cummins ISX, from 475 hp @ 1850 lb.-ft. to 565 hp @ 1850 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Eaton RTO, RTLO 10, 13, 18 speeds. Eaton Autoshift 10 and 18 speeds
Front Axle: 12,000 to 13,200 lb. spring suspension
Rear Axle: 40,000 to 46,000 lb. ( Dana Spicer, Meritor). Amboid rear axle (multi-torque)
Rear Suspension: 38,000 to 40,000 Volvo air suspension 46,000 high-torque/high GCW non-torque-reactive suspension
Frame rails: Seven sizes RBM 1,382,000-2,448,000
Interior Trim: Premiere (unique to VT 880) – Saddle color, with Brick accent. Elite (two trim levels) – Aurora and Prism, with Saddle accents.
eTrucker.com Gets New Look
There’s a new look and feel to eTrucker.com.
The redesigned website allows easier usage, gives greater prominence to fleet-related topics and expands the content, said Michael Newman, director of web development for Randall Publishing Co. The redesign became effective Jan. 21.
“We’ve packed more content into the same site space,” Newman said. Users will find it easier to locate what they need and to move from one section to another.
“We are incorporating a standout left-side navigation bar that runs throughout the site,” Newman said. That bar groups the site’s diverse content into the categories of Careers, Business Tools, News, Equipment, Community, Free Time, Shopping and Information. Because it appears in every section of the site, the bar allows users to move through the site from any other section in the site.
Sections on the right makes it easier to choose between certain driver-oriented or fleet-oriented content, as well as to access the site’s affiliate magazines Overdrive, Truckers News and Commercial Carrier Journal. From inside the magazine sites, those right-side sections offers special content specific to each magazine.
“The colors associated with each section will immediately tell you what magazine you are in,” Newman said.
Planned for addition this winter are a message board, a chat room, and a major new feature, Truck Gallery.
“For this section, readers will be able to upload photos of their trucks, as well as information about the trucks and themselves,” said Max Heine, editorial director of eTrucker.com, Overdrive and Truckers News. “This section will work in conjunction with an expanded version of Overdrive’s Reader Rigs.”
Newman said other background changes are also improving the site. New servers have decreased the amount of downtime and made the content more manageable, which allowed for the site redesign. Outdated sections and articles were eliminated to streamline the site’s best content.
“This is a move forward to give more products and services, grow the content and give truckers more content for free,” Newman said.
Tonnage Index Slips Slightly
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index dropped by 1 percent in December. The ATA reported Jan. 25 that December’s index was 158. This follows a 1.4 percent November increase. The 2004 fourth-quarter average was a tenth of a percent higher than during the third quarter and 3.5 percent higher than for the same quarter in 2003. The 2004 index, which was 6.1 percent higher than the 2003 index, was the highest since 1998.
Amir, a 14-year-old from Pearland, Texas, recently accepted a $100,000 contribution to the Make-A-Wish Foundation from Shell Lubricants at the Shell offices in Houston. The contribution will grant the wishes of Amir and four other children with life-threatening medical conditions. Amir’s own wish was for a big-screen television to watch his favorite NBA team, the Houston Rockets. He also received four tickets to see a Rockets game in person, as well as a team jersey and an autographed T-shirt and cap.
Western Star Trucks recently unveiled its redesigned website, www.westernstartrucks.com. The site uses eye-catching visuals to display multimedia features, company facts, user-friendly functions and up-to-date product information. It also features an improved navigation feature on the front page that categorizes searches by application or vocation.
Visitors can view and print out the standard specs for each truck model so they have all the information they need to begin spec’ing their own customized Western Star truck. They also can find the nearest Western Star dealer with the easy-to-use locator.
On Jan. 1 the Colorado State Patrol began ticketing all vehicles that drive in the left lane while not passing. The officers are enforcing a 2004 law passed by the state Legislature.
The law allows troopers to ticket anyone traveling in the far left lane on a multilane road with a speed limit of 65 mph or greater. A driver can’t be ticketed if the traffic does not allow a return from the left lane. This would occur during rush hour or any other time of dense traffic when all lanes are in use.
Truckstop Donates Backpacks
The Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa, has donated 500 backpacks to Quad City Families In Support of Troops to help with the Sweat Suits for Soldiers campaign. Until the donation, QCFIST had 15 backpacks. Its goal is 1,000. The Prince of Peace Church and QCFIST are trying to collect 1,000 black denim backpacks and fill them with clothing and hygiene products for soldiers staying at the Landstuhl Hospital in Germany.
J.D. Power Rankings
Peterbilt was ranked first in customer satisfaction among conventional medium-duty trucks in the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, released in January. This is the fourth time in six years the company has held the top ranking. J.D. Power and Associates ranked Kenworth Truck Company first in dealer service satisfaction among medium-duty conventional segment truck owners.