Limited mandate

Federal regulations proposed Jan. 11 would require truck and bus companies with a history of serious hours-of-service violations to install electronic onboard recorders in all their commercial vehicles for a minimum of two years.

If the rule is adopted, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that within the first two years of its enforcement, approximately 930 carriers with 17,500 drivers will be required to use the recorders.

The proposed rule also would encourage industrywide use of recorders by providing incentives for voluntary use, said FMCSA chief John Hill, who made the announcement in Washington, D.C.

“I’m pleased to say that we have a proposed rule,” said Hill, “that outlines the use of electronic onboard recorders by targeting the worst offenders, encouraging safe companies to improve further by using this technology and setting realistic, performance-based solutions.” Hill said.

The proposal would require the devices to record basic information needed to track a driver’s duty status, including identity of the driver, date, time and location of the vehicle, and distance traveled. It also would add a new requirement: that Global Positioning System technology or other location tracking systems be used to automatically identify the location of the vehicle, further reducing the likelihood of successfully faked hours-of-service information.

The effective date of a final rule would start a two-year clock after which newly installed recorders would have to meet these new technical requirements. Recorders voluntarily installed before that time, however, would be allowed to continue in operation for the life of the vehicle, even if they didn’t meet the new requirements.

To expand use of the devices among the more than 650,000 motor carriers in the United States, the incentives for voluntary installation include:

  • Examining a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status as part of company compliance reviews.
  • Partially waiving requirements for hours-of-service supporting documents among carriers with voluntarily installed recorders.

The agency also welcomes suggestions from the public for additional incentives.

Comments on the proposed rule can be made until April 18 by visiting the DOT website, Docket Number FMCSA-2004-18940.
– Max Heine and Todd Dills

Preliminary Figures Reveal Truck Fatalities Down
Preliminary figures indicate large truck fatalities decreased in 2005 from the previous year, but were up from 2003, according to a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Progress Report.

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All the 2005 figures in the safety outcomes category were preliminary. Large truck fatalities were 5,036 in 2003, 5,235 in 2004 and 5,212 in 2005. The large truck fatality rate per 100 million truck vehicle miles was 2.31 in 2003, 2.37 in 2004 and 2.34 in 2005.

However, total large truck injuries dropped during those two years, from 122,000 to 114,000.
The 2005 figures in the rest of the report were not preliminary and showed general improvement in data quality and beefed-up enforcement. The number of roadside truck inspections increased from 2,949,558 in 2003 to 3,133,102 in 2005.

The complete report is online at this site.
– Jill Dunn

Turnover Increases for Truckload Companies
The driver turnover rate among truckload carriers increased during the third quarter following improvements during the first and second quarters of the year, the American Trucking Associations reported.

Large truckload carrier line-haul driver turnover increased to 121 percent from 110 percent in the second quarter. Small truckload carrier turnover, meanwhile, jumped to 114 percent from 100 percent. ATA defines large truckload carriers as those with at least $30 million in annual revenue. Small carriers earn less.

Less-than-truckload line-haul driver turnover was 14 percent.

Small truckload carrier driver turnover was at least 100 percent during the last four consecutive quarters for the first time since ATA began collecting driver turnover statistics in 1995.

“As more and more large carriers try to get out of the long-haul market, more small carriers are filling the gap,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “This is resulting in higher turnover rates for the segment of the industry that traditionally had a much lower turnover rate.”

Year-to-date through October, compared with the same period in 2005, the average length-of-haul for large truckload carriers dropped 1.5 percent, while the small truckload carriers saw an increase of 12 percent.
– Max Heine

Truckers News Names John Randle Publisher
John Randle has been promoted to publisher of Truckers News. He assumed his new role Jan. 1.

“To be named publisher of Truckers News magazine is the biggest honor of my professional career – one that I will strive to deserve each and every day,” Randle said. “We have a great team within Truckers News magazine, and it is an honor to be associated with such dedicated professionals.”

Randle has been the magazine’s associate publisher since 2003. Prior to that, he served as a regional and national sales manager with Truckers News for four years.

“John is a proven leader who has been a great asset to Truckers News for several years,” said Robert Lake, vice president and group publisher of the Truck Stop Division, which includes America’s Traveling Truck Show, Transportista magazine, Truckers News Truckstop Directory, TruckStops Express and Motor Media. “I look forward to working with John for many more years, and I feel very comfortable passing the Truckers News torch to an individual who has such a passion for the publication.”

Truckers News is owned by Randall-Reilly Publishing.
– From Staff Reports

Hot Fuel Lawsuit Heats Up
Ever wonder why you get better fuel mileage in the winter? The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers’ Association and Public Citizen hope to find out. The groups, normally at odds, announced Dec. 14 their support of a class-action suit that alleges fuel retailers unfairly price gas and diesel via insufficient compensation for fuel volume fluctuations under temperature changes.

The complaint says the imbalance costs retail fuel buyers an estimated $2 billion a year. The suit was filed in a federal court in California against a host of fuel retailers, including Ambest, Flying J, Petro, Pilot and TA. The suit was filed on behalf of residents, including some owner-operators, in seven states – Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The standard temperature at which a gallon of motor fuel is determined was set at 60 degrees in an agreement between the oil industry and regulators nearly a century ago. At 60 degrees, a gallon of gas is measured at 261 cubic inches in volume. In the U.S., pumps are set at this standard, so if a person fuels up on a day when it’s 90 degrees outside, chances are the fuel is hotter than 60 degrees and the volume of the regulated gallon is more than 261 cubic inches. The suit alleges that person, therefore, is getting cheated out of the difference.

In 1990 the Canadian government, with the cooperation of the oil industry, required retrofitting of gas pumps with devices that adjust output volume depending on the fuel’s temperature. In Canada, though, the problem wasn’t hot fuel, but cold. In a widely circulated August report, Kansas City Star investigative reporter Steve Everly said, “In Canada, the industry makes more money by adjusting. In the United States, the industry makes more money by not adjusting.”

The average yearly U.S. air temperature hovers around 65 degrees nationwide, says Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “In Texas, the average annual temperature is 78.” Consumers in states with average temperatures lower than 60 benefit from the current practice and vice versa, but the average is an overall loss, according to Claybrook.

The American Petroleum Institute’s John Bisney says the trade association sees the issue as “swatting a horsefly with a hammer.” He estimates the cost of retrofitting a pump with temperature-compensation devices at $2,000 a pump, and pump replacements at $25,000, which costs he says will be passed on to the consumer.

“It strikes us as one of these attempts to make a perfect world,” he says. “It could be done, but in the end it’s not cost-effective and could end up actually costing more for the consumer.”

John Siebert, OOIDA project manager, calls the issue “one of the best-kept secrets that big oil already knew about.” Siebert was partly responsible for bringing the issue to light, as reported by Everly, after he began responding to member queries about why their gas mileage suffered so much in the summer.

Siebert and Claybrook say crude oil volumes are adjusted for temperature when they’re shipped, as are bulk fuel purchases. In America, they say, the only place where temperature compensation does not occur is at the retail pump.

Mindy Long, senior director of communications for NATSO, reflects the truckstop organization’s opposition to blanket implementation of temperature-compensation devices when she says, “When you’re looking at any sort of standard as regards these devices, it would need to be applied on a national level, and it seems like the cost of implementation versus the benefits is out of proportion.” One NATSO member company estimated a total pump conversion cost of $14 million, she says.

At the same time, NATSO is playing host to a session on the hot fuel issue at its annual NATSO Show in San Antonio this month. Featured speakers include Siebert, NATSO technology consultant Gene Bergoffen, and others.
– Todd Dills

FYI | News Briefs
Safety Belt Use Increases

Safety belt usage among commercial motor vehicle drivers increased significantly in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It reported that 59 percent of Class 7 and 8 truck drivers now routinely wear safety belts, a 23-percent increase since 2003. The nation’s largest national and regional fleets posted the highest percentage increase, jumping to 75 percent in 2006 from 63 percent in 2005. Independent drivers increased their safety belt usage rate to 44 percent in 2006 from 41 percent.

ATA Driver Turnover Study
The American Trucking Associations, in conjunction with A.C.T. Research, is conducting a study on driver turnover. The purpose of the study is to quantify turnover in several specific markets, as well as to identify factors associated with turnover.

The information ascertained from the survey is intended to help the industry structure operations to lower turnover. ATA and A.C.T. Research are inviting motor carriers to participate in this study. The survey is available at this site.

Truckers’ Ball
The second annual Truckers’ Charity Ball is Saturday, Feb. 17, in Scranton, Pa. The black-tie event, hosted by northeast Pennsylvania’s KnightTime radio show, will take place from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral. For more information call (877) 234-6362 or visit this site. Information about lodging and formal wear is also available.

Solo Trucker Smoking Exemption
Truckers who smoke alone in their cabs will be exempted from Ohio’s new antismoking law. Truck drivers who have a passenger, though, will be prohibited from smoking.

The Ohio Trucking Association had vowed to lobby against the law’s previous inclusion of truckers in the ban. Ohio voters approved State Issue Five on Nov. 7. That constitutional amendment, backed by the American Cancer Society and other health groups, prohibits almost all workplace smoking and bars it in most public places as well.

Freightliner Building Mexican Plant
Freightliner LLC will construct a new $300 million truck manufacturing plant in Mexico. Pegged to open in 2009, the plant, located in Saltillo, Coahuila, in northern Mexico, will produce Freightliner and Sterling trucks. The Saltillo plant is the second Freightliner manufacturing facility to be located in Mexico. The Santiago Tianguistenco plant produces heavy- and medium-duty trucks for the local market as well as Latin America, the United States and Canada.

CVSA to Reconsider Brake Test
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance – which sets inspection standards and out-of-service criteria – is expected to reconsider a proposal that would allow inspectors to put trucks out of servic, based solely on data from the performance-based brake testers. The testers that inspectors use in some states for roadside brake checks now are used simply as screening devices. Using the data from the testers was voted on by CVSA in 2006, but the proposal was rejected.

Dana Sells Trailer Axle Business
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on Dec. 19 authorized Dana Corp. to sell its trailer axle business to Hendrickson, which assumed control of Dana’s trailer products manufacturing facility in Lugoff, S.C., in January following closing procedures outlined in the asset purchase agreement.

Paccar Donates $1.5 Million
Paccar Inc. announced a $1.5 million donation to benefit the Univerity of North Texas’ College of Engineering. About one third of the Paccar Foundation’s gift will go toward the PACCAR Professorship of Engineering. It will fund a full-time tenured professor within the college. The remaining donation will be used to establish the PACCAR Technology Institute within the UNT’s Research Park facility, a 550,000-square-foot complex located north of the main campus.

New Love’s Locations
Love’s Travel Stops recently has opened two stores – No. 351 in Utica, Ill., and No. 337 in Albert Lea, Minn. The Illinois store is located off I-80, Exit 81, and is the 133rd Love’s Travel Stop. The Minnesota store is located off I-90/I-35, Exit 11, and is the 134th Love’s Travel Stop.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the Partners in Business book, updated annually.
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