EOBR roundup

Electronic onboard recorders could become a reality for carriers that are the worst offenders of the hours-of-service rule.

Rather than limiting the productivity of the trucking industry as some fear, eventual widespread adoption of electronic onboard recorders actually could improve the management of trucking companies, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said Jan. 22.

“I honestly believe you are going to find us being more productive and better able to manage our resources,” Graves said in a speech to the Heavy Duty Dialogue, an annual meeting of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association.

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration isn’t proposing a broad mandate. Rather, it seeks to target “bad actors” in the industry, an approach ATA endorses.

More perks
Although FMCSA is proposing two incentives to encourage motor carriers to install electronic onboard recorders, the agency has asked for additional perks it could offer that could improve productivity without reducing safety or impairing driver health.

For example, FMCSA is asking for evidence that could support granting more scheduling flexibility to the 14-hour rule or use of the sleeper berth to satisfy off-duty minimums.

Motor carriers frequently have suggested that tax incentives and the shielding of recorder data from crash litigation would be desirable incentives. In both cases, however, federal legislation would be required, so those incentives are beyond the scope of a rulemaking absent further action by Congress.

The two incentives FMCSA is proposing for voluntary recorders are: use of a random sampling of hours-of-service records for the purpose of establishing the carrier’s safety fitness rating; and relief from supporting documents requirements except for those documents needed to verify on-duty not-driving activities and off-duty status.

The FMCSA also proposes that recorders installed before its new electronic standards go into effect won’t have to be retrofitted to meet those standards – which itself could be viewed as an incentive to voluntarily install recorders sooner rather than later.

Comments from the public on the proposed rule are invited through April 18. To comment, visit the DOT website, http://dms.dot.gov, and reference Docket Number FMCSA-2004-18940.
– Avery Vise

Breaking Down FMCSA’s EOBR Analysis
A regulatory impact analysis commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that the agency’s recent proposal to mandate electronic onboard recorders for carriers with serious compliance problems produces a positive net benefit only if the carriers use a low-cost option, such as a cell phone-based system.

Even then, the annual net benefit would be a mere $610,000 overall, or $41 per power unit involved, according to the independent analysis conducted by ICF Consulting.

The analysis attributes much of the cost of the proposal, however, to the productivity carriers will lose when they have to comply fully with hours-of-service rules.

The analysis examined three motor carrier populations on which FMCSA might impose mandatory recorders: all carriers, all long-haul operations and carriers with recurring noncompliance problems.

ICF Consulting also weighed three different cost assumptions for each option based on the cost of the device. The highest cost estimate was based on a Qualcomm unit. The median cost estimate reflected the median of all vendor prices gathered. And the low-cost estimate was based on a cell-phone product developed by Nextel and software developer Xora.

The bottom line, according to the analysis, is that requiring either all carriers or all long-haul carriers to install recorders results in negative net benefits regardless of the device’s costs. ICF Consulting’s estimate ranges from a net cost of $264 million a year if long-haul carriers use a low-cost option to nearly $3.7 billion if all carriers use a high-cost option.

FMCSA proposes to mandate the recorders only on carriers that demonstrate a pattern of violating the hours-of-service regulations. But according to the analysis, even this limited approach doesn’t produce even a tiny net benefit unless those carriers adopt a low-cost option. More expensive options would lead to net costs of $7.5 million a year.

The notion of a cell phone being used to monitor hours-of-service compliance is not new. Two years ago, Xora and Nextel sought an exemption from current recorder standards so that their product could be used to monitor drivers’ hours. The Xora/Nextel product did not meet the requirement that a device be integrally synchronized with the engine. Under the new standards FMCSA is proposing, however, such synchronization would not be required.

Under the low-cost estimate, the analysis assumes the annual costs involved in buying, installing and maintaining recorders would be $549 per power unit. But the biggest costs identified by the analysis stem from the operational changes and productivity loss caused by full compliance. ICF Consulting estimates that these costs would total $632 per power unit per year on average.

Excluding those operational costs, on the premise that fully complying with the law should not be deemed an additional cost, leads to a significant change in the cost-benefit analysis. Rather than producing $610,000 in net annual benefits, FMCSA’s proposal would result in $10.2 million in net annual benefits. Even requiring all long-haul operations to adopt recorders would produce net benefits of $213 million a year, assuming they used low-cost devices.

Another factor ICF Consulting excluded from its bottom-line analysis was the operational efficiency gained by installing systems that not only could act as recorders, but also offer benefits such as reduced out-of-route and empty miles or a greater number of power units managed per dispatcher.

Using FMCSA’s proposed approach and low-balling the costs, the analysis identifies $1,285 in costs and $1,326 in paperwork savings and safety benefits per power unit.
– Avery Vise

The Big Event
Mid-America Trucking Show to offer entertainment, education and free stuff
In its 36th year, the Mid-America Trucking Show promises to offer more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and 1 million square feet of exhibit space at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

More than 75,000 trucking professionals are expected to attend the show, held March 22-24.

On hand will be major truck, trailer, tire and truck part manufacturers; oil, additive and engine companies; trucking publications; recruiters and more. Other special attractions are the Internet & Technology Center, which showcases new advances in the industry; the Expediter Experience; and the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship.

Overdrive magazine will sponsor a free Partners in Business seminar at 2 p.m. on March 23. The owner-operator training program will teach ways to increase revenue and cut costs, along with other ways to improve business practices.

Big & Rich will headline Kenworth Truck Company’s 19th annual Customer Appreciation Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening, March 23. Cowboy Troy also will appear with Big & Rich.

The award-winning Big & Rich rode to success in 2004 with Horse of a Different Color, their first album, which included such hit singles as “Wild West Show” and “Save a Horse” and went double platinum. Their second album, Comin’ to Your City, also quickly moved up the charts. The album’s title song serves as the introduction music for ESPN’s College GameDay.

More recently, Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich of Big & Rich received three Country Music Association nominations, including Song of the Year and Video of the Year for “8th of November” and Vocal Duo of the Year.

The concert will be held in Freedom Hall, next to MATS and part of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.

Complimentary Big & Rich 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 No. 2 starting at 10 a.m. on both Thursday and Friday of the show.

At the Midnight Trucking Radio Network’s lobby booth, country music legend Lorrie Morgan will sign autographs Friday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Also, meet the crew of truck renovation series Chrome Shop Mafia on Thursday from 1-3 p.m.; Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench on Thursday from 4-5 p.m.; and Jimmy Houston, world class fisherman, on Friday 3-4 p.m.
Freightliner giveaway

Great American, an insurer for independent owner-operators, is giving away a 2002 Freightliner Classic XL at the show. The truck was enhanced by 4 State Trucks, home of TV’s famous “Chrome Shop Mafia.”

“This Freightliner will be completely tricked out,” said Tim Clinton, director of marketing for the trucking division of Cincinnati-based Great American.

To enter the Big Rig Giveaway, visit the Great American Trucking website.

For MATS information, log on to this site
– Kristin L. Walters

Volvo Unveils Diesel-Electric Hybrid
The Volvo Group unveiled its diesel-electric hybrid technology for heavy-duty applications – from stop-and-go refuse collecting to regional tractor-trailer hauling – Jan. 11 at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Volvo plans the first serial rollout of its kind among manufacturers of Class 8 trucks in 2009, said Sten-Ake Aronsson, senior vice president of Volvo Powertrain.

On a $6.8 million contract with the U.S. Air Force, Volvo’s Mack division is in the process of developing and building six test vehicles for use in dump and refueling applications. One vehicle already is in use at the Charleston, S.C., air base.

Hybrids represent not only a commitment to the company’s core concerns of quality, safety and environmental care but a significant commercial opportunity, said Lief Johansson, Volvo CEO.

The technology combines an electric motor with a conventional diesel engine and Volvo’s standard automated I-shift 12-speed transmission. The electric motor is capable of 120 kilowatts of power, or 160 horsepower, and a peak 590 pounds-feet of torque, making possible in the future a smaller, lower-horsepower diesel engine, Aronsson said.

The company is experimenting with ultracapacitors and batteries for power storage and recirculation.

Fuel savings of up to 35 percent are possible, and the electric motor is capable of full torque at start-up, a potential boon for stop-and-go applications, Johansson said.

Government ambitions to reduce fuel consumption are partly pushing the growing interest in hybrid technology in heavy-duty applications. The U.S. government has pledged to break the country’s reliance on foreign oil, while the government of Sweden, Volvo’s homeland, mandates a 50 percent reduction in the country’s oil use by 2025, Johansson said.

Paul Vikner, president of Mack Trucks, stressed the need for further partnerships, saying congressional funding for the Air Force project was the “most important reason why we are where we are in the U.S.”
– Todd Dills

Randall-Reilly Buys Kona Magazines and Truck Show Las Vegas
Randall-Reilly Publishing of Tuscaloosa, Ala., publisher of Truckers News, recently announced the purchases of Kona Communications of Deerfield, Ill., and Truck Show Las Vegas, held annually in June at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Kona acquisition adds Truck Parts and Service and Successful Dealer magazines to Randall-Reilly’s holdings in the trucking industry, which also include Commercial Carrier Journal, Overdrive, Transportista (formerly Truckers News en Espa