The Great American Trucking Show drew almost 46,000 people in 2006. This year’s show promises to be bigger.

Celebration time at GATS
The Truckers News booth will be a festive and rewarding stop for some lucky attendees of the Great American Truck Show in the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Aug. 23-25. For the fourth year, it will hold its Mardi Gras Giveaway, where show goers have the chance to win a daily cash drawing.

Entrants must have a valid CDL and can pick up entry forms in the main show lobby. After visiting participating exhibitors’ booths and picking up the full variety of colored Mardi Gras bead strings, entrants deliver their completed entry forms and beads to the Truckers News booth #18015 for a chance to win $1,000 at the end of the day.

The Mardi Gras Giveaway takes place each day of the show.

Other attractions at GATS include:

  • Free concerts by Aaron Tippin (Friday, 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Volvo Trucks) and the Wreckers (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Mobil Delvac). Truckers News also will present its annual Great American Trucking Family Award prior to the Tippin concert.
  • Overdrive magazine’s annual Pride & Polish show-truck competition.
  • More than 600 industry exhibitors, from OEM truck and parts manufacturers to fleets to industry organizations.
  • Various free educational seminars for drivers and owner-operators, including the ATBS and Overdrive sponsored Partners in Business seminar, 2-4 p.m. Friday.

People planning to attend the show can register by calling (800) 633-5953, ext. 1361, or visiting this site, roll over “Attendees,” click “Register to Attend.”
– Todd Dills

Truckers News Celebrates 30 years
Truckers News’ 30th anniversary celebration begins at GATS. The first issue of the magazine was published by the National Association of Truckstop Operators as an 8-page newsprint paper in November of 1977. Randall-Reilly Publishing is the publisher today.

Among other giveaways, a limited number of 30th Anniversary commemorative pens will be available at the Truckers News booth. A special anniversary issue of the magazine is planned for November.

Roadcheck 2007 Shows Advances in Truck Fleet Safety
The U.S. trucking industry showed improvement in truck safety, including an increase in the number of drivers wearing their safety belts, as well as industry compliance with hazardous materials regulations, according to the results of the 2007 truck safety Roadcheck conducted throughout North America by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Figures also showed slight increases in the number of drivers and vehicles parked for work and rest violations as law enforcement officials continue to do a better job of targeting drivers with previous violations.

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Underscoring the effectiveness of industrywide efforts to educate drivers about truck safety and enforce safety measures, the number of vehicles, including trucks and buses, placed out of service represented 21.5 percent of the vehicles inspected. This compared with 21.7 percent in 2006.

The number of safety belt violations during the June 5-7 enforcement blitz decreased significantly to 829 in 2007 from 1,223 a year earlier. The number of hazardous materials trucks placed out of service also declined to 17.7 percent from 18.2 percent in 2006. The number of trucks parked for brake defects also dropped.

Drivers placed out of service for noncompliance with hours-of-service rules increased slightly, as 4.9 percent of all inspections resulted in a driver being placed out of service for HOS violations, up from 4.5 percent in 2006. While results in some enforcement categories increased slightly in 2007 over Roadcheck 2006, the public should not be alarmed, American Trucking Associations says; these figures do not mean that trucking is less safe, but that inspectors have improved their skill in selecting trucks and drivers for inspections.
– From Staff Reports

U.S. Xpress Executives Plan to Take Carrier Private
U.S. Xpress Enterprises Co-Chairmen Patrick Quinn and Max Fuller have announced a plan, through their jointly-owned Mountain Lake Acquisition Co., to take the Chattanooga, Tenn., truckload carrier private by acquiring all the outstanding Class A common stock shares that they don’t already own.

MLAC has obtained a commitment letter from SunTrust Bank and SunTrust Capital Markets to provide $432 million to fund the transaction. It also has retained Stifel Nicolaus as its financial adviser in connection with determining the offer price.

In a June 22 letter to the U.S. Xpress board of directors, Quinn and Fuller said their offer of $20 a share represents a 41 percent premium over the $14.23 per share closing price on June 21 and a 44 percent premium over the $13.88 average reported closing price for the 30 days ended June 21.

“We intend to pursue the transaction through a tender offer we expect to be commenced as soon as practicable,” Quinn, who is listed as MLAC president, and Fuller, who is listed as CEO, said in the letter.
– Avery Vise

Report: Half of Urban Interstates Congested
Nearly 52 percent of U.S. urban interstates are congested, and traffic fatality rates are up slightly, but road surface and bridge conditions have improved, according to the Reason Foundation’s latest annual highway performance report.

“Gridlock isn’t going away,” said the study’s lead author, David T. Hartgen, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “States are going to have to prioritize and direct their transportation money to projects specifically designed to reduce congestion if we are going to reverse this troubling trend.”

Drivers in California, Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina are stuck in the worst traffic, with more than 70 percent of urban interstates in those states qualifying as congested, the study shows.

The Reason Foundation study measured the performance of state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2005 in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance and administrative costs, to determine each state’s ranking and cost-effectiveness.

The report found that fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles vary significantly from state to state, from 0.79 in Massachusetts to 2.256 in Montana. The national average was 1.453 fatalities, up slightly from 1.440 in 2004.

The study does find some good news for drivers: The percentage of roads in “poor condition” fell sharply for both interstates and major rural roads. Since 1998, the percentage of poor urban interstate mileage has been reduced by 31 percent, the study says. The number of bridges deemed deficient, meaning they are eligible for federal repair dollars, also fell slightly in 2005.

In the overall rankings, North Dakota and South Carolina took the top spots in highway performance for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s gridlocked highways, poor pavement conditions and high repair costs put the state last for the eighth consecutive year.

Joining New Jersey in the bottom five are Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York and Alaska. Rounding out the top five are Kansas, New Mexico and Montana.

Of the nation’s most populous states, the top performers are Georgia (6th overall), Texas (15th) and Ohio (16th). “The big states that score well have been able to achieve needed improvements and adequate maintenance at relatively low costs,” Hartgen said.

The full 16th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems, with detailed information for each state, is available on Reason’s website. Reason’s 2006 study showing how congested each city in the country will be in 2030 and how many new lane miles are needed to eliminate congestion is also on the website.
– Kristie Busam

FYI/News Briefs
Lake Named to NATSO Foundation Board

The NATSO Foundation has named Robert Lake, vice president/group publisher of Randall-Reilly Publishing’s Truck Stop Group, to its board of directors. He will oversee and contribute to the foundation’s main programs, including the Moon Scholarship Program and support the foundation’s Drive to Save Lives blood drive program that is a nationwide effort by truckstops and travel plazas to collect life saving blood.

Tonnage Index Declines
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 1.3 percent in May, marking the second consecutive month-to-month drop. In April, tonnage fell 2.2 percent. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index declined to a six-month low of 110.6 in May from 112.1 the previous month. Compared with a year earlier, tonnage was down 3.6 percent, the largest year-over-year drop since January 2007.

Top Truck Border Ports
Detroit and Laredo, Texas, were the top U.S. border ports for the value of trade moved by truck in 2006, according to a special report on North American freight transportation from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Detroit was the gateway for $64 billion in merchandise carried by truck to Canada and $51 billion from Canada. On the Mexican border, $34 billion in merchandise was exported and $44 billion was imported through Laredo by truck.

Large Fleet Turnover Up
The annualized driver turnover rate for large truckload carriers during the first quarter of 2007 was 127 percent, 6 percentage points higher than the rate in the last quarter of 2006, the American Trucking Associations reported. Those carriers ended the first quarter with 1.8 percent fewer drivers than at the start.

Indiana Ups Work Zone Fines
Indiana’s highway work zones now will result in stiffer fines and possible jail time. Under a new law, a driver faces a $300 dollar fine for speeding in a work zone. The penalty increases to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense within three years. Those who drive recklessly or aggressively through a work zone face fines up to $5,000. Drivers who injure or kill a highway worker may find themselves paying a $10,000 fine or serving up to eight years behind bars.

Technology Tour
Shell Lubricants has launched its second annual, 10-city Shell Technology Tour to update fleet customers about the latest industry changes, including biodiesel fuels, ULSD update; 2007 equipment changes and maintenance considerations; CJ-4 and synthetic oils update; and Shell fleet services including Lube VideoCheck and Shell Fleet Management Program. For more information, visit this site.

Alaska Gets FMCSA Compliant
On June 22, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed into law a bill that makes the state compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The act requires more vehicle and driver inspections, stronger enforcement measures against violators and stronger commercial driver’s license testing and recordkeeping. Federal officials notified the state that it was out of compliance and facing severe penalties, including a loss in federal highway construction funds.

GM to Sell Allison
General Motors Corp. has reached a definitive agreement for the company to sell its Allison Transmission commercial and military business to The Carlyle Group and Onex Corporation for about $5.6 billion. Allison designs and manufactures transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Onex is one of Canada’s largest corporations, with businesses that generate annual revenues of $30 billion. The Carlyle Group is a global private equity firm with $58.5 billion under management.