House plan ties electronic onboard recorders to reauthorization bill – by Jill Dunn
Although the U.S. Department of Transportation wants immediate approval of a short-term surface transportation reauthorization bill, which would allow more congressional deliberation on long-term transportation policy, House leaders released their funding plan requiring electronic on-board recorders on trucks.
On June 18, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure chairman, released the committee’s plans for the next authorization bill. Joining him were John Mica (R-Fla.), Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), Subcommittee on Highways and Transit chairman, and John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.).
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood briefed Congress on the Highway Trust Fund, which will be broke by late August, he said. “Beyond keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent, an immediate 18-month reauthorization provides Congress the time it needs to fully deliberate the direction of America’s transportation priorities.”
In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed rule only required EOBRs by companies with HOS violation patterns. More than 99 percent of carriers would continue to use paper logbooks under the rule, which has not been finalized.
The American Trucking Associations conditionally supports an EOBR mandate, including requiring evidence that it improves compliance and safety. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, however, opposes it. Public Citizen endorses EOBR mandates and asks that the legislation protect highways against heavier and bigger trucks.
The proposed act “embraces many of ATA’s priorities,” the ATA said. “It requires recipients of federal funds to meet performance standards related to safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction and emissions, and recognizes the economic role of freight transportation by establishing a Freight Improvement Program that dedicates money to the National Highway System.”
The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program provides federal funding to states for motor carrier safety enforcement activities.
From fiscal year 2001 through 2007, MCSAP funding increased 30 percent. “However, over this same period, little progress has been made in addressing the number of deaths and injuries in large truck and bus crashes in the United States; only a 4 percent reduction in fatalities has occurred,” the report said.
In response, the act would also institute new performance measures to focus state efforts on reducing the number of crashes and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. It noted the average cost of a fatal crash involving a large truck is more than $3.6 million, but did not elaborate on what’s included in those costs.
The act also would establish a dedicated source of funding for freight-related highway projects and reauthorize the capital grant program for short-line and regional railroads. It would provide states with funding for projects that will improve freight mobility on the National Highway System and secondary freight routes.
The act also:
·Strengthens carrier oversight by FMCSA and its state partners;
·Amends the compliance review process to focus on vehicles and drivers;
·Requires additional review to identify and prevent “reincarnated” carriers;
·Ensures states will comply with federal commercial driver license requirements by the end of the authorization period;
·Institutes training requirements for drivers before obtaining a CDL;
·Establishes a drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse for commercial drivers.
Safety Belt Usage Increases -by Staff Reports
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that safety belt use by drivers of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles increased to 72 percent in 2008. That figure is up 7 percentage points from 65 percent the previous year.
FMCSA’s safety belt statistics are part of its 2008 Seat Belt Usage Study, which the agency uses to measure the effectiveness of its Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Program. The federal program assists states in executing their own safety belt awareness campaigns. Safety belt usage among commercial drivers has increased from just 54 percent since 2005, when the program began.
Other key findings in the 2008 Seat Belt Usage Study include:
·A rise in safety belt use among passengers of commercial motor vehicles to 61 percent;
·Professional truck drivers for major regional or national fleets showed higher usage at 75 percent, versus 62 percent for owner-operators;
·Regionally, safety belt usage rates for truck drivers and their occupants were highest at 81 percent in the West compared to 77 percent in the South, 60 percent in the Midwest and 56 percent in the Northeast;
·Safety belt usage for both drivers and occupants was higher at 80 percent in states that had primary belt use laws than 64 percent in states with secondary belt use laws; and
·Commercial motor vehicle drivers and their occupants had higher safety belt usage rates on weekend days over weekdays, higher usage rates in urban areas over suburban or rural areas, and higher usage rates in faster traffic over slower traffic.
DOT Releases Stopping Distance Rule – by Avery Vise
The Obama administration apparently has picked up where the Bush administration left off on a major regulation that could affect the design of braking systems on heavy-duty trucks. On June 10, the U.S. Department of Transportation sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget a long-awaited final rule to reduce the mandated stopping distance for truck tractors equipped with air brake systems.
Last fall, USDOT submitted a final rule to OMB, but the White House agency was focused on completing more controversial measures before the end of the Bush administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed to change the existing requirements in December 2005, but by then the matter already had dragged on for years. In its June monthly report on significant rulemakings, USDOT said it expects a final rule to be published in September.
For a copy of NHTSA’s proposed rule and comments regarding it, go to www.regulations.gov and search NHTSA-2005-21462.
Groups Organize Against Bigger Trucks -by Jill Dunn
An alliance of labor and environmental groups is campaigning for a bill that would freeze truck size and weight on the National Highway System.
The Blue Green Alliance is composed of the Sierra Club, Teamsters union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Environment America, Communications Workers of America and the Service Employees International Union.
They support the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or H.R. 1618 and S. 779. The House bill was referred to committee March 20 and has 91 co-sponsors, and the Senate bill was referred to committee April 1 and has 3 cosponsors.
The alliance and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association support the current limit of 80,000 pounds and 53 feet for tractor-trailer rigs on interstate highways of the National Highway System.
The NHS covers about 160,000 miles of highway, while interstates represent 44,000 miles.
The American Trucking Associations, the National Private Truck Council and some shipping organizations favor expanding these limits. They support the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009, or H.R. 1799, which was referred to committee March 30 and has 26 co-sponsors.
That legislation would allow trucks a maximum gross weight of 97,000 pounds, provided the vehicle has at least six axles, including a tridem trailer axle group with a weight limit of 51,000 pounds. Axle weight increases of up to 2,000 pounds would be authorized at the state’s option.
The Truck Safety Coalition also formed StopBiggerTrucks.org to battle against relaxing current limits. That coalition is comprised of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers.
More information on the alliance is available at www.bluegreenalliance.org.
Study Finds Lower Diesel Emissions – by Staff Reports
A new study shows that clean diesel technologies in engines manufactured beginning in 2007 not only reduced certain emissions by 90 percent over 2004 models, but far exceeded expectations in their performance in cleaning up the nation’s air quality.
Emissions reductions by 2007 model engines “exceeded substantially even those levels required by law,” said the study, conducted by the Coordinating Research Council and the Health Effects Institute. Current engine models produced 98 percent less carbon monoxide, 10 percent less nitrogen oxide, 95 percent less non-methane hydrocarbons and 89 percent less particulate matter than required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 diesel engine emissions standards.
“Diesel engines are the workhorses of the nation’s transportation infrastructure because they are fuel-efficient, durable and reliable,” says Jed Mandel, president of the Engine Manufacturers Association. “We can now add near-zero emissions to the list of diesel’s positive attributes.”
The study, sponsored by a multiparty group of government and industry organizations – including EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Air Resources Board and the Engine Manufacturers Association – is phase 1 of the Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES). This five-year comprehensive emissions testing program will test the emissions and health effects of new diesel engines to document the improvements that have been made and to ensure that there are no unintended emissions from these new technologies. The results of the ACES study can be found by going to www.crcao.org/index.html.
“These latest emissions figures are a testament to the trucking and engine manufacturing industries’ deep commitment to the environment,” said Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and chief executive officer. “We’re proud of the significant progress that has been made, and we look forward to building upon this foundation as we continue to work toward a more sustainable future.”
For more information about ATA’s sustainability plan, go to www.trucksdeliver.org.
Traffic Fatalities Hit 47-Year Low – by Staff Reports
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the number of overall traffic fatalities reported in 2008 dropped to the lowest level since 1961 and that fatalities in the first three months of 2009 continue to decrease. The fatality rate, which accounts for variables like fewer miles traveled, also reached the lowest level ever recorded.
The fatality data for 2008 placed the highway death count at 37,261, a drop of 9.7 percent from 2007. The fatality rate for 2008 was 1.27 persons per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, about 7 percent below the rate of 1.36 recorded for 2007.
Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks declined 12 percent in 2008 from the year before, from 4,822 deaths to 4,229. The number of truck occupants who died in these crashes decreased 16 percent to 677 from 805.
Substantial declines occurred in virtually every major category, led by declines in passenger car occupant fatalities which dropped for the sixth year in a row. Light truck occupant fatalities fell for the third straight year. Alcohol-impaired fatalities also declined by more than 9 percent over 2007.
Continuing this trend, the January-March 2009 estimate of 7,689 deaths represents a 9-percent decline from a year ago. It was the twelfth consecutive quarterly decline. The fatality rate for the first quarter of 2009 reached 1.12 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Preliminary data collected by the Federal Highway Administration showed that vehicle miles traveled during the first three months of 2009 declined by about 11.7 billion miles.
GATS Features 2010 Engine Seminar – by Misty Bell
The Great American Trucking Show is coming up this month in Dallas, and truckers can expect a wide range of educational sessions, hot custom rigs, exhibitors and even a free concert from country music star Tracy Lawrence.
Truckers can attend the 2010 Engine Super Sessions and Ride and Drive, scheduled for Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. at the Dallas Convention Center, to get information about new engine technologies planned to meet 2010 emissions regulations. The three super sessions include “Two Roads to 2010,” a panel of SCR and EGR engine makers discussing the technology; “Ins and Outs of Diesel Exhaust Fluid”; and “Operational Aspects of 2010 Engines,” a look at how the change affects drivers.
In addition, attendees have 10 other “Smart Sessions” options, with topics ranging from safety audits to hours of service to taxes. A wide range of exhibitors also will be set up in the convention center. Visit http://tinyurl.com/gatssessions for a complete line-up.
Crowd favorites at the show include Truckers News’ sister magazine Overdrive’s Pride & Polish Truck Beauty Competition and the Partners in Business workshop, which will present basic and advanced business skills to prospective and current owner-operators. The workshop will be Aug. 21 from 2-4 p.m.
The Tracy Lawrence concert, sponsored by Mobil Delvac, will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21. Truckers News will introduce its 2009 Great American Trucking Family at the concert.
Free on-site truck parking will be available at the 20-acre Reunion Arena Parking Lot adjacent to the convention center. Visit www.gatsonline.com for more information.
Rough Roads Major Factor in Deaths – by Todd Dills
Road conditions play a pivotal role in highway deaths and accidents, according to a study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation on behalf of the Transportation Construction Coalition.
Roadway condition is a contributing factor in more than half of the 42,000 deaths that occur yearly on U.S. roadways, the study concludes, and the costs associated with roadway-condition-enabled crashes exceed $217 billion yearly.
“On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways” – full report available at transportationconstructioncoalition.org – analyzes data from, among other sources, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration earlier this decade. The PIRE study was focused more broadly on the entire U.S. driving population. “Drivers often make minor errors,” said PIRE’s Ted Miller, the study’s author, but “when the roadway is deficient, those errors are more likely to cause a crash.”
While state and federal efforts to improve highway safety have not ignored roadway conditions, the heavy focus on driver behavior in recent years has come at the expense of capital investment in roadway conditions for their safety benefits, according to Miller. “It’s far more practical to make the roadway environment more forgiving and protective,” he says. The study includes a ranking of states by road-related crash costs per million vehicle miles traveled.
FYI NEWS BRIEFS
California Offers Trucker Assistance
The California Air Resources Board has created electronic and telephone aids for truckers to encourage compliance with the state’s latest clean air regulations. These include the “Truck Stop,” at www.arb.ca.gov/truckstop; a hotline where CARB employees answer diesel-related questions at 1-866-6DIESEL (or 1-866-634-3735) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays in English, Spanish, Punjabi and Vietnamese; and a new CARB email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roadcheck Reports Compliance Records
Roadcheck 2009’s record total of overall inspections showed significant declines in vehicle and driver out-of-service rates, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Roadcheck is the largest targeted enforcement program on commercial vehicles in the world. Data show the highest overall vehicle compliance rate, 80.4 percent since 1996 and the highest overall driver compliance rate, 95.7 percent, ever. For North American Standard Level I inspections, the compliance rates of 77.8 percent (vehicles) and 96.1 percent (drivers) were both records for Roadcheck.
Volvo Taking 2010 Orders
Volvo Trucks North America announced June 22 customers can place orders for trucks across its product line equipped to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emissions standards. Volvo is using selective catalytic reduction technology to meet the requirements. Initial production is scheduled for this fall, with deliveries beginning a few weeks later.
Mack Consolidating Truck Production
Mack Trucks Inc. announced June 25 it will move forward with its previously announced plan to consolidate production of its entire product line at its assembly facility in Macungie, Pa. The company says the plan involves transferring assembly of Mack highway vehicles from the plant in Virginia’s New River Valley to Macungie, where Mack’s construction and refuse trucks are assembled. The company expects to begin the transfer in September and complete it by the end of November.
Ohio Truck Speeds Increase
Trucks are legally allowed to drive 65 miles per hour on many of Ohio’s interstates as of July 1. As part of HB 2, the 2010-11 State Transportation Budget, passed in April, Ohio lawmakers increased the speed limit on mostly rural and suburban interstates for trucks and non-commercial buses from 55 mph to 65 mph, matching the speed of cars and other motor vehicles.
Truckstops Stocked With DEF
All TravelCenters of America and Petro Stopping Centers locations are now stocked with 2.5-gallon containers of diesel exhaust fluid for retail sale, TravelCenters of America announced. DEF is also available to all emergency roadside assistance vehicles at TA and Petro locations for trucks that run out of DEF on the highway. TA and Petro are the first travel centers to offer these containers, TravelCenters of America said.
Cummins Adds Smaller DEF Products
Cummins Filtration announced it has expanded its product line to include smaller-sized packaging options as well as dispensing equipment for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). Previously offered in bulk 330-gallon plastic totes, 275-gallon disposable totes and 55-gallon plastic drums, Fleetguard DEF now also is available in 1-gallon, 2.5-gallon and 5-gallon containers. The dispensing equipment offered includes air and electric pumps for both drums and totes.
Arrow Offers Pre-Owned Warranty
Arrow Truck Sales announced a four-year/400,000 mile engine warranty option on pre-owned units. The warranty includes full coverage, not only major components, during the four-year period. It is available on 2005 and newer Volvo VNLs with fewer than 500,000 miles.
Aug. 7-9, Carlisle
All-Truck Nationals, Carlisle,