Groups spar over heavier truck bills
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), safety advocates and family members of highway accident victims at a press conference on May 3 to endorse the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, legislation that would restrict the size and weight of commercial trucks on U.S. highways.
SHIPA also would extend the freeze on truck size and weight limits on the interstate system to the National Highway System. The bill’s supporters, which include the Association of American Railroads, argue that large trucks are more dangerous to drive and damage highways and bridges, and that heavier trucks only will accelerate the wear and tear of the nation’s aging infrastructure.
“Heavier and longer trucks mean greater stopping distances and shorter reaction times,” Hoffa said. “And the reality is that our highways and bridges are not equipped to handle the increased weight and size of these trucks.”
The Teamsters point to a recent nationwide poll that found that 89 percent of the general public strongly opposes larger trucks. The union also notes that half of the nation’s bridges are more than 40 years old, with one in four structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
The American Trucking Associations, which supports competing legislation that would allow states to increase weight limits on interstate highways, responded. “In the two years since ATA unveiled its 18-point safety agenda, a comprehensive approach to addressing both primary and secondary causes of highway crashes, these alleged ‘safety’ groups have not made a serious proposal to address trucking safety,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Their fix is to arbitrarily cut working hours to advance labor’s agenda, and further restrict truck size and weight to advance the railroad’s agenda.”
The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2011 (S. 747) was introduced to the U.S. Senate on April 6. SETA, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), with co-sponsors Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would give any state the option to allow semi-trucks weighing up to 97,000 pounds access to its interstate highways, provided owners equip trucks with a sixth axle to preserve braking distances and pavement wear patterns, and agree to pay a supplemental user fee.
FYI News Brief
Real-Time Truck Parking Grants
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $4.48 million to Michigan’s I-94 Truck Parking and Information Management System and almost $2.05 million to Minnesota’s Comprehensive System for Assessing Truck Parking Availability. Both systems will deliver real-time information on parking availability through intelligent transportation systems.
NAFTA Surface Trade Rises
Surface transportation trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico rose 11.8 percent to $66.5 billion in February from February 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $40 billion in February, up 10.1 percent from a year earlier. U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $26.6 billion in February, up 14.5 percent from a year earlier.
Diesel Prices Highest in Almost 3 Years
After dipping the previous week, the national average retail price of diesel rose during the week ended May 2, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. The national average price increased 2.6 cents to $4.124, the highest since Sep. 1, 2008. All regions gained in price, led by a 3.6-cent jump on the Gulf Coast to $4.06. Central Atlantic rose 3.1 cents to $4.269. California increased 2.7 cents to $4.465, the nation’s highest.
Bismarck Bans Truckstop Smoking
Bismarck residents voted to extend North Dakota’s smoking ban to truckstops, bars and tobacco stores. The state already prohibited indoor smoking in businesses and public places, but had allowed exemptions for certain business categories.
Class 8 Truck Orders Surge
Preliminary Class 8 truck net orders for North American markets climbed to 38,200 units in April, a 158 percent increase from a year earlier, according to ACT Research Co. Net orders represented the largest monthly order intake since March 2006, ACT said. Preliminary net order numbers are subject to revision.
Manufacturing Continues Growth
Manufacturing sector economic activity expanded in April for the 21st consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 23rd consecutive month, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s latest Manufacturing ISM Report on Business released May 2.
Willie’s Place Now a Petro
TravelCenters of America has reopened the former Willie’s Place truckstop in Carl’s Corner, Texas, as a Petro Stopping Place full-service travel center. TCA bought the Dallas-area property March 1 after it was posted for foreclosure. Before reopening, the site at exit 374 of I-35 underwent a $1.5 million renovation
Delaware Opens Electrified Rest Area
Delaware has opened an electrified truck parking area at the Smyrna rest area on U.S. Route 13. An automated system allows truckers to use a Smyrna Rest Area credit card to access the shorepower service. They can pay $20 for a reusable window adapter, which includes the credit card with eight hours of usage time. Additional hours can be purchased for $2.50 an hour.
Use Truck Prices Climb
The average sales price of used Class 8 trucks has surged in the past 15 months, with the March average price up 6 percent from February, ACT Research Co. reported. ACT said the average used truck price in March was $38,516. In March 2010 the average price was $27,923, and in February the average price was $36,195.
Trailer Orders Up 21 Percent
Net commercial trailer orders in March rose 21 percent from February, while shipments increased 33 percent, ACT Research Co. said. ACT noted that shipments for the first quarter of 2011 were more than double compared with the same quarter last year.
Study IDs Drivers Likely to Crash
In a study released April 20, the American Transportation Research Institute revealed that truck drivers with certain driving records (i.e. prior crashes, violations and convictions) are more susceptible to being involved in a future truck crash than their peers with clean driving records.
The analyses in the report draw on data from 582,772 U.S. truck drivers over a two-year timeframe to expose a dozen driver behaviors that raise a driver’s risk of being involved in a truck crash by more than 50 percent.
“This research represents a major step forward in helping carriers sift through and prioritize the vast amount of information associated with driver MVRs (motor vehicle records) or the new PSP (pre-employment screening program) system,” said Keith Klein, Transport America executive vice president and chief operating officer. “By understanding how driver histories relate to future crash probability, carriers can develop targeted solutions for minimizing future safety risks. It is no coincidence that safety tends to improve as the prevalence of these problem behaviors decline.”
The ATRI study compares the new findings to a series of parallel analyses the organization conducted in 2005, demonstrating the stability of numerous behavior-based crash indicators. Meanwhile, differences between the two studies highlight safety improvements the industry has seen since 2005, including record-low 2009 truck-involved crash rates and overall reductions in the percentage of roadside inspected drivers found violating any of FMCSA’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
To continue reducing the occurrence of crashes and crash-related behaviors, ATRI reports on enforcement and industry-best practices it says are capable of addressing the problem behaviors identified in this study. ATRI also provides a list of “top tier” states that emphasizes those states that have proven track records of maximizing their enforcement resources while minimizing their share of the nation’s truck crashes.
“The enforcement community is increasingly being asked to do more with less,” said Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. “Research such as ATRI’s ‘crash predictor model’ can assist roadside inspectors and law enforcement officers in targeting specific driver behaviors that are more closely associated with increased likelihood of a future crash.”
Lawmakers Protest Cross-Border Plan
By Jill Dunn
At least 35 federal lawmakers have signed a draft of a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood protesting the DOT proposal for a cross-border trucking program with Mexico.
The April 27 draft written by Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) is signed by 35 to 40 congressional members, said Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper.
The plan is “bad for American truckers and the entire commercial trucking industry,” Hunter wrote.
“The proposal is an undue burden on taxpayers, including buying and monitoring electronic on-board recorders the department will require for Mexican trucks involved in the program. The cross-border trucking program is a straight handout to Mexico at the expense of American jobs, taxpayer dollars and security.”
The agency has said it is funding EOBRs to ensure it will own and control data gathered by the devices. Over a three-year period, the department estimated this program will cost $2.5 million, which includes $750,000 during the first full year of the program.
The previous program, which Congress ended two years ago, required GPS only, which cost the DOT $711,640.
FMCSA Issues CDL Amendments
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 5 issued its final rule amending the commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills testing standards and establishing new minimum federal standards for states to issue a commercial learner’s permit.
The final rule requires a permit holder meet virtually the same requirements as those for a license holder, including driver disqualification penalties. The rule also specifically prohibits a motor carrier from using a driver who does not hold a current and appropriate permit or CDL to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
The final rule implements relevant sections of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006. Many of the program areas and issues dealt with in this rule are also addressed in the Department of Homeland Security’s final rule implementing the REAL ID Act. FMCSA says it has coordinated efforts with DHS to write regulations that neither overlap nor conflict.
Successful completion of a knowledge test, currently a prerequisite for the CDL, now will be required for a permit. The rule requires states to use driver and examiner reference materials, state testing questions and exercises, and state testing methodologies that FMCSA has preapproved. It includes prohibiting use of foreign language interpreters in the administration of the knowledge and skills tests to reduce the potential for fraud.
The final rule requires that each applicant obtain a permit and hold it for at least 14 days before applying for a CDL. It establishes a minimum age of 18 for a permit, which must be a separate document from the CDL, and tamperproof and include the same information as the CDL. The only endorsements allowed on the CLP are a restricted passenger endorsement, a school bus endorsement and a tank vehicle endorsement.
The final rule also strengthens the legal presence requirements and increases the documentation required for permit and CDL applicants to demonstrate their legal presence in the United States. The rule also addresses applicants who wish to attend a driver training school in a state other than the applicant’s state of domicile; states are required to recognize permits issued by other states for training purposes.
Great West Truck Show Set for June 9-11
With more than 300,000 square feet of truck-related equipment, products and services, the 2011 Great West Truck Show, held in Las Vegas June 9-11, promises to offer something for everyone.
Custom truck enthusiasts will appreciate the Custom Rigs Pride & Polish truck beauty contest, which draws the best-looking rigs from around the country. New this year is the Wash & Show, which allows working-class trucks to compete for bragging rights.
Those interested in staying on top of the latest developments in trucking won’t want to miss the SmartSessions, educational seminars offered in partnership with the California Trucking Association. Also on tap will be a Compliance Safety Accountability Workshop and California Air Resources Board Regulatory Compliance Panel.
Owner-operators will want to attend the free Partners in Business seminar presented by business advisors from ATBS. And rounding out the show’s highlights is a Health, Wellness and Safety Pavilion that will feature the latest products and services to help truckers improve their quality of life on the road.
“Given the impressive lineup of exhibits and events, we’re confident this year’s Great West Truck Show will offer owner-operators, fleet executives, company drivers and others in the trucking industry plenty to see and do,” says Alan K. Sims, vice president/executive director. Truckers who attend the show also will enjoy free onsite truck parking.
For details on registering for the Great West Truck Show, go to www.greatwesttruckshow.com, call (888) 349-4287 or e-mail email@example.com. Randall-Reilly also produces the Great American Trucking Show, this year set for Aug. 25-27 in Dallas.
Jamey Johnson to Perform at GATS
Singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson will headline a free concert at the Great American Trucking Show Friday night, Aug. 26, in Dallas.
Johnson will perform at the 5:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Mobil Delvac at the Dallas Convention Center. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first served basis, beginning Aug. 26 at 9 a.m., under the Mobil Delvac tent in the GATS main registration lobby.
Johnson’s latest work is a 25-song double album entitled The Guitar Song, which went gold and is up for Album of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards. The album also received two Grammy nominations — Country Album of the Year and Best Male Country Vocal performance for “Macon.”
“We are thrilled to have a performer of Jamey’s caliber at the Great American Trucking Show,” said Alan K. Sims, vice president/executive director of events for Randall-Reilly, which produces the show.
“For the ninth year in a row, the Mobil Delvac team would like to thank all the truck drivers for their hard work and dedication that keeps all industries moving, year after year,” said Marci Crigger, commercial vehicle lubricants marketing adviser, ExxonMobil Lubricants and Petroleum Specialties Co.
The 2011 Great American Trucking Show will have more than 500 exhibitors, the Custom Rigs Pride & Polish National Championship, TruckSmart educational sessions and a Driver Recruitment Pavilion.
GATS also will host the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference, produced in conjunction with Randall-Reilly and the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, prior to the show.
Company Driver of the Year Nominations Open
Nominate yourself or someone you know for the 2012 Truckers News/TCA Company Driver of the Year award, produced by the Truckload Carriers Association and Truckers News.
Three finalists will be presented at TCA’s annual meeting in 2013, in Orlando, Fla. They also will be featured with other finalists in Truckers News during 2012. The winner will be on the cover of Truckers News in 2013.
The contest is open to drivers who log a majority of their miles in the truckload segment. Nominees are judged on safety, professional accomplishment and contributions to the industry and their community.
Truckers News’ sister publication Overdrive and TCA host a similar contest for owner-operators.
Make a nomination at www.truckload.org/Driver-of-the-Year.
Hours Rule Deadline Extended
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced May 6 it is extending the comment period for its proposed hours of service rule and as a result will be unable to meet a court-negotiated deadline of July 26 to issue a final rule.
The FMCSA said it has placed four additional documents in the public docket of its December 2010 notice of proposed rulemaking for HOS. The agency reopened the comment period to June 9 to allow for review and discussion of the documents and FMCSA’s possible consideration of their findings in the development of the final rule.
The agency said only comments related to the four additional documents will be considered during the 30-day extension. The four studies are:
• “The Impact of Driving, Non-Driving Work, and Rest Breaks on Driving Performance in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations”;
• “Hours of Service and Driver Fatigue-Driver Characteristics Research”;
• “Analysis of the Relationship Between Operator Cumulative Driving Hours and Involvement in Preventable Collisions”; and
• “Potential Causes Of Driver Fatigue: A Study On Transit Bus Operators In Florida.”
FMCSA also advised an adjustment to the rulemaking schedule previously agreed to in litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case No. 09-1094). Under an Oct. 26, 2009, agreement among Public Citizen, other petitioners and FMCSA, the agency was to publish a final rule within 21 months of the date of the settlement agreement.
FMCSA said the extra comment period for the four additional documents will require additional time that was not envisioned in 2009 and that it will be unable to publish a final rule by the previously agreed-upon date of July 26. The agency said it has advised petitioners of the delay to the rulemaking schedule.
Seat Belt Usage Increases
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 2 announced that newly released data show 78 percent of commercial truck and bus drivers wore safety belts while operating behind the wheel in 2010, compared to 74 percent in 2009.
According to FMCSA’s Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey, the number of commercial drivers who are wearing safety belts has increased by 14 percent since 2007. The 2010 survey observed 26,830 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses at 998 roadside sites nationwide.
The survey found that safety belt use for commercial drivers and their occupants was higher, 80 percent, in states where law enforcement may stop drivers for not wearing a safety belt, versus 72 percent in states with weaker secondary enforcement belt use laws.
A regional breakdown showed safety belt use rates for commercial drivers and their occupants were highest in the West, at 82 percent, compared with 79 percent in the South, 73 percent in the Midwest and 69 percent in the Northeast.
To see the executive summary for the Survey, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov.