NTSB urges ban on all cell phone use for commercial trucks
By Jill Dunn
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended banning all cell phone use while driving for commercial drivers and requiring highways with high commercial traffic have medians that mitigate trucks from crossing the road.
The NTSB recommended not allowing truck and bus drivers to use cell phones, even if hands-free technology is used, except for emergencies, at its Sept. 13 meeting.
It noted a March 2010 accident in Kentucky that left 11 dead after a truck accidently crossed Interstate 65, overriding a cable barrier system and striking a 15-passenger van. The trucker had 69 calls and text messages in the 24 hours before the accident and the last call coincided with the time the truck departed the highway.
The board recommended the Federal Highway Administration design medians to redirect or contain trucks on highways with high degrees of commercial traffic.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association stated it “does not believe a ban would improve highway safety and would rather see a mandate on training and emphasis on increasing parking.”
The American Trucking Associations advocates banning handheld mobile phone use for all drivers, but allowing hands-free cell use.
Banning cell phone use by commercial drivers has been listed before on the NTSB’s “Most Wanted List” of safety recommendations. A final rule was sent to Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation secretary, on Aug. 3. It needed to clear the Office of Management and Budget before its Oct. 12 publication date, which was after this issue of Truckers News went to press.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking restricting commercial drivers’ use of mobile phones while driving on Dec. 21 and accepted comments until March 21. The NPRM indicated hands-free cell phone use would be permitted.
The NTSB also recommended the FMCSA apply the vetting criteria of the New Applicant Screening Program to information submitted by all new entrant motor carriers.
It reiterated that the FMCSA:
• Seek statutory authority to deny or revoke operating authority for interstate carriers with applications for authority where the applicant did not disclose a prior operating relationship with another carrier, that they are operating as another carrier, or had previously been assigned a U.S. Department of Transportation number.
• Develop an evaluation component to determine the effectiveness of its New Applicant Screening Program.
FYI NEWS BRIEFS
Appeals court overturns port employee rule
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the federal Central District of California’s ruling that allowed the port’s requirement that only employee drivers regularly could work the port. The American Trucking Associations had appealed the lower court’s decision upholding the port’s concessionaire agreements, which include the progressive ban on owner-operators.
Chicago intersection worst bottleneck
Chicago’s freeway intersection of I-290 at I-90/I-94 was the most congested location for trucks, according to research conducted in 2010. Ranking second most congested was I-95 at State Route 4 in Fort Lee, N.J. Truckers in Houston face heavy congestion as the next three chokepoints in the ranking of 250 highway locations turn up in a tight bundle: I-45 at U.S. 59, I-10 at I-45 and I-10 at U.S. 59.
Trucker wins GPS system
Bill Stewart, a St. Louis resident, won a Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 500 Model Trucker GPS system, Truck Centers Inc. said. The dealer network held a drawing for the GPS system and other prizes on the occasion of National Truck Driver Appreciation week.
Iowa 80 exhibit hall expanding
Iowa 80 Trucking Museum’s exhibit hall is expanding by 21,600 square feet to display more than 60 trucks, museum curator Dave Meier said. Part of the Iowa 80 Truckstop based in Walcott, Iowa, the exhibit hall will have air-conditioning after the expansion is completed, which is expected to be in December 2012.
Love’s opens Florida, Washington locations
New Love’s Travel Stops are open in Cottondale, Fla., at exit 130 off Interstate 10 and in Napavine, Wash., on I-5, exit 72. The Cottondale stop has 98 truck spaces and the Napavine location has 73 truck spaces. Both locations include DEF dispensers at the diesel islands, CAT Scales, showers, RFID cardless fueling technology and truck tire care centers.
Freight Tonnage Drops in August
The American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped 0.2 percent in August from July following a 0.8 percent decline in July. Compared with August 2010, tonnage was up 5.2 percent. In July, the tonnage index was 4.5 percent above a year earlier.
Smartway certifies Peterbilt LNG truck
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program has recognized Peterbilt’s Model 386 liquefied natural gas truck as meeting the established fuel-saving, low-emission equipment requirements set for Class 8 trucks. The Model 386 LNG will join Peterbilt’s other SmartWay designated vehicles, which are models 587, 386 and 384.
Delo announces boat giveaway
From now until Dec. 2, participants can register to win the grand prize of a fully-equipped 2011 ZX190 Skeeter bass boat from Delo, the Chevron subsidiary says. Delo is also giving away prizes to the first, second and third place winners, as well as giving Delo fishing towels to each customer with $20 or more in receipts for Delo products. Visit www.deloperformance.com to register.
Goodyear launches interactive blog
A new blog, the fleetHQ Ask The Tire Answer Man, features Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.’s Tim Miller in Q-and-A format. The blog, blog.fleethq.com, features topics pertinent to tires, a feature that allows readers to submit questions, an interactive poll, trucking industry headlines and other elements.
FMCSA under pressure to keep HOS rule
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was under pressure from the trucking industry and even Congress to leave hours of service rules untouched before the agency was scheduled to act on proposed changes Oct. 28.
Look for a story on the agency’s action online at www.truckersnews.com and an update with analysis in the December issue.
While trucking industry groups voiced support for retaining the current HOS rule, House transportation leaders had sent a letter to President Obama to withdraw the proposed HOS rule change.
Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica’s Sept. 23 letter to Obama asked the proposal be withdrawn and that the current rule be continued. The Florida Republican wrote that the proposed rule would be an unnecessary and costly regulatory burden on truckers, given the improved record of truck safety since the 2004 rule became effective.
Three other Republican committee members signed the letter: Tennessee’s John Duncan, highway subcommittee chairman; Pennsylvania’s Bill Schuster, chairman of the railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials subcommittee; and Missouri’s Sam Graves, committee member and Small Business Committee chairman.
The president had not responded to their letter as of Sept. 28, according to Justin Harclerode, transportation committee communications director. Should the FMCSA proceed with the new rule, the four House members would weigh options that could include hearings or legislation.
On Aug. 30, Obama responded to House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) request for pending regulations with compliance costs of more than $1 billion. Seven proposed rules qualified, including the HOS proposal at more than $1 billion and electronic on-board recorders at $2 billion.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations have said the HOS proposal is costly and unnecessary since data indicate safety improvements under the current rule.
The current hours-of-service rules, which have been in effect since January 2004, made four primary changes to the regulations then in place: increasing the daily driving limit from 10 hours to 11 hours; increasing the required minimum daily rest from 8 hours to 10 hours; decreasing the number of hours on duty after which a driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle from 15 hours to 14 hours; and allowing a driver to “reset” the weekly 60 or 70-hour on-duty limits with 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Under the current proposal, FMCSA is considering whether to reduce the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10 hours and has proposed to limit the 34-hour restart provision by requiring that it include two periods from midnight to 6 a.m. and limiting its use to once per week.
On Sept. 2, Dave Osiecki, an ATA senior vice president, wrote Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is under the Office of Management and Budget. Osiecki said he was optimistic the proposed changes would be withdrawn. If, however, they were not, he added in writing, the new rule would necessitate a very high level of scrutiny on the part of your office,” he wrote.
The FMCSA appears likely to publish an HOS final rule by its court-ordered Oct. 28 deadline. The agency sent the proposal to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Aug. 11. After LaHood finishes consideration of the proposal, the Office of Management and Budget will review it before publication.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia originally set the Federal Register publication deadline for July 26, which it later extended. In 2009, the FMCSA had entered into a settlement agreement with safety groups and the Teamsters union to revisit the current rule and publish a final rule. This agreement stipulates if the agency produces a “substantially different” rule from the current one, this “may” eliminate the need for further judicial review.
Driver turnover rises in second quarter
The turnover rate for over-the-road truck drivers rose to 79 percent in the second quarter, according to American Trucking Associations’ latest Trucking Activity Report, marking the third quarter in a row of increased churn in the driver market.
The turnover rate for drivers at large truckload fleets rose four basis points from the first quarter’s rate of 75 percent, pushing the rate to its highest point since the second quarter of 2008.
“Even though the increase was small, we still believe the market for quality drivers is getting extremely tight and fleets are aggressively recruiting to fill their openings,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The slowdown of the economic recovery has affected the turnover rate, but if the economy continues to improve, we’ll see further tightening in the driver market and a renewed risk of a severe driver shortage.”
Turnover at small truckload companies and less-than-truckload fleets fell in the quarter, dropping to 47 percent from 50 percent for small TL firms and to 6 percent from 8 percent for LTLs.
Cat truck begins production, plans cabover
Caterpillar Inc. has begun production of its CT660 vocational truck for the North American market and is shipping units to customers, the company said at a media introduction event Sept. 28 in Peoria, Ill.
Meanwhile, Caterpillar and Navistar International Corp. announced they will continue their collaboration on vocational and on-highway trucks for global markets with a cabover vocational truck.
The companies said they plan to build and sell a COE Cat vocational truck that would be sold globally. The companies said they will finalize terms of this new business in the coming months.
Caterpillar launched the CT660 six months ago at the ConExpo-ConAgg trade show in Las Vegas.
CT660 was developed using the Navistar WorkStar vocational truck as a starting point. Cat trucks will offer only one make of engine: Navistar’s 2010 EGR-only family of heavy-duty diesel engines, painted yellow and branded as Cat CT11 and CT13 diesels. The two companies jointly developed the high-pressure fuel injection system that helps enable Navistar engines to meet EPA 2010 emissions regulations without use of Selective Catalytic Reduction exhaust aftertreatment systems requiring Diesel Exhaust Fluid.
With the exception of “a couple of components,” the CT660 is new from the frame rails up.
— Gary Blood, Cat vocational truck product manager
Cat will offer the CT660 now with either an 11-liter or 13-liter diesel engine, with horsepower ratings ranging from 330 to 475 hp. A 15-liter option is planned with power ratings as high as 550 hp, although Gary Blood, Caterpillar vocational truck product manager, says the current 475 hp CT13 engine mated with Cat’s CX31 automated manual transmission delivers power on par with a 15 liter now.
The CX31 weighs 100 pounds more than the standard Eaton 10-speed manual gearbox offered in the CT660. Blood said it’s delivering up to an 8 percent boost in fuel economy and offers three exclusive rear PTO options for mixers and other applications.
Blood said that with the exception of “a couple of components,” the CT660 is new from the frame rails up.
In June 2008, the two companies announced plans to form an alliance for the on-highway truck business. This led to a 50/50 joint venture called NC2 Global LLC that focuses on development of on-highway trucks for markets outside of North America.
The companies announced they will restructure NC2. Under terms of this new relationship, NC2 will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar. Also, through a new brand licensing agreement, both International and Caterpillar branded trucks will continue to be distributed through both International and Caterpillar dealers outside of the United States.