Following two years of improving freight levels, carriers are turning to owner-operators to increase capacity.
More than 42 percent of fleet executives responding to a May TruckGauge Market Pulse survey said they plan to add independent contractors in the next six months.
Such demand means “owner-operator pay is poised to take off” and could increase as much as 6 cents per mile over the remainder of this year, says Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute, which tracks driver pay.
Many carriers, such as Barr-Nunn Transportation, have already started to bump pay. A series of increases has brought Barr-Nunn’s basic owner-operator pay package to $1 per loaded mile, a figure Klemp calls “pretty aggressive.”
More carriers would have already raised pay but for one missing factor: churn. “Many owner-operators are still convinced the economy is fragile and because of that they don’t want to change jobs if they feel they are with a secure carrier,” Klemp says. “If that changes I think we’ll probably see wages – and churn –really pick up.”
More carriers will also offer lease-purchase programs, Klemp says. Barr-Nunn’s program, launched in 2009, more than doubled the number of owner-operators leased to the carrier.
Crete Carrier Corp. plans to “help as many of our drivers become owner-operators” as have the desire to do so, says Director of Recruiting Richard Snyder. Crete had stopped hiring owner-operators during the recession and focused instead on keeping the ones it had. But today the company is adding owner-operators and is revamping its lease-purchase program to combat a limited supply of late-model used trucks and a tight credit market, says Todd Amen, president of owner-operator business consultant firm ATBS. For the next couple of years, lease-purchase programs may be the best alternative for aspiring owner-operators to get into the business, he says.
— Linda Longton
Researcher trashes hours studies
The American Trucking Associations on June 9 said an internationally recognized safety researcher has questioned the cache of studies submitted recently by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to support its hours of service proposal, saying the studies contain many problems.
Dr. Ronald R. Knipling, former head of FMCSA’s research division, questioned the validity of the studies the agency inserted into the docket on May 6 after closing the comment period for its proposed rule.
FMCSA reopened the comment period until June 9 for discussion related only to the new documents. The agency does not comment on rules while they are open for comment.
Knipling raised “fundamental criticisms” of a study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, concluding the sample of drivers, trucks and crashes, as well as minimal attention paid to other factors in crashes, rendered the study of little value. “It would be erroneous and unwarranted to accept Penn State’s principal findings and conclusions without extensive reanalysis, internal validation and external replication,” he wrote.
Similarly, Knipling said a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute was lacking.
Regarding a study of Florida transit bus drivers, Knipling concluded the “significant differences between Florida’s transit bus operator work rules and those for interstate truck drivers render schedule-related research findings for one largely inapplicable to the other.”
— Staff reports
Shell selects SuperRigs trucks
At its annual SuperRigs show in early June, Shell named the 12 trucks that will be featured in its 2012 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar.
Selected for the 2012 calendar are:
Jerry Kissinger’s 1991 Mack Superliner (Stoughton, Wis.)
Scott Diller’s 1981 Kenworth W900A (Bethel, Pa.)
Randy Supak’s 2010 Kenworth W900L (Caldwell, Texas)
Jake Lindamood’s 2011 Peterbilt 389 (Irving, Texas)
Michael LeJeune’s 1987 Peterbilt (Church Point, La.)
Ron Elledge’s 1994 Kenworth W900 (Hampton, Va.)
Ray Graves’ 1982 Peterbilt 359 (Anthony, Kan.)
Joe Rondeau’s 2011 Peterbilt 389 (White Bear Lake, Minn.)
Bill Warner Jr.’s 1989 Ford LTL (Circleville, W.Va.)
Wayne Baker’s 2011 Peterbilt 389 (Taylor Ridge, Ill.)
Cory Radke and Vinnie Diorio’s 2007 Peterbilt 379 (Richfield, Wis.)
Jeremy Heiderscheit’s 2003 Peterbilt 379 (Peosta, Iowa)
— Staff reports
Groups push for safer trucks
The American Trucking Associations and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association on June 8 called on the federal government to begin researching how standards for crashworthiness for heavy trucks could benefit truck drivers.
“NHTSA has continuously developed crashworthiness standards for automobiles and light trucks, but to date has generally not applied crashworthiness standards to commercial trucks,” the two groups wrote in a June 6 letter to David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We believe there may be opportunities to enhance the survivability of professional truck drivers if appropriate, research-based uniform standards are developed.”
ATA and OOIDA highlighted the need for improving cab structure and occupant restraints such as safety belts and airbags, strengthening windshields and doors to prevent occupant ejections, and installing more forgiving interior surfaces.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said his group is “making this request to hold the safety of professional truck drivers to as high a standard as all other motor vehicle users.”
— Staff reports
OWNER-OPERATOR OF THE YEAR nominations are being accepted by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive. Nominees should run a majority of their miles in the truckload segment and have strong records in safety, professional accomplishment and contributions to the industry and their communities. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 15. Nominations can be made at Truckload.org.
CON-WAY INC. is contributing $100,000 to tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Mo., headquarters of Con-way Truckload, one of the company’s three principal business units. The company is also donating $100,000 to Joplin employees of Con-way Truckload who suffered losses in the storm. Con-way employees nationwide have pledged nearly $100,000 in contributions, along with other donations for disaster relief.
Daimler, Mack ramp up hiring
Daimler Trucks North America and Mack Trucks are increasing truck production and hiring workers to meet increased demand.
DTNA announced it plans to hire a combined 1,350 workers at manufacturing facilities in Mt. Holly, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Saltillo, Mexico, and a parts plant in Gastonia, N.C., during the next six months. A majority of the hires will come from laid-off employees, the company said.
The Mt. Holly plant will add a second shift and plans to fill an additional 535 manufacturing and 37 related administrative positions by September.
The Portland plant plans to fill an additional 155 manufacturing positions in the fourth quarter, the company said.
The Saltillo factory had planned to add a third shift and 479 manufacturing workers beginning in June. Thirty-two staff postions are estimated to be filled.
Company officials said the hirings are in addition to more than 1,300 positions filled in the company’s truck and parts facilities during the first half of this year.
Mack said that due to increased demand for its Mack Pinnacle trucks the company will boost production at its Macungie, Pa., truck plant in August and hire approximately 300 people. The company said all the additional personnel will be new hires.
The production increase will include adding a second shift. The company plans to have the new hires in place in early August.
Current employment at the plant is 1,030. The company hired 60 new employees who began in May and added 125 people who were either recalled or newly hired last October.
— Staff reports
FMCSA seeks hours comments
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on its revised estimate of the paperwork burden of the hours of service rule.
To comment, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket number is FMCSA-2011-0065.
FMCSA also has requested approval by the Office of Management and Budget to revise and extend an existing request to collect information on HOS. The agency, effective June 4, 2010, authorized the use of electronic onboard recorders to create driver records-of-duty status to document HOS. The revised information request estimates the paperwork burden of motor carriers voluntarily using EOBRs.
The currently approved estimate is 181 million hours, as approved by OMB on Aug. 20, 2010; the expiration date of this information collection is Aug. 31. In the newly revised request, FMCSA proposes to reduce the paperwork burden by about 9 million burden hours, or by 5 percent, to 172 million hours.
— Staff reports
MANUFACTURING ACTIVITY expanded in May for the 22nd consecutive month, though at a slower rate, according to the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business. The PMI for May registered 53.5 percent, and while readings above 50 percent generally indicate growth, May’s figure was the first reading below 60 percent for the year.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION trade between the United States and North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico increased 15.6 percent in March over March 2010 to $80.8 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The March total was the largest since data collection began in 1994.
Fewer drivers available
Trucking’s well-publicized driver shortage will grow next year and beyond, said an FTR Associates economist at an online meeting June 9. The problem is due to fewer new hires to replace retiring drivers, a smaller number of illegal aliens and regulations removing truckers, said Noel Perry, an FTR senior consultant.
He noted that with the Baby Boom generation moving into retirement, the number of people available to trucking to replace those retiring will drop to about 500,000 a year from 1.5 million previously. He added that tougher immigration laws will keep many other potential drivers out of trucks compared with the last decade. In addition, many truckers who were laid off during the recession have either left the industry or found jobs with other carriers, he said.
“It’s going to be fundamentally harder to recruit people,” Perry said.
Take away about 300,000 drivers who will be forced to the sideline because of poor safety records and the driver shortage will grow from about 150,000 positions this year to 300,000 next year and almost 350,000 in 2013, he estimated.
Perry said that productivity gains, primarily by shippers and receivers making changes in their operations, could absorb a large piece of the impact of the driver shortage. Yet, he said, many shippers aren’t convinced of the problem’s size and haven’t acted. That could change quickly if shortages begin appearing.
On rates, Perry forecast a 9-10 percent rise by the end of this year and double-digit increases next year and in 2013.
Fleets of 500 trucks and more have the money and are buying replacement trucks, but smaller fleets have less cash and aren’t buying as many trucks, he said.
Perry added that carriers that put off replacing trucks or adding trucks to meet rising business could be caught in a vise if they’re expanding in late 2013 or later when he believes the U.S. economy will be back in recession.
— Max Kvidera
FMCSA sets rules dates
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a new schedule of pending rulemaking, which includes publishing a Dec. 9 final rule establishing a national medical examiner registry.
Some rulemaking has been delayed for reasons that include a need for further analysis, insufficient resources or staffing and more pressing priorities. Explanations are not always provided for postponing publication and some schedule information is incomplete.
The Dec. 9 final rule will establish training, testing and certification standards for medical examiners; provide a medical examiner database; and require medical examiners to identify drivers they have examined to the FMCSA.
The agency anticipates publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for safety auditor certification May 29, 2012. It would require safety inspections or audits and compliance reviews be conducted by a certified inspector, auditor or investigator.
The agency did not provide publication dates for new rules regarding Mexican carriers to operate in the U.S. and distracted driving.
Other publication dates the FMCSA listed:
• Aug. 31 for a United Registration System Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The URS would replace the DOT number identification, commercial registration and financial responsibility systems with an online unified registration system.
• Nov. 2 for a Carrier Safety Fitness Determination rule notice.
• Nov. 25 for an Entry Level Driver Training for CDL holders’ final rule.
• Dec. 1 for a CDL Drug and Alcohol Database rule notice.
• Aug. 23, 2012, for a rule notice to amend the diabetes standard for CDL holders.
— Jill Dunn
DRAYAGE TRUCKS with model year engines 2003 or older are eligible to be replaced under the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Truck Replacement Program.
The TRP is a first-come, first-served limited offer to provide grants and financing to truck owners to help them purchase newer, more environmentally friendly trucks. Eligible applicants will receive a grant that covers up to 25 percent of the cost of a newer truck.
Coalition objects to driver test rule
Industry groups have asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider a final rule that would, with one exception, prevent third-party testers from administering skills tests to applicants trained at the testers’ commercial school.
The American Trucking Associations, Commercial Vehicle Training Association, National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools, Truckload Carriers Association and the Professional Truck Driver Institute filed a Petition for Reconsideration with the FMCSA.
Coalition members want to reconsider the prohibition contained in the May 9 Commercial Learners’ Permits rule, effective June 8. FMCSA will allow an exception if the nearest alternative third-party tester or state skills testing facility is more than 50 miles from the training school.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition, but stated in the rule that the provision is intended to reduce the chance of fraud and bias in testing.
FMCSA did not provide opportunity for commentators on the 2008 proposal to respond to the new stipulation inserted in the rule, which they say lacks a valid cost/benefit analysis. “It will substantially impact literally hundreds of training organizations that currently use third-party test administrators to test their students,” the petitioners said.
According to the coalition, the rule provides adequate safeguards to ensure the quality of third-party testers.
The May 9 rule notes Oregon’s Department of Motor Vehicles and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association suggested the restriction in comments filed on the 2008 rule proposal. The statements were not noticed for comment by other parties before issuing the rule, the organizations said.
California does not permit third-party testing and currently has testing appointments backlogged for 45 days, the groups added.
— Jill Dunn
INTERMODAL EQUIPMENT operators wouldn’t have to submit or retain driver-vehicle inspection reports if the driver hasn’t been made aware of any equipment defects, under a proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The proposed rule responds to a joint petition from two intermodal operator associations. FMCSA had extended until June 30, 2012, the compliance date of the requirement for drivers and motor carriers to prepare a no-defect DVIR while it considered the groups’ petition.
TRANSALIVE USA’s AmCoach is in Joplin, Mo., as a command center for truckers working recovery and debris removal following the May 22 tornado. AmCoach’s services for drivers includes food, counseling, sleeping accommodations and communication with local agencies.
CLARIFICATION. Timothy Brady’s consulting firm, truckersu.com, and his collaboration in developing Doug Bench’s trucking business, were omitted in “Adding a Truck” in the June Overdrive.
APRIL TRUCK TONNAGE as measured by the American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped 0.7 percent from March.The April figure was 4.8 percent higher than a year earlier.
TRUCKING EMPLOYMENT slowed in May as the industry added only 100 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Through April, payroll employment in trucking for the year had risen by 18,000. Compared with May 2010, trucking payroll employment is up 3.2 percent.
CLASS 8 TRUCK ORDERS for all major North American truck makers in May dropped 37 percent to 24,063 from a historically high 37,922 units reported in April, FTR Associates said. Despite the decline, orders were still 85 percent higher than prior-year levels. Also, orders received in the last six months project to an annualized 337,600 units, significantly above the same period a year earlier.
Highway Angel named
Alton Greeson, a driver for Transport America of Eagan, Minn., was named a Truckload Carriers Association Highway Angel for attempting to save a baby’s life.
On April 24, Greeson was about to go through a toll booth near Carteret, N.J., when he saw an overturned pick-up truck on a barrier that separated the toll lanes. He approached the pick-up and saw a baby lying on the floor, not breathing.
Greeson began performing pediatric CPR on the baby until a state trooper arrived. He and Greeson cleared the baby’s blocked airway and used a defibrillator to keep the baby alive until emergency personnel arrived. The baby, however, did not survive.
“If I ever see anything like it again, I’ll definitely be helping again,” Greeson said. “Even if a load is late, a life is more important.”
— Staff reports
ALABAMA. An initial $1.5 million in Federal Highway Administration funds is available to the state to pay for emergency repairs to highways damaged during April tornadoes. It is anticipated the cost of repairs will exceed $10 million.
ARIZONA. Nearly 20 miles of U.S. 60 has been closed from Springerville to the New Mexico state line due to the Wallow Fire. This closure stretches from Milepost 384 to 401. More than 200 miles of state highways are closed due to major wildfires. Other closed highways include U.S. 180 and U.S. 191.
CALIFORNIA. Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, one of the busiest freeways in the country, will be closed for 53 hours from the night of July 15 until the morning of July 18 to allow demolition of part of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. Northbound I-405 will be closed for 10 miles between I-10 and U.S. 101, and southbound I-405 will be closed for four miles between U.S. 101 and the Getty Center Drive exit.
IOWA. All lanes of I-29 for a 10-mile stretch north of Council Bluffs are closed because of Missouri River flooding and may not reopen until August. A 40-mile detour runs over I-80 and I-680.
LOUISIANA. Funds have been earmarked for the state to complete construction of I-49. The road runs from I-20 in Shreveport to the Arkansas line and from I-10 in Lafayette to the West Bank Expressway in New Orleans. Bills authorizing the funds are moving through the legislature. If approved the project could be completed by 2016.
MARYLAND. Tolls for five- and six-axle commercial vehicles may double or triple by July 2013 on the state transportation authority’s eight facilities. One-way tolls on bridges on U.S. 50/301 and U.S. 301 would increase from the current $15 to $30 on Jan. 1, and to $48 on July 1, 2013. A $30 toll on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway on I-95 would jump to $36 in 2012 and to $48 in 2013.
MAINE. In September, violators will face a minimum fine of $100. Maine is the 33rd state to prohibit texting while driving.
MISSOURI. I-55 welcome centers near Hayti and Marston are open with parking spaces, restrooms and picnic areas.
NEVADA. A bill has been sent to the governor that would establish the state’s first toll road around Boulder City. The $400 million, 15-mile bypass is aimed at relieving traffic from the opening of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge.
OREGON. The governor signed a bill that voids any motor carrier contracts executed after May 26 that indemnify shippers for losses caused by their own negligence. The Oregon law pertains to contracts for transporting property for compensation or hire; entry on property to load, unload or transport property; or any service incidental to such activity, including packing or storage of property.
PENNSYLVANIA. Ephrata’s Milestone Restaurant and 222 Truck Stop closed May 31, and will be demolished. Planned for the site is a convenience store and fuel station.
TEXAS. A bill would authorize speeds of 85 mph on highways built after June 1, 2011. Speed limits for trucks now range from 60 mph for farm to market roads up to 70 mph for Interstates 20 and 10.
Love’s opens two travel centers
Love’s Travel Stops has opened two new locations in Ocala, Fla., and Dickson, Tenn.
The Ocala facility at I-75 exit 358 offers 73 truck parking spaces, 16 auto fuel dispensing stations, eight truck fuel dispensing stations, two Diesel Exhaust Fluid dispensers, CAT scales, a lotto machine and Subway and Chester’s restaurants. The company will open a tire care center at the travel stop in mid-June.
The travel stop in Dickson is located at I-40/Highway 48 at exit 163. The company is donating $2,000 to local youth sports organizations. n
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.