Highway safety group calls for speed limiters on trucks, rolling back 2020 HOS changes, more

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, March 14, 2023:

Safety coalition cites hazmat emergencies in call for stricter truck regs

The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), a group that says it's dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, is calling on Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to prioritize truck safety measures in the wake of recent hazmat emergencies.

In a letter to Buttigieg, TSC and other groups said government inaction contributed to the recent train derailment and the resulting hazardous materials spill in East Palestine, Ohio, and a similar scenario could be seen in trucking.

“Government inaction and relentless opposition by special trucking interests put the public at unnecessary and unreasonable risk of a deadly and dangerous crash,” the groups said. “It is past time to issue essential and overdue truck safety standards that will prevent hazmat crashes, save lives, protect communities, and put public safety ahead of corporate profits.”

TSC noted that trucks move approximately double the ton miles of hazmat that trains move per year. As a result, the group is calling on Buttigieg and the DOT to move forward and issue the following safety standards on trucks:

[Related: Ohio, Arizona hazmat disasters hold lessons for carriers, owners in the dangers of safety complacency]

The group also voiced its opposition to several pieces of legislation that the group said “further endanger all roadway users and must be stopped.” These include the Ceasing Age-Based (CAB) Trucking Restrictions Act, which would allow under-21 CDL holders to pick up freight from ports; and the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act.

“The East Palestine train crash has revealed dangerous and deadly deficiencies in the rail transportation of hazardous materials,” TSC said in the letter. “Perilous deficiencies are also ubiquitous in the truck transportation of hazardous materials. There are no defensible excuses for further delays when public safety is clearly at risk. We urge you to act now on mandating these imperative and overdue safety improvements.”

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[Related: FMCSA tightens reporting of drivers' drug and alcohol violation history]

DAT: Spot market slump intensifies

A big spot market slump intensified in the last week with DAT Freight & Analytics, operator of the DAT Load Boards network, noting a 12.7% reduction in load posts in its network. That’s down 71% compared to the same time period in 2022, and 51% lower than the same week in 2018.

  • Dry van load post numbers took the biggest hit, falling by 21.7%, the lowest weekly posting volume all year long.
  • Reefer loads fell at a similar rate -- 20% to the likewise lowest point this year.
  • Flatbed load posts, on the other hand, slipped just marginally -- the number of flatbed posts was 15.6% higher than the February average and nearly equal to the number of loads on the network in the same week in 2019.

Meanwhile, truck posts were up considerably as owner-ops searched for better-paying freight, with rates continuing to fall off February averages for dry vans and reefers, both losing five cents a mile to $2.24 (van) and $2.55 (reefer). Flatbeds were up a single cent/mile to $2.72 a mile. Rates generally are about 50 cents a mile lower than last year but in line with 2018 levels, DAT said.

DAT Analytics Chief Ken Adamo noted he was hopeful that “produce season and retail shopping in the spring will elevate rates,” yet the company’s Ratecast models are getting more pessimistic by the day. “I will tell you if anything close to [the short-term rate forecast] materializes, we’re going to be looking at some significant negative impacts on capacity,” with more carriers exiting the market.  

[Related: FTR: It's back to normal in 2023]

Former FedEx contractor sentenced for role in fraud scheme

On Feb. 16, a former FedEx Ground contractor was sentenced on one count of misprision of a wire fraud conspiracy felony, given knowing concealment of the scheme.

North Carolina resident Leonid Isaakovich Teyf was sentenced to two years in prison and one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,378,702 in restitution.

According to the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, Teyf and co-conspirators were owners and/or employees of Salt Lake Trucking Group (SLTG Ground). SLTG Ground, comprised of several trucking companies, contracted to carry packages for FedEx Ground (FXG).

OIG reported that Teyf and co-conspirators worked the scheme with FXG line-haul manager Ryan Mower -- the company’s highest-ranking Utah employee from about 2008 to October 2019. Using Mower's position at FXG, Teyf and the co-conspirators manipulated the company’s process for awarding new runs. Mower also helped the co-conspirators grow their business larger than FXG allowed for contractors by submitting false information to FXG.

The co-conspirators falsified mileage reports, OIG said, and Mower would occasionally inflate the number of weekly miles driven by one or more of the co-conspirators' companies.

During the approximate 10 years of the conspiracy, SLTG Ground received about $150 million from FXG, and the co-conspirators allegedly paid approximately $300,000 in bribes to Mower.

[Related: FedEx Ground manager, nine Utah-based trucking company owners charged in ‘pay-to-play’ bribery scheme]

Drivewyze adds Pennsylvania to weigh station bypass network

Drivewyze announced this week that Pennsylvania is the latest state to offer its PreClear weigh station bypass service. It joins 45 other states and provinces in the Drivewyze network with more than 880 sites and bypass opportunities.  

“This is a key new state in our network and we’re ecstatic to now have Pennsylvania on board,” said Brian Heath, CEO of Drivewyze. “Pennsylvania is a major thoroughfare for freight transport, and this will give our PreClear customers additional opportunities for bypass -- saving time and money, while allowing drivers to pull more miles.” 

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania has 37 inspection locations that are either at rest areas or welcome centers at state borders. Most are located along the 23 interstates within the Pennsylvania highway system. The mobile platform for Drivewyze allows law enforcement to utilize inspection bypass at all locations where inspections can take place.

“Inspection officers in Pennsylvania rotate where inspections take place -- sites are not operated on a fixed schedule,” said Heath. “Since our system is mobile and can ‘go with’ inspection officers, it allows the state to offer our bypass service wherever inspections are taking place.”

Some of the key routes include I-80, which is a major commerce interstate that starts in San Francisco and goes all the way through Pennsylvania and into New Jersey. Drivewyze has sites in Pennsylvania covering the three locations going eastbound, and the two headed westbound. 

Another major thoroughfare -- I-79 through western Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- makes up part of the corridor to Buffalo, New York and the Canadian border, and is covered with five new Pennsylvania Drivewyze sites northbound, and four sites southbound.