House rep intros measure to overturn latest EPA regs

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, April 11, 2023:

House measure would overturn latest heavy-duty emissions rule from EPA

A joint resolution filed in the U.S. House April 6 would overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest emissions regulations targeting heavy-duty trucks beginning with model year 2027.

EPA’s latest regulations, finalized in December, will tighten tailpipe NOx limits to a level 80%-plus below the current standard and reduce the particulate matter limit by 50%. The agency also will require that OEMs extend warranties to 450,000 miles from 100,000 and useful life limits to 650,000 miles from 435,000 miles.

The joint resolution, filed by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), reads that “Congress disapproves the rule” from EPA, adding that “such rule shall have no force or effect.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) filed a similar resolution in the Senate on Feb. 9. Nehls’ resolution in the House was filed with no co-sponsors, but Fisher’s in the Senate has 36 co-sponsors.

Like a bill, a joint resolution still has to be approved by both the the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president.

[Related: Trucking groups slam 'challenging' new EPA rule that slashes truck emissions limits]

North Carolina rest area temporarily closing

Construction began Monday, April 10, on the permanent entrance and exit ramps at the new I- 26 West rest area, located at mile marker 41 near the Henderson/Buncombe County line. The rest area will be closed through mid-May for the safety of drivers and workers. 

A contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation will remove the existing road, excavate dirt, and then build the new concrete entrance and exit ramps. A variety of commercial services for drivers are provided less than one mile away on Airport Road, NCDOT noted. The eastbound rest area will remain open during this construction.

The I-26 West rest area opened last June after crews removed the old structure and built modern facilities for westbound and eastbound travelers. The outside features of the rest areas include 30 truck parking spaces, a patio picnic area, and a dedicated pet area and more.

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[Related: $755 million truck parking bill reintroduced in Congress]

Utah trucking company owners sentenced for bribery scheme

Two individuals were recently convicted and sentenced for their roles in a bribery scheme to defraud FedEx Ground.

Davor Kovacevic and Zlate Balulovski, owners of several trucking companies in Utah, were convicted of wire fraud and money laundering and sentenced each to four years of probation, a $200 special assessment, and a total of $308,049 in restitution. Additionally, Kovacevic was ordered to forfeit $549,034, and Balulovski was ordered to forfeit $554,967. Kovacevic, Balulovski, and co-conspirator Ryan Mower were indicted in October 2019.

According to the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, around April 2012, Kovacevic and Balulovski began bribing Mower, a line-haul manager for FedEx Ground (FXG). Kovacevic and Balulovski asked for and received favors, preferential treatment and assistance in defrauding FXG, OIG said.

The co-conspirators also used Mower's position to manipulate FXG's process for awarding new truck routes to FXG contract service providers, falsify mileage reports so that FXG overpaid the defendants' companies, and receive payments for “ghost routes” that they never completed.

As a result of the scheme, the defendants' companies received approximately $21,373,873 from FXG and paid Mower approximately $165,000 in bribes.

Another former FXG contractor was sentenced in February for being a part of the scheme.

Love’s plans $1B investment to renovate truck stops

Love’s Travel Stops recently launched its Strategic Remodel Initiative that will invest more than $1 billion in updating 200 locations over the next five years. On average, Love’s will invest between $2 million and $7 million per location.

“Investing in existing locations is another way Love’s prioritizes creating a first-class experience for customers,” said Randy Swain, director of construction and remodels for Love’s. “Being strategic with how we update existing locations -- and keeping them open during the process -- strengthens Love’s commitment to getting customers back on the road quickly.”

The stores will remain open during the remodel process, and when completed each location will have a more modern look and open concept, the company said. Locations will be equipped with open-kitchen concepts, multiple restaurant options and updated Love’s Truck Care and Speedco locations. Dog parks will be added to locations without existing ones, where space allows.

The new remodel initiative identifies which locations will be updated based on foot traffic, sales, and store age. Locations being completed soon as part of the initiative include El Paso, Texas, and Columbia, Tennessee. 

Love’s also announced it will update three locations this year via teardown and reconstruction. The locations will be closed during the process and be reopened with an expanded footprint and new look and feel. Love’s locations in Oklahoma City and Gary, Indiana, reopened in February after being complete rebuilds.

Love’s also plans to open 25 new locations in 2023.