EPA focuses on idle-free corridors
With dozens of trucks idling on a hot Atlanta truck stop parking lot, Christie Todd Whitman, outgoing administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced June 10 a new federal anti-idling initiative. Whitman, who left the agency at the end of June, was joined
by officials of IdleAire, an idling-alternative technology that provides power, climate and communication utilities to truck cabs. The company announced the national rollout of its truck stop program and the grand opening of its facility at the Petro Stopping Center on Bankhead Highway.
Whitman said EPA is going forward with a plan to produce idle-free trucking and rail corridors along major freight routes. The National Transportation Idle Free Corridor program is in its infancy, but EPA officials say the plan will ultimately fund initiatives like IdleAire to create entire shipping lanes where idling is unnecessary. The EPA is mapping out the corridors even though there is no funding in the agency’s proposed budget.
“This new initiative will help support emissions reductions technology at truck stops and railheads along these corridors,” Whitman said. An EPA spokesman said some monies might come from the Department of Energy funding bill being debated by Congress.
At the same event, IdleAire announced that it had signed several major carriers, including National Freight, J.B. Hunt, Celadon, Quality Carriers and FedEx Custom Critical, to service contracts. Drivers for those carriers will gain access to climate, electrical, communication and entertainment services at reduced rates. The service normally costs $1.50 an hour. Carriers say they will be able to cut idling expenses, save fuel and help retain drivers with a new benefit.
“The big thing is to improve fuel economy,” says Joe Monteleone, vice president of maintenance for National Freight. “But it’s also something we can offer drivers.”
FMCSA tightens rules on interstate movers
Beginning in March of next year, interstate household goods carriers and brokers will be subject to stricter rules aimed at improving consumer protection. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s interim final rule specifies that carriers must provide written estimates, deliver goods on dates agreed upon and publish accurate advertisements with their name and U.S. Department of Transportation number. They also must offer an arbitration program for individual shippers and weigh shipments of customers given non-binding cost estimates. The rule was published in the June 11 Federal Register with an enforcement date of March 1, 2004.
“This rule promotes fair dealing by movers and provides consumers with the necessary information to make educated decisions about moving their belongings across state lines,” said Annette Sandberg, FMCSA administrator-designate.
The same advertising requirements applicable to movers will apply to household goods brokers, while movers will be held to the estimates of brokers with whom they have written agreements.
The rule stipulates that a carrier may demand no more than 100 percent of a binding estimate before delivery or 110 percent of a non-binding estimate upon delivery.
Movers that determine extra services are required after the goods are in transit will now be required to inform the shipper before doing any extra service. Also, the customer must sign a written attachment to the contract if the customer agrees to pay for these extra charges.
The FMCSA can levy civil fines against violators of the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations, including a $500 per day minimum penalty against carriers for each violation.
The FMCSA investigates serious violations of mover non-compliance. But the agency does not have the power to resolve consumer complaints over loss and damage, settle disputes or obtain reimbursement for consumers.
For a copy of FMCSA’s interim final rule, visit this site and search Docket No. 2979.
NTSB: Ban cell phones for new drivers
The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that new automobile drivers be prohibited from using cell phones while driving and that 33 states should add wireless phone use to their accident investigation forms under the driver distraction section.
The recommendations were included in a June board’s final investigation report into a 2002 highway crash that resulted in five fatalities. Authorities believe the accident was caused by a 20-year-old driver who lost control of her vehicle during a cell phone conversation. The board believes she lost control because she was talking on a cell phone and was unfamiliar with the vehicle, which she bought the same night she wrecked.
The board did not recommend statewide bans on handheld cell phones, which New York approved in 2001 and Massachusetts is currently considering. A report summary and recommendation can be found on the board’s website at under publications.
Trucks carried 5.4 percent more cargo in April than in March, according to the American Trucking Associations’ preliminary April data for its Truck Tonnage Index, which is seasonally adjusted. Tonnage “continues to gain ground lost during the recession,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.
Cannon Express founders Dean and Rose Cannon have sold 60 percent of the truckload carrier’s outstanding stock to Arizona Diversified Equity, a company specializing in acquiring companies in strategic industries.
More than half of large-truck fatal crashes occur on non-divided two-lane roads, according to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report is available at this site.
U.S. Department of Transportation announced $693 million in Federal Highway Administration discretionary funds for projects in 50 states and the District of Columbia. For state-by-state totals, visit this site.
Covenant Transport has ordered up to 500 Volvo VN 670 trucks with sleeper cabs and Cummins ISX engines. Delivery is planned for the third quarter.
Illinois State Toll Highway Authority will redevelop seven oasis rest stops through an agreement with developers investing $94 million in return for a 25-year lease.
FMCSA rejects younger driver proposal
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied the Truckload Carriers Association’s petition for a pilot program using drivers ages 18 to 20. For all practical purposes, the program was doomed at least for this year anyway when Congress prohibited all funding for a program to allow interstate driving by drivers younger than 21.
The TCA program would have allowed a limited number of younger drivers to drive trucks in interstate commerce under certain conditions. The agency said in a release that it denied the request because it did not have enough information to measure if the pilot program would be at least as safe as the current program, where license holders who drive interstate must be 21 years or older.
The association’s 2000 proposal would have screened candidates, trained them at truck-driving schools certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute and given them an apprenticeship with approved motor carriers until the drivers reached the age of 21.
The agency stated it received 1,634 comments, and at least 90 percent of the comments were against the program. Most critics were concerned about the maturity and driving experience needed to operate a truck in interstate commerce.
TCA President Robert Hirsch said the organization was disappointed in FMCSA’s rejection of the pilot program. “I am nonetheless pleased by the fact that FMCSA did not rule out entirely considering a similar pilot in the future,” he said. In its June 9 Federal Register, FMCSA said it does not believe that all drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 should be viewed as a safety risk while at the controls of a commercial motor vehicle. “Denial of the TCA petition should not be construed as a rejection of the argument that screening, training and mentoring could improve the safety performance of younger CMV drivers,” the agency said.
Colorado adopts rules for movers
A new Colorado law prevents intrastate household movers from withholding delivery if the customer pays the specified fee and requires movers to provide lists of costs and services.
DOT modifies drug-testing rule
The Department of Transportation issued an interim final rule to prevent employees in transportation industries who may naturally produce highly diluted urine specimens from being unfairly found to have violated the department’s regulations. The rule expands the definition of “dilute tests” and changes the amount of a chemical called creatinine in a urine specimen that triggers a finding that the individual has refused to take a drug test.
The rule took effect immediately, but DOT is accepting comments until Aug. 26. For a copy of the rule and to comment, visit this site and search Docket No. 15245.
CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Illinois hot in August
|CCJ Equipment Demand Index|
When looking for spot freight in the dry van market in August, Illinois should be an excellent source. According to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index, Illinois has held the top spot for van demand in August for three years.
Demand for flatbed equipment has grown over the past three years with greatest growth occurring in Texas. Over the last three years, Texas worked its way up from No. 4 in 2000 to No. 1.
California maintained the top position for reefer demand for the third consecutive month. Over the past three years, California climbed three ranks to first place for August reefer demand.
The index, based on equipment searches performed by TransCore customers, shows the top 15 states in terms of demand for trucks in the spot market in the three most common equipment types: dry vans, flatbeds and refrigerated units. The index is intended to help fleet operators identify the most promising opportunities for backhaul and other spot-market freight in the month after its publication.
Trucking group blasts SHIPA
A bill in Congress that would expand federal oversight on the nation’s highways is drawing fire from the American Trucking Associations and support from other groups. The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act (SHIPA), introduced in the House as H.R. 2180 and in the Senate as S. 1140, would give the federal government jurisdiction over trailer length and truck weights throughout the National Highway System.
The proposed legislation would standardize trailer length and weight and limit the use of triples and doubles. Currently states maintain that authority, and many states allow trailer lengths in excess of 53 feet. The bill was introduced before but died in Congress. Sponsors are Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
ATA is fighting the bill as unnecessary federal regulation and is accusing the railroad industry of trying to mandate more freight for its industry. The bill is backed by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, which ATA terms a “front group” for the railroads.
DOT’s registration proposal draws concerns
A provision tucked away in the DOT’s proposed reauthorization of highway and motor carrier programs in May escaped the view of several industry groups and interested parties until it was reported in the June 2003 issue of CCJ as one of numerous DOT proposals related to motor carriers. The provision requires the registration of freight forwarders and brokers of household goods, but it also authorizes DOT to rescind the registration requirements for freight forwarders and brokers of other property.
In its summary of the proposal, which is under consideration in Congress, DOT said, “The need to protect shippers of household goods is clear, but commercial shippers and carriers may no longer derive a benefit from registration of other freight forwarders. This would be an issue for the Secretary to consider through notice and comment rulemaking.” Similarly, the department said that if its proposal is adopted, “Brokers of household goods must continue to be registered, but the Secretary would be authorized to eliminate registration of other types of brokers if that requirement is no longer needed to protect shippers.”
The Transportation Intermediaries Association, which told CCJ that it did not propose the language, planned to hold an emergency board meeting in late June to determine what position to take on DOT’s proposal. (For more on the proposal, see Sound Law)
Truck driver helped Al Qaeda
An Ohio trucker is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 1 for his role in assisting Al Qaeda in planning potential terrorist acts in the United States. Iyman Faris, also known as Mohammad Rauf, 34, of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., according to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. The charges are providing material support and resources to Al Qaeda and conspiracy for informing the terrorist organization about possible U.S. targets for attack.
“We have taken another American-based Al Qaeda operative off the streets, who appeared to be a hard-working American trucker, but secretly scouted terrorist strikes that could have killed many of his fellow citizens,” Ashcroft said.
Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kashmir, had entered his plea May 1, but the plea was not unsealed until June 19.
In recent weeks, Newsweek published stories describing an Ohio trucker involved in homeland terrorism plans, but federal officials had not spoken on the record about him. On June 16, an FBI spokesman confirmed an Ohio trucker was involved in terrorism plots revealed by an arrested Al Qaeda leader.
Faris could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
During a trip to Pakistan in early 2002, a person the Justice Department described as Osama bin Laden’s No. 3 man asked Faris what he could do for Al Qaeda. Faris told of his work as a trucker, including his routes and deliveries for airport cargo planes. The leader told him cargo planes interested him because they are heavier and can carry more fuel than other planes.
Senator demands terrorism safeguards
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has called for federal agencies to use better methods to prevent trucks from being used as vehicles of terrorism. The New York Democrat announced his plan in Rochester, where on April 29 a loaded tanker truck exploded, killing one, injuring 11 others and damaging 23 homes. Each day, U.S. gasoline tankers make 50,000 trips and 740,000 hazardous waste loads by truck, Schumer said in a statement.
“We can spend billions securing our airports, providing small pox vaccines to everyone and increasing guards at the northern border, but if we do not secure our truck fleet, this country will still be at grave risk from a terrorist attack,” Schumer said.
Schumer asked the Transportation Security Administration to require Global Positioning System units on all trucks, and he wants the agency to require hazmat carriers to register truck plans, similar to the way flight plans are filed. The idea is that if all trucks have GPS and filed route plans, the TSA could easily learn if a truck veered off course and where it is. Schumer also suggested panic buttons and engine kill switches.
DHS to move on security rules
The shipping and transportation communities should expect to see several important rulemakings from the Department of Homeland Security in the near future, a senior DHS official said in early June. Speaking at a National Cargo Security Council summit in Nashville, Tenn., Asa Hutchinson, DHS under secretary for border and transportation security, said carriers and shippers should especially watch for regulations aimed at security port-bound cargo. A rulemaking regarding advance notification was to have been forwarded to the White House by the end of June.
On another topic, Hutchinson defended the fact that homeland security efforts have sapped some of law enforcement’s ability to combat routine cargo theft. “Our concentration has to be on counter-terrorism,” he said. “The FBI had to diminish some of its efforts in other areas. Cargo theft investigations is one of those areas.”
Hutchinson also said that pilot programs in Los Angeles and Philadelphia involving the Transportation Workers Identification Card were going well and that the program was moving rapidly.
ATA celebrates 100 years of trucking
In 1903, the Automobile Club of America held a contest in New York City to determine whether self-propelled vehicles could be used in commerce at a lower cost or greater efficiency than horse-drawn vehicles. According to the American Trucking Associations, that event has been recognized as the official launch of the U.S. trucking industry.
To help honor the trucking industry and the people who deliver America’s freight safely, efficiently, and on time, ATA has produced a special 100th anniversary logo. The local will be used at ATA functions and in ATA publications and is available to ATA’s affiliated state trucking associations, conferences and councils.
Roadway adjusts outlook
Roadway Corp. created some concern in the investment community when it announced June 5 that it expects second-quarter earnings to be 33 cents per share – 50 percent below the low end of the range of expectations previously set for the quarter. The carrier blamed revenue shortfalls driven by softer-than-anticipated tonnage levels, pricing pressures and a shift in freight mix.
The company said that the increased tonnage and stable pricing for Roadway Express that followed the demise of Consolidated Freightways in September 2002 have been diluted by “the longevity of the weak economy and excess capacity that still remains in the industry.”
Yellow Corp. reaffirmed earlier second-quarter expectations, and Arkansas Best Corp. said tonnage and pricing for ABF Freight System “continue to be consistent with those seen in the first quarter of 2003.”
Hino Trucks restructures U.S. company
Hino Motors Ltd. is restructuring its distribution company, Orangeburg, N.Y.-based Hino Diesel Trucks (U.S.A.) Inc. Hino entered into an investment agreement with PCP Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of Penske Corp., and its existing partners, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc.
Hino Diesel Trucks plans to build a nationwide sales and service network that will offer a new line of conventional medium-duty trucks incorporating Hino Diesel engines and American-produced driveline components.