Transportation Security Administration as of late March was holding firm on the April 1 deadline for inauguration of fingerprint-based background checks for truck drivers authorized to haul hazardous materials. States that cannot meet the current deadline must apply for an extension from the TSA before April 1. States granted an extension have until Dec. 1 to comply.
Wabash National Corp. said that due to price increases from its suppliers of steel, aluminum and wood, it is increasing the prices of its new trailers by 4.5 percent to 6 percent, effective immediately.
American Trucking Associations has made available for purchase and installation “Good Stuff – Trucks Bring It” decals, which are among the chief elements of ATA’s new trucking industry image campaign. Decals are available in two sizes – 30 inches by 30 inches and 12 inches by 12 inches For more information, visit www.truckline.com/store.
Oklahoma’s legislature is considering legislation (HB 2559) that would put to the state’s voters a proposal for a sharp increase in fuel taxes. Under the bill, which passed the House last month, the diesel tax would grow to 22 cents per gallon from 13 cents. The gasoline tax would grow to 23 cents from 16 cents.
South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed legislation repealing the state’s 4 percent tax on cargo picked up and delivered within the state. Intrastate carriers had complained that the 10-year-old tax made it difficult for them to compete with trucking companies. located just across the state’s borders that did not have to pay the tax when hauling across the state line.
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed legislation that will, effective July 1, make it a misdemeanor to leave containers of body waste, such as bottles of urine, along state roadways. Violators would be subject to fine of up to $1,000, jail time or both. Alternatively, the court may allow the violator to pay for his crime by working 40 hours picking up litter from roadsides.
GAO suggests engine incentives
The General Accounting Office, Congress’ watchdog agency that investigates the executive branch, recommended that the Environmental Protection Agency consider ways to address fleet concerns about cost, reliability and availability of engines complying with EPA’s upcoming 2007 diesel emissions standards. In comments on GAO’s draft report, EPA said it feared that establishing such a panel might delay progress toward meeting the 2007 standard, but GAO disagreed.
GAO said that the surge in truck buying immediately prior to the October 2002 switchover to new emission standards could delay the benefits of EPA’s 2002 standards, especially considered that truck owners seem to be operating their equipment longer than in the past. The congressional agency is concerned that without more certainty over the costs and reliability – and without incentives not to do so – fleet owners will pre-buy once again prior to initiation of the 2007 standards, delaying benefits once again.
EPA has taken a number of steps to aid the transition to the new diesel engine standards in 2007, as well as the new low-sulfur diesel standards for 2006, GAO said. But the congressional agency said some stakeholders would like more help. Although most engine, emissions control and fuel industry representatives say their technologies will be ready on time, some are concerned.
Manufacturers plan to have limited numbers of prototype engines ready for a few fleets to test by mid-to late-2005. Trucking companies say they need new engines 18 to 24 months before the 2007 deadline to test the engines in all weather conditions and to develop their long-term purchasing plans. But some companies are concerned that providing test engines to only a few fleets may not provide the industry as a whole with sufficient information to judge the engines’ performance. And some expect another increase in engine cost and loss of fuel efficiency. And the fuel industry is concerned that the new low-sulfur diesel may not be available nationwide initially. To provide more comfort, GAO said an independent review panel could report to all concerned parties on the progress toward 2007 standards. That panel also could assess whether additional steps, including economic incentives, would encourage fleets to steer clear of a large pre-buy and accelerate their purchasing of equipment meeting 2007 standards.
The GAO report is available in PDF format at this site.
ATA to beef up Highway Watch
The American Trucking Associations last month signed a $19.3 million cooperative agreement with the Transportation Security Administration that calls for expansion of the Highway Watch program to further support homeland security efforts. The funds will support immediate Highway Watch instruction for nearly 400,000 transportation professionals. The goal of Highway Watch, ATA says, is to link transportation professionals with “first responders,” law enforcement and the intelligence community in an effort to ensure that a commercial vehicle is never used as a weapon. The expansion of Highway Watch into a nationwide safety and security effort was originally a major goal of the trucking industry’s Anti-Terrorism Action Plan (ATAP) announced in May 2002.
The new “Transportation Army,” as ATA calls it, would include for-hire and private carriers and their drivers and owner-operators, bus and motor coach operators, personnel at truck stops and travel plazas, employees of shippers and maintenance facilities and many others.
Formerly a joint project of ATA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Highway Watch began operation in May 1998 as an ATA highway safety initiative.
Under the cooperative agreement, ATA will expand the current 24/7/365 national call-in center to handle an increasing volume of calls from highway professionals and coordinate state Amber Alert missing children programs with Highway Watch. Then, ATA will expand the Highway Watch operations center that coordinates with federal and state agencies and professional transportation companies in preparing event response and recovery action plans for crisis situations.
The original ATA Truck Informational Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) will become the Highway ISAC to better incorporate and reflect the information available among highway professional organizations. A pool of security-cleared experts with knowledge of transportation operations, law enforcement, and security and intelligence will expand the Highway ISAC. The Center, in conjunction with TSA and DHS, will collate and analyze industry data from the Highway Watch program and prepare reports, bulletins, warnings, alerts, and advisories for use in emergency responses, and when appropriate, for dissemination to the transportation industry and the public.
The expanded Highway Watch program hopes to rely on ATA’s 50 affiliated state trucking associations as primary coordinators in their respective states in an attempt to spread the program as quickly as possible.
“We are honored to be on duty for America,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “Our drivers see a lot through their windshields, and now, if something looks out of line, they can quickly get the information to the right people for appropriate action. Working with TSA and our colleagues in the highway sector, we can help to make our roads safer and more secure.”
American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves last month called on the Department of Energy to pay attention to trends with diesel prices and take action as necessary to keep them from damaging the trucking industry and the economy. In a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Graves noted that the price of diesel currently averages more than $1.60 a gallon. More increases could be on the way with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cutting production, Graves noted.
“This industry is on a recovery path, which is a great indication that the economy is on solid footing, but surging energy costs could easily act as a roadblock,” Graves told Abraham. “I ask you to please watch this situation closely and take the necessary steps to prevent energy prices from hampering the recovery and crippling the industry that delivers the economy.” Graves said one step could be to reduce the fill rate of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In 2003, the Department of Energy increased the SPR daily fill rate by roughly 66 percent. “I would respectfully request that the DOE suspend this higher rate during times of high oil prices like we currently have.”
TCA names Burruss president
The Truckload Carriers Association selected Chris Burruss as the new president of the association. Burruss has been president of the Tennessee Trucking Association for the past five years and previously was vice president of the Missouri Motor Carriers Association from 1991 to 1999. TCA has operated without a president since mid-October when Robert Hirsch and TCA officers agreed to a separation.
“Chris Burruss is a rising star in the trucking industry and TCA is proud to have his knowledge, enthusiasm and experience serving our diverse membership,” said Lance Craig, TCA’s new chairman and chairman of the Search Committee. “The Search Committee was impressed with his work at the Tennessee Trucking Association and believes he is truly the candidate best suited to fit TCA’s needs.”
In brief comments to TCA members at the association’s annual meeting in Hawaii, Burruss referred to his lifelong affiliation with the trucking industry. Burruss’ father George has headed the Missouri Motor Carriers Association since the late 1960s, around the time Chris was born. Noting that many TCA members knew him from his work in Missouri and Tennessee, Burruss added, “Some of you may even remember me as a little kid causing trouble at these types of events.”
“I literally grew up in the industry,” Burruss said in a meeting with trucking journalists following his comments. “I think it’s a natural progression.” He said that while an outsider could competently run a trucking association, it takes familiarity to truly add passion to the job. “You don’t just learn to love trucking coming in from the outside,” he says. “I think this industry is really the ‘salt of the earth.'”
Burruss says that he will engage TCA officers, board and members to determine the association’s future direction. “Where TCA is today, I think the interest is to heal some of the wounds between the American Trucking Associations and TCA.” Burruss emphasized that TCA is a member driven organization. “As staff, it doesn’t really matter what we want to do.”
Although TCA has been without a president since mid-October, Burruss said he was eager to complete some unfinished business at TTA before moving to TCA full time. TTA has a small staff and several major upcoming events. But Burruss is confident that TCA can continue operating as it has done for several months. “The staff has done a great job in the interim.”
Lawrence, MacKinnon win top safety awards
The Truckload Carriers Association presented its Grand Prize in the 2003 National Fleet Safety Awards to Lawrence Transportation Co., Rochester, Minn., and MacKinnon Transport Inc., Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The awards were presented at TCA’s annual convention in Hawaii to Eric Lawrence, president of Lawrence Transportation, and to Ray Haight, president of MacKinnon Transport. Lawrence Transportation won the award for truckload companies operating under 25 million miles annually, while MacKinnon Transport won for the category of over 25 million miles.
Through research and interviews, the safety programs at Lawrence Transportation and MacKinnon Transport were selected for the top honors from among divisional winners, which were based on low accident frequency per million miles. Those winners were:
Division I Winners (under 5 million miles)
Frerichs Freight Lines
Division II Winners (5 to 14.99 million miles)
Five Star Trucking
Division III Winners (15 to 24.99 million miles)
Grand Island Express
Grand Island, Neb.
New Hamburg, Ontario
Division IV Winners (25 to 49.99 million miles)
Cornhusker Motor Lines
Division V Winners (50 to 99.99 million miles)
John Christner Trucking
G & P Trucking
Division VI Winners (Over 100 million miles)
FFE Transportation Services
Smithway Motor Xpress, Inc.
Fort Dodge, Iowa
CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Texas holds lead in vans
During June, expect Texas to offer the richest source of spot-market freight, according to the latest CCJ Equipment Demand Index. In June 2003, Texas led the country in spot market searches within TransCore’s database for vans. The Lone Star State has led van demand for three consecutive months. Data for the past three years showed that Texas led in 2002, moving up from third place in 2001. Tennessee came in second with just 17 percent fewer van searches than Texas.
For flatbed demand, Texas was also at the top position two months in a row. Historically, Texas traditionally has strong demand for flatbeds in June, holding first place for three years in a row. Alabama came in second, with 9 percent fewer flatbed searches.
California took first place for reefer demand in June, a position also held in 2002. Georgia came in a close second, with only about 3 percent fewer reefer searches.
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.
O’Malley honored with TCA’s highest award
The Truckload Carriers Association last month presented Howard O’Malley of North Lima, Ohio-based B & T Express with its Past Chairmen’s Award. The award, which the TCA considers its highest award of recognition, is bestowed on recognized industry leaders who make a significant contribution to the business community, the industry and TCA.
O’Malley was born into a trucking family. His father started Lakeshore Motor Freight in the early 1920s, and Howard joined the business in 1946. After the dissolution of Lakeshore Motor Freight, O’Malley in 1985 began B&T Express with only a couple of trucks. Today, the carrier operates more than 200 trucks, hauling steel in the Midwest. O’Malley has been active in TCA and its predecessor organizations as well as in the American Trucking Associations and the Ohio Trucking Association.