Journal – May 2004

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U.S. district court in New Jersey has declared unconstitutional the state’s ban on 102-inch-wide trucks and double tractor-trailer combinations on roads that are not part of the state’s interstate highway system when the trip does not begin or end in the state. The American Trucking Associations had challenged the ban, instituted in 1999, as an unlawful burden on interstate commerce. The ban will remain in effect pending the state’s appeal.

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index for February was 154.9 – the second highest level ever after 155.8 in December 2003. Compared to February 2003, the unadjusted index rose 7.3 percent. The adjusted index was up 1.8 percent from January, resulting in the fifth increase in the last six months.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) introduced legislation (H.R. 4209) to allow a tax credit of 50 percent – up to $3,500 – of the cost of idling reduction devices on heavy-duty trucks. Plano, Texas-based Energy & Engine Technology Corp., which markets auxiliary power generators for long-haul trucks, praised Granger for the bill introduction.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will sponsor the 17th annual Roadcheck throughout North America June 8-10. The 72-hour event involves more than 9,000 truck and bus inspectors checking commercial vehicles at inspection sites and in roving patrols along highways.

Pilot Travel Centers plans to build maintenance shops at more than half of the company’s 260 locations. Pilot Truck Care Centers will consist of four repair bays open 24 hours, seven days a week, providing oil and tire changes as well as lubrication, maintenance and automated washes. The first center will open in May off Interstates 40 and 55 in West Memphis, Ark.

More than 1,000 owner-operators leased to four Intrenet-owned carriers prior to the company’s Jan. 2, 2001, bankruptcy filing will receive their escrow monies under a plan approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had intervened on behalf of owner-operators who had been leased to the carriers.

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Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. is expanding its Smyth County facility in Virginia to increase production of its 3000R refrigerated trailers. The plant currently employs 700.

U.S. Marine Corps has completed its trailer wrapping partnership with the trucking industry with the installation of recruiting graphics on three trailers donated by Interstate Worldwide Relocation of Springfield, Va. Seventy motor carriers across the United States are participating in the program, which involves 1,000 trailers.

Dana Corp. named Michael Burns chairman, succeeding Glen Hiner who replaced Joe Magliochetti upon his death last fall. Burns, who worked at General Motors for 34 years, was named president and chief executive officer of Dana in February and will continue to hold those titles.

Hazmat endorsements: Fingerprint checks to begin by February
The Transportation Security Administration has finalized its rule requiring fingerprint-based background checks for drivers seeking new or renewed hazardous material endorsements, delaying implementation once again. Under the final rule, all states must begin the checks by Jan. 31, 2005.

An interim final rule (IFR) issued in May 2003 originally required fingerprint-based checks by November of that year. Then on Nov. 7, TSA amended the IFR to delay the fingerprint collection until April 1, 2004. At the same time, the agency invited states that could not meet this deadline to submit a plan to TSA and seek a waiver until no later than Dec. 1, 2004.

Since November, more than 35 states have requested an extension of the April 1 deadline, TSA said. Some of those states expressed concern over their ability to meet the “drop-dead” deadline of Dec. 1. For that reason, TSA selected Jan. 31, 2005, as the compliance date. TSA will work with states, however, to begin fingerprint collection and submission before that date using pilot programs.

Prior to Jan. 31, TSA will conduct name-based, terrorist-focused checks on the estimated 3.5 million drivers currently authorized to transport hazardous materials. If this check suggests that an individual poses a security threat, TSA will take steps to revoke the individual’s hazmat endorsement. The individual will have an opportunity to correct underlying records or cases of mistaken identity by submitting fingerprints or corrected court records.

TSA will begin its name-based check by searching terrorist-related databases. Following that check, the agency will search criminal databases that include outstanding criminal wants and warrants and immigration records to determine citizenship status. Nothing in the final rule changes the Sept. 2, 2003, deadline for hazmat endorsement holders to surrender their endorsements if they know they have committed a disqualifying offense within the time periods set out in the rule. TSA said it will work with state agencies, labor organizations and the trucking industry to communicate the surrender provision widely and let affected drivers know about the waiver process.

Legislation passed late last year requires the Department of Homeland Security to assess a fee for the cost of any credential and background checks provided through the department for transportation workers. TSA is preparing a rulemaking to establish fees for the hazardous materials endorsement checks and similar credentialing programs.

For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 14610.

Tighter rules for driver records checks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule specifying the minimum driver safety performance history data that new or prospective employers must seek for applicants being considered for employment as commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The rule also requires former employers to make that information available to prospective employers.

The rule is intended to help carriers obtain more driver safety information and limits the liability of those required to provide and use the information. Carriers had expressed concern over liability issues when the rule was being considered.

Employers must tell applicants that they have the right to review, request correction, or refute what a previous employer provided in their safety history. Previous employers must respond within 30 days to questions by prospective employers investigating an applicant.

Previous employers will be required to confirm employment up to three years back and provide other information, such as crash involvement. Finally, past employers must provide alcohol and controlled substance violations, rehabilitation efforts and reversion to illegal alcohol or controlled substances if rehabilitation was unsuccessful.

The FMCSA has stated it will investigate carriers that fail to comply. Carriers can be cited and could be subject to civil penalties.

The rule became effective April 29 and applies to all motor carrier employers regulated by FMCSA regulations whose employees or former employees apply to work for a motor carrier in interstate commerce. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 2277.

Hours rules: Carriers strive to solve waiting problem
Time spent loading and unloading trucks is by far the biggest issue impacting productivity under the new hours-of-service rules, said fleet managers at a roundtable held during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual meeting in March.

Carrier attendees agreed that communication with customers is key to regaining lost productivity. For example, to help his customers better understand the impact of the new rule, Bryan Molinaro-Blonigan with Warren Transport, Waterloo, Iowa, said his company has been holding a series of focus groups. Too often, he said, when calculating a driver’s hours for a load, customers assume they are getting a “fresh truck” every time. “They don’t understand that the guy may already have four or five hours out of the day,” he said.

The new rule has led many carriers to charge for detention time. “We’re doing a good job of billing,” said Bill Wilson, vice president of safety and risk management for John Christner Trucking, Sapulpa, Okla. “I don’t know if we’re collecting that much, but we’re billing it.”

Detention time becomes especially critical on multi-stop loads, said Dave Scureman, executive vice president for Louis J. Kennedy Trucking, Kearny, N.J. “Some customers were trying to turn us into an LTL carrier,” he said, by asking drivers to make six to eight stops on a truckload. But now “customers are working with us to reduce our detention time drastically,” he said.

Working with his customers has also helped convert many accounts to drop and hook operations, said Vern Garner, owner of Garner Transportation Group and former chairman of the American Trucking Associations. That change, he said, has also helped with recruitment and retention. “Even though we paid for detention, the drivers want to be driving, not sitting,” he said.

O&S Trucking began paying detention time to drivers in April “whether or not we collect it,” said Jim O’Neal. “We’re not going to do this on the backs of drivers,” he said. O’Neal, who is chairman of TCA’s shipper-carrier relations committee, says TCA will work with the National Industrial Transportation League and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to revisit the issue of shipper-carrier best practices. “We are trying to facilitate a meeting to work through issues such as a standard amount of waiting time.”

Asked to raise their hands if they believed drivers and owner-operators will come out winners under the new rule, no participants gave a positive response. “The last thing we want to do is push people over the edge who are already way too close to being on the verge of not being able to make a decent living,” said Brian Griffin, president and CEO of Roberson Transportation Services, Mahomet, Ill., who moderated the discussion. “That’s one of the issues this association needs to focus on.”

NHTSA to halt drivers with multiple CDLs
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to require states to check an applicant’s driving record through both the National Driver Register and Commercial Driver’s License Information System before issuing any type of driving license. The proposal, which would implement changes mandated by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, is intended to keep CDL holders from using multiple licenses to avoid the consequences of traffic violations. The CDLIS maintains driving records of CDL holders, while the NDR keeps records only on those drivers with serious traffic offenses.

The proposal also would clarify that the only records reported to the NDR are ones of individuals who have been convicted or whose license has been denied, canceled, revoked or suspended for certain offenses.

Comments are due June 1. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 17326.

Schneider driver named 2003 Highway Hero
Derrick Harris was named the 2003 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The three other finalists were David Dunham, Joe Sines and Anne Spriggs.

All four finalists aided victims of traffic accidents or other emergencies in 2003. Harris, of Hopewell, Va., a driver for Schneider National, saved the life of a person who had been set on fire near the side of the road. He stopped, grabbed a blanket and cooler of water and extinguished the fire by wrapping the person in the blanket, then soaked it with water for more comfort for the victim. Though the victim suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, Harris’ quick actions helped save his life. He also provided information to police, which led to a suspect.

Dunham, of Fitchburg, Mass., pulled truck driver Azem Rizvanovic of Arizona from a burning truck. Rizvanovic fully recovered from the accident. Dunham, employed at the time of the rescue by Ronnie Dowdy Inc., now drives for U.S. Xpress.

Sines, of Horse Shoe Run, W.Va., a driver for Schneider National, used a pocketknife to cut the safety straps and free two young girls from the back seat of a badly wrecked van.

Spriggs, of Willow Springs, Mo., a driver for CRST, revived a 5-year-old girl who was unconscious and suffering from a grand mal seizure. Spriggs moved the girl’s tongue and administered CPR. After a few minutes, the girl was breathing, and an ambulance took her to a hospital.

“Stories like these make us all thankful that there are courageous individuals such as professional truck drivers on our roadways,” said Steve McClellan, Goodyear’s vice president for Commercial Tire Systems.

To nominate a professional truck driver for the 2004 Goodyear Highway Hero Award, visit this site.

TRALA names Driver of the Year
Thomas Wrenn, a driver for Cargo Transporters (CT Group) in Claremont, N.C., has been honored as the Truck Renting and Leasing Association’s 2004 Driver of the Year. Wrenn, who has received 11 safety awards during his career, has logged more than 4 million accident-free miles.

“My advice to younger drivers is to go to work for a company that is safety oriented and takes care of its equipment,” Wrenn says.

Wrenn has served for the past seven years as a driver trainer for the CT Group. “One of the reasons we selected Tom as a driver trainer is his driving ability and the professional way he handles himself not only on the road with customers but with the driving public,” says CT Group President Tony Pope.

TRALA’s Driver of the Year program is sponsored by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Wrenn was honored for his accomplishments last month at TRALA’s annual meeting in Phoenix.

Big Rig Ride pays big for PTDI
The second annual Big Rig Ride, held in conjunction with the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting on the Big Island of Hawaii, netted $6,000 for the Professional Truck Driver Institute, a non-profit organization managed by TCA. Sixty Harley-Davidson riders explored the northern end of the island in an all-day event March 13. Among the highlights was a scenic viewing of whales jumping off the coast near Honokaa.

Sponsors of the second annual Big Rig Ride were Bridgestone/Firestone, Caterpillar, DNV, McLeod Software, Peterbilt, Pilot Travel Centers, Qualcomm, Roadranger and Volvo.

Courts hear hours rules, Mexico appeals
Trucking took center stage in federal courts twice last month.

Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers asked three federal judges last month to reject the new hours-of-service regulations that took effect earlier this year. A panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also heard the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s defense of the hours rules during oral arguments April 13.

Public Citizen, CRASH and PATT argued that the FMCSA should issue new rules because the current rules do not accomplish the agency’s goal of improving safety. FMCSA and the American Trucking Associations, which had filed a brief supporting the agency, argued that the rules are based on sound science.

On April 21, Public Citizen and FMCSA squared off again before the U.S. Supreme Court over a lower court decision delaying the opening of the border to Mexican trucks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled that FMCSA was required to conduct a detailed environmental impact statement and a general conformity evaluation before allowing Mexican trucks to do business in the United States. Public Citizen, the Teamsters, the California Labor Federation and the Environmental Law Federation had argued that there wasn’t sufficient study of the impact on air quality.

Training ordered for doubles and triples
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month issued the first minimum training requirements for operators of longer combination vehicles (LCVs). The rule also establishes requirements for instructors who train drivers of doubles and triples. Effective June 1, FMCSA’s rule prohibits motor carriers from allowing drivers to operate a double- or triple-trailer until they have the training specified in the rule – even if they have state-issued commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) with a double/triple trailer endorsement.

Mandatory LCV training will consist of driving and non-driving activities, such as route planning and checking cargo and weight. Because LCV doubles and triples have different operating characteristics, FMCSA established different training courses for each vehicle group. The rule also establishes two types of LCV driver instructors, classroom instructors and skills instructors.

To qualify for the doubles training, drivers will need to show six months’ driving experience in vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds. To enroll in the triples training class, drivers will need to show six months’ truck-tractor/semi-trailer or twin-trailer experience. Motor carriers may waive driver-training requirements for current LCV commercial motor vehicle drivers who have safe driving records and at least two years of LCV driving experience.

For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 2176.