National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has drafted a proposal to reduce the required stopping distance for new heavy-duty truck tractors, and the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the document. The long-anticipated proposal would revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 121, which currently requires a loaded tractor-trailer traveling 60 mph to stop within 355 feet.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has withdrawn an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that had been issued in 1992 regarding the vision standard for commercial motor vehicle drivers. After reviewing comments, FMCSA said it believes there is insufficient data to support moving forward with a proposal to change the vision standard now, but a review of vision standards will occur as part of FMCSA’s long-term plan to reevaluate all of its commercial driver health standards and guidelines.
Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.5 percent from May to 112.6 in June, the first decline in three months, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The June 2005 level is still 1.1 percent higher than the June 2004 level.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and most of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced legislation (S. 1699) to strengthen federal prohibitions against the trafficking in manufactured goods that bear counterfeit marks. A similar measure (H.R. 32) passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has unveiled a pilot project to explore the use of alternative-fuel vehicles in the state’s fleet, beginning in 2006. If the pilot program continues as envisioned, at least 25 percent of all new passenger vehicles purchased for the state’s fleet will be hybrid by 2011.
Yellow Roadway appointed Michael Smid president of Roadway Express, replacing Robert Stull, who retired after 28 years with Roadway. Smid previously was president of YRC Enterprise Services and chief integration officer and has held a variety of management positions at Yellow Transportation since 1985.
Dart Transit announced that David Oren became company president on Oct. 1. Oren succeeds his father, Donald Oren, who is stepping down as president but will remain as board chairman.
The litigation that resulted in the latest version of the hours-of-service regulations was led solely by three highway safety advocates. The next round may include a notable new party – the Teamsters Union. On Sept. 23, the Teamsters joined with Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other highway safety groups in filing a petition for reconsideration of several aspects of the new rules, which were slated to take effect Oct. 1. A petition for reconsideration often is the first step toward a challenge in the federal appeals court.
“We are extremely disappointed that the agency basically issued the same HOS rule that was thrown out by the federal court because that version didn’t consider the health of the driver,” said Teamsters General President James Hoffa. “This new rule is almost identical to the current rule and the two additional changes they made – the sleeper berth modification and the new short-haul provision – put our drivers at greater risk.”
The coalition disagrees with the new short-haul provision – a change that would allow delivery drivers, operating within a 150-mile air radius of their reporting station, to have a 14-hour on-duty period, with two 16-hour days a week. The petition also argues against the 34-hour restart.
The Teamsters also filed a separate petition to address the sleeper berth modification due to the effect on team drivers. “The only thing this will do is force team drivers to drive for eight hours straight, causing drivers to be more fatigued,” Hoffa said.
TSA eyes nationwide hazmat tracking
The Transportation Security Administration last month awarded a contract of almost $3.2 million to Buffalo, N.Y.-based General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to continue a pilot project related to the security of transportation of hazardous materials by truck. In July, TSA awarded a contract to McLean, Va.-based SAIC for $1.4 million to evaluate truck tracking solutions and to monitor the development of a prototype tracking center.
Under the latest contract, General Dynamics will develop and demonstrate the prototype truck tracking center and the associated non-proprietary universal interface that will allow the collection of alert and tracking information from commercially available tracking systems.
In the first phase, TSA will evaluate at least three commercially available solutions against criteria related to tracking capability throughout the United States. Later phases of the pilot program will involve a prototype centralized truck tracking center to provide a single point of contact for analyzing alerts or incidents and coordinating responses to potential threats.
“Evaluating available technologies will help us determine the best way to mitigate the threat of terrorists using hazmat-carrying trucks, and then develop the capability to quickly coordinate the response to an incident or threat,” said Jim Blair, TSA’s acting chief operating officer.
Meanwhile, a series of recent Highway Watch reports during the last month prompted the Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) to ask Highway Watch partners to report potential suspicious activities involving hazmat tank trucks.
“The Highway ISAC has received several reports of similar incidents concerning suspicious behavior involving commercial vehicles hauling petroleum products,” said Don Rondeau, director of the Highway ISAC. “While there are no concrete indicators that these reports suggest pre-operational surveillance, we take them seriously and we’d like our partners to do so as well.”
The Highway ISAC has been investigating similar incidents regarding reported suspicious behavior in relation to the operations of commercial fuel tankers. Each report under investigation has been considered suspicious in nature by the reporting parties, recognized as authorities in hauling specialized/hazmat cargo. Included in the investigation are reports of suspicious vehicles intentionally maneuvering erratically around the truck for an extended period of time and cases of individuals engaging in surveillance activity, including photographing or videotaping operational activities.
In July, Highway Watch, which is operated by the American Trucking Associations, announced that a report to its Highway Watch call center had prompted an FBI investigation. The incident involved 10 men participating in a trucking company’s truck driver skills testing at a truck driving school in Michigan. Although the group possessed commercial driver’s licenses and claimed truck driving experience, only one was capable of completing the most basic truck driving skills.
The school’s training director, a trained Highway Watch participant, was suspicious and checked the group’s paperwork with the trucking company that had sent them for examination. Most of their credentials were deemed incomplete or unverifiable, including their CDLs and home addresses. The driving instructor and trucking company officials ultimately determined that by talking with the contractor who had referred the drivers to the trucking company that all of the 10 were foreign nationals who had entered the United States illegally. The driving instructor then reported the information to the Highway Watch national call center.
Closer ties eyed with driver schools
The trucking industry can meet its long-term driver staffing needs only if it recruits many more drivers out of driving school, the chairman of the American Trucking Associations’ Driver Recruiting/Retention Committee said in late August.
Speaking to the GATS Fleet Forum in Dallas, Ray Kuntz, chief executive officer of Helena, Mont.-based Watkins and Shepard Trucking, noted that the truck driver population is aging – a principal reason why the driver shortageis expected to grow to 111,000 by 2014 from 20,000 today. According to a recent study conducted for ATA by Global Insight, about 20 percent of truck drivers are 55 years old or older.
There simply isn’t a supply of new drivers to offset the expected loss in the next 10 years, Kuntz says. So the ATA committee is focusing much of its ongoing efforts on promoting trucking as a career and on helping driving schools finance entry-level training and to encourage would-be drivers to sign up.
Kuntz acknowledges that one reason fleets don’t hire more drivers out of schools is that insurance companies discourage it and force many carriers to hire drivers with at least 1 to 3 years’ experience. That’s hardly surprising, Kuntz jokes. “I would like to be an insurance company and insure your trucks as they are parked along the wall. I’ll take that risk all day long.”
Driver schools could produce more drivers, but many can’t afford the tuition or the time spent training without an income, Kuntz says. Among the tools the industry is pursuing are federal grants, including $5 million in the newly enacted highway bill; closer relationships among carriers, schools and lending institutions; and a loosening of the Montgomery G.I. Bill restrictions so that the program works effectively for the short terms of driving schools. G.I. Bill payments are subject to monthly caps that are incompatible with a six-week program, Kuntz says.The GATS Fleet Forum was held Aug. 24-25 in conjunction with the Great American Trucking Show.
Driver pay, scheduling more targeted
Fleet owners are adopting three principal strategies in trying to recruit and keep drivers, Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute, told the GATS Fleet Forum in Dallas in late August. NTI publishes the National Survey of Driver Wages, which tracks wage and benefit trends at leading carriers nationwide.
The first strategy is simple and obvious, Klemp says. Base pay for drivers continues to rise – even on top of hefty increases that already have taken place over the past couple of years.
Second, fleets are pursuing driver-friendly practices in pay and working conditions. For example, some carriers are offering daily pay or pay for practical miles rather than household goods miles, Klemp says. Crete Carrier Corp. and CFI are among carriers that recently announced a switch to practical miles. Because practical miles are based on routes needed to accommodate tractor-trailers, driver pay based on those calculations generally will be higher than that based on household goods miles. Other carriers are looking at variable work schedules, such as four days on, four days off or 21 days out, 21 days home.
Third, there’s a trend toward targeted pay increases depending on geography, Klemp says. As an example, Schneider National recently offered a sign-on bonus that applied only to eastern Pennsylvania. Last year, Heartland Express introduced its “Green Miles” program, paying a 7 cent bonus for miles run in the Northeast. And J.B. Hunt has a nationwide pay scale, but uses two different scales in 14 states due to special needs.
Agencies withdraw truck labeling proposals
Two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies on Aug. 26 withdrew controversial proposals to require each commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operating in interstate commerce to display a manufacturer-applied label certifying compliance with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. Although the proposals would have applied to all CMVs operating in interstate commerce within the United States, it was aimed principally at ensuring the safety of equipment operated by motor carriers based in Canada and Mexico.
Critics of the proposals, which were issued in March 2002, argued that they would require a complex and difficult-to-implement process involving replacement of compliance labels and re-creation of manufacturers’ performance test documentation for vehicles long in use. At the same time, critics questioned the benefits of additional regulation since all CMVs operated in the United States must comply with the federal motor carrier safety regulations and pass roadside inspections.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration generally were persuaded by those arguments, saying they will rely on existing motor vehicle safety standards for the United States and Canada and on certifications of Mexican carriers applying for U.S. authority that their vehicles were manufactured or retrofitted in compliance with FMVSSs that applied at the time they were built. Those certifications will be confirmed during pre-authority safety audits and through ongoing enforcement in roadside inspections.
For a copy of the notices of withdrawal, visit this site and search Docket Nos. 10886 and 22197.
Unionized carrier group dissolves
Citing increased consolidation in the less-than-truckload industry, Motor Freight Carriers Association announced a reorganization plan that basically dissolves the association but leaves in place its Trucking Management Inc. unit, which represents members in their relationship with the Teamsters union. TMI will administer the Teamster contract under the current National Master Freight Agreement, which runs through March 2008, and will negotiate future contracts. Jim Roberts, previously executive director of TMI, is now president of TMI.
“The original goal of MFCA was to give unionized truck companies – both large and small – a greater voice in public policy and economic issues affecting the industry,” said departing President Timothy Lynch. “But in light of the changes in corporate ownership that have occurred within this segment of the trucking industry, that goal can strategically be met through the individual companies or other industry trade associations.”
Lynch has rejoined the American Trucking Associations as senior vice president of federation relations and strategic planning. Lynch had worked for ATA from 1993 until the creation of MFCA in 1997.
U.S., Canada seek lower border emissions
The top environmental agencies of the United States and Canada will work together on reducing emissions and fuel consumption by freight transportation companies – carriers and shippers – involved in cross-border trade. In a memorandum of understanding signed at a freight facility near the Ambassador Bridge crossing in Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency and Natural Resources Canada agreed to coordinate voluntary cross-border projects focusing on idle reduction, deployment of clean technologies and driver training and awareness.
The collaboration brings together EPA’s Smartway Transport Partnership and NCan’s FleetSmart. EPA and NCan believe the joint initiative could save up to 440 million gallons of fuel and prevent 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year that are related to the 13 million truck border crossings annually.
CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Illinois leads in van demand, fades in reefers
Illinois continues to hold down first place for van demand in November. Data shows that Illinois consistently has exhibited strong van demand in the prior two years as well. California and Ohio are tied for second place with 3 percent fewer van searches than Illinois.
For flatbed demand, Texas remains in the top position in November, making it eight consecutive months. Both Illinois and Ohio are showing strong demand for flatbeds, coming in at second and third places respectively behind Texas.
California takes over from Illinois in the top position for reefer demand in November. Wisconsin and Illinois are tied for second position with 4 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.