ATA conditionally backs EOBRs

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Overnite Transportation, Richmond, Va., is the first of the nation’s 100 largest trucking companies to train 100 percent of its drivers in the Highway Watch program, the American Trucking Associations announced. Separately, Highway Watch received a $4.8 million federal grant to expand its training of truck drivers and other transportation professionals.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.6 percent in July to 111.9 from the June level of 112.6, the second consecutive monthly decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. However, the index shows growth on a year-over-year basis: The July level was 0.9 percent higher than the July 2004 level.

Schneider National has announced it is equipping its entire company fleet with PrePassPlus, which combines the PrePass electronic pre-clearance of commercial vehicles at weigh stations with the electronic payment of tolls within the E-ZPass network. Installation of transponders began in May and will be completed this fall.

CalArk signed an agreement for the installation of IdleAire’s advanced truck stop electrification system at the carrier’s terminals in Laredo, Texas, and Little Rock, Ark. IdleAire previously announced a terminal installation for Arrow Trucking and says that it is discussing installations with fleets that own a total of 150 terminals.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which failed to win approval for a mandatory truckload fuel surcharge, now is seeking legislation instead that would require that if a surcharge is assessed by the carrier and paid by the shipper, it must be passed in its entirety to the fuel buyer. “The re-regulation argument is gone,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “It’s now an accountability issue, a fairness issue.”

National Motor Freight Traffic Association will begin publishing the new issue of the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) NMF 100-AF in November. NMFTA has been assembling the data and compiling the material that underlies the Classification for nearly 50 years and bought the copyright from the American Trucking Associations earlier this year. For more information, visit

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Global Limo Inc., Pharr, Texas, was shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Oct. 7 following a compliance review launched immediately after the carrier was involved in a fatal bus fire on Sept. 23 near Dallas. The bus explosion and fire killed 23 elderly passengers being evacuated from a nursing home in the path of Hurricane Rita.

New Jersey voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment Nov. 8 that would fund a new diesel reduction program by reallocating revenue from the state’s corporate business tax. Acting Gov. Richard Codey signed legislation Sept. 7 to reduce diesel emissions from school buses, garbage trucks, transit buses and other publicly owned vehicles.

Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee have filed price-gouging lawsuits over retail fuel prices, while the state attorneys general of almost all the other states are investigating price spikes after recent hurricanes. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether “forms of illegal behavior have provided a foundation for price manipulation,” John Seesel, an FTC associate general counsel, said Sept. 22. Such crimes would be pursued aggressively by the FTC, he said.

If the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) in promoting safety and compliance and adopts various other specific principles in its regulations, the trucking industry’s largest association is prepared to back mandatory use of the devices for hours-of-service compliance. The American Trucking Associations’ board of directors adopted policy language to that effect last month at its annual meeting in Boston.

“ATA is constantly seeking new solutions to improve highway safety for all Americans,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “As this issue is studied by FMCSA, we feel that the policy guidance offered by ATA represents a common-sense approach to a complicated issue.”

In February, two ATA committees – Safety Policy and Technology and Engineering – established working groups to develop proposed policy language related to EOBRs. The groups merged in March and over the next several months developed the policy adopted by the ATA board.

The ATA policy lists nine issues that must be “satisfactorily addressed” for ATA to support a federal regulation requiring the use of EOBRs for hours compliance. Those conditions are that:

· There should be sound, consensus-based evidence that EOBR use leads to enhanced fleet safety performance by such means as accident rate reduction and improved compliance, therefore increasing the credibility of EOBR systems as a cost-effective technology for motor carriers;
· EOBR systems should be based on the minimal, functional and performance specifications necessary to record and report hours-of-service compliance accurately and assure reliability and utility of operation;
· Statutory protections should be afforded to motor carriers pertaining to the control, ownership and admissibility/discoverability of data generated and derived from EOBRs, and to assure the privacy rights of drivers;
· Drivers shall be responsible for operating the EOBR in full compliance with all applicable regulations;
· Any EOBR regulation must address the operational diversity of the trucking industry, continue existing exceptions to the record of duty status, and consider additional exemptions that balance compliance and the evolving industry diversity;
· Motor carriers using compliant EOBRs should be relieved of the burden of retaining supporting documents for hours-of-service compliance and enforcement purposes;
· Any EOBR mandate, if instituted, should be made simultaneously applicable to all vehicles of the affected population of motor carriers, and it also should avoid any implementation inequities identified and take measures to eliminate them;
· Any EOBR regulation that takes an incentive-based approach should allow for reasonable and defensible flexibility in the hours-of-service rules for drivers and motor carriers;
· Tax incentives should be pursued as a means to facilitate adoption of EOBR systems.

FMCSA has announced plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on EOBRs early next year, but it’s unclear whether the agency’s proposal would mandate recorders. ATA’s conditional support for mandatory recorders could indicate a belief that mandatory EOBRs are coming.

But the rulemaking also would need to address other issues, especially the fact that available technologies bear little resemblance to those in place in 1988, when the current standards for voluntary automatic onboard recorders were adopted.

In its rejection of the hours-of-service regulations implemented in January 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit questioned FMCSA’s failure to explore mandatory electronic onboard recorders adequately.

Rules take effect
The regulations drafted in response to the appeals court ruling took effect Oct. 1 and principally involve a strict limitation on use of the sleeper berth to satisfy mandatory rest requirements and an expansion of the short-haul exemption for smaller trucks.

Legislation (H.R. 3943) to delay enforcement of the new sleeper berth language until Jan. 1, 2006, was introduced in late September but had not advanced by late October. As the Oct. 1 date approached, ATA sent letters to each of the state governors asking that state enforcement officials follow FMCSA’s lead in establishing a three-month “soft enforcement” period for the new hours-of-service regulations. FMCSA said that during a transition period through the remainder of 2005, it will monitor carriers for “egregious violations” of the rules, defined as “those that show a clear disregard for safety by the motor carrier or operator.”

As of late October, FMCSA had yet to act on several petitions for reconsideration and requests for clarification filed in response to the latest regulations. The most far-reaching petition came from a group of safety advocates – Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Trauma Foundation, Parents Against Tired Truckers – and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and challenge FMCSA on practically all the key issues.

At the other end of the spectrum, ATA asked for a single interpretation or change: to allow a driver operating as part of a two-driver team to record a two-hour period sitting in the non-driving seat as off duty if taken in conjunction with a consecutive eight-hour sleeper berth period. Normally, time spent in the passenger seat is to be logged as on-duty, not driving. Without this interpretation or modification, many teams will move to a 10 hours on, 10 hours off pattern, which could have unintended consequences, ATA says.

For more on the new hours-of-service regulations, including petitions for reconsideration, visit this site and search Docket No. 19608.
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California to ban sleeper idling in 2008
Beginning in 2008, heavy-duty diesel-powered trucks with sleeper cabs will not be allowed to idle for more than five minutes at a time in California under a regulation adopted late last month by the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB). The agency previously adopted a five-minute limit on idling of heavy-duty diesel engines, but it carved out an exception for idling sleeper-equipped trucks for the purposes of meeting federal mandatory rest requirements.

The regulation requires 2008 and subsequent model year engines operating in the state to be equipped with a non-programmable engine shutdown system that automatically shuts down the engine after five minutes of continuous idling. It also regulates in-use sleeper berth equipped trucks, including those registered out of state, requiring operators to shut off their engines before the five-minute idling time is reached.

CARB’s rule allows for the use of alternative technologies to provide power for cab comfort, such as heating and cooling, and onboard accessories for which drivers often idle engines continuously.

The regulations don’t specify those alternatives, leaving it to the market to decide, says CARB spokesman Jerry Martin.

Martin said the board had in mind technologies such as IdleAire, which is installing its advance truck stop electrification systems in California. But CARB’s standard allows for various other options, such as auxiliary power units powered by diesel, fuel cells, compressed natural gas or battery power, Martin says.

“If it’s cleaner than the truck, it’s OK,” Martin says.

Industry backs energy policy
With retail diesel prices hovering around $3.15 for month of October, the American Trucking Associations’ board of directors endorsed a resolution broadly outlining the organization’s proposal efforts to combat escalating fuel prices and shape a comprehensive national energy plan. The resolution calls for increasing the diesel fuel supply; improving the balance between environmental concerns and fuel efficiency; eliminating boutique diesel fuels; and limited use of biodiesel.

“Given the trucking industry’s reliance on available and affordable diesel fuel to move America’s goods and products, we urge the government to act quickly and strongly on our suggested initiatives,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Our current economic conditions require strong actions as part of a comprehensive national energy plan that enables us to deliver America’s goods. The national economy depends upon a healthy and viable trucking industry.”

In a follow-up declaration, the ATA board endorsed the use of biodiesel in blends up to 5 percent as part of a national diesel fuel standard.

“We need to look at all options for extending the supply of diesel fuel,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “Biodiesel represents an important part of a long-term energy plan designed to increase the nation’s fuel supply and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

ATA’s energy policy seeks a single national diesel fuel. Biodiesel meeting the accepted quality standard and blended with petroleum-based diesel in amounts up to 5 percent works in any diesel engine. In addition, biodiesel will ensure that ultra-low-sulfur diesel maintains adequate lubrication.

ATA is working with the National Biodiesel Board to promote the use of biodiesel and ensure its incorporation in the national diesel fuel standard.

Regarding the increased supply of diesel, ATA recently asked that the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior expand the area where companies can drill for oil and natural gas along the U.S. coastline. Currently, drilling is limited to the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. ATA requested that MMS expand drilling areas well beyond those regions, including acreage off the coast of Alaska.

TCA to host fuel economy summit
In response to the recent unprecedented surge and volatility in diesel prices, the Truckload Carriers Association has organized a one-day Fuel Economy Summit, scheduled for Nov. 15 in Chicago.

The meeting will include a forecast of fuel markets by Brad Simons, vice president of Simons Petroleum. Morgan Stanley consultant David Thompson will discuss the basics of fuel hedging. Other sessions discuss engine technologies to improve fuel economy, best practices adopted by motor carriers, use of auxiliary power units and application of fuel optimization tools.

The summit costs $195 for TCA members and $295 for nonmembers and will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton O’Hare near Chicago O’Hare Airport. For more information, visit this site or call 703-838-1950.

Tonnage index down again
The American Trucking Associations said its advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.8 percent in August to 113.5. In addition, the July index – from which the August index declined – was itself 0.5 percent lower than earlier reported following a downward revision. On the bright side, the August index was slightly higher – 0.7 percent – than a year earlier. Year to date, the index is up 2.2 percent compared with the same 2004 period.

On a month-over-month basis, August represents the third consecutive monthly decrease in the index, totaling 1.5 percent, says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. On a year-over-year basis, the index has risen in each 2005 month except April. But growth has slowed from 8.6 percent early this year to below 1 percent.

Manufacturing played a big role in the deceleration in truck tonnage, Costello says. If the Federal Reserve’s measure for manufacturing output is recalculated based on tonnage rather than the value of the product, the so-called truck-tonnage weighted manufacturing production index has slowed from 4.0 percent year-over-year growth in January to just 0.1 percent in August. The same index fell 0.1 percent from July to August, he says.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year for the index is 2000.

ATRI issues ‘crash predictor’ study
The American Transportation Research Institute, the not-for-profit research organization affiliated with the American Trucking Associations, has presented its “crash predictor” study that evaluates and links past driver traffic violations and convictions with their likelihood of being involved in a crash, providing trucking companies invaluable safety-related information on drivers. The study shows what enforcement and education programs are best to address potential or current driver behavior problems.

“We know driver-related factors are involved to a large degree in crashes involving large trucks,” said ATRI Chairman Jim Staley of YRC Regional Transportation. “Our research now gives us an early warning system, so to speak, where motor carriers can intervene when necessary within their driver force to improve and make a profound impact on safety behavior.”

The ATRI research analyzed data on 540,750 drivers gathered over a three-year timeframe to determine future crash predictability. A second objective, in conjunction with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, was to identify effective enforcement actions to counteract the driving behaviors predictive of future crash involvement.

ATRI’s study, “Predicting Truck Crash Involvement: Developing a Commercial Driver Behavior-Based Model and Recommended Countermeasures,” shows reckless driving and improper turn violations as the two violations associated with the highest increase in likelihood of a future crash.

The four convictions with the highest likelihood of a future crash are: improper or erratic lane change; failure to yield right of way; improper turn; and failure to maintain a proper lane. When a driver receives a conviction for one of these behaviors, the likelihood of a future crash increases between 91 and 100 percent. In a summary of all crash data analyzed, reckless driving violations prompt the highest likelihood of a future crash; 325 percent.

More information is available at this site.

TMC awards Silver Spark Plugs
The American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council awarded the Silver Spark Plug – the council’s highest honor – to six trucking industry professionals during the 2005 Fall Meeting in Valley Forge, Pa. on Sept. 18-22.

The recipients are Jerry Anderson, manager for national aftermarket fleet sales for Freightliner in Reidsville, N.C.; Jerry Thrift, senior manager for new product development for Ryder System/Supply Chain Solutions in Miami; Bob Rutherford, fleet sales consultant to National Seating Company in Franklin, Tenn.; Roy Gambrell, director of maintenance for Truck It in Franklin, Ky.; Gail Swiger, ABF driver; and Braxton Vick, senior vice president for Southeastern Freight Lines, Columbia, S.C.

Ridge: Simpler background checks needed
Congress should rethink its piecemeal approach to homeland security mandates and try to ease the financial burden on the private sector, former Homeland Security Tom Ridge says. Speaking at the American Trucking Associations annual meeting in Boston, Ridge singled out mandates for background checks. “Congress has said on three different occasions that you need three separate background checks,” Ridge told trucking executives. “You don’t need three separate pieces of legislation to make you do essentially the same thing.”

Ridge dismissed the notion that tailoring regulation and enforcement with an eye to the cost on industry is an inappropriate nod to special interests. “The only people I know who don’t have special interests are deceased,” Ridge quipped.

A focus on protecting both physical and economic security was one of four principals that guided Ridge’s leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Ridge emphasized integration of both people and technology. Another principle is that you manage risk, not eliminate it, Ridge said, adding that “in a political world, it’s difficult to say that.”

Finally, homeland security demands integration of the entire nation, including “great partners” like the trucking industry. “You can’t secure the country from Washington, D.C. It can’t be done.”

Ridge doesn’t minimize the threat of terrorism, but he isn’t worried. “I’m so confident we will prevail because we Americans don’t live in fear.”

CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Illinois, Ohio lead everyone

December ’04 ’03 ’02
Illinois 1 2 1
Ohio 2 1 2
California 3 10 3
Texas 4 3 4
Indiana 5 7 6
Tennessee 6 5 5
Wisconsin 7 4 7
Missouri 8 6 9
Michigan 9 12 14
Georgia 10 9 8
Kentucky 11 11 11
New York 12 13 10
N Carolina 13 8 12
Minnesota 14 14 13
Iowa 15 16 15
December ’04 ’03 ’02
Ohio 1 2 1
Texas 2 4 4
Illinois 3 1 2
Indiana 4 3 3
Arkansas 5 5 6
Michigan 6 6 5
Alabama 7 8 7
Georgia 8 12 8
Missouri 9 10 15
Oregon 10 15 16
West Virginia 11 20 10
Kentucky 12 11 9
Wisconsin 13 16 12
Minnesota 13 21 19
Tennessee 15 9 18
December ’04 ’03 ’02
Illinois 1 3 2
California 2 10 1
Georgia 3 2 3
Texas 4 5 7
Wisconsin 5 1 10
Idaho 6 13 8
Florida 7 4 9
Ohio 8 7 4
Colorado 9 16 15
Washington 10 12 5
New York 11 11 13
Missouri 12 6 11
Oregon 13 24 16
Minnesota 14 8 14
Arizona 15 25 6

Illinois and Ohio both should be strong sources of spot-market freight for dry van equipment in December, according to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index. The two states tied for first place in December 2004, and both consistently show strong van demand. California is solidly in third place with 4 percent fewer van searches.

Ohio narrowly beat out Texas and Illinois for flatbed equipment searches in December 2004. Texas and Illinois tied with 1 percent fewer searches than Ohio. Illinois takes back the top position from California in terms of reefer demand in December. California and Georgia are tied in second position with 2 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.