OOIDA to sue over hours rule

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Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.4 percent in October to 111.3 from the September level of 111.8. It was the fourth drop in five months to its lowest level since December 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The October 2005 level is 1.0 percent higher than the October 2004 level of 110.2.

A new Environmental Protection Agency proposal to tighten standards for fine particle matter (PM) is not specifically targeting trucks, although states might limit truck idling as one of the measures to achieve the standard. EPA is seeking comments on a number of alternative levels for PM standards. For more information, visit this site.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials recently announced that an electronic manifest for a truck was filed with the agency for the first time on the southern border. The e-manifest capability is available at the 31 ACE ports in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Washington. Selected ports in Texas will be added early this year.

American Trucking Associations is accepting nominations until Aug. 31 for the 2007-2008 America’s Road Team, which is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America. The team is made up of 12 professional truck drivers who possess an exemplary safety record and a commitment to educating the public about highway safety and the positive aspects of the trucking industry. The nominating company must be a full dues-paying member of ATA. More information is available at www.truckline.com.

Following a decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to stand by its decision to sharply limit split rest for team drivers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says it will take the matter to court. In a Dec. 5 letter to OOIDA’s attorney, the agency denied the association’s petition that (1) the split sleeper-berth provision from the 2003 hours-of-service rule be retained for team drivers and (2) both minimum rest periods under the new sleeper-berth provision be excluded from the 14-hour on-duty limit for solo drivers.

Under the new hours rule that took effect on Oct. 1 last year, FMCSA tightened the rules on split rest for both solo and team drivers. Previously, drivers could use sleeper berths to split their 10 hours of mandatory rest as long as each of the two periods was at least two hours in duration.

Under the new rule, splitting isn’t allowed, although drivers using sleeper berths for rest can satisfy the rest requirement with eight consecutive hours in the bunk rather than the standard 10. But those drivers also must take a two-hour rest period during the next work period, and that break does not stop the clock on the driver’s 14-hour window for driving. OOIDA filed a petition for reconsideration four days after the hours rule was published on Aug. 25.

OOIDA objected to the change in rules for team drivers on the grounds that “not only do team drivers lose their business advantage operating under the new rule, but they also lose their ability to adopt the type of routine schedule that is conducive to getting sufficient rest.” The most frequent complaint was that the inability to split rest would force them to drive long stretches rather than take more frequent rest breaks.

FMCSA acknowledged that most team driver operations would have to change their scheduling practices but said that the rule change was needed to ensure that drivers could obtain seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

“The studies relied upon by the Agency and cited at length in the final rule do not support driver claims that short, but more frequent, periods of rest are just as good at preventing fatigue as a single extended sleep period,” FMCSA told OOIDA. The agency added that research shows that most individuals require seven to eight consecutive hours of sleep every day to maintain proper mental and physical functioning.

On the rest issue for solo drivers, FMCSA questioned the relevance of an OOIDA member survey regarding the 2003 rule that concluded that drivers felt pressure to sacrifice breaks in order to maximize work within the 14-hour driving window. The 2005 rule is significantly different, and the survey didn’t focus on sleeper-berth drivers, the agency said. In any event, since the two-hour break for sleeper-berth drivers is mandatory, “there is no question of incentives or disincentives” regardless of whether the 14-hour clock is stopped.

“What we asked the agency to do was keep the sleeper-berth provision for team drivers to what it was before,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president. “They told us no, they won’t. The severity of that issue [requires that] we have to go after it in the courts, to force a reconsideration if at all possible.”

FMCSA declined to comment on OOIDA’s threat of litigation. The agency has yet to act on the most sweeping petition for reconsideration, which was filed by a coalition of highway safety advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. That petition seeks to reverse numerous changes originally made in the 2003 rule and retained in the 2005 rule, including the 11th hour of driving time, the 34-hour restart of cumulative on-duty time and the decision not to require electronic onboard recorders.


Tonnage index up in November
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 1.9 percent in November, marking its third consecutive monthly increase. The latest boost follows gains of 0.3 percent in September and October. November’s rise denotes the first time the index increased in three successive months since the February through April 2004 period. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index rose to 116.4 from 114.2 in October. The November index stood 2.2 percent higher than a year earlier, representing the largest year-over-year gain since March 2005. Year-to-date, the index increased 2.0 percent compared with the same period in 2004. On a not-seasonally adjusted basis, the index fell 2.2 percent from October to 115.0.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says several carriers noted the 2005 fall freight season started later than in most years. That, coupled with strong holiday retail sales and manufacturing production, helped generate solid gains in November. “Many carriers in recent weeks said demand has been robust and capacity has been particularly tight,” Costello says. “November’s seasonally adjusted surge confirms recent strength in the industry.”


ATRI seeks teams to evaluate idle reduction
American Transportation Research Institute has released a request for proposals seeking project teams to demonstrate and evaluate mobile idle reduction technologies on heavy-duty trucks, either installed as part of the truck manufacturing process or prior to the truck being placed in service. Project teams must consist of a trucking fleet, a truck manufacturer and an idle reduction technology vendor. Interested parties must submit proposals no later than 5 p.m. EST on March 1. A total of $350,000 is expected to be awarded. To obtain a copy of the request for proposals, visit this site. The request is being funded as part of a $5 million grant program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership to help promote technologies that save fuel while also reducing pollution.


IdleAire embarks on major expansion
IdleAire Technologies Corp. has announced the sale of $320 million of discount notes and warrants that will finance the installation of its Advanced Truckstop Electrification (ATE) system in about 13,200 parking spaces in 210 locations in up to 35 states. IdleAire’s expansion of its anti-idling system represents a near-tenfold increase in the number of spaces and locations. IdleAire currently operates 1,365 spaces in 24 locations and 11 states.

Using adaptors that fit in truck windows, the ATE system provides filtered in-cab heating and air conditioning along with various communications and entertainment options for truck drivers, including a computer with liquid crystal display (LCD). In addition to communications and entertainment, the computer-based platform offers the ability to deliver driver safety programs, professional development, education and other training materials to drivers.

Upon completion of the expansion, IdleAire’s network will include 160 travel centers and 50 truck fleet terminals. The locations will be selected based on their size, convenience along key freight corridors, quality driver amenities and average daily/monthly number of idling trucks, says Mike Crabtree, chief executive officer of IdleAire Technologies Corp.

Construction is set to start immediately at key sites among IdleAire’s nationwide travel center partners – TravelCenters of America, Petro Stopping Centers, Pilot Travel Centers – as well as sites owned by smaller chains and independently owned travel centers.

In addition to providing funding for construction directly, the financing provides matching funds for using $42 million in public grant awards that already have been earmarked for IdleAire’s installations locally and in communities across the country, Crabtree says.


More evaluation needed of FMCSA’s outreach, GAO says
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should describe the link between its education and outreach programs and the agency’s strategic objectives, and should evaluate how additional information and safety audits are helping new carriers learn FMCSA requirements, the Government Accounting Office said. In a report requested by the House Appropriations Committee, GAO – Congress’ agency for overseeing the executive branch – reviewed five FMCSA education and outreach programs: new entrant, non-entrant, motor coach, safety belt and household goods. In fiscal year 2005, FMCSA spent $36.3 million on these programs, including about $33 million on the new entrant program.

Although FMCSA’s new entrant program, which includes educational safety audits of new carriers, has existed for more than two years, FMCSA doesn’t plan to evaluate the program’s effectiveness until 2008, GAO said. However, a preliminary comparison of crash rates for new entrants who had received safety audits during the first part of 2003 with new entrants who had not received safety audits found little difference in the crash rates of the two groups.

In part because there are few sanctions for carriers that fail certain portions of the safety audit, FMCSA now is increasing the enforcement associated with its safety audits by making it more difficult to pass the audit and requiring carriers to correct deficiencies, GAO said. Currently, a carrier can pass its safety audit even if it fails two of the six sections of the audit. GAO found, for example, that over the past two years, about 40 percent of the carriers failed the “driver” section of their safety audits, despite passing the audit overall.

For a copy of the report, visit this site and search report number 06-103.


America’s Traveling Truck Show gets rolling in April
America’s Traveling Truck Show will stop at 20 Petro Stopping Centers across the nation, beginning in Los Angeles on April 4. The show, open from 1 to 7 p.m. daily, will feature truck makers, carriers, entertainment and providers of products and services. ATTS will end in Weatherford, Texas, the week before the Great American Trucking Show, which starts Aug. 24 in Dallas.

The show is operated by Randall-Reilly Publishing, publisher of CCJ. For a schedule of ATTS stops and information on exhibiting at the show, call 800-633-5953 or visit this site.


CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Lots of ties in March
The top positions in spot-market equipment searches for vans, reefers and flatbeds were dead heats in March 2005, according to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index. Ohio and Illinois shared the top ranking with the most demand for van freight, followed by Tennessee and Texas with 4 percent fewer searches. Texas and Ohio share the top spot for flatbed freight in March, followed by Illinois with 1 percent fewer searches. And California and Texas share the top ranking for reefer freight in March with 12 percent of all reefer searches. Illinois is a close third with 1 percent fewer 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.