Hours rules draw more litigation

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American Trucking Associations has urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block the California Air Resources Board from implementing performance standards for engines used to cool refrigerated tractor-trailers. Since CARB’s proposal would apply to any refrigerated trailer operating in the state for any length of time, it would force the retrofit or replacement of 75 percent of refrigerated trailers, thus creating a de facto national standard, ATA says.

State of Washington will join Minnesota in requiring that a certain amount of diesel sold in the state be biodiesel, although the requirement won’t take effect until December 2008. Gov. Christine Gregoire was expected to sign a bill mandating that at least 2 percent of the state’s aggregate consumption of diesel be biodiesel. The bill also mandates that state vehicle fleets use at least 20 percent biodiesel.

Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.5 percent in January to 112.3 from the December level of 111.8, rising after a one-month decrease, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. However, the January 2006 level is 0.5 percent lower than the January 2005 level, the first decline from January of the previous year since 2002.

Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference of the American Trucking Associations recently established an avian flu task force to help prepare the trucking industry for the possibility of an influenza pandemic. The task force will interface with appropriate agencies and provide information to motor carriers.

UPS said that LTL carrier Overnite, which it purchased for $1.25 billion last year, will be renamed UPS Freight in May.

West Virginia Turnpike tolls have been rolled back to 2005 rates after Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger issued a temporary injunction against a 65 percent increase for trucks and a 60 percent increase for passenger cars. A suit filed by Southern West Virginia business leaders maintained the West Virginia Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority did not given sufficient public notice when it approved the increase at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was expected late last month to sign legislation allowing a private Spanish-Australian consortium to lease the state’s toll road for 75 years for $3.8 billion. The bill, which was opposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and faced controversy over foreign ownership, narrowly passed the state legislature.

Ohio Turnpike Commission recently voted to extend through Dec. 31 a toll reduction for commercial vehicles that was designed to reduce truck traffic on rural highways. The January 2005 rate rollback – which reduced commercial-vehicle tolls by an average of 25 percent – was due to expire June 30. Commercial vehicle traffic in 2005 was up 12.3 percent along the 241-mile toll road, to more than 11 million vehicles. But revenue from that traffic was down 7.7 percent, to $102.2 million.

Virginia’s legislature approved a measure that would allow the commonwealth to toll Interstates 85 and 95 and share the revenue with North Carolina. North Carolina’s governor, legislature and Department of Transportation have yet to endorse the idea, however.

A bill (AB 2290) introduced in the California Assembly would authorize the construction of two truck-only toll roads to reduce congestion and pollution near the state’s ports in Long Beach and San Pedro.

As expected, a coalition of highway safety advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in late February challenged in court the latest version of the hours-of-service regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued the rules in late August, and they took effect on Oct. 1. Meanwhile, the Teamsters, the Truckload Carriers Association and the state trucking associations for California and Ohio filed documents to intervene in support of the lawsuit filed in January by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The safety advocates – Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety – and the Teamsters petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for review of the hours rules. Although the initial two-page document did not state the grounds for the groups’ challenge, an earlier petition for reconsideration filed with FMCSA as well as public statements at the time the lawsuit was filed make it clear that the groups are challenging the decision to leave in place the rules allowing 11 hours of driving before mandatory rest and permitting drivers to restart the clock on cumulative on-duty hours by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty, as well as FMCSA’s failure to mandate electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs).

“That FMCSA chose to expand driving hours is astounding given its statutory mandate to make safety its highest priority and Congress’ specific directive to the agency to reduce fatigue-related incidents,” says Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “We fully expect the court to find once again that this rule violates the agency’s clear assignment to put safety first.”

Last month, the American Trucking Associations filed a motion to intervene in the litigation and will support FMCSA’s decisions regarding driving time, 34-hour restart and EOBRs. ATA has said that its brief supporting the challenged aspects of the HOS rules will focus on how they advance public safety while meeting the operational needs of the trucking industry.

OOIDA and friends
Although the Teamsters want a return to 10 hours of driving as the limit and want to eliminate the 34-hour restart, they do oppose the new restrictions on using the sleeper berth for split rest and so joined OOIDA’s litigation. Under the new rules, the only way for solo and team drivers to derive an hours-of-service benefit from using sleepers is to combine eight consecutive hours of rest in the sleeper with a mandatory break of two hours sometime in the following driving period. But that break doesn’t extend the 14-hour window for driving.

OOIDA is challenging two aspects of the new sleeper berth regulations. First, the group wants the two-hour mandatory break to stop the clock on the 14 hours. “We think it’s commonsense because it’s consistent with the 10-hour off-duty requirement,” says OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.

The other change OOIDA seeks is to allow team operations to continue splitting rest they way they did before the latest change in the rules. The effect of the new rules on teams, OOIDA argues, is that one driver is practically imprisoned in the sleeper berth for eight consecutive hours while the other driver is forced to drive at least eight hours in one unbroken stretch.

TCA and the California and Ohio associations are asking the court to allow their arguments relative to sleeper rules for both single and team drivers. OOIDA, which often is in the position of opposing members of trucking associations in court, was pleased to have TCA and the other organizations on board. “This means we have a great deal of support for our petition now,” says Paul Cullen Jr., a member of OOIDA’s legal team. “These groups support OOIDA’s position and will have the opportunity to present arguments of their own.”
Sean Kelley and Avery Vise

Tonnage Index up 0.6 percent in January
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.6 percent in January, marking its fifth consecutive monthly gain. ATA recently revised the index back five years, which resulted in a slightly stronger 2005 performance than previously reported. Each year, ATA revises the index back five years as part of its annual calculation for the upcoming year’s seasonal factors.

Following the revision, ATA’s index grew 2.3 percent compared with 2004 rather than 2.0 percent as originally reported. December’s tonnage level, meanwhile, actually increased 0.2 percent instead of falling significantly. January’s improvement pushed the seasonally adjusted index to 118.0, the second-highest level on record. Compared with January 2005, the index was 3.2 percent lower. The not-seasonally adjusted index rose 1.4 percent from December 2005 to 109.0.

“The end of 2005 was much stronger than we originally reported and fit more in line with reports we were getting from motor carriers,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “January’s improvement was another good sign for the motor carrier industry. Tonnage volumes in January 2005 were extremely strong, and as a result, the 3.2 percent reduction on a year-over-year basis will not be the norm going forward. Year-over gains can be expected to improve in the months ahead.”

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The baseline year for the index is 2000.

Amber Alert Highway Network launched
Building on an effort launched with Wal-Mart about three years ago, Qualcomm Inc., in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), last month introduced a nationwide program to alert truck drivers in the event a child is abducted nearby. The Amber Alert Highway Network is supported by the American Trucking Associations.

“We are truly humbled to lend our technology and voice to this worthwhile effort,” said Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager of Transportation and Logistics for Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions (QWBS), in announcing the program at ATA’s Capitol Hill office.

The new program is similar to RoadWatch, which Wal-Mart, Qualcomm and MCMEC started in 2003. With tens of thousands of more drivers participating, the Amber Alert Highway Network will allow for much greater coverage in a tighter perimeter around an abduction. Wal-Mart’s head of transportation said the retailing giant, which employs about 9,000 truck drivers, is proud to be a charter member of the expanded Amber Alert effort. “This is one of the easiest things for us to do because our associates continue to ask what more they can do,” said Tim Yatso, senior vice president of transportation for Wal-Mart.

In addition to Wal-Mart, other carriers joining the program at the time of the initial announcement include Tyson Foods, Cornhusker Motor Lines, Distribution Technologies, G&P Trucking, U.S. Xpress, Pottles Transportation, Grammer Industries and Maverick Transportation.

Under the new program, when an Amber Alert is issued, NCMEC will notify Qualcomm, which will send text messages to OmniTRACS mobile communications units to drivers that are participating in the program and are located in specified ZIP codes within a certain radius of the abduction.

The Amber Alert Highway Network was not established as exclusive to Qualcomm and its customers, although initially it’s open only to Qualcomm customers using OmniTRACS. For more information about the Amber Alert Highway Network and instructions to enroll, visit this site or call 800-348-7227.

Bill would aid recruiting of vets
Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced legislation (S. 2416) that would add trucking to the list of industry sectors for which servicemen and women moving to the civilian job market could receive expedited financial aid.

Under the current Montgomery GI Bill program, benefits are generally paid out over several years, making it difficult to fund training – such as that needed to obtain a commercial driver’s license – that is completed in a matter of weeks. The program does allow the Veterans Administration to pay up to 60 percent of certain short-term, high-cost training programs. The Burns-Pryor legislation would add trucking to the list that now includes construction, hospitality, financial services, energy, homeland security and health care.

“A number of these sectors face a critical shortage of employees now or will do so in the near future and are anxious to attract veterans to their professions,” Burns says. “The modest change that I am proposing will help provide needed workers to these and other industries.”

“In Arkansas, we have soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are having a hard time finding work, and we have sectors, such as the trucking industry, that are expecting phenomenal growth over the next few years,” Pryor says. “Our bill opens a door to help veterans find high-paying jobs, and it provides qualified employees to help companies fill these jobs.”

Trucking joins AARP in seeking older workers
The American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association are among 20 groups in a range of industries joining to collaborate on recruiting and retaining baby boomer employees. The associations have joined the Alliance for an Experienced Workforce, an effort to help employers create workplaces that attract and keep employees ages 50 and older. Another alliance goal is ensuring that workers 50 and older are prepared to accept the skills and jobs in demand and increase the importance of this demographic group.

“TCA is pleased to be participating in this worthwhile endeavor providing a vast array of opportunities to those individuals looking for a second career,” says President Chris Burruss. “The truckload segment of the industry is in need of an immediate 20,000 drivers, and our sources for new drivers are very limited. We look forward to working with this audience and bringing them into a field that has endless possibilities.”

More than 25 million workers will be eligible for retirement in the next decade, a good population to tap to mitigate the driver shortage, says ATA President Bill Graves.

“Motor carriers consistently have employed qualified workers over age 50 because of their proven track record as safe, professional drivers with well-developed judgment skills, strong work ethics and sound sense of responsibility,” Graves says. “We hope that this effort will facilitate a healthy dialogue between motor carriers and mature workers interested in a truck driving career.”

The Alliance was developed from a National Advisory Council formed to advise AARP on workplace and work force strategies. Alliance members will:

  • Communicate with their individual memberships about work force trends and practices for engaging older workers.
  • Educate work force stakeholders on the demographic shifts and trends of the older work force.
  • Provide employers with resources to help them meet their employment needs with qualified workers.

Jill Dunn

FFE’s Stubbs receives TCA Past Chairmen’s Award
The Truckload Carriers Association presented its highest honor, the Past Chairmen’s Award, to Stoney “Mit” Stubbs, president and chairman of Dallas-based FFE Transportation Services. The award, which is presented by past chairmen of the association, recognizes industry leaders who make a significant contribution to the business community, the industry and the association.

TCA honors Bison Transport, Rocha Transportation for safety
The Truckload Carriers Association named Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada and Rocha Transportation of Modesto, Calif. its Grand Prize Winners in the latest National Fleet Safety Awards. Bison won in the category of companies operating more than 25 million miles annually. Rocha Transportation won in the category of companies operating less than 25 million miles annually.

PTDI honors Batts with Crittenden Award
The Professional Truck Driver Institute presented the eighth annual Lee J. Crittenden Memorial Award to Lana Batts, managing partner of Transport Capital Partners. The award honors the person who has done the most to advance the ideals and goals of PTDI. While Batts served as TCA’s president, the organization took over management of PTDI. At that time, 19 schools had PDTI-certified courses. By early 2000, when Batts left TCA, 71 schools had certified courses.

Pottle elected TCA chairman
Barry Pottle, chief executive officer of Pottle’s Transportation in Bangor, Maine, has been elected as 2006-2007 chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association during the group’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. He previously had served as TCA’s first vice chairman. Pottle, who began his trucking career in 1978 as an owner-operator, wants to use his year as chairman to bring attention to the truck driver shortage and encourage TCA members to think about their drivers’ needs in new and different ways. “I am here to tell you that the trucking companies can’t fix the problems alone,” Pottle says. “We need to get our customers and suppliers behind us as well.”

Other officers elected were:

  • First vice chairman: Jim O’Neal, president, O & S Trucking, Springfield, Mo.
  • Second vice chairman: Ray Haight, president and chief operating officer, MacKinnon Transport Inc., Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  • Secretary: Robert Baylor, president, Baylor Trucking, Milan, Ind.
  • Treasurer: Chris Kozak, president, Willis Shaw Express, Elm Springs, Ark.
  • Association vice chairman to ATA: Clifton Parker, president, G&P Trucking, Gaston, S.C.
  • Immediate past chairman: Dave Berry, vice president, Swift Transportation, Phoenix

Four at-large officers also were elected:

  • Kevin Burch, president, Jet Express Inc., Dayton, Ohio
  • John Kaburick, president, Earl L. Henderson Trucking Co., Salem, Ill.
  • Robert Low, president and founder, Prime Inc., Springfield, Mo.
  • Gary Salisbury, senior vice president and COO, Fikes Truck Line, Hope, Ark.

New hazmat penalties take effect
Revised penalties for federal hazardous materials transportation violations became effective Feb. 17. Some fines went up; others went down. The changes result from the long-term transportation bill President Bush signed in August. The changes include:

  • The maximum civil penalty was increased from $32,500 to $50,000 for a knowing violation, and to $100,000 if the violation results in death, serious illness or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property.
  • The minimum civil penalty has dropped from $275 to $250, except a minimum civil penalty of $450 applies to a training violation.
  • Criminal penalties now apply to both reckless and willful violations of federal hazardous materials transportation law; or the regulations, orders, special permits and approvals issued.
  • The maximum criminal penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a corporation were retained. But the maximum imprisonment has been upped to 10 years in any case in which the violation involves the release of a hazardous material that results in death or bodily injury.

CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Texas takes Triple Crown
May is known for the Kentucky Derby, but the Lone Star State looks like a sure thing for a different Triple Crown: Texas easily could be the richest source of spot-market freight in all the equipment types tracked by the CCJ Equipment Demand Index. In May 2005, Texas beat out Georgia and Tennessee in searches for van equipment with the latter two tied at 4 percent fewer searches.

Georgia also trailed Texas for flatbed freight searches in May 2005, with Alabama, Arkansas and Illinois tied for third. And Texas was tops in demand for reefers, although Georgia, California and Florida were close behind. Together, those four states accounted for nearly 60 percent of all reefer searches in May 2005.

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.

Commercial Carrier Journal’s Vise takes top editorial honors
Avery Vise, editorial director of Randall-Reilly Publishing Co.’s Commercial Carrier Journal magazine, won the Jesse H. Neal Award in the Best Staff-Written Editorials or Opinion Pieces category at the 52nd annual Neal Awards luncheon held March 23 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. This honor marks the second Neal Award for Vise and the 12th for CCJ.

“Each month in his column, Avery grapples trucking’s toughest issues,” says Jeff Mason, CCJ publisher, and vice president and group publisher of Randall-Reilly’s Trucking Media Group. “It’s rewarding to see his thought-provoking opinion and analysis recognized by the broader publishing community.”

Each year, the Jesse H. Neal Awards draw more than 1,000 entries from business-to-business publications representing all industries.