FMCSA loses another top official

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has granted the requests of the American Trucking Associations, UPS, NASSTRAC and the Health and Personal Care Logistics Conference to intervene in the latest challenge to the hours-of-service rules by highway safety advocates. The interveners are expected to file a joint brief in support of the challenged aspects of the HOS rules, focusing on how they advance public safety while meeting the operational needs of the trucking industry.

Wabash National Corp. and the American Trucking Associations announced in late March that Wabash had made a commitment of long-term funding for the new ATA national truck driver recruitment advertising and training campaign.

Bureau of Customs and Border Protection announced in late March that it will permit truck carriers that are not Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) Truck Carrier Accounts to use third parties to transmit truck manifest information on their behalf electronically in the ACE Truck Manifest system, via electronic data interchange (EDI) messaging. Truck carriers electing to use a third party to submit manifest information to CBP must possess a valid Standard Carrier Alpha Code from the National Motor Freight Traffic Association.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ruled that federal hazardous material transportation law preempts the District of Columbia’s requirements for the highway routing of certain hazardous materials. For more information, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket 20930.

Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Associations have agreed to work together in a push to allow for greater flexibility in the movement of empty trailers by foreign truck drivers. Immigration laws in both Canada and the United States currently do not allow foreign drivers to reposition empty trailers if they have been disconnected from the power unit that brought them across the border.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.8 percent in February from the January level, falling after a one-month increase, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported. The February 2006 level of 111.4 is 0.1 percent lower than the February 2005 level. For the first two months of 2006, the Freight TSI fell 0.3 percent, the first decline in the two-month period since 2003.

Environmental Protection Agency diesel fuel labeling requirements in connection with the transition to ultra-low-sulfur diesel begin June 1 and apply to trucking companies that use in-house central refueling operations. Companies must label diesel pumps as either 15 ppm sulfur or 500 ppm sulfur. Failure to comply could subject a facility to a maximum fine of $32,500 per day of violation.

Schneider National introduced a pay certainty program for company drivers that locks in a weekly minimum pay if Schneider is unable to offer a guaranteed minimum number of miles. The program is based on a comparison of the number of miles offered to the driver and the resulting earnings, plus per diem reimbursements, against a four-week minimum pay level. Guaranteed pay ranges from $600 to $900 per week.

Warren Hoemann, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has resigned, effective May 13. Hoemann has been acting administrator since March 31, when former Administrator Annette Sandberg left the agency. After Hoemann leaves, the acting administrator and acting deputy administrator will be John Hill, who now serves as assistant administrator and chief safety officer. Neither the White House nor the Department of Transportation has announced a replacement for either Sandberg or Hoemann.

In his letter of resignation to DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, Hoemann said that during his three years at FMCSA “the commercial motor vehicle industry we regulate has achieved its highest level of safety.” FMCSA also reduced its regulatory backlog by 68 percent, he said. “My personal highlights at DOT are reaching interagency agreement on the seemingly intractable issue of intermodal container chassis maintenance and guiding the FMCSA headquarters response during Hurricane Katrina.”

Hoemann joined FMCSA in 2003, first as chief counsel before being promoted to deputy administrator. He joined FMCSA from the California Trucking Association, where he had been a vice president, and previously served as vice president for government relations at Yellow Corp. He also served as general counsel for the Western Highway Institute, a nonprofit trucking industry research organization, from 1978 to 1986.


Study: Driver behavior causes most truck crashes
Drivers of large trucks and other vehicles involved in truck crashes are 10 times more likely to be the cause of the crash than other factors such as weather, road conditions and vehicle performance, according to a study released in late March by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study was commissioned by FMCSA to review the causes of, and contributing factors to, crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. While previous data focused on specific crashes and/or individual causes of crashes, this study was the first nationwide examination of all pre-crash factors.

The study made clear that the agency needs to spend more time addressing driver behavior, FMCSA said. “The multitude of data now available will allow us to analyze specific areas of behavior and work with our industry and safety partners to develop an agenda on driver safety that will improve commercial motor vehicle driver performance,” said Annette Sandberg a few days before departing as FMCSA administrator.

FMCSA will conduct analysis to further examine driver factors such as use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, speeding, fatigue, inattention, distractions, work environment and unfamiliarity with the road.

The American Trucking Associations welcomed the report, saying that it “confirms the findings of earlier studies that car drivers are coded more frequently than truck drivers for both driving performance errors and nonperformance problems.” That shows, ATA said, that government and law enforcement agencies need to expand their resources and enforcement efforts toward this group of drivers as the trucking industry continues its own efforts. “Of especially good news for trucking, the study strongly reconfirms our positive record of negligible illegal drug or alcohol abuse. Interestingly, the study also finds that driver fatigue, as a crash factor, was recorded more often for car drivers than for truck drivers,” ATA said.

The study, conducted with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigated a national sample of fatal and injury crashes between April 2001 and December 2003 at 24 sites in 17 states. Each crash involved at least one large truck and resulted in at least one fatality or injury. The total sample of 967 crashes included 1,127 large trucks, 959 non-truck motor vehicles, 251 fatalities and 1,408 injuries. Action or inaction by the driver of either the truck or other vehicle was the critical reason for 88 percent of the crashes.

The report is available at this site.


Tonnage Index falls 2.5 percent
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.5 percent in February, marking its first monthly decline since August 2005. The latest dip put the seasonally adjusted index at 115.1, the lowest level since September 2005. The index had increased five consecutive months totaling 3.3 percent before the February contraction; compared with February 2005, the index was 0.2 percent lower. The not-seasonally adjusted index dropped 4.5 percent from January to 104.1. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says the latest decrease was the largest month-to-month decline in a year: The index dropped 5.4 percent from January 2005 to February 2005.

“The string of consecutive monthly increases was bound to come to an end at some point,” Costello says. “Motor carriers have been telling us that volumes have been fair recently, and our index clearly reflects that sentiment. We continue to believe that motor carriers should expect modest growth in volumes going forward and that the latest decrease should not alarm the industry.” ATA calculates the index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The baseline year for the index is 2000.


ATRI seeks motor carrier input for HOS study
The American Transportation Research Institute is seeking motor carrier data to measure the effects of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service provision that substantially altered the sleeper berth exception affecting drivers’ ability to split sleeper berth time. ATRI will collect data quarterly in an effort to track changes in driver safety performance and measure it against the overall safety impacts of the 2004 HOS rules, which included a more flexible sleeper berth provision.

“Many parts of the trucking industry have expressed concern over the potential safety implications of the new sleeper berth rule,” says Dave Osiecki, ATA’s vice president of safety, security and operations. “This data collection effort provides a great opportunity for carriers to share their safety experience under this new sleeper berth rule to see how it compares with the previous, more flexible rule. The analysis of this data could form the basis of an argument for change.”

ATRI’s study represents the second stage of data collection as part of its continuing research to measure the safety impacts of the HOS rules changes. ATRI will be collecting this data on a quarterly basis throughout 2006; carriers interested in providing data can contact ATRI’s Virginia Dick at 770-432-0628 or at vdick@trucking.org.

ATRI published the findings from its first HOS study, “Safety Impacts of the New Hours of Service,” in February, analyzing the safety effects of the 2004 rules. The study compared the data with previous HOS rules that had governed driver health, safety and carrier productivity for decades. This research found that the 2004 driver work and rest rules generated significant improvements in driver safety performance.


CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Lonely at the top for Lone Star State

VANS
June ’05 ’04 ’03
Texas 1 1 1
Tennessee 2 5 2
Illinois 3 2 4
Georgia 4 3 3
California 5 10 5
Ohio 6 4 7
Montana 7 9 8
Indiana 8 7 11
North Carolina 9 6 6
Kentucky 10 14 13
South Carolina 11 8 10
Alabama 12 11 9
Arkansas 13 15 12
Wisconsin 14 13 16
Louisiana 15 12 14
FLATS
June ’05 ’04 ’03
Texas 1 1 1
Arkansas 2 4 3
Alabama 3 2 2
Georgia 4 6 6
Illinois 5 5 4
Ohio 6 3 7
South Carolina 7 11 10
Indiana 8 8 8
Louisiana 9 9 15
California 10 14 12
Mississippi 11 10 9
Tennessee 12 7 5
North Carolina 13 12 11
Kentucky 14 15 14
Montana 15 17 16
REEFERS
June ’05 ’04 ’03
Texas 1 2 3
California 2 1 1
Georgia 3 3 2
Illinois 4 4 5
Montana 5 5 4
Ohio 6 7 8
Arkansas 7 6 6
Arizona 8 14 9
Colorado 9 22 19
Tennessee 10 13 13
North Carolina 11 9 12
Wisconsin 12 10 11
Florida 13 8 14
New York 14 12 23
Indiana 15 26 15

Once again Texas looks to lead the nation in spot-market searches for van, refrigerated and flatbed equipment. Texas led dry van searches in June 2005 and historically leads in that month.

Texas was in the top spot for flatbed freight in June 2005 as well. Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia all were tied for second, each with 9 percent of total flatbed searches. The competition was tighter for reefers with Texas, California and Georgia all close together. Together, those states accounted for 45 percent of all reefer searches in June 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.