Bush nominates Hill for top FMCSA post

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appointed a 15-member board representing the agency, states and the motor carrier industry to implement the Uniform Carrier Registration Agreement, which will replace the Single State Registration System. Congress has ordered that the SSRS cease to exist on Jan. 1, 2007. For more information, including a list of board members, visit this site and search Docket No. 24555.

Transportation Security Administration issued regulations to improve air cargo security. The final rule combines about 4,000 private industry “known shipper” lists into a central database that TSA will manage and requires background checks of about 51,000 off-airport freight forwarder employees. For more information, visit this site.

American Trucking Associations endorsed White House initiatives announced in May aimed at easing diesel and gasoline prices. The measures – a temporary halt to deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a possible moratorium on the switch from methanol to ethanol as a fuel additive and coping with the “boutique fuels” problem – “will buy some time for us take a very necessary longer look at our energy situation,” said ATA President Bill Graves. ATA projects that the trucking industry will spend $94.3 billion on fuel this year.

Easing highway congestion likely will require greater partnering with the private sector, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told the Bear Stearns Global Transportation Conference. Mineta said he was “convinced that a big part of the answer is to involve the private sector more fully – not just as a contractor or vendor, not merely as a financier, but as a partner in the funding, management and expansion of our transportation infrastructure.”

Cummins Inc. has announced a global branding strategy that unites all the company’s businesses and products under the Cummins brand name. “By creating clarity and consistency with the Cummins brand worldwide, our external audiences will better recognize who we are and what sets Cummins – and our customer experience – apart from every other brand,” says Tim Solso, chairman and chief executive officer.

Environmental Protection Agency has released a model it recommends for states considering laws regulating engine idling. For a listing of the state and local idling laws, the workshops summaries, and the resulting model for a state idling law, visit this site.

Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.2 percent in March to 111.6, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The March level was 0.8 percent lower than the March 2005 level, the first March-to-March decline since 2002. For the first three months of 2006, the TSI for freight fell 0.2 percent, the first decline in the first quarter since 2003.

Truckload Carriers Association will hold a two-day workshop June 28-29 in Chicago on how motor carriers can start an independent contractor program or improve the program they already have. For more information, visit this site.

President Bush has picked John Hill to replace Annette Sandberg as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Hill has been assistant administrator and chief safety officer of the agency since June 2003 and more recently has served as acting deputy administrator following the departure of Warren Hoemann on May 13. Previously, Hill worked for the Indiana State Police from 1974 to 2003, including a stint as commercial vehicle enforcement commander from 1989 to 1994 and from 2000 to 2003.

In announcing Hill’s nomination, which must be confirmed by the Senate, the White House cited among his accomplishments his service as department lead for pandemic influenza and as the secretary representative concerning Hurricane Katrina.

Trucking groups praised Hill’s nomination. American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said that as chief safety officer, “John Hill has demonstrated an understanding of those challenges and the need to bridge the operational needs of the trucking industry with the regulatory responsibilities of the agency.” Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President Jim Johnston said that Hill has “shown a willingness to listen to all sides of a story and has a solid appreciation for experienced, safety-conscious professional truck drivers.”

Also last month, the Department of Transportation announced that David Hugel, administrator for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, had been named FMCSA deputy administrator to replace Hoemann, effective May 30.

Hugel joined Maryland MVA in April 2003 as deputy administrator and was named administrator in September of that year. For six years prior to joining that agency, Hugel was an on-site consultant at the U.S. Department of Transportation assisting FMCSA and its predecessor agency, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Motor Carriers, with the implementation of changes to the commercial driver’s license program and other revisions to the safety regulations. From 1987 to 1995, he was director of government affairs for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

TSA, Coast Guard propose ID for port workers
ATA urges Congress to adopt a single process

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard last month proposed regulations to require a biometric transportation worker identification credential (TWIC) for an estimated 750,000 workers who have unescorted access to secure areas at seaports. The public will have 45 days to comment, and four public meetings will be hosted by TSA and Coast Guard to solicit public input. The TSA/Coast Guard proposal was published in the May 22 Federal Register. For a copy, visit this site and search Docket No. 24191.

The proposed TWIC regulations for ports, which could be a model for an eventual universal TWIC, would require the collection of workers’ biographic information, including 10 fingerprints; name; date of birth; address and phone number; alien registration number, if applicable; photo; employer; and job title. All individuals, including truck drivers, with unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act would be required to have a TWIC. Background checks would include a review of criminal history records, terrorist watch lists, legal immigration status and outstanding wants and warrants.

TSA and the Coast Guard are proposing to use Smart Card technology and include a worker’s photo, name, biometric information and multiple fraud protection measures. The card would be consistent with Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 201-1 requirements, and would be interoperable with other federal credentials built to those standards.

The TWIC, which would be valid for five years, would be funded through user fees. TSA anticipates workers would pay about $139 to receive a TWIC. Workers with current, comparable background checks would pay about $105 for the credential.

Plea for a single process
Last month, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the TWIC proposal. In written testimony submitted for the record, the American Trucking Associations argued that TSA should implement a single, coordinated process for screening all transportation workers and work to avoid unnecessary costs and procedures.

“ATA does not oppose background checks of individuals in the trucking industry,” the association said in its statement. “ATA does oppose the wasteful expenditure of resources – both government and private sector – that comes with conducting multiple background checks of the same individual against the same databases.”

Since concerns over terrorism escalated, the transportation industry has faced multiple background checks that require applicants to appear at different enrollment facilities, adapt to different administrative procedures and pay steep user fees that have been imposed on truck drivers, the association said. For example, TSA has implemented different background check processes for truckers obtaining hazmat endorsements and going to secure airport areas, and now is implementing TWIC for truckers transporting cargo into and out of seaports.

Tonnage Index falls again
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.2 percent in March, following a revised 3.6 percent drop in February. This marks the second monthly decline after increasing for five consecutive months from September 2005 through January 2006.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says March marked the first time since 2001 that tonnage volumes declined on a year-over-year basis for three consecutive months. Motor carriers anecdotally reported that freight volumes were weaker than normal during the first part of the month, Costello says, but they rebounded by month’s end and remained strong through early April. This rebound, however, was not strong enough to compensate for March’s weak start, he says.

CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Two out of three for Texas

July ’05 ’04 ’03
Texas 1 1 1
Tennessee 2 5 3
Illinois 3 2 2
California 4 4 8
Ohio 5 3 4
Indiana 6 7 7
Montana 7 8 6
Georgia 8 6 5
Kentucky 9 13 13
North Carolina 10 9 9
Wisconsin 11 12 10
Arkansas 12 14 12
Michigan 13 16 17
Alabama 14 15 11
New York 15 10 15
July ’05 ’04 ’03
Texas 1 1 1
Arkansas 2 3 3
Georgia 3 5 4
Alabama 4 2 2
Illinois 5 6 5
Ohio 6 4 6
California 7 14 14
Indiana 8 9 8
Louisiana 9 10 12
Mississippi 10 8 9
South Carolina 11 11 11
Tennessee 12 7 7
Kentucky 13 12 15
North Carolina 14 13 10
Michigan 15 18 18
July ’05 ’04 ’03
California 1 1 1
Texas 2 2 2
Illinois 3 3 3
Georgia 4 4 4
Ohio 5 7 8
Arkansas 6 5 7
Wisconsin 7 8 6
Montana 8 6 5
Indiana 9 18 12
North Carolina 10 11 11
Colorado 11 14 10
New York 12 10 19
Minnesota 13 9 15
Michigan 14 15 23
Tennessee 15 13 14

Based on recent performance, expect Texas to lead the nation in the volume of spot-market freight for van and flatbed equipment during July, according to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index. In July 2005, Texas was tops in dry van searches, followed closely by Tennessee, Illinois and California – all tied for second with 3 percent fewer searches than Texas.

Texas also held the top spot for flatbed freight in July, with a commanding 6 percentage point lead in terms of search activity. Arkansas had the second-most search activity, with Georgia and Alabama tied for third. In the refrigerated spot market, there is a tighter grouping of demand among California, Texas and Illinois.

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.