Check one, two, three

Trucking companies do not have a right to sue toll commissions in federal courts in order to enforce the statutory requirement that bridge tolls be “just and reasonable,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled. In deciding the challenge of the American Trucking Associations and other trucking parties to tolls set by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the court suggested that truck owners seek a private right of action from Congress.

Harleysville Mutual Insurance must cover Cowan Systems’ losses due to the latter’s indemnification of Linens N Things for injuries a Cowan driver sustained after falling on ice at a Linens N Things lot, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled. The appeals court upheld a district court’s ruling that the claims against Cowan fell within the policy’s scope of coverage and that the exclusions relied on by Harleysville were inapplicable.

Freightliner is suing Allison Transmission in an Oregon federal court, charging that the General Motors Corp. division has monopolized or tried to monopolize the markets for automatic transmissions used in diesel-powered school buses, walk-in vans, recreational vehicles and shuttle businesses through exclusive dealing, full-line forcing, price discrimination and other practices.

New Jersey law enforcement will be aggressively monitoring a three-lane stretch of State Route 17 in Paramus to keep trucks out of the left lane, the New Jersey Motor Truck Association has advised. Signs will be posted to alert truck drivers approaching the designated area.

Q We are a small carrier that offers ex air and dray service at the ports. I understand there are new TSA initiatives that will affect our operation. Can you explain?

A In March 2006, I wrote about the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a voluntary program. Since that time, the Transportation Security Administration has issued final rules regarding air cargo security, and proposed rules dealing with port access and transportation workers identification credentials, or TWIC. Also being implemented is the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), designed to govern cross-border shipments. Clearly, trucking companies operating in any of these three arenas soon will be faced with additional regulatory requirements that directly or indirectly affect their operations.

Many had hoped that TSA could move quickly to establish a multipurpose TWIC that, with appropriate biometric safeguards, would allow carriers to qualify drivers to handle security-restricted cargo and enter security-restricted areas without the need for multiple credentials. But it appears that the TWIC proposal has not been refined yet and that the industry will face confusing and redundant rules in the meantime.

· Air cargo security: The final rules, which are scheduled to be implemented in the fall, impose a direct regulatory burden on air carriers and on indirect air carriers (IACs) and freight forwarders. While motor carriers are not privy to all of the details of these rules for security reasons, the rules require each IAC to ensure that the motor carriers it uses as its agents comply with the IAC security plan. As written, each IAC would have to train its motor carrier agents and make certain that the motor carrier’s driver had a hazmat endorsement or background check before pickup.

Since a forwarder may use hundreds of motor carriers, and a motor carrier may serve scores of forwarders, compliance with this rule appears impractical – if not impossible. Both the directly affected forwarders and interested motor carriers need clarification. Because motor carrier employers will have pickup responsibilities for air freight and unescorted access to it, they can anticipate additional delegated compliance in the areas of driver background checks and training, inspection at pickup and cargo security. Contact the Air and Expedited Motor Carrier Association at www.aemca.org to monitor developments.

· Port access rules: On May 22, the Coast Guard proposed TWIC rules affecting port access by all types of marine workers including truck drivers. If implemented, the rules would require a redundant driver identification card for port access and would leave in place the existing state requirements for port access. Intended to be the prototype for the TWIC as proposed, this rule falls short of implementing the TWIC across the trucking industry.

· ACE: The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is preparing to mandate an e-manifest program for border crossing on a port-by-port basis later this year. Under ACE, it soon will become more difficult to clear import freight, particularly at the U.S.-Canadian border. In addition to advance notification of the cargo for customs purposes, the carrier must also identify the load number, the equipment and the driver. Carriers will be required either to have their own electronic protocol or use a clearance hosting provider for this service. These regulatory requirements will add another level of complexity for small carriers that may exacerbate costs and affect their willingness to serve domestic customers on Canadian shipments. Here again, CBP has another redundant check under the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) initiative.

The Department of Homeland Security – through TSA, CBP and the Coast Guard – seems to be implementing a silo approach with different initiatives in each transportation segment. Clearly, these initiatives need to be monitored and tracked.

There is hope, however. Last year, Congress ordered that by Aug. 10 of this year Mexican and Canadian drivers transporting hazmat loads into the United States undergo background checks comparable to those U.S. drivers must endure to obtain hazmat endorsements. TSA decided that rather than create a new process, the background check needed to obtain a FAST card would suffice. This may have been just an expedient way to implement a fast-approaching deadline. Or it may signal that TSA bureaucrats are starting to listen to the private sector and many in Congress.