White House considers EOBR proposal

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The Portland, Ore., City Council approved an ordinance requiring that all diesel sold in the city contain at least 5 percent biodiesel, effective July 1, 2007. The same ordinance requires that all gasoline contain at least 10 percent ethanol. City-owned diesel vehicles will be required to use fuel with a biodiesel content of more than 20 percent. City gasoline-powered vehicles that can operate on 85 percent ethanol will be required to do so.

The American Trucking Associations once again rolled out its “phone home” campaign to help America’s truck drivers celebrate National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Aug. 20-26. ATA and its state affiliates marked the celebration by handing out free 60-minute telephone calling cards to truck drivers at local weigh stations, rest stops and travel plazas across the country.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.5 percent in June to 112.6 from the May level of 113.2, turning downward after a one-month rise, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. For the first six months of 2006, the Freight TSI rose 1.5 percent, the third consecutive rise in the December-to-June period.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has voiced strong opposition to plans for a future pilot program that would allow Mexican truckers beyond the 20-mile southern border commercial zone to which they now are restricted. Acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino told Traffic World that the program would involve about 100 Mexican motor carriers and could be unveiled by the end of 2006.

Strick Corp., a manufacturer of semi-truck trailers, said it had committed to long-term funding of the American Trucking Associations’ new national truck driver recruitment advertising and training campaign.

The American Transportation Research Institute is studying what changes occur to on-highway diesel fuel properties – especially energy content – as a result of the transition to ultra-low-sulfur diesel.

The Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference of the American Trucking Associations announced that it has formed a renewable fuels task force to examine issues associated with renewable fuels and their importance to the commercial agricultural trucking industry.

Schneider National has implemented a staff realignment that has resulted in the elimination of 170 positions, including about 120 at the company’s Green Bay, Wis., headquarters. Another 85 associates are being redeployed to growth areas. In recent months, Schneider has divested its specialized transportation and payment services divisions but acquired two new subsidiaries, American Port Services and American Overseas Air Freight, in support of its international and intermodal strategy.

New Century Transportation has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency for ground freight transportation. The Westampton, N.J.-based carrier has installed auxiliary power units throughout its fleet.

Florida CDL holders’ personal info stolen
More than 81,000 Florida CDL holders received warnings from federal officials that their personal information was compromised when a laptop used in investigating fraudulent licenses was stolen from a government vehicle.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office issued letters Aug. 9 that informed CDL holders their information was among that of 133,000 Florida residents listed
on the laptop.

The Department of Transportation on Aug. 10 submitted for White House review a long-awaited regulatory document related to the use of onboard recorders (EOBRs) for hours-of-service compliance. Although the precise scope of the proposal is not known, sources said that it is a comprehensive package of incentives and, possibly, proposed requirements that would encourage wider adoption of EOBRs.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition,” said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity. What that means is unclear, however. For example, the proposal might approach fleets of different sizes differently. Or it might treat carriers differently depending on, for example, whether they haul hazardous materials or general freight.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking two years ago in response to a federal appeals court decision that criticized the agency for failing to seriously consider mandating EOBRs. In April, FMCSA said in an update of its regulatory agenda that it planned to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by June of this year.

Because Congress has not mandated EOBRs, the White House Office of Management and Budget has no formal deadline for completing its review. But Bush administration officials would want to show substantial progress as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia considers in the coming months a second round of litigation on the HOS revisions adopted last year.

Last year, the American Trucking Associations voiced conditional support for EOBRs, saying in a resolution adopted by its board that nine issues must be “satisfactory addressed” before the organization could support a federal regulation requiring the use of EOBRs for hours compliance.

To view the advance notice of rulemaking and comments submitted in response, visit this site and search Docket No. 18940.
– Avery Vise

Hill becomes FMCSA chief
Before adjourning for its August recess, the U.S. Senate confirmed John Hill as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Hill, who has been with the agency since June 2003, replaces Annette Sandberg, who left in March. Hill previously was FMCSA’s assistant administrator and chief safety officer since June 2003.

“John Hill possesses decades of experience in law enforcement and commercial motor vehicle safety,” said acting Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino. “We appreciate that the Senate made it a priority to confirm John before their recess, and I know he will be an exceptional FMCSA administrator.”

Most of Hill’s career – from 1974 to 2003 – was with the Indiana State Police, including a stint as commercial vehicle enforcement commander from 1989 to 1994 and from 2000 to 2003. He also worked on several national committees concerning transportation-related issues. In 1991 he served on the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems (CVIS) Committee and later worked on the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ Task Force for Identification Security.

“As an industry, we face many challenges in moving the nation’s goods in a safe, efficient, secure and environmentally sound manner,” said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations. “As the chief safety officer of FMCSA, John Hill has demonstrated an understanding of those challenges and a great willingness to bridge the operational needs of the trucking industry with the regulatory responsibilities of the agency. I look forward to working with John in his new position. And I congratulate him on his confirmation by the Senate.”

Senate bill would extend SSRS
Legislation inserted into the Senate version of the Department of Transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 5576) would delay the repeal of the Single State Registration System (SSRS) until Jan. 1, 2008 – 12 months beyond the current sunset of the program. Another provision would restore DOT’s obligation to regulate freight forwarders and property brokers. Both measures would modify provisions adopted as part of last year’s major highway legislation.

In the highway bill, Congress had ordered the SSRS repealed, effective Jan. 1, 2007, and replaced with the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system. But DOT did not name members of the UCR board of directors until May, making it very difficult for the UCR to be implemented by Jan. 1. Indeed, in its first act, the UCR board approved a resolution calling on a one-year delay in SSRS termination.

In its report (Senate Report 109-293) on H.R. 5576, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that “repeal of SSRS is premature given that progress on instituting the UCR has been insignificant.” If SSRS expires before the UCR system is implemented, states could lose $100 million in registration fees that often are used to cover the cost of transportation safety and enforcement programs, the committee said. The panel also asked that the Government Accountability Office report quarterly on the progress being made in establishing the UCR.

Another provision in last year’s highway bill had the effect of giving DOT authority to stop requiring the registration of freight forwarders and property brokers. The legislation included in H.R. 5576 states that DOT will register those parties fit, willing and able to provide those services and comply with applicable DOT regulations.

A final provision corrects language in the highway bill related to the definition of motor carriers. As originally enacted, the definitions would have resulted in unintended overtime exemption consequences for drivers of trucks with gross ratings of less than 10,001 pounds. The House passed its version of H.R. 5576 in June; the full Senate still must approve the bill before differences are settled in conference.

Landstar, FedEx seek hours exemptions
Landstar System has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to exempt certain interruptions in consecutive rest requirements due to obligations team drivers might have in transporting high-security cargo. Separately, FedEx Ground Package System is asking that FMCSA allow the company’s home-delivery drivers to operate property-carrying commercial motor vehicles to and from their residences without being considered “on duty” for hours-of-service compliance purposes.

The new HOS rules that took effect in October of last year require that drivers using the sleeper-berth exception remain in the sleeper berth for at least eight consecutive hours during one of the two rest periods used to accumulate the equivalent of 10 hours off duty. In its request, Landstar states that for team-driver operations, this rule prevents the driver in the sleeper berth from attending to the cargo while the other driver takes a restroom break. The rule also conflicts with requirements for all persons to exit the vehicle for a security inspection when entering certain military installations, the carrier says.

Regarding the FedEx Ground request, under current regulations a driver operating a commercial motor vehicle under load is considered on duty. What FedEx seeks is an exception to that regulation for drivers returning home in trucks carrying packages that could not be delivered during the workday and then reporting to work the next day at FedEx terminals.
Comments on both applications were due Aug. 30. For more information on the exemption requests, go to this site and search Docket No. 22936 (Landstar) or Docket No. 24231 (FedEx Ground).

TSA opts for FAST approach to crossborder hazmat
In keeping with previously announced plans, the Transportation Security Administration published an interim final rule declaring that commercial motor vehicle drivers licensed in Canada or Mexico may use Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards as acceptable credentials to transport placarded amounts of hazardous materials or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73 within the United States. Under last year’s highway legislation, Canadian and Mexican drivers transporting hazardous materials in the United States must – effective Aug. 10 – undergo background checks similar to those required for U.S.-licensed operators holding hazardous materials endorsements on their commercial driver’s licenses.

FAST is a voluntary cooperative effort among U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the governments of Canada and Mexico that allows drivers and carriers to obtain expedited processing of commercial shipments at U.S. borders. The program authorizes expedited processing of known, low-risk participants. Drivers may volunteer to undergo a background records check in order to receive individual FAST cards and expedited entrance privileges. For a copy of the interim final rule, go to this site and search Docket No. 25541.

ATA unveils model carrier/broker agreements
With Department of Justice clearance, the American Trucking Associations has released its model agreements for structuring motor carrier and broker contractual relationships. On Aug. 10, DOJ issued what is referred to as a business review letter that stated it had no present intention of challenging the ATA proposal to develop and publicize model carrier/broker agreements. That language, according to ATA, signals the government’s position that the creation, distribution and use of the model agreements does not raise antitrust concerns.

ATA says the model agreements are intended to assist motor carriers and brokers in reaching a common understanding of their legal rights and obligations and to cover basic contractual terms, such as the legal status of the parties, freight documentation, insurance coverage and cargo liability. The model agreements – a short and a long version, along with instructions for their use – now are available on ATA’s website, www.truckline.com.

CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Three for all

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

Ohio, Texas and Illinois should offer strong spot-market opportunities in October for the three most popular equipment types – dry vans, reefers and flatbeds. In October 2005, those three states topped each category of equipment searches. Ohio and Illinois showed strong demand for van equipment in October, while Texas held the third position.

Texas led in flatbed searches, with Ohio and Illinois filling the next two slots. Those three represented 39 percent of all flatbed searches. Alabama showed weakness over October 2005, while Tennessee has seen a consistent decline in each of the past three years. And Illinois led in refrigerated trailer demand, with Texas and Ohio placing second and third. Those three states represented 35 percent of all reefer equipment searches. Texas has consistently moved up the reefer demand rankings.

The CCJ Equipment Demand 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. 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.

Kenworth produces first T660
The first Kenworth T660, which was equipped with a 2007 Caterpillar C-15, rolled off the line Aug. 16 at the truck maker’s largest plant in Chillicothe, Ohio. Although the T660 doesn’t go into production until next year, Kenworth is building validation units to prove its readiness on the road with customers as well as the readiness of the manufacturing process. The T660 features aerodynamic and forward-lighting improvements over the T600, which it will replace beginning next year. A proprietary Clean Power system, which uses batteries to provide up to 10 hours of hotel-load 110-volt power with the engine off, will be offered later in 2007. Kenworth launched a four-month T660 road tour at the Great American Trucking Show. For a complete schedule, go to this site.