White House clears supporting documents rule

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Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.8 percent in July to 111.7 from the June level of 112.6, turning down for the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported.
For the first seven months of 2006,
the Freight TSI rose 0.7 percent.

The American Transportation Research Institute found that the trucking industry’s use of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for hours-of-service monitoring is low, primarily due to overall system costs, lack of data on EOBR safety and productivity returns-on-investment, and concern over what functionalities and standards eventually might be mandated. The White House currently is reviewing a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration draft proposal on EOBRs. For more information on ATRI’s research, visit www.atri-online.org.

Warren E. Hoemann has been appointed senior vice president of the American Trucking Associations to oversee the organization’s seven councils and conferences. Hoemann most recently served as deputy administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and previously has held key positions with the California Trucking Association and Yellow Corp.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has withdrawn a proposal to build tolled truck-only lanes on Interstate 81. The American Trucking Associations praised the decision. “Toll lanes create two classes of drivers – those who can afford to pay a toll, and those who can not,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “This causes traffic diversion to other, often less safe, roads.”

Covenant Transport acquired Nashville, Tenn.-based Star Transportation for about $40 million in cash. Star Transportation is a short- to medium-haul dry van regional truckload carrier,
operating primarily in the southeastern United States, with revenues of $89.6 million for the 12 months ended June 30.

U.S. Xpress acquired a 49 percent interest in Richmond, Va.-based truckload carrier Abilene Motor Express and has an option through Aug. 30, 2010, to purchase the remaining 51 percent.
Abilene operates about 170 tractors and 534 trailers. Terms of the acquisition were not announced.

Great American Trucking Show, held at the Dallas Convention Center on Aug. 24-26, played host to 45,914 attendee registrants – a 2.2 percent increase over 2005. Over the past three years, attendance has risen 15 percent. The 2007 GATS will be held Aug. 23-25 in Dallas.
For more information, visit this site.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Sept. 14 completed its review of the final rule concerning supporting documents requirements for driver logs, clearing the measure for publication in the Federal Register. The final rule was expected to be published in early October. OMB ordered changes in the draft of the final rule, but it was unclear how extensive those changes will be, as the details of neither the draft nor the final rule are known yet.

Supporting documents are those items that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expects to see in inspections and compliance reviews to help verify the accuracy of driver records of duty status. Federal safety regulations already require supporting documents, but the rule would clarify what supporting documents motor carriers must retain and to reaffirm that motor carriers must use supporting documents to verify drivers’ logs.

In its notice of proposed rulemaking, FMCSA proposed to adopt a regulatory definition of a supporting document to mean “any document that is generated or received by a motor carrier or commercial motor vehicle driver in the normal course of business that could be used, as produced or with additional identifying information, to verify the accuracy of a driver’s record of duty status.” FMCSA provided a long list of examples, such as global positioning system reports and numerous other types of electronic data.

The NPRM placed the cost of the rule over 10 years at $63.3 million, but the American Trucking Associations argued that the proposed document retention was overly broad and would cost carriers more than $5.2 billion.

Supporting documents could become less important if electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) were mandated, but it’s not clear that FMCSA’s EOBR proposal, which is still under White House review, would mandate recorders. But even if EOBRs were to be mandatory, there is still a need for improved supporting documents, especially since Congress has ordered it, FMCSA Administrator John Hill says. In a Sept. 15 interview with CCJ, Hill pointed out that the rulemaking process is so long that it probably will take 18 months to two years to complete whatever EOBR rule ultimately is adopted. (For more from the Hill interview, see page 76.)

FMCSA is more than 10 years behind schedule on the supporting documents rule. Congress had ordered that new regulations be completed by Feb. 26, 1996.

For more information on the supporting documents rule, visit this site and search Docket No. 3706.
Avery Vise

Mary Peters to become DOT secretary
Former FHWA chief co-chairs highway policy commission Mary Peters, former administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, is replacing Norman Mineta as secretary of the Department of Transportation. As CCJ went to press, Peters – who left FHWA in 2005 to join Omaha, Neb., engineering firm HDR as senior vice president – had been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and was awaiting confirmation by the full Senate.

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001 as head of FHWA, Peters had been director for the Arizona Department of Transportation since 1998, having worked for the agency since 1985. She also is a member and co-chair of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission, tasked by Congress with examining the condition and future needs of the nation’s surface transportation system and coming up with alternatives to fuel taxes for highway funding. Peters is considered to be a strong supporter of tolls as a mechanism for highway funding.

American Trucking Associations Chairman Pat Quinn, who serves on the commission with Peters, praised the selection, saying he was “impressed with her insights into the challenges we face with maintaining and improving our nation’s infrastructure. I hope for an early Senate confirmation process so we can all benefit from her strong leadership of our nation’s transportation programs.”

Senate backs tighter trucking security
The Senate last month approved a number of trucking-related measures in a port security bill (H.R. 4954), including provisions to encourage wireless communications in hazardous materials transportation and to discourage illegal residents from obtaining commercial driver’s licenses. The House-passed version of H.R. 4954 did not contain similar provisions.

The Senate-passed bill would mandate a Transportation Security Administration program to encourage motor carriers transporting high-hazard materials in certain quantities to adopt wireless systems that would provide continuous communications, vehicle position location and tracking capabilities, and the capability for the driver to broadcast an emergency message. The TSA program would take into account the recommendations and findings from a hazardous materials safety and security field test conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The measure regarding CDLs obtained by illegal residents received some public attention when Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) proposed it last month. Although some reports – including Pryor’s own press release – characterized the measure as requiring that CDL holders be U.S. citizens, the provision actually doesn’t go quite that far.

The Pryor-Talent amendment requires DOT to issue regulations to implement recommendations of the DOT Office of Inspector General regarding verification of legal status and prevention of fraud in the CDL program. The inspector general had recommended that FMCSA require all CDL applicants to demonstrate that they are either a U.S. citizen, a permanent legal resident or otherwise legally present in the United States. Other trucking-related measures would:
· Implement name-based checks against terrorist watch lists and immigration status for all port truck drivers that matches the screening used by the Coast Guard for port facility employees and longshoremen;
· Order the Department of Transportation to assess the state of trucking security and the economic impact of possible upgrades on the trucking industry;
· Require DOT in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security to study highway routing for hazmat transportation; and
· Order the Department of Homeland Security to consider development of a national public sector response system to receive security alerts, emergency messages and other information used to track the transportation of high hazard materials.

At CCJ went to press, the fate of the trucking-related measures and the entire port security bill were unclear due to the impending pre-election congressional recess. One controversy that threatened to stall the entire bill was a Senate proposal for $4.5 billion in rail and mass transit programs. Even if the legislation failed to pass Congress before the recess, legislators could take up the measure in a short “lame duck” session following the mid-term elections.

Carriers petition for speed governors
Several trucking companies – including Schneider National, J.B. Hunt Transport, C.R. England, Covenant Transport and Dart Transit – and a public safety interest group called Road Safe America last month jointly petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require electronic speed governors be set at not more than 68 mph. American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves has submitted a letter of support for this measure to FMCSA. Earlier this year, ATA’s board of directors approved a resolution calling for a regulation governing speed at 68 mph.

According to FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, “traveling too fast for conditions” was a frequently cited factor in large truck crashes where trucks were assigned a critical reason. “The 80-miles-per-hour, 80,000-pound truck has no place on our highways,” says Steve Owings, who co-founded Road Safe America after he lost his 22-year-old son, Cullum, in a high-speed truck accident. “This petition is a matter of life and death for drivers of passenger cars, as well as for professional truck drivers. And it is a matter of economic common sense for the companies that put trucks on the road.”

Carriers that support a universal governed speed cite not only safety but also savings in fuel consumption, liability costs and equipment wear and tear. “Historically, carriers have waited for regulations to come down from the federal government and not been actively engaged in the process,” says Don Osterberg, vice president of safety and training for Schneider National. “What’s unique in this filing is that a core group of responsible carriers is stepping up and initiating a proactive change for improving public safety.”

ATA Truck Tonnage Index up 0.7 percent in July
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index increased for the third time in the last four months, rising 0.7 percent in July. The latest increase followed a 0.4 percent contraction in June.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index expanded to 113.4 from 112.6 in June. July’s index level was the highest since a 113.7 reading in February of this year. However, compared to July 2005, the index was 1.6 percent lower, and year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2005, the index was down 1.8 percent. The not-seasonally adjusted index contracted 8.7 percent from June to 109.0.

“Tonnage volumes increased nicely in July, but the industry has yet to fully recover from the large decrease in volumes during the first quarter of the year,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “There is no doubt the three month-to-month increases during the last four months are very positive, although I’d feel even better if the index was growing on a year-over-year basis as well.” Costello attributed the July increase to gains in retail sales and manufacturing activity.

“Ever since the large declines in February and March, the tonnage index has risen nicely, gaining 2.7 percent in total,” Costello says. “With industry capacity fairly tight heading into the traditional peak season, tonnage levels don’t have to increase significantly for the industry to maintain its favorable supply-demand balance.”

ATA calculates the index based on surveys from its membership. The baseline year is 2000.

Turnover down, but still above 100 percent
Driver turnover rates for truckload carriers declined during the 2006 second quarter, but turnover rates remain above 100 percent on average, the American Trucking Associations reported. According to ATA survey data, the annualized turnover rate for large truckload carriers – those reporting more than $30 million in annual revenue – slid to 110 percent from 116 percent in the first quarter. The rate in the second quarter was the lowest for large carriers since the fourth quarter of 2003. Turnover for small truckload carriers dropped 11 percentage points to 100 percent.

“Despite reduced rates among both groups, driver turnover remains relatively high by 1990 standards,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “This is a clear signal that the driver shortage has become more acute in recent years.”

DOT pushed to do more on aggressive driving
The Department of Transportation should develop a strategy for using its resources and expertise to fight aggressive driving by automobile and truck drivers, the Government Accountability Office said. In a new report, GAO said that DOT’s Share the Road Safely pilot program conducted in 2004 and 2005 in Washington State showed promise, but that it’s unclear how the department will proceed.

The Washington State program, known as Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, or TACT, combined education, such as highway message signs, and high-visibility law enforcement to reduce aggressive driving. With the oversight of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, TACT received about $892,000 in federal and state funds and was generally modeled on successful behavior modification programs, such as the Click It or Ticket program to encourage safety belt use. TACT was more complex to implement, however, since many behaviors constitute aggressive driving and Washington State lacked a single aggressive driving law, GAO said.

An evaluation conducted by DOT and Washington State officials found that TACT significantly reduced the number and severity of unsafe driving acts near or by trucks. FMCSA plans to development more TACT-like initiatives, but lacks resources and experience to do so, GAO said. FMCSA also plans to spend most of its current funding on educational initiatives, which lack information showing whether they improve driver behavior. FMCSA is developing a TACT-like pilot program in Pennsylvania and plans to roll out initiatives similar to TACT nationally by 2009.

Despite these plans, FMCSA has few people dedicated to education and outreach, and it lacks the experience that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has with behavior modification initiatives. Meanwhile, NHTSA’s role in Share the Road Safely is still evolving.

For a copy of the GAO report, go to this site.
Avery Vise

CCJ Hot Spots
CCJ is pleased to announce a new way of looking at spot-market freight opportunities: the CCJ Hot Spots. In cooperation with freight-matching leader TransCore, each month we will be highlighting the nation’s three hottest states – those where the outbound load to truck imbalance is most in favor of the carrier. We then pair these states with market rate data to identify the three best outbound paying lanes by each of the three most popular equipment types – van, reefer and flatbed. And like the three origin states, each of these destination states has positive load-to-truck ratios. Load-to-truck ratio and market rate data are courtesy of TransCore.

Our goal is to highlight not only the best states for spot-market freight but also the best outbound opportunities from those states. After all, is a great rate really that great if it takes you a couple of days to find the next load?

Arkansas (Outbound)
Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel
Van WV 1.7206 1.5503 1.8909 0.25 278.55
OR 1.4938 1.2836 1.7039 0.27 537.45
SC 1.4634 1.3496 1.5772 0.27 240.82
Reefer IL 1.7931 1.5699 2.0162 0.26 191.92
KY 1.7598 1.3606 2.1589 0.26 246.27
MI 1.688 1.4614 1.9147 0.31 405.84
Flatbed CA 1.9988 1.7841 2.2134 0.25 601.21
WV 1.8316 1.6461 2.0089 0.31 234.75
AR 1.7476 1.5816 1.9137 0.23 493.36
Illinois (Outbound)
Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel
Van WV 1.8759 1.656 2.0958 0.29 189.05
OH 1.7686 1.4818 2.0553 0.27 129.99
LA 1.4919 1.2823 1.7014 0.26 312.4
Reefer OH 2.1931 1.8186 2.5676 0.12 213.27
WV 2.1247 1.8915 2.358 0.09 302.54
LA 1.9147 1.5446 2.2848 0.23 294.61
Flatbed OH 1.9403 1.5308 2.3497 0.04 26.24
LA 1.8696 1.5026 2.2366 0.11 141.48
AR 1.8426 1.4136 2.2716 0.19 146.2
Oregon (Outbound)
Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel
Van MS 1.3478 1.2231 1.4808 0.11 757.83
SC 1.2677 0.9278 1.6077 0.16 885.3
OH 1.2211 0.8452 1.5969 0.23 738.44
Reefer LA 1.4446 1.1211 1.7681 0.13 556.33
OH 1.3989 1.2403 1.5576 0.16 766.55
KY 1.3583 1.2672 1.4494 0.08 984.9
Flatbed OH 1.3801 1.1453 1.6148 0.06 363.96
MI 1.2818 1.1112 1.4525 0.05 267.48
WI 1.2731 1.1217 1.4244 0.03 127.9