Mary Peters was confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 30 as secretary of the Department of Transportation, succeeding Norman Mineta. Peters had been head of the Federal Highway Administration under President Bush for four years until she stepped down in 2005 to join HDR Inc., an engineering firm based in Omaha, Neb. Before her first Bush appointment, Peters was transportation director for the state of Arizona.
Freight Transportation Services Index in August experienced its biggest monthly decline since its introduction in September 2001. The index fell 3.2 percent to 108.1 from the July level of 111.7, turning down for the third consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The Freight TSI also was down from 112.0 in August 2005. For the first eight months of 2006, the Freight TSI has fallen 2.6 percent.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection completed installations of the Automated Commercial Environment at all land border ports in New York. ACE, the commercial trade-processing system being developed by CBP, is operating at all southern land border ports and along most of the northern border. A mandatory e-manifest policy on a port-by-port basis will begin in 2007.
Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has posted on its website an application guide for new Canadian hours-of-service regulations, which are set to be implemented Jan. 1, 2007. According to CCMTA, the new Canadian logs will be valid for use both in Canada and the United States.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation (SB 1213) that would have granted collective bargaining rights to port owner-operators. Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation last year. “While I understand and support the desire of the bill’s proponents to improve the economic clout of port owner-operator drivers, the provisions of this bill likely violate federal antitrust law and will result in many unintended consequences,” he said.
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s board of directors unanimously voted at its fall meeting to affiliate with the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada. OOIDA boasts more than 144,000 members in North America, including 3,000 in Canada, while the OOBA has about 500 members. The groups will retain autonomy in name and membership but will try to speak with a common voice on major issues such as border crossing, government affairs, regulations and judicial processes.
Commercial traffic from Canada will pay agricultural inspection fees, effective Nov. 24, at the U.S. border to cover costs to guard against the threats of pests, disease and bioterrorism. Commercial trucks will pay $5.25 per crossing, or $105 for the year.
Michael Robinson has been named director of legislative affairs for the American Trucking Associations. Robinson most recently served as deputy chief of staff for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and as a policy adviser in the Office of the Majority Leader.
The American Trucking Associations has named 35 drivers as finalists in the selection process to become captains on the 2007-2008 America’s Road Team, the trucking industry’s principal ambassador group, sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America. The Road Team will be selected in January by a panel of industry representatives and trucking news media.
Celadon Group Inc. announced that one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries has purchased the truckload business and approximately 270 tractors and 590 trailers of Erin Truckways LTD. – which does business as Digby Truck Lines Inc. – for about $21 million. Celadon also has offered employment to about 150 qualified drivers. According to the seller’s unaudited financial statements, the Nashville, Tenn.-based transportation company generated about $48 million in gross revenue in 2005.
Toronto-based Vitran Corp. acquired Pittsburgh-based Pjax Freight System for $132 million in cash and assumed debt, stock and other compensation. Pjax operates from 22 terminals, 13 of which are owned and were acquired with the transaction. The company’s estimated revenue was $175 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30.
Knight Transportation completed a $15.6 million purchase of most of the trucking assets of Phoenix-based Roads West Transportation, which generates between $25 million and $30 million in revenue a year and employs 110 company drivers and 45 owner-operators.
The American Trucking Associations on Oct. 20 filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require that newly built large trucks be equipped with tamper-resistant speed limiters that would govern top speed at 68 mph. The association also asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to prohibit tampering with governors so that the new trucks could travel faster than 68 mph. The petition comes as no surprise as ATA’s board of directors approved the action in February.
Although ATA believes limiting the speed of trucks will produce safety benefits, the group’s broader objective is to highlight the speed issue for all highway users. “We believe this goes a long way toward a national dialogue on excessive speed,” said ATA President Bill Graves in announcing the petition at a Washington, D.C., press conference. “This is something we are proud to lead on.”
The proposal for speed limiters to be set at 68 mph is consistent with ATA’s policy supporting a national speed limit of 65, Graves said. A vehicle limit of 68 mph provides a safety cushion allowing for safe passing, ATA says. In addition, a majority of carriers that currently limit vehicle speed do so at 68 mph or below.
“Many are already there,” agreed Pat Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress and current ATA chairman. “Responsible carriers realize that speed is the No. 1 killer on the nation’s highways.”
Mac McCormick, chief executive officer of Best Way Express and ATA’s first vice chairman, acknowledged that the proposal isn’t uniformly popular – even within ATA’s own membership. “But it’s the right thing to do.” McCormick also argued that a speed limiter was needed to level the playing field. “If a guy speeds, that’s a competitive advantage, in my mind, at the expense of the traveling public.”
ATA’s petitions follow an earlier petition submitted to FMCSA by a safety advocacy group known as Road Safe America and several major trucking companies. Although that petition also proposed 68 mph as the limit, it would require that all engines equipped with electronic control modules be set to govern top speed at 68 mph (see Journal, CCJ, October 2006). Among other penalties, failing to have the truck governed would be an out-of-service item in a roadside inspection.
Graves said ATA is not supporting that approach because the board’s consensus was that focusing on newly manufactured equipment would make the controversial proposal more acceptable to the broadest constituency. Also, because any qualified technician could change the settings on today’s ECMs, a new tamper-proof chip is needed to make the speed limiter meaningful, ATA says. The federal government, however, typically has not required retrofitting when it changes vehicle standards, and ATA doesn’t encourage a change in that approach.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association accused ATA of proposing speed limiters as “part of a broader strategy to create a more conducive environment for other, more worrisome intentions.” Specifically, OOIDA charges that ATA is interested in offering the 68 mph speed limiter in return for liberalizing truck size and weight restrictions or loosening the rules on foreign drivers.
“Technology cannot take the place of a well-trained driver,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “If the big trucking corporations were honestly interested in promoting safety, they would be petitioning for a requirement for comprehensive training for all new truck drivers.”
Graves rejected the notion that the speed limiter proposal was motivated by a desire to make points with the politicians that ultimately must consider ATA’s legislative agenda. “This initiative is motivated by the desire to slow trucks down.”
The next step will be for FMCSA and NHTSA to publish the petitions of ATA and/or Road Safe America in the Federal Register for public comment. There is no deadline for the agencies to do so.
– Avery Vise
Congress votes tighter CDL rules for immigrants
Before adjourning several weeks before the mid-term elections, Congress passed legislation (H.R. 4954) aimed at tightening port security, including provisions aimed at tightening the rules governing illegal residents working as truck drivers, as well as drivers that operate at ports.
The compromise version of H.R. 4954 includes the amendment proposed by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) requiring the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security to issue regulations to implement recommendations of the DOT Office of Inspector General regarding verification of legal status and prevention of fraud in the commercial driver’s license 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.
The Pryor-Talent language, which has been modified to give DOT an additional six months to implement its provisions, also requires DOT in cooperation with DHS to draft guidelines to improve compliance with federal immigration and customs laws in crossborder operations and to establish a system or process by which a carrier’s operating authority can be verified during a roadside inspection.
Another trucking-related provision requires threat assessment screening, including name-based checks against terrorist watch lists and immigration status check, for all port truck drivers who have access to secure areas of a port and who have a CDL but do not have a current and valid hazardous materials endorsement. The assessment would be the same as the one the Coast Guard has ordered for port facility employees and longshoremen.
The Senate bill included several other trucking-related provisions that were not adopted in the final version of the bill (see Journal, CCJ, October 2006).
Supporting docs rule held for training
Although the White House gave its approval in mid-September, a new rule governing supporting documents that motor carriers must use to verify drivers’ logs wasn’t expected to be issued until early November, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill said Oct. 20.
“I am holding it because I want to be sure our field staff is fully trained so it will be applied accurately and uniformly,” Hill said in comments to journalists in Washington, D.C.
The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the final rule on Sept. 14. A delay of more than a month-and-a-half is unusual; federal regulations typically are issued and published in the Federal Register within a few days of OMB approval.
Several other regulatory proposals remain under OMB review, including a proposal related to electronic onboard recorders for hours-of-service compliance. Others relate to intermodal equipment, medical certification as part of the commercial driver’s license, new entrant safety and brokers of household goods.
In a speech to transportation journalists at the National Press Club, Hill said that motor carriers have become safer but that “we’re seeing a plateauing” of fatalities and other key metrics involving large trucks. Given the anticipated growth in transportation along with greater congestion and other factors, fatalities likely will rise “unless we see a reinvigorating of safety initiatives.”
One of the key safety efforts in the coming years stems from FMCSA’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010. Through CSA 2010, the agency wants to achieve more effective oversight of commercial motor vehicle safety through contact with more carriers and drivers; improved data to better identify high-risk carriers and drivers; and a wider range of interventions to correct high-risk behavior early. This would allow FMCSA and states to look at 80,000 to 100,000 carriers a year rather than the 10,000 to 20,000 it currently reviews, Hill said. FMCSA has scheduled a Nov. 16 listening session on the CSA 2010 Initiative. (See “FMCSA advances new enforcement model,” page 20.)
Another big push will be noncommercial vehicle enforcement. In the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the noncommercial vehicle was responsible for 57 percent of the causal events studied in car-truck crashes, Hill noted. Last year’s highway bill gave FMCSA authority to make grants to states for enforcement against noncommercial vehicles as a way of promoting commercial motor vehicle safety. “As we fully implement the program, this is a great opportunity,” Hill said.
Hill also is a big fan of safety technology, and he noted three in particular: electronic stability control, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Asked whether FMCSA might consider requiring these systems by regulation, Hill replied, “At this point, we’re looking at it as voluntary, but the jury is still out on a future rulemaking.” He suggested that FMCSA might have ways to encourage adoption of the technology, adding, “but let’s not get too far down the road.”
On other issues, Hill downplayed expectations that the Department of Transportation would sponsor a pilot project to expand access to the United States by a limited number of Mexican carriers as a transition to full operations contemplated by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Hill said no final decision had been made on conducting a pilot, but he also noted that the out-of-service rate of Mexican carriers within the commercial zone currently is as good or better than that of U.S. carriers operating there. Moreover, the real issue is the strength of enforcement. “If you have strong enforcement, it will drive safety.”
– Avery Vise
FMCSA advances new enforcement model
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is holding a public listening session Nov. 16 to obtain feedback on its Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 initiative – a comprehensive review of how FMCSA carries out compliance and enforcement programs. The goal is to assess the safety performance of a larger number of motor carriers and drivers through a broader array of progressive compliance interventions.
FMCSA launched the CSA 2010 initiative in August 2004 and held a series of public listening sessions to gather input on how the agency could improve its process for monitoring safety performance. More information on the listening sessions and FMCSA’s final report on them are available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/csalisteningsessions.htm.
The current approach to compliance and enforcement is resource-intensive and reaches only a small percentage of motor carriers, FMCSA says. In addition, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study suggests that more attention should be given to the safety fitness of individual commercial motor vehicle drivers.
The agency is trying to draft a new model that is more flexible, efficient and effective and one that leverages data and technology. A key factor to the success of the data/technology component is the information technology/business transformation project Compass (website). A new conceptual model would continuously evaluate and monitor regulated entities’ compliance and safety performance. A safety fitness determination would be independent of compliance reviews; rather, that determination would be based on performance data and could allow a broader menu of compliance interventions, the agency says.
FMCSA plans to conduct pilots of a new operational model over the next several years and to draft a legislative proposal in time for the next highway bill in 2009. The agency envisions full implementation in 2010 or 2011.
The listening session will run from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave. N.W., in Washington, D.C. For more information on the session, visit www.csa2010. For more information on concepts FMCSA is developing as part of the CSA 2010 initiative, visit this site and search Docket No. 18898.
FedEx Ground withdraws hours exemption request
FedEx Ground Package System has dropped its request that its home-delivery drivers be allowed to operate property-carrying trucks to and from their residences without being considered “on duty” for hours-of-service compliance purposes. FedEx Ground gave the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration no reason for the withdrawal, but the proposal had generated considerable comment. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety strongly opposed the request, saying that the increased working hours accrued by FedEx drivers could significantly exceed the maximum hours currently permitted under the hours regulations and would make drivers’ private homes “additional, unofficial terminals.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told FMCSA that it generally agreed with FedEx’s request but wanted it implemented by rule change or interpretation: “The situation that FedEx drivers face is indistinguishable from the thousands of drivers who are denied the ability under the rules from using their vehicle for their personal conveyance to get home or find a safe place to park their truck and get rest for the night.” For more information, go to this site and search Docket No. 24231.
CCJ Hot Spots: A Midwest feast
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For September, the CCJ Hot Spots for spot-market freight opportunities were Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. In cooperation with freight-matching leader TransCore, we highlight 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. The goal is to highlight not only the best states for spot-market freight but also the best outbound opportunities from those states.
ATA tonnage index falls 2.1% in August
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.1 percent in August. The setback was preceded by a 0.7 percent gain in July. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index fell to 110.9 from 113.3 in July. August’s index level is the lowest reading since tonnage stood at 110.4 in March of this year and was 2.9 percent lower than a year earlier. Year-to-date, the index is down 2 percent, compared with the same period in 2005. The not-seasonally adjusted index jumped 6.8 percent from July to 116.5.
“Freight volumes typically increase between July and August, but the gain this year wasn’t strong enough to push the seasonally adjusted reading into positive territory,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The dramatic fall in the housing sector in recent months impacted August truck tonnage, specifically flatbed freight. Although there is not as much flatbed tonnage as dry van tonnage, a slowdown in flatbed freight weighed down the overall figure.”
Costello said general freight truckload gains were in line with anecdotal reports that suggest the fall freight season started with a whimper rather than a roar, much like last year. ATA calculates the index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The baseline year is 2000.
ZF Meritor files antitrust suit against Eaton
ZF Meritor – a joint venture of ArvinMeritor and ZF Friedrichshafen – has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit in Delaware charging that Eaton Corp. is engaging in anticompetitive conduct in the markets for heavy-duty truck transmissions. Meritor Transmission Corp., an ArvinMeritor company, also is a party to the lawsuit. In 1999, ZF and Meritor formed the joint venture in an effort to build on the 16 percent market share in heavy-duty transmissions Meritor still held at the time.
ZF Meritor charges in its complaint that after the joint venture was formed in 1999, Eaton responded with “a series of exclusionary actions designed to reduce consumer access to ZF Meritor transmissions.” Eaton’s most significant action, ZF Meritor alleges, was to use its dominant position “to induce all heavy-duty truck manufacturers to enter into de facto exclusive dealing contracts,” foreclosing 90 percent of heavy-duty transmission sales.
ArvinMeritor announced recently that it would stop supplying manual transmissions to the heavy-duty market and focus on the FreedomLine in the ZF Meritor joint venture. In its press announcement, ArvinMeritor charged that “Eaton’s conduct forced ZF Meritor, though still a legal entity today, to cease operations.
“In a market without competition, innovation languishes, choice evaporates and prices increase,” said ArvinMeritor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chip McClure.
In response to the news of the lawsuit, Eaton issued a statement that it “has competed in a fair and vigorous manner in heavy-duty truck transmissions. Our customers chose to purchase transmissions from Eaton because we provided superior value, innovation and service.” Eaton said it expects “to vigorously defend our position.”
– Avery Vise
NationaLease, AmeriQuest to merge
NationaLease Purchasing Corp., the purchasing arm of NationaLease, and AmeriQuest Transportation and Logistics Resources Corp. signed an agreement to combine their organizations. Under the agreement, AmeriQuest will be the provider of purchasing and value-added services and will have annual revenues in excess of $500 million.
Upon completion of the merger, the leasing members of both AmeriQuest and National Truck Leasing System will unite and operate under the NationaLease umbrella. The combined leasing organization will represent more than 700 locations and 150,000 trucks throughout the United States and Canada.
Doug Clark, president and chief executive officer of AmeriQuest, will serve as president and CEO of both companies. The merger is expected to close in November.
ULSD hits the fuel pumps
Announcing the introduction of ultra-low-sulfur diesel at the retail level, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson last month touted the move to ULSD as “the single greatest achievement in clean fuel since lead was removed from gasoline over 25 years ago.” Johnson kicked off the switch to ULSD in an Oct. 10 visit to Cummins engine test facilities in Columbus, Ind., where he saw the work being done to prepare Cummins to meet the 2007 emissions standards. Later, he issued a statement and fielded questions from reporters in a teleconference.
“America’s pumps are primed to deliver on President Bush’s goal of clean diesel and cleaner air,” said Johnson. “Over the last century, diesels have been our nation’s economic workhorse – reliable, fuel-efficient and long-lasting. Today, through the president’s investment in clean fuel technology, America’s economic workhorse also is becoming America’s environmental workhorse.”
The Oct. 15 implementation date was more of a milestone in the transition than a deadline. Under EPA’s ULSD rules, retailers that chose to sell ULSD by Oct. 15 had to meet the 15 parts per million of sulfur spec as of that date. So fuel retailers weren’t required to sell ULSD as of Oct. 15, although if they didn’t sell ULSD they did face some limitations on how much ULSD they can “downgrade” and sell as low sulfur (500 ppm).
Despite the rules, the reality is that most diesel flowing to retailers is ULSD anyway. Johnson said that ULSD production currently tops 2.4 million barrels a day – more than 90 percent of the demand. So EPA expected a majority of fueling stations to have ULSD by Oct. 15. Also, since heavy-duty diesel engines built after Jan. 1, 2007, must use ULSD, selling it will become a market necessity at some point.
Once fully implemented, ULSD will result in the annual reduction of 2.6 million tons of nitrogen oxides and 110,000 tons of particulate matter, and result in $150 billion in annual health- and welfare-related benefits, Johnson said.
– Avery Vise
Attendance up at GATS
The Great American Trucking Show, held at the Dallas Convention Center on Aug. 24-26, played host to 45,914 attendee registrants, 2.2 percent higher than in 2005, show management announced. Over the past three years, attendance is up 15 percent. GATS 2007 will be held Aug. 23-25 in Dallas. For more information, go to this site.
House passes alternative energy bill
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 6203) that would accelerate the development and widespread use of renewable energy technologies, such as biofuels, solar, wind, clean coal and hydrogen. Among many other provisions, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop methods and technologies that would allow biofuels to be used in existing infrastructure such as pipelines.
The fate of H.R. 6203 is unclear. Congress returns to Washington Nov. 13 for a “lame duck” session. If the Senate fails to act on the bill during that session, the legislation will die and must be reintroduced in the next Congress.
ATA intermodal group files complaint against ocean carrier
The American Trucking Associations’ Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference filed a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission claiming that an ocean carrier regulated by FMC wrongfully prevented a trucking company from conducting business with the steamship operator. The complaint, filed on behalf of Transport Express, alleges that Sinotrans Container Lines Co. Ltd/Sinotrans Shipping Agency Inc. wrongfully terminated Transport Express’ interchange rights, which are necessary to conduct intermodal container transport under the Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement (UIIA).
IMCC and its member motor carriers assert that Sinotrans’ actions violate section 10 fairness provisions of the Shipping Act of 1984 that prohibit an ocean freight carrier from unreasonably refusing to deal or negotiate, and which require ocean carriers to observe just and reasonable regulations and practices relating to the movement and transfer of intermodal containers and property. “Given the importance of the efficient movement of freight to the global economy, we must ensure that the rights and obligations of domestic motor carriers are adequately protected,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer.