Judges probe FMCSA’s numbers in hours rule

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Congress adjourned last month without extending the Single State Registration System, which was repealed as of Jan. 1 as Congress mandated in 2005. According to the American Trucking Associations, new fees under the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system likely will begin around the middle of the year. As of now, however, states cannot assess SSRS fees or require credentials in trucks, ATA says.

President Bush issued an executive order (EO) last month that establishes a government-wide policy by the White House to improve security within the surface transportation sector. The EO requires the development of a Transportation Sector Specific Plan (TSSP) that aligns with the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). It also requires that specific security “annexes” be developed by each surface mode to define what security measures are in place, and what potential security initiatives should be reviewed for consideration and/or implementation.

Johnnie Bryan Hunt Sr., founder of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, died Dec. 7 from head injuries suffered from a fall at his home in Goshen, Ark. He was 79. Hunt launched the trucking company in 1969 with five trucks and seven refrigerated trailers as a sideline to his rice hull business. The company, which ranks No. 8 in the CCJ Top 250, now operates about 11,000 trucks and employs more than 16,000. Hunt retired as chairman in 1995 but served as senior chairman until 2004. The Hunt family remains the company’s largest shareholder.

Ultra-low-sulfur diesel represents about 85 percent of on-highway diesel now sold in the United States, an Environmental Protection Agency survey of retail stations has found. The level exceeds EPA’s current regulatory mandate of 80 percent. All highway diesel fuel must meet the ULSD standards by 2010.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.4 percent in October to 109.1 from the September level of 109.5, turning down after a one-month rise, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The October index was 0.7 percent below the October 2005 level. During the first 10 months of 2006, the Freight TSI fell 1.6 percent, the second consecutive decline in the December-to-October period and the biggest decline in the period since 2000.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is expected to reconsider a proposal to allow inspectors to place trucks out of service based solely on data from performance-based brake testers (PBBTs). CVSA members last year rejected reliance solely on PBBTs. Inspectors in some states now use PBBTs to screen for a closer inspection.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the Indiana Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation have signed an agreement to study potential locations for a new limited-access toll highway connecting Interstate 57 in Illinois to I-94 in Indiana. The states will consider providing truck-only lanes on the road.

Private-equity groups Investcorp and Hicks Holdings have agreed to pay $730 million for a majority stake in Greatwide Logistics Services, which posts annual revenues of about $1.2 billion and ranks No. 18 in the CCJ Top 250. Greatwide’s current majority owner, Fenway Partners, will retain a 5 to 10 percent stake in the company. The deal was expected to close before the end of 2006.

New Century Transportation, a provider of hybrid truckload and LTL services, acquired Western Freightways, a Colorado-based load-to-deliver service provider. Terms of the transaction were not announced. Under the arrangement, Western Freightways will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Westampton, N.J.-based New Century.

Mack Trucks will again serve as a primary sponsor of the American Trucking Associations’ Share the Road program in 2007, marking its seventh consecutive year to do so. Among other activities, the program shows local media in cities throughout the United States what motorists need to know about blind spots, safe following distances and truck stopping distances.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle distributed 58 Diesel Truck Idling Grants totaling $1 million. The grants reimburse carriers 70 percent of the cost of buying and installing idling-reduction equipment. There were 18 awards totaling $750,000 to fleets with more than 50 trucks, and 40 awards totaling $250,000 to small fleets with 50 or fewer trucks.

An attorney representing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Dec. 4 found himself defending the statistical models the agency relied on for guidance in its redrafting of the hours-of-service regulations. Matthew Colette, a Justice Department lawyer, also faced questions from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding FMCSA’s analysis of the impact of the rules on the industry and public.

FMCSA is fighting separate lawsuits filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and safety advocacy group Public Citizen over the August 2005 revisions to the rules that took effect in January 2004; the D.C. circuit appeals court in July 2004 had invalidated those rules. A three-judge panel – different from the one that ruled in 2004 – heard arguments from OOIDA, Public Citizen and FMCSA.

Judges on the panel seemed less interested in how the rule has worked in practice than in how FMCSA justified the rule from the standpoint of safety and economic impact. Judge Merrick Garland, for example, questioned Colette on the methodology of FMCSA’s analysis of how increased consecutive hours of driving affected crash risk. Unsatisfied with Colette’s responses, Garland chided the government attorney. “You’re not a statistician. This is a debate among statisticians.”

Colette stood by FMCSA. “Where we are statistically is within the realm of reasonableness.” Garland responded, however, that the analysis must not only be reasonable but also fairly transparent, noting that the appeals court has declared numerous times that the court can’t evaluate a model if the agency doesn’t expose it in the notice of proposed rulemaking.

Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg raised similar concerns, noting that the regulatory impact analysis doesn’t break down the components of the regulatory impact it projects. He asked, “How do the petitioners know it’s a sound number?” It’s difficult for parties to respond to FMCSA’s projections if the agency doesn’t disclose how the agency arrived at them, Ginsburg said. “Any number of times we have said ‘show your work.’ ”

The appeals court panel is expected to issue its ruling within the next two or three months.
Avery Vise

FMCSA proposes rules on intermodal equipment, new entrants
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed regulations that would establish requirements related to the maintenance of intermodal equipment providers, and raise the standard of compliance for passing a new entrant safety audit. The rulemaking on intermodal equipment reflects statutory changes Congress enacted in the 2005 highway reauthorization bill. FMCSA is pursuing the new entrant rulemaking on its own initiative based on its experience with the current program. In addition to tighter standards and clarification of existing rules, FMCSA proposes a separate application procedure and safety oversight system for non-North America-domiciled motor carriers.

FMCSA’s proposals were published in the Dec. 21 Federal Register. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 23315 (intermodal equipment) and Docket No. 11061 (new entrant safety).

CCJ Hot Spots: Wisconsin replaces Ohio

California ( Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van ID 1.7065 1.4955 1.9174 0.31 277.66
MS 1.2804 1.1088 1.4521 0.18 449.58
MN 1.2708 1.133 1.4086 0.28 543.09
Reefer WA 1.9184 1.6857 2.1512 0.29 475.12
ID 1.6686 1.5009 1.8363 0.28 340.22
MS 1.6341 1.302 1.9662 0.19 454.3
Flatbed ID 1.6997 1.333 2.0664 0.22 257.72
WA 1.5333 1.2843 1.7822 0.24 317.76
IN 1.2224 1.0445 1.4002 0.16 549.03
Illinois (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van WA 1.571 1.3256 1.8164 0.21 540.35
ID 1.5653 1.2698 1.8608 0.23 432.22
OR 1.5301 1.2855 1.7746 0.27 594.45
Reefer MS 1.8885 1.6479 2.1292 0.22 275.99
OR 1.4752 1.3412 1.6093 0.22 732.05
ID 1.4732 1.3779 1.5685 0.22 481.43
Flatbed ID 1.9498 1.6679 2.2316 0.25 532.12
CA 1.6552 1.5079 1.8026 0.25 735.77
MS 1.6524 1.4677 1.8372 0.12 129.62
Wisconsin (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van OH 1.8692 1.2223 2.5162 0.32 184.12
ID 1.6571 1.3443 1.9699 0.29 429.32
KY 1.5872 1.3647 1.8098 0.29 177.57
Reefer OH 1.9453 1.6959 2.1948 0.14 201.4
KY 1.9214 1.7271 2.1157 0.2 241.03
MS 1.8196 1.666 1.9732 0.17 361.96
Flatbed CA 1.7818 1.5324 2.0313 0.12 867.85
ID 1.7683 1.2504 2.2862 0.22 382.78
OR 1.7347 1.5786 1.8909 0.31 628.7

For November, the CCJ Hot Spots for spot-market freight opportunities were California, Illinois and Wisconsin. 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 have 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.

Last chance for graphics contest
Entries for the 2006 Commercial Fleet Graphics Award competition must be postmarked or e-mailed by Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007. The competition, sponsored by the National Private Truck Council and CCJ, is open to operators of all types of fleets operating commercial trucks, from pickups and vans up to tractor-trailers. Winners will be selected in two categories: Daytime graphics and reflective nighttime graphics.

To qualify for the competition, the graphics must have been in use in fleet operations during 2006. One-of-a-kind designs, such as show trucks and special exhibits, are excluded. Download the entry form, which includes further rules and guidelines, by visiting www.ccjmagazine.com and clicking on “Fleet Graphics” under ” CCJ Special Features.” Or contact Dean Smallwood at dsmallwood@rrpub.com.

Image is carriers’ fault

Regarding the comments of Avery Vise in “Slow going on speeding” (CCJ, November 2006), OOIDA has always been concerned with the image of the industry. Very concerned. We’ve also been directly involved in the trenches with drivers long enough to recognize when an issue has merit and when it doesn’t. The speed limiter proposal comes up short for many reasons that most professional drivers (including the drivers for the petitioning carriers) can illustrate as well or better than me.

The supposed tarnished image of drivers gets frequent lip service. Over 20 years ago this was viewed as a crisis that demanded an industry-wide solution. Every significant player in trucking – including truck and engine makers, insurers, suppliers, trucking associations, AAA and others – met numerous times to develop a long-term plan. When all the fluff, hype and knee-jerk solutions were discarded, what remained as the best strategy to improve the image of the industry was to elevate the quality of – and the training required for – drivers entering the profession. This is what the entire industry concluded!

Unfortunately, carriers (primarily represented by ATA) quickly concluded that better-quality, better-trained drivers might expect to be paid better. They ran the other way, and they’re still running. I’m confident that ATA legislative priorities still include opposing any required comprehensive training for new drivers and support for the exemption from full Fair Labor Standards Act protections for truck drivers.

In recent years big carriers have sought out 18-year-olds – and lately, immigrants from around the world – to satisfy a 120 percent driver turnover standard. It’s pretty obvious what kind of drivers they want – those that don’t cost much and that are easy to replace.
To the extent that trucking has an image problem, it is clearly one of the motor carrier industry’s making. And that’s not going to change until motor carriers realize that good drivers are their best and most important investment in safety.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Inc.

Top speed not the issue
The facts overwhelmingly refute the purported safety and image value of 68 mph speed limiters (“Slow going on speeding,” CCJ, November 2006). The “too fast for conditions” stat can be 35 mph in fog, 50 mph in rain or any such figure. The public isn’t primarily worried about trucks going 75 mph when traffic allows; the public sees and complains mostly about tailgating and unsafe lane changes. These occur at speeds all around the dial, from 30 mph on up. A 68 mph limiter helps nothing here.
– Danny Schnautz, Clark Freight Lines, Pasadena, Texas

– CCJ welcomes comments from its readers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and appropriateness. Send letters to feedback@ccjmagazine.com.