ATA: Incentives insufficient on EOBRs

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has reopened until May 21 the comment period on its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning inspection, repair and maintenance responsibilities for intermodal equipment providers and motor carriers operating container chassis. For more information, go to http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 23315.

Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is proposing several changes to the regulations applicable to cargo tank motor vehicles in response to petitions for rulemaking submitted by the regulated community. PHMSA said the proposed changes are intended to enhance safety, clarify regulations and reduce operating burdens on manufacturers, carriers and others. For more information, go to http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 25910.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.2 percent in February to 107.7 from the January level of 107.9, falling for the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The February freight index was down 1.8 percent from its February 2006 level.

Washington Trucking Association and the American Trucking Associations are supporting a request by Arcadia, Calif.-based Food Express that the Washington State Supreme Court reconsider its decision that the state’s overtime provisions apply to all hours worked by a Washington-based truck driver engaged in interstate transportation, regardless of where the driving took place. The parties ask that the court defer to the longstanding interpretation of the Washington Department of Labor and Industries that does not include out-of-state hours in overtime computations.

American Transportation Research Institute concluded that the Automated Commercial Environment Truck e-Manifest had made international border crossings into the United States smoother, but there are considerable start-up labor and equipment costs. ATRI found that the program has the potential to provide net operational benefits for medium and large carriers. To view the research summary and order a copy of the full report, go to this site.


Carrier News
A Colorado bill that would have mandated up to a 5 percent biodiesel blend for diesel fuel and a 10 percent ethanol blend for gasoline died in the Senate Appropriations Committee,
which voted 8-5 to kill SB 238.

Western Express Inc. in late March announced plans to acquire Smithway Motor Xpress Corp. for $90 million. The transaction – under which Smithway would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Western Express – is expected to close this summer. On a combined basis, the companies would operate about 1,600 tractors in dry van operations and 1,400 tractors in flatbed operations.

Old Dominion Freight Line signed an agreement to purchase selected assets of Sumner, Wash.-based Priority Freight Lines. Terms were not disclosed. Priority produced revenue of $17 million in 2006 through its network of eight owned and leased service centers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.

Although the American Trucking Associations generally supports the approach taken in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal on electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs), “the agency must make important changes to the proposed rule to make it effective and promote use of EOBRs,” the trucking group said in comments on the proposal.

Under the notice of proposed rulemaking, FMCSA offers incentives to drive voluntary adoption of EOBRs and would mandate the devices only on carriers that display a pattern of noncompliance with the hours-of-service regulations.

“The consensus of ATA’s membership is that, under this proposal, motor carriers will not be incentivized enough to voluntarily adopt EOBRs,” ATA said. “One overriding reason is that there continues to be a lack of a nexus between EOBR use and improved safety performance – as distinguished from improved compliance.” ATA said that before FMCSA issues a final rule, it needs to:

· Incorporate research recommendations regarding safety technology deployment;

· Review in depth ATA’s EOBR policy, which serves as a roadmap to get to an EOBR mandate as well as resolving issues pertaining to voluntary acceptance of EOBRs;

· Provide more meaningful incentives to encourage voluntary adoption of EOBRs;

· Complete the proposed performance specifications, and integrate recommendations of ATA and its Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) working groups;

· Conduct a pilot program to determine the functionality and benefits of EOBR usage; and

· Target more effectively the use of the remedial directive to gain compliance.

“The bottom line is that ATA foresees a future state where certain trucking operations are required to use EOBRs for hours-of-service recordkeeping,” ATA said. “However, we believe the agency must assure that the regulatory groundwork for this technology is completed properly.” For example, ATA proposed that FMCSA conduct a supplemental rulemaking primarily focused on firmly setting the EOBR performance specifications.

Most of the comments filed by organized groups repeated longheld and entrenched positions. Public Citizen and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, for example, criticized FMCSA’s proposal for failing to mandate EOBRs on the entire trucking industry. The Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association strongly oppose mandatory EOBRs.

“If [EOBRs] could prevent the manipulation of a driver’s work schedule and respect drivers’ privacy rights, OOIDA would consider supporting them,” the group said. “But for now, OOIDA’s opposition to the proposed EOBRs remains unchanged.” OOIDA says that few of the problems it previously identified have been addressed, and the proposal does not try to define the public policy need for mandatory EOBRs.

For links to the EOBR proposal and to all the comments filed regarding it, go to http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 18940.


FMCSA budget seeks more roadside enforcement
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans more roadside enforcement and inspections than before, according to testimony delivered in its budget request. For fiscal year 2008, the FMCSA requests $528 million, of which $228 million is for motor carrier safety operations and programs and $300 million is for motor carrier safety grants. Ninety-three percent of the budget, or $489 million, focuses on reducing truck and bus crashes.

Administrator John Hill, who spoke March 29 before the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said the goals are to:

· Conduct more roadside enforcement and inspections, in cooperation with states and localities;

· Prioritize the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program for buses and focus enforcement on curbside buses;

· Test the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program, designed as a new approach for safety fitness ratings; and

· Increase efficiency within the agency.

The largest of the grant program requests is $202 million for Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program grants, which funds about two million roadside driver and vehicle inspections and more than 5,000 compliance reviews each year; that amount includes $29 million for 28,500 state-conducted new entrant audits. Also, Washington’s Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks pilot program will be expanded to states with the highest fatality and crash rates, Hill said. Hill’s budget request for fiscal year 2008 is nearly twice the amount of the agency’s $272 million budget in fiscal 2001, an indication of the mounting annual cost of government.


Justice Department OKs survey of small trucking firms
The Department of Justice announced it would not oppose a proposal by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (www.nastc.com) and Bell & Co. (www.bellandcompany. net) to conduct an operational and financial survey of small and medium-sized trucking companies. NASTC and Bell plan to share the collected information in aggregate form with survey participants and others to provide trucking firms with competitive benchmarks. The department said the proposal is not likely to be anticompetitive and could lead to consumer benefits.

The department’s position was stated in a business review letter sent April 9 from Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s antitrust division, to NASTC and Bell. The letter noted that the safeguards will ensure that the survey does not result in exchanges of competitively sensitive business information. The survey report will be administered by third parties, contain only aggregated data that is at least three months old, and be published only if responses to the survey are received from five or more trucking companies.

“Participation by members of an industry in benchmarking surveys does not necessarily raise antitrust concerns,” Barnett said in the letter. “In fact, with appropriate safeguards, such surveys can benefit consumers when industry members use information derived from such surveys to gain efficiencies and price their products or services more competitively.”


California ports advance clean trucks plan
The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles on April 12 held the inaugural meeting of a stakeholder group to gather input on a proposed Clean Trucks Program intended to reduce air pollution from harbor trucks by more than 80 percent within five years. The 24-member stakeholder group, which is assisting with the implementation of the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan, is comprised of six environmental, six business, three government, six labor and three academic leaders.

The Clean Trucks Program is outlined in the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, which was adopted in November by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The plan’s goal is to curb port-related air pollution from trucks, ships, locomotives and other equipment by at least 45 percent in five years. The staffs of both ports are refining the program, with stakeholder input. A plan is expected to be presented to the harbor commissions of both ports before July.

The Clean Air Action Plan calls for drayage truck owners to scrap and replace the oldest of about 16,000 trucks working at the ports, and retrofit the others, with the assistance of a port-sponsored grant subsidy.

“Under ordinary use, a diesel truck can be operated for many decades,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke says. “We need to find fair, equitable solutions that will accomplish our shared goals of moving cargo efficiently and securely, while improving air quality and reducing health risks.”

The program under development by the port staffs would allow only port-licensed concessionaires, operating “clean trucks,” to enter port terminals without having to pay a new truck impact gate fee. Port-licensed concessionaires that continue to work in the ports with older, more polluting trucks would be required to pay the fee.

“Clean trucks” are defined as 2007 or newer trucks, retrofitted trucks manufactured in 1994 or newer, or trucks that have been replaced through the Gateway Cities truck modernization program; the 2007 and newer trucks are 90 percent cleaner than older trucks. Year by year, the oldest trucks would be barred from the ports until only trucks meeting the CAAP “clean truck” standard would be permitted to work in the ports.

For more information on the Clean Trucks Program, go to www.portofla.org or www.polb.com.


EPA sets guidelines for SCR engines
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued guidelines for engines using selective catalyst reduction to meet 2010 emissions standards. The reducing agent must be readily available, and drivers must be warned automatically if their tanks are low on it.

SCR reduces emissions of the ozone-forming pollutant nitrogen oxide, or NOx, by injecting a reducing agent, usually ammonia or urea, into the exhaust gas upstream of the catalyst. Drivers must replenish the agent periodically, or NOx emissions can increase greatly. Because of this, the EPA says, engines using SCR must have a way of alerting the driver that the agent is low, and they also must have a backup system to prevent the driver from operating the truck despite the warning – for example, a fuel lockout that makes refueling impossible if the urea tank is empty. Urea also must be readily available at truck stops, dealerships and retail stores, the EPA says.

The agency says it must approve all SCR designs, which must be durable and tamper-resistant, and must provide ways to identify an incorrect reducing agent.


ConocoPhillips, Tyson to develop animal-based diesel
ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods Inc. announced they will work together to develop and market a renewable diesel fuel based on beef, pork and poultry by-product fat. Tyson will make capital improvements this summer in order to begin pre-processing animal fat from some of its North American rendering facilities later in the year. ConocoPhillips also will begin the necessary capital expenditures to enable it to produce the fuel in several of its refineries. The finished product, according to the companies, will be renewable diesel fuel mixtures that meet all federal standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Production is expected to ramp up over time to as much as 175 million gallons per year of renewable diesel.


O’Neal of O & S Trucking elected TCA chairman
Jim O’Neal, president of Springfield, Mo.-based O & S Trucking, was elected as 2007-08 chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association at the association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. O’Neal says he wants to promote the safe operations of the companies and improve the image of the trucking industry through the elimination of “at fault” bodily injury accidents. To accomplish this, O’Neal says the industry must put safety at the top of its mission statement.

“It is up to our industry to take back highway safety and driver wellness from the so-called safety advocates,” O’Neal says. “These are our issues. There is nothing more important in our businesses than operating a safe fleet, and there is nothing more important than telling the public we are serious about getting it done.”


ATA tonnage index rose 1.2% in March
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.2 percent in March, which was the second consecutive monthly gain. The index increased 1.6 percent in February. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index improved to 114.6 in March from 113.3 the previous month. The index grew 1.6 percent compared with a year earlier, marking the first year-over-year increase since June 2006 and the largest gain since December 2005. The not-seasonally adjusted index jumped 15.7 percent from February to 117.1.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the year-over-year improvement was a positive sign, but that the industry was not out of the woods just yet. “The year-over-year changes could still fall back into negative territory during some future months,” Costello warned. “Many motor carriers are telling us anecdotally that April has been filled with starts and stops.”

Costello projects the industry will see a gradual improvement in volumes due to an inventory correction, which should boost truck volumes, and a better economic outlook for 2008.


CCJ Hot Spots: South commands strong rates from Midwest
The top rates for loads from the nation’s strongest spot-market states – Illinois, Ohio and Indiana – generally were into Southern states during March. For loads placed on vans, refrigerated trailers and flatbeds, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia frequently were among the high-rate destinations. Minnesota and Oregon were among the non-Southern states that appeared more than once among the high-rate states.

In cooperation with freight-matching leader TransCore, CCJ highlights 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.

Illinois (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van WV 1.7981 1.4716 2.1247 0.32 189.65
OR 1.5699 1.3173 1.8225 0.27 608.39
AL 1.5268 1.3617 1.692 0.25 199.98
Reefer WV 2.2217 2.0221 2.4213 0.12 368.98
AL 1.9435 1.7815 2.1055 0.19 377.53
MN 1.9331 1.4067 2.4595 0.1 264.3
Flatbed MN 1.8457 1.6203 2.071 0.13 87.31
WV 1.7904 1.6271 1.9536 0.01 36.64
AR 1.7331 1.4108 2.0554 0.17 160.85
Ohio (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van OR 1.5279 1.3521 1.7037 0.25 650.62
AL 1.4909 1.3449 1.6368 0.24 215.34
SC 1.4783 1.3325 1.6241 0.27 183.06
Reefer AL 1.6287 1.3463 1.911 0.21 328.8
SC 1.5732 1.4207 1.7257 0.18 222.15
AR 1.4447 1.3857 1.5037 0.23 266.6
Flatbed IL 1.7851 1.4613 2.1089 0.05 27.96
WI 1.7375 1.5101 1.9648 0.09 63.07
AL 1.737 1.3716 2.1024 0.24 160.23
Indiana (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van AR 1.5479 1.3581 1.7377 0.26 175.6
SC 1.5403 1.3891 1.6916 0.26 199.54
AL 1.5239 1.3034 1.7444 0.24 167.82
Reefer MS 1.768 1.608 1.928 0.24 233.97
AL 1.7631 1.5485 1.9776 0.22 200.16
SC 1.725 1.5886 1.8614 0.17 235.85
Flatbed MN 1.7889 1.6145 1.9634 0.12 86.12
SC 1.7512 1.5543 1.948 0.09 116.13
WV 1.7487 1.466 2.0315 0.03 14.78