Mexico program still alive – for now

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has withdrawn its rulemaking on supporting documents for drivers’ logs, saying that it plans to restart the process once it has accurately identified the information collection burden associated with existing supporting documents requirements. For more information, visit and search for Docket No. FMCSA-1998-3706.

Higher crude oil prices and projections of lower distillate inventories likely will drive on-highway diesel prices to a higher average in 2008 than in 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration reported Oct. 9. EIA projects average retail diesel fuel prices in 2008 of $2.96 per gallon, up from the $2.82 per gallon it expects for the current year.

Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.4 percent in August from its July level, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The August rise was only the second in the past five months. At 108.9, the Freight TSI is down 3.7 percent from its peak of 113.1 achieved in November 2005. For the first eight months of 2007, the Freight TSI was up by less than 0.1 percent.

Illinois House on Oct. 10 failed to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of a measure that would let truckers drive faster on rural highways and interstates. The House’s 57-53 vote in favor of overturning the governor’s veto was short of the 71 votes needed to pass the measure, which would have raised the speed limit for trucks from 55 to 65 mph.

PierPass has announced that beginning Dec. 1, marine container terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will require trucks to be equipped with TruckTags in order to gain access to the terminals. The TruckTag program is part of an effort to meet U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard guidelines requiring marine terminals to enhance their security measures.

U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule moving five southwest Indiana counties – Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin and Pike – from the Central time zone to Eastern, as they jointly had requested. Those counties start observing Eastern Time beginning Nov. 4, when daylight-saving time ends. At the same time, DOT denied a separate petition from Perry County, Ind., to move from Central to Eastern as well.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its counterpart in Mexico are continuing to review and approve motor carriers for the North American Free Trade Agreement demonstration project despite overwhelming opposition to the program in Congress. As of mid-October, five Mexican carriers and three U.S. carriers had been authorized. The number of carriers participating falls below FMCSA’s initial estimates when it formally launched the program in early September – a situation that might be related to the uncertainty over whether the program will continue.

The House and Senate each have voted by large margins to deny funding for the program under the fiscal 2008 Department of Transportation appropriations bill. But legislators have not completed work on the legislation, and funding without the prohibition continues through the middle of this month under a stopgap measure.

On Oct. 17, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez called on Congress to reconsider its plan to kill the program. “With the change of just a few words, Congress can show that we can trade with the world, keep our highways safe, and our companies competitive at the same time,” Secretary Peters said.

“We want to demonstrate to Congress that tough safety standards and rigorous inspections work and that trucks participating in this program will have the same features, the same upkeep, and the same commitment to safety that any U.S. truck has,” Peters added. She noted that Congress has spent $500 million since 1994 to prepare for the start of cross-border trucking.

IMCC urges FMC intervention in Southern California
The Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference told the Federal Maritime Commission Oct. 4 that it strongly opposes the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach clean truck program as currently drafted. A letter from IMCC, part of the American Trucking Associations, detailed IMCC’s concerns regarding both the economic impacts and legality of the program revealed in the ports’ discussions and planning activities for implementing its Clean Air Action Plan.

IMCC also endorsed the concerns raised by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and the National Industrial Transportation League in a letter the groups sent Sept. 26 to FMC. The groups, which expressed their opposition to the ports’ plan and actions, requested that FMC also intervene to prevent implementation of the CAAP, which PMSA and NITL described as an “ill-advised and unlawful proposal.” IMCC reaffirmed that if the ports approve and act to implement CAAP in its current form, it will seek corrective action in U.S. District Court and before the commission.

The L.A.-Long Beach port complex is the largest in the United States. Currently, 1,300 motor carriers and 16,000-plus independent owner-operator drivers provide intermodal drayage services to these facilities, through which moves more than 40 percent of all containerized trade in the nation. Under the CAAP, motor carriers will have to apply for and be approved as licensed “concessionaires,” own their trucks, operate these trucks using only employee drivers, comply with a detailed truck retirement and retrofit program, and pay an assortment of “dirty truck” and application fees, according to IMCC.

According to the ports’ own recent economic impact study, implementation of the CAAP would greatly reduce port trucking competition, raise drayage rates by 80 percent and force many small and medium-sized motor carriers out of business, IMCC states. Officials with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have said the program is aimed at reducing diesel truck emissions by 80 percent by replacing older rigs with newer, cleaner-burning trucks.

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, and Richard Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, responded to the allegations in a joint letter issued Sept. 27 to FMC. Knatz and Steinke argued that the allegations were premature, noting that final details of the clean truck program still are being hammered out. “Until the final elements of the clean truck program have been decided upon by the commissioners of the two ports, we cannot address with precision the local, state and federal regulatory implications of the clean truck program,” they wrote. “PMSA and the NIT League appear to be eager to litigate by correspondence to an abstraction,” they wrote. “Given the complexity of the issues