Drivers’ hours remain in place

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Navistar International Corp. agreed Dec. 20 in a non-binding memorandum of understanding to buy General Motors Corp.’s medium-duty truck business, including the rights to build Class 4-8 GMC and Chevrolet brand trucks and sell through GM’s North American dealer network. The deal also includes the related service parts business. Other Navistar offerings are International trucks, IC buses, Workhorse chassis and MaxxForce engines.

Freight Transportation Services Index rose 1.3 percent in October from its September level, rising after a one-month decline that brought the index to its lowest level since January 2004, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The October rise was the largest monthly increase since May 2006. At 109.5, the Freight TSI is down 3.2 percent from its peak of 113.1 achieved in November 2005.

Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General will audit the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) as required by legislation enacted in 2005. The performance audit will focus on the accuracy and security of convictions and other personal information in CDLIS and state department of motor vehicles (DMV) systems.

U.S. DOT made $1 million available immediately to both Washington state and Oregon to help repair flood-damaged roads. The states can use the funding to pay for cleanup and recovery work, including clearing debris and re-routing traffic, as well as for new construction to replace damaged sections of highway.

Barring a court ruling otherwise late last month, the trucking industry will continue to operate – at least for now – under the hours-of-service regulations adopted in 2005. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an interim final rule (IFR) providing that truck drivers subject to the hours rules may drive 11 hours within their 14-hour duty window and may refresh their weekly on-duty limits by taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

The IFR was to take effect Dec. 27 – the same day that a stay granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was to expire. In July, the court voided the 11 hours of driving and 34-hour restart on procedural grounds.

FMCSA said the IFR was needed to prevent disruption in the enforcement of and compliance with the hours rules and to guard against any potential impact on the timely delivery of essential goods and services. “This IFR will ensure that a familiar and uniform set of national rules governs motor carrier transportation, while FMCSA gathers public comments on all aspects of this interim final rule, conducts peer review of our analysis, and considers the appropriate final rule that addresses the issues identified by the Court,” the agency said in the IFR. “FMCSA is fully committed to issuing a final rule in 2008.”

The IFR cites safety data that was not available when the agency issued the most recent version of the hours rules. For example, in 2006 the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.94 – the lowest rate ever recorded. In addition, since 2003, the percentage of large trucks involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes in the 11th hour of driving has remained below the average of the years 1991-2002. Between 2003, when the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart were adopted, and 2006, the percent of fatigue-related large truck crashes relative to all fatal large truck crashes has remained consistent.

In announcing the IFR, FMCSA Administrator John Hill argued that the action addresses the court’s concerns. “We believe it’s based on good science and good data.”

Public Citizen, which has taken the lead in fighting the current regulations, slammed the interim rule, saying that “the third time is not the charm.” FMCSA adopted the 11 hours of driving and 34-hour restart in 2003 and again in 2005 following litigation. On Dec. 19, Public Citizen and its allies asked the appeals court to order a return to 10 hours of driving and weekly limits without a restart.

FMCSA is accepting comments on the rule until Feb. 15. Go to www.regulations.gov and search FMCSA-2004-19608.


FMCSA’s Mexico program dies
Ban included in catch-all spending bill

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border pilot program headed to its final demise – at least for the current fiscal year – late last month as Congress adopted a so-called omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) that wrapped together funding for the entire federal government except for the Department of Defense, which already was funded under separate legislation.

A compromise funding bill that Congress sent to President Bush on Dec. 19 passed the House on Dec. 17 and included a prohibition denying funds “to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

The final funding bill also included a prohibition on interstate tolling in Texas. President Bush was expected to sign the omnibus spending bill by Dec. 31 when temporary funding for the federal government was to run out.


Congress requires truck fuel economy standards
Targets to be established following study

Congress for the first time has mandated fuel economy standards on commercial medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, although it left it to the Department of Transportation to establish the specific standards.

The legislation also tightens automobile fuel economy standards, mandating specific average fuel economy thresholds by certain dates. On Dec. 19 – the same date President Bush signed the energy bill (H.R. 6) into law – the Environmental Protection Agency denied a waiver requested by the state of California to regulate tailpipe emissions for automobiles and light trucks. EPA said a unified federal standard of 35 miles per gallon mandated by 2020 would be more effective in reducing greenhouse gases than a state-by-state solution. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to appeal EPA’s decision.

Under the new law, DOT must establish fuel economy standards for work trucks and commercial medium- and heavy-duty trucks following a National Academy of Sciences study that will examine the prospects for technologies that could improve the fuel economy of those vehicles. The study also will look at the costs of those technologies, as well as the costs and impacts of other factors on operation of trucks, such as congestion.

Under the legislation, any DOT fuel economy standards for work trucks and commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway trucks must give truck makers four full model years of regulatory lead time and provide three full model years of regulatory stability for a given fuel economy standard. Based on the timeframes for study, rulemaking and lead time allowed under H.R. 6, fuel economy standards for commercial trucks are unlikely before the middle of the next decade.

Money for rail, electrical efforts
H.R. 6 also authorizes money for a number of projects and initiatives aimed at reducing energy consumption or promoting renewable fuels. For example, DOT is to establish a program to award capital grants to Class II and Class III railroads for projects that rehabilitate or improve railroad track, encourage greater use of railroad transportation for freight shipments or “reduce the use of less fuel-efficient modes of transportation in the transportation of such shipments.” Railroads also could get grants to demonstrate innovative technologies and advanced research and development that increase fuel economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the costs of operation.

Another section establishes a grant program to fund the development of “electric transportation technology” projects, which could include truckstop electrification, electric truck refrigeration units and battery-powered auxiliary power units for trucks, as well as similar technologies for other transportation modes.

The energy bill includes several provisions related to biodiesel. For example, the American Society for Testing and Materials is given a year to adopt a standard for diesel fuel containing 20 percent biodiesel, usually called B20. If not, the Environmental Protection Agency must conduct a rulemaking to set a uniform per-gallon fuel standard for B20 and designate an identification number so that vehicle manufacturers are able to design engines to use fuel meeting that standard. The legislation also requires a study of the effects of biodiesel at varying concentrations – B5 through B100 – on the performance and durability of engines and engine systems.

H.R. 6 also creates a number of new entities, including an Office of Climate Change and Environment within DOT to coordinate efforts to reduce energy and cut emissions in the transportation sector.
– Avery Vise

The new energy law authorizes grants to Class II and III railroads for various purposes, including improvements to track used primarily for freight transportation. The grants also could be used on projects to “reduce the use of less fuel-efficient modes of transportation” for freight.


CARB sets statewide port truck rules
Backing up actions by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the California Air Resources Board on Dec. 7 enacted a strict air emissions measure that will ban much of the current fleet of diesel trucks from all ports statewide within seven years. CARB will require all trucks to meet 2007 emissions standards by 2014, an effort that mirrors a plan approved by the ports.

The regulation affects the roughly 20,000 trucks that frequent the state’s six major ports. By the end of 2009, all trucks manufactured before 1994 – a large portion of the current fleet – will have to be replaced, and trucks will have to reduce diesel emissions by a total of 85 percent.

The board’s regulations act as a backstop to the L.A.-Long Beach port plans enacted in November, which require all trucks to meet 2007 emissions standards by 2012, two years earlier than the measures approved by CARB. “Without the state regulation, they would just use these dirty trucks elsewhere in the state,” said Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach.


CCJ Hotspots: Wisconsin joins the fray

Wisconsin (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van WV 2.1474 2.031 2.2637 0.41 287.74
ID 1.6819 1.3612 2.0026 0.31 519.69
GA 1.553 1.3823 1.7237 0.29 280.67
Reefer WV 1.9661 1.4159 2.3346 0.3 369.33
AL 1.8864 1.7009 2.072 0.23 385.15
GA 1.8722 1.6689 2.0755 0.21 229.6
Flatbed KY 1.7203 1.5808 1.8598 0.06 27.85
CA 1.6348 1.4675 1.8021 0.15 710.12
ID 1.621 1.4895 1.8125 0.06 115.83
California (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van WV 1.3974 1.2768 1.5179 0.27 825.65
MS 1.305 1.1305 1.4795 0.2 461.06
MI 1.29 1.1412 1.4387 0.24 682.64
Reefer AL 1.5559 1.3583 1.7535 0.2 573.9
GA 1.5126 1.373 1.6521 0.14 829.04
OH 1.466 1.3152 1.6168 0.15 618.02
Flatbed MS 1.2903 1.0733 1.5074 0.17 441.71
MN 1.2656 0.9805 1.5508 0.1 517.67
WV 1.2443 1.0314 1.4571 0.08 217.63
Arkansas (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van WV 1.8457 1.569 2.1224 0.28 245.88
ID 1.7239 1.3847 1.9984 0.28 581.83
OR 1.626 1.5458 1.7062 0.32 685.92
Reefer WV 1.8061 1.564 2.264 0.09 338
GA 1.8013 1.5653 2.0372 0.28 195.5
MI 1.762 1.5898 1.9343 0.33 438.86
Flatbed CA 1.8216 1.6635 1.9798 0.2 999.99
WV 1.7709 1.6808 1.8611 0.38 240.58
ID 1.7617 1.483 2.0403 0.18 398

Wisconsin and California replaced Illinois and Ohio as CCJ Hotspots in November, leaving Arkansas as the only repeat from October. Although California frequently is one of the nation’s top three spot-market states as judged by CCJ and TransCore, Wisconsin is a rare member of the elite.

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, all of the 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.


NTSB to FMCSA: Tighten rules on logs
Safety watchdog calls for universal EOBRs

In response to a July 2004 multiple-vehicle rear-end collision in a construction zone, the National Transportation Safety Board on Dec. 17 recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require interstate carriers to use electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to monitor compliance with hours-of-service regulations and to take measures in the interim to prevent log tampering and submission of false logs.

Specifically, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker recommended that FMCSA require motor carriers to create and maintain audit control systems that include, at a minimum, the retention of all original and corrected paper logs and the use of bound and sequentially numbered logs.

NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash on Interstate 94 near Chelsea, Mich., was a truck driver’s failure to stop upon encountering traffic congestion in a temporary traffic control zone – likely due to a reduced state of alertness associated with failure to obtain adequate rest. Using Global Positioning System data from the driver’s employer, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Equity Transportation Co., NTSB investigators concluded that the driver had been on duty continuously for 19.75 hours, driving almost 14 cumulative hours during that time.

Contributing to the accident were Equity Transportation Co.’s insufficient regard for, and oversight of, driver compliance with hours-of-service regulations and FMCSA’s failure to require tamperproof driver logs, Rosenker told FMCSA Administrator John Hill. Another contributor was the Michigan Department of Transportation’s failure to conduct a merge traffic capacity analysis as part of a bridge rehabilitation project, Rosenker said.

Commenting on FMCSA’s current proposal to require EOBRs only on those carriers with a pattern of violations, Rosenker noted that Equity would not be considered a pattern violator under the plan since it consistently has received satisfactory ratings prior to and since the compliance review triggered by the July 2004 accident.

“In light of deficiencies in the FMCSA motor carrier compliance review program, the Safety Board does not believe that the FMCSA has the resources or processes necessary to identify and discipline all carriers and drivers who are pattern violators of the hours-of-service regulations,” Rosenker told Hill. “Consequently, a program to impose EOBRs on pattern violators that relies on the current compliance review program to identify such carriers seems unlikely to be successful.”

Rosenker noted the financial and regulatory incentives that FMCSA is proposing to encourage motor carriers to install EOBRs voluntarily. “However, the Safety Board is unconvinced that these incentives are sufficient to override the financial motivation that pattern violators have for continuing to circumvent hours-of-service regulations and to not use EOBRs for tracking hours of service.”


Last chance for Fleet Graphics Awards
The deadline for the 2008 Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards – co-sponsored by the National Private Truck Council and Commercial Carrier Journal – is Thursday, Jan. 31. All entries must be postmarked or e-mailed by that date. For a copy of the 2008 entry form and official rules, go to www.ccjmagazine.com and click on the Fleet Graphics tab under CCJ Special Features.