FMCSA eyes behind-the-wheel training

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order Jan. 24 denying Public Citizen’s request to invalidate the recently issued hours-of-service Interim Final Rule. The decision means that the 11-hour daily driving time limit and 34-hour restart provision will remain in place pending further consideration of a final hours rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.8 percent in November to 112.0, following a 0.2 percent contraction in October. The index grew 3.3 percent compared with a year earlier, marking the second year-over-year increase in eight months and the largest gain since January 2005. Year-to-date, the tonnage index was 1.7 percent lower than during the same period in 2006.

California and 15 other states sued the Bush administration on Jan. 2 over federal officials’ refusal to allow states to enforce laws limiting vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases. The Environmental Protection Agency in December cited just-passed energy legislation as its reason for denying California’s request to implement its own clean-air standards for automobiles and light trucks.

Mack Trucks announced that Dennis Slagle will succeed Paul Vikner as president and chief executive officer of the company, effective April 1. Slagle, 53, has served as president and CEO of Volvo Construction Equipment North America since 2003. Vikner, who has served as president and CEO since 2001, will become vice chairman of the Mack board of directors.

Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.7 percent to 110.2 in November from its October level, rising for the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The November rise was the fourth in the last five months.

States should calculate how possible changes in bridge weight, capacity or evolving
bridge conditions will affect gusset plates, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said
in an advisory Jan. 15. An ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation indicated that stress on gusset plates – the metal pieces that hold individual girders together on some bridges – may have been a factor in last summer’s Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

Carrier News
Con-way Inc. announced Jan. 10 that its truckload operating unit, Contract Freighters Inc., now will be known as Con-way Truckload. Con-way Inc. completed the $750 million acquisition of the privately held Joplin, Mo.-based truckload carrier on Aug. 23.

Prime Inc. acquired specific assets and the trucking operations of Transcontinental Refrigerated Lines, based in Pittston, Pa. The TRL freight network will operate as a division of Prime Inc., and the Pittston facility will function as Prime’s East Coast customer service center.

UPS Freight, the nation’s fourth-largest less-than-truckload carrier, announced a general rate increase averaging 5.4 percent covering noncontractual shipments in the United States and Canada. The increase went into effect Feb. 4 and applies to minimum charge, LTL and truckload rates.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to require that newly licensed commercial driver’s license holders first complete specified minimum classroom and behind-the-wheel training from an accredited institution or program. The notice of proposed rulemaking was published Dec. 26 in the Federal Register, and comments are due March 25.

FMCSA would exempt drivers who receive their first CDLs or upgrade to another class of CDL before a date that’s three years after the agency issues a final rule. Also exempt would be drivers who intend to operate exclusively intrastate.

Under the proposed rule, a state driver-licensing agency could issue a CDL only if the applicant presented a valid driver training certificate obtained from an accredited institution or program. The minimum training requirements would be based mostly on a model curriculum published in 1985 by the Federal Highway Administration, FMCSA’s predecessor. The model curriculum addresses basic operation, safe operating practices, vehicle maintenance and non-vehicle activities.

The agency proposes to require entry-level training for all types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) but to vary the curriculum according to the class of CDL. For Class A CDLs, FMCSA proposes 120 hours of minimum training – 76 hours in the classroom and 44 hours behind the wheel. For Class B and C CDLs, 90 hours of training – 58 hours in the classroom and 32 hours behind the wheel – would be required. Training institutions would be required to conduct skills tests on entry-level driver students using qualified instructors as determined by FMCSA. The training provider or program would have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

FMCSA’s proposal regarding behind-the-wheel training responds to a December 2005 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that a May 2004 rule on minimum training standards was inadequate because it did not require any training in the commercial vehicle. The current regulation, which the court allowed to remain in place pending a new rule, requires classroom education for entry-level drivers in medical qualification, hours-of-service rules, wellness and whistleblower protection.

For a copy of the notice of proposed rule-making, visit and search FMCSA-2007-27748.
– Avery Vise

CCJ Hotspots: Idaho joins the elite
After a month’s hiatus, Illinois and Ohio returned to the ranks of the CCJ Hotspots in December, joined by newcomer Idaho. Those three states are the nation’s leading spot-market states as judged by CCJ and TransCore.

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.

Illinois (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van ID 1.9123 1.8355 1.989 0.35 583.39
OR 1.5385 1.3985 1.6785 0.14 732.71
SC 1.5259 1.4024 1.6493 0.29 267.46
Reefer SC 1.7502 1.5794 1.9211 0.23 387.12
OR 1.4698 1.2958 1.6438 0.23 686.02
ID 1.4375 1.3822 1.4927 0.28 423.77
Flatbed SC 1.6281 1.5021 1.7542 0.18 241.09
OR 1.6163 1.5453 1.6872 0.31 935.87
MS 1.6087 1.4417 1.7757 0.14 117.26
Ohio (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van ID 1.7145 1.2823 2.1467 0.32 666.2
SC 1.4977 1.3433 1.6521 0.28 183.72
OR 1.4815 1.3487 1.6144 0.16 800.55
Reefer SC 1.5684 1.3818 1.755 0.17 202.06
WI 1.4546 1.196 1.7132 0.27 313.18
MS 1.4223 1.18 1.6646 0.08 309.24
Flatbed AR 1.7716 1.4354 2.1077 0.22 216.19
WI 1.6916 1.4593 1.9239 0.07 39.68
ID 1.662 1.3756 1.9484 0.07 143.15
Idaho (Outbound)
Destination State Avg Rate Min Rate Max Rate Avg Fuel Surcharge Avg Accessorial
Van IA 1.4098 1.027 1.7926 0.1 148.28
MS 1.3032 1.1464 1.4601 0.24 680.33
IL 1.2655 1.0392 1.4918 0.22 371.22
Reefer SC 1.4484 1.269 1.6278 0.14 226.77
OH 1.3782 1.2079 1.5485 0.23 424.19
MI 1.3581 1.1733 1.5429 0.22 321.15
Flatbed AR 1.4678 0.99 1.9456 0.05 145.75
OH 1.2381 1.0925 1.3836 0.15 351.75
MI 1.1973 1.0521 1.3425 0.18 359.22

Panel floats fuel taxes to fix roads
DOT Secretary, two others dissent from final report

A commission tasked with studying the condition of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure and ways to finance needed improvements concluded that spending on highways and transit from all sources – federal, state and local governments, as well as private sources – should rise to $225 billion to $340 billion a year, more than twice today’s investment.

To pay for the federal share of this investment, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission recommends a major short-term boost in the federal motor fuels tax of 5 to 8 cents a year for five years, for a total increase of 25 to 40 cents. Thereafter, the federal fuel tax would be indexed for inflation.

In the long run, the United States should transition from a fuel tax to one based on vehicle miles traveled, but such a transition could be years away, the commission said. Its findings regarding financing, congestion and movement of freight are included in a report, “Transportation for Tomorrow,” released Jan. 15.

The commission recommends other revenue-raising measures, including freight fees, customs fees and a ticket tax applied to inner-city transit. The panel supported interstate tolls only for additional capacity and to implement congestion pricing in major metropolitan areas. And the plan contemplates moving heavier vehicles into dedicated lanes.

In addition, the commission urges an overhaul of the federal program. The panel said a performance-driven and outcome-oriented transportation program should focus on repairing existing infrastructure, reducing congestion, providing freight capacity, adding access to rural areas, reducing highway fatalities 20 percent by 2025, adding more inner-city rail in major rail corridors, and implementing an environmental stewardship program.

Another needed reform is to shorten project delivery from 14 years to four years, the commission concluded. And the panel advocated “depoliticizing” transportation funding by turning decisions regarding approval, funding and implementation of projects over to a commission like the one that selected military bases for closure in the 1990s.

The commission’s recommendations were not unanimous. The panel’s chairman, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, dissented from the commission’s findings along with two other members – Maria Cino, former deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Rick Geddes, associate professor of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. The three dissenters leased their approach in a “Chairman’s Statement.”

Peters said she was troubled by the commission’s call for a gas tax increase over the next five years, rising to up to 91 cents in 20 years when indexed for inflation. She said recent studies, including one from the Government Accountability Office last summer, have concluded gas taxes don’t work to reduce traffic congestion. Rather than send more tax money to Washington to be spent on earmarks, the better approach would be to provide incentives to states willing to pursue more efficient approaches, she said.

The commission’s full report can be found at its website,
– Dean Smallwood