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A threatened April 1 shutdown did take place for some owner-operators, who in spots across the country parked their trucks or slowed highway traffic in protest of diesel prices. Similar actions continued as the average price spiked to $4.06 per gallon April 14.

Near Florida’s Port of Tampa, more than 50 trucks parked in protest. About 25 truckers parked along Expressway 83 in Alamo, Texas. About 30 truckers gathered outside Jackson, Miss., for a convoy to Atlanta.

Some truckers demonstrated by simply slowing down. On the New Jersey Turnpike, trucks clogged lanes at slow speeds, while another group of truckers rallied outside the Vince Lombardi Service Area in Ridgefield, near the George Washington Bridge. Trucks also slowed traffic on the Stevenson Expressway in Chicago.

Dozens of West Virginia truckers convoyed to the state capitol of Charleston on April 4 in hopes of telling Gov. Joe Manchin about the hardships of high diesel prices. Manchin wasn’t in, but an aide did speak with them.

Outside South Carolina’s capital of Columbia, a couple of dozen truckers protested April 4, while in Georgia, truckers continued to slow business at the Port of Savannah by parking their trucks.

About 60 trucks parked along I-5 at Chehalis, Wash., on April 11 in support of a 24-hour fuel boycott organized by owner-operator log haulers Sherrie and Bob Bond. Their goals include getting owner-operators invited to testify on Capitol Hill and persuading President Bush to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a measure also advocated by the American Trucking Associations.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reported receiving hundreds of calls concerning a shutdown. OOIDA has cautioned that even in the 1970s, when many truckers participated in strikes, the action did nothing to lower fuel prices. Fuel supply experts argue, meanwhile, that one- or two-day boycotts do nothing to change long-term purchasing patterns and therefore do nothing to bring down prices.
– Jill Dunn


Abby’s Angels are Goodyear Highway Heroes
Few dry eyes were left in the audience when 9-year-old Abby Bern joined the 2007 Goodyear North American Highway Hero finalists on stage at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Husband-and-wife team drivers Richard and Janet Filiczkowski, nicknamed “Abby’s Angels,” were accepting the top honor March 27 when Abby, the child they helped save from drowning in an icy South Dakota pond off Interstate 90, made a surprise appearance.

Accompanied by her mother, Marty Bern, Abby helped present Richard with his Highway Hero ring. The four embraced and wept.

In April 2007, Janet Filiczkowski was driving their C.R. England truck down I-90, about 100 miles west of Sioux Falls, with Richard asleep in the bunk. Janet saw a car veer off the road and into a pond. She and Richard went into action.

“I just dove right in because I saw Abby pounding on the car’s back window,” recounted Richard. “My only instinct was to get her out of the car as soon as possible.”

After Abby was freed, Richard and two other passers-by worked to free her father, Jeff Bern, from the vehicle submerged in eight feet of water. They cut his seat belts and brought him ashore, but he did not survive.

This was the 25th anniversary of Goodyear’s Highway Hero program, which honors truckers who risk their own lives to help others on the road. The other 2007 finalists were Ronnie Greene of Regina, N.M.; Rick Tower of Yreka, Calif.; and the late David Virgoe of Innisfil, Ontario, whose award was accepted by his widow, Debbie.
– Derek Smith


Hijack survivor Back on the Road with his own truck
On an overcast, blustery Friday at the Mid-America Trucking Show, the sun came out to greet Donald Turkelson of Battle Creek, Mich., moments before he was named the winner of Arrow Truck Sales’ Back on the Road 2008 contest, designed to help a deserving trucker in need of a job.

“Thank you kindly,” Turkelson told radio host Bill Mack upon learning he had won a 2005 Volvo VNL 670 tractor and a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express of North Liberty, Iowa, among other prizes.

A former chaplain, Turkelson retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years’ service and became a trucker in 1997, but his career as a company driver ended March 19, 2002, when he was shot in the left leg by a would-be hijacker in a company drop lot, just after hitching to a load of orange juice. The ski-mask-wearing assailant fled, and no one yet has been charged in the crime.

“I didn’t want him to have the control and the power to take my livelihood away from me,” Turkelson says. But that’s what happened, as Turkelson’s wound required surgery and extensive physical therapy. Since then, Turkelson has been a truck-driving instructor at Lansing Community College and pastored two small Methodist churches.

The father of two grown sons, Turkelson looks forward to taking his German shepherd, Shadow, back on the road with him. “I always wanted to be an owner-operator, but I just couldn’t get the numbers to work,” he says.

Besides the Heartland Express contract and the VNL 670 equipped with the donated Volvo Sentry satellite system, Michelin tires, Minimizer accessories and Dickinson Fleet Services detailing, Turkelson’s prizes include a three-year/300,000-mile warranty from National Truck Protection, a year’s membership in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a year’s business services from ATBS and a Dell laptop from Volvo.

Well-wishers can follow Turkelson’s progress throughout the year via Mack’s XM Satellite Radio show and the website backontheroad2008.com.
– Andy Duncan


Losing millions, IdleAire says its future is in doubt
IdleAire’s rapid expansion has come to a halt, at least temporarily, as the company has suspended virtually all construction of new sites. The cash-strapped company also has eliminated not only dozens of corporate jobs but the jobs of dozens of on-site attendants, the ones its trucker customers deal with daily.

On Dec. 31, 2007, the company had cash on hand “to sustain approximately four months of operations” – meaning only through the end of April 2008.

That information is included in IdleAire’s 2007 annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which reports a 2007 net loss of $93.4 million on revenue of $31.8 million, compared to a 2006 net loss of $60.2 million on revenue of $10.9 million.

The April 15 filing includes a five-paragraph addendum by independent auditors Ernst & Young that reads in part: “IdleAire Technologies Corporation has a history of net losses, an accumulated deficit of $246.4 million and working capital of $0.9 million as of Dec. 31, 2007. These conditions raise substantial doubt about IdleAire Technologies Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The company’s own assessment is more blunt: “Absent additional funding, the Company will be unable to continue as a going concern.”

Company spokesman John Doty has repeatedly declined to comment in recent weeks, citing an SEC-mandated “quiet period” in advance of an initial public offering of stock. The company had hoped to raise cash through that offering, for which it registered with the SEC in September 2007, but the IPO has not materialized.
– Andy Duncan


A Western Star shines brighter
Outlaw Customs of Henderson, Colo., worked with Western Star Truck Sales and a team of suppliers, including Accuride, Michelin and PPG, to customize Rambling Rose, a 4900EX with an 82-in. Stratosphere sleeper and a Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine. Named for the “Rose City” of Portland, Ore., home of the Western Star factory, the truck was on display in the lobby of the Mid-America Trucking Show. It features a custom exhaust and paint job, a chromed fender and grille and updated marker lights.


Agency makes $50 million available for cleaner diesels
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made available almost $50 million in grant funding to reduce emissions from the nation’s 11 million diesel engines that predate the latest technology.

The grants, authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and funded for the first time this fiscal year, will be administered by EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign through EPA regional offices.

Eligible to apply for the grants are state, local, regional and tribal governments, as well as nonprofits and institutions with transportation, education and air-quality responsibilities. Eligible strategies include retrofits, engine upgrades, equipment replacement and the introduction of cleaner fuels.

EPA says more than 400,000 existing diesel engines already have been retrofitted during NCDC’s first few years, cutting harmful emissions by nearly 300,000 tons.
– Staff reports


Safety group criticizes cross-border audit
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety was the only respondent to the latest Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administra-tion request for public comment on participants in the cross-border trucking program.

April 8 was the agency’s deadline to receive comment on pre-authority safety audits (PASA) for Mexican carriers that have applied to participate in the agency’s year-long program. Of the 18 that have applied, 16 successfully completed their audits. As of Feb. 7, the agency had granted 12 carriers authority to operate beyond the border commercial zones.

Advocates, an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies, said the law’s intent was to provide adequate notice on the audits of all participating Mexico-domiciled motor carriers before the program began in September.

“Piecemeal revelation of the PASA information, and suppression of applicant motor carriers’ prior safety compliance records, especially in light of the fact that the FMCSA has already launched the pilot program, renders any factual comments of little use in persuading the agency to alter, amend or suspend the program,” Advocates said.

The agency’s failure to publicize audit information on these carriers before the program began should disqualify their participation, Advocates said.

On Oct. 17, 2007, the FMCSA published audit data for all carriers that had applied to participate in the project, based on information as of Oct. 9.
– Jill Dunn


Big Honkin’ winner
Donald Wolford Jr. of Greencastle, Pa., won Castrol Tection Extra’s Big Honkin’ Truck Makeover contest, which concluded at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Wolford’s 1977 900A Kenworth will receive a $50,000 makeover from The Chrome Shop Mafia and 4 State Trucks. It will include products from Go Green Fuel Hydrogen Enrichment Technology system, Continental Tire, Alcoa Wheels, National Seating, Sirius Satellite Radio, Grote Industries and Your Truck Stop. The customized truck will be unveiled in August at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.


BioTrucker Fuel Card introduced
The National Biodiesel Foundation introduced the BioTrucker Fuel Card at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

The card obtains the cash discount price for fuel, whether biodiesel or regular diesel, at 151 truck stops nationwide, plus an additional 2-cents-per-gallon biodiesel discount at three of them: Sapp Bros. in Peru, Ill.; Waddy Unocal 76 in Waddy, Ky.; and Drivers in Fort Worth, Texas.

Administered by Fleet One, the card can be used like a credit or debit card and comes with a one-time $25 sign-up fee. It’s accepted at 4,900 truck stops, though buying out of the 151-stop BioTrucker network incurs a $1 fee that will go to biodiesel research and promotion.

For more information, www.biotrucker.com.
– Todd Dills


Daimler defends its SCR technology choice
“No disaster is looming” with the introduction of SCR engine technology, said Mike Delaney, senior vice president of marketing for Daimler Trucks North America.

At the Mid-America Trucking Show, Delaney and other Daimler executives addressed skeptics of the company’s plans to use selective catalytic reduction to meet 2010 Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards. The company’s brands include Freightliner, Western Star, Sterling and engine maker Detroit Diesel.

Emissions reduction “flat-out needs to be done,” Delaney said, citing respiratory problems linked to diesel exhaust. “But we also have a goal to provide truckers sound business solutions and to produce the most fuel-efficient trucks on the road.” Daimler’s road-proven BlueTec SCR system is best suited to achieve both goals, he said.

More than 100,000 SCR-equipped trucks in Europe already are seeing 3 percent to 5 percent better fuel efficiency than trucks equipped with exhaust gas recirculation, and North American truckers can expect similar results in 2010, said Daimler President and CEO Chris Patterson.

SCR reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by treating exhaust with urea, also called diesel exhaust fluid, downstream of EGR treatment. Delaney said urea and its ammonia byproduct are not toxic, as critics have claimed. “Urea is widely used as fertilizer for food crops, and in chewing gum, and in skin cream.”

Addressing the chief criticism against SCR – the absence of a urea distribution system in North America – Delaney presented a map showing the quick roll-out of urea pumps across Europe. Between January 2006 and today, the number of European urea distribution spots has jumped from 200 to more than 1,600, he said.
– Todd Dills


New York lawmakers reject Manhattan congestion pricing plan
New York state lawmakers on April 7 rejected a proposal to charge cars and trucks an extra fee to drive in Manhattan, a plan Mayor Michael Bloomberg hoped would reduce traffic and curb pollution.

The decision means the city will forfeit $354 million in federal funding for trying to kick-start the plan.

The concept, which aimed to cut traffic and pollution by forcing more commuters onto mass transit, would have charged most drivers $8 to drive below 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Truckers would have paid $21.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters expressed disappointment. “New York’s mounting traffic and environmental woes point to congestion pricing as an inevitable solution, even if not in the next few months or with the assistance of federal Urban Partnership dollars,” Peters said.

Bloomberg’s proposal had been endorsed by Democratic Gov. David Paterson, the Republican-led Senate and the City Council. The plan ran into objections from legislators who said it would unfairly target their constituents, namely commuters, and failed to provide any funding to the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide for the influx of new bus and subway riders.
– Staff reports


Wheels museum includes Mack section
The newly opened America On Wheels Museum, in the Lehigh Landing neighborhood of Allentown, Pa., showcases all modes of over-the-road transport from bicycles and motorcycles to family sedans and race cars, Class 8 heavy-duty trucks and personal transporters.

Highlights of the $17 million facility include the Mack Trucks Historical Museum, which has seven vehicles, 100,000 photos and technical data on every vehicle Mack has made in more than 100 years.


SHORT HAULS
TRUETT NOVOSAD of Caldwell, Texas, was awarded the Truck-Lite Trophy and $5,000 at the Mid-America Trucking Show for having the top truck of the 2007 National Association of Show Trucks season. Second place and $3,000 went to Gerald Kissinger of Stoughton, Wis. Third place and $2,000 went to Rick Hitchcock of Webberville, Mich. For more information, visit www.nastshowtrucks.org.

U.S. XPRESS announced April 4 that it will become the first fleet in the United States to train drivers in safety and regulatory issues via computer-based lessons in their own cabs. The fleet has equipped more than 4,700 cabs with DriverTech Fleet Management System units, which soon will be in all the fleet’s 7,500-plus cabs, the company says.

THE CLEAN POWER no-idle system will become a factory-installed option for W900s and T800s equipped with the 72-in. AeroCab sleeper, Kenworth announced.

ARVINMERITOR executives at the Mid-America Trucking Show predicted Class 8 truck sales in 2008 of between 220,000 and 240,000 units, less than in 2007. Medium trucks will sell about 165,000 units, trailers perhaps as many as 200,000, they said.

CUMMINS’ COMFORTGUARD is the first diesel-fueled auxiliary power unit to be verified as compliant with California rules for APUs on trucks with 2007 engines or newer, the company announced. Only the integrated kit for the ISX engine has been verified so far, but Cummins hopes to have the stand-alone option OK’d soon.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that the percentage of truckers buckling their seat belts reached a record level of 65 percent in 2007, up from 59 percent in 2006. Company drivers were more likely (67 percent) to regularly wear seat belts than owner-operators (56 percent).

PROGRESSIVE will give away more than $150,000 in fuel, including three $25,000 grand prizes, in its Progressive Pumps Up the Savings promotion. Truckers and small-business owners can register daily at www.progressivecommercial.com. Two $50 fuel cards will be awarded daily throughout 2008.

PETERBILT and Westport Innovations, formerly known as Cummins Westport, will develop a natural-gas version of the Model 386 for Wal-Mart. The trucks will feature the Cummins ISX engine rated at 400 to 450 horsepower.

FREIGHTLINER’S Cascadia has gained SmartWay certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Cascadia factory in Saltillo, Mexico, will open by the end of 2008, Daimler Trucks North America announced.

CHAD ROGERS, an owner-operator from New Philadelphia, Ohio, won four new Michelin X One XDA wide single tires, mounted on Alcoa aluminum rims, in a drawing at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

GUILTY PLEAS were entered by two Florida men, Sergeui Leon and Eric Hernandez-Suarez, in a commercial driver’s license fraud scheme involving a former state DMV clerk, Yolanda Pippins, who pleaded guilty in 2006. As a result of the investigation, 139 CDLs were revoked.

PUBLIC COMMENTS on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed minimum entry-level driver training requirements will be accepted until May 23. Visit www.regulations.gov, docket number FMCSA-2007-27748.

KENWORTH’S EXPANSION of its largest plant, in Chillicothe, Ohio, has added 105,000 square feet and increased build capacity by 50 percent, the company announced.

EATON AND DANA celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Roadranger marketing agreement by renewing it for an additional five years.


HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS
ALABAMA. The state DOT is considering tolls to fund four proposed projects: a new I-10 bridge across Mobile Bay; a connector from U.S. 231 near Dothan to I-10 in Florida; an outer loop around Montgomery; and elevated lanes on U.S. 280 east of I-459, the Birmingham bypass.

NEW YORK. The traffic lights at the congested intersection of Grand Island Boulevard and Staley Road in North Tonawanda, just off I-190, will be replaced by a roundabout, the state DOT announced. Work will begin in 2010 and take a year to complete.

NORTH CAROLINA. Plans for the Northern Beltway around Winston-Salem can proceed now that the project’s environmental review is complete, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced. The $1 billion project will connect U.S. 158 to U.S. 52 in the west, U.S. 52 to U.S. 311 in the east.

TEXAS. Dallas has begun enforcing an anti-idling ordinance passed in May 2007. A $500 fine is the maximum penalty for violating the five-minute limit during the annual peak ozone period of April 1 through Oct. 31. Running auxiliary power units, direct-fired heaters and shore power are all permitted.

WEST VIRGINIA. The Federal Highway Administration has approved plans for a new U.S. 220 bridge across the North Branch of the Potomac at Keyser. The existing bridge will stay open while work begins on the new bridge just downstream, with completion expected in 2011.

For more information, visit www.americaonwheels.org.
– Staff reports