Department of Transportation proposed regulations that would increase fuel efficiency in automobiles and light trucks by 4.5 percent a year for the five-year period ending in 2015 – for a total of a 25 percent increase.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program compliance date has been delayed until April 15, 2009. The original compliance date had been Sept. 25 of this year. Despite the delay, TSA is encouraging workers to enroll as soon as possible. For more information, visit www.tsa.gov/twic.
Freight Transportation Services Index fell 1.9 percent in March from its February level – the largest monthly decline since August 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The index is down 3.3 percent from its peak of 113.1 reached in November 2005.
Jevic Transportation announced May 19 that it was discontinuing operations due to high fuel costs, the economic downturn, increased insurance costs and tightening credit markets. The Delanco, N.J.-based less-than-truckload and hybrid truckload carrier had operated about 1,200 trucks.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced that a team led by Citi Infrastructure Investors and Albertis Infraestructuras had submitted a $12.8 billion binding bid for a 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Pennsylvania’s Legislature still must agree to the plan. As part of the privatization effort, Rendell has dropped plans to impose tolls on I-80.
After about a year of policy and public relations development, the American Trucking Associations last month unveiled to the public an environmental sustainability campaign that focuses on reduced fuel consumption as the principal strategy for cutting carbon emissions. Using the slogan Trucks Deliver a Cleaner Tomorrow, ATA calls for government and carrier actions related to speed, idling, congestion, truck capacity and truck fuel economy.
“ATA has committed itself to a series of measures that can reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 900 million tons for all vehicles over the next 10 years,” said ATA President Bill Graves in announcing the sustainability campaign. “Our proposals are practical, reasonable and doable. They make environmental sense, and they make common sense.”
The sustainability strategy recommends:
* Setting governors on new trucks to limit speeds to no more than 68 mph and reducing the national speed limit to 65 mph for all vehicles;
* Reducing engine idling;
* Increasing fuel efficiency by encouraging participation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Transport Partnership Program;
* Reducing congestion by improving highways – if necessary by raising the fuels tax;
* Allowing more productive truck combinations, such as including single tractor-trailer maximum gross vehicle weights of 97,000 pounds and use of double 33-foot trailers in more states; and
* Supporting national fuel economy standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks provided they don’t compromise vehicle performance.
A Sustainability Task Force chaired by Titan Transfer Chairman Tommy Hodges, who serves as an ATA vice chairman, generated the first five recommendations last July. Support for national fuel economy standards – conditioned on no degradation of vehicle performance – followed the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe fuel economy standards for commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles following a federal study.
“This report represents a culmination of many years of groundbreaking efforts on the part of the trucking industry to integrate the most effective diesel consumption reduction techniques into their business models and to transport goods to their destination in the most efficient way we can for us and for our customers,” Hodges said. “As the challenge of global climate change has emerged, we have the added impetus to make progress on those innovations.”
In announcing the campaign, Graves acknowledged that ATA’s proposal serves the industry’s own interests as well as environmental stewardship. “The program is a continuation of environmental advances made by the trucking industry over the last quarter century,” Graves said. “But there’s no doubt that today’s skyrocketing diesel prices give us an added incentive to roll it out across the industry, and for Congress to provide the support the program needs.”
On the same day, Schneider National announced that it was lowering its top speed from 63 mph to 60 on a voluntary basis, saving more than 3.75 million gallons of diesel per year and reducing CO2 emissions by 83.25 million pounds per year. Con-Way Truckload also announced it was dropping its maximum governed speed from 70 mph to 65 mph, saving 2.8 million gallons of diesel fuel per year and reducing CO2 emissions by about 62 million pounds. The carrier’s LTL sister company, Con-Way Freight, said in March that it was dropping governed speed from 65 mph to 62 mph, saving an estimated 3.2 million gallons of diesel and about 72 million pounds of carbon emissions each year.
ATA’s PR for the Trucks Deliver a Cleaner Tomorrow campaign includes a multimedia site (www.trucksdeliver.org).
ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 1.1% in April
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 1.1 percent in April 2008. March’s tonnage reading, meanwhile, fell 1.7 percent instead of the previously reported 3.2 percent drop.
The seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 114.0 in April, while the not-seasonally adjusted index increased 1.5 percent to 116.9 from 115.1 in March. The seasonally adjusted index was 2.0 percent higher compared with April 2007, marking the sixth consecutive year-over-year increase. The year-over-year reading in March was revised from a 0.1 percent contraction to a 1.5 percent gain.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the upward revision to March’s tonnage was very positive, but warned that freight remains mixed. “Truck tonnage hasn’t grown since January of this year on a month-to-month basis, suggesting the overall economy remains very soft,” Costello said. “With that said, the fact that tonnage is showing sustained year-over-year growth is positive for the industry, although part of the strength is due to easy comparisons from 2007.”
Costello added that rapidly rising fuel prices are by far a bigger problem for the motor carrier industry than freight volumes. “Surging fuel prices are weighing heavily on consumers,” Costello said. Since trucks haul virtually all consumer goods at some point in the supply chain, the industry is going to be significantly impacted both directly through higher diesel prices and indirectly as consumers pay more for gasoline and have less money to spend on truck-transported goods.
Port of LA OKs concession plan
Owner-operators to be banned in 2013
The Los Angeles Harbor Commission on May 15 approved the Clean Truck Program Drayage Services Concession Agreement, setting the stage for the Port of Los Angeles to begin transitioning in October to a Licensed Motor Carrier (LMC)-based truck concession program. Assuming the program remains in place, by 2013 all drayage services would be provided by 100 percent employee drivers.
Although the transition period begins in October, the first milestone is Dec. 31, 2009, by which time each LMC must use employee drivers for 20 percent on average of its gate moves at the Port of Los Angeles. The minimum average jumps to 66 percent by Dec. 31, 2010, and rises to 85 percent and 95 percent at the end of 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The harbor commission believes that the concession agreement is needed to allow the port to hold carriers accountable for maintaining trucks and employing properly credentialed drivers. “That, in turn, will ensure a sufficient supply of drivers, improve truck safety and maintenance while lowering emissions, enhance port security and reduce the negative impacts that drayage services have on communities near the port,” the commission said in a news release.
Requiring drivers to be LMC employees will reduce the number of trucks needed by moving away from the current “one truck, one driver” system to one that increases efficiency by allowing multiple drivers to operate in multiple shifts, the commission said. The Port of Los Angeles also plans to ask its concessionaires to work with the port to develop technologies that track empty containers and match them with deliveries of loaded containers, and to help develop effective schedule strategies that avoid congestion at terminal gates and optimize the use of drayage trucks.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are working together on a plan to ensure that all drayage trucks serving the two ports meet 2007 federal emissions standards by Jan. 1, 2012. The ports are in sync on the schedule for phasing out older trucks, but the concession agreement approved recently by the Port of Long Beach does not ban independent contractors.
UPS expands alternative fuel fleet
UPS said last month that it had ordered 200 hybrid-electric vehicles and 300 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for its delivery fleet in the United States. The orders expand the company’s total alternative fuel fleet by 30 percent to 2,218. In addition to electric, hybrid-electric, CNG, liquefied natural gas and propane-powered vehicles, UPS is working with the Environmental Protection Agency on a hybrid-hydraulic delivery vehicle.
The 200 hybrid-electric vehicles will be deployed in 2009 and join 50 HEV delivery trucks already in operation. The 300 CNG vehicles will be deployed later this year, and UPS already operates 800 in the United States. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. is supplying the chassis for both the hybrid and the CNG vehicles; Eaton Corp. is supplying the hybrid power system.
CCJ Hotspots: Midwest is best
The Midwestern states of Illinois and Ohio, joined by Alabama, were the leading spot-market states in April. 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 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.
Group seeks pilot program on larger trucks
A coalition of carriers and shippers pushing for larger truck capacities is trying to win approval in the next highway bill for a demonstration project allowing larger truck combinations in five states. For several years, Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation (www.aset-safety.org), whose members include several state trucking associations and a number of carriers and shippers, has been advocating an increase in the federal maximum weight to 97,000 pounds on a three-axle trailer.
Last month, ASET members met with congressional staff representing Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Georgia. The alliance chose those states for two reasons – the significance of ASET members to their economies and their status as either a border or port state. Because Canada, Mexico and most of Europe operate heavier trucks on six axles, containers arriving at a U.S. port or trucks arriving at the U.S. border often require either permits or the breakup of freight, ASET says. The coalition proposes close monitoring of heavier trucks in the five states to assess the impact on accident rates, infrastructure investments and productivity.
The Teamsters Union lashed out at the ASET plan. “The idea of letting bigger trucks on the road is just crazy,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “They’re extremely dangerous, and they ruin our roads and bridges, which are already in bad shape.”
L.A., Chicago get money to fight congestion
Los Angeles and Chicago will receive $213 million and $153 million, respectively, in federal funds under the Department of Transportation’s new anti-congestion initiative, the department announced in late April.
In the Los Angeles region, federal funds will be used to help convert up to 85 miles of local high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) highway lanes into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes by the end of 2010, allowing motorists to pay a fee for access to less-congested lanes. The plan includes new bus service for the HOT lanes. Funds generated by the HOT lane tolls would be available for investments in improved transit services throughout the region.
In the Chicago area, federal funds will be used to implement congestion pricing for street parking spaces and faster, more reliable bus service. Also, the Chicago Transit Authority is creating four pilot routes of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. The new BRT routes will have their own dedicated lanes, and the buses will be equipped with technology to help speed them through traffic with priority right of way at busy signalized intersections.
Calstart honors Eaton, others
Calstart – a North American advanced transportation technologies consortium – has announced the winners of its Blue Sky Award 2008, including Eaton Corp. and Southern Counties Express, a trucking company serving the Southern California ports. Eaton Corp. received the Blue Sky Award for developing and bringing to market both hybrid-electric and hybrid-hydraulic systems for commercial vehicles. Southern Counties Express received a Blue Sky Merit Award for buying a fleet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) port trucks and operating an LNG fueling station that is available publicly to the port trucking community (see “Innovators,” May 2008).
The Blue Sky Award Judging Committee is made up of representatives from the American Lung Association, Calstart, Florida Power & Light, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern California Edison and the Union of Concerned Scientists.