U.S. backs ATA on ports’ concession plans

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U.S. Department of Transportation last month sent a final driver hours-of-service regulation – the third in five years – to the White House for review. Details will not be disclosed until the Office of Management and Budget completes its review and the rules are published in the Federal Register. Four other Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rulemakings – final rules on intermodal equipment, new entrant fitness and medical certification; and a proposed rule to establish a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners – also were under OMB review.

California Air Resources Board was expected on Oct. 24 to issue two draft regulations that would require an aggressive phaseout of large trucks with pre-2007 emissions diesel engines and mandate the adoption of fuel-saving measures on certain tractors and trailers. Comments were to be due in early December. For more information, go to www.arb.ca.gov.

Maritime Administration is soliciting recommendations for short sea transportation routes to be designated as “marine highway corridors” and is seeking applications from interested parties to participate in a short sea transportation project. The initiative was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Thomas Barrett said the marine highways would be eligible for up to $25 million in existing federal capital construction funds. For more information, go to www.regulations.gov and search Docket No. MARAD-2008 0096.

Auxiliary power units installed on new trucks now are exempt from the calculation of the 12 percent excise tax under a measure Congress adopted as part of last month’s financial bailout package.

The final version of the Defense authorization bill (S. 3001) includes a provision ordering the Department of Defense to ensure “to the maximum extent practicable” that any fuel surcharge in a carriage contract is passed through to the party that pays for the fuel.

Federal Highway Administration expects to offer $12 million in grants for innovative pricing strategies that relieve congestion under the Value Pricing Pilot Program in fiscal year 2009. For more information, go to www.fightgridlocknow.gov.

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles – or 3.6 percent less – in July 2008 than in July 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

Arrow Truck’s Back On The Road 2009 campaign, presented by Volvo Trucks North America, will award a trucker who has lost his truck through unfortunate circumstances a 2006 Volvo VNL 670, a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express, and other products and services. Nominations are being accepted through Jan. 16, 2009; go to www.backontheroad2009.com.

Transportation Intermediaries Association said it joined the Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay program and will share information about various techniques and applications through its weekly and monthly publications, as well as at its meetings.

Carrier News

Greatwide Logistics Services said it plans to enter into an agreement to be acquired by an investor group comprised of its first lien secured lenders, including affiliates of Centerbridge Capital Partners and the D.E. Shaw group. Greatwide, which said the deal would reduce its debt and interest burden, will sell the company under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, and other parties will be able to submit higher and better offers.

Ryder System Inc. said it will acquire the assets of Transpacific Container Terminal Ltd. (TCTL) and CRSA Logistics Ltd., as well as CRSA’s operations in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. Both companies are based in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises acquired a 47 percent stake in Roaring Spring, Pa.-based Smith Transport and its affiliated companies. President Barry Smith initially will control 53 percent of the 850-tractor company. U.S. Xpress similarly had taken large minority shares of Arnold Transportation Services and Total Transportation of Mississippi before ultimately acquiring virtually all of those companies.

Bay & Bay Transportation launched an asset-based logistics division called Bay & Bay Transportation Services. Bay & Bay also announced its recent approval as a carrier for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. General Services Administration.

Cox Transportation Services, based in Ashland, Va., became a SmartWay partner in June. Among the steps the trucking company has taken to save fuel include the use of various aerodynamic packages on its tractors, using teams to haul a large part of its freight to reduce idling, using speed management, controlling trailer gap, installing automatic tire inflation devices and using low-friction lubricants.

The American Trucking Associations failed to secure an expedited injunction to block the concession agreements implemented by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach on Oct. 1, but the group is continuing the challenge through the more routine litigation process with some high-powered help: the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Justice Department addressed the question of whether the regulation of motor carrier operations at the ports violates federal law that preempts state and local laws that impact motor carrier rates, routes and services. The district court ruled that the plans directly affected motor carrier rates, routes and services, but it found them to be protected from preemption because they generally advanced port safety and security interests.

While the federal preemption provision exempts state regulation of motor vehicle safety, the Justice Department argued that motor vehicle safety is a “circumscribed realm” that “does not encompass requirements loosely based in a general notion of public safety.” The district court’s broad view on the issue would “permit the exception to swallow the rule,” the department said. Several aspects of the concession plans clearly have no relationship to motor vehicle safety, including prohibiting the use of independent contractors and imposing financial oversight of carriers granted concessions, the Justice Department said.

With the courts refusing to block the concession agreements initially, 598 companies had signed up as of Oct. 1 to participate in the concession program. The district court held that carriers would not suffer irreparable harm because they could seek damages if they later win on the merits. But ATA argues in its appeal that securing individual damages would be difficult, if not impossible, and that forcing companies to either accept the illegal terms or stop doing business at the ports is itself irreparable harm.

ATA isn’t challenging other elements of the Clean Truck Program that went into effect Oct. 1. The program immediately banned trucks built before 1989 – more than 10 percent of port trucks as of Oct. 1 – and requires that all trucks meet 2007 emissions standards by 2012.

ATA adopts safety agenda
Most tactics focus on safer truck, automobile drivers

The American Trucking Associations’ board of directors on Oct. 7 adopted 18 recommendations aimed at reducing highway-related fatalities and injuries through improved safety performance of drivers, vehicles and motor carriers. The recommendations were among 23 items identified for consideration by ATA’s Safety Task Force, which the group established earlier this year.

On several occasions during ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, referred to the pending package of safety policy recommendations as one of three critical steps the trucking industry needed to take in order to show that it is deserving of greater consideration in upcoming federal legislation – especially the reauthorization of the highway program. The other two elements are establishing the essentiality of trucking – through programs like “Good Stuff Trucks Bring It,” for example – and environmental responsibility through the sustainability initiative ATA launched recently.

A majority of the 18 recommendations address the performance of drivers – both commercial and noncommercial – and include support for:

  • A policy on the use of nonintegrated technologies while the vehicle is in motion – i.e., technologies that could distract drivers;
  • Uniform commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing standards;
  • A study of CDL graduated licensing;
  • Additional parking facilities for trucks;
  • A national maximum 65 mph speed limit;
  • Strategies to increase the use of seatbelts;
  • A national car-truck driver behavior improvement program;
  • Graduated licensing in all states for noncommercial teen drivers; and
  • More stringent laws to reduce drinking and driving.

The remaining policies address vehicles and motor carriers and include support for:

  • Targeted electronic speed governing of certain noncommercial vehicles;
  • Electronic speed governing of all large trucks built since 1992;
  • New large truck crashworthiness standards;
  • A national employer notification system;
  • A national clearinghouse for positive drug and alcohol test results of CDL holders;
  • A national registry of certified medical examiners;
  • Access to the national Driver Information Resource; and
  • Required safety training by new entrant motor carriers.

Some items in the package reiterate polices ATA previously has adopted, including a national 65 mph speed limit, greater seatbelt use by commercial drivers and a national clearinghouse for drug and alcohol tests. Most other recommendations either are new or expand on prior ATA policies. In the latter category is support for speed governing of all large trucks built since 1992; ATA previously supported mandatory governing only of new trucks – a policy that would have phased in governing over a number of years.

Several of the Safety Task Force’s original recommendations were not adopted by the board and instead were sent back to the task force for further research and consideration as to the safety impact or financial consequences. According to sources, those recommendations include policies regarding electronic onboard recorders, various awareness and control technologies to assist drivers, and an adjustment for inflation of the minimum financial responsibility standards adopted in 1981.

Sterling Trucks brand to vanish
Move is part of Daimler’s response to market conditions

Daimler Trucks North America announced last month that it will discontinue the Sterling Trucks brand in March 2009 as part of a response to continued low truck sales and structural changes in the market.

Other elements of the plan include closing the St. Thomas, Ontario, manufacturing plant – where Sterling trucks are built – in March when the existing agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers expires. And the 39-year-old Portland, Ore., plant will close in June 2010, sending Western Star production to Santiago, Mexico, and Freightliner military truck production to a plant in the Carolinas. A migrating supplier base and high logistics costs had resulted in higher production costs in Portland.

“Plans based on an expectation of brief, sharp market events driven by regulatory change, followed by periods of reasonable growth, are out of step with the emerging realities of the latter part of this decade,” said Chris Patterson, president and chief executive officer of Daimler Trucks North America. “We’ve examined every part of our organization in light of the changed economic environment.”

In announcing Sterling’s demise, Daimler noted that the brand’s models have substantial overlap with offerings in the Freightliner Trucks product line and have achieved only one-fourth the Freightliner market share. Daimler launched Sterling in 1998 as a replacement brand for the newly acquired Ford heavy-duty truck business. Daimler said it would be adding to the Freightliner and Western Star product ranges to address market segments that had been served exclusively by Sterling.

Daimler said it expects that the Sterling dealer network will continue to perform warranty repairs and maintenance services, supply replacement parts and provide technical support for Sterling Truck owners. Dealers will continue to accept orders until Jan. 15, 2009, and new truck sales will continue until present dealer stocks are depleted.
– Avery Vise

SmartWay honors 18 carriers
The SmartWay Transport Partnership last month announced 27 winners – including 18 motor carriers – of the 2008 SmartWay Excellence Awards. The awards recognize efforts to reduce fuel use and lower carbon emissions from freight transport. The 18 carriers are:

  • American Central Transport
  • Celadon Trucking Services
  • Challenger Motor Freight
  • Con-way Freight
  • Covenant Transport
  • Dillon Transport
  • Gordon Trucking
  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services
  • NFI
  • Pacific Harbor Line
  • Quad/Graphics
  • Roehl Transport
  • Schneider National
  • Stan Koch & Sons Trucking
  • Swift Transportation
  • Trailer Bridge
  • UPS
  • Watkins and Shepard Trucking

Three logistics firms – APL Logistics, Hub Group and TransPlace – received Excellence Awards, as did affiliate Cascade Sierra Solutions. Five shippers – HP, Kohl’s, Kimberly-Clark, Lowe’s and Sharp Electronics – also were honored.

For more information on the awards and on SmartWay, go to www.epa.gov/smartway.

CCJ Hotspots: Is eight enough for Illinois?
Illinois was a CCJ Hotspot for the eighth consecutive time in September, while Ohio repeated. The third CCJ Hotspot was Arkansas, replacing Alabama. 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.