Trucking sheds more jobs in June

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Payrolls are down 189,000 jobs since peak


Payroll employment among for-hire trucking companies in June dropped 0.9 percent from May levels and 9.2 percent from June 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest numbers also reflect a slight upward revision in trucking employment levels for May and a slight downward revision for April.

With the estimated 11,000 jobs lost in June, the trucking industry has lost more than 75,000 jobs since the end of 2008 – a decline of 5.6 percent. Job cuts since the beginning of August when trucking job cuts began to accelerate total 124,700, or 9 percent. The BLS numbers reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet. Seasonally adjusted trucking employment peaked in January 2007 at more than 1.45 million, according to BLS figures. Since then, for-hire trucking companies have shed nearly 189,000 jobs, or 13 percent.

In June, the decline in trucking employment slightly outpaced that in the entire U.S. economy. Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 467,000 jobs or 0.4 percent from May to June on a seasonally adjusted basis. Compared to June 2008, nonfarm payroll employment is down 4.1 percent.


NHTSA issues new braking standard
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a long-awaited regulation to tighten the stopping distance standards on heavy-duty tractors. The new standard generally requires that a tractor traveling at 60 miles per hour come to a complete stop within 250 feet when loaded to their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The old standard required a complete stop within 355 feet. For a small number of very heavy severe-service tractors, the stopping distance requirement will be 310 feet under these same conditions. And the final rule requires that all heavy truck tractors must stop within 235 feet when loaded to their “lightly loaded vehicle weight.”

Three-axle tractors with GVWRs of 59,600 pounds or less must meet the reduced stopping distance requirements by Aug. 1, 2011. Two-axle tractors and tractors with GVWRs above 59,600 pounds must meet requirements by Aug. 1, 2013. Manufacturers can use any of several options to meet the requirement, including installation of enhanced drum brakes, air disc brakes or hybrid disc/drum systems, NHTSA says. The agency noted that a number of vehicles in the commercial fleet already use such braking systems and, therefore, already meet the requirements of the amended standard.

NHTSA estimates that the new braking requirement will save 227 lives annually and prevent 300 serious injuries. The agency also estimates that it will reduce property damage costs by more than $169 million a year. For a copy of the NHTSA rule, go to
www.regulations.gov and search NHTSA-2009-0083.


EPA, Congress advance anti-carbon measures
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 30 granted California a waiver allowing it to enforce its greenhouse gas emissions standards for new cars and light trucks, effective with the current model year. The Bush administration had denied a waiver in March 2008, but the Obama administration agreed to reconsider the decision. The Obama administration has proposed greenhouse gas standards for model years 2012-2016, and California has committed to allowing auto makers showing compliance with the national program to also be deemed to be in compliance with state requirements.

Four days earlier, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation (HR. 2454) that would require regulation of greenhouse gases through a cap-and-trade system and other measures. H.R. 2454 would mandate regulation of GHG emissions such as carbon dioxide from heavy-duty trucks by 2011. The bill would give that authority to EPA, overturning a 2007 law requiring that the U.S. Department of Transportation adopt fuel economy standards for commercial medium- and heavy-duty trucks.


EPA awards clean diesel funds
The Environmental Protection Agency since the beginning of June has awarded tens of millions of dollars in clean diesel retrofit funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The act, which was signed into law on Feb. 17, allotted the National Clean Diesel Campaign (NCDC) a total of $300 million, of which the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program received $156 million to fund competitive grants across the nation.

By law, grants under the funding assistance program must go to public or nonprofit entities, which then can allocate the funds for public and private fleet operations. Types of operations that are to receive funds include school bus, refuse and drayage fleets. The largest single project funded to date is $7 million for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to replace up to 636 model year 1993 and older drayage trucks by offering truckers 25 percent of the cost of newer trucks.
For a list of funded projects and links to news releases, go to
www.epa.gov/otaq/eparecovery.


Pilot announces first DEF sites
Pilot Travel Centers has selected the initial sites for its previously announced installation of 100 diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) “at-the-pump” locations. DEF will be required by selective catalytic reduction (SCR) engines to comply with 2010 emissions standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All 350 Pilot retail stores will carry prepackaged DEF, and the company plans to roll out DEF dispensers at the rate of 25 per quarter beginning in the third quarter of this year.

The initial phases of Pilot fuel island DEF pump locations will include Amarillo, Texas; Avondale, Ariz.; Bordentown, N.J.; Brooks, Ore.; Carlisle, Pa.; Charlotte, N.C.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Denver; Dexter, Mich.; Effingham, Ill.; Ft. Pierce, Fla.; Gallup, N.M.; Greenville, Va.; Hepseria, Calif.; Houston; Meridian, Miss.; Milford, Conn.; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Oak Creek, Wis.; Oklahoma City; Santa Nella, Calif.; Seville, Ohio; St. Cloud, Minn.; Stanfield, Ore.; and West Memphis, Ark.

Pilot worked with Detroit Diesel Corp. and Daimler Trucks North America, as well as Gilbarco, to develop Pilot’s bulk dispensing capabilities and a billing/transaction system that would meet customers’ needs for ready DEF supply and fuel island convenience, says Executive Vice President Mark Hazelwood.

“The maximum distance between any two of our locations will be 2,618 miles,” Hazelwood says. “It is also within the normal range for one tank of DEF on a Class 8 on-highway truck.”


Flying J, Pilot to merge
Flying J Inc. and Pilot Travel Centers LLC plan to merge, providing a framework for Flying J’s core travel plaza business to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the companies announced last month. Under the terms of the letter of intent filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court, all Flying J creditor obligations would be paid in full. Pilot also has agreed to provide $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing for Flying J’s operations, subject to court approval and various conditions. The merger agreement is limited only to Flying J’s travel plaza business; Flying J is pursuing alternatives for its other businesses, including Transportation Alliance Bank.

Flying J filed for Chapter 11 protections on Dec. 22, 2008, after a drop in oil prices and disruption in the credit markets brought to bear significant short-term pressure on the company’s liquidity position.


Navistar presses lawsuit against SCR
Navistar last month turned up the heat in its ongoing litigation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charging that the agency is trying to manipulate the record in the case to hide what Navistar calls EPA’s “secret collaboration” with truck and engine makers to advance selective catalytic reduction for 2010 emissions compliance. In a July 2 motion, Navistar asked that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit deny EPA’s attempt to amend its own record in the case.

EPA filed the “certified amended index to administrative record” – a list of documents the agency says are relevant to the case – on June 15, almost a month after it filed its original certified index. Navistar’s lawsuit relates specifically to EPA’s Feb. 18, 2009, certification standards for SCR-equipped engines. Navistar contends that EPA adopted the Feb. 18 guidance improperly without rulemaking procedures that were used in 2001 and 2007 to adopt the original 2010 requirements and earlier SCR guidance, respectively.

In its latest filing, Navistar argues that EPA’s new index improperly removes many documents from the original index, “including documents likely to reveal EPA’s own conclusions effectively confirming the merits” of the lawsuit. Navistar says the removed documents reveal the “inefficacy and environmental hazard” posed by SCR. Navistar also charges that the driver inducements incorporated into the Feb. 18 guidance to encourage truck drivers to add diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) were drafted for EPA by the Engine Manufacturers Association.

Much of Navistar’s July 2 filing revolves around establishing that there was no public record surrounding EPA’s adoption of the Feb. 18 guidance – unlike the situation with the 2001 standard and the 2007 SCR guidance. What EPA submitted in May included documents the agency itself selected, many of which represented correspondence among EPA, the California Air Resources Board and EMA, Navistar said. In filing the initial index, “EPA had the choice of conceding the truth – namely, that there is no administrative record – or of creating a record on the spot. EPA chose the latter course.”

Documents that EPA did include in its amended certified index include correspondence between EPA and EMA regarding the language of the 2009 SCR guidance and between EPA and CARB referring in some cases to “the EMA guidance document.”

“EMA provided recommendations and comments regarding the development of additional guidance to supplement EPA’s original SCR guidance document prepared in March 2007,” says Joe Suchecki, EMA director of public affairs. During the development of the guidance, EMA provided EPA and CARB with written recommendations and suggested language, Suchecki says. “EMA regularly works with EPA, CARB and a wide variety of interested stakeholders regarding issues affecting the industry. EMA typically provides comments and recommendations and often submits proposed regulatory language for the agency’s consideration.”

The appeals court has given no indication of if or when it might take further action regarding Navistar’s lawsuit.


Volvo, Mack build first production-level 2010 trucks
Volvo Trucks North America announced it built its first production-level VN that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emissions regulations. The Volvo VN670 incorporating selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology was fully assembled on the production line July 2 at the truck maker’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Va. Volvo previously announced that it is taking orders for 2010-technology trucks and will begin production of customer trucks this fall.

Meanwhile, affiliated company Mack Trucks announced that in recent weeks employees at its plant in Macungie, Pa., had build SCR-equipped Granite and TerraPro models on the production line. “The fact that we are already building these trucks online clearly demonstrates that we are ready to start producing them for our customers,” says Jim Goodell, Macungie’s vice president and general manager.


GATS panel to explore engine technology
Representatives of most of the leading diesel engine suppliers will outline what 2010 emissions regulations will mean for fleet owners at a special Engine Super Session Aug. 20 at the Great American Trucking Show. The two-part session, which will run from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, includes officials from Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack, Navistar and Volvo providing an overview of their technologies and how those solutions might – or might not – change how drivers operate and technicians maintain equipment. With most of the truck and engine makers represented opting for selective catalytic reduction, much of the discussion in the second half of the session will relate to the distribution and handling of diesel exhaust fluid and what drivers can expect if DEF runs out.

The Great American Trucking Show, which will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Dallas Convention Center, is owned by CCJ publisher Randall-Reilly. For more information on GATS, go to www.gatsonline.com.


Private fleet assessment program launched
The National Private Truck Council, Optima Associates and Schneider National Inc. have launched the Private Fleet Assessment Program, a Web-based management resource designed to help private fleets boost performance. The program represents the next generation of the organization’s annual benchmarking study, used by a majority of private fleet managers to gauge the cost-effectiveness and overall operational excellence of their fleets, says Gary Petty, NPTC president and chief executive officer.

“As the national association for private fleet professionals, the NPTC has long recognized the responsibility we have to provide members with the information and resources needed to remain successful in this fiercely competitive marketplace,” Petty says.
For more information on the program, go to www.nptc.org.


Great West show sees gains in key areas
While difficult economic conditions depressed total attendance at the Great West Truck Show, attendance in certain key “qualified” categories actually was up, show management reported. The Great West Truck Show is owned by CCJ publisher Randall-Reilly. “To have a show hold up under such dramatic economic pressure and have such good attendance was better than anyone expected,” says Mike Reilly, president and chief executive officer of Randall-Reilly.

Attendance was down about 11.7 percent from 2008 to 16,524. However, attendance in the executive management/owner category rose 11.8 percent, and private fleet attendance was up 3 percent. “Although the show was smaller than in 2008, the quality and quantity of attendees, in such challenging times, was unprecedented,” says Alan Sims, vice president and executive director. “We were pleased with the quality of attendees, but were even more pleased with exhibitors’ reactions.”

Next year’s Great West Truck Show will be held June 17-19, again at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, go to
www.greatwesttruckshow.com.


In Brief
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has established a briefing schedule in the challenge to the latest federal hours-of-service regulations. Final briefs will be due Dec. 3, meaning a hearing and decision likely will take place in 2010.

White House last month formally submitted to the Senate the nomination of Anne S. Ferro as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Journal, July 2009). The Senate had not yet acted on the nomination as CCJ went to press.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a “clean” extension – meaning no policy changes – of the current authorization for highway programs for 18 months beyond their Sept. 30 expiration date. Other committees were expected to act on the measure by the August recess. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) favors immediate action on a six-year authorization bill.

Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.6 percent in May from its April level, declining for the third consecutive month to the lowest level in 12 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. The Freight TSI is down 16.7 percent from its historic peak of 112.9 reached in May 2006.

American Trucking Associations in June called on Congress to increase the transparency of futures markets and impose reasonable aggregate position limits on energy commodities. “It seems that more is at play than just the fundamentals of supply and demand,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, referring to recent price increases despite adequate supplies.

Wabash National Corp. said private equity firm Trailer Investments LLC will invest $35 million in the company through the purchase of several classes of preferred stock. The capital infusion allows Wabash to meet its needs during the economic downturn, including accommodations under its existing credit agreement, said Dick Giromini, president and chief executive officer.

YRC Worldwide announced that its Teamster-represented employees would vote on changes to the labor agreement, including a 5 percent wage reduction and an 18-month cessation of union pension fund contributions without a required repayment at a later date. The changes would save about $45 million a month effective with ratification, YRC said.

Tolls on Oklahoma’s turnpikes increased Aug. 4 an average 16 percent for commercial and passenger traffic. The increases, which were imposed to reduce the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s anticipated financial shortfall, vary on each toll road and each destination.

Virginia Department of Transportation last month closed 18 rest areas as a cost-savings move, but it also has rescinded the two-hour parking limitation previously imposed on truck parking at the remaining 23 rest areas. Go to www.virginiadot.org.

ATA is seeking nominations by Sept. 3 for the third annual Mike Russell “Good stuff” Trucking Image Award, which honors those that creatively generate positive awareness of the trucking industry. Go to www.trucksbringit.com.