Flooding prompts hours of service waiver in Kentucky | Werner pays $150M to settle crash lawsuit

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Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022:

HOS waived in Kentucky for flooding relief

In response to record flooding in Eastern Kentucky last week, Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray issued an order to exempt some truckers from hours of service regulations.

The order applies to commercial vehicles actively engaged in relief efforts. It exempts drivers from limits on hours of driving and having to stop at weigh stations if they are delivering fuel and other needed supplies or engaged in debris removal and restoration of power. It also exempts the vehicles from fees for overweight/over-dimensional permits. 

Gray's order follows a state of emergency declared by Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday, July 28.

The exemptions will remain in effect through 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 15.

To ensure the safety of the traveling public, contracted drivers must comply with safety requirements and have a copy of the order in their vehicles.

Shelli Conaway-Waugh, CEO of nonprofit Trucks with Room to Spare, said that with more rains expected in the affected Kentucky region, her organization could use extra help, including drivers to deliver aid. 

"Currently, we're working with other nonprofits, community groups and business owners to collect and transport what supplies we can get into the area," she said. "We need drivers to help transport loads. As this progresses, there will be more help requests for transportation." 

The disaster-relief nonprofit is currently working with some "shipments from Louisiana, the United Cajun Navy's supplies coming up into the community," she said, "so please let other drivers know that we’re here and we’re helping and they can get involved." 

Conaway-Waugh said that trucking is big in that part of Eastern Kentucky, which is near her own hometown, and that the Mudflap company had donated $10,000 worth of diesel fuel to aid her organization's efforts. Drivers who work with her group won't be paid by the nonprofit, but will receive confirmation of their donation to the nonprofit, which can go towards tax savings. 

Werner pays $150M to settle crash litigation, avoid ‘nuclear verdict’

Werner Enterprises (CCJ Top 250, No. 13) recently announced last week a recent $150M settlement of a motor vehicle accident lawsuit in Texas.

In May 2020, a passenger vehicle traveling on I-30 near Sulphur Springs, Texas, stopped in the travel lane of the highway at approximately 5 a.m. Three adults walked away from the vehicle, leaving two children inside. Shortly thereafter, a Werner truck, which the company says was traveling below the speed limit, struck the parked vehicle. The two children died in the resulting collision.

The investigating officers placed no fault on Werner or its driver, and one of the adults from the passenger vehicle was criminally charged in connection with the deaths of the children. The parents of the children subsequently filed a lawsuit against Werner and its driver. Out of respect for the family, Werner is not publicly disclosing the names of the individuals involved.

Werner disputed the plaintiffs’ allegations but chose to voluntarily resolve the matter by settlement.

“The circumstances of this tragic accident were set in motion by the decision to park a vehicle on a highway in the lane of travel, as indicated in the investigating officer’s report,” said Werner’s Chief Legal Officer Nathan Meisgeier. “Nonetheless, corporate defendants are facing ‘nuclear verdicts’ in courtrooms across the country, including in Texas. Werner believes it prudent to resolve this case, to bring closure for the family affected by this tragic accident and to protect Werner, its employees, and its shareholders. Our sincere prayers and condolences remain with the family.”

The settlement will be funded by Werner and its insurance companies.

“Werner’s company motto is ‘Nothing we do is worth getting hurt or hurting others,’ and we will continue to operate with our safety focus each and every day,” Meisgeier added.

JLE Industries adds to awards resume

JLE Industries, the 2022 CCJ Innovator of the Year, recently continued its awards success with two prestigious wins: the Pittsburgh Business Times' Fast 50, awarded to 50 private companies that were the fastest-growing in the region, based on 2019-2021 revenue growth; and Kate Speer, JLE's Vice President of Marketing, Engagement, and Investor Relations, was named a Top Brand Innovator in the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association (TMSA) inaugural 2022 Trailblazers Awards.

The Fast 50 are ranked by percentage of growth in revenue over the most recent three years. This year's list includes firms in real estate, online sales, health care, automotive, finance, engineering, manufacturing, tech services, logistics and construction. Rankings of the 2022 Fast 50 winners will be announced on Aug. 25 at the Fast 50 Awards 2022 event at The Westin Pittsburgh.

The TMSA Trailblazers Awards were announced last month during the 2022 Logistics Marketing & Sales Conference in Orlando. A panel of industry veterans and non-biased judges selected companies and individuals for their excellence in sales or marketing accomplishments in the past 12 to 18 months.

Speer was recognized for her leadership in building and scaling JLE's Driver Talent Ambassador (DTA) Program, which supports the organization's Professional Flatbed Talent to allow them to get the most out of their referral efforts and, as a result, create additional income streams while building connectivity and engagement with JLE.

"Everyone at JLE is proud of the growth we've achieved this past year, and we're very honored to have our hard work, employee retention and innovation acknowledged by Pittsburgh Business Times with The Fast 50 award for the second time in a row," said Raymond Gamrat, Senior Operations Advisor, JLE Industries. "We are also thrilled for Kate, who richly deserves the Top Brand Innovator Trailblazer Award. She demonstrated tenacity, vision and excellence in her leadership of JLE's DTA Program, and her entire team rose to the occasion. We congratulate TMSA for their inaugural awards and are heartened to see formal recognition for marketing and sales professionals in our industry from this premier organization."

STEER Coalition aims to drive passage of lower-emission voucher legislation

On July 20, the STEER Coalition was formed to drive the passage of the Supporting Trucking Efficiency and Emission Reductions (STEER) Act, a bill that would incentivize greater adoption of fuel-saving technologies for heavy-duty trucks.

STEER Coalition members include Aperia Technologies, CiBUS21, Covenant Transportation, DHL, Idle Smart, Link Manufacturing, Stoneridge, The International Council on Clean Transportation, TruckLabs, and Western Express.

The STEER Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced by the House of Representatives in July 2021 that establishes a $500 million voucher program to offset the up-front costs of fuel-saving technologies so fleets can choose the technologies which work best in their operations, rather than a one fits all model.

The coalition said the STEER Act can provide immediate reductions in CO2 emissions and badly needed support for the trucking industry as it could improve efficiencies by up to 15%, reducing annual domestic fuel consumption by 4.5 billion gallons and decreasing carbon-dioxide emissions by 50 million tons.

As its first order of business, the STEER Coalition recognizes that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is an important bill to address both climate and combat rising inflation, but it believes the bill misses a key opportunity to make it far more effective at both goals.

The coalition is calling on legislators who are looking for pragmatic, timely and costed solutions to either get this important piece of legislation formally introduced as a stand-alone bill in the Senate or to consider adding the STEER Act to the Inflation Reduction Act as the best bang for the buck to reduce the U.S.’s carbon emissions.

Nikola acquires battery maker

Battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell truck manufacturer Nikola Corporation as agreed to acquire Romeo Power, an energy storage technology company focused on designing and manufacturing lithium-ion battery modules and packs for commercial vehicle applications, approximately $144 million. Nikola is Romeo's largest customer and the addition of Romeo’s battery and battery management system (BMS) engineering capabilities are also expected to support accelerated product development and improved performance for Nikola customers.

“Romeo has been a valued supplier to Nikola, and we are excited to further leverage their technological capabilities as the landscape for vehicle electrification grows more sophisticated. With control over the essential battery pack technologies and manufacturing process, we believe we will be able to accelerate the development of our electrification platform and better serve our customers,” said Mark Russell, Nikola’s Chief Executive Officer. “Given our strong relationship with Romeo and ongoing collaboration, we are confident in our ability to successfully integrate and deliver the many expected strategic and financial benefits of this acquisition. We look forward to creating a zero-emissions future together.”