Fleet's request to bring CLP holders into under-21 pilot denied

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Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, May 9, 2024:

FMCSA denies fleet’s request to allow CLP holders to participate in under-21 pilot

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a petition from Pitt Ohio Express that would allow it to use drivers under the age of 21, who hold a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce, to participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program.

Currently, drivers under 21 who hold a CLP are limited to intrastate operations. The SDAP program allows registered motor carriers to use apprentice drivers between 18 and 20 years old with a CDL under certain circumstances.

Pitt Ohio’s request sought to allow CLP holders to participate in the program. Under the requested exemption, the CLP holders would still need to meet all the remaining apprentice requirements, as well as the existing regulatory requirements for CLP holders (such as presence of a valid CDL holder in the passenger seat). Pitt Ohio estimated that 25 CLP holders would operate under the exemption each year. The company said it believes the exemption would relieve them of “difficulty locating and recruiting apprentice drivers into [the] SDAP Program.”

[Related: FMCSA to make Congressionally-required changes to under-21 pilot program]

In denying the request, FMCSA said that it found “there is insufficient basis to conclude that the exemption would likely achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level achieved without the exemption.”

“The SDAP’s purpose is to determine whether there are conditions where safety data indicate younger drivers (18- to 20-year-olds) might be allowed to operate CMVs,” FMCSA said. “Congress authorized SDAP, opening the pilot to those 18- to 20-year-olds who hold a CDL, not a CLP.”

By granting the request to Pitt Ohio, FMCSA added it “could potentially put young and inexperienced drivers in a position of high responsibility, potentially exposing them and surrounding drivers to crashes and incidents involving CMVs. The agency therefore believes that Pitt Ohio’s prospective apprentice CLP drivers should not be legally permitted to operate CMVs in interstate commerce if less than 21 years of age.”

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[Related: Fleet seeks waiver to allow pre-CDL drivers to participate in under-21 pilot]

STG Logistics extends partnership with railroad

STG Logistics announced this week it is strengthening its partnership with CSX railroad, including an expanded relationship to facilitate drayage services to support their door-to-door CSX RailPlus product.

"Over the last 30 years, CSX's rail network has given us the ability to scale our intermodal business while providing reliable service to our east coast client base," said Tyler Holtgreven, STG's Senior Vice President of Intermodal. "We are incredibly excited about the opportunities ahead, for both of our organizations and our customers."

CSX serves major markets in the eastern United States with access to over 70 intermodal terminals. Its 20,000 miles of track extends across 23 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

[Related: STG Logistics completes acquisition]

Intermodal fleet OptiX acquires freight brokerage

OptiX Entities LLC announced Thursday it is acquiring Vircon Transport Solutions LLC in an equity purchase transaction.

The transaction forms the foundation for the launch of OptiX Transport Solutions, a new corporate division to complement OptiX’s existing drayage, managed freight solutions, container stacking, warehousing, and transloading capabilities from the ports across the Gulf Coast and Southeast, including Houston, Savannah, Charleston and Dallas.

The new division will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and open additional office space in Houston, Texas.

Vircon currently serves customers in several sectors, including steel, mining, lumber, tires, petrochemicals, equipment rentals, building materials, and industrial chemicals. With operations in 48 states plus Canada and Mexico, the new OptiX Transport Solutions will provide dry van, flatbed, intermodal drayage, over-dimensional, and specialized freight services to OptiX 3PL customers, as well as brokerage-only clients.

Existing brokerage customers will now have access to OptiX’s fleet of assets to lower costs and increase line of sight on their freight logistics.

“This transaction supports the requests of both OptiX and Vircon customers who seek greater integration of outbound and inbound domestic services in conjunction with their import/export operations and storage requirements,” said Adam Borden, President of OptiX. “OptiX will continue to invest heavily in facilities, talent, trailer assets, and technology to grow with customers and provide diverse services to their supply chain.”

Circle Logistics launches Mexico cross-border freight service

Circle Logistics officially announced May 7 its cross-border freight service between the U.S. and Mexico, which includes expedited and air shipments.

Circle is currently moving twice the Mexico volume compared to 2023, and anticipates 100% increase over the next 10 years.

“We are hauling 50 loads a day cross-border and we have an operations team – like our own customs clearing house or customs brokerage – that clears shipments every day from Mexico,” said Eric Fortmeyer, CEO of Circle Logistics. “The ability to clear customs fast and deliver on-time is a huge competitive advantage we offer shippers.”

Providing safe routes for cross-border drivers is also a huge priority for Circle, especially since cargo theft increased by more than 50% year-over-year from 2022 to 2023. Part of Circle’s service includes a 24/7 operations team that assists shippers and – even on holidays – to ensure shipper-carrier relationships remain positive and shipments arrive on time and intact. Circle also leverages tracking solutions to ensure loads are constantly monitored and drivers are safely transporting goods.

The privately owned asset-based 3PL expanded its operations into Panama about three years ago and the company now employs 100 Spanish-speaking team members who are nurturing relationships daily, from sales to operations.