Industry New Briefs, Courtesy of PMTA
FHWA plans listening session on truck weight and size
The Federal Highway Administration's first listening session on truck size and weight is set for Wednesday, May 29, at the U.S. Department of Transportation's headquarters in Washington. The session will be webcast. FHWA, a DOT agency, said, "The first public outreach session will provide stakeholders an opportunity to share feedback on the approach and methods U.S. DOT intends to use to complete the study.” The agency will hold three additional public outreach sessions about the study throughout the next year and a half. It is required to conduct the comprehensive study under MAP-21, last year's major transportation law.
To register for the webcast, go to FHWA's website.
PennDOT, Pennsylvania and New York state police launch joint seatbelt operation
PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police recently launched a Border to Border seatbelt enforcement effort as part of a national Click It or Ticket campaign. Border to Boarder is an initiative created to crack down on unbelted driving across state boundaries. The partnership includes Pennsylvania and New York law enforcement agencies, PennDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said in a statewide announcement, "The majority of crashes happen within 25 miles from home, and you are 60 percent more likely to survive a crash if you're buckled up.” Unbelted occupants who are thrown from the vehicle are 25 times more likely to be killed in a crash. PennDOT data shows that of the 1,310 total traffic fatalities in 2012, 503 of them were unrestrained.
Maryland governor signs gas tax bill
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed into law the state's first gas tax increase in 20 years and announced $1.2 billion in transportation projects. The gas tax will add about 4 cents to the state's current 23.5 cents per gallon tax and will take effect in July, according to the Associated Press. The tax will increase another 8 cents by July 2015 and then another 8 cents by July 2016. AP said the law also includes a provision to automatically raise the tax in the future based on inflation by linking it to changes in the consumer price index.
The money raised from the tax is estimated to fund an average of $800 million a year on transportation projects, a total of $4.4 billion over the next six years.
Graves urges accurate drug testing
American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves urged Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to allow trucking companies to collect hair samples for drug testing and said the procedure is more accurate than urine testing. He said, "ATA knows for a fact that thousands of truck drivers who have failed hair tests have obtained driving positions with other carriers because they were able to pass DOT-authorized urine tests. All we are asking is for DOT to allow this industry to use the best available tools under the DOT-mandated drug and alcohol testing program to make sure our roads are safe for all motorists.”
PMTA announces Board of Directors
The judge and tellers of elections met on Tuesday, May 7, at PMTA's state headquarters. They opened, examined and counted the ballots and report these results:
Chairman of the board – James Germak
First vice-chairman – Rebecca Summers
Vice-chairman – Stephanie Fleetman
Vice-chairman – Timmy Nelson
Vice-chairman – Matt Campbell
Secretary – Gladys Knox
Treasurer – John Keagel
ATA State vice-president – Calvin Ewell
Members of the board are
House bill would tax LNG based on energy
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) co-sponsored a Hosue bill that would tax liquefied natural gas based on energy output rather than a per-gallon basis. The federal excise tax on LNG and diesel is set at 24.3 cents per gallon. But it takes 1.7 gallons of LNG to produce the same amount of energy in a gallon of diesel fuel. Thornberry said the bill will "knock down a significant barrier preventing companies from further harnessing this domestic energy source.” Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are expected to introduce a Senate companion bill.
Foxx pledges to focus on infrastructure
At his confirmation hearing, Anthony Foxx told senators that he would focus on safety, increasing productivity and developing infrastructure if they approve his selection. He is President Obama's choice for DOT secretary. Foxx also told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on May 22 that he wants to be an active participant in the ongoing discussions about MAP-21. He said he would continue the campaign against distracted driving that has been the legacy of outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Committee members did not ask Foxx his opinions on raising fuel taxes or on taxing vehicle miles traveled.
FMCSA proposes rule to eliminate fleet financial reporting requirement
FMCSA proposed a new rule that would eliminate a quarterly financial data reporting requirement for some interstate motor carriers. In a Federal Register notice, FMCSA said information collected does not support any of FMCSA's regulatory functions. Eliminating the requirement will have no impact on motor carrier safety, it said. Once the rule becomes final, it would become the second regulatory relief action taken by FMCSA this year.
Leo Flack named Pa. Grand Champion
Leo Flack, a professional driver with A. Duie Pyle, Inc., was named the 2013 Pennsylvania Grand Champion at the Pennsylvania Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Competition held June 7-8. Competing in the sleeper class, Flack received first place in that class, first place in the written exam, and first place in the pre-trip inspection portion of the competition. First place winners in each class are as follows:
Three axle—Bruce Walker, CVS Pharmacy
Four axle—Dean Herb, Giant Food Stores, LLC
Five axle—Tom Allison, Wal-Mart Transportation
Flatbed—Lew Hunter, Old Dominion Freight
Sleeper—Leo Flack, A. Duie Pyle
Straight truck—Bob Dolan, Conway Freight
Tank—Ron Fitzgerald, UPS Freight
Twins—Bill Rockel, Conway Freight
Step Van—Sal Vincelli, Fedex Ground
Rookie of the Year—Russ Mullens, Old Dominion Freight.
Winner of the small team award was A. Duie Pyle, Inc. Large team champion is the team from Conway Freight. Photos and more details will be in the July issue of Penntrux.
Senate bill lifts franchise tax cap
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill that could generate $1.9 billion annually for roads and bridges. The funds would be generated largely by lifting the $1.25 cap on the per-gallon franchise tax paid by oil companies. The bill now goes to the House and would have to be signed by the governor.
PMTA President Jim Runk said, "Depending on the oil companies, diesel fuel could go up 5 to 8 cents a gallon.” The oil companies have leeway in deciding how much of their franchise tax they pass on to consumers.
Pennsylvania Freight Operations Survey
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is part of a research team contracted to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to develop a statewide freight plan. As part of this work, ATRI is conducting a survey of motor carriers who operate in the state. This survey seeks to identify key truck corridors and freight hubs in PA, measure travel time performance on PA roadways, understand route selection criteria and outline existing freight mobility concerns. The findings of this survey will support freight corridor planning in PA. Click here to take the survey. If you have questions or need additional information, contact Lisa Park at (770) 432-0628 x3 or firstname.lastname@example.org
FMCSA proposes SMS changes
FMCSA said it will propose changes to the Safety Measurement System, a component of CSA. The changes are aimed at making it clearer to the public that fleets' scores are not meant to be safety ratings. A spokesman for FMCSA said it recognizes the presentation can be made clearer "so visitors can better understand what the scores mean—and what they don't mean.” The changes will not affect how FMCSA calculates scores or uses CSA to prioritize its enforcement actions. SMS data reflect how a company's violations and audits compare with similar companies, expressed as percentile ranking in different violations categories. They are not official ratings. Those can only be issued after FMCSA auditors evaluate a carriers' operations. The SMS changes will make that distinction clearer, FMCSA said. FMCSA said it will allow motor carriers to preview the changes sometime this year and provide time for comment. It may also consider changing its system that assigns numeric scores to regulatory violations into a system that designates violations as a high, medium or low penalty.
LaHood hints at Obama's infrastructure plan
Outgoing Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said President Obama will unveil a "big and bold” infrastructure plan. Speaking June 4 at a conference of the Transportation Construction Coalition, LaHood dropped hints and said the president will soon announce his sweeping infrastructure plan.
New truck orders up almost 30%
According to new industry reports, orders for new, heavy-duty North American trucks rose nearly 30% in May above the same month last year. ACT Research Co. said fleets ordered 23,300 Class 8 trucks during May, compared with 17,988 in the year-ago period, a gain of 29.5%. FTR Associates reported the rise in orders was 29%. Both agreed May was the eighth straight month for net new orders topping 20,000 units, following a six-month streak in the middle of last year when orders sagged to as low as 13,000.
For more information on PMTA (Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association), go to www.pmta.org