Industry New Briefs, Courtesy of PMTA
Northeastern states affected by blizzard get some HOS waivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has waived some hours-of-service rules for truckers providing emergency relief services in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. These states were affected by the weekend blizzard. The waivers have varying expiration dates, depending on the type of emergency service, but in several states will remain in effect for the duration of a given state's emergency declaration. Most are for delivering supplies like fuel, heating oil or other vital supplies.
FMCSA said that "even though safety regulations may be suspended, drivers and carriers are expected to use good judgment and not operate vehicles with fatigued or ill drivers, or under any conditions presenting a clear hazard to other motorists using the highways.”
Another delay request for HOS changes
Just one week after the American Trucking Associations asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to delay implementing scheduled changes to the hour-of-service rules, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance made the same request. CVSA Executive Director Steve Keppler said the request is to help avoid the "potentially duplicative and unnecessary training for both enforcement and industry, and to prevent confusion if the court's decision alters the final rule in any manner.” ATA is also concerned about potentially unnecessary training for law enforcement and trucking companies if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit changes the rule after hearing oral arguments March 1. The rule is set to take effect July 1. A spokesman for FMCSA said they received both requests and are reviewing them.
ATA calls for change to carrier ratings
American Trucking Associations asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to create a process to remove crash statistics from motor carriers' records in cases where it is evident the carrier was not at fault. ATA asked FMCSA to change the carrier ratings under the CSA program. ATA President Bill Graves told a story about police chasing a driver in a stolen car who crossed a grassy median and struck a truck head-on. He said it is inappropriate for FMCSA to use these types of crashes to prioritize trucking companies for future government interventions, "especially when responsibility for the crash is so obvious.” Currently, fatal crashes are listed on a carrier's safety profile but do not contain information on whether the carrier was at fault in the crash.
FMCSA to hold listening session on driver training requirements
FMCSA will hear input about requirements for entry-level training of commercial drivers at a listening session at the Mid-America Trucking Show on March 22. The show is at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro will attend the session, which is open to the public and will be broadcast on FMCSA's website. It will be the second listening session hosted by FMCSA since last year's highway law asked the agency to finalize the training standards.
2050 and beyond—natural gas could fuel half of heavy trucks
The National Petroleum Council said natural gas could fuel half of heavy trucks by 2050. The National Petroleum Council did a two-year study, commissioned by the Department of Energy, that shows a strong economic potential for natural gas trucks. The study focused on the future of alternative and diesel fuels, including biofuels, electric and hydrogen cell fuels. The leader of the group that worked on the study said participants were asked to "essentially write the bible on today's knowledge” of alternative and petroleum-based fuels and project the growth and promise of them through 2050. Diesel will probably remain the dominant heavy-truck fuel for several decades, but natural gas could be the new bridge to the future, he said.
Shuster says he is open to all options for highway funding
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said all options are on the table for highway funding. The new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met with the executive committee of American Trucking Associations last week. He said he is willing to discuss anything, including the possibility of raising the federal fuel tax. He also said tolling needs to be part of the discussion, but he disagrees with groups that believe the answer is to toll the entire interstate highway system.
Shuster has created a new panel within the committee to focus on intermodal issues, to be chaired by Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) This panel is necessary because no existing subcommittee is charged with looking at the issues involving intermodal traffic. The panel, initially created to work for six months, could be extended if necessary.
Trucking adds 5,000 jobs
The Labor Department said trucking added 5,000 jobs in January. U.S. employers added 157,000 jobs, and the nation's unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9%. December's trucking-jobs gain was revised downward to 3,400 from an originally reported 4,200 increases. November's trucking employment was revised upward by about 6,500. In January, total transportation jobs, including trucking, fell by 14,200. Labor figures showed that December's decline for the transportation sector was revised to 4,200 from an originally reported 600.
Bloomberg News reported the January jobs gain was slightly below economists' forecasts. The unemployment rate was forecast to hold at December rates of 7.8%.
NJ Route 35 reopens
The section of New Jersey's Route 35 along the Jersey Shore that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy has been reopened. Route 35 is the second-busiest highway along the shore after the Garden State Parkway. Thousands of vehicles use it daily during the summer months. Sandy cut a channel though Mantoloking, which sits on a barrier island between the ocean and Barnegat Bay, separating the community in two. Emergency repairs filled in that gap and rebuilt a makeshift road along the route until the New Jersey Department of Transportation could rebuild the highway.
EPA proposes biofuel mandate
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a cellulosic biofuel mandate that it said complies with a court ruling that overturned its previous methodology for the mandate. Under the proposal, fuel refiners would have to blend 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel into diesel and gasoline this year.
An appeals court threw out EPA's 2012 mandate of 500 million gallons on Jan. 25, saying the methodology it used was overly optimistic about the amount of the fuel that is produced each year. Cellulosic biofuel is made form wood biomass materials and can be used as diesel or gasoline.
LaHood announces resignation
Just one week after he said he was staying on as DOT secretary, Ray LaHood said he is leaving the Obama administration. According to the Associated Press, LaHood sent an email to DOT employees announcing his departure. He said he plans to stay on until a successor is confirmed. LaHood lead the DOT for just more than four years. Currently, he is the Cabinet's lone Republican.
ATA asks FMCSA to delay HOS rule
American Trucking Associations asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to delay the new hours-of-service rule effective date for three months. ATA President Bill Graves sent a letter to FMCSA last week saying that a delay beyond the scheduled July 1 HOS compliance date "will avoid potentially duplicative and unnecessary training, prevent confusion if the court's decision alters...the final rule, and, given the anticipated short length of the delay, will have no measureable impact on highway safety.” An FMCSA spokesman said the agency is reviewing the letter. ATA filed suite against the HOS rule in July. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 15 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
DOT reports positive drug test levels drop
The Department of Transportation reported that the percentage of truck drivers testing positive on random drug tests in 2011 dropped to the lowest level since mandatory testing began almost 20 years ago. The positive rate was 0.9% for the 492,000 drivers in the 2011 sample. That total is lower than the 1% of 455,000 drivers who tested positive in 2010 and less than half the 2.2% rate for the 438,000 drivers tested in 1996 when regulations first required all carriers to conduct random tests.
ATA vice president of safety policy Rob Abbott urged caution in reviewing the results. Federal law requires carriers to conduct urine testing on drivers and prospective hires, and many in the industry do not think urine testing is as effective as hair testing. ATA supports changes that would allow carriers to choose between hair tests and urine tests for drivers. In December, a bill to create a pilot program on hair testing was introduced, and creators of the bill said they will reintroduce it this year..
Volvo Trucks sponsors safety contest
Volvo Trucks is again sponsoring the annual Volvo Trucks Safety Award, given to the two safest U.S. or Canadian fleets. Winner each receive $25,000 to be used toward safety activities. The prizes are awarded to the fleets with the best safety record in two divisions: one for fewer than 20 million miles traveled and one for more than 20 million miles. The contest is open to all U.S. and Canadian fleets operating at least five Class 8 trucks with at least one Volvo tractor in operation. Sponsored for the fifth time by Volvo in conjunction with Michelin Americas Truck Tires, the award will be presented at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference and Exhibition in October. Entry deadline is July 1. For more information, visit www.volvotrucks.us.com/safetyaward
For more information on PMTA (Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association), go to www.pmta.org