Industry New Briefs, Courtesy of PMTA
FMCSA looks at in-cab technology that could block drivers' views
FMCSA is studying rules on technology that could block truck drivers' views such as cameras on windshields used for driver coaching. Regulations currently prohibit anything on the windshield lower than 6 inches below the top of the glass, or anything within the area that the wiper blades clear. FMCSA allows truck and bus companies to use onboard cameras that record the road in front of the vehicle or its cab, but those cameras can't hang more than 2 inches into the wiped area. The agency granted exemptions for carriers, but the exemptions have to be renewed every two years. That is why it is looking at changing the regulation. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee is also considering the safety benefits of the cameras. FMCSA hasn't set a timeline for writing a new regulation.
Alaska legislature passes LNG trucking bill
The Alaska State Legislature has passed a bill authorizing up to $275 million for the development, construction and maintenance of a liquefied natural gas plant and distribution system in the state, the Associated Press reported. Gov. Sean Parnell, who expects to sign the bill, said the measure will make it possible to truck LNG from the state's north Slope to its interior. State Sen. Pete Kelly of Fairbanks called the bill important to the community.
FMCSA cracks down on moving companies trying to evade regulations
FMCSA is warning firms that move household goods against schemes to avoid loading regulations. In an April 1 Federal Register notice, FMCSA said that laborers packing for moving companies cannot be employed by the company or an affiliate. If they are, the company is subject to the rules that govern household-goods movers. Those companies that provide and ship containers for consumers can be exempt from rules that apply to moving companies. The issue stems from the "limited service exclusion,” a provision enacted in a 2005 law. It states that trucking companies that only provide and move containers are not considered household-goods movers, so they are not subject to the consumer protection regulations, higher insurance standards and registration requirements specific to movers. The agency said, "FMCSA believe that Congress did not intend the LSE as a mechanism for companies engaged in traditional household-goods moving to evade regulatory oversight.”
Truckload driver turnover slips in fourth quarter
The turnover rate for drivers in the truckload sector too a surprising dip in the fourth quarter, according to American Trucking Associations' Trucking Activity Report, the likely result of a weakened economy and overall freight volumes. Turnover at large truckload carriers dropped from an annualized rate of 104% in the third quarter to 90% , its lowest point since the first quarter of the year. For all of 2012, turnover averaged 98%, the highest since 2007 when the churn rate averaged 117%.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said, "As freight volumes slid a bit at the end of 2012, we saw turnover follow suit. However, this is just a respite from the long-term trend and driver shortage storm that's coming when the freight economy accelerates; and even then, these relaxed levels are still quite high relative to recent years.” As it stands now, the industry is still short between 20,000 and 25,000 drivers in the truckload sector—a figure that a healthier economy will only force to grow.
Aggressive driving crack down
PennDOT announced that part of its statewide investment of federal funds will help municipal and state police to crack down on aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and running red lights. An enforcement wave targeting distracted or drowsy drivers, as well as speeding and work zone violations, will be held March 18 to April 28. Participating law enforcement agencies will carry out a special enforcement effort in north central Pennsylvania on Friday, March 22.
Preliminary PennDOT data show there were 6,725 aggressive driving crashes in 2012 in Pennsylvania. Those crashes resulted in 183 fatalities, up from 168 fatalities in 2011. The data also show there were 2,673 crashes involving drowsy drivers, with those crashes resulting in 29 fatalities. There were 19 drowsy driver-related traffic fatalities in 2011.
Pilot Flying J to add DEP at pump at all locations
Pilot Flying J said it plans to have diesel exhaust fluid at the pump available at all diesel lanes by this fall. The company said after an investment of $165 million it currently has DEF at the pump in 3,000 lanes at 400 of its 650 locations.
DEF is available at all Pilot Flying J locations in 1 and 2.5 gallon containers. DEF is a necessary additive for diesel engines that have selective catalytic reduction systems to limit nitrogen oxides emissions.
MMTA opposes plan to index fuel taxes
The Maryland Motor Truck Association will oppose a transportation funding plan put forth by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) that includes a new sales tax on motor fuel and a 5-cent reduction in the gasoline tax but not in the diesel tax. O'Malley's plan would phase in a 4% sales tax on the price of gasoline and diesel over two years. At the same time, the 23.5-cent per-gallon gasoline tax would be reduced by 5 cents, although diesel would continue to be taxed at 24.25 cents a gallon. In addition to a sales tax, the plan also creates a second "inflationary sensitive measure,” tax indexing, MMTA said. The gasoline and diesel taxes would be tied to the Consumer Price Index but there is no cap for when fuel prices rise, only a floor when they fall. MMTA President Louis Campion said, "Essentially, the state is saying that it is never going to let the tax go down below the amount charged in the previous year...but it will allow the tax to rise uncontrollably.”
For more information on PMTA (Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association), go to www.pmta.org