Industry New Briefs, Courtesy of PMTA
FMCSA scraps driver training rule
Because of strong opposition, FMCSA said it is scrapping the driver training standards rule it first proposed in 2007. It said in a Sept. 19 Federal Register notice that most of the comments it received expressed support for the concept of a training rule but contained "divergent views on several of the proposed rule's key provisions.” The rule would have required driving schools to design curriculums with 120 hours of training, most of them spent behind the wheel. Schools did not agree on how many hours should be required nor on how many should be in the classroom or on the road. Another point of difference was accreditation. The proposal required driving schools to be accredited by an entity accepted by the U.S. Department of Education. Some schools said certification, rather than full accreditation, was sufficient. Many in the trucking industry said accreditation would be costly and wouldn't increase safety.
FMCSA said it decided that new rulemaking should be initiated in lieu of completing the 2007 rulemaking.
No timeline for HOS study, Foxx said
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declined to give a timeline for the completion of a study into FMCSA's latest changes to the hours-of-service's 34-hour restart. He wrote in a letter to Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) that FMCSA completed data collection for the study in July, but the agency isn't going to hurry the analysis and will "only submit the report when that is complete.”
Do you know a Highway Hero?
The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is accepting nominations for its 31st North America Highway Hero Award at www.goodyeartrucktires.com through Nov. 29, 2013. The Goodyear Highway Hero Award, which is the oldest and most prestigious award of its kind, honors truck drivers who put themselves in harm's way to help others. Goodyear will announce the 31st Highway Hero Award winner during the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The winner will receive a $5,000 prize, a custom Goodyear Highway Hero ring, and other honors.
To nominate a truck driver for the award, go to www.goodyeartrucktires.com, fill out the online Highway Hero registration form, and hit the "submit” button, which will send your nomination directly to Goodyear. Nominees must be full-time truck drivers who live in the U.S. or Canada. The incident must have occurred in the U.S. or Canada when the truck driver was on the job or on the way to or from work in his or her truck, and the incident must have taken place between Nov. 16, 2012 and Nov. 16, 2013. If you know a truck driver who has put his or her own safety at risk to help someone else, please nominate the driver for this award.
Industry warily watches budget impasse
So far, the impact on freight transportation from the federal government shutdown is minimal. If the budget impasse continues much longer, however, trucking will feel the pinch. American Trucking Associations' chief economist Bob Costello said, "As the economy goes, trucking's going to go; that's what it boils down to.” ATA president Bill Graves said the shutdown comes just as the industry was starting to feel optimistic about the pace of economic recovery.
The government shutdown and the ongoing debate over the debt ceiling could have a negative impact on consumer confidence and the overall health of the economy, Graves said. Most federal agencies are not working, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration are continuing normally. U.S. Customs and Border Protection continued processing freight at ports and border crossings. Highway construction and maintenance projects haven't been affected. But the U.S. Department of Transportation said furloughs would include 18,418 of its 55,468 employees. The National Transportation Safety Board is not sending investigators to the site of a bus crash in Tennessee in which eight people were killed and 14 were injured.
Driver turnover rate increases
American Trucking Associations reported that driver turnover at large truckload fleets rose in the second quarter. The market for experienced drivers remains tight. The turnover rate at large truckload fleets rose 2 percentage points to 99% in the second quarter. This is the highest level since the third quarter in 2012; the turnover rate is slightly above the annual rate of 98% in 2012.
Turnover at smaller truckload fleets with less than $30 million in annual revenue remained at 82% from the previous quarter. Turnover at less-than-truckload fleets declined 9 percentage points to 6%, the lowest level in two years. ATA chief economist Bob Costello said, "A tight market for drivers will push costs higher for fleets as they work to recruit or retain quality drivers.”
Senate passes sleep apnea bill
The Senate passed a bill that blocks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from implementing or enforcing any regulations on sleep disorders of commercial truck drivers that are not adopted in a rulemaking process. The bill awaits President Obama's signature. The measure, H.R. 3095, was cleared by unanimous consent after the House passed it by a 405-0 vote Sept. 26. ATA supports the measure and said a rule that could have compelled overweight or obese drivers to be tested for sleep apnea would cost the industry about $1 billion.
FMCSA reaffirms tank rule
FMCSA issued a proposed rule reaffirming an earlier requirement that truck drivers who haul bulk containers totaling at least 1,000 gallons of liquid obtain tank endorsements. The proposal clarifies a 2011 final rule that defined tank vehicles as both permanent tankers and trucks hauling liquids and gaseous materials in bulk tanks that are "strapped, chained or otherwise secured to a vehicle.” FMCSA said the proposal is meant to clarify two points not widely understood—that the quantity amounts apply regardless of the method of tank securement and that the transportation of tanks that are manifested as empty or as residue does not require the driver to have a tank-vehicle endorsement. Less-than-truckload drivers who haul bulk liquids are among those who could be most affected. FMCSA said it doesn't have data on how many drivers have tank endorsements, and it doesn't know how many of the estimated 291,000 LTL drivers will need to obtain the tank endorsement. ATA's director of hazardous material policy Boyd Stephenson said a problem with the proposal is portable tanks generally do not pose a slosh risk because often they are shipped full. FMSCA will accept comments on the proposal through Nov. 25.
A. Duie Pyle receives ATA safety award
Congratulations to PMTA member A. Duie Pyle, West Chester, for receiving the 2013American Trucking Associations' President's Trophy. It earned the award in the mid-size fleet (between 25-100 million miles annually) category. The ATA President's Trophy recognizes the three companies whose fleets have been judged to have the best overall safety programs from the Truck and Industrial Safety Contests at the Safety and Human Resources National Conference and Exhibition. These contests judge motor carriers from across the United States on their safety accomplishments and safety records relative to others within their operation type and size. The top three recipients are honored for their superior safety achievements, outstanding commitment to industry-wide safety and extensive promotion of safety among all highway users. Rich Kaczynski is safety manager at A. Duie Pyle. Great West Casualty Company sponsors the ATA President's Trophy.
Germak featured in Transport Topics article on lower bridge weight limits
PMTA's chairman of the board James Germak, owner of Jagtrux, Inc., is featured in an article in the Oct. 14 issue of Transport Topics. He talked to the reporter about the lower bridge weight limits and the added costs and travel time it is causing. "It's affecting us and anybody else that runs a truck and trailer. We're paying a price in increased mileage, fuel costs, wear and tear on vehicles and overtime. What used to be an hour or hour-and-a-half trip is now a four-hour trip,” he said. PMTA staff members Dean Riland and Jim Runk are also quoted in the article.
Steel slag bill awaits approval
Pennsylvania's House of Representatives has approved a bill to require the state Department of Transportation to set standards for the use of steel slag in highway construction. The house approved the measure 182-13 on Oct. 1 and sent it to the Senate. Slag is an industrial byproduct of steel production. Proponents said it has been used for road construction in Pennsylvania for decades as an inexpensive building material. That also keeps it out of landfills. But some PennDOT districts in western Pennsylvania have banned the use of slag on ground it has contributed to road failures. Proponents said science-based standards are needed to ensure that slag continues to be used wherever it is appropriate. (Associated Press)
U.S. military freight dwindles
Two weeks after the federal government shut down, the U.S. military freight is almost at a standstill. Civilians who normally process deliveries to military installations are among 800,000 federal employees furloughed by the shutdown. According to American Trucking Associations estimates, the U.S. military is a major fleet customer and spent an estimated $1.9 billion on truck transportation in the continental United States last year. Bill Wanamaker, ATA's director of government traffic and security operations, every carrier in the government service sector is out looking for freight in the commercial sector.
President to sign apnea bill
Congress sent the sleep apnea bill to President Obama for his signature. The legislation would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct a full rulemaking process on the testing and treatment of truck drivers for sleep apnea, rather than issuing guidance. The two congressmen who introduced the measure in the House said that the trucking industry estimates "the impact of screening, diagnosis and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea could exceed $1 billion annually.” Supporters include ATA, the Teamsters union and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
For more information on PMTA (Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association), go to www.pmta.org