Industry New Briefs, Courtesy of PMTA
Groups oppose plan for driver physicals
Medical professionals and states oppose FMCSA's plan to require daily reports of drivers' physicals, saying the system would be burdensome and expensive. In May, FMCSA announced a proposal that would require medical examiners to submit results of physicals on drivers at the end of each day. FMCSA would forward that data to states' licensing agencies the next day, and the states would have to post it to a database the day after that. The agency said it wants to reduce fraud by letting law enforcement officers know if drivers have failed physicals. The American Medical Association asked that FMCSA allow significantly more time to submit data. Their concern is the proposal will prove "administratively burdensome for physicians.” Other commenters said that daily reporting would require them to change their procedures. State licensing agencies would have to post the information to the Commercial Driver License Information System the day after they receive it, and if FMCSA does not submit the information in a format that matches that database, it could be difficult.
American Trucking Associations supports the proposal but is asking that drivers be allowed to carry paper certificates for up to 15 days after their exams; FMCSA's proposal would not permit drivers to use paper medical cards. FMCSA has not said when it will make the proposed rule final.
Speed limits increase in some states
Five states are setting higher speed limits on some divided highways. They follow the lead of Texas, which raised the speed limit to 85 mph on one stretch of highway, the highest in the nation. Ohio and Utah are implementing higher limits, while Maine and Illinois officials are studying when and whether to raise their newly approved speeds. New Hampshire's new law takes effect in January. Utah's new law expands segments of a road already posted at 80 mph, effective last March. Ohio increased the maximum speed limit from 65 mph to 75 mph on rural interstates, effective July 13.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 36 states have speed limits of 70 mph or more on some roads.
Drivers in top three "hardest-to-fill” jobs
Truck drivers are near the top of the "Hardest-to-Fill Position” list, according to a report from CareerBuilder. Truck driver ranks third on the list, after sales representative, and machine operators/production workers. CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,000 hiring managers to identify positions that stayed open 12 weeks or longer. Between 2010 and 2013, 113,517 jobs have been added.
Bill would increase insurance minimums
A House bill introduced Friday would increase the minimum liability insurance trucking companies must have to $4,422,000. The current minimum of $750,000 hasn't changed in 33 years. The bill is meant to protect the public and highway users by ensuring that carriers have enough insurance to cover the costs of crashes they cause. The $4,422,000 proposed level reflects increases in costs of medical care; it would cover the same amount of care as $750,000 did in 1980. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) sponsored the legislation, and six representatives, all Democrats, have signed on as co-sponsors.
Ohio Turnpike approves toll plan
The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission approved a 10-year toll plan that would increase rates by about 2.7% annually for cars and trucks. Yearly increases cannot be more than 2.7% and could be less if the cost of living index doesn't reach 2.7%, according to the plan. The first increase will be Jan. 1. A five-axle truck with an E-ZPass that's currently paying $35 to run the entire 241 miles across the state will pay $36. By 2023, the same truck will pay an estimated $45.75 if the toll rates increase by 2.7% every year. The same truck without E-ZPass will pay $45.25 starting Jan. 1 compared with the current $44. In 2023, the toll for a non-E-ZPass truck would increase to $57.50.
June truck sales fall 8.9%
According to WardsAuto.com, truck sales in June were the highest total so far in 2013, but also the 10th consecutive year-over-year decline. June's total of 15,929 Class 8 trucks was down 8.9% from the 17,484 trucks sold in June 2012, but it was several hundred vehicles higher than April, which had been the best month of this year. Class 8 sales are down 13.5% through the first half of 2013, WardsAuto.com reported. Though Class 8 sales have fallen, North American truck orders have increased 11.1% year-over-year during the first half of 2013. Executives with several truck manufacturers said June's numbers, combined with recent improvements in key sectors of the economy, should lead to higher truck sales in the second half of the year.
Cartwright drops insurance bill
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) dropped his bill that would increase the minimum liability insurance trucking must have to $4.422,000. Several groups, including American Trucking Associations, Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, and insurers expressed reservations about his bill he said is meant to protect the public and highway users by ensuring carriers have enough insurance to cover the cost of crashes they cause. The current minimum of $750,000 hasn't changed in 33 years. Data obtained by ATA from insurance sources shows, however, that 91.7% of crashes cost less than $25,000 per occurrence. Only 0.19% of crashes costs more than $1 million per occurrence. ATA said the relevant data clearly demonstrates that all but a minute percentage of claims are satisfied by the existing limits.
ATA said the original safety purpose of the minimum insurance requirements continues to be achieved today through the insurance marketplace. There is no research existing that suggests a causal or even correlational relationship between higher insurance amounts and better safety performance. Therefore, raising the amount of the minimum financial responsibility requirements for the trucking industry will not result in improved safety performance.
Turnpike announces 2014 toll hike
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a 2014 toll increase of 2% for E-ZPass customers and 12% for cash customers. The increase, which was expected, is largely needed to allow the PTC to meets its funding obligation to Pennsylvania under the 2007 Act 44. New revenues from the increase will also help fund the Turnpike's capital improvement plan. The increase will take effect Jan. 5, 2014. This increase will be the 11th rate hike in the history of the PTC—and the sixth yearly toll increase implemented after the passage of Act 44. Act 44 directs the commission to make annual payments to PennDOT for off-Turnpike investment in the state's ground transportation network.
ATA seeks HOS exemption for hazmat drivers
American Trucking Associations is seeking a slight hours-of-service change for hazmat drivers. It has asked FMCSA to allow hazmat drivers to watch their trucks during their required 30-minute breaks they are now required to take. Hazmat carriers usually employ the "constant attendance” practice. ATA said the safety benefits of constant attendance exceed the risks, and a driver exercising constant attendance over a vehicle, but otherwise at liberty to pursue activities of his/her own choosing, should not be considered on duty. According to the new HOS rules, a driver must be completely off duty during the rest break and cannot be responsible for his or her truck or doing any other work, such as paperwork or loading. Citing existing attendance regulations, FMCSA has already exempted drivers hauling certain explosives or radioactive material for the Department of Energy. It also granted haulers of animals a temporary waiver from the rest-break requirement during the summer. As of last week, FMCSA has not responded to the request, but a spokesman said it received the petition, and it is under review.
Carriers expect to boost capacity
According to a second-quarter survey by Transport Capital Partners, about two-thirds of motor carriers plan to increase capacity in the next 12 months. The survey's findings showed that 64% of carriers said their capacity additions will be 5% or less, while about a quarter, 24%, of carriers said they planned capacity increases of more than 5%. The findings matched TCP's first-quarter results. TCP partner Richard Mikes said, "Carriers continue to voice concerns about the ‘headwinds' impacting operations and returns, but aging fleets and still relatively low interest rates are clearly offsetting factors.” TCP said the modest optimism regarding rate and volume expectations continues to influence whether carriers will add capacity, and, if so, to what degree. The survey said large carriers are more cautious than smaller carriers in their buying plans; 19% plan to add more than 5% capacity, compared with 36% among smaller carriers.
Court upholds most HOS provisions
A federal appeals court upheld most of the hours-of-service rule, overturning only the provision not to exempt short haul drivers from the new requirement that drivers take 30-minute breaks before driving more than eight hours straight. The court upheld the 30-minute break for all other drivers, despite ATA's challenge to the provision. ATA said the research FMCSA cited only justified requiring breaks from driving, not non-working breaks. It also upheld the restrictions on the 34-hour restart that drivers can use to reset their weekly driving limits.
In February 2012, ATA filed suit, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block implementation of the HOS rule. Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, said, "While we are disappointed the court chose to give unlimited deference to FMCSA's agenda-driving rulemaking, the striking down of the short haul break provision is an important victory.”
FMCSA defines short haul drivers as those who stay within a 150 air-mile radius of a home terminal, return to it on a regular basis and are driving a truck that does not require a commercial driver license.
Industry asked to rank top concerns
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the trucking industry's not-for-profit research organization, launched the 2013 Top Industry Issues Survey. The annual survey, commissioned by the American Trucking Associations, asks trucking industry stakeholders to rank the top issues of concern for the industry along with appropriate strategies for addressing each issue. The survey is in its ninth year, and participation by trucking stakeholders has grown each year.
"In complex times like this it is critical that we do our part to help ensure a thriving future for the trucking industry,” said ATA Chairman Mike Card, president, Combined Transport, Inc. "With your participation, we can speak with a collective industry voice on what's most important to us.”
The results of the 2013 survey will be released at the ATA Annual Management Conference and Exhibition, to be held Oct. 19-22, 2013, in Orlando.
Industry stakeholders are encouraged to complete the survey online at http://www.atri-online.org/.
Vote for a tagline—from ATA
Do you work in the trucking industry? Do you think the image of the industry could be improved? If so, VOTE NOW!
The trucking industry is coming together to develop an image movement that will educate not only our policymakers and business and community leaders, but the general public as well, on why trucking is essential, the industry's safety record, sustainability efforts, why trucking is a great career and more. This movement will be designed to strengthen and grow our industry in the future. The movement will be launched this fall, but first we need your help.
Please take a look at this survey and respond before Wednesday August 7 at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time with which of the five taglines you think best represents our industry for this initiative.
Simply click on the link below for the survey and click "Done” when finished.
We all have a great story to tell, and conveying those stories is at the heart of this movement. We are eager to get started, and your opinion is critical to the success. Please feel free to pass the link on to other trucking industry colleagues.
Obama reappoints Hersman to NTSB
President Obama has reappointed Deborah Hersman to a third term as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Her name has been sent to the Senate for confirmation to head the board for another two years. Her total term as a member would be for five years, expiring December 2018. Under Hersman's leadership, NTSB called on the 50 states to lower the threshold for drunk driving from a blood-alcohol level of .08 to .05.
FMCSA clarifies shorthaul exemption
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration clarified the HOS rule's shorthaul exemption. A U.S. Court of Appeals decision issued on Aug. 2 kept most of FMCSA's HOS rule in place, but it said shorthaul drivers were exempt from the rest-break provision. The agency uses two shorthaul criteria. The first applies to any truck driver who stays within a 100 air-mile radius of a home terminal. The second applies to the driver of a truck that doesn't require a CDL who stays within a 150 air-mile radius of a terminal. Trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings of between 10,000 pounds and 26,000 pounds require drivers to adhere to HOS rules, but not to carry CDLs. The court's decision doesn't take effect until Sept. 23, but FMCSA said its shorthaul policy took effect on Aug. 1, the day of the court's ruling. FMCSA said it has directed law enforcement officers to follow the new policy guidance immediately.
FMCSA seeks comments on livestock and munitions hauling exemptions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on two requested exemptions to the new HOS rest-break requirement. The first is to grant permanent exemption to the rest-break requirement to truckers hauling livestock. Under the livestock exemption, carriers received a temporary waiver of the mandate in July; that expires Oct. 9. A coalition of agricultural interest groups asked for a permanent exemption, stating that complying with the 30-minute rest break rule will force the livestock industry and their drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or compliance with the rule.
The second comes from the U.S. Army who asked that truck drivers contracted to carry its weapons, munitions, sensitive cargo or classified cargo be allowed to watch their loads during their 30-minute breaks.
ELD proposal goes to White House
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it sent a proposal to mandate electronic logging devices on all trucks to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. OMB will study the proposal for its adherence to the law and President Obama's agenda. FMCSA had previously finalized an ELD requirement for certain carriers with poor hours-of-service compliance records, but that mandate was struck down in federal court because the agency didn't properly address how the devices could be used to harass drivers. If OMB approves the proposal, FMCSA can publish it and gather comments from the public.
New York offers alt-fuel truck voucher
New York has launched a $19 million truck voucher program to promote the purchase of alternative fuel-powered commercial trucks. The program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will support the purchase of battery-powered trucks and compressed natural gas powered trucks as well as retrofitting diesel engines with emissions-control devices. It is designed for Classes 3-8, including large pickups, box trucks, buses, tractor trailers, garbage trucks and construction vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers, dealers and retrofit providers approved by the NYSERDA will receive the vouchers to pass on the lower vehicle price to buyers.
For more information on PMTA (Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association), go to www.pmta.org