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Industry News Briefs Courtesy of PMTA

July, 2017

ATA Truck Tonnage Index Decreased 2.5% in April

Arlington, VA… American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index slipped 2.5% in April, following a 1.1% decline during March. (March’s percentage decrease was slightly more than reported in our press release on April 18, 2017.) In April, the index equaled 134 (2000=100), down from 137.4 in March. The all-time high was 142.7 in February 2016.

Compared with April 2016, the SA index fell 1.8%. In March, the index rose 0.6% on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date, compared with the same four months in 2016, the index is off 0.3%. For all of 2016, tonnage was up 2.5%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 132.6 in April, which was 7.8% below the previous month (143.8).

“I have to admit that April’s contraction is a bit surprising, especially considering the anecdotal reports I’ve been hearing from fleets regarding freight levels,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “It’s not necessarily that tonnage levels fell in April that is surprising, but the size of the decrease. One explanation is that housing starts fell substantially in April as well, and residential construction generates heavier truck freight.

“Despite the fact that tonnage is down a total of 3.6% over the last three months, I still expect moderate growth going forward as key sectors of the economy continue to improve slowly,” he said.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.1% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled nearly 10.5 billion tons of freight in 2015. Motor carriers collected $726.4 billion, or 81.2% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.


Big Policy Day: National Carbon Tax & US Triggers Process to Begin NAFTA Talks

A discussion paper released by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna reveals the federal government’s potential strategy for imposing a national minimum price on carbon by the end of 2018 for those provinces that do not have their own system place.

Currently, four provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec – have some form of carbon pricing mechanism, whether that be a carbon tax, a cap and trade system, or, as is the case in Alberta, a combination of the two. The structure announced today by the federal government is similar to the latter.

The remaining provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces currently do not have a carbon pricing system in place.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance says it’s not conceptually opposed to market-based solutions like carbon pricing, contending that since diesel fuel is the second largest operating cost component after labour, the industry already has a built-in rationale to pursue improved fuel economy. It also points to the fact trucking is currently the only freight mode in Canada subject to regulations requiring trucks be equipped with carbon-reduction technologies. A second, even more stringent phase of these regulations has already been published in the Canada Gazette.

With the Canadian government also committed to carbon pricing, the alliance would have preferred a consistent, transparent, revenue-neutral national framework, which would have worked the same way in all provinces. Most importantly, all revenues generated should have been plowed back into industry programs to accelerate investment and early adoption of green, fuel efficient technology.

“However, with each province doing its own thing, the horse is now out of the barn,” says CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “The Pan-Canadian approach has not materialized and this increases the administrative burden on industries like trucking which cross-provincial and international borders.”

CTA believes it’s imperative the federal government allocate revenues from its pricing scheme into an incentive program aimed at accelerating into the marketplace lower carbon technologies, devices, and fuels. Quebec is currently the only province reinvesting in green truck technology. Ontario has indicated intentions to introduce a green truck strategy, but it has not yet been announced.

CTA will be submitting its official comments to the discussion paper by the June 30 deadline.

In other significant policy news, US President Donald Trump launched the formal process to renegotiate NAFTA. Likely by the end of August Canada will be engaged in discussions critical to the business operations of many CTA members.

HYPERLINK “http://cantruck.ca/canadian-business-groups-meet-to-discuss-potential-approach-to-us-trade/”As previously reported, CTA is working with the Government of Canada and other trade associations to ensure trucking industry concerns are a part of this complex and important dialogue.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Laskowski. “The Government of Canada, CTA and other trade associations have all been preparing for this moment.

“This fall, all links of the Canadian supply chain need to band together with government to ensure our economic prosperity is protected. We would also do well to seize this opportunity to address historical border/trade-related issues that will be brought to light in the NAFTA discussions.”


Business and Community Leaders Urge Congress to Oppose Commercial Rest Areas

Alexandria, VA… A diverse coalition from restaurants and fuel retailers to city governments, trucking firms and blind entrepreneurs urged key lawmakers to oppose efforts to commercialize Interstate rest areas as Congress considers infrastructure legislation.

The Administration’s recent proposal to allow the sale of food, fuel and other commercial services at Interstate rest areas would drain local businesses of customers, communities of much-needed jobs, and city governments of critical tax revenue by putting established businesses in direct competition with state governments. At the same time, it would give the state an unfair competitive advantage by granting the state direct access to highway motorists, the groups said in letters to Congress.

Further, upending long-established policy prohibiting commercial rest areas threatens the livelihood of the nation’s blind merchants, who service the vending machines at rest areas, and would hinder the Department of Transportation’s goal of expanding commercial truck parking capacity nationwide.

“Congress effectively privatized highway services in 1960, when Congress prohibited states from offering commercial services at rest areas along the Interstate Highway System specifically so that private sector entities would grow and provide services to the traveling public,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “Established businesses including travel plazas, convenience stores, restaurants and hotels are already meeting the needs of highway travelers.

“If the government gets in the business of selling food and fuel or other commercial services, local communities will suffer as tax revenues shift to the state; hard-working business owners will lose their customer base; blind entrepreneurs will be out of work and truck drivers will have a harder time finding a safe place to rest. Commercializing Interstate rest areas would create far more problems than it will solve,” Mullings said.

In many rural communities located near Interstates, gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, truckstops, and hotels represent the largest local taxpayers, contributing more than $22.5 billion in state and local taxes. These funds help support schools, police and fire departments and other vital public services.

“By commercializing rest areas, cities and towns stand to lose critical revenue used for funding road maintenance, building schools and keeping communities safe,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “Such a move would risk flatlining local property tax revenues, especially impacting the hundreds of small cities and rural communities whose economies depend on highway travelers.”

Lea Dias, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, said, “NCSAB is extremely concerned about the implications of rest area commercialization for thousands of small family businesses, including those owned and operated by blind entrepreneurs. Under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a federal law that supports entrepreneurial opportunities for persons who are blind, permits are awarded to blind vendors to manage vending locations at rest areas along federal interstates. Commercialization of these rest areas would result in significant loss of sales opportunities at highway exits, as well as for rest area vending machines, that would be unable to compete with larger rest area food services.

“This economic disruption to small family businesses, including those owned by entrepreneurs who are blind, and to the communities that they live in, would likely shift economic activity from small businesses to large corporations,” Dias said. “It would also shift tax revenue from cities and counties, without necessarily increasing net jobs, sales, or taxes paid. As the agencies that administer the Randolph-Sheppard Act, we urge policymakers to examine carefully the impact on small businesses, including those owned by blind entrepreneurs, of commercialization of rest areas along federal interstates.

“There is already an unacceptably high unemployment rate of approximately 70 percent among blind Americans,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Congress should not contribute to the problem by putting the blind entrepreneurs who service rest area vending machines out of work.”

Congress reaffirmed its commitment to helping exit-based businesses thrive and to supporting local communities as recently as 2012, when the Senate voted 86 to 12 to uphold the longstanding federal law prohibiting the sale of food, fuel and other convenience items from Interstate rest areas.

Letters to Congress (House letter and Senate letter) were signed by NATSO, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, International Franchise Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Automatic Merchandising Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Federation of the Blind, National Franchisee Association, National League of Cities, National Restaurant Association, National Tank Truck Carriers, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America.


Minnesota Department Of Transportation To Test Use Of Autonomous Bus

ST. PAUL, MN… The Minnesota Department of Transportation will begin testing the use of an autonomous bus in a cold weather climate.

“There’s not been much research done in the northern climates,” said Jay Hietpas, MnDOT state traffic engineer and director of the agency’s office of safety and technology. “Minnesota is the perfect state to test autonomous vehicles. We’re a mass transit state and we have cold and snowy weather.”

MnDOT will be issuing a request for proposals seeking technology partners to help safely demonstrate how autonomous technology works in a colder climate.

Testing will start with warm and cold weather testing at MnROAD, MnDOT’s test track facility near Albertville, Minn. MnROAD is used by researchers from around the world to test road building materials and designs.

“The low-speed 2.5 miles loop and high-speed 3.5 mile segment of MnROAD provide a safe and secure environment for testing autonomous vehicles in winter weather conditions,” Hietpas said.

After successful testing at MnROAD, a live test could be conducted the week of the 2018 Super Bowl, which is being hosted in Minnesota. Additional on-road tests may also be conducted at various locations around the state.

“We know the autonomous technology is coming fast, so MnDOT wants to be prepared with both the technology and the regulatory standards. We want to shape how this plays out,” Hietpas said.

He said there are many benefits to using an autonomous bus, including safer roads, improved mobility services, reduced congestion, reduced energy consumption and a cleaner environment.

“The safety factor alone is a huge benefit,” he said. “Our fatality numbers have plateaued the past few years, but autonomous buses could help reduce fatalities.”

This isn’t MnDOT’s first research on autonomous or connected vehicles. MnDOT already has driver assist systems in its snowplows. The agency is currently researching other smart in-vehicles technologies, such as lane departure and advanced curve speed warning systems, roadway mapping for fog line detection and intersection collision avoidance systems.

Read more about the autonomous bus pilot project at www.mndot.gov/autonomous.


NATSO Statement on President Trump’s Infrastructure Remarks

Alexandria, VA… NATSO President And CEO Lisa Mullings Issued This Statement Today Following President Trump’s Remarks At The Department Of Transportation Announcing A New Infrastructure Council.

“The Truckstop And Travel Plaza Industry Is Encouraged By The President’s Focus On The Nation’s Infrastructure, Including The Formation Of A New Council Tasked With Helping Infrastructure Project Managers Streamline And Speed Up The Permitting And Approval Process.

As An Industry That Depends On The Efficient Movement Of Motorists And Goods Along The Interstate Highway System, We Understand First-Hand That Infrastructure Is The Key To Facilitating A Strong U.S. Economy.

In Working To Keep The U.S. Competitive By Facilitating Infrastructure Investment, It Is Imperative That The Federal Government Maintain Its Strong National Role In Infrastructure Development.

We Encourage The Administration To Refrain From Widespread Tolling Of America’s Infrastructure And Rather To Seek Sustainable Solutions To Funding Infrastructure That Don’t Harm American Businesses And Highway Users.” 


OOIDA To Push Forward With Fight Against ELD Mandate

GRAIN VALLEY, MO… An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by a national association of small-business truckers will not be reviewed. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association contends that a mandate to electronically track commercial truck drivers was never about safety and that the government was never able to demonstrate how such a mandate would improve safety.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court does not see the merit in reviewing our case with so many questions about its constitutionality,” said Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA.

Johnston said that the Association will continue to pursue the issue on the congressional side as part of its “Knock Out Bad Regs” campaign and will continue to communicate with the Administration about this and other regulations.

OOIDA had filed the petition seeking a review of a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit regarding the electronic logging device mandate. The court had ruled against the Association last year on its lawsuit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

OOIDA says mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) is the equivalent of warrantless surveillance of truckers and that the government’s weak excuses for doing so fail to justify violating their Fourth Amendment rights.

“That intrusion on the rights of hard-working Americans cannot be justified. The mandate will not improve safety. It will, however, be another costly regulatory burden heaped upon an already over-regulated industry,” said Johnston.

The Association also says there are still many questions about the technical specifications and enforcement aspects of the mandate.

“The mandate has everything to do with large, economically motivated entities using the government to impose their will on small businesses which comprise the majority of the trucking industry. Until the government is able to answer many fundamental and basic questions about the mandate, they should at least delay its implementation,” said Johnston.

Commercial truck drivers are restricted to a limited number of working and driving hours under current regulations. The FMCSA’s mandate requires that truck drivers use ELDs to track their driving and non-driving activities even though such devices can only track movement and location of a vehicle. OOIDA contends that requiring electronic monitoring devices on commercial vehicles does not advance safety since they are no more reliable than paper logbooks for recording compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, OOIDA asked the court to determine whether the ELD rule violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to establish a regulatory structure at the state and federal levels that serves as a substitute for a warrant.

Concerned truckers can contact their lawmakers about ELDs here.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the only national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 158,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City, Mo., area.


OTA Takes Next Steps to Developing Smart Lift Axle Regulations With MTO

As previously reported by OTA, work to introduce smart lift axles (SLA) for semi-trailers continues since it was given the green light last summer.

The benefits of taking another look at incorporating updated lift axle technology into MTO’s weights and dimension regime is important to ongoing national GHG reduction efforts.

To move the issue forward, MTO presented OTA with a terms-of-reference which required the completion of a detailed technical, operational, economic and environmental analysis. Completed in late February, the OTA analysis details the framework the Ministry can follow to developing a regulatory amendment.

“OTA members have been vocal about moving this issue forward for several operational and environmental considerations. Now, with an analysis in hand for MTO to use, we feel we are well positioned to achieve this in a practical, efficient and responsible manner,” said Geoff Wood, OTA’s VP Operations and Safety.

A timeframe has not been established for an official amendment. However, this initial groundwork was the only way the process could be started.

Details of the OTA work includes:

The benefits of SLA’s;

•Scope of the market and available technologies;

•How SLA’s are managed in other Canadian jurisdictions;

•Synergies with existing SPIF regulations and SLA’s and;

•A roadmap to incorporating SLA’s into the existing SPIF fleet and expected uptake

OTA will keep the membership informed on all development as this issue unfolds. OTA members interested in more details on these efforts can email operations&safety@ontruck.org.


The Trucking Industry Officially launches a Mascot; Calls for a Name

Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) introduced an industry mascot to continue its quest in telling the story of trucking’s essentiality to the American economy.

TMAF executive committee leaders, Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, Wendy Hamilton, senior manager, sales marketing at Pilot Flying J and Elisabeth Barna, COO and EVP of Industry Affairs at the American Trucking Associations made the announcement at the Knoxville Pilot Travel Center today, unveiling a truck mascot complete with headlights, a windshield, tires and the TMAF cap.

Since TMAF’s inception over three years ago, the movement’s goal has been to shift the image of the industry by sharing important facts, including that 80 percent of U.S. communities rely solely on trucking for the delivery of their goods run by an industry with more than 7 million people, and to be visible throughout the country all year through its digital presence, the media and in person at events coast to coast. The mascot is an extension of the movement’s goals to broaden the reach and visibility of the trucking industry.

“Over the past three years, we’ve attempted to be visible throughout the country, and this newest member of our team will do just that, in a new, exciting way,” said Burch.

“Just like our 3.5 million drivers, the mascot is ready to hit the road and visit as many of you as possible in the coming months and years,” added Barna.

But, TMAF is calling on the industry to help with the missing piece. The leaders called on the industry to help name the mascot through a digital campaign. The group will take submissions through email at mascot@truckingmovesamerica.com and its Facebook page for about a month. Then, voting will commence, and a name will be unveiled. Keep an eye on the Facebook page: http://Facebook.com/TruckingFWD for more.

More on TMAF’s mission, activities and where the mascot will travel can be found at http://truckingmovesamerica.com/


Truckers Succeed In Getting Arbitrary Increase In Insurance Minimums Taken Off The Regulatory Table

Grain Valley, MO… Small-business truckers have succeeded in getting a potentially devastating proposed regulation withdrawn by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and its members had vehemently opposed a proposed rulemaking to arbitrarily increase insurance minimums for commercial motor carriers. In 2014, the FMCSA proposed increasing federally mandated levels of insurance coverage for property and passenger motor carriers from $750,000 to $4 million.

OOIDA and its members had told Congress that the initiative, which the FMCSA based on increases in medical inflation, would place significant financial burdens on motor carriers without any improvement to highway safety.

The Association also pointed out that more than 99 percent of crash damages are covered under current financial requirements.

OOIDA’s Director of Government Affairs Mike Matousek said such an increase would put small truckers out of business. He added that the announced withdrawal is significant in that the agency usually just leaves a docket open if a proposal is no longer being advanced.

“We want to thank all the truckers and small-business trucking companies, our OOIDA Board Members and active membership for your work on this issue,” said Matousek.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the only national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 158,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City, Mo., area.