Industry News Briefs Courtesy of PMTA

October 2016

Driver Turnover Falls for Carriers in Second Quarter Due to Sluggish Market

Driver turnover fell four points year-over-year for larger truckload fleets to 83% in the second quarter, dropping to the lowest level since 2011 amid a sluggish freight market, American Trucking Associations reported Sept. 1.

Turnover at the smaller truckload fleets, or those with $30 million or less in revenue, fell nine points to 79%, the lowest level in three quarters sequentially, but ticked up three percentage points year-over-year. For larger fleets, with $30 million or more in revenue, the rate dropped six points from the first quarter to 83%.

"The continued decline in the turnover rate reflects the continued choppiness in the freight economy," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "As we hopefully approach the end of this period of elevated inventories later this year, freight demand will pick back up leading to increased demand for drivers and higher turnover rates in the future." However, he added that despite the fall in turnover rates, the driver shortage remains a concern for many motor carriers.

ATA President Chris Spear Calls Rhode Island Truck-Only Toll 'Extortion'

American Trucking Associations' new president, Chris Spear, jumped headfirst into the conflict between the Rhode Island Trucking Association and Gov. Gina Raimondo on Aug. 24.

Spear labeled RhodeWorks, Raimondo's trucks-only tolls plan, "extortion" in a meeting in Riverside, Rhode Island, with members of the state association and other business people opposed to the plan.

"We don't know if this program is legal, but it is bad policy and an extortion of our industry," Spear said. Rhode Island Trucking Association President Christopher Maxwell echoed Spear's comments about RhodeWorks, which would require commercial trucks - but not other vehicles - to pay $3 at each of 14 toll booths around the state up to a maximum of $20 per day.

New Route Brings Cargo to Philadelphia via Bigger Panama Canal and 'Panamax' Ships

With the long-awaited $5.4 billion Panama Canal expansion completed and allowing bigger ships to carry more cargo through the waterway, some of those larger vessels are coming to the Port of Philadelphia.

Mediterranean Shipping Co. began a new freight route Aug. 3, hauling fruit and "dry" cargoes such as tires, wood products, wine, sugar, and cocoa beans from Chile and Peru through the canal's new traffic lane, with a stop in Freeport, Bahamas, and then in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, which owns 15 piers and terminals on the Delaware River, puts the economic impact of MSC's new route at $21.8 million in annual personal income and $5.7 million in state, local, and federal taxes.

Tech Talk: Michigan may let driverless cars cruise public roads w/o human operator

Michigan may become the first state to let driverless cars on the road without any human driver behind the wheel. State legislators have introduced a bill that would let companies developing the self-driving technology operate their vehicles on the road without a test driver present.

Most major automakers and some major tech companies, including Google and Uber, are developing autonomous cars and testing them on public roads. But currently, all states require a human driver to be behind the wheel in case they need to take over.

US Proposes Mandatory Speed Limiter Devices

The federal government is proposing that heavy-duty vehicles be equipped with devices that limit their speeds on

U.S. roadways but said the limiters will not be required to be tamper-proof.

The proposal, announced Aug. 26, discusses the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour but said a final rule could differ, depending on public input and vehicle tests to determine a speed limit for specific vehicle types.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The rule wouldn't be effective until three years after the final rule is published in the register.

The joint proposal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said limiting the speeds of heavy vehicles will save lives and injuries, cut fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

"This is basic physics," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. "Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment."

FMCSA Seeking Comment on Medical Review Board's Diabetes Recommendation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a slate of guidelines recommended by the agency's medical experts for drivers with diabetes to operate commercial motor vehicles.FMCSA's medical review board guidelines follow a May 2015 proposed rule that would allow drivers with diabetes mellitus to be qualified to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.

The notice of proposed rulemaking would enable individuals with the condition to obtain a medical examiner's certificate at least annually. The stipulation is that evidence is presented by the treating clinician that the driver's condition is stable and well-controlled.

General regulatory requirements deem a person physically qualified to drive a CMV only if that person has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus currently requiring insulin for control. However, since 2003, FMCSA has maintained an exemption program for individuals that use insulin to treat diabetes.

DOT Awards $759 Million in FASTLANE Transportation Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced grants totaling more than $759 million to support 18 transportation infrastructure projects in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

The first round of grant awards were part of the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies program, or FASTLANE.

From 2016-2020, the FASTLANE grant program is authorized to award $4.5 billion in dedicated funding for projects of national or regional significance that address major issues facing the nation's highways and bridges.

DOT said the grants, authorized in the 2015 FAST Act, for the first time establish broad, multiyear eligibilities for freight infrastructure, including intermodal projects.

Most state lawmakers who backed gas tax hike won their primaries

The Hill Reports, almost all lawmakers who supported legislation to raise their state's gasoline tax last year won their primaries in 2016, according to an analysis from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

But raising the federal gas tax, which hasn't been done in two decades, is still seen as politically unpopular.

Iowa, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Georgia, Nebraska, Washington, and Michigan all passed a fuel tax increase or something similar in 2015.

Ninety-eight percent of the lawmakers who backed those increases and were up for re- election came out victorious in primary races this year, according to ARTBA's Transportation Investment Advocacy Center.

Six of those states had a Republican governor and GOP-led legi

Tech Talk: Uber Is Betting We'll See Driverless 18-Wheelers Before Taxis

In a battered warehouse in San Francisco, Uber is working on what it thinks will be a shortcut in the race to make money from vehicles that drive themselves. A fleet of six modified white Volvo truck cabs operate out of a brick building in the SoMa district popular with technology startups.

Around the clock, at least one of the vehicles is steering itself around Bay Area highways.

(Tech Talk) Alphabet and Chipotle Are Bringing Burrito Delivery Drones to Campus

In what's sure to be a college student's dream come true, drones will soon be delivering burritos on the campus of Virginia Tech.

The experimental service, to begin this month and last just a few weeks, is a test by Project Wing, a unit of Google's parent company Alphabet Inc.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and the Blacksburg, Virginia, university have agreed to participate.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the venture, the most extensive test yet in the U.S. of what many companies -- including Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- hope will eventually become routine drone deliveries of products.

Amazon has begun a round of trials at a location in the U.K.