ATA Sues Rhode Island Over Unconstitutional Truck Toll Program
Arlington, Virginia… The American Trucking Associations, along with three motor carriers representing the industry, asked a federal court to rule Rhode Island’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme unconstitutional, arguing it discriminates against interstate trucking companies and impedes the flow of interstate commerce.
“Since RhodeWorks was first proposed, the trucking industry has been strong and united in opposition to this extortionate plan. We’ve warned politicians in Rhode Island that these truck-only tolls were unconstitutional and should be rolled back,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “It is unfortunate that Governor Raimondo and her administration did not heed those warnings, but now we will see them in court.”
In its suit, ATA, along with Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight, argues that the RhodeWorks plan violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state trucking companies, and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
“This toll regime was designed to, and does in fact, impose discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce. By design, the tolls fall exclusively on the types of trucks that are most likely to be engaged in the interstate transport of cargo, while exempting automobiles and the smaller vehicles that are relatively more likely to be engaged in intrastate travel,” the complaint said. “The toll program also limits the tolls collected from trucks that make multiple trips within Rhode Island in a single day, a feature that was expressly intended to, and does in fact, provide disproportionate benefits to Rhode Island operators and those engaged in intrastate commerce.”
“From the outset of this debate, Rhode Island’s trucking industry and business community stepped forward as viable partners for long-overdue infrastructure investment in our state,” said Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association. “Instead of considering our perspective, Rhode Island’s legislators, led by Governor Raimondo and Speaker Mattiello, marginalized us, dismissed us and chose the unfortunate path of designing, building and executing an unlawful and inequitable scheme of truck-only tolling. The result is this lawsuit.
ATA Truck Tonnage Index Rose 0.7% in May
Arlington, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.7% in May after rising 2.7% in April. In May, the index equaled 113.8 (2015=100), up from 113 in April.
ATA revised the April increase from the originally reported 2.2% to 2.7%.
Compared with May 2017, the SA index increased 7.8%, down from April’s 9.9% year-over-year increase. Year-to-date, compared with the same five months last year, tonnage increased 8%, far outpacing the annual gain of 3.8% in 2017.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 118 in May, which was 7.6% above the previous month (109.7).
“This continues to be one of the best, if not the best, truck freight markets we have ever seen,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “May’s increases, both sequentially and year-over-year, not only exhibit a robust freight market, but what is likely to be a very strong GDP reading for the second quarter. However, in the near-term, look for moderating growth rates for freight simply due to more difficult year-over-year comparisons, not from falling tonnage levels.”
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.6% 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 2016. Motor carriers collected $676.2 billion, or 79.8% 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.
Electronic Logging Escalates Demand for Truck Drivers—ATS Calls for Training with Simulation
St. Petersburg, FL… The so-called ELD rule, which requires truck drivers to verify their daily record of hours worked and miles driven via an electronic logging device, went into effect in December of 2017.1 “There were a lot of dire predictions being made in the industry about ELD,” says John Kearney, CEO and president of Advanced Training Systems. “Some predictions included drivers being penalized for stopping to do maintenance or sit out a spell of bad weather; that there would be a mass exodus of older drivers hurrying into early retirement; and that both trucking companies and drivers would suffer financially. Essentially, the sky was going to fall.”2
Kearney, whose company is a leading designer and manufacturer of Simulators and Training using Virtual Reality for driver training (among other applications), adds that six months into the mandate, these predictions have shown no sign of coming true although there was a short extension in place. The net result of all the ELD changes is a growing demand for more and better-trained drivers, along with a market realization that incentive in the form of higher pay is essential to meeting that demand.
According to the American Trucking Association, the U.S. had a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers at the end of 2017, an increase of 40% over 2016. The association predicts that the shortage will be even greater for 2018, despite the fact that many companies are giving their drivers double-digit raises.3 Looking ahead, the U.S. is expected to need almost 900,000 more drivers over the next decade to keep up with growth and demand.4
“EDS is shaking up the industry,” he says, “but in a good way. The end result will be safer, better-paid drivers, but it has escalated the demand for even more of them.”
A recent survey by DAT Solutions, which tracks freight and rate trends, has identified five ways in which ELD is changing the trucking industry:
- Truckers are staying in the game. While drivers do leave the industry for various reasons the ELD requirement is not one of them. Despite this, trucker employment is growing, adding about 19,000 jobs over the past year.
- Productivity, as predicted, is down. DAT reports that 67.3% of truckers responding to its survey said they are driving fewer miles since the ELD rule went into effect. Nearly 71% reported earning less money during that same period, because they must stop driving after 11 hours.
- However, freight demand and rates are up. As truckers reduce miles traveled per day, there are more loads chasing available trucks. Rates have gone up as much as 40% over the past few months.
- Insurance companies are factoring compliance with ELD into their rate calculations.
- The combination of rising rates and increased competition for service is forcing shippers and receivers to become more time-efficient.5
“Because of the ELD requirement,” says Kearney, “these drivers will drive fewer miles and fewer hours than they would have a year or so ago. They will also be safer, better rested, and better paid, and—if current trends continue as they are—the industry will be more profitable. The issue now will be providing fast, effective training that simulates real situations for drivers in order to meet the increased demand for [truck] drivers.”
A key element both in attracting candidates and producing safe, road-ready drivers, notes Kearney, is the growing use of simulator training using VR as an adjunct to traditional behind-the-wheel (BTW) instruction. Just as in military and airline pilot training, the use of a simulator can teach the proper response to events too rare or too dangerous to be included in BTW instruction—for example, a steering tire blowout or an unexpected patch of black ice.
A recent study has found that driving simulators can also be very effective in training truck drivers for tasks such as backing and safety training.. Simulator training also offers benefits from a cost-effectiveness perspective; one major trucking and logistics company reports a savings of $40/hr. in fuel costs alone.6
Advanced Training Systems has developed advanced simulation technology and training that can help train new operators—safely—to deal with any on-the-road situations they may encounter. That, coupled with the training and preparation offered by the nation’s best-equipped commercial driving schools, will help turn out the thousands of new safe, professional drivers currently needed by a booming and vibrant motor freight industry.
Advanced Training Systems (ATS) is a high-tech simulator technology and engineering firm that has revolutionized the design and manufacture of advanced training systems to improve training and create safer drivers. ATS, the holder of multiple patents in high-tech training using simulation, has as its mission to provide this cutting-edge adaptive training to all involved in the transportation industry at an affordable cost, resulting in safer drivers/ operators. For more information, visit www.atstrainingsystems.com.
NATSO Testifies Before Congress on Biodiesel Policy
Alexandria, VA… A travel center executive testifying on behalf of NATSO told a House panel that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is successfully incentivizing travel centers to incorporate advanced biofuels such as biodiesel into their fuel supply, but also warned that the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent practice of exempting certain refiners from their renewable fuels obligations undermines the law’s intent and decreases demand for biofuels.
Robin Puthusseril, Vice President and Co-Owner of the Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza in Bolingbrook, Ill., testified today before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment that over the past decade, the RFS has succeeded because it allows fuel retailers to offer biofuel blends to consumers at a price that is less expensive than purely petroleum-based products.
Annual renewable fuel volume obligations established under the RFS are designed to create market certainty and encourage fuel retailers to invest in the infrastructure necessary to incorporate and sell biodiesel. Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza has been incorporating biodiesel into its supply for 12 years, investing more than $500,000 on new fuel tanks, dispenser lines and other infrastructure. “We do all of this so we can offer the lowest priced fuel possible to our customers,” Puthusseril said.
Puthusseril testified that EPA’s recent practice of granting an unprecedented number of retroactive hardship exemptions to refineries has functioned as de facto mandate cuts in the biofuel volume obligations. Retroactively issued waivers create market uncertainty, ultimately diminishing the value of the biodiesel investments that Congress encouraged fuel retailers to make when it developed the RFS.
“It is imperative that EPA immediately re-evaluate its criteria for issuing the small refinery waivers,” Puthusseril testified. “Going forward, I would hope that EPA act in a manner that is more consistent with the RFS by requiring all waiver requests be received and assessed prior to finalizing biofuel mandates for a given compliance year.”
Puthusseril urged Subcommittee members to ensure that the EPA implements the RFS obligations in a stable, ambitious and growth-oriented manner so that it continues to encourage the consumption of renewable fuels.
Ontario Moves Forward with Zero Tolerance Drug & Alcohol for Commercial Drivers
Ontario is making changes to the Highway Traffic Act to address issues of impaired driving, distracted driving and vulnerable road user safety, effective July 1, 2018.
These amendments, to be implemented between July 1 and January 1, 2019, affect regulations enacted under the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, Schedule 4 and the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act.
Of particular note are the new zero tolerance measures for drivers of commercial vehicles:
Starting July 1, drivers of commercial vehicles must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of zero – which is measured at 0.02 – and equivalent blood drug content (BDC) as detected by an oral fluid screening device when driving a commercial vehicle. If a commercial driver has alcohol in their system (above 0.02 BAC), they will face serious penalties, including licence suspensions and administrative monetary penalties.
With the federal government’s intentions to legalize cannabis, zero tolerance drug sanctions will also be effective starting July 1, 2018. It is important to note that the zero tolerance drug sanctions will not be enforced until the Federal Minister of Justice approves and authorizes the use of an approved drug screening equipment.
Zero tolerance sanctions prohibiting commercial vehicle drivers from having the presence of a drug or alcohol in their body – as detected by a federally approved oral fluid screening device or an approved alcohol breath screening device – apply to commercial vehicles defined as:
•a vehicle requiring a A, B, C, D, E, or F licence to operate;
•a road building machine;
•a vehicle that requires a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR).
Medial cannabis users may be exempted from zero tolerance sanctions if a police officer is satisfied they are legally authorized to use drugs for medical purposes. However, these drivers can still face penalties or criminal charges if a police officer determines their ability to drive has been impaired. OTA will request the incoming Minister of Transportation revisit the exemptions to the zero tolerance for those prescribed medical marijuana. OTA does not believe there should be any exemptions for cannabis containing thc (the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) regardless of whether it’s for medical or recreational use.
PA Turnpike Commission Approves Toll Increase for 2019
HARRISBURG, PA… The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) at its bimonthly meeting today approved a six percent toll increase for 2019 both for E-ZPass and cash customers; the increase is set to start at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2019.
The toll increase will apply to all PA Turnpike sections and extensions, including the westbound Delaware River Bridge cashless tolling point (#359) in Bucks County, where tolls have not changed since January 2016.
Because of today’s action, the most-common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase next year from $1.30 to $1.38 for E-ZPass customers and from $2.10 to $2.25 for cash customers. The cashless toll at the westbound Delaware River Bridge will increase from $5.00 to $5.30 for E-ZPass customers and from $6.75 to $7.20 for those who use PA Turnpike TOLL-BY-PLATE. The most common toll for a Class-5 tractor-trailer truck will increase from $3.45 to $3.66 for E-ZPass and from $15.35 to $16.30 for cash. (Note, truckers in this class who use E-ZPass tend to take shorter trips than those who pay with cash or PA Turnpike TOLL-BY-PLATE).
The 2019 toll increase — like previous annual toll increases — is required to meet the PTC’s funding obligations as well as maintaining and improving the 552-mile PA Turnpike system.
“Since 2009, the PTC has increased tolls annually to make good on a funding obligation required by a 2007 state law known as Act 44,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Under that law, the commission has delivered $6.1 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT in the last 11 years.”
During the initial three years of this legal obligation — 2007 to 2009 — the PTC transferred $750 million, $850 million and $900 million respectively to PennDOT. Beginning 2010 through today, its directive has been $450 million annually.
Compton said the increase will also support efforts to manage the asset the PTC was assigned to build, operate and maintain in the mid 1930s — the PA Turnpike.
“Parts of our tollway will soon turn 78 years old, and we owe it to toll-paying customers to continue to invest in our road to make it safer, smoother and wider,” Compton said. “This year, about 84 percent of our $552 million capital budget is focused on renewing, rebuilding and widening our highway system which last year carried more than 200 million vehicles.”
The PTC has thus far reconstructed more than 132 miles of its system, with another 19 miles of roadway now being rebuilt and widened and more than 82 miles currently in planning and design phases. (The PTC does not receive tax appropriations to operate and maintain its roadway.)
The commission will post a 2019 trip calculator and toll schedule online later this summer. Visit https://www.paturnpike.com/toll/tollmileage.aspx.
Request Denied To Small-Business Truckers Seeking Exemption From ELD Mandate
Grain Valley, MO… The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s exemption request to a federal regulation requiring trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices has been denied. The request was submitted 8 months ago to the agency that regulates motor carriers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“We are puzzled and disappointed at the response from the agency. For months, the FMCSA has been granting exemptions to other organizations, some not even actually in trucking, but relying on trucks for their businesses,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA.
The Association said in its request that small-business truckers that have already proven their ability to operate safely should not be subject to purchasing costly, unproven and uncertified devices. OOIDA had requested a 5-year exemption for motor carriers classified as small businesses according to the Small Business Administration and with a proven safety history with no attributable at-fault crashes, and who do not have a Carrier Safety Rating of “Unsatisfactory.”
“Congress is taking notice that the mandate was not ready for prime time,” said Spencer. There are numerous legislative proposals that would provide relief from the mandate and we’re hoping Congress moves forward with them.”
Among the numerous concerns cited in the request, the issue of self-certification of vendors is one of the biggest issues brought up by OOIDA.
FMCSA has stated that they do not know if the self-certified ELD’s listed on their website fulfill regulatory requirements in the mandate.
“Most small-business motor carriers can ill afford to make these purchases only to learn later that the ELD is non-compliant. Yet they are required to do so or risk violation,” said Spencer.
A five-year exemption would provide necessary time for ELD manufacturers to be fully vetted by the agency, which would alleviate small-business motor carriers from learning that they purchased a device that could damage their vehicles electronic control module or be hacked.
OOIDA is part of a diverse coalition of industry representatives that has spoken out against the mandate.
The ELD mandate is estimated to cost impacted stakeholders more than $2 billion annually, making it one of the most expensive federal transportation rulemakings over the last decade. This is a massive unfunded mandate that provides no safety, economic, or productivity benefits for most ensnared by the mandate.
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.
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 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City, Mo., area.
Turnover Rate at Large Truckload Carriers Rises in First Quarter - Accelerating Churn Rate Indicates Continued Tightness in Driver Market
Arlington, Virginia — Today, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said the driver turnover rate at large truckload carriers rose in the first quarter of 2018.
“The uptick in turnover is consistent with continued tightness in the market for drivers,” Costello said. “Anecdotally, carriers continue to struggle both recruiting and retaining quality drivers – leading to increasing wages. The tight driver market should continue and will be a source of concern for carriers in the months ahead.”
According to ATA’s Trucking Activity Report, the annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers – fleets with more than $30 million in annual revenue – jumped six points to 94%. The increase set turnover at these carriers 20 percentage points higher than in the first quarter of 2017.
The turnover rate at less-than-truckload carriers rose two points to 10%.
At smaller truckload carriers, the turnover rate sunk to 73%, but was still seven points higher than for the same period the previous year.
“Turnover is not a measure of the driver shortage, but rather of demand for drivers,” Costello said. “We know that as freight demand continues to rise, demand for drives to move those goods will also rise, which often results in more driver churn or turnover. Finding enough qualified drivers remains a tremendous challenge for the trucking industry and one that if not solved will threaten the entire supply chain.”