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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

Our current transportation LTL and TL news bulletins are powered by SMC3

Federal biodiesel tax credit expires
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 00:00

The federal tax credit that provided makers of biodiesel $1 for every gallon expired Thursday, Dec. 31. The National Association of Truck Stop Owners last month had urged Senate leaders to quickly extend the tax credit before it expired to ensure an affordable biodiesel supply for the nation’s 3.5 million truck drivers and to secure the environmental investments of the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas.

Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and chief executive officer, said last month that extending the tax credit would increase biodiesel production while spurring retail investment in the infrastructure necessary to supply biodiesel to commercial carriers and the motoring public. Mullings’ request had come just days after the U.S. House of Representatives had passed a one-year extension of the current $1 per gallon tax blender credit for biodiesel.

“Our members want to support green initiatives,” Mullings said last month. “But they are concerned that if they make the investment in biodiesel fueling infrastructure and the tax credit isn’t renewed, they won’t be able to sell the biodiesel because of the price disparity between biodiesel and other fuels. We would like to see the tax credit extended so that fuel retailers will be able to make these investments.”

Promoting biodiesel as part of a comprehensive national energy strategy, which includes strict quality standards, is vital to ensuring an adequate, uninterrupted supply of fuel, according to NATSO; a biodiesel tax credit lapse will grind biodiesel production to a halt, further distressing an industry that has encountered significant hardship over the last year.

Congress imposed biodiesel production mandates in recent years to stimulate renewable fuel development. Without an extension of the tax credit, however, the production mandate will become meaningless as consumer demand for the product is eroded, NATSO said last month.

The biodiesel tax credit, part of the “extenders” package known as H.R. 4213, included $5 billion in individual tax relief, $17 billion in business tax relief, $1.2 billion to encourage charitable giving, $2.6 billion for disaster tax relief provisions and more than $1 billion to extend expiring energy tax provisions., 1/5/2010

FMCSA posts possible questions on HOS alternatives
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 00:00

WASHINGTON—In preparation for public listening sessions on Hours of Service, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has added a section to its Web site specifically targeting the listening sessions and discussion about possible changes to the current rule.

“In preparing comments for the FMCSA’s public listening sessions, meeting participants should consider the following questions about possible alternatives to the current HOS requirements,” a section of the Web site says. “The scenarios are merely set forth for discussion. The FMCSA will not necessarily include them in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), but would request similar information and data in an NPRM. Answers to these questions should be based upon the experience of the participants and any data or information they can share with the FMCSA.”

The questions are broken out in five categories...

A. Rest and On-Duty Time

1. Would mandatory short rest periods during the work day improve driver alertness in the operation of a CMV? How long should these rest periods be? At what point in the duty cycle or drive-time would short rest periods provide the greatest benefit? What are the unintended consequences if these short rest periods are mandatory? Should the on-duty period be extended to allow for mandatory rest periods?

2 .If rest or other breaks from driving improve alertness, could a driver who chooses to take specified minimum breaks be given scheduling flexibility—the ability to borrow an hour from another driving day once a week, for example—if that flexibility would not increase safety risks or adversely impact driver health?

3. How many hours per day and per week would be safe and healthy for a truck driver to work?

4. Would an HOS rule that allows drivers to drive an hour less when driving overnight improve driver alertness and improve safety? Are there any adverse consequences that could arise from the implementation of a separate night time HOS regulation?

B. Restart to the 60- and 70-Hour Rule

1. Is a 34-consecutive-hour off-duty period long enough to provide restorative sleep regardless of the number of hours worked prior to the restart? Is the answer different for a driver working a night or irregular schedule?

2. What would be the impact of mandating two overnight off-duty periods, e.g., from midnight to 6 a.m., as a component of a restart period? Would such a rule present additional enforcement challenges?

3. How is the current restart provision being used by drivers? Do drivers restart their calculations after 34 consecutive hours or do drivers take longer periods of time for the restart?

C. Sleeper Berth Use

1. If sleeper-berth time were split into two periods, what is the minimum time in each period necessary to provide restorative sleep?

2. Could the 14-hour on-duty limitation be extended by the amount of some additional sleeper-berth time without detrimental effect on highway safety? What would be the appropriate length of such a limited sleeper-berth rest period?

D. Loading and Unloading Time

1. What effect has the fixed 14-hour driving "window" had on the time drivers spend waiting to load or unload? Have shippers and receivers changed their practices to reduce the amount of time drivers spend waiting to load or unload?

E. General

1. Are there aspects of the current rule that do not increase safety risks or adversely impact driver health and that should be preserved?, 1/5/2010

Analyst Sees Truck 'Underbuy' Tightening Capacity
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 00:00
R.W. Baird's Langenfeld says shrinking fleet, stronger economy will raise rates in 2010

A "systematic underbuy" of heavy trucks is tightening truckload capacity and eventually will push rates higher, R.W. Baird & Co. analyst Jon A. Langenfeld said.

"Ongoing capacity rationalization" is slowly but surely improving "supply/demand balance," driving excess tractors and trailers out of the vehicle pool, and setting the stage for "significant" rate increases by truckload carriers, he said in a report to investors.

"As a sustained stronger economy emerges, we expect this underbuy of trucks to result in significant industry pricing," Langenfeld said.

Truckers battered by a three-year freight slump that began before the recession and financial crisis just aren't buying new trucks to replace older vehicles.

Federal emissions regulations that will increase the cost of 2010 trucks briefly encouraged sales of lowerpriced 2009 models, but that "pre-buying" came to an end as new truck orders dropped 50 percent from October to November, ACT Research said.

Year-over-year, heavy truck sales were down 7 percent at 10,550 units in November.

"Industry pricing will be helped by the fact that fleet additions among large carriers will be minimal,” Langenfeld said.

Also, lack of access to capital will prevent many smaller carriers from adding new trucks, he said.

The Journal of Commerce Online, 1/5/2010

2009 brought tears, tough times; here’s hoping 2010 will be better
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 00:00

Around this time of year, it’s traditional for newspapers to print “year in review” news articles.

Most of the time, those articles are offered without editorial comment.

But we at The Trucker decided to use the Perspective forum to talk about some of the year’s events so we could also offer editorial comment.

Overall, it was not the best of years for trucking, but there is some “probable” positive news in this column, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the truck transportation industry lost 29,500 jobs between January and November of 2009.

The long-haul (TL and LTL combined) segment of the industry lost 33,400 jobs between January and October of last year.

In 2008, the long-haul industry lost 13,700 jobs.

Two major controversial trucking regulations took it on the chin.

First, Congress axed the Cross Border Demonstration Project that allowed Mexico-domiciled trucks into the U.S. beyond the commercial trade zone, and vice versa.

On the surface, President Barack Obama seemed hot and bothered to get a cross-border replacement program in place, sending Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood scurrying all over Washington to come up with a set of principles for a new program.

Almost nine months have gone by and to date, no one is willing to say what happened to those principles or if they even ever existed.

Meanwhile, late in the year, the Hours of Service rule took a hit in October.

Twice, Public Citizen, et. al., had, through litigation, challenged the rule since it underwent a major revision in 2003.

Twice, the court upheld the challenge and FMCSA made revisions.

A third lawsuit followed, and this time, FMCSA agreed to a “settlement” in which it would “review and reconsider the 2008 rule” and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking within nine months.

Only FMCSA didn’t have an administrator when the “settlement” was announced.

Anne Ferro’s nomination was being held in limbo by the Senate.

Ferro had been a supporter of the current rule as head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, the position she held before coming to FMCSA.

In her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last summer, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., made his feelings known about the current rule.

He didn’t like it.

A few days after the settlement was made public Ferro was finally confirmed, and some have questioned the timing of the announcement and Ferro’s confirmation.

Meanwhile, annual sales of new trucks reached a record low last year.

Based on sales during the first 11 months of 2009, somewhere around 90,000 new trucks were sold.

During the past three years, just under 375,000 new trucks have been put on the road compared with almost 740,000 during the 2004-2006 period.

Not only did this cost jobs in the OEM industry, it also means that trucks have remained in service longer, driving up maintenance costs and adversely impacting the industry’s “green” efforts.

We promised some good news and we offer it on two fronts.

Trucking continues to be one of the most important industries in the U.S.

No one has yet figured out a better way to move a majority of this country’s goods and services.

The industry is replete with outstanding folks at all levels.

Truckers are some of the friendliest men and women you’ll find anywhere.

The men and women who own and/or manage companies—large and small—with whom we’ve talked have shared nothing but the utmost concern and respect for those behind the wheel.

Second bit of good news: the truck-related accident and fatality rate continues to drop, and although the 2009 data won’t be released for quite awhile, we expect the downward trend to continue.

(So why do we want to rewrite with the HOS rule?)

Here’s hoping for a better year for the industry and another great year for those of us who dearly love trucking., 1/5/2010

New Trucking Regulations in Effect in Illinois
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:00

Several new laws affecting trucking operators in Illinois took effect Jan. 1, including uniform 80,000-pound truck access, a uniform speed limit, and a texting while driving ban.

Uniform 80,000-Pound Truck Access

Illinois has joined the other 49 states that use the Federal Bridge Formula and a corresponding 80,000- pound gross weight limit for commercial vehicles as the default weight limit on nearly all roads, state and local.

Illinois' outdated 73,280-pound limit was eliminated as of the first of the year. In addition, the 18,000- pound axle and 32,000-pound tandem limits have been eliminated. The default axle and tandem weight limit for all roads in Illinois is now 20,000 pounds and 34,000 pounds, respectively, unless a road is posted for a lower limit.

State and local jurisdictions still have the ability to post roads and bridges with a lower limit in certain circumstances. Local jurisdictions will also have the ability to post roads for up to 90 days for freeze-thaw cycles. Also, the cost for overweight fines has been doubled.

Uniform 65-mph Speed Limit

The maximum speed limit on rural interstates outside of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties for trucks and other combination vehicles will be 65 mph, the same as for automobiles. Drivers should be aware that speed limits have changed only on rural interstates and only in areas outside of the six-county Chicago area.

There are several areas, particularly in Will and Kane Counties, where the speed limit will remain split 65/55 for cars and trucks. In addition, the new law does not affect four-lane divided highways that are not classified as a rural interstate.

Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is now considered a moving violation as of January 1. The new law prohibits a person from "operating a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message."

Motorists may use an electronic communication device in hands-free or voice-activated mode, to report an emergency, while parked on the shoulder of a roadway, or if the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the vehicle is in neutral or park.

Truck drivers are permitted to read a message that is displayed on a permanently installed communication device, but not to reply.

Uniform Truck Width

As of Jan. 1, Illinois' legal vehicle width limit is 102 inches on all vehicles for all roads. Previously, 102- inch-wide vehicles were restricted to Class I and Class II highways only, and the limit for Class III roads and local roads was 96 inches.

Idling Fines in Chicago, East St. Louis

Beginning on Jan. 1, the fine for violating the state's 10-minute diesel idling limit increased from $50 for a first offense and $150 for a second offense to $90 for a first offense and $500 for a second offense.

Diesel engine idling limits are in effect only in the Chicago-area and in the Metro-East St. Louis-area. The engine idling limit remains 10 minutes per hour and the list of exemptions from the idling limit still remain in effect, including when the outdoor temperature is above 80 degrees or below 32 degrees., 1/4/2010

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