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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Expected Crackdown on Distracted Driving Captured the Attention of IT Firms in 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009 00:00

Some of the year‘s most significant information technology developments came from Washington, D.C., where federal regulators planted the seeds for tighter industry oversight for years to come.

Both the Department of Transportation and members of Congress came out against distracted driving, though no legislation appeared imminent at the end of 2009.

DOT, however, has promised a rulemaking that will address driver distraction, and legislators introduced bills that would, among other things, likely ban text messaging from commercial trucks.

DOT is currently mulling one rule that would "consider banning text messaging and restricting the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during November.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced separate texting bans in the Senate, and American Trucking Associations threw its support behind Schumer‘s bill in October.

While the language of legislators‘ anti-texting proposals did not single out specific types of devices, DOT‘s push to combat distracted driving did not appear to exempt onboard communications devices tailored specifically for the trucking industry.

"They‘re distracting," LaHood said of the trucking industry‘s in-cab mobile communications systems. Manufacturers of these devices, meanwhile, maintain that the in-motion safety features of these on-board computers makes them much safer than consumer devices.

Besides worries over distracted driving, motor carriers this year had to cope with more stringent retention requirements for electronic data.

According to Qualcomm, the dominant player in truck telematics, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration this year stepped up its use of Global Positioning System history logs as supporting evidence in driver hours-of-service audits.

In late 2008, FMCSA ended a more than decade-long moratorium on using electronic data for enforcement purposes.

As a result, Qualcomm said in September it had ―seen an uptick‖ in FMCSA‘s use of electronic data in enforcement actions. The agency now requires fleets that use GPS tracking and electronic onboard recorders to retain data for six months.

Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager for Qualcomm‘s telematics division, said that FMCSA began requesting electronic records more frequently in the middle of the year, by which time carriers had had time to build up the required six months of back-data.

Earlier still in the year, FMCSA yanked a Bush-administration rule that would have required some carriers to use EOBRs back from the Office of Management and Budget.

In November, Debbie Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said she believes all commercial trucks should be required to use EOBRs.

Among the other noteworthy trucking IT developments in 2009:

  • TMW Systems, Beachwood, Ohio, bolstered its position as market leader in the fleet-management software business by acquiring Innovative Computing Corp., Brentwood, Tenn., in late November.
  • Fleets hauling high-security and sensitive commodities for the Department of Defense got an extra four months to install trailer-tracking hardware and software. A mandate had set an Oct. 1 deadline, but the date was pushed to Feb. 15.
  • A number of trucking companies flocked to social networking Web sites. Most carriers involved said that their experiments on sites such as Facebook and Twitter were intended to bolster marketing and driver recruiting efforts.
  • States poured federal stimulus dollars into "smart road" projects, which are intended to improve traffic safety by fusing information technology with transportation infrastructure. Projects are under way that, eventually, would allow roadside sensors to beam weather reports to passing vehicles, or wirelessly notify truck drivers of available parking at nearby rest stops.

Transport Topics, 12/21/2009

 
Carriers facing cash squeeze, TCP says
Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00

Transport Capital Partners’ fourth-quarter Business Expectation Survey shows how carriers are adapting to the pressures of slowing receivables coupled with ongoing demands of equipment payments and truck utilization. TCP—which specializes in mergers and acquisitions, capital sourcing and advisory services— uses the quarterly surveys, as well as conversations with personal contacts, to collect the insights and opinions of the nation’s transportation industry.

“Over 50 percent of carriers responded that their receivables are still increasing,” says Richard Mikes, a managing partner of TCP. “The numbers are about the same as our survey six months ago, with the greatest pressure on large carriers (with over $25 million in revenues). Almost 60 percent reported this trend.”

Lana Batts, a managing partner at TCP, says the number of carriers using brokers has dropped dramatically from two quarters ago, with only 40 percent saying they are using more broker freight, compared to 65 percent in February. "Fifty-nine percent of larger carriers are using less broker freight, while only 49 percent of small carriers are doing so," Batts says.

Mikes says that overall, carriers are bringing their capacity more in line with demand, but smaller ones have fewer options and therefore appear to be relying more on brokers.

“The cash pressure is reflected in only 80.2 percent of carriers, who report they are current on equipment payments, and an additional 11 percent that have had lenders modify payments," Batts says. "Six months earlier, 90 percent were current, and 4 percent were current after modifications.” Carriers also report making some adjustments in their type of business, but two-thirds indicate they generally are the same in type of haul, equipment and commodity.

About half as many carriers that were considering leaving the industry in February are considering leaving now. “The bottom line is that one in eight carriers have given serious consideration to leaving the industry if tonnage does not increase in the next six months, with one in 4.5 carriers under $25 million in revenue considering it,” Mikes says. Truckers historically experience cash-tight first quarters with lower freight tonnage and higher operating costs due to weather, coupled with cash for licensing and insurance.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 12/17/2009

 
Lautenberg withdraws amendment to make EOBRs mandatory in trucks
Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—Sen. Frank Lautenberg this morning withdrew a proposed amendment to the Motorcoach Enhancement Safety Act (SB554) that would have required EOBRs on all commercial vehicles, including trucks. But he promised he would soon write and introduce legislation to make EOBRs mandatory in trucks.

LandLine, a magazine published by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, had reported on its Web site this morning that Lautenberg, D-N.J., planned to introduce the amendment that would have required EOBRs on all commercial trucks, not just in those owned or operated by motor carriers with deficient safety records.

In testimony at a markup session of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Lautenberg thanked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, one of the authors of SB554, for her work in requiring EOBRs on all motor coaches. Sources said Lautenberg withdrew his amendment with the commitment that Hutchinson would work with him on a more comprehensive safety bill.

After obtaining a copy of the Lautenberg amendment, the leadership of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association drafted a letter urging committee members to reject the amendment language, the magazine reported, adding that OOIDA also planned to issue a call to action urging truckers to call the committee.

“While we believe Sen. Lautenberg has noble intentions, the amendment will not bring the safety benefits that he envisions and will actually create numerous problems,” OOIDA leadership said in a statement issued before Lautenberg withdrew the amendment. “The language will require that small-business truckers and professional drivers not only have EOBRs installed in their vehicles, but also require ‘real time tracking or driver and vehicle location’ devices. The amendment will be costly and brings up considerable privacy concerns for America’s truckers.”

Lautenberg is a staunch supporter of EOBRs for all trucks, a stance he made clear during confirmation hearings last summer for FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. The latest proposed rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on EOBRs would require EOBRs for motor carriers that fail two safety compliance reviews during a two-year period.

TheTrucker.com, 12/17/2009

 
UCR fees not finalized; enforcement delay encouraged
Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, truckers wanting to clear out their fee obligations are left without a clear answer on what they owe in Unified Carrier Registration fees.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration posted a notice to the Federal Register in September outlining new proposed fees. The extended comment period closed in late September.

FMCSA officials reported during the rulemaking process that states have been unable to effectively collect the UCR revenue they are entitled to by law during the 2007-2009 registration years. They believe the proposed new fee levels will both encourage states to aggressively enforce the UCR fees rule and generate the necessary revenue to execute state motor carrier safety programs.

The fee structure proposed in the rulemaking for 2010 is:

  • trucks—$83
  • 2-5 trucks—$166
  • 6-20 trucks—$497
  • 21-100 trucks—$1,741
  • 101-1,000 trucks—$8,373
  • 1,001 or more trucks—$82,983

Brokers and leasing companies will still be subject to the same fee paid by truckers in the 0-1 truck category.

However, as of mid-December, the agency still had not published a final determination on the fees.

“My advice is to hold tight,” Joe Rajkovacz, director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told Land Line Now.

“There is going to be an enforcement memo going out telling roadside law enforcement after the first of the year to not write tickets for not having your credentials in place in the cab because there simply isn’t going to be anything in place yet,” Rajkovacz said.

Through the end of 2009, Rajkovacz said truckers really need to make sure they have their proof of payment on 2009 UCR fees.

“Some jurisdictions are writing $1,000 tickets,” he said.

Rajkovacz said he expects the 2010 UCR fees to be settled sometime in the first quarter of 2010.

Land Line Magazine, 12/17/2009

 
Two FMCSA rules take effect
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 00:00

Two Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations adopted in the waning days of the Bush administration—regarding new entrant safety assurance and intermodal equipment providers—take effect this week.

Compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rule on new entrant safety assurance begins today, Dec. 16—one year after the final rule was issued. The rule makes a carrier’s failure to comply with any one of 16 regulations deemed essential for basic safety management grounds for an automatic failure of a safety audit. For a copy of the regulation, go to www.regulations.gov and search FMCSA-2001-11061.

Under the new requirements, a newly registered truck or bus company will automatically fail its safety audit if violations of any one of 16 essential federal regulations are discovered. These regulations cover controlled substances and alcohol testing, hours-of-service rules, driver qualifications, vehicle condition and carrier insurance responsibility.

Failure to pass a new entrant safety audit may result in revocation of a carrier’s registration, unless that carrier takes corrective action within a time period established by FMCSA. Additionally, if certain violations are discovered during roadside inspections, the new carrier may be subject to an expedited safety audit or a compliance review that can result in fines or an out-of-service order.

Compliance with regulations addressing intermodal equipment providers (IEPs) begins Thursday, Dec. 17. The rules make IEPs subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for the first time and establish shared safety responsibility among intermodal equipment providers, motor carriers and drivers. For a copy of the regulation, go to www.regulations.gov and search FMCSA-2005-23315.

eTrucker.com, 12/16/2009

 
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