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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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STB OKs California Harbor Truck Pooling
Sunday, 22 November 2009 00:00
Clean Truck Coalition ‘would not unreasonably restrain competition,’ says board

The Surface Transportation Board approved an equipment-pooling plan at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for a group of motor carriers operating in the Clean Truck Coalition.

The pooling plan has been opposed by the Teamsters union, among others, on grounds that it would allow the CTC member motor carriers “to coordinate and set prices both for what they charge and what they pay to drivers,” the STB said in its decision.

Other comments showed a concern that a sharing of CTC’s 626 trucks that meet port requirements for low-emission vehicles could allow it to restrain competition within the larger clean truck program those ports are pursuing, in which over 6,000 trucks have been registered by many participants.

One issue was whether the STB should have a hearing before deciding the case, but the three-person board unanimously ruled it did not have to, since the members concluded that “the proposed agreement is not of major transportation importance” at those ports and “would not unreasonably restrain competition.”

CTC has just a small market share of clean trucks at the ports, the board said, and its 10 member carriers haul less than 10 percent of truck-carried containers for those facilities.

The STB also rejected arguments that CTC members could collude to fix prices, but said it will “retain jurisdiction to require the submission of additional information should the board find it necessary in the future.” If it at some point finds the pooling arrangement hurts competition unduly, the board could suspend all or part of it down the road.

Click here for the full decision.

Journal of Commerce Online, 11/22/009

OOIDA sues Minnesota over CMV Enforcement
Friday, 20 November 2009 00:00

More than six years’ worth of citations and out-of-service orders issued to truckers by the Minnesota Highway Patrol aren’t worth the paper they were written on, according to a lawsuit filed by the Owner- Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA claims that’s because the state had no authority to enforce federal regulations.

The Association and five members have filed a lawsuit seeking refunds of fines and penalties associated with citations involving motor carrier safety regulations, handed down by the Minnesota State Patrol. The lawsuit, seeking class-action status, was filed Friday, Nov. 20, with the Minnesota District Court for the Fourth Judicial District.

In documents obtained by OOIDA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined in April 2008 that the federal regulations governing truckers and the trucking industry were not adopted into Minnesota state law.

“In essence because the federal regulations were not adopted by the state of Minnesota, there were no motor carrier safety regulations on the books that officers with the Minnesota State Patrol were authorized to enforce,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.

The state of Minnesota did finally adopt the federal regs Aug. 1.

However, citations and out-of-service orders issued before Aug. 1, denied truckers and motor carriers alike their right to due process, the lawsuit claims.

“They had no authority to issue tickets or put people out of service. It’s high time to give back what is owed and reverse the damage to drivers’ records,” Johnston said.

If the lawsuit is successful, the statute of limitations would require that all the fines imposed for six years before the suit be returned.

In addition to the State of Minnesota, OOIDA’s complaint names four officials as defendants both individually and in their official capacities: Michael Campion, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Mark Dunaski, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol; Ken Urquhart, commander of the Commercial Vehicle Division of the Minnesota State Patrol; and Tom Hanson, Minnesota Department of Management and Budget.

This is the second lawsuit filed by the Association against the state of Minnesota.

The Association filed the first lawsuit May 13 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of truck drivers placed out of service and in some cases fined after members of the Minnesota State Patrol arbitrarily arrived at the conclusion the drivers were “fatigued.”

The discovery of a seemingly random checklist of items that supposedly indicated fatigue did more than just raise an eyebrow at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The list included the presence of a TV, reading material, a cell phone—to name a few—as signs of fatigue.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Association immediately began to dig in and found out that the enforcement program not only lacked medical or scientific justification, but also infringed on truckers’ civil and constitutional rights.

The Association’s findings were highlighted in an in-depth investigation by Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig, which aired on OOIDA’s Sirius-XM radio show in April.

The lawsuit charges that drivers were denied their rights to a hearing on the out-of-service orders and that the regulation under which the orders were issued fails both to define fatigue and to establish a standard under which a driver would know when to stop driving.

The state’s enforcement procedures—which lead to arbitrary determinations of driver fatigue—are challenged in the lawsuit on constitutional grounds; the lack of due process; and warrantless search and seizure.

Research pertaining to the first lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s arbitrary enforcement of fatigue revealed that the state had not adopted the federal regulations – prohibiting them from enforcing any federal regulations governing truckers, Johnston said.

That discovery immediately led to the Association’s second lawsuit.

Land Line Magazine, 11/20/2009

Diesel, Gas Prices Decline Again
Monday, 16 November 2009 00:00

Per-gallon prices for both diesel and gasoline fuel fell for a second straight week, the Department of Energy said Monday.

The national average price for a gallon of diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $2.79 a gallon, DOE said. That beats last week’s decline of less than a penny, which came on the heels of a four-week stretch during which prices increased a total of 22.6 cents.

Gasoline prices, meanwhile, fell 3.7 cents to $2.629 a gallon, DOE said. This, too, represented a secondstraight weekly decline.

Gas prices had increased a total of 22.6 cents over the previous four weeks.

Light & Medium Truck, 11/16/2009

Shippers, Carriers Project Growth Problems
Monday, 16 November 2009 00:00
Surge in 10 months could challenge capacity, cause driver shortage.

Shippers and carriers expect there will be sufficient capacity in the domestic transportation system to handle the modest growth in traffic that will occur in the coming year, but eventually there will be a day of reckoning marked by driver shortages, higher fuel prices and capacity constraints.

Although traffic volumes were soft most of the year, a seasonal spurt in activity is underway and Schneider National is projecting that its volume in November will be higher than in November 2008, said David Howland, vice president of rail management.

Schneider expects transportation activity to "bounce along" for the next 10 months, followed by a rebound in August 2010, Howland said.

He addressed the annual transportation conference sponsored by the Intermodal Association of North America, the National Industrial Transportation League and the Transportation Intermediaries Association in Anaheim, Calif.

The domestic transportation environment in the current economic recession is defined by idle trucks and rail equipment, a surplus of truck drivers and furloughed rail industry workers. If modest growth occurs next year, BNSF Railway will have no trouble handling the increased work load, said Barry Russell, general director of marketing.

While Russell's views were echoed by the trucking sector, some shortcomings are noticeable that could present problems in later years. Fleet managers noted that their drivers' average age is in the low to mid- 50s.

Also, so much capacity has been idled that a recent brief surge in activity strained truck and driver availability, said Wayne Johnson, director of logistics at American Gypsum.

Shippers and carriers also anticipate continued volatility in fuel prices, with the trend being toward higher prices as developing nations increase their consumption of petroleum products.

Although it may take some years, truck and rail traffic will return to the high volumes of 2006-07, and will continue growing beyond those levels. "When this industry takes off, it will be challenged to handle the load," added Gary Palmer, senior director of transportation at True Value, the hardware company.

One of the solutions offered by shippers was to encourage introduction of larger equipment such as 57- foot trailers and containers that will foster improved productivity.

Carrier executives do not favor that approach, noting that the pricing premium they might realize initially will soon disappear and their large capital expenditure to purchase new equipment will not pay off.

"When we went from 48-foot to 53-foot equipment, it didn't take long to go back down to 48-foot prices," Howland said.

Journal of Commerce Online, 11/16/2009

Anne Ferro sworn in as FMCSA's fourth administrator
Monday, 16 November 2009 00:00

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that Anne S. Ferro was sworn in Friday, Nov. 13, as the agency's fourth administrator, and that she begins her on-the-job duties at her desk today, Nov. 16.

Ferro succeeds John Hill, who had served since August 2006 and departed in January following the conclusion of the Bush administration. Rose McMurray, the agency’s chief safety officer, had been serving as acting administrator since President Obama’s inauguration.

The U.S. Senate on Nov. 6 approved Obama's nomination of Ferro. Previously, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Oct. 27 voted on and favorably reported Ferro's nomination.

Ferro most recently was head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association and has served on regional advisory committees on freight planning, highway safety and transportation funding. Previously, she was Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administrator from 1997 to 2003, where she is credited with leading the effort to establish a graduated licensing program for new state drivers.

The White House says Ferro has a “strong record in highway safety, regulatory compliance and agency leadership. ... She has extensive experience in driver and vehicle safety, having led the agency’s efforts to establish a graduated licensing program for new drivers in Maryland, as well as a model for older driver research.”

Buzzy France, president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, says Ferro "has an excellent understanding of how government, law enforcement and industry need to work together to solve problems, and will be a great advocate for safety.”

However, after Obama announced Ferro as his choice last spring, several organizations—the Teamsters Union, the Truck Safety Coalition, Public Citizen and Parents Against Tired Truckers—wrote the president opposing her due to her current ties to trucking and her past public support for current hours-of-service regulations. Coincidentally or not, the Senate committee approved Ferro’s nomination one day after FMCSA agreed to reconsider the hours regulations.

During Ferro's Sept. 23 confirmation hearing, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who heads the Commerce Committee's surface transportation panel, told Ferro that FMCSA is “an agency in dire need of reform” and that he was concerned about her "ability to take the bold action we need to keep Americans safe." Ferro described herself as a safety advocate, pointing to her record in Maryland.

FMCSA, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan, 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Its primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The agency employs more than 1,000 individuals. Its first administrator was Joseph Clapp, who was succeeded by Annette Sandberg in August 2003.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 11/16/2009

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