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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Rather report nails the issues; ATA a no-show
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 00:00

Fighting the good fight on behalf of truckers involves more than just preaching to the choir. OOIDA was able to broaden its message of driver advocacy to a whole new audience on Tuesday evening, thanks to an in-depth TV forum hosted by Dan Rather.

The forum, held at Willie’s Place in Carl’s Corner, TX, brought five panelists together to discuss the economy, driver training, cross-border trucking and other concerns faced by American owner-operators and company drivers.

Rather dedicated a whole hour to trucking issues in Episode 436 of “Dan Rather Reports,” which aired Tuesday, Nov. 10, on HDNet.

“This provided an opportunity to address important issues in trucking that are far from being resolved,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer, who was joined on the panel by OOIDA Life Member Miles Verhoef.

Other panelists included economist and author Michael Belzer; Werner Enterprises Chief Operating Officer Derek Leathers; and longtime trucker and driver trainer Tim Dean.

“My personal experience is we need more training for entry level drivers. It is almost nonexistent,” Verhoef told the panel. He also shared insight into the daily life, revenues and expenses of a true independent operating under his own authority.

Rather conducted the forum as a follow-up to a recent episode titled “Queen of the Road.” During that episode, trucker and OOIDA Member Desiree Wood and other interviewees shed light on the number of drivers being herded through schools and into the cabs of commercial vehicles without adequate experience.

“Dan, the reality of the previous show is all too common across our industry,” Spencer told the group. “We hear those stories from drivers. It exists. Our organization for its entire 30 years of existence has advocated comprehensive training for entry-level drivers.”

Rather thanked the Werner representatives for participating, but called it “disappointing” that the American Trucking Associations chose to back out of the invitation.

“So they flatly refused to come on, even though we had promised them 20 minutes in the clear to give their point of view,” Rather stated on the program, adding that ATA canceled because the forum was going to recap and discuss the “Queen of the Road” segment and the controversy it generated.

Leathers and Dean welcomed the chance to discuss Werner’s policies and driver education. Rather asked them to respond to the previous segment and whether they thought it was fair.

“Well, I think for starters, obviously any focus on training is a good thing,” Leathers said. “I mean, we all have to be focused on it. … We decided that we’d rather take the questions head on and address issues that are good for our industry and really have a healthy debate.”

Spencer said OOIDA has advocated for federal driver-training standards, but even despite a lawsuit against regulatory agencies in the early 1990s, “there is no training whatsoever required.”

“It’s sheer idiocy, lunacy to think that you could take somebody off the street, turn’em loose in 40-ton vehicles, and they can navigate on our congested highways with every kind of very nonprofessional driver in every kind of traffic situation in every kind of weather and do it safely without a lot of training,” Spencer said.

Belzer, author of a book called “Sweatshops on Wheels,” said the lack of adequate training at CDL schools is part of the nature of an industry driven by low rates, increasing costs and the need for companies to get someone in the driver seat.

“If we could make the job more attractive and pay them more, then they would do a whole lot better,” Belzer told the group.

But is there a driver shortage? Not so, Spencer said. High turnover and low driver pay have given a false reading in that regard, he said.

Werner COO Leathers said there’s more to it, that trucking is hard work and a lot of people give the industry a shot but give up after a few months.

Rather turned to an audience member, Allen Smith, who has spent 30 years in the business. Smith claimed he has received thousands of responses on his site, askthetrucker.com, since the “Dan Rather Reports” episode aired featuring Wood.

“The schools are still taking their money. They’re wasting their time in the truck knowing that within a couple of weeks they’re going to be thrown out of the truck anyway,” Smith said.

Rather made sure to emphasize that there are good truckers out there and plenty of them.

“There’s nothing that helps our transportation system more than an experienced mature truck driver and there are a lot of them out there,” he said. “There are also a lot of good companies.”

The panelists, either current or former truckers, discussed how in good economic times an owneroperator can make good money, but that company drivers tend to have more security when the economy gets poor. Panelists also acknowledged that there is no “one size fits all” in trucking.

On the issue of Mexican trucks and what kind of effect a cross-border trucking program would have on the U.S. economy, panelists generally agreed that it would affect competition and driver pay.

“You would certainly drive down compensation by a third from its already low level,” said Belzer.

While there are great drivers and poor drivers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, the real issue is companies bidding on freight until there’s virtually no profit. Leathers said it’s not uncommon for trucking companies to operate on a 1-2 percent profit margin.

“Clearly there are safety issues—there are security issues—but there are very much economic issues with that,” Spencer said.

Spencer said he was grateful for the opportunity to shed light on important issues, particularly that it’s rarely the truck driver’s fault in fatal crashes that involve trucks.

If trucks are involved in 5,000 fatal crashes per year, 1,000 of the fatalities are truck drivers and 62 percent of those crashes that kill truck drivers involve a single vehicle—the truck.

“We would like to see some things done to make a truck driver’s life a better, safer life,” Spencer said. “And we’re not going in that direction right now.”

To move the discussion forward from this point is going to require participation from policymakers, regulators and lawmakers, Spencer added.

“We need members of Congress and state legislatures involved in this,” he said.

Rather vowed to keep the discussion of trucking issues going in future episodes.

To view Episode 436, titled “Truck talk,” visit http://www.hd.net/danrather.html. Episodes are available for download on iTunes. Transcripts are also available online.

Land Line Magazine, 11/11/2009

 
Diesel Slips 0.7¢ to $2.801 a Gallon
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 00:00
Downturn Is First in Five Weeks; Gas Falls.

Diesel’s national average price fell for the first time in five weeks, dipping 0.7 cent—the same as last week’s increase—to $2.801 a gallon, the Department of Energy reported Monday.

Gasoline also fell for the first time in a month, declining 2.8 cents to $2.666 a gallon, DOE said following its weekly survey of filling stations.

Diesel had risen 22 cents over the previous four weeks and Monday’s slip follows declines in oil prices to below $80 a barrel in the past two weeks.

The downturn left trucking’s main fuel 14.3 cents below the same week last year.

Gas had risen 22.6 cents over the previous four weeks and Monday’s price left the motor fuel 44.2 cents higher than the same week last year.

After topping $80 a barrel during the third week in October on the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil slid in the past two weeks to below that level with one exception, Nymex figures showed.

Oil rose about $2 Monday to close at about $79.44 a barrel on the Nymex, Bloomberg reported.

Each week, DOE surveys about 350 diesel filling stations to compile a national snapshot average price.

Transport Topics, 11/10/2009

 
EPA asks for stay in Navistar suit; OEM says no way
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 00:00

CHICAGO—Navistar International is opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's request to postpone court proceedings on Navistar's lawsuit against the agency.

Navistar—which, as it's well known by now—is the only major truck OEM not using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology in upcoming 2010 engines. It is suing the EPA for what it claims is the agency's betrayal of the agency's own stance in an official guidance issued 2001 that SCR would not be a feasible technology.

In particular, Navistar contends EPA is improperly allowing SCR systems to incorporate a 'ramped shutdown' feature in case the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) required for SCR engines runs dry. Navistar likens this allowance to a "license to pollute" and "pollution for convenience."

In late October, the EPA asked a federal appeals court to grant a 60-day stay (which, incidentally, would expire just as the Jan. 1, 2010 emissions regulations take effect). The delay would give the agency time to revise the original guidance in order to address Navistar's concerns, EPA says.

In court filings, EPA also mentioned that the 2001 guidance is not binding and was only meant to advise truck OEMs of potentially acceptable solutions that could meet the agency's 2010 emissions regulations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Navistar responded to the EPA's request by calling it "a pointless strategic maneuver."

"EPA has known that tinkering with the guidances will not address the issues Navistar has raised in this litigation."

Navistar's opposition to SCR as an approved 2010 engine solution has led to some heated exchanges between the Chicago-based company and its competitors in the heavy-duty truck market.

This past summer, Navistar attempted to block rival truck makers from intervening in the suit against EPA.

In response, officials from pro-SCR manufacturers privately questioned Navistar's staunch opposition to SCR when the company is using that technology in international markets.

The appeals court has yet to rule on the EPA's request for a stay.

TodaysTrucking.com, 11/10/2009

 
Diesel to Average Near $3 a Gallon in 2010, DOE Says
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 00:00

Retail diesel will average $2.79 in the fourth quarter and rise 50 cents from this year’s projected average to nearly $3 a gallon next year, the Department of Energy said Tuesday.

The national average price of trucking’s main fuel will be $2.48 per gallon this year and $2.94 in 2010, DOE said in its monthly short-term energy outlook.

The fourth-quarter projection—following diesel’s $2.63 average in August and September—is up 19 cents from the department’s forecast last month, and the 2010 projection is 16 cents higher than the $2.78 forecast last month.

Fuel price increases this winter from a year ago will be led by a projected $7 gain in crude oil to $77 a barrel, DOE said.

Regular gasoline will rise 15 cents from October to $2.70 a gallon this month, and will average $2.66 in the fourth quarter, up 22 cents from last month’s prediction.

The projected year-over-year increases in gasoline and diesel “include a small increase in refining margins as a result of the economy-related increases in demand,” DOE said.

DOE said Monday that both diesel and gas fell for the first time in five weeks, with diesel falling 0.7 cent to $2.801 a gallon and gasoline dropping 2.8 cents to $2.666 a gallon.

Transport Topics, 11/10/2009

 
Panel OKs Cap-and-Trade Bill
Monday, 09 November 2009 00:00

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week approved a cap-and-trade bill that opponents said would cause a spike in the cost of diesel fuel.

The legislation now goes to the Senate floor. Senate leaders said they hoped the final legislation would gain bipartisan support, despite a boycott by the committee’s Republicans, who called the bill a “jobs killer.”

The bill would limit greenhouse gas emissions of mostly large energy users through a cap-and-trade program, which would require them to comply with greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandates by purchasing allowances. The bill’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas levels by 2010 to 20% below 2005 levels.

The measure would not immediately require the transportation sector to limit carbon emissions. However, Republicans, some Democrats and other opponents of the bill said it is, in effect, a tax on refiners and other energy producers because it requires them to buy credits, the cost of which would be passed on to customers as an increase in fuel prices.

EPA said the Senate bill would cause an average increase of $88 to $111 in annual energy costs for American consumers.

Republicans asked EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to provide more information on the bill’s effects on the economy, jobs, energy prices and energy security.

At a hearing in October, the bill’s chief author, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) confirmed that the transportation sector would not be regulated by the climate change legislation, but he conceded that it would cause an increase in energy costs.

Light & Medium Truck, 11/9/2009

 
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