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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Group says its concerned about bill allowing for pilot program to increase truck weights in Maine
Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—Consumer, health, safety, environmental and truck driver organizations were joined by the families of truck crash victims today to issue a warning to the motoring public about a trucking industry-backed provision in legislation coming to the U.S. Senate floor that under a pilot program would allow tractor-trailers to exceed the 80,000 pound federal truck size and weight limit on Maine's interstate highways.

The governor and trucking industry in Vermont have been seeking the same exemptions in their state, and are watching the congressional vote closely with hopes that it will open the door for federal truck weight exemptions to allow overweight trucks up to 100,000 pound trucks to operate in their state and throughout the northeast, the groups said in a news release.

The group said it was concerned that national and state trucking interests in other Northeast and mid- Atlantic states would use any such congressional action as a springboard for seeking a congressional repeal of the federal truck weight exemption in other states and nationwide.

"This special interest provision was quietly inserted into this federal legislation without any public input and without any public hearings," said Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH). "This is straight out of the trucking industry's playbook as they work in the shadows of the Capitol to pick off one state and then another as part of their nationwide strategy to bypass public scrutiny and overrun today's rules of the road."

In a letter to members of the U.S. Senate today, the health and safety advocates cautioned that the exemption "is only a pretext for permanently raising the weight limit to 100,000 pounds on Maine's I-95 interstate and in other states, making that highway even more treacherous."

The bill before the Senate only establishes a one-year pilot program related to truck weight in the state of Maine.

It directs the Secretary of Transportation to study the impact of the pilot program on safety, road durability, commerce and energy use with the understanding that the State of Maine will also make assessments of the effects of the pilot program on safety, road durability, commerce, and energy use.

The bill requires the DOT secretary to report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations no later than six months after the start of the pilot program on the impact to date of the pilot program on bridge safety and weight impacts.

Spearheaded by CRASH, the Truck Safety Coalition, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Environment America, Environment Maine, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, the Trauma Society, Consumer Federation of America, and Connecticut Nurses Association, the coalition warned that:

  • Bigger trucks lead to more deaths, injuries, and road and bridge damage.
  • Maine has serious road and bridge safety issues, and that overweight trucks could result in a catastrophic bridge collapse similar to the I-35 bridge tragedy in Minnesota, and
  • The motoring public is unfairly subsidizing heavy trucking as the expense of a balanced and safe transportation system.

Each year, nearly 5,000 people are killed and tens of thousands are injured in truck crashes in the United States, the groups noted.

"This special interest exemption is for and about the trucking industry in Maine," said Daphne Izer, a Lisbon Falls, Maine, resident who founded Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) after her son and several of his friends were killed in a crash caused by a tractor-trailer driver in Maine. "But, this is not just about public safety in Maine. If enacted, this bill will have a domino effect throughout our region that will lead to more deaths and injuries and far greater damage to our bridges and roads. The American public will pay with their lives and their wallets if Congress adopts this provision."

If the U.S. Senate approves the transportation appropriations bill with the truck size and weight exemption, it will go up against the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Transportation bill (HR 3288) in the U.S. House which does not contain the Maine exemption. The House bill was introduced by Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, who will help lead House-Senate negotiations this month to work out differences between the two measures., 9/11/2009

Freight index up in July but still low
Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00

The Freight Transportation Services Index rose 1.6 percent in July from its June level, the first monthly increase since February and the largest increase since January 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported yesterday, Sept. 10.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the Freight TSI declined in nine of the last 12 months, but has remained steady or increased in the last two. The July Freight TSI of 95.5 is a 1.6 percent increase from the recent low of 94.0 reached in May and June; during those two months, the index was at its lowest level since June 1997.

The Freight TSI is down 15.4 percent from its historic peak of 112.9 reached in May 2006. The 4.8 percent decline in the first seven months of 2009 was the second-largest in the last decade, exceeded only by the 5.9 percent decline for the first seven months of 2000.

The July Freight TSI of 95.5 is at its lowest July level since 1997 when it was 94.8. The 13.5 percent decline in the Freight TSI from July 2008 to July 2009 was the largest July-to-July decline in the 20 years for which the TSI is calculated.

The freight index is also down 13.3 percent in the five years from July 2004, the 10th consecutive month in which the index declined for a five-year period. The index is down 6.4 percent in 10 years for the seventh-ever 10-year decline in the 20-year history of TSI data; all these 10-year declines took place in first seven months of 2009.

“The rise in the freight index for the first time since February is a sign that the economic recovery is beginning," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 'cash for clunkers' program and other actions this administration has taken, I am hopeful that the economy is starting to turn around. However, despite this tangible sign of progress, we all know that we still have a long way to go. We will redouble our efforts to make sure transportation infrastructure is one of the drivers for the future.”

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by the for-hire freight transportation industries, including trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. It includes historic data from 1990 to the present. The baseline year is 2000., 9/11/2009

Minnesota enforced federal regs without authority
Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00

Up until Aug. 1, 2009, the state of Minnesota had nothing in its state law that gave it the authority to enforce federal motor vehicle safety regs—including issuing fatigue out-of-service orders—according to a document obtained by OOIDA.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association acquired a document from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration through a Freedom of Information request that reveals the state of Minnesota had not properly adopted either directly or by reference the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Not having those regs on the state books means the state had no authority to enforce them.

The document, titled the “2008 Minnesota MCSAP Review,” also states that FMCSA did not delegate any authority to the state of Minnesota to enforce the federal regs.

FMCSA recommended that Minnesota take steps to correctly adopt FMCSA’s regulations and incorporate any amendments to such federal regulations into Minnesota law. Minnesota corrected its law effective Aug. 1, 2009.

The Association filed the 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 original lawsuit charged 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.

On Sept. 10, OOIDA moved to amend its complaint in Minnesota federal court to broaden its claim alleging that before Aug. 1, 2009, Minnesota state troopers lacked any authority to issue citations for safety violations of any kind to drivers for interstate motor carriers.

“This revelation is astounding,” said Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA. “We now know that the problem is even bigger than we had originally thought.

“Not only did state troopers not have the authority to put drivers out of service based on an outrageous checklist, but they had no authority to put drivers out of service for anything.”

The court has set the schedule for the lawsuit, which in court terms is actually a very fast-paced schedule leading to a trial date of Sept. 1, 2010.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 9/11/2009

Diesel Drops for First Time in 7 Weeks
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 00:00

Gas Declines 2.5¢ in Fourth Straight Downturn

Diesel fell for the first time in almost two months Tuesday, declining 2.7 cents to $2.647 a gallon, the Department of Energy reported.

It was the first drop in seven weeks, DOE said. Diesel had gained 17.8 cents in the six weeks through last Monday.

The downturn left trucking’s main fuel $1.412 below the same week last year, DOE said following its weekly survey of filling stations.

Gasoline, meanwhile dropped 2.5 cents to $2.588, marking its fourth straight downturn. Gas has fallen 5.9 cents in the past month and is now $1.06 below the same week last year.

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

This week’s survey was released Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday Monday.

Transport Topics, 9/09/09

Department of Justice OKs LTL Joint Venture
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 00:00

The Department of Justice said Tuesday it will not get in the way of a joint venture between seven regional less-than-truckload companies to bid jointly and participate in other collaborative activities. According to the department, the joint venture would not reduce competition among regional LTLs and could improve competition among the long-haul LTL carriers.

The regional LTL carriers that comprise the Reliance Network joint venture include Averitt Express, DATS Trucking, Lakeville Motor Express, Land Air Express of New England, Pitt Ohio Express, Canadian Freightways and Epic Express.

According to the carriers, each serves a distinct geographic region in North America with insignificant overlap. In addition, each said they face competition in the regions in which they operate. Those in the joint venture, they said, would account for less than 20 percent of the LTL freight transportation business in these regional markets, and far less than 20 percent of a nationwide LTL freight transportation market.

The Reliance Network carriers requested a business review letter from the Antitrust Division expressing its enforcement intentions with respect to a proposal to engage in collaborative activity, including collective rate-making for multi-regional shipments and territorial restrictions.

The carriers believe the proposal would allow them to operate more efficiently by combining information technology, operations, sales and marketing efforts, and administration. Each member carrier will continue to operate its regional LTL business independently., 9/09/09

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