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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Economist Says Onboard Recorders Offer Fleets Potential Efficiencies
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

PALM HARBOR, Fla.—Despite privacy and other concerns about the technology within the trucking industry, fleets should consider investing in electronic onboard records for a number of important reasons, economist Noel Perry said.

Speaking here during American Trucking Associations’ Information Technology & Logistics Council’s annual conference, Perry said the tough economic climate was all the more reason fleets should consider EOBRs’ potential efficiencies.

“Fleets have wrung out all of the waste available with conventional management techniques,” said Perry, a principal with Transport Fundamentals, Green Bay, Wis. “It’s not about tires anymore. It’s about where that truck is and what it’s doing.”

He said the efficiencies and protections EOBRs offer outweigh the uncertainty some in the industry have toward the technology.

The devices can also offer information on driver performance, behavior and health.

Perry said all of these kinds of traceable records could also prove helpful for investigating incidents involving either drivers or trucks, and said the time could eventually come when not having an EOBR in the cab will seem negligent.

“The lawyers will push it,” he said. “It will be a sign of irresponsibility not to have it.”

He also said that governments are becoming more interested for a variety of reasons, including for security and emission controls. At the same time, economic shortfalls are causing some to view EOBR’s wireless accessibility as a means to levy taxes.

“Governments are running out of money,” Perry said. He warned that if tax coffers continue turning up short, the transportation sector may be targeted to replenish the funds.

Perry said accessibility to onboard recorders will make it “a trivial matter” for governments to tax trucks.

Transport Topics, 8/17/2009

Click it: 50 years of the three-point belt
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

This year marks a half century since Volvo introduced the three-point safety belt—an invention the OEM says has saved more lives in traffic than any other technical feature. The belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959.

“We immediately gave free use of our patent to all manufacturers and today the safety belt is a natural feature in virtually all trucks and cars,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic & product safety director for Sweden-based Volvo Trucks, parent firm of both Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks. “That is why we can say that there is a bit of Volvo in every vehicle on the road—irrespective of make and model.”

However, the truck maker points out that while the three-point belt has been around for decades, its use is “still worryingly low among truck drivers in some countries.” On Swedish roads, only four out of ten truck drivers use the belt, while France, owing to tough legislation, has boosted safety belt use to 80%, according to Volvo Trucks.

The consequences of not using the belt are well documented in Volvo Trucks’ own accident research. Of 15 truck driver fatalities on Swedish roads over the past three years, for instance, only one was wearing a safety belt, the company reported.

“The human being does not have a built-in speedometer so we do not perceive speed as dangerous, especially not when we sit high up in a large vehicle,” pointed out Almqvist. “Every year a large number of drivers die while not wearing a safety belt and their lives might have been saved by the truck’s most obvious safety feature. This is something we must rectify, a challenge that is as big as the development of new technologies for accident avoidance.

“We have safety belt reminders in our trucks, but ultimately it is the drivers themselves who must realize the risks they are taking when they drive without wearing the safety belt,” he continued. “Virtually our entire systematic safety approach is bypassed if the belt is not given the chance to hold the seat occupant securely in place during an accident. This applies equally if the driver is thrown around inside the cab or is thrown out of the cab if the truck rolls over.”

The world’s first vehicle with three-point safety belt as standard, a Volvo PV544 passenger car, was delivered in Karlstad, Sweden on August 13, 1959., 8/17/2009

Cap-and-Trade's Unlikely Critics: Its Creators
Thursday, 13 August 2009 00:00

Economists behind original concept question the system's large-scale usefulness, and recommend emissions taxes instead

In the 1960s, a University of Wisconsin graduate student named Thomas Crocker came up with a novel solution for environmental problems: cap emissions of pollutants and then let firms trade permits that allow them to pollute within those limits.

When he was a graduate student in the 1960s working to reduce pollutants, Thomas Crocker devised a cap-and-trade system similar to one being considered in Congress.

Now legislation using cap-and-trade to limit greenhouse gases is working its way through Congress and could become the law of the land. But Mr. Crocker and other pioneers of the concept are doubtful about its chances of success. They aren't abandoning efforts to curb emissions. But they are tiptoeing away from an idea they devised decades ago, doubting it can work on the grand scale now envisioned.

"I'm skeptical that cap-and-trade is the most effective way to go about regulating carbon," says Mr. Crocker, 73 years old, a retired economist in Centennial, Wyo. He says he prefers an outright tax on emissions because it would be easier to enforce and provide needed flexibility to deal with the problem.

The House has passed cap-and-trade legislation. The Senate could take up a measure in September. But Republicans strongly oppose the idea—arguing that it is a tax that will hurt the economy—and Democrats are struggling to come up with an approach that apportions the inevitable cost of a cap-and-trade system among different interests, from consumers to utilities to coal plants.

Mr. Crocker, who went on to become a professor at the University of Wyoming, is one of two economists who dreamed up cap-and-trade in the 1960s. The other, John Dales, who died in 2007, was also a skeptic of using the idea to tame global warning.

"It isn't a cure-all for everything," Mr. Dales said in an interview in 2001. "There are lots of situations that don't apply."

Mr. Crocker sees two modern-day problems in using a cap-and-trade system to address the global greenhouse-gas issue. The first is that carbon emissions are a global problem with myriad sources. Capand- trade, he says, is better suited for discrete, local pollution problems. "It is not clear to me how you would enforce a permit system internationally," he says. "There are no institutions right now that have that power."

Europe has embraced cap-and-trade rules. Emissions initially rose there because industries were given more permits than they needed, and regulators have since tightened the caps. Meanwhile China, India and other developing markets are reluctant to go along, fearing limits would curb their growth. If they don't participate, there is little assurance that global carbon emissions will slow much even if the U.S. goes forward with its own plan. And even if everyone signs up, Mr. Crocker says, it isn't clear the limits will be properly enforced across nations and industries.

The other problem, Mr. Crocker says, is that quantifying the economic damage of climate change—from floods to failing crops—is fraught with uncertainty. One estimate puts it at anywhere between 5% and 20% of global gross domestic product. Without knowing how costly climate change is, nobody knows how tight a grip to put on emissions.

Students and Washington residents lobbied in 2007 to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Mr. Crocker, however, is dubious cap-and-trade will work.

In this case, he says Washington needs to come up with an approach that will be flexible and easy to adjust over a long stretch of time as more becomes known about damages from greenhouse-gas emissions. Mr. Crocker says cap-and-trade is better suited for problems where the damages are clear— like acid rain in the 1990s—and a hard limit is needed quickly.

"Once a cap is in place," he warns, "it is very difficult to adjust." For example, buyers of emissions permits would see their value reduced if the government decided in the future to loosen the caps.

Joseph Aldy, a White House adviser on the environment, calls the argument a "straw man," saying a market-based cap is being designed with built-in flexibility. For example, a price ceiling on carbon allowances could prevent the program from becoming too big a burden on households and businesses and a floor would prevent a big loss in the value of permits. And unlike a tax, he says, a cap ensures carbon reduction.

Pollution has been a puzzle for economists for decades. In the early 1900s, a British economist named Arthur Pigou proposed taxes on polluters. Ronald Coase, a University of Chicago economist, won a Nobel Prize for his 1960 book, "The Problem of Social Cost," which showed how market economics could address pollution problems.

In 1966, Mr. Crocker, still struggling to finish his thesis at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, sketched out the cap-and-trade idea to deal with air pollution produced by fertilizer plants in Florida. Mr. Crocker first pitched the idea of trading at a conference in Washington. He had been asked to attend as a stand-in for a professor who couldn't go and present data on the Florida plants. He didn't have all the data yet and came up with the theory instead.

Working separately, Mr. Dales in 1968 published a book called, "Pollution, Property and Prices," which used the same approach for farmers who were polluting Canadian lakes and streams.

Their logic went like this: When governments capped smog emissions from power plants or the runoff of pesticides by farmers into local streams, it was indirectly putting a value on these emissions. Some farmers and some power plants could reduce these emissions more efficiently than others, and some placed a higher value on them than others. By setting caps on pollution but then allowing the polluters to trade these rights, the economists theorized, the polluters themselves would figure out the cheapest way to meet new targets.

Another economist, David Montgomery, advanced their ideas in the 1970s, converting their theories into the complex mathematical formulas to demonstrate that they weren't merely an idea but was also economically feasible. Mr. Montgomery, too, is a skeptic of cap-and-trade for greenhouse gases. He prefers an outright tax.

"You get huge swings in carbon prices with a cap, which creates more volatility and uncertainty for business," he says.

Cap-and-trade got a big boost in 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act that imposed new limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide, which produces acid rain. Economists said the move let producers save billions of dollars and still hit their targets.

Still, Messrs. Dales and Crocker never got much personal mileage out of the idea. Mr. Crocker says he had such a hard time getting funding to further his research on the subject that he moved on to other matters. So far, he has stayed on the sidelines in the debate about cap-and-trade.

Wall Street Journal, 8.13/2009

Freight Index unchanged from May to June
Thursday, 13 August 2009 00:00

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) was unchanged from May to June, remaining at its lowest level in 12 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.

The BTS reported that the Freight TSI has declined in all but two of the last 11 months. The index has declined 14.8 percent in that 11-month period.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments in ton-miles, which are then combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and airfreight.

The June Freight TSI of 94.0 is the same as in May, remaining at its lowest level since June 1997 when it was 92.4. The Freight TSI is down 16.7 percent from its historic peak of 112.9 reached in May 2006, the BTS report said.

The 6.3 percent decline in the first six months of 2009 was the largest in the last decade, exceeding the 4.6 percent decline for the first six months of 2000.

The 14.2 percent decline in the Freight TSI from June 2008 to June 2009 was the largest June-to-June decline in the 20 years of the Index calculations.

The freight index was down 14.7 percent in the five years from June 2004, the ninth consecutive month in which the index declined for a five-year period, the BTS said

The TSI is a seasonally adjusted index that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. It includes historic data from 1990 to the present.

Cargo Business News, 8/13/2009

DOE Raises Diesel Price Forecast for 2010
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 00:00

Lowers Outlook Slightly for Crude Oil, Gasoline

The Department of Energy held its diesel price forecast for 2009 steady at $2.46 a gallon, but bumped its projection for next year by a nickel from a previous forecast.

Trucking’s main fuel will average $2.84 in 2010, DOE said in its monthly short-term energy outlook released Tuesday—up slightly from the $2.79 it forecast last month.

In its latest weekly pump-price survey released Monday, DOE said the national average price of diesel was $2.625, the highest price since late November.

Diesel averaged $3.80 last year, peaking on July 14, 2008, at a record $4.764 a gallon.

Gasoline will average $2.34 this year, down slightly from the $2.36 predicted last month, DOE said. Monday’s weekly survey showed a 9-cent increase to $2.647.

This year’s prices are well below last year’s $3.26 average, a record. The single-week record high for gas was $4.114 a gallon, set on July 7, 2008.

DOE also lowered its forecast for crude oil, saying it will average $59.94 a barrel, down slightly from the $60.35 it projected last month. The 2010 forecast was unchanged at $72.42.

Oil averaged $99.57 per barrel last year and set a New York Mercantile Exchange closing-price record of $145.29 last July.

Transport Topic, 8/11/2009

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