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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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SCR Engines May Emit Toxins, CARB Staffer’s Letter Warns
Monday, 10 August 2009 00:00

The selective catalytic reduction process that most engine manufacturers will use to comply with 2010 federal diesel emission standards could emit toxic byproducts, the California Air Resources Board’s top researcher wrote in a recent letter filed in federal court by Navistar Inc.

Navistar, which is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal appeals court, filed the letter July 30 and said it bolsters the truck maker’s claim that EPA could be endangering public health by skipping the federal rule-making process in its approval of SCR.

Written to “alert” a Boston nonprofit organization planning tests on 2010 engines, the letter said that SCR technology represents a “large departure from conventional emission controls by introducing a liquid additive containing an organic form of nitrogen.”

Navistar has asked the court to determine whether EPA violated federal rulemaking requirements by issuing a guidance memorandum on SCR. It said the letter helps show that “skipping the rigors of rulemaking means EPA and CARB have put the public at risk by allowing SCR on the highway now, when it may turn out that the cure is worse than the disease.”

The June 12 letter, written by Bart Croes, chief of CARB research, to the Health Effects Institute, said that a comprehensive literature search showed that the “primary concern is the release of organonitrogen compounds, many of which are carcinogenic or toxic in other ways.”

“Some toxic air contaminants that have been identified with SCR technology include hydrogen cyanide, cyanic acid, nitromethane, hydrazine, acrylonitrile, acrylamide, acetonitrile, and acetamide,” Croes wrote in his letter. “It is hoped that any exotic substances emitted from SCR technology will be at levels insignificant to exposure health effects.”

“Although we are encouraged by findings to date, which suggest that the technology can deliver significant reductions of many species of toxicological relevance, this work has also documented the increase in some emissions such as some metals, nitrous oxide and nanoparticles,” CARB’s letter said.

SCR systems reduce NOx in the aftertreatment by mixing the exhaust output with diesel exhaust fluid, a blend of pure urea and demineralized water, through a catalyst that converts NOx into harmless nitrogen and water vapor.

Navistar, Warrenville, Ill., manufacturer of International trucks, is the only engine maker planning to use exhaust gas recirculation to meet EPA’s 2010 emission standard.

The manufacturers using SCR include independent truck engine manufacturer Cummins Inc.; Daimler Trucks North America and its engine subsidiary, Detroit Diesel Corp.; Volvo Group America and Volvo subsidiary Mack Trucks.

An EPA spokeswoman and a Navistar spokesman declined comment on the letter. Several other SCR manufacturers did not return phone messages.

David Siler, director of marketing for Detroit Diesel, one of the SCR manufacturers, said he was not aware of the letter, but he defended SCR as safe.

“We’ve been operating all along on the understanding that this technology is safe and produces no present or downstream effects on public safety or health,” Siler said. “This has been validated by not only our North American experience but in Europe, where SCR has been used for several years and is the undisputed Euro 5 standard and also the upcoming Euro 6 standard.”

Spokesman Jim McNamara of Volvo Trucks North America said, “It is difficult to speculate on what could be possible under some unforeseeable combination of conditions, and there are no cases of health issues with hundreds of thousands of SCR systems deployed around the world.”

Daniel Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, said the letter was sent for a study of emissions and the safety of new advanced engine systems and fuels.

“In that context, we’re taking input ideas from a variety of the sponsors who are involved in the project, CARB being one of them,” Greenbaum said.

The CARB letter suggests that a number of chemicals be added to the 700 chemicals that HEI already plans to test on the 2010 engines to evaluate for potential health effects, Greenbaum said.

Hector Maldonado, a CARB air pollution specialist who worked on the CARB study, downplayed the significance of the letter, but he told Transport Topics, “There is a possibility, at least in a theoretical sense, that some of these compounds could be formed. However, based on the experience we have to date, there are no alarm bells being rung, but at the same time, we are aware that there is a possibility.”

Maldonado said CARB is not “second-guessing” EPA’s 2010 standard, and it does support the idea of after treatment control of NOx emissions.

“The irony is that I think, if anything, SCR is incredibly effective in terms of NOx reduction,” Maldonado said. “It’s some of the exotic compounds, unregulated emissions that might be formed, that give us some cause for concern.”

However, he said using the letter to buttress a court argument against SCR is, “in my opinion, a blatant misrepresentation.”

Transport Topics, 8/10/2009

 
YRC Teamsters OK more concessions
Monday, 10 August 2009 00:00

OVERLAND PARK, Kan.—Financially troubled less-than-truckload (LTL) freight and logistics giant YRC Worldwide has been given another lifeline by its unionized workforce. By a 58-42 percent majority, Teamsters at YRC and its Holland regional subsidiary approved 5 percent wage and pension concession package that is estimated to save the company approximately $45 million a month for the rest of this year and up to $50 million a month next year.

These latest concessions come on top of a previous 10 percent wage concession and pension freeze that took effect Jan. 1. Those concessions are estimated to be saving the company approximately $250 million annually.

Teamsters at YRC’s New Penn Northeast regional subsidiary rejected the concession package. Those votes were counted separately because those workers are not part of the same bargaining unit. In addition, Chicago Locals 705 and 710 and Local 179 in Joliet, Ill., rejected the concessions. They too are covered by their own separate contracts.

It is unclear what those locals’ rejections actually mean. With the largest unit of YRC and the Holland Teamsters approving the wage cut package, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will have to decide how to resolve the situation. In a press release issued by the IBT, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said he would deal with it “on a local-by-local basis.”

Whatever the long-term outcome, YRC officials said they were grateful that the majority of the workers voting approved the package. YRC has lost in excess of $2 billion over the past 10 operating quarters, including a $309 million loss in the second quarter ended June 30. Fewer than 22,000 YRC Teamsters voted. Currently YRC has approximately 32,000 Teamsters working, although another estimated 10,000 workers on furlough also were eligible to vote.

The wage concession comes on top of a 10 percent wage cut that went into effect on Jan. 1. In the second quarter alone, YRC deferred $1.265 million in pension payments by putting up terminals and real estate as collateral. It also eliminated 5,500 jobs in the second quarter and closed about 30 percent of its terminals as revenue fell by 45 percent to $1.33 billion compared with year-ago revenue.

As part of the wage and pension concession package, Teamsters are gaining a minority ownership position in the company. YRC Chairman, President and CEO William D. Zollars says he remains “guardedly optimistic” about the future as YRC and many other trucking companies struggle with freight demand levels that have fallen between 20 and 30 percent from last year’s levels.

“With the support of our employee-owners and other stakeholders, we continue making progress with our comprehensive recovery plan—realizing efficiencies from the YRC integration (of long-haul carriers Roadway and Yellow), restoring financial strength and positioning YRC Worldwide for future success,” Zollars said in a statement. “The contract changes enable us to reduce our cost structure, preserve capital and to be more competitive in the market place.”

Currently, the LTL marketplace is brutal. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported competitors such as FedEx Freight, Con-way, Saia, A. Duie Pyle and others had been contacting YRC shippers and emphasizing their companies’ financial strengths and operational successes. But many YRC shippers have held fast, satisfied with the company’s service levels and pricing in the discount-heavy LTL market.

But without YRC’s Teamsters’ concessions, it is doubtful the company could have survived. YRC has been in constant negotiations with a consortium of lenders to alter its loan covenants.

“Our union employees approached this situation in a very professional manner,” said Mike Smid, president of YRC Inc. and COO of YRC Worldwide. “This vote sends a clear message to our customers and to our competitors. We are moving forward together. We are moving forward with confidence, delivering uninterrupted and unparalleled service in our superior networks.”

Analyst David Ross of Baltimore-based Stifel Nicolaus called YRC’s second-quarter losses “abysmal,” but emphasized what is most important right now for YRC is maintaining its customer base. He said YRC’s cash flow “remains significantly negative” and could remain so even after wage/pension concessions take effect. Ross had predicted that the company could still run aground of its loan covenants in November if it does not obtain cash influxes from further asset sales.

YRC seems aware of that. It recently signed a sale-leaseback agreement with North American Terminals Management Inc. to sell an undisclosed number of terminals in the third and fourth quarters. YRC said the aggregate sales price for those property sales is $81 million and those deals are expected to close before the first of the year.

This continues a long trend of terminal sale-leaseback arrangements for YRC. The company says those transactions are expected to generate about $375 million of cash proceeds and additional excess property sales “should generate” more than $100 million this year.

YRC’s lenders appear to be bending over backward to avoid liquidation and foreclosure. Minimum levels of earnings before interest, depreciation and debt (EBITDA) have been waived and new covenants have been set for the rest of this year and early 2010. Still, given YRC’s losses, Ross said he did not expect the company to reach the fourth quarter earnings minimum “even as low as it is.”

YRC’s lenders previously waived a $100 million minimum liquidity covenant for August. They also are allowing YRC to keep up to $50 million in asset sales, according to a bank amendment included in the company’s most recent 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Still, the market place seemed to welcome the Teamsters vote. YRC stock zoomed up 25 percent the day the vote was announced, to $2.24 per share.

Logistics Management, 8/10/2009

 
FMCSA to Hold Strategy Forums This Month
Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00

Plans Meetings in Denver, McLean, Va.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will hold two separate stakeholder forums in August to gather input on a new 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, the agency said in a Federal Register notice.

FMCSA is seeking “input from industry leaders” in order to “identify and discuss key safety related challenges and opportunities facing the trucking industry, and to solicit ideas on research objectives that FMCSA should consider.”

Forum attendees will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed mission, vision and strategic goals for FMCSA’s plans, the agency said.

The first forum will be held next Thursday, Aug. 13, in Denver, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A second forum will be held the following Tuesday, Aug. 18, in McLean, Va., outside Washington. American Trucking Associations will participate in that forum.

Space is limited to the first 30 registered participants. To register, send an email to Karen Robin at FMCSA, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Transport Topics, 8/7/2009

 
President Obama needs to hear from truckers now
Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association notified members on Friday, Aug. 7, that President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon will be discussing cross-border trucking at the North American Leaders Summit on Sunday, Aug. 9, in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Association’s message is urgent.

OOIDA said President Calderon is expected to pressure President Obama to move forward with opening U.S. roads to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and truck drivers. The Association is asking its members to contact Obama administration officials and communicate their concerns immediately.

Recent statements by U.S. government officials indicate that President Obama is being advised by individuals in his own administration to give in to pressure from Mexico and the multinational corporations behind the push for Mexican trucks in the U.S. Those officials have stated that they will not be satisfied with a temporary or pilot program. They want full access to the U.S. market for Mexico-domiciled companies and drivers.

“President Obama and officials in his administration need to hear from you, your family members and your fellow truckers now,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. “We are encouraging our members to pass this message along to everyone they know.”

Johnston said if proponents of cross-border trucking with Mexico have their way, the jobs of all U.S.- based long-haul truckers will be in serious jeopardy. Truckers need to convey that message when talking with government officials.

“In addition, you should tell them that granting Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways makes no sense because none of the safety or security issues have been resolved on either side of the border,” said Johnston.

OOIDA is urging members to contact these government officials:

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative:

Call the USTR’s Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Liaison office at 202-395-6120 or fax 202-395-3692

President Obama:

Go online to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ or phone 202-456-1111 or fax 202-456-2461.

U.S. Department of Transportation:

To phone, call 202-366-4000.

Congress:

To call your two senators and your representative in the House, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202- 224-3121 and provide the operator with your home ZIP code. The operator will connect you with the offices of your elected representatives.

To write and/or fax to your Senators:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To write and/or fax to your U.S. Representative:

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Land Line Magazine, 8/7/2009

 
Trucking jobs dip again in July
Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00

Payroll employment among for-hire trucking companies in July dropped 0.5 percent from June levels and 9.2 percent from July 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The latest numbers also reflect a slight upward revision in trucking employment levels for June and a smaller upward revision for May.

With the estimated 6,800 jobs lost in July, the trucking industry has lost 77,700 jobs since the end of 2008—a decline of 5.8 percent. Job cuts since July 2008—just before the current decline—total 128,100. The BLS numbers reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet.

Seasonally adjusted trucking employment peaked in January 2007 at more than 1.45 million, according to BLS figures. Since then, for-hire trucking companies have shed 191,500 jobs, or 13.2 percent.

In July, the decline in trucking employment outpaced that in the entire U.S. economy. Non-farm payroll employment fell by 247,000 jobs, or 0.2 percent, from May to June on a seasonally adjusted basis. Compared to June 2008, non-farm payroll employment is down 4.2 percent.

eTrucker.com, 8/7/2009

 
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