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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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FMCSA focusing on driver safety
Thursday, 02 July 2009 00:00

Trucking safety is affected by the economy, the environment and society, according to Terry Shelton, acting chief safety director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Shelton—speaking June 30, at the 2009 CCJ Symposium in Birmingham, Ala—told attendees that economic recovery, livability, sustainability and safety are the four priorities stressed by U.S.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and that the U.S. Department of Transportation is playing a large part in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; of the $787 billion total investment, $48.1 billion is dedicated to transportation, with $27.5 billion of that going to highways.

Regarding safety, highway fatalities declined 9 percent between 2007 and 2008, Shelton said; specific numbers for commercial fleets during that timeframe aren’t available yet. Shelton said safety belt use by drivers is up, proving that its outreach programs are working, a considerable feat considering there are 700,000 fleets registered by FMCSA, with 40,000 to 50,000 new registrations annually and about 90 percent of those having 10 or fewer trucks.

Shelton also pointed out other highlights of FMCSA’s driver focus in 2009:

  • Outreach—promoting safety initiatives.
     
  • Enforcement—specifically, the Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks Program, where a law enforcement officer rides with a truck driver in the cab and calls ahead when he witnesses aggressive driving by another car or truck.
     
  • Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010—A redesign of FMCSA’s enforcement program, which places emphasis on safety data from inspections. The Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories target seven categories, up from four. A 30-month operational model test began in February 2008 in four states—Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey—with two more added this past spring: Montana and Minnesota. “It revolves around the data, and you must check the data,” said Shelton, referring to FMCSA’s new Compass system for improving data quality and accessibility.
     
  • Rulemakings—The CSA 2010 rulemaking is expected by the end of the year. FMCSA also is working on final rules for electronic onboard recorders, the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, commercial driver’s license learner’s permits, entry-level driver training and the Unified Registration System.
     
  • Research—The Drowsy Driver Warning System Field Operational Test is a naturalistic data collection study and the Defensive Driving Tips for CMV Drivers synthesizes literature on defensive driving safety and uses the Large Truck Crash Causation Study critical reason framework. The DriveCam Pilot Test places on a truck’s windshield two cameras, which show the driver’s face and a forward view; two fleets are participating. The CMV Driver Distraction Study characterized 20,000 safetycritical events in naturalistic driving data to assess the frequency and percentage of different types of distractions.

eTrucker.com, 7/2/2009

 
Citations drop in latest Roadcheck
Thursday, 02 July 2009 00:00

Roadcheck 2009’s record total of overall inspections showed significant declines in vehicle and driver out-of-service rates, as well as a significant drop in safety belt violations, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Roadcheck is the largest targeted enforcement program on commercial vehicles in the world. This yearapproximately 17 trucks or buses were inspected, on average, every minute from Canada to Mexico during the 72-hour period from June 2-4. This year 9,700 CVSA and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-certified inspectors at 2,148 locations across North America performed a record 72,782 truck and bus inspections.

Data show the highest overall vehicle compliance rate—80.4 percent—since 1996, and the highest overall driver compliance rate—95.7 percent—ever. For North American Standard Level I inspections, the compliance rates of 77.8 percent (vehicles) and 96.1 percent (drivers) were both records for Roadcheck. In addition, safety belt violations were reduced by 276 (1,246 to 970), a 22.2 percent improvement over last year.

“The commercial motor vehicle industry is proving the old adage that it pays to be safe,” said DarrenChristle, CVSA’s president. “If you look at the data it clearly shows when carriers prepare for safety they will benefit not only by avoiding fines but by saving lives. It can be said that Roadcheck 2009 saved 17 lives and helped to avoid 307 injuries. Over the course of an entire year that equals 2,068 lives saved and 37,352 injuries avoided.”

CVSA sponsors Roadcheck each year with the FMCSA, Canadian Council of Motor Transport
Administrators, Transport Canada and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation in Mexico.

CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For more on CVSA visit www.cvsa.org.

eTrucker.com, 7/2/2009

 
Insurance Premiums May Rise
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00

The long downward trend in insurance rates for fleets may be coming to an end as more insurers push for higher premiums to make up for investment losses.

The days of double-digit annual rate decreases for insurance premiums are almost certainly over, industry experts have said, and motor carriers accustomed in recent years to seeing annual reductions in the cost of their insurance may be in for a shock.

“Now is the time to evaluate your current insurance program and make appropriate changes before rates increase,” said Shawn Young, senior vice president of The Marquis Agency, a unit of NIP Group Inc. in Woodbridge, N.J.

The market shift won’t mean an increase in rates for all fleets, however, because many companies have improved their safety records and the recession has cut the number of miles traveled and reduced payrolls, resulting in fewer crashes and injuries and lower overall risk.

A survey of insurance brokers and underwriters conducted by NIP Group in the fourth quarter of 2008 found the trend of premiums “moving in the direction of modest rate increases.”

“There’s a lot of unrest right now,” said Michael Lawrence, transportation sales manager for Roemer Insurance in Toledo, Ohio. “Insurance companies are testing the waters” to boost premiums, he said.

While signs point up, Lawrence said he doesn’t expect insurance rates to go “through the roof,” partly because many trucking firms are running fewer miles in response to a downturn in demand for freight hauling.

“Reduced mileage is reducing exposure,” Lawrence said.

Because insurance rates often are pegged to estimates of the number of miles traveled, Lawrence said he was able to cancel some policies midterm and rewrite them to reflect lower actual mileage.

The tough job market also is helping carriers to hire and retain more experienced drivers, and insurance experts say that trend is helping to improve safety performance.

“Carriers can be more selective,” said Todd Reiser, vice president of transportation for The Lockton Cos. in Kansas City, Mo. “I would be cautious, though, because there still is a shortage of very qualified drivers.”

Richard Augustyn, chief executive officer of NIP Group, said his company’s survey indicates that insurers are most likely to raise rates the most for small- and medium-sized trucking companies.

The survey indicated a slowdown in rate decreases for a broad range of insurance coverage—from accident liability to cargo and workers’ compensation—but the trend was more pronounced for firms that pay less than $250,000 in annual premiums.

Premiums for larger accounts continue to fall at annual rates of 10% to 20%, Augustyn said. The survey also found that fewer insurers were entering the transportation market.

Experts expect to see a gradual shift from a “soft” market, in which rates fall, to a “hard” market, in which rates rise, because insurers have experienced a reduction in reserves needed to support insurance underwriting.

A.M. Best Co., a rating agency for insurance companies, said total policyholders’ surplus for U.S. property and casualty insurers was expected to decline by 10% to $485.3 billion at year-end 2008 from $538.2 billion in 2007. Final figures for the year were not yet available.

Commercial auto insurance makes up $24.3 billion, or 5.4% of $449.7 billion in total net premiums written by property and casualty insurers in 2008.

Insurers paid out 98.5% of commercial auto net premiums written to cover claims and expenses in 2008, compared with 94.2% of net premiums written in 2007.

In 2009, A.M. Best said it expects underwriting results to worsen, with a combined ratio of 101.5% and income from investments remaining at very low levels.

Nevertheless, A.M. Best analysts said the overall outlook for the U.S. commercial insurance market is “stable” and that rates “will continue to be soft and competitive well into 2009.”

Light & Medium Truck, 7/1/2009

 
Heavy-Duty Orders Recovering Slowly
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 00:00

Sales for heavy-duty commercial vehicles are seeing a slow recovery as expected, according to the latest edition of FTR Associates' North American Commercial Truck & Trailer Outlook.

While the firm does anticipate orders to regain some of the ground lost, FTR believes 2010 production will fall 30 percent below 2008 levels. FTR said its original prediction of a 47 percent drop for 2009 has not changed.

"While the near-term picture is becoming clearer every day, there is an unusual amount of uncertainty with regard to 2011 and beyond," said Eric Starks, president of FTR. "We are in an unprecedented economic situation where past performance does not necessarily provide relevant guideposts. The range of possible outcomes is still very wide, with either a continued slow recovery or a faster snap-back both quite possible. We are therefore urging our subscribers to remain flexible with regard to their 2011 planning at this time."

The North American Commercial Truck & Trailer Outlook report features in-depth analysis of the Commercial Vehicle industry, including forecasts for Class 8 and medium-duty trucks as well as semitrailers. The analysis includes FTR's "Economically Derived Demand" analysis, which looks at underlying equipment demand based on economic and freight trends.

TruckingInfo.com, 6/30/2009

 
U.S. diesel prices dip slightly
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 00:00

After seven straight weeks of increases, average U.S. diesel prices reversed course this week, dipping less than a penny to $2.608 a gallon. Over the previous seven weeks, the price had increased more than 43 cents, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The average price of a gallon of diesel is $2.037 less than a year ago when prices jumped to close to $5 a gallon.

Price dips of less than 1 cent were reported in almost all regions tracked by DOE except for the Rocky Mountains, where week-over-week prices gained 1.7 cents to $2.631. The other exception was in the Gulf Coast, where the price dropped 1.4 cents. The least expensive region is the Midwest at $2.569, and the most costly is California at $2.785.

eTrucker.com, 6/30/2009

 
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