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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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More commercial drivers used safety belts in 2009
Monday, 22 March 2010 00:00

New data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show 74 percent of commercial truck and bus drivers now are using their safety belts. Only 65 percent of drivers were using safety belts in 2007.

“Safety belts save lives,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We applaud those who are buckling up, but we won’t rest until every commercial driver is using a safety belt.”

“Driving a 40-ton truck or a bus full of people is a big responsibility,” says FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Drivers owe it to themselves and others to wear a safety belt every time they get behind the wheel.”

A total of 20,818 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses were observed at 827 roadside sites nationwide for the survey. Key findings include:

  • Safety belt use for both commercial drivers and their occupants was higher at 78 percent in states where law enforcement may stop drivers for not wearing a safety belt, versus 67 percent in states with weaker belt use laws;
  • Commercial drivers for regional or national fleets showed higher safety belt use at 78 percent, versus 64 percent for independent owner-operators; and
  • Safety belt use rates for commercial drivers and their occupants were highest at 79 percent in the West, compared with 75 percent in the South, 68 percent in the Midwest and 64 percent in the Northeast.

The executive summary for the Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey and other safety belt educational materials can be found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetybelt.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 3/22/2010

 
White House clears EOBR rule
Monday, 22 March 2010 00:00

A final rule mandating electronic onboard recorders for carriers that have a history of serious noncompliance with hours-of-service rules could be just days away now that the White House Office of Management and Budget has cleared the measure. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected soon to publish the rule in the Federal Register. Details of the final rule won’t be public until FMCSA announces it. According to OMB’s website, the White House insisted on at least some changes to the rule that was submitted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As proposed in January 2007, the regulation also would incorporate new performance standards for EOBRs installed in commercial motor vehicles manufactured two years after the rule’s effective date. Onboard HOS recording devices meeting FMCSA’s current requirements and voluntarily installed in CMVs manufactured before that date could continue to be used for the remainder of the service life of those CMVs. FMCSA had proposed to encourage industrywide use of EOBRs by providing certain relief from audit and recordkeeping practices.

FMCSA completed work on the rule during the Bush administration, but the White House failed to clear it before President Obama was inaugurated. A government wide review of pending rulemakings delayed the regulation, but DOT sent a final rule to the White House in December.

The EOBR issue isn’t settled once FMCSA publishes this rule, however. The agency has said it will consider further expanding the number of motor carriers required to install EOBRs as part of a rulemaking that also will address supporting documents for HOS compliance. FMCSA says it will consider reducing or eliminating paperwork burdens associated with supporting documents in favor of expanded EOBR use.

According to a monthly DOT report, FMCSA now plans to complete work on the EOBR/supporting documents proposal in July with publication in December. Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations has sued FMCSA to move forward with a supporting documents rule. One of the major concerns is the agency’s decision in December 2008 to begin using satellite positioning data routinely in audits of driver logs. ATA argues that motor carriers’ obligations for maintaining supporting documents should be clear and established by regulation.

Regulatory action on EOBRs comes as safety advocates and many in Congress are calling on mandatory EOBRs industry wide. For example, Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, proposed a highway authorization bill last year that would mandate use of EOBRs in all CMVs subject to HOS rules.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 3/22/2010

 
Industry Hails UCR Board Vote to Delay Collection of 2010 Fees
Monday, 22 March 2010 00:00

Industry groups and some state governments hailed the decision blocking all states from collecting Unified Carrier Registration fees until the federal government sets fee levels for 2010, but other states said the move could hamstring their safety programs.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration earlier this month said that states could begin collecting 2010 fees based on 2009 levels, because the assessment for this year has not been set.

But the board that oversees the UCR program approved a resolution March 11 that said “states are prohibited from assessing and collecting fees for the 2010 UCR registration year until FMCSA publishes the fee structure in a final rule for 2010 or until further direction from the board.”

“I think it’s positive,” said Bob Pitcher, vice president of state laws for American Trucking Associations. If the UCR board hadn’t taken “strong” action or had encouraged states to make two collections for 2010, “the program would tend to dissolve into chaos,” he said.

The board did not set penalties for states that do move ahead to collect the fees. Avelino Gutierrez, board chairman and staff counsel for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, said that the board doesn’t “want to threaten states at this point.”

“I think its best if we tell them what the policy of the board is, and make it in the strongest terms possible,” Gutierrez said.

He said that he believed the board had “superintending authority” over the UCR program and subsequently “has the authority to impose limitations on when the program begins in any registration year.”

Earlier this month, FMCSA said that while the White House is reviewing 2010 fees, states may collect fees at the 2009 level if they take trailers out of their fleet-size calculations.

Bill Leonard, director of motor compliance for the New York Department of Transportation, said that if states collected the 2009 fees, they would have to make a second 2010 collection later. “We anticipate that we could collect somewhere around $40 million to $45 million,” but would need to issue a second round of bills after the final rule is issued to make up the difference between the old fees and the new ones.

UCR is intended to collect about $100 million for states to use for safety enforcement.

UCR collects flat fees from fleets based on their fleet size. Last year, FMCSA proposed doubling those fees in 2010 to account for a legislative change removing trailers from determining the fleet size count, and for what it said was chronic under-collection of fees.

Frank Laqua, a member of the UCR board and administrator of motor carrier services for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said he thought it would be “a bad precedent to go back to our carriers twice for 2010 fees and then hit them with 2011 shortly after that, and I just think that would be very confusing to the carriers.”

Leonard of New York said he could “envision . . . sending three billings to the industry three months apart, and I think that would be very confusing and onerous to the industry to hear from us so quickly.”

But by delaying collections until FMCSA sets the 2010 level, the UCR board was “limiting state options and potentially placing a large number of people at safety risk for the states that use that money to fund their safety programs,” said Alan Martin, deputy director of transportation at Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“I think we’ve already caused a great deal of confusion in the industry,” Martin said. “We’ve had to return a large number of application forms and checks from small carriers that have no idea what’s going on right now and they’re used to a system where they are supposed to have renewed by Dec. 31.”

Forty-one states participate in UCR, with many using the funds for commercial vehicle safety programs.

Tim Davis with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities said the decision is “basically going to put some safety programs out of business by allowing [the collection of fees] to wait until a final rule is made.”

In arguing for the dual collections, Davis said Massachusetts would “take half a loaf in this instead of nothing.”

FMCSA spokeswoman Candice Tolliver said in a statement that the agency’s guidance allowing the collection of 2010 fees “provides our state partners with the option of collecting fees that help to fund critical motor carrier safety and enforcement programs while a new UCR final rule is being developed.”

That final rule is expected to be under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget until later this summer, Pitcher said.

Tolliver said the agency “expects to issue a final rule this year,” and a monthly DOT report on rules shows the target publication date for the rule is June 18.

Pitcher cautioned that it could take longer than that.

Transport Topics, 3/22/2010

 
Fuel Prices Increase Again
Monday, 22 March 2010 00:00

The average per-gallon prices of both gasoline and diesel fuel increased for the fifth straight week last week to levels not seen since 2008.

The price of a gallon of gas increased 3.1 cents to $2.819 per gallon for the week ending March 19, the Department of Energy said Monday. That’s the highest price since Oct. 20, 2008, when it hit $2.914 per gallon.

Gas has risen 21.1 cents in the past five weeks, following a 14.3-cent decline in the previous five weeks.

Meanwhile, DOE reported that diesel’s national average price rose 2.2 cents to $2.946, a 16-month high and the fifth consecutive weekly increase.

Diesel has jumped 19.8 cents in the past five weeks, after falling 12.3 cents in the previous five, DOE said following its weekly survey of filling stations.

Light & Medium Truck, 3/22/2010

 
NAFTA Trade Dropped 23 Percent in 2009
Thursday, 18 March 2010 00:00
Steepest dive ever brought trade using surface transportation below 2005 level

Surface trade with Canada and Mexico in 2009 took the steepest dive in the 15 year history of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its NAFTA partners fell 23.3 percent in 2009 compared with 2008, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday.

At $637 billion, combined imports and exports fell 8.8 percent below the level reached in 2005, BTS said.

NAFTA surface trade increased in every prior year except 2001 and 2002, when it declined 4.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

As the recession took hold, the value of trade by surface transportation with Canada and Mexico decreased by 31.1 percent during the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. As recovery began, surface trade decreased by 14.9 percent in the final six months of the year. After 14 consecutive months of decline, surface trade increased by 10.5 percent in December compared to December 2008, in which trade fell 13.1 percent compared to a year earlier.

Total North American surface transportation imports decreased by 26.5 percent in 2009 from 2008, and exports decreased by 19.2 percent during the same period.

In 2009, 86.6 percent of U.S. merchandise trade by value with Canada and Mexico moved on land.

U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $386 billion in 2009, a decrease of 28.1 percent compared to 2008. The value of imports carried by truck was 25.7 percent lower in 2009 than 2008 while the value of exports carried by truck was 20.2 percent lower.

U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $251 billion in 2009, a decrease of 14.4 percent compared to 2008. The value of imports carried by truck was 12.2 percent lower in 2009 than in 2008 while the value of exports carried by truck was 10.8 percent lower.

Journal of Commerce Online, 3/18/2010

 
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