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Trucking Alliance 2019 priorities include zero deaths, expansion of ELDs

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WASHINGTON — Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, and president of the Trucking Alliance board of directors Wednesday reaffirmed the organization’s priority objectives for 2019.

The alliance is a coalition of transportation carriers, logistics and supporting businesses solely focused on reforms to improve the safety and security of commercial drivers and to eliminate large truck fatal crashes.

Member carriers include Cargo Transporters, Dupré Logistics, J.B. Hunt Transport, KLLM Transport Services, Knight- Swift Transportation, Maverick USA and US Xpress.

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CAPTION FOR PHOTO

Courtesy: THE TRUCKING ALLIANCE

Steve Williams, president of the Trucking Alliance, said the trucking industry has too many large truck crashes that in the last reportable year killed 4,761 people and injured another 145,000 on our roadways. The number of truck drivers who lost their lives was the highest in 10 years, he said.

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“The U.S. trucking industry is indispensable to our economy and the standard of living we enjoy as Americans,” Williams said. “Yet, tragically, our industry has too many large truck crashes that in the last reportable year killed 4,761 people and injured another 145,000 on our roadways. The number of truck drivers who lost their lives was the highest in 10 years. For an industry that wants to improve its image, look no further than these statistics. We must aggressively address these tragic figures. But how can we when the trucking industry will deliver even more freight in 2019 over highways that are even more congested?”

A first step is to reverse priorities, Williams said.

“We must support progressive safety reforms that make sense for our country and citizens first, our industry second, and our companies third,” he said. “Second, safety groups, legislators, regulators and all segments of our diverse industry should leave their respective corners, meet in the middle, and responsibly deal with the unprecedented challenges we face.”

Williams pointed to the amount of return the American consumer has received with respect to what he or she pays to deliver goods.

“I am very proud of the millions of hardworking commercial truck drivers who make that happen,” he said. “But we must adopt initiatives to improve the truck driver’s lifestyle. We must eliminate the chance that truck drivers and their exemplary work ethic will be used against them. For example, truck drivers shouldn’t carry the burden to make up for an inefficient supply chain. Too often, giving truck drivers more ‘flexibility’ in their work day is simply code for ‘just get it there.’”

The Trucking Alliance wants to see an expansion of electronic logging devices.

“In the year since the ELD mandate finally took effect, the devices are already improving a truck driver’s work environment,” Williams said. “ELDs are making the supply chain more efficient. Most importantly, ELDs can help reverse the disturbing trend of large truck fatalities and save lives.

The alliance believes ELDs should be required in all large trucks, regardless of commodity, length of haul or whether they operate in interstate or intrastate commerce. Anything short of mandatory use of ELDs is purely political, unfair and frankly, unsafe.

Another area that needs improvement is drug testing, Williams said.

“Contrary to what you may think, like our nation, our industry has a drug abuse problem. In fact, the Department of Transportation’s only required drug test for truck driver applicants is actually missing as many as nine of every 10 lifestyle drug users,” Williams said. “We should utilize drug tests that verify an applicant has been drug free for at least 60 days. And we need a long awaited database to identify who has previously failed these drug tests. We must be able to assure the motoring public that our commercial drivers are properly rested, properly trained and drug and alcohol free.”
The Trucking Alliance has long advocated hair testing as a way to weed out prospective drivers and current drivers with a substance abuse problem.

Williams said the Trucking Alliance still wants to limit the speed of trucks.

“Excessive truck speeds increase fatalities and the severity of injuries in large truck accidents,” he said. “That’s why we must require large trucks to maintain reasonable speeds on all highways.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on speed limits for heavy trucks, but that work fell victim to President Donald J. Trump’s executive order to cut down on federal regulations.

Other priorities include:

  • Adoption of truck safety technologies. “Forward collision warning systems are available on new trucks now,” Williams said. “These systems can assist our drivers to avoid accidents, which is especially critical since distracted driving is so prevalent among the motoring public.”
  • Compensation for truck accident victims. “We must meet our promise to the victims of large truck accidents,” Williams said. “In 1980, Congress rightfully decided that a ‘commercial’ motor carrier has a moral and ethical responsibility to compensate the victims of large truck crashes. Congress set the minimum motor carrier insurance limits almost 40 years ago. But those insurance limits remain the same today and they should be dramatically increased.”
  • Elimination of all large truck fatalities. “In summary, owning a trucking company or driving a piece of equipment for a living is not an entitlement. It is a privilege. With privileges come responsibilities. What we do is important. But how we do it is much more important. No longer should anybody defend the actions of those who don’t deserve to be on the road,” Williams said. “That’s why it should be difficult for people to get into this industry. It will be increasingly hard to stay in this industry, as it should be. In so doing, we will have much safer highways for all and an economic opportunity to build a safe and efficient supply chain for the future.”

Williams said the Trucking Alliance would continue to work with stakeholders who believe that the nation can fully eliminate large truck fatalities.

“Our goal should be to achieve safety performance levels that are comparable with the U.S. airline industry,” Williams said. “Achieving that objective will require changes, and change is difficult. But let’s stop reminiscing about the way things used to be in trucking. Because, frankly, it hasn’t always been good. We have an opportunity to create a new paradigm. We must continue to build sustainable companies that can safely serve our Nation. By embracing the changes that are required of all of us…we will finally get the chance to properly compensate, respect and defend the work ethic of the American truck driver.”

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The Nation

ATA hints it may sue Virginia over proposal to toll Interstate 81

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The proposed toll legislation for Interstate 81 would charge commercial trucks at 17 cents per mile, personal vehicles at about 11 cents per mile and offering an annual pass to commuters in passenger vehicles. (Courtesy: WIKIPEDIA)

RICHMOND, Va. — The American Trucking Association hinted Thursday it may sue the State of Virginia over legislation that proposes charging tolls on Interstate 81.

The ATA did so in a letter to Connecticut Gov. Ralph Northam opposing the legislation which Northam touts as the best way to fund improvements to the 325-mile interstate between Bristol and Winchester.

The bill proposes tolling commercial trucks at 17 cents per mile, personal vehicles at about 11 cents per mile and offering an annual pass to commuters in passenger vehicles.

The letter, signed by Jennifer Hall, the ATA’s general counsel and executive vice president, legal affairs, says that if adopted in their current form would not only be poor public policy, but would raise serious legal issues and may create an “impermissible burden” on interstate commerce.

The proposed plan has four options for tolling.

The ATA letter dealt with the option that would toll all vehicles with an annual pass available exclusively to automobiles.

“The car-only annual pass proposal is unlawful under the U.S. Constitution because it represents an impermissible burden on interstate commerce,” Hall wrote. “More specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court has explained that, under the Commerce Clause, a transportation user fee is permissible only “if it (1) is based on some fair approximation of use of the facilities, (2) is not excessive in relation to the benefits conferred, and (3) does not discriminate against interstate commerce.”

Plan’s car-only annual pass option would fail this test for a variety of reasons, the ATA said, noting:

  • User fees would bear no relationship to use of the tolled roads;
  • Tolls on commercial vehicles would be excessive in relation to the benefits conferred;
  • The plan favors noncommercial vehicles over commercial vehicles, which power interstate commerce.

The ATA said by allowing automobiles the opportunity to pay a one-time fee for unlimited travel over the course of the year, but to deny that flat-rate opportunity to trucks, means that the proposal is not “based on some fair approximation of use.”

On the contrary, for a passenger car availing itself of the annual pass option, its user fees will bear no relationship whatsoever to its use of the tolled roads. Trucks, by contrast, will have no choice but to pay on a trip-by-trip basis, the federation claimed.

Hall said the proposed toll scheme discriminates against interstate commerce by favoring noncommercial vehicles over commercial vehicles—i.e., the very vehicles by which interstate commerce moves.

“The Supreme Court has expressly held that highway user fees ‘discriminate against out-of-state vehicles’ when they predictably ‘subject them to a much higher charge per mile travelled in the state,’ and ‘do not even purport to approximate fairly the cost or value of the use of [the] roads,” the letter said. “That is precisely what the proposed toll scheme does, by allowing automobiles — and only automobiles — the option of an annual flat fee that translates to a predictably lower charge per mile the more such vehicles use the road.”

If the ATA files suit against the toll plan in Virginia, it would be the second lawsuit regarding tolls in the past six months.

“We encourage you and the Assembly to think carefully about these issues before Virginia takes any further steps in the direction it appears to be heading; and to bear in mind that the auto-only annual pass option will be vulnerable to a legal challenge if it moves forward,” Hall concluded letter.

If a lawsuit filed against the director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, ATA charges that the Rhode Island tolls violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by imposing “discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association recently filed a lawsuit against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Finance Authority, the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., and the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation challenging the increased tolls on heavy vehicles on the Indiana Toll Road. They were implemented last October.  8

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The Nation

Runaway ‘bobtail’ tractor crashes into Atlanta motel

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Police said this “bob-tail” tractor left the road, hit a parked car and ran into the side of a motel. (Atlanta Channel 2 Action News photo)

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Thursday that a driver is in custody after crashing a tractor-trailer into a motel in northwest Atlanta and running from the scene, officials said.

Atlanta Fire Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford told AJC.com that the truck went “partially” into the side of the Airway Motel in the 700 block of Fulton Industrial Boulevard on Thursday morning. There were no reports of injuries.

The “bobtail” tractor-trailer left the road, hit a parked limousine and went into the one-story building about 9:15 a.m., Atlanta police Officer Jarius Daugherty said.

The driver ran but was captured nearby, police said. His identity and the charges against him have not been released.

A woman was inside the motel room where the truck hit, but she was able to escape by climbing out of a back window, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“I just started crying and screaming,” the woman, Lashonda Allen, told the news station. “I was just praying to God the semi-truck didn’t catch on fire.”

Crews are checking the structural integrity of the building and investigating what sparked the crash.

By noon, the truck had been removed, and a gaping hole remained in the brick building.

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The Nation

Oops! New York state did not previously enforce ELD rule, now making up for lost time

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The ELD mandate was a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. The Trucker file photo.

ALBANY, N.Y. — There’s always a straggler in the bunch. Unknown to many, New York state has not previously been enforcing the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate because it never adopted the ELD rule under its state laws and thus lacked the authority to enforce it.

According to the Trucking Association of New York (TANY), the New York State DOT has now issued an emergency rulemaking and begun enforcement of the ELD mandate.

TANY added in a news release that they have been told carriers not in compliance with the ELD mandate will be placed out-of-service as early as Thursday, January 17.

The ELD rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect in December 2017 and state governments were to have followed suit by incorporating the federal ELD rule into their state laws.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has pursued lawsuits with certain states that have enforced the mandate while lacking a state-level law.

The ELD mandate has been unpopular among some truckers, who say it harms their schedules, take-home pay, and safety. Other truckers have said they like electronic logging once they get used to it.

When OOIDA sued New York, their complaint was dismissed — not because the New York court agreed with the state’s actions to enforce the federal law, but because New York wasn’t enforcing the law in the first place, according to Business Insider.

The snafu came to light in a State of New York Supreme Court ruling and opinion issued on December 31 by Judge Richard M. Platkin.

“Drivers are not being stopped, cited, or placed out-of-service pursuant to the ELD rule,” Platkin wrote.

Marc Berger, the chief motor-carrier investigator for New York’s Department of Transportation, said in the December 31 ruling that there are “no notices of violation or uniform traffic tickets being issued citing ELD provisions.”

The other defendants in the case — New York’s state police and the Department of Motor Vehicles — also stated that the ELD law hasn’t been enforced.

The ELD mandate electronically enforces the Hours of Service (HOS) law, which has been in effect since the federal government began regulating trucking in the 1930s. The HOS law stipulates that truckers can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, a provision that some truckers say doesn’t reflect the nature of their work.

New York state said in the ruling that it does in fact enforce the HOS, but that the law is more challenging to enforce if ELDs are used.

The ELD mandate came into effect by means of a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. FMCSA estimated in 2014 that ELDs could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year.

But some truckers maintain ELDs are doing the opposite, while truck lobbying groups say it’s really not ELDs drivers have a problem with, it’s the unbendable nature of the HOS, which need more flexibility.

“The electronic logs are supposed to make it safer, but really it has created a hazardous race to beat the clock,” career truck driver Steve Manley, 51, told Business Insider. “Drivers are now more reckless than ever trying to make it to their destination before the clock runs out with the mandatory breaks and such.”

A TANY news release said despite New York State not enforcing the ELD mandate, it did enforce HOS and that FMCSA roadside inspections and on-site audits enforced the ELD mandate.

“Due to this, TANY continued to advise members to be in compliance with the ELD mandate regardless of the situation with New York enforcement,” the association said.

 

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