Bigger Trucks? Bigger Danger.

Highway fatalities are climbing and the nation’s roads and bridges are deteriorating at a fast pace; nonetheless the trucking industry is again asking Congress to permit a new generation of heavier trucks. The higher weight limit is supported in part by the trucking industry and by shippers who would benefit from moving heavier loads.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2015,” 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, an eight-percent increase from 2014.

Truck driver fatigue, speeding, and the difficulty of stopping a heavy vehicle all contribute to the disproportionate involvement of trucks in crashes. Many fatal truck crashes involve rear-end collisions. These crashes are usually caused when trucks come up on stalled vehicles.

Congress previously rejected the request to allow larger trucks on the road, in 2015 defeating an amendment to permit trucks as heavy at 91,000 pounds on interstate highways, up from the 80,000-pound limit that has been in effect since 1982. At 80,000 pounds, trucks are already 20 to 30 times heavier than most cars, and take 20 percent to 40 percent farther to stop. The stopping distance required for a truck loaded with 91,000 pounds of freight is substantially longer. Big rigs carrying loads close to the current Federal Limit (65,000 to 80,000 lbs.) are already twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as trucks carrying less than 50,000 lbs.

Proponents of heavier trucks argue that higher weight limits will mean fewer trucks on the road. Nonetheless, prior increases in truck capacity limits in the past led to more freight diversion to trucking from competing modes. So, heavier trucks may lead to more trucks on the road, not fewer. The impact on safety as well as infrastructure would be significant.

Bigger trucks mean more serious crashes. We have written many articles discussing the various crash dangers tractor trailers pose.

The FMCSA has advocated for several safety proposals in an effort to lower truck crash rates, including electronic log devices and speed limiters.

Commercial truck drivers are required to log their driving – and resting – hours in logbooks to comply with the FMCSA’s regulations governing the consecutive hours truckers can operate their vehicles before resting. However, it is easy for truck drivers falsify information in their reports, thereby skirting FMCSA rules.

In an effort to prevent false reporting in log books, an FMCSA proposal would require all trucking companies to install electronic logging devices in all new vehicles by December 18, 2017. Although far from certain, the Trump administration has not yet determined to overrule the proposal.

The FMCSA’s speed limiter proposal is still in the discussion phase. Speed limiters prevent a vehicle from exceeding a preset speed limit, which the FMCSA asserts would lower the number of truck wrecks.

Before Congress considers any changes to truck size and weight regulations of trucks on the road, at the very least, installation of safety technologies should be required to protect truck drivers and fellow motorists – and the safety record of the trucking industry should greatly improve.

It is also important to note that any so-called  “states option” for heavier trucks – legislation to increase truck size and weight limits state-by-state rather than by federal law – is a back door attempt by trucking interests to come back to Congress later and push for heavier truck weights nationwide. The states option was tried in 1974. Eight years later, trucking interests returned to Congress and complained about the states that refused to allow 80,000 lbs. trucks on their roads. Preempting state laws, Congress increased weights to 80,000 lbs. in every state.

Crime report: Med examiner sentenced, another pleads guilty; Canadian fleet ordered to pay $350k in back wages

Action in four trucking-related crimes has recently been reported by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger and the Surrey Now-Leader, including cases of two Georgia medical examiners, a police chase involving a trucker and a Canadian fleet allegedly underpaying foreign workers.

Atlanta doctor sentenced for falsifying DOT medical exams

Dr. Anthony Lefteris was sentenced to six months of community confinement, 180 days of home confinement, three years of probation and 1,600 hours of community service for making false statements and submitting fraudulent data entries to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The OIG received allegations in 2016 that Lefteris has not complied with the DOT’s medical exam protocols for applications and renewals for CDLs. During the investigation, OIG was able to obtain fraudulent documents from Lefteris in exchange for cash payments. He also allegedly later made false statements regarding the completion of required medical exams to DOT.

South Ga. nurse practitioner pleads guilty to falsification of records

Tonya Yawn-Lewis, of Helena, Ga., pleaded guilty Sept. 21, to one count of falsification of records with intent to impede proper administration of DOT.

OIG says at the time of the offense, Yawn-Lewis was an approved medical examiner on FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

She allegedly routinely signed DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificates and Medical Examination Reports for CDL holders without actually examining the drivers.

Crime report: Fleet owners indicted for evading shutdown order, former DOT employee convicted of bank fraud, more

Action in four trucking-related crimes has recently been reported by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and NJ.com, including bank fraud, bribery, shutdown order …

Canadian fleet fined, ordered to pay back foreign workers

A trucking company in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, has been ordered to pay back $350,000 to foreign workers and fined $10,000 for allegedly underpaying 29 temporary workers, according to a report by the Surrey Now-Leader.

The report states Jatinder Kang of Harlens Trucking was also given a two-year suspended sentence with probation.

Harlens Trucking reportedly hired 30 temporary foreign workers through a government program between 2011 and 2014. Twenty-nine of the workers were reportedly underpaid for their work at the company with a net underpayment amount of $352,001.82.

Grain-hauling trucker leads police on chase

52-year-old truck driver Eddie Ray Dye, of Tallulah, La., has been charged with felony eluding in Mississippi and other charges in Louisiana after allegedly leading police on a chase after taking a grain-hauler from his employer, according to a report by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Police reportedly used a spike strip to flatten the tires. The report states Dye led officers down I-20 before leaving the interstate for local roads in and around Vicksburg, Miss.

Trump to Trucking: Tax Reform a Boon for Carriers, Drivers and Industry at Large

President Donald Trumplate Wednesday took to the trucking industry to stump for his plan to reform the U.S. tax system, telling a crowd made up of fleet managers and truck drivers that his tax reform framework would put more money in the pockets of U.S. workers and be a boon for the U.S. economy.

In the roughly 45-minute address, held at an airport in Harrisburg, Pa., Trump spoke gushingly about the trucking industry and drivers, specifically. “We love our truckers,” Trump said. “These great, great people are our heroes. Nothing gets done in America without the hard-working men and women in the trucking industry.”

The American Trucking Associations organized the event and said they support the White House’s plan to cut taxes, not only for individuals but for businesses, too.

“No one knows America better than America’s truckers,” Trump told the crowd. “Every single day from coast to coast and border to border — where we will have a wall by the way — you see the incredible beauty of [our country]. You see the enduring strength of the American spirit in those truckers.”

Behind Trump on the tarmac where he spoke was a tractor-trailer, the trailer of which sported the message “Win again” in large lettering, with smaller text reading “Lower taxes. Bigger paychecks. More jobs.”

Trump Delivering Message at Airport

A tractor-trailer touting Trump’s tax reform message was staged behind him during the 45-minute speech. The trailer reads “Win Again — Lower taxes. Bigger paychecks. More jobs.”

The president’s speech on tax reform stuck closely to that message. Trump promised to not only lower tax rates across the board, but to simplify the system, saying his plan would cut the number of brackets and allow “the majority of families to file on a single piece of paper.”

Lower tax rates, said Trump, would not only save U.S. workers and companies on their annual tax bills, but it would spur economic growth, he argued, which would bring “more freight to deliver and more contracts to sign.”

Trump called on Congress to take up his plan and pass the legislation necessary to enact it. The White House hasn’t unveiled a formal plan, but the framework for its reform push calls for cutting the number of tax brackets from eight to four — zero percent, 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. Trump also said he wants to cut corporate tax rates “from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent.”

He also said he wanted to do away with the estate tax assessed on the deceased and offer a one-time repatriation tax to try to “bring back trillions and trillions of dollars in wealth parked overseas.”

The plan would also allow companies to write off “100 percent of the cost of new equipment in the year you buy it,” Trump said. “That’s going to be big.”

During the address, Trump highlighted a few of the fleet representatives in attendance, including Kevin Burch, president of the roughly 220-truck Jet Express and chairman of the American Trucking Associations, and Calvin and Steve Ewell, a father and son team who run H.R. Ewell, a roughly 200-truck fleet.

Corporate tax cuts would help Burch’s Jet Express “invest in new equipment and additional training,” said Trump. “He wants to create more American jobs. We are helping him do exactly that.”

Ending the estate tax would ensure that the Ewells’ business stays in the family after Calvin’s death, said Trump. “Trucking runs in their blood,” said Trump. “And Calvin wants to pass [the company] on to his children just as it was passed to him by his father. We’re going to protect small business owners and families so they can run [them] with dedication and love.”

Lastly, Trump said he still hopes to see the passage of a major infrastructure funding package, promising “smooth, beautiful highways — no potholes,” he said. “It will be beautiful again.”

Fleet Involved in Deadly Human Smuggling Operation Issued Shutdown Order

Pyle Transportation, the trucking company that owned the trailer involved in the grisly human smuggling operation that left 10 people dead in San Antonio in July, has been effectively shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Schaller, Iowa-based company was placed indefinitely out-of-service Monday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration following a compliance review that found hours-of-service and driver fitness violations, FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne confirmed to CCJ Thursday. The company still has the right to appeal the order, DeBruyne added.

Attempts by CCJ to reach Pyle Transportation for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Pyle was previously operating under a “conditional” safety rating due to prior violations. After FMCSA conducted the compliance review, the company’s rating was downgraded to “unsatisfactory,” and Pyle was effectively shut down.

According to the company’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability Safety Measurement System public profile, FMCSA found in the compliance review the company had been making, or allowing drivers to make, false reports regarding duty status. In the last two months, the company had several hours-of-service violations including log book violations, drivers driving beyond the 11-hour driving limit and an out-of-service violation for a driver driving beyond the 14-hour on-duty window.

Trucker indicted for role in deadly smuggling operation, will not face death penalty

If convicted, Bradley faces life in prison on the conspiracy and transportation resulting in death charges; 20 years for the conspiracy and transportation resulting in …

FMCSA’s compliance review also found a violation in the “driver fitness” BASIC, in which the fleet knowingly allowed, required, permitted or authorized an employee to operate a truck when the driver had a disqualified CDL or had been disqualified from driving a truck. According to SMS data, a driver for the company was placed out of service on June 19 for driving while disqualified.

Owner-operator James Matthew Bradley has been indicted on seven charges related to the discovery of dozens of illegal immigrants in a scorching van trailer in San Antonio in July. A total of 39 undocumented aliens were trapped inside the trailer, and 10 of them were either dead when police found them or later died at a hospital.

Bradley told investigators he was taking the trailer to Brownsville, Texas, for Pyle Transportation to deliver it to someone who had bought it from the 19-truck fleet. The company has not been criminally charged in the smuggling case, but its involvement undoubtedly drew increased scrutiny of its safety record.

Additionally, Bradley had his Florida CDL revoked in April and was operating without a license when the smuggling operation was discovered.

Boyd Bros. raises company driver pay

Alabama-based flatbed carrier Boyd Bros. announced an increase in driver pay across the board for company drivers, effective Tuesday, Sept. 5.

All company drivers will receive an additional 4 cents per mile for all loads picked up on and after Tuesday. Additionally, all company drivers, as well as students who graduate from the Boyd Bros. training program will receive a $900 weekly pay guarantee.

“Our drivers make much more than $900 per week,” says Boyd Bros. CFO Dwight Bassett. “We just wanted to take away financial concerns so that drivers can focus on what they do best, drive. We are also eliminating the perceived risk that typically accompanies the start of a job with a new company.”

Fuel prices soar as result of Harvey

In the first full week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, diesel fuel prices skyrocketed in most regions of the U.S., especially in some major metro areas around the country.

Diesel prices increased by an average of 15.3 cents across the nation during the week to an average of $2.758 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.

The Lower Atlantic region saw prices jump 19.7 cents during the time period, which was the most significant increase in the U.S. This region includes Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The Gulf Coast region – consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas – saw the next highest increase of 18.7 cents during the week.

Dallas topped the list of cities that saw significant diesel price jumps. Its prices soared to $2.642 per gallon, a 30.7-cent increase over the previous week, according to ProMiles’ Chris Lee. Other cities that saw major impacts, per ProMiles’ numbers, include Charlotte, N.C., Kansas City, Mo., and Orlando, Fla.

The DOE’s weekly report shows California with the most expensive diesel in the U.S. by a large margin at $3.135 per gallon, followed by the West Coast less California at $2.931 per gallon.

The cheapest fuel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.615 per gallon, followed by the Midwest region at $2.707 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to the DOE, are:

  • Central Atlantic – $2.886
  • New England – $2.723
  • Lower Atlantic – $2.725
  • Rocky Mountain – $2.798

ProMiles’ numbers during the week had diesel prices increasing by 13.3 cents to $2.702 per gallon nationwide.

According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $3.104 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.581 per gallon.

ELD mandate delay under consideration in House this week

The U.S. House is slated to consider this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, an amendment to halt enforcement of the U.S. DOT’s electronic logging device mandate at least through September 2018.

The amendment, filed by a bipartisan group of five representatives, would be attached to a larger 2018 appropriations package. It would prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from “implementing, administering or enforcing” the ELD mandate through the 2018 fiscal year, according to the amendment’s language, and will be considered when the appropriations package comes to the floor for consideration.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) spearheaded the amendment’s potential inclusion in H.R. 3354, a bill that would fund government agencies through September 30, 2018. Babin introduced this summer a standalone bill in the House that would delay the ELD mandate’s enforcement date to December 2019, if passed and signed into law by President Trump.

State enforcers assert they can enforce ELD mandate, deny OOIDA’s claims

Questions are being raised by state officials about the validity of a recent legal petition filed by OOIDA. The state enforcers claim that OOIDA is incorrect in …

However, the amendment offered by Babin and the four other House lawmakers only suspends ELD enforcement through the duration of H.R. 3354.

For the amendment to be enacted, it must be successfully added to the House’s appropriations package. The full House must then pass the bill. The same language must also be passed by the Senate, then signed into law by President Trump. The Senate has not yet resumed work on its appropriations bills for the 2018 fiscal year.

Current government funding expires Sept. 30, but lawmakers are on a tighter deadline to clear a 2018 appropriations package — or a short-term stopgap — than may be obvious. Congress is in session this week and next but goes into recess for a week before returning the last week of September. That gives members just 12 in-session days to ward off a government shutdown. An amendment to delay the ELD mandate could be added to a short-term spending measure or a longer-term spending bill, should Congress be able to pass such a bill on its short timeline.

Inspectors Issued Nearly 15,000 Out-of-Service orders in June Roadcheck

North American truck and bus inspectors placed more than 12,000 vehicles out-of-service during their 72-hour Roadcheck enforcement blitz held June 6-8. Another nearly 3,000 drivers were placed out-of-service during the week-long event.

Enforcers in sum conducted 62,013 inspections. Of those, 19.4 percent (12,030) resulted in a vehicle out-of-service order, and 4.7 percent (2,940) resulted in a driver out-of-service order.

The top three out-of-service vehicle violations were for brake systems (26.9 percent of vehicle out-of-service violations), cargo securement (15.7 percent) and tires/wheels (15.1 percent).

The top three driver-related violations were for hours of service (32.3 percent of driver out-of-service violations), wrong class license (14.9 percent) and false log book (11.3 percent).

In last year’s Roadcheck, inspectors performed more inspections, but placed fewer trucks and drivers out of service.

Maverick Transportation offering $5,000 sign-on bonus to experienced drivers

Little Rock, Arkansas-based Maverick Transportation (No. 76 on the CCJ Top 250) has announced a new $5,000 sign-on bonus for experienced drivers.

To receive the sign-on bonus, drivers must have at least one year of verifiable over-the-road experience. It’s applicable to driving jobs in all divisions.

The sign-on bonus is paid out in $1,000 increments. The first payment will be paid after the first load is delivered, and subsequent payments will be made at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and 120 days after emptying the first load.

“By providing drivers new to Maverick with a generous sign-on bonus, we’re able to help make their job change an easier and more profitable one,” said Kimberly Williams Gary, executive vice president.

Founded in 1980, Maverick has over 1,600 units providing OTR and dedicated service to the flatbed, glass, and temperature controlled markets throughout North America.