Top 5 Stories of 2013

Another year has come and gone.  2013 was a year of many changes for the trucking industry,  and we have no doubt that 2014 will see a lot of changes as well.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest news makers of 2013.

5. Trucking Community Bans Together To Fight Overnight Parking Ban 

Two weeks ago, the Warner Robins City Council voted to ban truck parking. The ban prohibited trucks from parking on vacant lots, within city limits, for more than two hours.

The decision outraged many drivers, and they didn’t take it lying down.  More than 75 emails were sent to Brashear and 25 were sent to the town’s mayor Chuck Shaheen.

OOIDA also encouraged its members to join the fight.  ”If you live in, or drive through, Warner Robins and park your truck in the community south of Macon it’s imperative for you to voice your concerns about a plan to ban large trucks from parking overnight in vacant lots in city limits,” their Call to Action stated.

Although the city chose to adopt the ordinance and impose a ban, the battle was far from over.

CDLLife contributor and trucking blogger Wendy Parker, who grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia, was disappointed in the decision her hometown’s leaders made.  In an effort to sway their decision, Parker did what she does best — she wrote.  She wrote numerous emails and blog posts, encouraging the council members to recognize the symbiotic relationship cities and truck drivers share.

“The truckers need the cities as much as the cities need the truckers,” Parker said. “We have to find a relationship that everyone can be comfortable with.”

Parker sent a personal appeal to Mayor Shaheen, who promptly replied via phone.

“He also said he would like a month to review and plan for other alternatives, and that he was taking this on as a personal project. He is truly concerned about the parking issues, as well as the safety and welfare of the truckers.” Parker explained.

“Fifteen minutes later, he called back and said the city would proceed ‘very cautiously’ regarding the ban.”

Less than a week later, the Warner Robins City Council agreed to revisit the ordinance and to listen to drivers’ concerns.

Parker encouraged drivers to show up to the Monday night city council meeting.  She put out this message to drivers, “ATTENTION PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS: The Warner Robins City Council meeting on MARCH 4th, 2013 at 4pm needs you! The Mayor has asked for truckers to show up so you can speak to the council about the two hour parking ban – this is your chance to let city government hear your concerns and needs!! The meeting will be held at City Hall, 700 Watson Blvd. Warner Robins, GA.”

Drivers wrote emails and made calls.  All their hard work paid off.

On Monday, March 4, the Warner Robins City Council voted 5-0 to overturn the ban.  

“We said from the start we didn’t want to do anything to damage the working guy,” Councilman Mike Davis told Macon.com. “And that’s the way it kind of came out, that we were against truck drivers. And it’s nothing further from the truth.”

“We’ve decided that we’re going to let property owners be responsible for their property,” Davis continued. “If they have a problem with their property or if we have a problem with the property, we’re going to let the property owners go through means of taking care of the problem.”

4. Ray LaHood Out 

s he or isn’t he?  There has been much speculation about whether or nor LaHood would retain his post as the Secretary of Transportation or not.

Now it appears that LaHood is making it official– he plans to leave his post, but he will stay until his successor is named.

On January 9, 2103, Obama’s picks for second-term cabinet members were announced but LaHood’s name was noticeably missing from the list.

President Obama has been criticized for having a “white, male cabinet.”  While  LaHood has earned top marks from Obama for the work he’s done on MAP-21 and calling attention to distracted driving, some are speculating that LaHood’s ethnicity, gender and party affiliation– he’s the lone republican in the cabinet– may work against him.

Today, CNBC has reported that LaHood confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press that he is in fact on his way out but plans to retain his position until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Who might take his place? Sen. Dick Durbin, Bill Daley and  former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm have all been named as possible replacements.

What do you think about LaHood’s departure?

3. FMCSA Shuts Down Record Number of Carriers 

According to a press release from the FMCSA, in 2013, the FMCSA’s Quick Strike team placed 52 passenger carriers and 340 vehicles out of service.

The “intensified effort” was a part of the FMCSA’s Operation Quick Strike program, a 3-phase passenger carrier safety campaign to “raise the bar for safety in the motorcoach industry and to strengthen the agency’s oversight methods.”

The Quick Strike team is comprised of 50 “specially trained” FMCSA investigators.  The special team of investigators were out in full force from April through November to “conduct in-depth reviews into the patterns and practices of the 250 most at-risk motorcoach companies.”

According to the FMCSA:

  • 214 top-to-bottom compliance investigations were completed*;
  • 20 motorcoach companies were immediately shut down for violations and posing an imminent hazard to the public;
  • 32 companies were issued “Unsatisfactory” safety ratings and shut down after failing to remedy critical and acute violations;
  • 28 companies took corrective action to fix the safety violations investigators uncovered to avoid being shut down; and
  • 340 vehicles, of the more than 1,300 vehicles that were inspected during the investigations, were put out-of-service for safety and maintenance violations.

“Company-wide failures to adequately maintain their buses, inadequate drug and alcohol driver testing programs and widespread hours-of-service violations were among the reasons companies were shut down,” the FMCSA stated.

Additionally, Quick Strike investigators evaluated 1,300 carriers that had “minimal inspection history or data with the agency.” As a result of the investigations, 240 carriers were targeted for more in-depth investigations.

2.  Pilot Flying J Fuel Rebate Scheme Saga

Today, the FBI and members of the Knoxville Police Department raided the Pilot Flying J corporate campus in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The campus was placed on lock down while the FBI executed a search warrant.  The media were barred from entering the Pilot campus, but employees could be seen being escorted off the property by FBI agents.

The FBI is not releasing any details about what prompted the raid.

Pilot Flying J is remaining tight lipped, as well, but a Lauren Christ of Moxley  Carmichael public relations firm released this statement:

As of the afternoon of April 15, FBI officials have sequestered the Pilot Flying J headquarters on Lonas Drive in Knoxville.

At this time, we do not know the nature of the situation. Pilot Flying J is cooperating fully with the authorities.

Pilot Food Marts, Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J Travel Plazas remain open and continue to serve the public.

Pilot Flying J is confident that the matter will be resolved fully.

According to News Net 5, the Knoxville Police Department aided the FBI in the raid.

“All I can say is that the FBI asked us to have some officers assist them with a search warrant,” Police Chief David Rausch told News Net 5.

Rausch told the news station that he did not have advance warning about the location of the search or why it was being executed.

Pilot Flying J is listed as the 6th largest private corporation by Forbes and is the largest network of truck stops.

 

1.  New HOS regulations go into effect. 

The day many drivers have been dreading has come. Today, the FMCSA’s new HOS regulations went into effect. According to a press release from the FMCSA, the agency feels the new restrictions were “designed to improve safety for the motoring public by reducing truck driver fatigue.”

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.”

The rule was announced in December 2011 and carriers have had 18 months to prepare for the change, but many drivers still have questions.

The new rule will reduce the hours a driver works each week to 70 hours.  ”Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers. It is estimated that these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year,” the FMCSA stated.

“The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro

FMCSA‘s new hours-of-service final rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours;
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m., and;
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies whose drivers are found to be in violation of the new HOS requirements by three or more hours will face an $11,000 fine. Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense,  and the drivers themselves will face a fine of up to $2,750 for each offense.

In Summary:

  • Drivers must take a 30 minute rest break within the first 8 hours of coming on duty. If drivers take his rest break too early into their day, they may have to take second break.
  • It would be best for the driver to take this break about 6 to 7 hours into his or her day to prevent having to take the second break.
  • 34-Hour restart could result in some challenges that will impact operations.
  •  A driver utilizing the 34-hour restart must have two a.m. breaks from the hours of 1:00 a.m. though 5:00 a.m.
  • Only  restart  once a week or every 168 hours.

Out-of-service criteria

On June 27, 2013, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance issued a memo to its members clarifying how the out-of-service criteria would be impacted by the changes to the hours of service rules that take effect on July 1.

The memo confirms that drivers may be placed OOS for 60 or 70-hour violations when such violations result from a non-qualifying restart (e.g., did not include two nighttime periods from 1 – 5 a.m. or began within 168 hours of the beginning of the prior restart).

However, drivers will not be placed out-of-service when discovered to have violated the new 30-minute rest break requirement. Such violations may be noted on the roadside inspection report, but will not result in the driver being placed out-of-service. [Note: Although not a uniform approach, CVSA has indicated that drivers found in violation may be required by some States to cease operating and immediately take a 30 minute break. However, this scenario will not result in an official out-of-service order affecting the carrier’s safety records.]

Also, CVSA’s position on rest break violations is subject to change as the organization is due to revisit the issue at its upcoming Annual Conference in September.

Further information, including “Hours-of-Service Logbook Examples,” is available on FMCSA‘s web site atwww.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS.

 

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