House passes motor carrier legislation
On Oct. 14, 1999, the House of Representatives approved elevating the status of trucking issues inside DOT by creating its own modal administration to be named the National Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The legislation calls for increased federal funding to target high-risk trucking operators for additional inspections, compliance reviews and increased civil/criminal penalties. While the legislation calls for additional federal funding for state activities, it calls for states to do a better job of administering their CDL programs. All violations must now be reported regardless of the vehicle driven and states have only ten days to record a conviction on a driver's CDL.
The legislation contains several OOIDA-backed initiatives, including creating a national motor carrier advisory committee of trucking industry reps and others. The legislation also requires that the trucker's hotline be staffed around-the-clock by knowledgeable individuals so drivers can report being pressured to violate safety regulations. The legislation also provides for additional funding and enforcement on NAFTA-specific border issues. For the first time, DOT will take a comprehensive look at accident causation, looking at all factors in crashes including highways and non-commercial drivers.
Transportation committee Chairman Bud Shuster introduced a manager's amendment on the floor that was adopted. Shuster's amendment eliminates the Single State Registration (SSR) system as of Jan. 1, 2002, the requirement for state filings and process agents.
The manager's amendment furthered NAFTA enforcement by stipulating that a foreign carrier operating beyond the U.S.-Mexico border commercial zone would be subject to fines up to $25,000 and permanent disqualification from operating in the U.S.
The Shuster amendment also calls for a DOT study on the merits of requiring medical review officers to report all verified, positive drug tests to the state that issued the CDL. Those results would then become part of the CDL and carriers would be required to check those results before hiring any driver.
The amendment also stipulated that unauthorized motor carrier operations be placed out of service. Carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders can have their authorities revoked for failure to pay civil penalties.
An amendment was accepted from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) calling for a study to determine if black boxes could be helpful in investigating truck crashes. Lee said her study has the support of the American Trucking Associations.
Rep. Charles Gonzales (TX) introduced an amendment that would have turned the DOT trucker's hotline into a hotline to receive reports from motorists about trucks. Gonzales withdrew the amendment based on assurance that the change would be considered in conference committee.
Similar motor carrier legislation is pending floor debate in the Senate. OOIDA's comments to the Senate appear in full on the "Members Only" web site at www.ooida.com.
Authorities hunt for repair scam suspect
Police are investigating an alleged truck repair scam that may have bilked trucking companies out of as much as $200,000 to $1 million a year.
According to news sources, the scheme involved a caller who identified himself as Tim Lowry of Morris Truck Repair in Wadsworth, OH. The caller reported seeing one of their trucks broken down at the side of the road. The trucking company would then authorize a check through ComData to pay Lowry for repairs. Allegedly, Lowry would then skip town with the money.
Medina County Sheriff's detective Tadd Davis suspects the scam artist is James E. "Pops" Mathers, 63, of Akron, OH. Mathers was released in 1997 after serving 17 years in a Nevada prison for similar crimes. Mathers has been indicted in Medina County for multiple felony counts in three cases. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, he hasn't been arrested because the police can't find him.
Also indicted are three other men whom Davis refers to as "runners." Larry M. Crislip, Daniel DeVoe and David A. Meekins are all residents of Akron. Davis believes the men drive around Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in search of trucks, record all pertinent information and then call Mathers. Over a two-day period in August, the Sheriff said he observed the men while they noted 150 truck identifications and turned them into $1,300. Crislip and Meekins have both been arrested. DeVoe is being sought.
AVIEX announces scholarship winners
Meredith Bates of Norman, OK, has been awarded first place and $3,000 in the 1999 AVIEX College Scholarship contest. The contest is limited to the children of truckdrivers, requires that applicants write about his/her truck driving parent. Meredith is a senior studying microbiology and pre-medicine at the University of Oklahoma. She is the daughter of John Wayne and Linda Bates of Yukon, OK. John Wayne Bates drives for John Christner.
Second place and $1,500 went to Rebecca L. Kerr of San Marcos, TX. She is the daughter of Charles Kerr, who drives for Pacer. Third place and $500 goes to Kami Dawn Hill of Worland, WY. She is the daughter of Lawrence E. Hill, who drives for Rolling Hills Trucking. Special Recognition (and $300) goes to Natalie Meyersick of Lubbock, TX. Her father, David Meyersick, drives for Henderson Trucking.
Western Star teams up with Budweiser to promote NFL
Western Star Trucks has joined with Budweiser in sponsorship of the 1999 "Budweiser Big Rig" tour to promote continued growth of the NFL. The program features three decorated 1999 Western Star 4964EX Constellation tractors equipped with 53-foot trailer vans. The vans will convert into self-contained mobile barbecues, complete with 1,000 watts of audio/video capabilities, beer refrigerators and other entertainment options.
Western Star and Budweiser believe the promotion will increase interest in the NFL by reaching millions of fans through more than 250 local and regional events across Canada.
More than half of American drivers run red lights
Researchers at Old Dominion University have released a new study that claims virtually all American drivers agree that while running red lights is dangerous, more than half say they've done it. Chief researcher Bryan Porter says he expected to find frustration and road rage to be the primary causes of running red lights. Instead, only 15.8 percent of those surveyed said they did it because they were upset. Almost half, on the other hand, said they ran red lights because they were in a hurry.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, in 1998 there were more than a million crashes at traffic signals, 2,849 resulting in fatalities.
Truckdriving school gets hand slapped for blowin' smoke
New England Tractor Trailer Training School, with campuses in Rhode Island and Connecticut, has agreed to avoid making any future false claims about job placement of its trucking graduates. According to Bloomberg News reports, the school has promised the U.S. Federal Trade Commission it will change some advertising statements.
According to the FTC, those statements misrepresented the availability of jobs, the school's success in placing grads, the CDL test pass rate, the adequacy of training offered, and the school's admission policies.
The school did not admit to violating any laws and was not fined.
"It's looking as if the HOS proposal will be a government effort to mandate social issues (home time for drivers) rather than hours that will reflect what a driver could safety work," says OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer. "And there is a strong likelihood that a requirement for on board recorders will be part of this DOT effort to socially engineer lifestyle issues for truckdrivers."
Spencer reports that, at a recent fatigue conference, safety activist Joan Claybrook publicly announced if the proposed HOS rule is delayed much longer, the agency should expect a lawsuit. "On the other hand," said Spencer, "if the agency comes out with proposed rules that will require a truckdriver to be shut down for 80 hours 100 miles from home, the agency should expect a lawsuit from OOIDA."
NTSB hearing addresses border concerns
Industry leaders gathered in Los Angeles on Oct. 21 to discuss safety concerns relating to Mexican trucks operating in the U. S.
National Transportation Safety Board officials heard from OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer, OMCHS's Paul Brennan, Raul Lopez of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and others.
On licensing issues, government officials for both countries say they are compatible, but many shortcomings still exist. At present, there isn't a meaningful way to verify if a CDL from Mexico is valid, because the clearinghouse set up to deal with the problem isn't up to speed yet. Counterfeit licenses are a real issue in Mexico. Government officials say border enforcement authorities are good at spotting counterfeit licenses because they see so many of them. "Once a Mexican truck goes beyond the border, the likelihood of spotting a counterfeit CDL is much less likely," said Spencer. "Insurance documents can also be easily fabricated, and an enforcement plan for cabotage (unauthorized point-to-point hauls within the U.S.) isn't even being considered," he added.
While Washington officials may point to the commercial zone requirement as a deterrent for unauthorized operations in the U.S., the facts indicate otherwise. Only California has a state law relating to commercial zones that they can enforce. "Given the volume of trucks entering California, meaningful enforcement still isn't possible," said Spencer. "In other border states, as long as they have the required permits, Mexican trucks can and do freely ignore commercial zone limitations."
A recent report by the DOT Inspector General documented Mexican trucks operating in 28 states beyond border states. Enforcement officers outside the border states have stopped some illegally-operating Mexican trucks more than once.