News
Short takes

Dick Larsen
Senior Editor

Florida investigating fuel prices: Florida’s attorney general has subpoenaed eight oil companies as a start to a formal antitrust investigation over rising fuel prices. On May 27, Attorney General Charlie Crist said he subpoenaed BP, Chevron-Texaco, Conoco-Phillips, Citgo, Exxon-Mobil, Marathon Ashland, Amerada Hess and Motiva Enterprises, a division of Shell Oil. Crist requested documentation on gasoline cost, production, inventory and pricing. The subpoenas also require the companies to provide the On-Highway Diesel Fuel Price Survey they file with the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

At last: new driver training: Beginning July 20, 2004, CMV employers must train entry-level drivers. Among the areas to be covered: hours-of-service rules, fatigue countermeasures, driver wellness and whistleblower protection. The rule applies to all drivers who began operating a commercial motor vehicle after July 20, 2003. Those who started driving between July 20, 2003, and Oct. 18, 2004, must have the required training no later than Oct. 18, 2004.

A refined debate: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee heard industry experts’ views last month on whether federal regulations contribute to the rise in crude oil prices. Industry and environmental and health panelists participated in the hearing. Petroleum industry representatives said environmental regulations had made it costlier to refine oil. Others countered that the health and environmental benefits outweighed the industry’s costs to produce cleaner-burning fuels. Regardless of the causes, all agreed that a reduction in the number of domestic refineries had resulted in a diminished fuel supply.

It’s my monopoly: XM Radio reports that the National Association of Broadcasters, a group that represents the large radio and television owners, is using its lobbyists, campaign contributions and political influence to stifle competition and stop XM Satellite Radio and Sirius from offering traffic and weather information and other local services to listeners. XM says NAB is trying to limit XM’s First Amendment rights. Visit http://grassroots.xmradio.com to learn more. This site also features an e-mail form that can be used to voice your opinion to the FCC.

Some idle talk: U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX, has introduced legislation to provide a federal tax credit of up to $3,500 per truck for purchasing idling-reduction devices. The “Idling Reduction Tax Credit Act of 2004” (HR 4209) would create a credit that pays for about half the cost of a qualifying device. The measure, which has no co-sponsors, has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Prices beyond the pond: Think fuel prices are high? Drivers in Britain would welcome gas at $2 a gallon. They’re paying up to $7.93 a gallon. A trucking trade group blames British taxes for the high prices. Britain’s fuel taxes account for nearly three-quarters of the cost of fuel.

AASHTO — six-year highway bill a must: The AASHTO Board of Directors wants Congress to enact a six-year highway and transit reauthorization legislation funded at the $318 billion level passed by the Senate. AASHTO Vice President Bryan Nicol, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, said “We need to send a message that a six-year bill ought to pass, it ought to be well-funded … we need to say it and say it again. Very clearly, we need a well-funded six-year bill in order to get our jobs done.”

Phony claims: Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe’s office has issued a press release regarding phony claims about fuel-saving devices. In reality, EPA tests have not found any product that significantly improves fuel mileage; most consumer testimonials about saving mpg do not reflect the results of bona fide tests, as few consumers have the ability to test for precise changes in fuel mileage; and there is no government agency that endorses fuel-saving products. This report was not aimed at truckers, but these warnings may be useful for truck drivers, too.

Police overkill: A Chinese farmer may have something in common with most American truck drivers — a guarded attitude toward the police. Seems a squad car siren scared 435 of the farmer’s chickens to death. The siren, which was being repaired, went off near the chickens. Thirty-five died on the spot and another 400 died later of shock, according to the Procuratorate Daily newspaper. A court said the police should pay the farmer for 35 of the birds, but said it couldn’t prove responsibility for the other deaths.

A complicated web: At times, high-tech gizmos run into Mother Nature. Case in point: An expensive fog warning system in Germany at times kicks in when the sun is shining. That’s because spiders spin their webs on automatic sensors that trigger the highway signs. Truckers and motorists have reportedly been puzzled by road signs flashing in bright sunlight. A police spokesman said, “We do not have a solution, but we cannot keep sending police officers to remove the webs — the system may have to be scrapped.”

Dick Larsen can be reached at dick_larsen@landlinemag.com.

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