Executives Say HOS Cut Adds Costs, Aggravates Shortage of Drivers

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By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

WASHINGTON — A federal move to cut truck drivers’ working hours would be very costly and exacerbate a shortage of drivers, while putting more trucks on the road, a panel of industry executives told Congress last week.

Ed Nagle, CEO of Nagle Cos., a Toledo, Ohio-based refrigerated carrier, said two provisions of the proposed hours-of-service rule — one that calls for cutting driver hours to 10 from 11 and another modifying the 34-hour restart provision — would cut his company’s ability to generate revenues by 17%.

“For every truck, we need to generate $4,500 per week plus fuel to meet fixed overhead,” Nagle told members of the House government reform committee’s regulatory subcommittee on Nov. 30. “The cost per truck is $75 per hour currently. With the proposed change to 50 hours a week, our fixed cost becomes $90 per hour, with nothing more than the stroke of a pen.”

Glen Keysaw, executive director of transportation and logistics for Associated Food Stores Inc., Salt Lake City, said his company would pay 3% more for shipping if the hours proposal becomes final. That would trigger higher food prices for customers, he said.

Jesse David, senior vice president at Edgeworth Economics, Washington, told the committee that while the hours rule would likely reduce truck-related fatalities, it also would be costly.

The hours proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration leans toward cutting driving hours to 10 and modifying the 34-hour restart by requiring it to include two rest periods of at least six hours and mandating that they fall between midnight and 6 a.m. (1-3, p. 1).

The agency said it plans to announce its final hours rule by the end of the year.

Anne Ferro, FMCSA administrator, told the committee that reducing hours would cut fatigue-related crashes and that preliminary truck-involved fatality numbers show an uptick in 2010, “approaching 4,000.” Roughly 500 of those fatalities, or about 13%, were related to a fatigued driver, Ferro said.

Ferro said the agency estimates that the proposed 10-hour maximum would save 49 lives annually.

“Crash rates still remain at historic lows, which is a tremendous outcome — but not even close to being low enough,” Ferro said.

David Osiecki, American Trucking Associations senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, declined comment on the new estimate of fatalities involving trucks, saying it was not final number.

“Fatigue is an issue,” Osiecki told Transport Topics. “But the size of the issue is not nearly what the government is saying.”

Truck driver fatigue is a complex issue and requires “far smarter solutions” than revising the hours rule, Osiecki said.

There were 3,380 truck-involved fatalities in 2009, according to FMCSA’s final statistical report. Fatal truck crashes have declined by more than 30% since 2007, Ferro said.

The 2010 preliminary truck fatality data cited by Ferro comes from FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System, which is fed by state law enforcement agencies, an FMCSA spokeswoman said.

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“The initial 2010 data on fatal truck crashes indicate that the downward trend reversed in the second half of the year as the economy improved,” Ferro told the subcommittee. “Recent crash reports provide a painful reminder of the need to continue doing everything we can to improve truck safety.”

However, several Republican members of the committee questioned the validity of a new rule, when truck-related fatalities were at historic lows and the economy was still in a fragile state.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” said subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan accused federal regulators of “playing games with numbers” and using “fuzzy math” to bolster their case for toughening the hours rule.

A safety advocate on the witness panel testified that, while cost is a consideration, fatigue is a major factor in truck crashes and that the proposed rule would save lives.

“Despite the decline in recent years, large truck fatalities still took a toll of 3,380 lives and caused 73,000 injuries in 2009,” Henry Jasny, vice president and general counsel of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the subcommittee.

Ferro also testified that in opposing changes to the current HOS regulations, the motor carrier industry has assumed that fatigue-related crashes, the target of the hours rule, have declined sharply, along with crashes as a whole.

“Many commercial drivers are still not getting enough rest and breaks under the current rule,” she said.

In a related development, FMCSA said last week it expects to complete work on the final HOS rule, which is currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, within 30 days.

At a news conference by rule supporters before the hearing, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), ranking member on the subcommittee and the son of a truck driver, said regulators and members of Congress should not worry about how much the rule will cost the industry.

This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

The fitness U-turn - Werner Enterprises

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Werner Fitness CardBy Erin Golden
Contact the writer: 402-444-1543
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Crete Carrier Corp. wants to know how well its drivers are sleeping.

The Lincoln-based parent company of three trucking operations — Crete Carrier, Shaffer Trucking and Hunt Transportation — is one of the transportation firms doing more to ensure that its drivers are healthy and alert when they hit the highway. That means providing information about wellness, both online and at terminals around the country, along with offering blood pressure and heart rate testing.

But it also means offering drivers an in-depth checkup that can determine if they have sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that can increase the risk of a variety of health problems — and the risk of driving accidents.

The company put sleep study clinics in terminals in Utah, Texas and Pennsylania in mid-2009. Tim Aschoff, Crete's vice president of risk management, said it was an important investment because drivers' lifestyles make it more likely that they'll develop the problem. But at the same time, he said, being on the road means it can be nearly impossible to get the right kind of screening.

Werner Fitness CenterWhen Crete's approximately 5,000 drivers get regular health assessments, they're also screened for sleep apnea risk and referred to the company's sleep clinics.

"Our goal is to have the best driving force out there, and once you obtain those good drivers, you want to maintain them and make sure they're safe and healthy," Aschoff said.

At trucking giant Werner Enterprises, employees who work at — or pass by — the company's Sarpy County headquarters can take laps around an outdoor track, start a pickup game on the basketball or volleyball courts, or work out in the gym. In the company cafeteria, workers can carry a "healthy eating" punch card for leaner meal options. Once they've accumulated 10 punches, they can select a free healthy item off the menu.

Werner hopes to build similar facilities in some of its larger terminals in other cities. But in the meantime, the most direct route to reach many of the company's more than 12,000 employees... Continue reading.


Call for Nominations for the PTDI Lee Crittenden Award

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Due by Jan. 5, 2012

It is once again time for nominating a recipient for the annual PTDI Lee Crittenden Award, given in  honor of Lee Crittenden who helped found PTDI (formerly PTDIA) and was a staunch supporter of PTDI until his death in 1998. This award is given to an individual who exemplifies the overall mission of PTDI.  The award, sponsored by Delmar, Cengage Learning, will be given during the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Annual Convention in March 2012, in order to better publicize the recipient.

The prior recipients of the Award are as follows:

  • 1999Herb Schmidt, Contract Freighters, Inc.
  • 2000Wade Murphree, American Institute of Technology
  • 2001Harold Haase, Career Publishing
  • 2002Virginia DeRoze, Truckload Carriers Association and former PTDI Program Manager
  • 2003Mike McCombs, Great West Casualty
  • 2004Harry Kowalchyk, National Tractor Trailer School
  • 2005Herb Fotheringham, PTDI Certification Specialist
  • 2006Lana Batts, Transport Capital Partners & formerly president of PTDI
  • 2007Robert McClanahan, Central Tech
  • 2008 – Ray Haight, MacKinnon Transport
  • 2009Don Hess, John Wood Community College & Ed Kynaston, Retired (1st president of PTDIA)
  • 2010 – Mark Johnson, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • 2011 – Carl Spatocco, Education Affiliates/All-State Career School
The list of recipients with summary rationale for their selection is attached.

Please submit your nomination for this award, along with the reason that the person exemplifies the overall PTDI mission, no later than COB Wednesday, January 5, 2012.  All nominations received by that date will be sent to the PTDI Board of Directors for voting.

All nominations should be submitted  vie email, fax or mailing address shown below.

Marlene Dakita
Certification Coordinator
Professional Truck Driver Institute
555 E. Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314
703-647-7015; fax 703-836-6610
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

America Needs More Drivers - Werner Enterprises

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drivers in needBy BeckyOrr
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Becoming a trucker is a good career choice now, given the national shortage and growth potential of the industry.

CHEYENNE -- Cody Sturgis climbed in behind the wheel of the white Freightliner parked at the trucking school's training lot.

He started the rig, shifted gears and drove ahead at about 3 mph.

"It's kind of scary at first," said Sturgis, recalling his initial attempt.

He backed up and pulled forward. "It was a great achievement," he said.

Sturgis, 25, just started classes at Sage Truck Driving Schools on Fox Farm Road in Cheyenne.

He will attend for five weeks to earn his commercial driver's license. He needs the license to drive tractor-trailers.

Sturgis of Cheyenne picked a good time to start his career as a truck driver, given the national shortage of qualified and experienced truck drivers.

Brenda Birkle, director of the Sage school here, said she gets calls every day from companies that need drivers. Inquiries range from mom-and-pop operations to big, over-the-road corporations.

"It's a good time for them to go into this industry," said Noel Perry, managing director at FTR Associates in Nashville, Ind. "People are hiring and are willing to help with training, and some are paying bonuses."

Officials at some trucking companies cannot get the number of drivers they need, he said.

He described the shortage as moderate, estimating that there are about 150,000 too few drivers. He expects the shortage to increase to about 300,000 drivers if a federal regulation moves ahead to limit the hours truckers can drive.

The shortage of experienced and qualified truck drivers has happened because of baby boomers leaving the workforce, federal efforts to crack down on drivers with poor driving records and an economic upturn.

"The government is regulating us more and more, which is going to require more and more drivers to do the same work," said Bob Synowicki, executive vice president of Werner Enterprises Inc. based in Omaha, Neb., one of the largest trucking companies in the world.

Making sure drivers are safe is a great thing, he said, but it creates more need for quality drivers.

The number of truck drivers plummeted in the 2008 recession, along with the number of loads that trucks hauled.

Things are picking up now, inching closer to the tonnage hauled before the recession.

There are an estimated 3.1 million truck drivers now nationwide, compared with a high of 3.5 million drivers in 2006, said Bob Costello, chief economist with the American Trucking Associations.

Transportation is one of the highest growth industries, Birkle said.

But the number of drivers is increasing at less than 1 percent, while the amount of freight grows at an average of 4 percent a year, she said,

"This is a great time for someone to get into a career as a truck driver," Synowicki said.

A first-year driver at Werner Enterprises earns an average of $35,000 to $45,000 a year, he said. The company has 7,300 trucks and 12,500 employees, 10,000 of whom are truck drivers... Continue reading.


Turkeys Slow to Arrive to Shelters - Werner Enterprises

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By Christopher Burbach
Contact the writer: 402-444-1057
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Turkey's not only for Thanksgiving at the Stephen Center in South Omaha.

Gobblers given in November become gifts that keep giving for 52 weeks a year, helping feed the nightly population of about 100 at the center's homeless shelter, and the 64 next door in an addiction treatment program.

Turkey tetrazzini in December. Turkey pot pie in January. Turkey lasagna in February. Turkey caesar salad in July. Turkey-noodle casserole in September. Monthly turkey dinners. Weekly (or more) turkey soup.

"We live on it all year round," said Del Bomberger, who runs the South Omaha shelter. "It's one of our usual food sources, a major source of protein."

Usually by this time of year, donors have delivered 50 turkeys to the Stephen Center, en route to a total of 150 or 200 birds. But by Thursday, a week out from Thanksgiving, only five birds had landed to cool their drumsticks in the center's freezers.

So you can see why Bomberger, who's known in social service circles for not being a "sky-is-falling" kind of guy, has been a little nervous recently walking into the walk-in.

"It would be a real challenge if they did not come in," he said.

Bomberger said high turkey prices and steeper grocery costs in general probably slowed turkey donations this year, along with an economy still tight for many. Earlier this month, whole turkeys sold for $1.20 a pound or more in many Nebraska stores, nearly 30 cents more than in 2010. Last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual Thanksgiving price survey found that a 16-pound turkey would cost Nebraskans about $4 more than in 2010.

But as Thanksgiving approaches, turkey prices, though still higher than in 2010, have declined. In metro Omaha, several supermarkets this week are advertising whole turkeys for 59 to 99 cents a pound, usually with a minimum purchase of $25.

On Friday morning, the Siena-Francis House shelter in Omaha also was low on turkeys for this time of year. They were down to 26, with 20 destined for the shelter's Thanksgiving dinner.

A company's usual, annual donation of about 100 birds had not arrived. But on Friday afternoon, that donation, from Werner Enterprises, rolled up in a semi to the Siena-Francis dock, said Tim Sully, the shelter's development director. On board were 130 turkeys.

Having heard from a reporter of the Stephen Center's concerns, Siena-Francis offered to share.

Leaders at both shelters said they remain appreciative of donors' generosity... Continue reading


Schneider's New Truck Driving School Manager is Tim Buhrandt

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From Mike Hinz @ Schneider

It is with both great appreciation and a little sadness that I announce that Karen Crabb is moving onto another role at Schneider. After 12 years in recruiting, Karen is now a start-up manager in our Dedicated Division. Our new Truck Driving School Manager is Tim Buhrandt.

Tim has a long history with Schneider both in recruiting and in our operations group. Tim’s number phone number is 920.592.6009 and email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will send out an introductory email later this week.

Mica Won’t Submit Highway Bill Until January

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Vows to Meet Transportation Deadline

By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said last week that he would not introduce a transportation reauthorization bill until next year, dashing hopes of proponents to get a bill through to replace the funding that expired in 2009.

A temporary extension of the current law, the eighth such extension since the latest permanent reauthorization ended, expires March 31.

The House schedule does not allow sufficient time for him to introduce and mark up a bill before the end of the year, Mica told transportation experts gathered Nov. 29 at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

“He reassured us that they could still complete action in the House and move to conference with the Senate on a timely basis,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation

In the Senate, a bipartisan, two-year reauthorization bill cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee Nov. 9, but that measure has yet to be voted on in the full Senate (11-14, p. 1).

Mica also said that, “as far as he was concerned, the March 31 deadline was a hard deadline, and that would force the House and Senate to take action by the deadline,” Horsley said.

After it adjourns for the holiday season, Congress will not be back in session until Jan. 17. It also will be out of session the week of Feb. 20 and the week of March 12.

“Republican leadership and the committee remain committed to moving this important infrastructure jobs bill early next year, likely in January or February,” Mica spokesman Justin Harclerode said.

Mica has said several times he will not vote for another extension of SAFETEA-LU, the existing surface transportation law, which expired in September 2009.

In 2005, after the House and Senate had voted on their respective versions of SAFETEA-LU, the bill lingered in a conference committee for more than two months before differences were resolved.

The Senate’s new $109 billion reauthorization bill would renew funding for only two years, but Mica has said such an approach is unacceptable to him. He and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said they will propose a five-year bill (11-21, p. 3).The senators have not proposed new revenue sources to pay for their plan, saying they are looking for offsets in the budget. Mica and Boehner, meanwhile, said at a Nov. 17 press conference they want to pay for infrastructure by expanding oil production offshore, in the nation’s shale oil regions and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said such a drilling plan would be unacceptable to the Senate and would cost jobs in the tourism and fishing industries.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a recent interview with the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star that Congress must pass a highway bill before the end of the year or states will be unable to hire workers in time for the 2012 construction season.

A reauthorization bill “really translates into jobs for America,” LaHood told his hometown paper.