November 2013

DOWN AND OUT IN WASHNIGTON D.C. We have no way of knowing how long the government shutdown will last, but anything that shakes consumer confidence will have an affect on the trucking industry. In an interview on October 3rd, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves shared our view. Graves was clear that although the economy has clearly been on the mend, the shutdown and the potential over the debt ceiling will only have a negative impact on consumers and the overall health of the economy. Graves also reminded us that a substantial amount of freight in the country is moved in support of government functions; this direct impact of the shutdown only adds to the problem.

PROPOSAL TO CLARIFY TANK VEHICLE The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would revise its definition of “tank vehicle.” Commercial driver's license (CDL) holders who operate such vehicles are required to obtain a tank vehicle endorsement. Comments must be received on or before November 25, 2013.

The proposed definition of “tank vehicle” in 49 CFR 383.5 makes changes to clarify two points:

  1. The quantity amounts apply regardless of the method of tank securement, and
  2. The transportation of tanks that are manifested as empty or as residue (and that are actually empty or contain only residue) does not require the driver to have a tank vehicle endorsement.

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DME ME. Most of you have never heard of dimethyl ether, but Volvo trucks is betting that it is a big thing in the future of fuel. DME is a clean gas made from a number of different forms of methane and diesels convert well to the fuel. Touted as being much cheaper to use than natural gas and safer and easier to store and dispense, Safeway, the grocery chain will begin running test tractors starting next year…

BIG FINES. You may want to take a look at the Federal Motor Carrier rule changes implemented as part of last year’s highway law. Included in a Federal Register notice, (Vol. 78, No. 190 /Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Section 32503) are higher fines for a variety of violations including the fine for violating registration requirements which has gone from $500 to $10,000. In addition to the fines, new entrants into business must now undergo a safety review within a year of beginning service rather than the previous rule of 18 months.

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LOAD UP. Are heavier loads a more efficient way to move freight, or just more damaging and dangerous? Those were the primary questions posed to a House Transportation & Infrastructure panel which met on Oct. 1. The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation — who’s job is to examine the role of the federal government in the efficiency and global competitiveness of the U.S. transportation system debated these issues as part of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA). The debate is whether or not the federal government should or should not allow states to grant interstate access to six-axle trucks weighing up to 97,000 pounds. Don’t be surprised that the panel hearing resulted in no concrete decisions.

DIESEL DOWN. The national retail price for diesel in September had one of its biggest declines since April according to the Department of Energy. The national average for this September was also lower than the same statistic in 2012.

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone's distorted point of view” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road