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Matheson Trucking to Showcase its "Green Fleet" Technology and Support STEM Education at the California Capital Air Show
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Matheson Trucking, Inc., and its Postal Services Division, will display one of its new liquefied natural gas-powered truck tractor at the 11th Annual California Capital Air Show during the first weekend in October at Mather Field. The company's pavilion will be located near the free Kid's Zone where children and families can get a close up view of this advanced technology and have a chance to sit behind the wheel. Matheson is also a sponsor of the Performers Tent at Show Center.
"Our company is committed to improving air quality by lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as we convert our fleet to use compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG)," said Chuck Mellor, Chief Operating Officer for this nationwide firm, one of the country's 10 largest contract carriers for the U.S. Postal Service.
"We love kids! As a family owned and operated business, Matheson recognizes the importance of STEM educational programs for youth in the greater Sacramento area. This is why we actively contribute to scholarships granted by STEM through our participation in the nonprofit Capital Air Show. A significant portion of show proceeds will give those wishing to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics a chance to learn and develop their skills. Our clean energy LNG tractor is one example of an emerging technology made possible through applied science," said Mark Matheson, CEO and President.
The Matheson pavilion at the Capital Air Show will also offer souvenirs for visitors plus information about the company and its clean energy expansion program designed to improve air quality, lower GHG emissions and decrease diesel fuel consumption on routes served by the Matheson Postal Services Division.
The company is also ramping up for the busy fall package-shipping season by hiring drivers and material handlers for all of its routes. Job applications will be available at the pavilion.
Out of fuel signs are pictured on gas pumps at a Twice Daily Shell station on West End Ave. and N. 17th Ave. S. in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. September 17, 2016.
Gasoline prices in the southeast United States kept rising on Monday as Colonial Pipeline Co worked to fix a more-than-week long disruption on a key gasoline line due to a leak that has led to long lines and complaints of price gouging. The leak, which was discovered on Sept. 9, released about 6,000 to 8,000 barrels (252,000-336,000 gallons) of gasoline in Shelby County, Alabama. The partial shutdown of the damaged Line 1, which carries about 1.3 million barrels per day of gasoline from the refining hub on the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, also roiled markets. Retail gasoline prices in Georgia, one of the hardest hit states, jumped nearly 6 cents overnight to Monday, or more than 20 cents higher than a week ago, to $2.316 a gallon on average, according to motorists' advocacy group AAA. Richard Parks, 32, an electrician in Atlanta, said he saw the price of regular gas jump at a Shell Station in East Atlanta to $2.69 on Monday from $2.51 on Sunday. "I didn't think it would get worse overnight, but it just did," Parks said while waiting in a line to refuel on Monday. Benchmark gasoline futures fell 2 percent on Monday to $1.4318 a gallon, after having risen 9 percent in the week following the leak. Availability of fuel has varied across the region, with long lines seen throughout Atlanta, as well as in Nashville, Tennessee. Pump prices in Alabama ticked up to $2.01 on Monday while prices in Tennessee rose nearly 3 cents to $2.13 from $2.10 on Sunday, according to the AAA. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said during a press conference Monday he was "concerned" about the amount of gasoline the state has and said Colonial's chief executive told him Monday that the line would likely restart this week. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order on Monday preventing gas stations from significantly raising their fuel prices. In North Carolina, more than 400 consumers had filed complaints to report potential gas price gouging to Cooper's Consumer Protection Division as of 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) on Monday, State Attorney General Roy Cooper said. Many states have also allowed for an extension of the maximum number of hours truck drivers are allowed to drive in order to deliver gas products to the state. RELIEF SUPPLIES Colonial, which has not said what caused the leak, resumed repairs on Friday after vapors delayed work and it projects a full restart by this week. The company is constructing a bypass that circumvents the damaged line. The bypass line will be about 500- to 700-feet (150-210 m) long and will essentially have the same specifications as the main line in terms of pressure and capacity, a spokesman said via email. However, the bypass will sit above the ground while the permanent solution will include a fully operational submerged line, he said. Colonial, the largest U.S. refined products pipeline system of about 2.6 million bpd, said on Monday it gathered gasoline from Gulf Coast refiners last week to transport the fuel on its distillate line to markets throughout the region. A spokeswoman for Marathon Petroleum Corp, a shipper on Colonial and the operator of Speedway convenience stores, which are located throughout the U.S. East Coast, said the company was using additional shipping methods including barges, trucking and ocean vessels to manage supply. Larry Carr, 44, an Atlanta private contractor, was filling gasoline containers and piling them into the back of his Ford Explorer van just after topping up his tank at a station in the Grant Park neighborhood where it cost $2.49 for regular self-serve. "Normally it would cost me $40 to fill her up, but today it cost $60 and I wasn’t even near empty," he said. Of the gasoline cans, he said: "I'm going to take some of this to a friend who ran out of gas and get her going again."
Gasoline prices in the southeast United States kept rising on Monday as Colonial Pipeline Co worked to fix a more-than-week long disruption on a key gasoline line due to a leak that has led to long lines and complaints of price gouging.
The leak, which was discovered on Sept. 9, released about 6,000 to 8,000 barrels (252,000-336,000 gallons) of gasoline in Shelby County, Alabama. The partial shutdown of the damaged Line 1, which carries about 1.3 million barrels per day of gasoline from the refining hub on the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, also roiled markets.
Retail gasoline prices in Georgia, one of the hardest hit states, jumped nearly 6 cents overnight to Monday, or more than 20 cents higher than a week ago, to $2.316 a gallon on average, according to motorists' advocacy group AAA.
Richard Parks, 32, an electrician in Atlanta, said he saw the price of regular gas jump at a Shell Station in East Atlanta to $2.69 on Monday from $2.51 on Sunday.
"I didn't think it would get worse overnight, but it just did," Parks said while waiting in a line to refuel on Monday.
Benchmark gasoline futures fell 2 percent on Monday to $1.4318 a gallon, after having risen 9 percent in the week following the leak.
Availability of fuel has varied across the region, with long lines seen throughout Atlanta, as well as in Nashville, Tennessee. Pump prices in Alabama ticked up to $2.01 on Monday while prices in Tennessee rose nearly 3 cents to $2.13 from $2.10 on Sunday, according to the AAA.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said during a press conference Monday he was "concerned" about the amount of gasoline the state has and said Colonial's chief executive told him Monday that the line would likely restart this week.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order on Monday preventing gas stations from significantly raising their fuel prices.
In North Carolina, more than 400 consumers had filed complaints to report potential gas price gouging to Cooper's Consumer Protection Division as of 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) on Monday, State Attorney General Roy Cooper said.
Many states have also allowed for an extension of the maximum number of hours truck drivers are allowed to drive in order to deliver gas products to the state.
Colonial, which has not said what caused the leak, resumed repairs on Friday after vapors delayed work and it projects a full restart by this week. The company is constructing a bypass that circumvents the damaged line.
The bypass line will be about 500- to 700-feet (150-210 m) long and will essentially have the same specifications as the main line in terms of pressure and capacity, a spokesman said via email. However, the bypass will sit above the ground while the permanent solution will include a fully operational submerged line, he said.
Colonial, the largest U.S. refined products pipeline system of about 2.6 million bpd, said on Monday it gathered gasoline from Gulf Coast refiners last week to transport the fuel on its distillate line to markets throughout the region.
A spokeswoman for Marathon Petroleum Corp, a shipper on Colonial and the operator of Speedway convenience stores, which are located throughout the U.S. East Coast, said the company was using additional shipping methods including barges, trucking and ocean vessels to manage supply.
Larry Carr, 44, an Atlanta private contractor, was filling gasoline containers and piling them into the back of his Ford Explorer van just after topping up his tank at a station in the Grant Park neighborhood where it cost $2.49 for regular self-serve.
"Normally it would cost me $40 to fill her up, but today it cost $60 and I wasn’t even near empty," he said. Of the gasoline cans, he said: "I'm going to take some of this to a friend who ran out of gas and get her going again."
Tractor-trailers will try to pass each other at similar speeds, causing 'blockades,' say drivers
Truckers are warning that a U.S. government plan to electronically limit the speed of tractor-trailers will lead to highway traffic jams and possibly an increase in deadly run-ins with cars.
More than 150 people, most identifying themselves as independent truckers, have filed comments recently with the government about the proposed rule, unveiled last month by two federal agencies. There were only a few comments in favour.
The government has proposed requiring electronic speed limiters on all trucks and buses over 11,794 kilograms (26,000 pounds) manufactured after the regulation goes into effect. Speeds could be limited to 97, 105, or 109 kilometers per hour (60, 65 or 68 miles per hour) when the rule is finalized after a comment period that ends Nov. 7.
Regulators and others favouring speed limiters say the rule is supported by simple physics: If trucks travel slower, the impact of a crash will be less severe and fewer people will be injured or killed. But truckers say the government is actually creating conditions for more collisions by focusing on the severity of the crash while ignoring the dynamic of trucks and cars traveling at different speeds.
Truckers also want to travel as far as they can in the hours they're allowed to drive under federal rules.
Hundreds of deaths
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzed data from 2004 through 2013 and found that on average 1,044 people died per years in crashes involving heavy trucks on roads with speed limits of at least 88.51 kph (55 mph).
The agency also found that if trucks speeds were limited to 96.56 km/h (60 mph), 162 to 498 lives per year would be saved because the impact of a crash would be less severe. At 104.6 km/h (65 mph), up to 214 lives would be saved, and as many as 96 would be saved with a 109.43 km/h (68 mph) limit.
But truckers say slowing them down increases the chances of trucks being hit from behind by cars allowed to go 112.65 km/h (70 mph) or more. Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the largest group of independent truckers, says most car-truck crashes on freeways where traffic is going the same direction involves a car rear-ending a truck.
"The net effect of their rule means that the truck will be running slower still," Spencer said. "That's a crash scenario that's more severe."
'They can't slow down'
Doug Kruzan, a driver from Simpsonville, South Carolina, near Greenville, said he's seen cars hit the back of slower trucks many times as the rigs move into the left lane to pass.
"A car's coming up behind him at 70, 75. They can't slow down that quick. He's going to run into the back of that truck every time," said Kruzan.
NHTSA statistics show that of all the fatal crashes — not limited to freeway driving — between big trucks and passenger vehicles in 2014, the latest year available, about 15 per cent involved cars rear-ending large trucks, according to NHTSA statistics. The Motor Carrier Safety Administration has reported that of 438,000 crashes involving large trucks in 2014, the front of the truck was the impact point in 38 percent of them. The rear of the truck was hit in 24 per cent.
'Blockades' could be problem
Many truckers say all vehicles should be limited to the same speed, but a NHTSA spokesman said that's not being considered. He would not comment on Spencer's allegation that the government ignored the impact of varied speeds.
Truckers also say if the rule is adopted, tractor-trailers will try to pass each other at similar speeds, causing "blockades" that will clog traffic and frustrate car drivers. What's more, they say, because the rule isn't retroactive some truckers will try to prolong the lives of older trucks that otherwise would be replaced by newer models.
Steve Owings, an Atlanta financial planner, whose 2006 petition helped bring about the proposed regulation, says predictions of highway logjams are exaggerated.
Owings noted that a 2007 survey by the American Trucking Associations, the largest group of trucking companies in the nation, found that 69 per cent of all trucking companies used speed limiters on at least some rigs. The average limit was 111 km/h (69 mph).
The association hasn't taken a more recent survey, but Owings believes the number of trucks with speed limiters has grown.
"We don't have a national traffic jam now because of them trying to pass each other," said Owings, whose son was killed by a speeding truck while returning to college in 2002.
The ATA joined Owings in petitioning for the speed limiters, seeking a top speed of 104.6 km/h (65 mph). The independent truckers also argued in comments that the regulations will benefit the big trucking companies at the expense of independent operators who need to cover more ground each day.
Owings wants NHTSA to make the limiters retroactive to trucks built since the early 1990s that have the capability of limiting speeds with low-cost software changes. But NHTSA says that could cost up to $2,000 US per truck.
The speed limiters also would take care of the problem of trucks traveling faster speeds than their tires can handle. An investigation by The Associated Press last year found that most truck tires can't handle speeds above 120.7 km/h (75 mph), yet some states let trucks go 128.75 km/h (80 mph) or even 136.79 km/h (85 mph).
It is still up for debate what impact the widespread use of electronic logging devices by US truckers will have on capacity.
More than half of the trucking companies questioned in a recent survey said they are already 100 percent compliant with an electronic logging mandate that takes effect December 2017. However, nearly 25 percent of those motor carriers, mostly smaller trucking companies, said they have no “immediate plans” to begin implementation of electronic logging devices.
The survey of more than 2,000 trucking companies by third-party logistics provider Transplace reveals a real divide between large motor carriers and their smaller competitors. Of the companies with more than 250 trucks, 81 percent said they had already achieved “full implementation” of ELDs. All of those companies had started implementing ELDs.
Smaller carriers surveyed have been slow to start moving toward implementation, with only 62 percent saying they had begun or completed the process, Transplace said. “A lot of people are fully compliant [with the ELD mandate], and a lot of people are hoping it really goes away,” Ben Cubitt, the senior vice president of consulting and engineering at Transplace, said Wednesday.
Those smaller trucking firms could begin moving more quickly next year, as shippers start making ELD implementation a prerequisite to doing business. “No shippers are going to feel comfortable with a carrier that doesn’t have a plan,” Cubbitt said. When ELDs become part of the bid process, “it becomes a shipper mandate. I think you will start seeing that next year.”
The ELD rule is perhaps the biggest of the three major truck regulatory initiatives pursued by the Obama administration (all inherited from the Bush administration). Combined with the the 2013 driver hours-of-service rulemaking and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability or CSA program, the ELD mandate represents a radical change in the federal truck safety regime, one some proponents believe could drive supply chain gains.
Transplace released its carrier survey a day after oral arguments were heard by a US Court of Appeals panel in Chicago in a lawsuit aimed at overturning the ELD rule. “The court knocked it down before, therefore we are confident they will do so again,” Norita Taylor, an Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association spokesperson, told JOC.com last month.
The OOIDA is suing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which late last year released a final rule requiring truck drivers to start using ELDs by Dec. 18, 2017. The owner-operator association claims the final rule violates US constitutional privacy rights and doesn’t deliver what Congress required in the 2012 transportation spending law.
Among the carriers that responded to Transplace’s survey, 51 percent said they have ELDs in all their trucks, 8.8 percent were more than 50 percent implemented, 10.8 percent were less than 50 percent complete, and 5.6 percent said they plan to begin installing ELDs within 90 days. However, 23.7 percent said they had no immediate plan to begin implementation.
“I will sell out first,” one trucking executive told Transplace. Other responses from those without immediate plans to implement electronic logging included, “We have no intent of ever doing it”; “We’re waiting until the last minute, because of all the lawsuits in place against FMCSA”; and, “We’re holding off on complete implementation because of driver loss,” said another.
A slight majority, 51.4 percent, of respondents said they had lost drivers who did not want to give up their paper log books for an electronic logs. Some lost only a few, but said the drivers that left were often “old timers with the most experience.” Others said they had lost drivers who refused to accept an ELD only to see them go to other carriers that also used ELDs.
Two US specialists in heavy freight hauling and rigging merged Tuesday to create a specialized trucking and logistics business with an expanded service area in North America.
EZE Truck Holdings, the parent of several flatbed and heavy-haul trucking firms, merged with Farran International, a global transportation and rigging business in Randolph, New Jersey.
The EZE-Farran transaction is the latest in a series of acquisitions and mergers rippling across the transportation landscape in 2016, from the largest operators, such as FedEx and TNT Express, to small companies such as Kottke Trucking and Walbon & Company.
The deal creates a specialized trucking operation with several subsidiaries, including EZE Trucking, Patterson Motor Freight, Rig Runners at EZE and H.W. Farren, Fastway Trucking, and NTL at Farren International. It also expands the business nationwide.
There’s plenty of room for consolidation in the highly fragmented heavy-haul business. Companies in this trucking sector handle over-dimensional and extremely heavy loads such as aerospace parts, wind turbines and blades, building materials, and oil and gas drilling equipment — not your average truckload or even flatbed shipment.
One of the largest operators in the “open-deck” heavy-haul sector, Daseke Inc., has grown from a $30 million company in 2009 to a $675 million business in 2015 by merging several carriers, Bulldog Hiway Express being the latest. The Daseke family now includes 12 companies with a combined fleet of more than 3,000 tractors. It’s goal: ubiquitous North American coverage.
EZE and Farran are traveling a similar route. The combined company operates about 900 pieces of equipment, EZE Truck owner Atlantic Street Capital said.
“The combination of Farren and its strong Eastern operations with EZE’s footprint quickly transforms the company into a national network that serves a widely diversified blue-chip customer base,” said Peter Shabecoff, founder and partner of the private equity firm.
Atlantic Street Capital purchased Rialto, California-based EZE Truck Holdings in 2009 and has grown the company through acquisition, adding Patterson in 2011 and Rig Runners in 2013. The private equity firm invests in “middle-market” companies with about $3 million to $12 million in earnings before taxes, interest, and other charges.
For EZE, “Farren provides meaningful industry and geographical diversification and development of a nationwide specialized heavy-haul network,” Shabecoff said in a statement.
Farren is a global provider of transportation, rigging, and related value-added solutions such as warehousing and kitting, Atlantic Street said. The company, founded in 1959, specializes in heavy-haul flatbed trucking for the aerospace, chemical, cosmetics, food, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and power industries, as well as other general manufacturing businesses.
The deal could lead to other acquisitions. “The combination with Farren positions EZE to further grow the business through additional strategic acquisitions and expansion of value added services,” he said.
There’s a lot of road, and a lot of loads, left for heavy-haul companies looking to grow through acquisition.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says the Senate should not mandate that the FMCSA and NHSTSA issue a final rule on speed limiters rather than letting the rulemaking process runs its course. (Courtesy: OOIDA)
GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked the Senate Committee on Appropriations to exclude language from any federal spending measures that mandates the installation of speed limiters on heavy commercial vehicles.
The association says that to do so would undermine the regulatory process and take away the public’s ability to make informed comments to an already proposed rule.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced recently a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require U.S. trucks larger than 26,000 pounds be set at a maximum speed of 60 or 65 or 68 miles per hour.
OOIDA pointed out in its communication with the committee that language currently included in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill would force the FMCSA and NHTSA to issue a final rule that mandates this policy, ignoring the sacrosanct ability of industry stakeholders to help shape the regulations affecting them through the traditional federal rulemaking process.
The association said that Congress should take time to understand the true impact this policy would have on highway safety and allow the rulemaking process to continue, rather than imposing a mandate through the appropriations process.
“Congress has never analyzed the effect of mandating lower speeds for heavy vehicles through any public hearing or forum,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “We believe the Senate’s first significant action on the issue should not be in the form of mandating something that decades of research has proven increases the likelihood of crashes between trucks and other vehicles.
“The agencies making the proposal fully acknowledge the potential for increases in crashes between trucks and other vehicles, and only want to attempt to mitigate the severity of such crashes.”
Such a mandate would have serious consequences such as promoting road rage among other motorists and creating “rolling roadblocks” of trucks on highways,” Spencer said. “Many states that used to have lower, separate speed limits for trucks have realized this was not the best idea and changed their policies to the same speed limit for all vehicles.”
OOIDA wants the motoring public to know that this is a nation-wide policy that would affect all who use the roads where large trucks travel.
OOIDA is opposing it and encourages the motoring public to join in opposition.
“Highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed,” Spencer said. “This wisdom is backed by science. NHTSA’s messages have promoted the practice for years based upon their own research, going back decades.”
Swift’s Stocking says new approaches to driver pay, home time, and lifestyle are needed, along with new executive leadership strategies, too.
The trucking industry needs to rethink its approach to drivers, truck technology, even leadership strategies, according to Richard Stocking, currently president and co-CEO for Swift Transportation Company. Stocking will become the motor carrier’s full-time CEO upon the retirement of Swift’s founder and longtime chief executive, Jerry Moyes, at year’s end.
“The call for today is for trucking leadership that not only sets the goals, guiding principles, and vision but takes that down to the front-line managers,” he explained to Fleet Owner in a phone interview.
Stocking stressed that this is not necessarily about changing or discarding past leadership principles, but “amplifying” them by using data to make decisions faster and with more transparency.
Swift, which generates roughly $4 billion in annual revenue, currently operates more than 18,000 trucks and 60,000 trailers logging about 1.5 billion miles every year across the continental U.S., Mexico, and Canada via a network of 40 freight terminals. As one of the largest TL carriers in the U.S., Swift employs 16,000 company drivers and contracts with 5,000 owner-operators.
“We’ve enjoyed an impressive run during our first half century, accomplishing amazing things during this time,” Stocking pointed out. “But that’s just the beginning. We are primed and prepared to accomplish even more in the next 50, and we will do so by holding to two founding principles that have gotten us this far—integrity and leadership.”
“The number one thing a driver needs today is predictability in terms of how much money they are getting in their paycheck and in terms of the quality time they get to spend with their families,” Stocking noted.
“Obviously we’re moving to electronic logs to eliminate paperwork,” Stocking said. “But we’re also using mobile apps that allow drivers to rate their experiences with every customer – at origin and destination – and every aspect of our operations, as well.”
He believes as drivers see motor carriers using that feedback to improve their daily work lives that will help foster greater retention as well as improved efficiencies for the company as a whole.
“We can use that data to really identify which customer locations have long wait times, which ones offer good breakrooms and coffee, even help identify particular [shipper] employees who are helpful to them, like friendly security guards,” Stocking pointed out.
“That data helps us show the ‘goodness’ that’s out there in the [freight] industry as well,” he added.
Swift is also making changes to other aspects of its operation as well, which include:
Stocking said these are just some of the many changes needed not only to keep the industry’s current pool of drivers behind the wheel, safely operating tractor-trailers, but to attract new ones into the business of hauling freight.
“What defines us is our people, including the steadfast drivers that are the backbone of our business,” he explained. “Without them, we don’t have a company. Without them, we don’t have an industry. Without them, America doesn’t function.”
Volkswagen announced a major partnership with an Illinois-based trucking company called Navistar, a sign that the automaker is eager to move passed its emissions scandal and focus on expanding its operations. Navistar also owns International Trucks, which encompasses a variety of medium-duty trucks.
VW said it has forged a technology and purchasing deal with Navistar, which in addition to trucks also manufacturers school buses and large-scale engines. The deal, which was first reported by Reuters, gives VW a 16.6 percent stake, or $256 million, in the company and a much-needed foothold in the US for its trucking business.
When asked about whether VW could procure the rest of Navistar, or spin off its trucking business from its parent company, Volkswagen Trucks CEO Andreas Renschler said “all options are open,” according to Automotive News.
“all options are open”
The partnership also puts Navistar on more stable footing. As noted by Forbes, the Lisle, Illinois-based company had squandered billions of dollars on a diesel engine that failed to win the approval of the Environmental Protections Agency. Last month, US regulators announced new rules to reduce carbon emissions from big trucks, putting pressure on Navistar to find a technology partner.
Meanwhile, VW could face federal criminal charges in the US stemming from its diesel emissions scandal. VW and Department of Justice prosecutors are said to be in negotiations to settle the case before the end of the year. In June, VW reached a $14.7 billion deal with federal regulators over Dieselgate, including the offer of buybacks for thousands of affected vehicles. A few weeks later the company was sued by several US states for violating a variety of state environmental statutes.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. (Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation)
The trucking industry expressed division over the new federal policy for autonomous cars and trucks issued Tuesday by the Obama administration.
While some truck and commercial vehicle manufacturers hailed the new Department of Transportation guidelines as an important step toward an era in which autos drive themselves, other segments of the industry protested being shut out of the consulting process leading to the new rules.
“It is disconcerting that the department and the administration have developed these guidelines with virtually no involvement from the trucking industry,” Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, wrote in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Tuesday.
The trucking industry moves almost 70 percent of the domestic freight in the U.S., and “any safety and highway infrastructure debate and regulatory framework that excludes trucking is incomplete,” said Spear, who heads the industry’s largest trade group.
He urged Foxx “to bring commercial highway users to the table.”
But in the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy document, Foxx said there was plenty of time for discussion with interested parties.
“We expect vigorous input and welcome it,” Foxx said.
The policy is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week. A 60-day comment period will follow the posting.
Regulators from the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the guidelines would foster technology that would reduce the frequency of fatalities and crashes on U.S. roads.
More than 35,000 people died in roadway collisions in 2015, and 94 percent of the crashes “can be tied to a human choice or error,” according to the Transportation Department.
In a news conference, Foxx called the policy “a moment where we can build a culture of safety as a new transportation technology emerges that harnesses the potential to save even more lives and that will improve the quality of life for so many Americans.”
The guidelines are designed to allow computers to take over many, and eventually all, of the driving functions in a vehicle. The rules apply to cars, trucks and commercial vehicles.
The new policy includes a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers, developers and other organizations to guide the safe design, development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles.
Traffic safety regulators have developed a five-level scale to assess vehicle automation, concentrating on Level 3 – where the automated system “can both actually conduct some parts of the driving task with a human driver behind the wheel to take over” – to Level 5, where “the automated system can perform all driving tasks.”
The policy has wide support from safety groups.
“We have the same goal as NHTSA; we want to save lives,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “The announcement with the Department of Transportation is just an incredible step forward in improving all areas of highway safety.”
Unlike humans, computers will never drive while intoxicated, Sheehey-Church said.
“Today, the driving public is the winner,” said Deborah Hersman, chief executive of the National Safety Council. “This policy gives carmakers and states the green light to innovate while keeping safety at the forefront.”
Some segments of the trucking industry also supported the government’s initiative.
“This kind of collaborative environment between the federal government, state and municipal entities and industry often leads to swift and safe adoption of technologies that are beneficial to society in a way that avoids a nationwide patchwork of varied and potentially conflicting laws,” said Jessica Nigro, spokeswoman for Daimler Trucks.
Daimler Trucks has been testing a self-driving Freightliner in Nevada and autonomous trucks in Europe.
Earlier this month, Daimler Trucks’ corporate sibling Mercedes-Benz released design plans for an electric delivery vehicle that could operate in congested city centers and use drones to take packages to people’s doorsteps. There’s no steering wheel or pedals in the van. Instead, a drive-by-wire control system integrates all steering and driving functions electronically. The operator uses a joystick to guide the van.
A wider coalition of manufacturers, transportation and technology companies also supported the new policy.
“This is an important step forward in establishing the basis of a national framework for the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” said David Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator and spokesman for the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.
The coalition consists of major players in the self-driving vehicle movement, including Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft and Volvo cars, which is a separate business from the Volvo truck company.
Several of the coalition members either make trucks or are researching self-driving commercial vehicles. Uber, for example, purchased self-driving truck developer Otto last month.
Ford is looking to use its driverless technology for several potential markets, including both car-sharing and delivery services. It is part of an initiative to have a fully self-driving car — without a steering wheel or driver controls — ready for ride-hailing companies by 2021.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Google a patent for a self-driving delivery truck.
Spear said members of the trucking association are not rejecting technology and, in fact, are pushing forward researching and developing autonomous driving systems.
Features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-assist technologies are already deployed in trucks. The industry is testing platooning – where two or more trucks are connected digitally and drive in tight formation to save fuel. In some tests, the driver of the first semi-truck can control the other vehicles in the platoon.
“Some freight company leaders are predicting a day when professional truck drivers are more like pilots – heavily involved ‘taking off’ from the terminal and ‘landing at the destination,’ but engaging an auto-pilot on open stretches of highways,” Spear wrote in his letter.
But he said the federal guidelines for autonomous-vehicle technologies will have “significant impacts to commercial freight companies, drivers and customers, as well as safety and our environment.”
“Vehicles operating autonomously,” he said, “will need to be capable of interacting safely, whether through vehicle-to-vehicle technology or communicating through other means.”
Other regulatory issues will be affected. Heavy-duty truck drivers, for example, are currently regulated on how many hours they can drive during predetermined time periods, “and how autonomous technologies impact these regulations is important to consider,” Spear said.
Some carriers ship specialized freight – such as live animals and hazardous materials – that require special consideration for movement and regulation.
The regulatory discussion needs to address such situations, he said.
“Any policy framework that ignores these potential downstream impacts will be ill-informed,” Spear said.
Twenty-eight trucks and trailers in one Gerringong trucking company were found with defects during a police raid on Tuesday.
One of the company’s trucks was involved in a serious crash in Engadine on September 9 with officers from Operation Rhino inspecting a number of vehicles at Gerringong as part of the continuous campaign to ensure the roadworthiness of all vehicles using NSW roads.
Joint Traffic Taskforce officers from the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, working alongside Roads and Maritime inspectors, found 28 of the 29 company trucks and trailers were defective.
Officers issued defect notices for brakes, oil and fuel leaks, tyres, chassis failures and other issues.
One truck was found to have a significant fuel leak and was subject of a major grounded defect.
Out of eight engine control module downloads, two trucks were found to have non-compliant speed limiters, allowing speeds over the 100km/h limit for heavy vehicles.
Officers also seized other documentation relating to last week’s crash.
Acting Assistant Commissioner David Driver said transport companies involved in earthmoving and other heavy loads, in truck and dog trailer combinations, need to ensure that their vehicles and drivers are safe to be on NSW roads.
"With defective trucks and non-compliant speed limiters, a driver’s ability to brake suddenly in an emergency situation becomes impossible, potentially leading to a serious injury or fatal crash,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Driver said.
“Traffic and HWP Command will continue to work closely with the RMS to ensure all heavy vehicles are safe and complying with all standards to the benefit of all road users.
"With the road toll currently at 277, 34 more than this time last year, heavy vehicle operators, drivers, loaders, and customers, all need to ensure safety is their number one priority.”
Roads and Maritime General Manager of Compliance Operations Paul Endycott said it was disappointing that the majority of the company’s trucks were non-compliant.
“This is simply not good enough. For only one truck to pass inspection means this company has a long way to go before it comes off our radar,” he said.
“Not addressing defects which cause safety issues on the road puts all motorists at risk which is not acceptable. We will continue to work with the company to ensure it can raise its safety standard to the level required to operate on NSW roads.”
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