trucks on highway

Failing DEF sensors getting software fixes from OEMs

From Transport Topics.

Software overrides for diesel exhaust fluid sensors that are in perilously short supply are making their way from truck manufacturers to repair shops, helping keep equipment on the road and prevent engine shutdowns that can leave a truck stranded when the sensors fail.

In recent weeks, DEF sensor failures have left thousands of trucks parked, with a scarcity of replacement sensors leaving carriers scrambling for solutions. For some, that meant swapping sensors from trucks that were being retired into trucks that were sitting idle with failed sensors.

There are signs that the arrival of software codes is helping to ease the situation.
I have talked to a number of my dealers. They do have the codes and are starting to bring the trucks in to get the code change so they don’t de-rate with the bad sensors,” said Paul Enos, president of the Nevada Trucking Association. “But it’s really ugly right now. I think the truck dealers are having a difficult time with how many trucks they have coming in.”

The software fixes allow engines to operate normally but still require carriers to keep their DEF tanks full, said Marty Makrdichian, service manager at Peterbilt Truck Parts and Equipment in Sparks, Nev.

Makrdichian said when a customer requests a fix, his dealer has to send a message to Peterbilt parent company Paccar, which then decides between a software fix, or, if available, a replacement part.

“People have been waiting for so long for the fixes,” Makrdichian said. “As soon as we get sensors or the software, we pretty much do the work.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

trucks on highway

Biden Administration tasked with recognizing “essential importance of commercial vehicles” amid chip shortage

From Commercial Carrier Journal.

In the midst of an ongoing microchip shortage that continues to constrain vehicle production, one major truck maker says it’s time for the Biden administration to step up and recognize the vital role of commercial vehicles.

Like other OEMs, Volvo Trucks North America has remained in step with White House goals to fight climate change with zero-emission trucks like its VNR Electric, and in a statement to CCJ, they said they support “administration efforts to re-shore semiconductor capability in the U.S.”

However, the nearly 100-year-old truck maker said it’s now time for the Biden administration to focus on a more immediate solution to help bolster commercial vehicle manufacturing, which includes a growing selection of electric trucks that require more semiconductors than internal combustion models.

“Reshoring chip production will help our industry, adding much-needed local capacity for the medium to longer term,” a statement from Volvo Trucks North America reads. “To mitigate the short term, we would like the administration’s support to recognize the essential importance of commercial vehicles.”

Volvo’s comments follow the Biden administration’s recent request to OEMs to divulge their semiconductor counts versus their actual production needs since manufacturers overseas have expressed concerns of chip hoarding among auto makers. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has threatened to use the Defense Production Act to get that chip data.

Determining how semiconductors are divvied up among OEMs that are periodically shutting down assembly lines and losing billions in sales because of chip shortages won’t be easy.

See the complete article online at Commercial Carrier Journal.

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The exception to the small vehicle exemption

From MG+M The Law Firm.

It is well established that in most circumstances the Motor Carrier Act (MCA) exempts drivers from overtime wages as mandated by the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA). The MCA provides that employees whose qualifications and hours of service are dictated by the Secretary of Transportation are exempt from the overtime rates set forth in the FLSA. However, there also is a critical exception to this exemption when it comes to “small vehicles.” The small vehicle exception was established when Congress passed the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act (TCA). The provision notes that the FLSA overtime provisions apply to a “covered employee,” which is described as an employee whose work, either fully or partially, is defined by safely operating a vehicle less than 10,000 pounds on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce.

While seemingly straightforward, the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have wrestled when applying the small vehicle exception in recent cases. For instance, the circuits are divided on how to handle mixed fleets, or those instances when an employee splits his or her time operating both heavy trucks and small vehicles. Circuits, such as the First and Fifth, have placed the burden of establishing that the exception applies on the employee, others, like the Tenth Circuit, hold that the employer should prove it does not apply. Moreover, most circuits hold that the gross weight of the vehicle is the measure to use, while the Ninth Circuit has opted to use the vehicle’s actual weight.

Furthermore, the circuits are divided on how mixed fleets qualify for the exemption. For example, a number of circuits, such as the First, Second, and Third Circuits, hold that employees working within a mixed fleet (vehicles that are both under the 10,000-pound threshold, and over) are eligible for overtime if their work entirely, or partially, involves operating vehicles under 10,000 pounds. On the other hand, the Seventh Circuit has held that employees were not eligible for overtime if their work involves operating vehicles over 10,000 pounds. In Jaramillo v. Garda, Inc. the Seventh Circuit maintained that a week-by-week analysis for each employee to determine if they fell under the exception would be “burdensome.” It is worth noting that even within the Eighth and Ninth Circuits there is a split among the districts about whether the measure for a mixed fleet should be the time an employee spends working with small vehicles or the time spent working on large vehicles.

In Noll v. Flowers Foods Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, within the First Circuit, placed the burden on drivers to establish if they were covered employees. Also within the First Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in Botero v. Commonwealth Limousine Service, Inc., maintained that split fleets can qualify for the exemption if they spend a majority of their time operating a vehicle below 10,000 pounds, or their time operating a heavier vehicle was de minimis. There, the court dismissed a carrier’s assertion that its employees were exempt from overtime pay because they drove large vehicles some of the time. Rather the court opined that since the majority of time the employees were operating small vehicles, they qualified for overtime pay as contemplated by the FLSA.

As the courts lack a uniform rule, it is important for carriers to note the governing law in the district in which they operate. Otherwise, failing to provide overtime pay to qualified employees exposes employers to significant liabilities such as mandatory treble damages for wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which can result in very steep costs.

 

Diesel Fuel Pump

Diesel jumps 18 cents in two weeks

From Overdrive Online.

Diesel fuel prices across the U.S. have increased 18 cents in the last two weeks, with a 7.1-cent increase during the week ending Oct. 4 followed by a 10.9-cent increase during the week ending Oct. 11, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.

The U.S.’ average price for a gallon of on-highway diesel is now $3.586 – the highest point since the week ending Dec. 1, 2014, when prices were $3.605 per gallon. Steep recent rises are evident in the chart below showing average national prices.

Last week, the most significant increase was seen in the Central Atlantic region, where prices jumped by 13.3 cents, followed by the Gulf Coast region, where prices increased by 13.2 cents.

The nation’s most expensive diesel can be found in California at $4.425 per gallon, followed by the West Coast less California region at $3.784 per gallon.

The cheapest fuel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.335 per gallon, followed by New England at $3.459 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to DOE, are:

Central Atlantic – $3.705
Lower Atlantic – $3.484
Midwest – $3.538
Rocky Mountain – $3.673

ProMiles’ numbers during the same week saw fuel prices increase by 8.9 cents, bringing its national average to $3.438 per gallon.

According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $4.398 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.225 per gallon.

See the complete article online at Overdrive.

Christmas at risk as supply chain “disaster” gets worse

From Transport Topics.

It’s the beginning of October, just the start of what the retail world simply calls “peak.” But the industry is already in various forms of panic that usually don’t take hold until the weeks before Christmas.

Early in the year, the hope was that the bottlenecks that gummed up the global supply chain in 2020 would be mostly cleared by now. They’ve actually only gotten worse — much worse — and evidence is mounting that the holiday season is at risk.

Across Europe, retailers such as apparel chain H&M can’t meet demand because of delivery delays. In the U.S., Nike cut its sales forecast after COVID-19 triggered factory closures in Vietnam that wiped out months of production. And Bed Bath & Beyond’s stock plunged amid shipping woes, with CEO Mark Tritton warning that disruptions would last well into next year. “There is pressure across the board, and you will hear about that from others.”

COVID outbreaks have idled port terminals. There still aren’t enough cargo containers, causing prices to spike tenfold from a year ago. Labor shortages have stalled trucking and pushed U.S. job openings to all-time highs. And that was before UPS, Walmart and others embark on hiring hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers to take on the peak of peak.

“I’ve been doing this for 43 years and never seen it this bad,” said Isaac Larian, founder and CEO of MGA Entertainment, one of the world’s largest toymakers. “Everything that can go wrong is going wrong at the same time.”

Now comes the rush of goods into the U.S. for Santa’s sleigh, which will only exacerbate all of this. It’s going to be a daunting holiday season — one that investors appear to be shrugging off despite analysts raising concerns that margins will likely take a hit. The S&P Retail Select Industry Index, which encompasses 108 U.S. companies including Amazon, Macy’s and Best Buy, is up about 40% this year and almost doubled since the start of 2020. Its combined market cap is $3.3 trillion, just a sliver below a record high from earlier this year.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

US Capital

Bump in the road for roads, bridges funding

From Transport Topics.

President Joe Biden is pledging to continue to promote his domestic agenda stuck in Congress.

U.S. House Democratic leaders delayed a vote on the president’s Build Back Better plan because moderates and progressives disagree on legislative priorities. Moderates are pushing for approval of a Senate-passed $1 trillion infrastructure measure. Progressives keep calling for the infrastructure bill to be linked to a $3.5 trillion social infrastructure budget package, which may no longer stand at $3.5 trillion. Now, House leaders intend to push the president’s agenda by the end of the month.

Biden, who visited the Hill to garner support for his plan, returned to the White House amid suggestions his social agenda’s price tag would likely come down by about $2 trillion.

But, no worries. If you listened to the president over the weekend, the plan is still on. Because, as he put it: “Biden is going to work like hell to make sure we get both of these passed, and I think we will get them passed.”

“There’s an awful lot that’s in both of these [Build Back Better] bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” the president told reporters at the White House on Oct. 2. “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them — not everyone; over 70% of the American people are for them.”

“My objective here is to make sure we put in place the things that are going to make life more livable for ordinary people. I mean that sincerely,” the president added, noting Congress might seem messy but he’s seen this movie before.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

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Trucking company settles over false emissions compliance reporting

From MG+M The Law Firm.

Recently, California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reached a settlement with Complete Logistics Company, a trucking company, over its alleged false emissions reporting. The state alleged that the trucking company incorrectly asserted that it complied with California’s regulations governing emissions so that it could get state grants to buy new and cleaner trucks. The grants totaled $2.2 million, and the state settled with the company for $2.38 million. The settlement, which can be viewed here, provides a payment schedule that spans 60 months.

The grants were provided pursuant to the Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program, which is funded under Proposition 1B. It is a $1 billion program that establishes a partnership between CARB and local entities with the goal of reducing emissions produced by those involved in moving freight in California. The local agencies, which receive money from CARB, create financial incentives for trucking companies and other equipment owners to buy newer and cleaner technology. Once trucking companies certify that they meet the state’s emission requirements, they can receive the funds from the program.

Complete Logistics Company allegedly falsely reported compliance during a time in which the company’s owner was absent. When the owner returned to work, he instituted measures to correct the error, including firing the employees that were responsible for it. However, the company had accepted the funds and used them for improved, cleaner vehicles. In the time since the misrepresentation, the company has become compliant with the emissions regulations and is considered by CARB to be “a model trucking operator with respect to emissions compliance.”

In regards to the grant program and the settlement with Complete Logistics Company, California’s attorney general stated:

Californians unfortunately still breathe the worst air in the nation, and heavy trucks contribute to that air pollution. Proposition 1B provides a vital program that helps to fight this pollution by incentivizing private trucking fleets to secure newer, cleaner trucks that benefit community health … In order for the program to work, companies need to play by the rules. Any company that bilks the state out of taxpayer dollars will swiftly be brought to justice. We’re heartened to see that Complete Logistics cleaned up their act.

This situation and the significant penalty imposed on Complete Logistics Company should serve to caution the trucking and transportation industry of the potentially detrimental effects of falsifying reports to government agencies. As explained by CARB’s executive officer, Richard W. Corey, “CARB utilizes its audit and investigation tools to ferret out companies receiving incentive funds based on falsely-reported compliance with CARB regulations. As this case illustrates, the consequences of such cheating are serious … It’s vital that other companies take note of the high settlement amount and remember that they risk their reputation and their business if they falsify information to obtain precious incentive funding.”

ATRI logo

ATRI analysis explores how electric vehicles could contribute to highway trust funds

From ATRI.

The American Transportation Research Institute today released research that describes a framework for electric vehicle (EV) taxation to support transportation infrastructure. Through a small tax on the electricity that is used in transportation, the report identifies an approach to efficiently connecting the growing number of U.S. electric vehicles with highway trust fund (HTF) revenue streams.

At present, electric vehicles do not contribute substantively to state and federal highway trust funds. In fact, there are numerous programs that subsidize the use of electric vehicles, thus exacerbating the infrastructure investment deficit. ATRI’s analysis quantifies this revenue loss at more than $4 billion over the next 10 years.

The report suggests that U.S. electric utilities are well equipped to begin collection of a per-kWh charge of 2.1 cents for transportation-related electricity consumption in the coming years. Using a phased approach, utilities would identify, measure and tax electricity that is used for transportation – starting first with electricity that is dispersed through public charging stations and residential smart chargers.

“This analysis demonstrates how an electricity tax can easily emulate all the key components of a fuel tax. Moving forward with an efficient utility-based approach will help EV owners support the infrastructure that they use every day,” said Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association.

For access to the full report please visit ATRI’s website at TruckingResearch.org.

US DOT logo

Freight groups press Biden Administration on AV policy

From Transport Topics.

Freight stakeholders are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to proceed with implementing a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicle technology.

The groups, which include American Trucking Associations, point to potential economic and safety benefits linked to nationwide access to the technology’s applications.

“Implementing a federal [automated vehicles] framework that fosters the safe deployment of AVs can help the Biden administration to shepherd in a safer, more environmentally friendly and accessible transportation future,” the groups wrote the department in September.

“As the AV industry moves from research and development to deployment, we urge the department to use its authority to foster a pathway for near-term AV deployment. Providing for the widest range of deployment options in the near term will also help the department gather key data on the performance of AVs to inform permanent safety standards that are both practicable and effective,” the groups continued.

In reaching out to the administration, ATA was joined by:

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Consumer Technology Association
  • Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity
  • Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets
  • American Chemistry Council
  • American Highway Users Alliance
  • Automotive Service Association
  • Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • Intelligent Transportation Society of America

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

 

MG+M law firm logo

White House seeks to address trucking concerns

From MG+M The Law Firm.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the trucking industry was facing significant challenges in recruitment and retention of drivers. These issues became even more pressing as measures to combat the pandemic, including lockdowns, caused supply chain interruptions. The White House already has targeted certain problematic practices with the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. Included within the Executive Order was a directive to the Surface Transportation Board to strengthen oversight of cargo transport. While those representing the rail transportation industry have cautioned this oversight as potentially problematic, there is a sense that it would benefit the trucking industry.

Ian Jefferies, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, critiqued the Executive Order alleging it throws an “unnecessary wrench” into freight rail’s efforts to navigate through the challenges to the supply chain brought on by the pandemic. Another major criticism from Jefferies was aimed at the direction in the order for the Surface Transportation Board to consider a forced switching rule which would require rail carriers with physical access to a specific shipper’s facilities to switch that access to another carrier who then compensates the original carrier for the access. Jefferies stated, “Such a rule would degrade rail’s significant benefits to both customers and the public by throttling network fluidity, disincentivizing investment, increasing costs to shippers and consumers, and ultimately diverting traffic onto trucks and the nation’s already troubled highways.”

The White House took further steps to try and address some of the major concerns of the trucking industry on July 8, 2021 when the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, and Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Meera Joshi, met with leaders in trucking to address areas of and ease the strain on the supply chain. Among the concerns discussed were the over 90 percent and 72 percent turnover rates for long and small carriers (according to the Department of Transportation), respectively, the lag time in training new drivers, and the issue of recruiting new drivers. President Biden also established a Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, with the Department of Transportation taking lead. The centered focus to address the issues of The American Trucking Associations expressed a need to bring new talent into the profession, and tap into a new pool of potential workers.

While COVID-19 has hurt multiple industries, the shortage in available drivers has significantly hampered the country’s supply chain. The White House has recognized this and has taken the first steps to addressing these concerns.