|Sunday Dec 08, 2013 - The Government’s War on Long-Haul Truckers
Intrusive new regulations might actually make our highways more dangerous.
By Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven
Manuel Hernandez is not a complainer. But lately, he’s got a lot to complain about. Excessive government regulations are making it harder and harder for him to earn a living. And he’s not sure what he can do about it.
Hernandez is not an energy executive being hassled by the EPA, a banker trying to cope with Dodd-Frank, or a doctor getting nickel-and-dimed by HHS and Obamacare; he’s a long-haul trucker. And his story is one all Republicans running for office should know, because it personifies our government’s war against a large category of middle-class workers who make our economy hum.
Readers of the Wall Street Journal met Hernandez in his truck somewhere on Interstate 10 between El Paso and Los Angeles, thanks to a superb piece of reporting by Betsy Morris last week. This first sentence caught every reader’s attention: “Manuel Hernandez is one of a vanishing breed: a professional long-haul trucker.”
Long-haul truckers are vanishing? Is there someone protecting this endangered species? God knows we have enough people fighting for the survival of the dunes sagebrush lizard.
We soon learned why this breed of middle-class worker is vanishing, and we learned more about the 50-year-old Hernandez, too. Like many truckers, he loves what he does, especially squeezing his 18-wheeler into tight spaces. He’s a guy who doesn’t get his fashion tips from GQ and never once dreamed of landing that big corner office. His office is the rig he works in every day, accompanied by a whole lot of horsepower and thousands of miles of open road.
Hernandez’s story got more interesting a bit farther down in the article, as we learned how public policy dictated by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., was affecting his life — and the lives of all long-haul truckers — for the worse: “Lately, though, Mr. Hernandez’s patience has been worn thin by a confusing tangle of rules, efficiency directives, and electronic devices that cap his speed, log his every move, and practically try to autopilot his truck. Magnifying the stress are more federal rule changes that took effect in July and are now roiling the industry.”
The federal agency that is doing all this is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within a bigger agency, the Department of Transportation.
Under a revised rule by the FMCSA’s trucking czars, the average workweek for men and women who make a living carting around America’s stuff was shortened to 70 hours from 82. But that wasn’t the only change. It turns out the required 34-hour break between workweeks must now extend over two nights, including the hours between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., according to Betsy Morris’s article.
The micromanaging of what truckers can and can’t do is nothing new, but adding this new set of rules to lots of old rules — particularly one that limited truckers to no more than eleven hours of driving in a day, with a required rest of ten consecutive hours — has cost Hernandez and truckers like him dearly.
Why the changes? Has there been a spike of trucking accidents involving sleepy drivers?
Actually, no. Crashes involving large trucks declined 26 percent between 2000 and 2011. It turns out that the rule changes were the result of a decade of litigation against the FMCSA by safety advocates and plaintiff lawyers pushing for tougher driving laws.
What was supposed to be the upside to the changes foisted by the FMCSA on already-overregulated truckers like Manuel Hernandez? The agency predicts the new rules will prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries and save 19 lives a year.
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|Sunday Dec 08, 2013 - For-hire enjoys best-hiring month since April
Less cheering: New GDP rise is pinned to swollen inventories
Dec. 6, 2013David Cullen | Fleet Owner
Of the 203,000 jobs added to the economy last month, as reported today by the Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 8,400 were for positions in for-hire trucking— notching the best employment month for the segment since April.
What’s more, per the BLS Current Employment Statistics Highlights report, in November the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% to 7.0%. BLS said employment increased in transportation and warehousing as well as in health care and manufacturing.
“Truck transportation added 8,000 jobs in November,” stated BLS. However, that number may actually surpass 8,400, the number pegged by Bob Costello, chief economist & vice president of the American Trucking Assns. Costello pointed out to FleetOwner that “ATA goes on our figures, which come from BLS.”
BLS further observed about the November performance by for-hire trucking that “since the most recent employment trough in March 2010, the industry has added 161,000 jobs.”
Costello said the drop in the unemployment rate— now at its lowest level in five years— was “due to solid job growth, not people leaving work force” and a “very positive sign” for the economy.
BLS also reported that the change in total nonfarm employment for September was revised up by 12,000 (from +163,000 to +175,000) and that the employment change for October was revised down by 4,000 (from +204,000 to +200,000).
“Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 31,000 in November,” the agency noted, “with gains in couriers and messengers (+9,000), truck transportation (+8,000), warehousing and storage (+5,000), and air transportation (+3,000).”
The other big economic news this week came yesterday, when the Commerce Dept. reported that GDP increased at an annual rate of 3.6% in the third quarter, according to what it termed the "second” estimate released by its Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
“The acceleration in real GDP growth in the third quarter primarily reflected an acceleration in private inventory investment, a deceleration in imports, and an acceleration in state and local government spending that were partly offset by decelerations in exports, in personal consumption expenditures, and in nonresidential fixed investment,” noted BEA in a news release.
However, ATA’s Costello cautioned against viewing this news too positively—pointing out the revision was due to higher inventories built up by businesses.
“These higher inventories aren’t good because shippers will work off any excess inventories before ordering more products,” he told FleetOwner. And that hurts truck-freight volumes. It is likely one of the reasons why October freight was off, once adjusted for typical seasonality.”
Costello said inventories did not pile up “on purpose,” but said the situation was “most likely caused by weaker sales than expected. I suspect the drawdown has already started as October truck freight was weaker than anticipated (seasonally adjusted).”
Indeed, Lindsey Piegza, managing director & chief economist of brokerage firm Sterne Agee, observed in an email that while third-quarter GDP was revised up from the preliminary estimate of 2.8% to 3.6%, “the underlying story does not change.
“Headline [a basic rate before distorting factors have been removed] growth was led by [a] surge in inventories-- larger than previously reported-- while consumption continued to wane and business remained sidelined,” she continued. “The surge in inventories accounted for 1.68%, or nearly half of headline growth in the third quarter.”
On the other hand, Peizga pointed out that personal consumption was revised down from 1.5% to 1.4% in Q3. She said that contributed less than 1% to the headline number-- reinforcing the declining trend in consumption since the start of the year.
“As we saw with the initial GDP release,” Piezga pointed out, “headline growth was impressive thanks to an inventory stockpile. However, overzealous production last quarter is likely to severely contract from the current quarter's growth.
“Given the fragile consumer sector and tepid business investment,” she advised, “end of the year growth is unlikely to push above 2%.”
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|Friday Dec 06, 2013 - Nearly 2,000 brokers lose operating licenses following warning notice on higher surety bond limits
Mark B. Solomon
Nearly 2,000 property brokers have lost their operating authority this week after failing to comply with a new Congressionally mandated increase in surety bonds used to pay claims by truckers for late payment or nonpayment for their services, according to a carrier marketing website.
The license revocation process began Dec. 2 after the expiration of a 60-day grace period established by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for brokers to comply with the higher limits. FMCSA, a unit of the Department of Transportation, oversees the operations of freight brokers, among other tasks. The data came from My Carrier Resources, a Platte City, Mo.-based company run by Michael J. Curry, who said he has 37 years of transportation experience, 30 of them as a broker. Curry said he obtained the information on the revocations from the FMCSA website.
Language incorporated in the 2012 law re-authorizing the nation's transportation funding programs required brokers to post a $75,000 surety bond to guarantee payment to motor carriers if the broker fails to make good. The previous bond amount had been $10,000.
It is unclear how many brokers voluntarily surrendered their licenses versus how many had their authorities revoked. Warning notices to affected brokers were sent starting Nov. 1. These notices informed brokers that their authorities would be pulled if they didn't demonstrate compliance, according to Curry.
Notices were sent to approximately 9,000 brokers starting Nov. 1 and continuing from Nov. 4 through Nov. 8, Curry said. On Monday, 1,900 brokers had their operating authorities revoked, he said. That was followed by 22 on Tuesday, and 855 yesterday, Curry said. As of mid-day today, the FMCSA site reported three revocations, all of them voluntary, Curry said. The revocation period from the November round of notices is set to run until Dec. 10, Curry said.
Brokers would be eligible for reinstatement if they meet the higher bonding requirements, Curry said. It is estimated that there are 21,000 property brokers operating in the United States.
The battle over the bonding levels has pitted the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and the American Trucking Associations against independent broker interests represented by the Association of Independent Property Brokers & Agents (AIPBA). Independent broker advocates said thousands of brokers unable to either come up with the higher upfront payment or obtain a bank letter of credit attesting to the availability of funds would be driven out of business or become agents of larger brokers. They also accused TIA of trying to corner the market on surety bond underwriting, a claim TIA has denied.
Supporters of the higher bond levels have argued that the increase was reasonable because the $10,000 threshold had remained in force for 30 years. They also maintained that it was part of a broader effort to ensure that the brokerage segment, which has long had a reputation for shady activity, would be populated by ethical, well-run, and well-capitalized firms.
AIPBA had been willing to agree to a $25,000 surety bond threshold as an inflation-cost adjustment. Carrier interests, meanwhile, were seeking bond levels well into six figures.
Last week, a federal appeals court in Atlanta denied an AIPBA request for a temporary stay of the FMCSA's action.
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|Thursday Dec 05, 2013 - Crews recover man buried under grain
by KING 5 News Staff
ROY, Wash. -- Crews have found the man killed in a grain silo Wednesday night.
Reaching the remains of Steve Green, 44-year-old man, in the grain silo collapse took longer than expected, but crews worked non-stop till they found him.
Green leaves behind a wife, three daughters and a son.
Nearly two full days after a corn silo collapsed at the Wilcox Family Farm feed mill, vacuum trucks have removed nearly 500 tons of spilled corn.
Photos of grain silo collapse at Roy mill
The man and another employee at the Wilcox Feed Mill were doing maintenance outside the bin Monday when it collapsed, damaging two other bins and shifting an office building off of its foundation. Fire officials previously estimated 50 tons of grain had spilled, but later found out it was much more than that.
Two other employees managed to escape the office before it filled with the corn.
Officials with South Pierce Fire and Rescue also used a 125-foot excavator to hold the collapsed bin so searchers can reach the man.
Family members of the employee have been on site practically non-stop.
Green is a former Marine and so South Pierce Fire and Rescue plans to have members of the military remove his remains from the mill so they can give him a respectful procession off the property.
Wilcox Family Farms cited for safety violations
Records released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor and Industries show the mill's owner, Wilcox Family Farms, was cited earlier in the year for six “serious” safety violations. The company was assessed a $10,000 penalty after a June review.
Inspectors cited the company for having inadequate rescue services around a corn tank and for failing to fully inform employees of the hazardous conditions.
Wilcox Family Farms supplies eggs throughout the Northwest.
KING 5's Jake Whittenberg and Drew Mikkelsen contributed to this report.
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|Thursday Dec 05, 2013 - Gavilon to buy Iowa-based Lincolnway Energy distiller's grains
Dec 3 (Reuters) - Ethanol producer Lincolnway Energy said it has struck a deal to sell the distiller's grains produced at its ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, to Gavilon Ingredients LLC.
Distiller's grains, a byproduct of converting corn into ethanol fuel, are used to make animal feed.
Lincolnway, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said that under the Dec. 2 agreement, which takes effect Jan. 1, Gavilon is required to purchase all of the distiller's grains produced at the ethanol plant.
The agreement can be terminated after its initial term by either Lincolnway or Gavilon on 60 days' prior written notice, or in the event of a bankruptcy.
Gavilon was acquired by Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp earlier this year.
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|Wednesday Dec 04, 2013 - Woman Admits to Double Brokering Scheme
A woman has pleaded guilty to charges in U.S. District Court in Macon, Ga., for her involvement in a double-brokering freight scam.
On Nov. 20, Pauline Robinson-Kirkland, of Donalsonville, Ga., admitted to mail fraud. She was indicted in July 2012.
The investigation revealed that Robinson-Kirkland used the Internet to access websites where senders advertised loads of commercial freight available for transport, according to the Office of the U.S. DOT Inspector General.
She bid on these loads of freight using the names of her various companies, which are listed as having broker authority with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and was awarded the bids.
Robinson-Kirkland led the sender to believe her trucking business would deliver the freight for the contracted price and the sender of the freight would send her payment at the agreed upon price. However, after accepting the bid, she would immediately re-advertise the job, using a different company name.
She accepted bids from legitimate trucking companies and had them deliver the freight from the sender to the intended destination, never disclosing that she had arranged for the sender to send payment to her. This resulted in the actual freight hauler never being paid.
Robinson-Kirkland has yet to be sentenced.
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|Tuesday Dec 03, 2013 - Enforcement begins on increased broker bond amount
By Land Line staff http://www.landlinemag.com/
Starting Dec. 1 enforcement has begun on a new regulation mandating all brokers and freight forwarders have a $75,000 bond.
The new regulation, which upped the broker bond from $10,000 to $75,000, was enacted as part of the highway funding law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 Century Act, or MAP-21, which was signed in July 2012.
All brokers and freight forwarders who engage in interstate brokerage or freight forwarding operations must register with FMCSA reflecting the new minimum security amount of $75,000. Motor carriers who occasionally broker loads must register both as motor carriers and as brokers, according to the FMCSA guidance.
The increased bond amount went into effect on Oct. 1, but the agency allowed a 60-day phase in period to allow the industry to complete all necessary filings.
The maximum civil penalty for brokers and freight forwarders who engage in interstate operations and who do not register with FMCSA is $10,000.
Before the implementation of the regulation, the Association of Independent Property Brokers and Agents filed a civil lawsuit followed by a petition for review of the regulation in an attempt to block the increase of the bond amount.
The AIPBA’s civil lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in July was dismissed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District in Ocala, Fla., on Nov. 12. This was after a joint stipulation of dismissal was filed on Nov. 8 by the AIPBA and Anthony Foxx, in his capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as FMCSA, with each party agreeing to pay its own fees and costs.
The petition for review was filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Nov. 14 following the dismissal of the civil lawsuit. Along with the petition for review, the broker group also filed a motion for an emergency injunction in an attempt to delay the Dec. 1 enforcement deadline.
The court denied the emergency injunction petition on Nov. 26. The group’s petition for review still remains before the court, although not on an expedited schedule.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been supportive of upping the bond amount from $10,000, which was set before deregulation before 1980, back when there were fewer than 100 brokers in the U.S.
“By increasing the bond amount, in addition to other changes, the bond companies will better scrutinize the brokers applying for bonds to assure themselves that the bond won’t be abused and that truckers using the broker will be paid,” OOIDA Executive President Todd Spencer has stated about the new broker bond amount.
Copyright © OOIDA
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|Monday Dec 02, 2013 - Amazon Tests Drones for Home Delivery
E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. is developing aerial drones that it said could deliver products directly to consumers’ homes within the next five years.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the unmanned aircraft project Dec. 1 on CBS program “60 Minutes.” The vehicles could deliver up to five pounds in a 10-mile radius of Amazon’s 96 warehouses within 30 minutes, Bezos said.
“It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” he said, according to Bloomberg News.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve the use of drones, Bloomberg said. Congress has directed it to write regulations to allow such vehicles in United States airspace by 2015.
Drones are currently used to deliver textbooks in Australia, and an experiment using them in under way in China.
In addition to the faster time to deliver products, drones could deliver a supply chain with a smaller environmental impact, Bezos said. “It’s very green,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “It’s better than driving trucks around.”
In November, Amazon teamed up with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver packages on Sundays.
By Transport Topics
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|Monday Dec 02, 2013 - Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
MONTREAL, QC— You can name your own price on more than 2,900 equipment items and trucks at the Ritchie Bros. unreserved public auction, which will take place in Montreal on December 5 and 6.
"We are selling a huge selection of equipment in this auction—more than 400 pieces—from lifting and material handling equipment to light and heavy construction equipment, along with attachments and more," said André Véronneau, president and CEO of Simplex Equipment Rental, a Canadian rental company with more than 40 locations in Quebec and Ontario.
"With Ritchie Bros. we are able to quickly turn our idle equipment into cash and put that money towards upgrading our rental fleet with new equipment in order to improve our customer service," Véronneau said.
Bids can be made in person at the auction site, live online and by proxy.
Buyers can choose from over 150 truck tractors, 70 hydraulic excavators, 40 wheel loaders, 30 articulated dump trucks, 20 crawler tractors and more—and every item will be sold without minimum bids or reserve prices.
"With our auctions, sellers are able to reach a massive global audience of potential buyers; meanwhile buyers are provided an unmatched selection of used and unused equipment all in one place for them to inspect and compare—either on site or online," said Jessy Cantin, Regional Sales Manager, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers.
Also coming up is a Toronto auction featuring 2,000 equipment items and trucks and an auction in Truro, NS.
Here are the details:
Toronto – December 9, 10
• 45 hydraulic excavators (including an unused 2012 John Deere 350G LC)
• 30 agricultural tractors (including a 2012 John Deere 8335R MFWD)
• 20 wheel loaders (including a 2011 Caterpillar 966H)
• 25 crawler tractors (including a 2010 John Deere 750J LT)
• 105 truck tractors and more
• For more information about this auction visit: www.rbauction.com/toronto
Truro – December 17
• wheel loaders (including a 2009 Caterpillar 988H & a Letourneau L950 Pitbull)
• rock trucks (including five 2007 Komatsu HD465-7EO 55-ton)
• hydraulic excavators (including two 2009 Caterpillar 365CL)
• drills (including 2008 Atlas Copco DML-XL1200 crawler blast hole drill)
• trucks and more
• For more information about this auction visit: www.rbauction.com/truro
Interested sellers can contact: +1.450.464.2888 (for Montreal, QC), +1.905.857.2422 (for Toronto, ON), and +1.902.895.3700 (for Truro, NS).
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|Monday Dec 02, 2013 - Agriculture's 'dark side' is highly overstated
Article by: MIKE FERNANDEZ
A recent commentary deeply misunderstood Cargill’s mission.
Bonnie Blodgett’s commentary “Agriculture’s deal with the dark side” (Nov. 24) stokes unwarranted fear of “industrial agriculture” and mischaracterizes Cargill’s role in agriculture worldwide. For one thing, 96 percent of crop-producing farms in the United States are family-owned, and they represent 87 percent of all agricultural value. For another, Cargill (where I work) is committed, like most of these farmers, to improved environmental stewardship and land management. We have many efforts underway to pursue sustainable production across the globe working with groups like World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy.
In the Colombian case mentioned in Blodgett’s essay, a Cargill subsidiary has made significant investments that are delivering direct benefits to the Colombian people and their domestic food security. The investments are building sustainable farms and farming infrastructure in a remote area with great agricultural potential but a long history of underinvestment.
The farms today are producing corn, soybeans and rice, 100 percent of which stays in Colombia, improving the country’s food security and reducing its high reliance on food imports. Blodgett gives life to rumor when she says Oxfam believes Cargill has plans to export this food. Nothing could be further from the truth. Colombia is a net-food-importing country. It imports 80 percent of its corn and soybean consumption, which means the local market will long be the best home for local production.
Although Blodgett said we gave “no explanation beyond a brief news release,” we have provided a great deal of information on our website about our role in growing more food for Colombia.
Our website also reports on how Cargill has been working for many years with millions of smallholder farmers around the world. We help them improve the crop quality and yields of their own land, raise their productivity and incomes, offer a market for their crops, and invest in the health and education of their communities.
Another fact that could have been readily checked is our work with the World Wildlife Fund. Blodgett’s essay states that Cargill “apparently hasn’t sought … advice” from WWF leader Jason Clay. In fact, not only have we sought Clay’s advice, we have a partnership with WWF to define better environmental management practices for key commodities. Moreover, WWF has shared its views with us in many meetings and Clay specifically in forums with Cargill’s leaders.
Can the largest, most-respected environmental nonprofits be wrong about the merits of public-private partnerships? Any read of recent literature would suggest that if we are to sustain important places like the Amazon biome, it will take all of us.
Blodgett’s most illogical claim is that Cargill may “pursue its goals with little government interference or public scrutiny” because it is a private company. We are subject to and comply with the laws and regulations of all of the 67 countries in which we operate — and gladly so, because laws are the foundation of civil societies. Beyond that, we publicly report our financial results and regularly discuss our investment and operational activities. We understand that today’s world demands greater transparency about where our food comes from and how it is produced. At Cargill we do not shrink from this scrutiny; we embrace it.
Through the years, despite the efforts of those who fear science, food production has become more global and efficient, and, as a result, more people have access to a wider variety of safe food at a relatively low cost. But farmers and Cargill know that to continue to build on these advances and feed an additional 2 billion people in the coming decades, we will need to do so responsibly and sustainably.
Mike Fernandez is vice president for corporate affairs at Cargill.
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