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OOIDA: Speed limiters constrain small businesses, would cause more crashes

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Speed limiters create dangerous driving conditions, including challenges navigating merges and running blockades (known as elephant races) that increase "road rage" among other drivers. Arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a letter of opposition to the current speed limiter bill. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — Mandating the use of speed limiters set at 65 mph takes control of a commercial motor vehicle out of the hands of the driver and unnecessarily constrains small businesses, the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told two senators who have introduced legislation that require such devices in all CMVs to promote safety on America’s highways.

“There are countless scenarios where a driver’s expertise and discretion is needed to avoid an accident or other dangerous situations, but their abilities would be arbitrarily curtailed by speed limiters,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said in a July 11 letter to Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “Rather than mandating speed limiters, the most efficient and cost-effective means to promote safer roads is simply enforcing existing speed limits, which Congress authorized states to set based on their own unique factors. Additionally, Congress should consider measures that would actually improve safety, such as enhanced training that would help drivers understand how their rate of speed affects safety.”

The legislation, S.2033) in question is called the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, named after Cullum Owings, who was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer during a trip back to college in Virginia after Thanksgiving in 2002.

Isakson spokeswoman Marie Gordon said making the bipartisan legislation was a top priority for him “and we’ll be working hard to demonstrate that this is a commonsense idea that will protect millions of America’s drivers.”

OOIDA says it represents the interests of owner-operators, small-business motor carriers, and professional truck drivers. It has more than 160,000 members located in all 50 states.

Spencer said the bill would not only fail to improve safety but would likely lead to more crashes involving CMVs.

“We are adamantly opposed to S. 2033 and any other federal mandate that would create a separate nationwide speed limit for CMVs,” Spencer wrote, noting that by establishing a one-size-fits-all federal mandate limiting CMVs to 65 mph, the legislation would create dangerous speed differentials between CMVs and other vehicles.

“Decades of highway research shows greater speed differentials increase interactions between truck drivers and other road users,” Spencer said. “Studies have consistently demonstrated that increasing interactions between vehicles directly increases the likelihood of crashes. Speed limiters also create dangerous driving conditions, including challenges navigating merges and running blockades (known as elephant races) that increase ‘road rage’ among other drivers. Arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves. Other drivers often react to these situations in aggressive and unpredictable ways, creating unnecessary hazards for themselves and our members.”

Spencer said speed limiting trucks also increases pressure and stress on professional drivers to complete their work.

“Truckers required to operate below the posted speed limit are forced to drive maximum hours to cover the same distance, which increases their fatigue and places even greater stress on them to comply with burdensome Hours of Service regulations,” he said. “Furthermore, our members who have used speed-limited trucks report feeling pressure to drive faster on roads where they would prefer to drive slower in order to keep their schedule.”

Speed limiting trucks also increases pressure and stress on professional drivers to complete their work, Spencer said, adding that truckers required to operate below the posted speed limit are forced to drive maximum hours to cover the same distance, which increases their fatigue and places even greater stress on them to comply with HOS.

“Furthermore, our members who have used speed-limited trucks report feeling pressure to drive faster on roads where they would prefer to drive slower in order to keep their schedule,” he said.

The two senators said another reason for introducing the legislation was to circumvent the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation, which has delayed any action on the proposed rule indefinitely as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations, which the president says slow the economy.

The rule, which didn’t propose a top speed but said the government had studied 60, 65 and 68 mph, has been at a standstill since it moved through the public comment stage in November of 2016 toward the end of the Obama administration. The next action on the rule is listed as “undetermined” on a federal website.

Spencer said even the proposed rule, a joint proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pointed out that “this joint rulemaking could put owner-operators and small fleet owners…at a disadvantage in some circumstances.”

“One remaining competitive advantage for small trucking companies over their larger competitors is the lack of a need to speed limit trucks for fleet management purposes,” Spencer said. “Instead, small trucking businesses are able to operate at the speeds determined to be safe by state officials, which in many cases is above 65 mph. Indeed, FMCSA and NHTSA concluded that as a result of losing this advantage, ‘some of the affected owner-operators would work for trucking companies as independent contractors.’”

 

 

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The Nation

Can you say oversized load!

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That is big!

 

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The Nation

Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere

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The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time

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The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.

 

 

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