Friday, August 22, 2008

Open for business

An estimated 40 percent of American imports come through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and it’s apparent that about 40 percent of truck news is coming from those ports as well.

Just the other day in Land Line’s newsroom, we spent 10 minutes going through the requirements truckers will have to meet to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s rules on drayage trucks, the ports rules themselves, and CARB’s proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions that also mentions ports.

So we’ve cobbled together a hodgepodge of what’s going on this week at the ports.

As the photo in this post shows, more than $2 billion in truck replacement funds are to be handed out from a trailer parked between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been working for years on a clean truck program aimed at lowering emissions. This week they have rolled out models of trucks that participants in the ports’ “truck replacement program” can choose from.

The photo you see was taken by Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, who is on the ground in Los Angeles this week.

Any program handing out $2.2 billion is sure to sound alarms, and this one is no different.

More information about the truck replacement program is available here. A Land Line Special Report about the truck program’s inclusion of Mexican trucking companies is available here.

And today, at the ports, one group is schedule to demonstrate against a financing plan being touted as the way for owner operators to obtain new, low emissions trucks.

Fox Business reported on a press release from the Consumer Federation of California about demonstrators who are comparing the truck replacement program to subprime housing loans, which many are blaming for the current economic swoon. The Port of Long Beach, which is planning on continuing to use owner-operators, has worked with Daimler Chrysler to organize truck funding for owner-operators.

Of the 16,000 drayage drivers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach daily, an estimated 25 percent lack residency documentation and many more drive dilapidated trucks.

From the Consumer Federation of California:

“A Daimler official publicly told the Long Beach officials that the company expects ‘over 40 percent’ of port drivers to have ‘high difficulty meeting the payments’ and that the company's strength is ‘managing collections,’ i.e., repossessing trucks.”

That article is available here.

As you can see, the port topic continues to heat up. The ports will be doling out $2.2 billion for these trucks, and their ability to implement a long-term strategy of cutting emissions is likely to be undermined by competing ports up and down the West Coast of North America who aren’t likely to raise container fees as high as Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Other ports in California, however, will still have to deal with the state’s port restrictions requiring 2007 emissions level truck engines by 2014.

Interestingly, the California Air Resources Board is scheduled to consider a regulation in October that would mandate all non-port truckers upgrade their trucks with assorted SmartWay certified equipment.

A voluntary program, the EPA SmartWay program includes use of fairings, side curtains, low-rolling resistance tires and other technologies aimed at fuel efficiency. Many port trucks, however, won’t be required to upgrade their trucks with SmartWay fairings, side curtains and other body pieces, and may very well be exempted from CARB’s proposed SmartWay reg.

Joe Rajkovacz is interested in CARB’s regulation, and has spoken this week with CARB employees while he’s in California. And he believes long haulers from out of state would be at a competitive disadvantage if the CARB SmartWay rule is approved as-is.

“It’s hypocrisy that our folks are being told under the proposed SmartWay regulation to have air fairings while many port trucks won’t,” Rajkovacz said.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trucking documentary to premiere Friday

“Drive and Deliver” is creating some pre-GATS buzz in the trucking industry. That’s the title of a new documentary-style film detailing the life of long-haul truckers.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I did see a trailer and some promotional outtakes. Truthfully, it looks like it beats the heck out of some overrated studio films from the local Blockbuster that have wasted a number of my evenings this summer.

The film – directed by Academy Award-nominated director Brett Morgen – takes you into the cabs of three long-haul truckers as they make their way across the country. The film’s makers have said that they wanted to portray the truckers’ world “where the realities of family, business and brotherhood converge into one inspiring story.”

You’ll meet Tim Young, Steven Donaldson and Chris LeCount, not actors, but the real thing. Steven and Chris, in fact, are OOIDA members.

The film was bankrolled by Navistar International, so it’s no surprise that the other starring role was landed by the LoneStar.

The film is set to premiere at 6 p.m. Friday night at the Great American Truck Show in Dallas. The word is that it will be red-carpet affair and is already sold out. According to The New York Times, the carpet will “accommodate” about 600 truckers and other invited guests.

Whether or not Joan Rivers and her daughter will be patrolling the carpet, snagging comments from celebrity hotties is unknown. What we do know is that two hot editors from Land Line will be there, so we’ll get the inside scoop from Senior Technical Editor Paul Abelson and Land Line Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski.

If you are not among the red-carpet crowd Friday night in Dallas, don’t worry, dahling. Subsequent screenings are planned at more than 50 truck stops around the country. After that, the film is to be released on DVD.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Are you tired?

Do you think you should be tired?

Are you tired of seeing news stories talking about lack of sleep, and how tired Americans are?

I’m yawning just thinking about them.

Every week we’re hit by “Good Morning America” or in USA Today with stories about why we’re too tired, can’t sleep at night, and probably suffer from a debilitating disease that quickly explains our being overweight and our early morning red-eye – all before traffic and weather!

Yet, according to The Wall Street Journal, nonprofit groups funded largely by drug companies help plant stories on topics such as Americans’ lack of sleep and the obesity epidemic.

Groups such as the National Sleep Foundation continue e-mailing faxing press releases and mailing video news releases, which become more influential as media chains continue to cut reporters’ jobs and rely more on those releases.

One member of FMCSA’s Medical Review Board – the group that recommended expensive overnight sleep tests for all CDL holders with body mass indexes of 30 or greater – is an executive committee member and board member of the National Sleep Foundation.

That Medical Review Board member – Dr. Barbara Phillips – herself pushed the argument for lowering the BMI threshold to 30 during the board’s January meeting. You can read more about that by clicking here.

The National Sleep Foundation is funded largely by drug companies, and also receives funds from CPAP manufacturers.

This fact was pointed out in a story I found recently on yahoo news. The story by livescience.com points out that a recent study showed most Americans get eight hours of sleep, which is plenty.

So keep an eye out for just who is being quoted as an expert in news stories affecting your health.

And another thing:

Put down that Red Bull. You don’t need it!