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Orders trickle in for Tesla Semi

Just two days after California automaker Tesla revealed its battery-powered Semi, orders started rolling in.

John Roberts, J.B. Hunt president and chief executive officer, says his company has placed a reservation for “multiple” Tesla tractors, each requiring a $5,000 down payment for a 2019 production date.

Roberts says reserving the trucks was an important step in the company’s efforts to implement industry-changing technology.

“We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology,” he says, adding J.B. Hunt plans to deploy the electric tractors in its intermodal and dedicated contract services divisions on the West Coast.

Retail giant Walmart also disclosed it has placed reservations for 15 trucks, deploying five in the U.S. and 10 in Canada. Canada is becoming a hotbed for Tesla Semi early orders. Canadian grocery chain Loblaw announced it would order a total of 25 of the new all-electric tractor as it works to convert its entire fleet to battery power by the end of the decade.

Grocery and discount house Meijer Inc., told Bloomberg News it would test four Tesla trucks.

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ELD violations won’t ding carriers’ CSA scores until April, FMCSA announces

Carriers who are hit with citations for non-compliance with FMCSA’s electronic logging device mandate will not have points recorded against them in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability carrier scoring system, safety officials said today at a public hearing in Birmingham, Ala. It was previously announced that those drivers also will not be put out of service during that period.

A driver found after the mandate’s implementation, Dec. 18, but before April 1, with no ELD or compliant AOBRD (automatic onboard recording device) will be cited for having no log, but it will have no impact on the associated motor carrier’s Safety Measurement System ranking, said Jon Dierberger, FMCSA field administrator.

That policy originated with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said Anne Collins, FMCSA’s associate administrator of field operations. CVSA brings together highway safety officials from every state and trucking representatives to set enforcement policies and practices, including the out-of-service criteria.

In August, CVSA and FMCSA said enforcement of ELD-related out of service criteria would be delayed to April 1 as a phase-in for ELDs’ implementation. Officials have also said inspectors will have some discretion as to writing citations as the mandate takes effect.

An AOBRD must have been used in the truck prior to Dec. 18 to be grandfathered in as compliant. As of Dec. 16, 2019, only ELDs that meet FMCSA criteria will be compliant.

In her first public appearance since starting her job Monday, FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux addressed the lingering opposition to the ELD mandate.

“FMCSA recognizes motor carriers, particularly independent and small motor carriers, want an extension,” Gautreaux said. As for the agency doing so on its own, “FMCSA cannot arbitrarily change the compliance date of Dec. 18.” The final rule was issued more than two years ago and the ELD mandate changes nothing about hours of service, so at this point there is no reason to change it, she said.

FMCSA has been training state-based trainers since October to have all jurisdictions ready for implementing the ELD mandate, she said.

Gautreaux also outlined three priorities for the agency: improving highway infrastructure, regulatory reform and safe deployment of autonomous vehicle systems.

Highway congestion wastes an estimated $3 billion per year in time and fuel, she said, and highway fatalities have begun to rise again. FMCSA hopes to support public-private partnerships that could help solve the problem.

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Texas Congressman asks Trump to delay ELD mandate via Executive Order

The Texas representative who has been the principal sponsor of the H.R. 3282 ELD Extension Act of 2017 two-year electronic-logging-device mandate delay has written a letter requesting President Trump write an executive order to delay the December 18 mandate enforcement deadline at least until April Fool’s Day next year. April 1 is also the date on which federal and state law enforcement partners have stated they will begin enforcing the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s out-of-service criteria around use of ELDs.

Rep Brian Babin (R-Texas) posted the letter to his Facebook page today.

Babin’s letter says the Congressman consulted the Congressional Research Service to determine if such a delay would be within the purview of the executive branch, concluding it would be. “My preference,” Babin writes, “would be to delay the rule for as long as it takes, but at a bare minimum, I would encourage an initial waiver for all sectors until April 1, 2018.” The Congressman asked for a response from the President by December 1.

The approximately three-month delay, in addition to conforming with the CVSA-approved out-of-service criteria enforcement delay, would eliminate “the very predictable havoc of trying to implement this massive, complicated regulation just a week before Christmas – perhaps the busiest time for the consumer freight network of the year,” Babin writes, later addressing the president directly. “A few powerful interests will tell you that this mandate is good for trucking, and our country, but millions of hardworking people across our country who came together exactly one year ago to elect you president profoundly disagree.”

He went on to cite concerns with the cybersecurity, cost and truck-safety implications of the mandate. You can read the full letter via this link.

As of midday today, November 9, 2017, Babin’s bill had 64 cosponsors, up from around just more than 50 the first week of October, when grassroots ELD mandate protests took place in Washington, D.C., and around the country.

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Likely FMCSA boss Martinez stands behind ELD mandate, hopes to shore up CSA

Raymond P. Martinez, President Trump’s pick to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during his presidency, told a panel of Senators on Tuesday that he does not have plans to delay the agency’s Dec. 18 deadline for compliance with the electronic logging device mandate should he be confirmed to run the agency.

However, Martinez did say he intends to examine how the rule could affect small business truckers, if confirmed. “I have heard this rule could cause serious hardship to some small independent truckers, particularly those in the agriculture sector,” he said. “I want to meet with those involved who oppose the rule to learn more about those concerns.”

Martinez testified Tuesday in front of the Senate’s Commerce Committee as part of his confirmation process. He joined three other nominees picked by Trump to run DOT agencies. The Senate must confirm Martinez via a simple majority for him to take the reins of Washington’s trucking regulatory body. Trump tapped Martinez in September to head FMCSA. Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010, having served in other motor vehicle-related roles most of his career.

He was asked only a handful of questions, two of which pertained to the ELD mandate. “Our goal is not to cripple commerce, but to make our roadways safer,” Martinez said in response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz asked Martinez that, given the estimated $2 billion price tag associated with industry-wide compliance with the mandate, whether he’d consider delaying the Dec. 18 deadline.

Martinez said he believes “regulatory reform should be an ongoing process,” but that “it’s my understanding with regards to ELDs that they are legally required” ahead of the December deadline.

“In the past, it was paper-based,” he said in response to another question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), “which means [logs were] very susceptible to fraudulent entries and altered entries.”

Martinez also said he intends to make the agency more data driven, particularly when it comes to targeting high-risk carriers within the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. CSA’s BASIC ratings were pulled from public view by Congress in 2015, and the National Academies of Science this year issued a report to Congress and FMCSA with recommendations on how the agency can reform the program to make it more equitable to carriers and accurate in its assessment of safety risk.

Martinez told Senators he intends to review the report and “make appropriate changes [and] evaluate how best we can move forward” with the program.

“We need to be using sound science,” he said. “The key thing is whether the data we use to compile these assessments are accurate, reliable and fair. If the data is unreliable, we lose credibility with stakeholders and the entities we regulate. And we do a disservice to the public,” he said.

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Daimler’s electric trucks start making deliveries in Japan and US

 

Most electric vehicle discussions revolve around passenger cars. Sometimes buses get thrown into the mix. We’re laser-focused on how people will get from point A to point B and sometimes forget that our streets are also teeming with delivery trucks and vans. Daimler hasn’t forgotten and neither has its light-truck brand Fuso.

After years of testing, Fuso (it’ll be using eFuso for its electric vehicles) is putting its eCanter truck on the roads of Japan and the United States, delivering for 7-Eleven and UPS, respectively. Fifty of the trucks will land in North America by the end of 2017.

During an event at Mercedes-Benz’s research and development facility in Silicon Valley, (Daimler is the parent company or Mercedes and Fuso), I was able to take the new eCanter out for a spin. For the driver in the cab, it’s not much different from the diesel and gas vehicles they’re used to steering.

But for everyone else, the eCanter is almost completely silent and doesn’t spew CO2 into the air while hauling our Amazon purchases around town. Both of those, along with the cost savings of switching from oil-based fuels to electric, are the big selling points of the eCanter.

Most delivery trucks (including the traditional Canter) use diesel and make quite a bit of racket while the engine runs. It’s why you can tell when the UPS or FedEx truck is out front, but not the pizza delivery person. Anytime you can reduce noise in a work environment, not only are you making things better for employees but also, in this instance, reducing noise pollution on our already hectic streets.

As for environmental pollution, Fuso says that driving the eCanter instead of the regular Canter prevents 16 tons of pollution from the air per year. If you think about how many trucks like this you see roaming around your city every day, that’s an incredible amount of CO2 kept from the air.

But companies need more than quiet trucks and good environmental vibes to replace their current fleets with battery-powered ones. Fuso said that these new trucks could generate a saving of $19,000 after five years of use compared to their predecessors. The trucks will also be offered with the option for lessees to upgrade the batteries when improvements become available.

And finally, by using a companion system, companies can track their trucks’ energy usage in far greater detail than they can with their diesel counterparts, including staggering how much and at what times the vehicle needs charging. This can be pretty often if the truck strays too far from its distribution center.

The eCanter has a range of 60 to 80 miles based on the terrain and how much of a load it’s carrying. The truck is rated for 9,000 pounds of cargo. Recharging the vehicle’s six battery packs can take as long as eight hours using a typical level 2 charger, but with a DC fast-charger it can get to 80 percent in about an hour. This means a driver could replenish the charge during a lunch break if a fast-charger is available. A full charge will take up to two hours.

These specs make the truck perfect for dense areas like San Francisco, Chicago and New York, but for cities, like Los Angeles, that are basically hundreds of miles of sprawl, the eCanter probably won’t be replacing vehicles that needed to cover all those miles in a day. For those routes under the century mark, the eCanter looks to be a solid performer, based on my time in the cab of the truck.

The silent truck also displayed the characteristics found on other electric vehicles. It has plenty of torque right off the line and that power is available at almost any speed. Driving it as easy as driving any truck with an automatic transmission: You just point and go. For drivers that might not be fans of change, the only adaptation they’ll have to make is looking at a battery gauge instead of a fuel one.

The eCanter has a range of 60 to 80 miles based on the terrain and how much of a load it’s carrying. The truck is rated for 9,000 pounds of cargo. Recharging the vehicle’s six battery packs can take as long as eight hours using a typical level 2 charger, but with a DC fast-charger it can get to 80 percent in about an hour. This means a driver could replenish the charge during a lunch break if a fast-charger is available. A full charge will take up to two hours.

These specs make the truck perfect for dense areas like San Francisco, Chicago and New York, but for cities, like Los Angeles, that are basically hundreds of miles of sprawl, the eCanter probably won’t be replacing vehicles that needed to cover all those miles in a day. For those routes under the century mark, the eCanter looks to be a solid performer, based on my time in the cab of the truck.

The silent truck also displayed the characteristics found on other electric vehicles. It has plenty of torque right off the line and that power is available at almost any speed. Driving it as easy as driving any truck with an automatic transmission: You just point and go. For drivers that might not be fans of change, the only adaptation they’ll have to make is looking at a battery gauge instead of a fuel one.

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DCLI Expands Premium Chassis Fleet to Near Canadian National’s Chicago Intermodal Rail Yard

Direct ChassisLink Inc. has introduced its premium pool into the Chicago market, expanding the equipment footprint beyond Southern California.

The newest location is located near the Canadian National Railway’s intermodal terminal in Harvey, Ill.

The equipment includes radial tires and LED lights.

“With often long and expensive drays to retrieve chassis equipment in the Chicago market, our customers demand more convenient options,” said Ryan Houfek, chief commercial officer with DCLI. “IPPZ Chicago gives customers access to another chassis choice in one of the busiest inland locations in the country. Launching this new pool now will help relieve some of the peak-season pressure on the system.”

The daily rental rate is $21.50, a rate that went into effect July 1.

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Shippers expect big rate increases as market swings in truckers’ favor

Shippers fear “double-digit,” by percentage, rate increases loom in the coming months as trucking capacity continues to tighten and spot market freight activity — and rates — continue to gain ground. Spot market rates have soared in recent months, and the contract market could be next, says FTR analyst and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Starks.

“Spot market rates are a leading indicator. And, although there is a lag, contract markets are starting to follow suit. Shippers are now taking notice and are getting worried about dealing with double-digit rate increases as we head towards bid season,” he says.

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These notes come from FTR’s monthly Trucking Conditions Index report. The most recent TCI is from August, which shows modestly positive conditions for carriers. August’s reading isn’t “wholly reflective of the current environment for truckers,” FTR notes, because it doesn’t include the supply chain disruptions caused in September by hurricanes Harvey or Irma, nor does it fully reflect the ballooning spot market.

“The truck market is currently in the middle of a significant change in conditions,” Starks says. “While the recent weather events made it feel like it happened all at once, spot markets have actually been moving in this direction for the past year. Load activity was rising, truck availability was falling, and rates were already up 20 percent year over year before the storms hit.”

Loadboard DAT Solutions last week reported strong spot market gains in September from August and record-setting year-over-year growth.

Available loads on DAT’s loadboard were 74 percent higher than the same month last year, DAT reported.

The dry van segment in particular saw major gains, with freight activity climbing 15 percent from August and up 80 percent from September 2016. Rates, meanwhile, gained 19 cents a mile from August and were up 35 cents from last September, DAT reported. The load-to-truck ratio hit 6.6 to 1 — the highest average in 8 years.

Reefer demand grew 4 percent from August and 70 percent from last September, pushing rates up 15 cents from August. DAT says harvest season in the pacific northwest and upper midwest, as well as late harvests in California, drove the segment’s surge.

The number of flatbed loads grew 3 percent from August. Though flatbed freight activity typically declines in September, recovery and rebuilding efforts in storm-stricken areas helped boost the segment this year, DAT says. Rates in the segment climbed 8 cents in September.

DAT says it expects the elevated spot market activity to continue at least until February.

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Trump nominates Raymond P. Martinez to head FMCSA

President Donald Trump plans to nominate Raymond P. Martinez to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to an update posted to the White House’s website. Martinez is the current chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

For Martinez to become the official head of FMCSA, he must be confirmed by the Senate.

Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010. Prior, he was commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Martinez has also held positions as the Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority and as Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. State Department, according to his bio on New Jersey’s website.

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How technology has come to affect trucking

Mobile technology has revolutionized truck driving, making drivers more connected than ever before and changing how they work, relax and interact. The five ways it’s happened include:

Connection – Though trucking still comes down to a driver and a truck, the job is a lot less lonely than it used to be, thanks to the smartphone. No other piece of mobile technology has done more for truckers. It offers instant connections with friends, family and work; it’s also a safety device and source of entertainment.

“I don’t have to look for a pay phone on a street corner in the rain or cold, blowing wind. Now, I sit in my truck and make my phone calls,” said Gary Wiggins, a Texas-based owner-operator.

While smart phones keep drivers in touch with family and friends, they’re also business tools.

“I use my phone to call agents about loads. Then I have the agent email the pickup info and delivery info. Then I print that info out on my printer in the truck. After I deliver a load, I call the agent on my cell phone to let them know their load has been delivered. Then I scan the paperwork and BOL and email that to the company that I’m leased to to get paid. I get paid online, I pay my bills online,” Wiggins said.

Navigation – Truckers do still get lost on occasion, but it’s rarer than it used to be, thanks to GPS technology. Satellite navigation, backed by apps that provide up-to-date maps, weather conditions and road construction, makes it easier for drivers to arrive safely and on time.

Entertainment – Laptops, tablets and smartphones put a world of entertainment at the disposal of drivers. They can binge on Netflix in their sleepers, listen to audiobooks and music or play Xbox as well as they could in their living rooms. That makes nights on the road a lot more bearable.

Accountability – Drivers like to say that they could never be cooped up in an office; ironically, their whereabouts are probably more closely tracked than that of many office workers. GPS devices on trucks and e-logs tell employers exactly where drivers are and, in many cases, how they’re driving. Dash cams record video of driving behavior while engine telematics track speed and acceleration, all of it information employers can use to monitor drivers.

Drawbacks — Though there is no doubt that mobile technology has made trucking easier, safer and more profitable, some drivers feel something has been lost along the way.

“Electronics is a double-edged sword,” said William Kolias, an owner-operator in New Hampshire and driving instructor. While electronics has removed a lot of the inefficiency from the industry, it has pushed the human element – the driver – to the limit, he said.

Technology and trucking will remain linked and drivers will continue to adapt mobile technology to make their jobs easier and to remain competitive.

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IANA Panel Agrees Transportation Needs Are Dire, But They’re Not Sure About Funding

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Politicians in Washington agree on the dire need to modernize the ports, railroads and highways in the United States, but the “how do we pay for it” question sparks a debate between Democrats and Republicans.

At the Intermodal Association of North American exposition here, stakeholders discussed two funding ideas that are already the buzz on Capitol Hill: taxes and public-private partnerships.

“Our funding stream for infrastructure, especially freight movement, needs tremendous help. What we’ve relied upon primarily, the gas tax, is a nonsustainable funding stream. It will decrease as we go forward with better efficiency and less reliance on gas,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Ports Caucus, told members of the expo late last month. “Right now, [lawmakers] are laying out the parameters. But we haven’t dealt with the 800-pound gorilla of how we’re going to pay for all of this with sustainable funding streams.”

The federal tax on diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon. For gasoline, it’s 18.4 cents per gallon.

In June, Lowenthal introduced House Resolution 3001 — The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act — that would institute a new 1% ground transportation tax on freight transportation on railroads or in Class 7 and Class 8 trucks. Lowenthal believes the funding stream would be more stable than the gas tax.

“We already have it on air transportation, but we don’t have that kind of thing on surface transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it would raise a minimum of $8 billion annually,” he said.

On public-private partnerships, or P3s, there was a skepticism that the idea should be used as frequently as President Donald Trump would prefer.

“I don’t think there should be this blatant, overall, ‘let’s do P3s for the sake of doing P3s’ mentality. In certain contexts, it might not be the most efficient way to deliver a project,” said Shant Boyajian, attorney in the infrastructure group of Washington, D.C., law firm Nossaman. “Every public agency should think when doing a project what’s the most efficient way to actually deliver it and maximize the value of money.”

Lowenthal added that while public-private partnerships make sense in some cases for urban infrastructure projects, they don’t make sense in the rural areas.

When revamping the nation’s infrastructure Jones Lang LaSalle economist Walter Kemmsies noted that the design should focus on a transportation network designed for imports and exports. He argued that when the national highway system was originally built, it was prioritized towards importing based on economic conditions after World War II.

“The problem is we’ve succeeded. We have a growing global middle class, but our industries do not get access to those markets,” he said. “If we’re to rebuild our infrastructure to support our exports, that’s where the employment and wage growth comes from. Does the U.S. produce what the global consumers are buying? Yes. But are we supplying the global customer? Increasingly, no. The world market is where we’ll get our best return on investment.”

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