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Graduated CDL could mean more and safer driversCould graduated commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) be the answer to the driver shortage as well as increasing the number of safer drivers?Industry officials hope so, and they have begun the second phase of research to see if graduated CDLs are practical and economically feasible - and whether they can deliver the goods.The American Trucking Assns. recently

Graduated CDL could mean more and safer drivers

Could graduated commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) be the answer to the driver shortage as well as increasing the number of safer drivers?

Industry officials hope so, and they have begun the second phase of research to see if graduated CDLs are practical and economically feasible - and whether they can deliver the goods.

The American Trucking Assns. recently released results from the first part of its research. Speaking at the ATA's Driver Training & Development Alliance International Forum in Alexandria, Va., Michael Smith, senior scientist at Science Applications International Corp., discussed what has been learned so far.

Focus groups consisting of representatives of a number of industry groups were asked if they thought graduated CDLs were needed. Responses were mixed. More than 60% of those representing bus interests opposed the graduated CDL. The ATA Road Team, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Driver Committee, National Private Truck Council (NPTC) safety committee, and the Owner Operator Independent Driver Assn. (OOIDA) Board were overwhelmingly in favor of the graduated CDL. The Pennsylvania Transit folks were slightly in favor and the insurance carriers chimed in at 100% in favor of graduated CDLs.

Because of the relatively small sample of people questioned, Smith warned that the results are not statistically valid. "They are a starting point for further study."

On the surface, however, it seems clear that those specifically involved in safety issues, like the insurance carriers and the NPTC safety committee, were the most in favor of graduated CDLs because of the potential for increased driver safety.

One of the most controversial issues is that of allowing people to drive in interstate commerce before age 21 with a graduated CDL. Although most states allow intrastate driving at 18, crossing state lines requires drivers to be 21 years old, and that could be hurting the industry's ability to attract younger drivers.

"This research project is in response to the fact that we're losing drivers because they can't get jobs driving trucks right out of high school," said Rebecca Brewster, ATA's manager-regional policy analysis, Atlanta, who is heading up the project. "A graduated CDL could increase the labor pool."

The focus group participants had mixed feelings about lowering the CDL age requirement. Drivers, including the ATA Road Team, were generally opposed to lowering age requirements. "Current drivers are less supportive of lowering the age," said Smith. He added that he didn't think the response had to do with job security, but rather with drivers wanting mature, responsible colleagues.

"The toughest critics were the drivers themselves," said Dave Barry, director, ITS and Research Programs at NPTC, who assisted Smith with the focus groups. "If you're a good driver you don't have to worry about job security (from younger drivers)," he said.

The most obvious advantage to hiring younger drivers is that the size of the labor pool would expand. Another advantage is related to safety. According to Barry, "driver training schools could get people before they develop bad habits."

At the end of March, ATA and others were to meet with DOT officials and map out the next step in the process, which is to design the actual survey and get it out to large numbers of people. Many new groups will be invited to offer their opinions, including law enforcement and state motor-vehicle departments.

The study will also look at graduated CDL programs in other countries, as well as how graduated licensing has affected automobile safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 13 states have a three-stage licensing system and the results have been impressive. For example, California reported a 5% drop in crashes for drivers age 15 to 17; Maryland reported a 5% reduction in crashes and a 10% drop in convictions for drivers age 16 to 17.

Based on the preliminary findings, Brewster said that specific questions still need to be answered. These include: What is the actual cost of implementation? What is the true benefit? Should the driving age be lowered? Also under discussion is how this would affect older drivers. "The focus groups suggested that maybe older drivers could get the graduated CDL, too," said Brewster.

Brewster said she hopes to have the full-blown survey out to people this fall.

Alternative fuel fund The South Coast Air Quality Management District is putting its money where its mouth is. Under a cooperative funding arrangement, the Southern California regional entity is offering to help fleets converting to alternatively fueled engines pay for the additional cost of the powerplant.

Bigger and better Trucking groups representing LTL carriers took aim at a recent DOT report that pans efforts to raise truck sizes and weights because it spends too much time looking at how larger trucks would take freight off the railroads. They also say the report continues to misrepresent the safety of these larger units. Meanwhile, many in the industry continue to oppose any increases in truck sizes and weights because they can't be adequately compensated for their investment.

Target practice Not only is the Motor Carrier and Highway Safety business unit (the old Office of Motor Carriers) not doing its job, it is contributing to the increase in truck-related deaths, according to a report from the GAO. That's because the agency relies on poor data and has focused on educating carriers, as opposed to taking a harder line that would result in fines and could potentially shut down unsafe operations.

Tax file The IRS has promised to unveil details of a major reorganization designed to improve its responsiveness to taxpayers. By splitting the agency into four divisions intended to reflect different taxpayer categories, employees are expected to develop more expertise in the types of problems faced by those "customers." In trucking, however, special questions often arise involving excise taxes, worker classification, multi-employer plans, and business deductions, among other issues. With such a broad mix of tax issues, it will take awhile for the new IRS arrangement to prove its worth for trucking. - Ken Simonson PMI network launched by Shell

Shell Fleet Services has introduced a new, nationwide franchised network, dubbed Shell Truck Maintenance Operation ("Shell TMO"), to provide integrated preventive-maintenance inspection (PMI) services to commercial fleet owners and truck operators.

Designed to be integrated into existing service-and-repair operations as a dedicated bay, a Shell TMO franchise will allow truck-service providers to "efficiently and professionally" perform a variety of PMI services, such as engine oil changes, oil analysis, chassis lubes, cooling-system maintenance, and inspections of overall mechanical condition.

Franchises are first being offered in Midwestern and Western markets, but plans call for having more than 500 locations up and running around the country within five years.

Among the features Shell TMO offers franchisees and customers is a computer-based in-lane system that equips PMI technicians with special handheld data-entry/barcode reader devices to enhance both the speed and quality of service. A national information network that is accessible to fleet managers supports the vehicle information gathered.

"The in-lane computer system speeds up maintenance and inspection turnaround," says Katherine Ventres Canipelli, vp-sales and marketing for Shell Fleet Services. "It allows all job-completion paperwork to be printed in the lane, giving fleet owners comprehensive information about their vehicles no matter where they are serviced in the network."

Dedicated service technicians employed at franchise locations will receive full training and certification from Shell TMO. In addition, nationally supported warranties will back all products and services offered.

Shell Fleet Services also announced it has formed a strategic marketing alliance with Associates Commercial Corp. to support Shell TMO in several areas. Of most interest to fleets will be Associates Commercial programs that will allow Shell TMO services to be financed into either the cost of a vehicle or the capitalization of a lease agreement.

The official franchiser of Shell TMO is Shell Fleet Services, a division of Equilon Enterprises LLC. Equilon is a joint venture between Shell Oil Co. and Texaco Inc., which combines their West and Midwest refining and marketing activities, as well as their nationwide lubricants and transportation businesses.

More information on Shell TMO can be obtained from Randy Amerine, vp-marketing, at 708-333-1200 (tel.); 708-333-1912 (fax); or [email protected] com (e-mail).

The first 60 Bering MD Series Trucks arrived February 26 at the Port of Newark, N.J. The Class 6 trucks were built in Hyundai Motor Co.'s Chunju, Korea, plant to the company's U.S. specifications. Bering will begin assembling Class 7-8 vehicles at its Front Royal, Va., assembly and manufacturing facility beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.

The company announced that Ford Credit has agreed to finance construction of its Front Royal facility. Ford will also offer a wide range of financial products for Bering dealers, including financing of dealer floor plans, and retail and lease financing.

In other Bering news, Penske Logistics will provide national parts, warehousing and distribution services for Bering dealers throughout the U.S. Customers will have access to a toll-free 24-hours/day, 365-days/year parts support line.

Recognizing that radical changes are taking place in the transportation-equipment marketplace through acquisitions, mergers, and cooperative agreements, the National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) will stage an annual trade show it describes as "covering the entire commercial truck and transportation industry," starting in 2000 in St. Louis.

Breaking with tradition, the new show, the Commercial Truck, Trailer & Technology Expo, or T3, will be open to manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and end users. It will be held in conjunction with NTEA's annual convention.

The association is shooting for attendance of 8,000-10,000 in St. Louis. Baltimore and Orlando have been selected for the 2001 and 2002 shows, respectively, says Dean Wartenbee, president of Northern Truck Equipment, and current president of NTEA.

To appeal to a broader audience than that of previous shows, NTEA executive director Jim Carney says the T3 exhibitor base will be expanded over time to include more light-truck accessory, trailer, and niche-market manufacturers such as ambulance, fire and rescue, bus, utility, and refuse vehicles. And the association is aiming for a more global attendee base, with initial emphasis on Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Ten major truck manufacturers -American Isuzu, Dodge, Ford, Freightliner, GMC, International, Mitsubishi Fuso, Nissan Diesel, Sterling, and Volvo - have already signed for space at T3 2000, and Volvo is said to be readying a new tractor for introduction there. Mack and Peterbilt participation is now in the talking stage, according to NTEA.

The 2000 convention is being expanded to include more than 40 business and technical sessions covering issues in marketing, management, engineering, and quality assurance.

At a news conference at its Hastings, Mich., headquarters, the Flexfab Div. of Flexfab Horizons International Inc. announced that its DuraGuard System silicone coolant, heater, and charge-air hoses for heavy-duty trucks now carry a lifetime warranty.

"With all the quality we build into our products, we're able to back them better - with the best coolant, heater, and charge-air hose warranty in the industry," Flexfab vp and general manager Paul Timmons remarked.

The company also contends that despite a "slightly higher" initial cost, fleets can gain "significant savings" in operating costs by spec'ing or installing DuraGuard System hoses.

According to Flexfab, those savings result from the longer life that silicone hoses enjoy compared to ordinary black-rubber EPDM hoses.

For example, over a million-mile service life, a 3/4-in. silicone Flexfab heater hose 5-ft. long would need to be installed only once, at a cost of $8.62. But an SAE J20 Class D EPDM hose would have to be installed every 350,000 miles, for a total cost of $22.89.

Likewise, installing a 2.5x6-in. Flexfab coolant hose instead of an EPDM one would wind up costing only $4.91 vs. $13.50 over a million miles.

"These examples clearly demonstrate that premium-quality Flexfab silicone hoses actually cost less than black rubber hoses," stated sales and marketing manager Bill Morrissey.

"Plus, these examples don't take into account other factors like unscheduled downtime, damage due to catastrophic failure, and costs associated with deliveries not being made on time. When a coolant hose breaks," he added, "it costs much more than just the price of the hose."

This year's Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) meeting was a pivotal one for many reasons. In addition to establishing a new strategic direction for the organization, it launched several new initiatives and hosted a unique panel discussion featuring executives from major truck OEMs.

Most importantly, TCA members voted on a plan that would position the organization for a closer, complimentary working relationship with the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) in the years ahead, although they will not actually vote until October 2000 on whether or not to continue the relationship with ATA. Under terms of the new strategic plan, TCA will emphasize solving common management problems and providing education and training, while ATA will take center stage when it comes to political issues, public policy, and the industry's image.

Several initiatives were launched as part of this new strategic plan, including a "truckload academy" to provide training opportunities for a wide variety of fleet jobs, from top executive positions right through the back office and maintenance shop and out to drivers on the road.

TCA also plans to utilize several issues-based management panels to address subjects such as driver development and succession planning, conduct benchmark studies of top-performing carriers, lend smaller fleets management support, and address truck stop-related issues.

Another highlight of the meeting was a panel discussion on "Trucking into the Next Millennium," moderated by Roger Simons, chairman and CEO of Simons Petroleum and featuring comments from Edward Caudill, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co.; Don DeFosset, president of the Truck Group and exec. vp of Navistar International Corp.; Michel Gigou, president and CEO of Mack Trucks; Marc Gustafson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America; James Hebe, president and CEO of Freightliner Corp.; and Nicholas Panza, general manager of Peterbilt Motors Co.

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