Industry News

TMA Seeks to Alter Clean Air Act Decrees

The Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) has asked the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to admit TMA as a party to three Clean Air Act consent decrees. This action has been taken to provide sufficient time for truck manufacturers to engineer and test the new engines without causing production disruptions.

These consent decrees, approved by the court in 1999, required certain engine manufacturers (including Caterpillar Inc, Cummins Engine Co, and Detroit Diesel Corp) to pay fines and take other action to settle charges by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the companies had violated the Clean Air Act. The decrees settled a dispute between EPA and the engine makers over interpretation of provisions of the Clean Air Act and federal regulations dealing primarily with emission levels under operating conditions not included in the federal test procedure.

The three TMA members participating in the motion — Freightliner LLC, General Motors Corp, and Isuzu Motors America Inc — were not involved in the engine companies' dispute with EPA, but are affected by it. Freightliner and General Motors purchase nearly all of the engines used in their medium- and heavy-duty trucks from the three engine companies.

Under the three decrees, the engine manufacturers are required to provide cleaner engines to the truck manufacturers under a schedule that takes effect in October 2002. This is 15 months before the original date provided in the EPA regulation that applies to all engine manufacturers in January 2004. According to TMA, the engine companies that signed the consent decrees have fallen behind schedule in designing engines that can comply with the requirements of the consent decrees.

TMA said in its motion that, as of the time of filing, the engine manufacturers have not provided a single final-prototype engine to the truck manufacturers participating in its motion that would meet the October 2002 requirements. TMA members provided sworn statements that truck manufacturers need at least two years to redesign and test their trucks after final prototypes and new engine specifications are provided. This is substantially less time than the four-year lead time the Clean Air Act itself requires EPA to give both engine and vehicle manufacturers.

TMA is seeking modification of the consent decrees, such as a delay in the October 2002 deadline, that would avert the shutdowns even if such changes require the engine manufacturers to provide emissions “offsets” of any loss in benefits that would result from such a delay.

Vopak Acquires Two Terminals in Finland

Koninklijke Vopak NV (Royal Vopak) has acquired two terminals in Finland, which formed part of the Finnish Helvar Merca Group, operating under the name Transkem. Both terminals are used for storage and handling of chemicals from Russia. They are located near the Russian border in Hamina and in Mussalo.

Total capacity of both terminals is 164,500 cbm, with 41 tanks and dedicated systems for handling about 1 million tons of chemicals per year. The Hamina and Mussalo terminals play a leading role in the export of Russian produced chemicals, for which Finland is traditionally an important transit nation.

Integration of the newly acquired terminals within Vopak's worldwide chemical logistics network is expected to benefit Russian chemical exporters in bringing products efficiently and safely to market.

Hiring Competent Drivers a Key Challenge

Loyd Esler, a national sales managing director for insurance giant Liberty Mutual, has a warning for trucking fleet managers. If the choice comes to hiring less-than-qualified drivers or letting equipment sit idle, the latter course of action may be advisable.

“Within the trucking industry, the primary loss exposure is with drivers. Hiring qualified, competent drivers is crucial when attempting to control losses,” said Esler in a paper entitled Challenges Driving the Trucking Industry recently published by Liberty Mutual.

“In the short term, having the trucks on the road is the only answer. Revenue is critical to survival, operating margins are extremely high, and profit margins are thin,” Esler said. “But in the long run, however, this may or may not be the proper decision.”

Esler said unqualified and/or inexperienced drivers typically are involved in more accidents. They cause bodily injury and property damage to others as well as themselves.

In addition, customer satisfaction also suffers due to problems such as delayed or missed deliveries and improperly delivered loads. The ultimate cost to a company for having these drivers on the road can be substantial.

Trucking companies can reduce this exposure by establishing corporate policies that require potential drivers to pass a thorough, rigorous screening process before being hired, as well as continuous training after being hired. This practice may sacrifice potential revenue in the short run because not all of the candidates will be hired and some trucks will remain idle. However, if the hiring policy produces a worker compensation and commercial automobile incident rate that is 50% less than the industry average, a trucking company would gain a significant expense advantage.

Cummins Aims to Reduce NOx Emissions

Cummins Inc has announced a major initiative to provide engine owners with an electronic calibration that will generate lower levels of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). These calibrations will be available on 1996 to 1998 Cummins M11 Plus or N14 Plus engines. This voluntary low-NOx program is the first of the company's upcoming initiatives to promote a cleaner environment.

Ohio DPS Salutes Safety Records of Firms

The Ohio Department of Public Safety has honored employees of three Ohio companies for their record of safety belt use. Manfredi Motor Transit Co, Honeywell International Inc's CPG Group, and the 178th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard all earned the Buckle Up America Safety Belt Award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS).

Two separate inspections showed 98.1% of Manfredi employees buckled; of Honeywell's 690 employees, 72% buckled. Usage rates among the 1,100 civilian and military employees of the Ohio Air National Guard hit 95%. Ohio statewide usage rates hover at 64%; nationally, 71% buckle.

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