Friday, September 01, 2006

Teamsters leader calls for tightening borders

Hoffa opposes guest-worker plan, saying it would undermine wages

James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, called for tighter U.S. border control, saying the country must stop illegal immigration so it can focus on the undocumented workers already here.

"We have to control our borders," Hoffa said in an interview Thursday in Detroit. "Let's stop for a while, so that we can basically take a breath and find out what we do with the people that are here.

"We have to have time to digest the people that are here, assimilate them into the culture," he said.

Hoffa has urged Congress to pass immigration legislation that includes both tighter border controls and a path to citizenship for illegal workers already in the U.S.

The Teamsters, a union of 1.4 million that includes truck drivers and loading dock workers, opposes a guest-worker program supported by President Bush, saying it would undermine wages.

Bush has said he wants new immigration laws that would better secure the border, create a guest-worker program and give some of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers already in the country the opportunity to gain legal status.

Congress is at an impasse on final legislation because Republicans in the House of Representatives insist that border security must come first.

The Senate favors a broader proposal that is aligned with what the president seeks.

The Teamsters union, however, opposes the proposed immigration legislation from both the House and Senate.

Labor unions are split over whether the proposal to allow thousands of immigrants to enter the U.S. as temporary workers would result in a surge of potential new members or a flood of exploitable laborers who would drive down wages.

While the Teamsters and other unions representing higher-wage employees oppose the guest-worker plan, the Service Employees International Union, which represents many lower-wage workers such as janitors, and Unite Here, which serves hotel and restaurant employees, support the proposal.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Diesel costs being passed on to public

The per-gallon price is up almost 44 percent from a year ago.
As motorists continue to watch fuel prices drop, diesel consumers have seen prices rise by nearly half in the past year.

The increased diesel costs translate into trucking companies assessing higher freight charges, which are passed on to suppliers and ultimately to the public, said Chris Wilinski, manager of ABF Freight System Inc. in Cape Girardeau. "It's probably tougher on the customers than it is on us," he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average price for diesel in the Midwest is $3.02 per gallon, nearly the same as the national average. The price is up almost 44 percent from a year ago.

"We've seen diesel costs jump tremendously in the last three years," said Brian Davidson, an employee at Jerry Lipps Truck Service in Cape Girardeau. The company runs about 50 trucks that haul general commodities throughout Southeast Missouri.

Davidson said he understood why diesel prices spiked after Hurricane Katrina but can't understand why prices continue to increase.

Mike Wright, spokesman for the American Automobile Association, said the increased diesel prices are due to federal regulations on ultra-low-sulfur diesel.

"Refineries had to expand so that they could produce diesel with less sulfur content, and the availability of the product is not nearly what it was from even a year ago," Wright said.

Because of the short supply, in some parts of the country, like Colorado, Wright said, the purchase of diesel is limited, which can also contribute to higher prices.

For Clarence Callahan, manager of Advance Transport Inc. in Advance, Mo., the increased diesel costs aren't affecting his business. "We've had to implement rate increases, but when 80 percent of all goods are transported by trucks, we've still got business," he said.

Advance Transport runs 16 trucks hauling produce from California and general paper products from New England. Callahan said the company offers an incentive for drivers who use cruise control to improve fuel mileage.

Wright doesn't see diesel prices decreasing but said gasoline costs will continue to go down.

The average cost of fuel in Missouri is almost 20 cents less than the national average of $2.82 per gallon.

Southeast Missouri has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the state. On Wednesday, Jaspers at 10 S. West End Blvd. sold unleaded gasoline at $2.34 per gallon. Several locations in Jackson were charging $2.32 per gallon of

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Roadway Express, DEQ settle on hazmat violation

Roadway Express Inc. has agreed to pay $65,000 in civil penalties for violations of the Arizona Hazardous Waste Management Act, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality announced Tuesday.

ADEQ said that on Sept. 17, 2004, a tractor trailer stored at the company's 2021 S. 51st Ave. Phoenix hub caught fire when illegally stored hazardous waste spontaneously combusted. A second rig also caught fire during the incident.

The Ohio-based company transports industrial, commercial and retail goods.

"The company's improper storage of hazardous waste posed a threat to the public, the environment, and the company's own employees," said Steve Owens, ADEQ director. "It's fortunate that no one was injured in this event. The substantial penalty reflects the seriousness of the violations."

During a subsequent inspection of the facility, ADEQ discovered that wastes had been stored for more than one year in an undivided tractor trailer without ventilation or means of separating the incompatible materials, in violation of Arizona laws. The wastes included about 30 containers of corrosive acids, batteries, and methyl ethyl ketone and xylene solvents. The settlement is subject to court approval.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

GE donates $1 million to King memorial

A permanent memorial to honor Martin Luther King on the National Mall is $1 million closer to reality.
General Electric announced yesterday that it will donate the funds to the memorial -- bringing the total raised to $63 million. The project is estimated to cost $100 million.
"GE is committed to supporting the work of Martin Luther King Jr.," said Deborah Elam, a GE vice president and chief diversity officer.
The announcement was made at a ceremony to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the future site of the memorial on the Tidal Basin.
A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for Nov. 13, and the memorial should be completed in 2008, project planners said.
At yesterday's ceremony, YRC Worldwide Inc., one of the largest trucking companies in the world, announced it would put billboards on three of its tractor-trailers to advertise the memorial and donate $100,000 in school supplies to D.C. Public Schools.
Officials have said they need $66 million to obtain building permits for the site, leaving them $3 million short. They have not yet chosen a contractor.
The 4-acre memorial will sit across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial and north of the memorial to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the center will be a 30-foot statue of King called the "Stone of Hope."
In 1996, Congress authorized construction of the memorial. In 1999, the site was approved.
Most of the memorial's funding has come from large corporate sponsors such as General Motors, Pepsi and Exxon-Mobil.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Transit Security: The Good, the Bad and the Undone

By Teamsters President Jim Hoffa

The Aug. 11 editorial "A Chilling Reminder" outlined new concerns regarding air travel. Similar scrutiny needs to be directed at other modes of transportation. While we've become accustomed to our bags or shoes being screened before we board planes, no such anti-terrorism precautions are taken before passengers board trains.
Since 2001, the federal government has spent nearly $20 billion on aviation security; just over 1 percent of that amount, $250 million, has gone toward securing the nation's rail and other transit systems. Passenger rail lines carry five times as many passengers as airlines. At the same time, and often on parallel tracks, freight rail carries liquid chlorine, ammonia and other hazardous materials that could kill hundreds of thousands of people within minutes in the event of an attack in an urban area. Still, Teamsters members, 70,000 of whom work as locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance-of-way employees, have told us that they have yet to receive thorough safety training or appropriate equipment to thwart a hijacking or other terrorist act.

We can't leave any holes in our security net. Our members deserve appropriate anti-terrorism training and equipment so they can do their part to protect the public and themselves.

Mr. Hoffa's commentary originally appeared in The Washington Post on August 23, 2006.

Industry Feels Driver Shortage

Big trucks seem to rule Interstate 540 these days. In less than 30 minutes last Friday morning, more than 108 commercial trucks pulled through the southbound weigh station on I-540 in Springdale.

Sgt. Howard Besett of the Arkansas Highway Police said it was an average count but one that continues to grow each year.

On the surface, it may appear that trucks and truck drivers are plentiful in the natural state. But, despite the number of trucks on Arkansas highways, the trucking industry continues to struggle with a growing shortage of drivers — giving carriers plenty of reason to make the drivers they have feel special.

This week the National Trucking Association is teaming up with national, regional and local carriers to say “thanks” to the men the women who drive the big rigs as part of Truck Driver Appreciation Week.

“The trucking industry is the backbone of America’s economy and the hard working drivers who haul the loads and make those just-in-time deliveries deserve our nation’s thanks,” Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer for the American Truckers Association, said in a recent press release.

The widely reported driver shortages within the industry constantly challenges carriers to keep their trucks moving, Graves said.

The American Trucking Association reports a current shortage of between 11,000 and 20,000 long haul drivers and it continues to grow as more veteran drivers reach retirement and younger drivers leave the profession.

Lane Kidd, director of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said it is filling the over-the-road — or long haul — driver jobs where the shortage is severe.

“To make matters worse it is the OTR driver segment who moves 70 percent of the country’s freight,” Kidd said.

In Arkansas, there are approximately 1,400 to 2,000 long-haul drivers needed, Kidd said.

“The driver shortage is worse than ever. Several truckload carriers noted that the difficulty in finding enough drivers to fill company trucks negatively impacted recent second quarter results,” Stephens Inc. analyst, Mark Rosa said in an e-mail statement. “While most companies recognize the need for pay increases, the problem is so grand in scale that it can only help so much. Currently, the shortfall is about 20,000 drivers and is expected to exceed 110,000 by 2014.”

Kirk Thompson, the president and chief executive officer of Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., said recently that driver pay might have to double to ease the shortage. J.B. Hunt Transport reports employing approximately 12,000 company drivers.

“It (driver shortage) is the number one limitation on the truckload industry keeping the current number of trucks on the road, much less thinking of adding any capacity to keep up with GDP growth. Over the longer term, shippers will likely see intermittent freight movement bottle-necks and even stoppages due to not enough capacity to keep up with the demand,” Thompson said in a recent e-mail interview with Reuters.

The growing shortage is all the more reason to make the drivers you have feel appreciated, said Jerry Orler, president of Van Buren-based USA Truck Inc.

Orler said USA Truck cooked lunch at the Van Buren and West Memphis terminals this week and gave their drivers gift bags. USA Truck employs approximately 2,500 drivers.

ABF Freight System Inc. said it spread the wealth and prizes throughout the entire company during the week with drawings for a big screen television, iPods and other gifts. Each of the company’s 288 terminals will also plan their own celebration. ABF is a subsidiary of Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp. and has 2,646 drivers.

Willis Shaw Express of Elm Springs has 750 drivers and took part in the state trucking festivities south of Conway on I-40 at Mayflower yesterday. Drivers got lunch and a goodie bag that included a 60-minute phone card as part of the national association’s “Phone home” campaign.

Clark Gray, spokesman for P.A.M. Transportation Services Inc. of Tontitown, said the trucking company has 2,200 drivers and has had good success in recruiting new drivers to the business by offering training scholarships and having a “no-touch” freight policy.

P.A.M. will cook for its drivers at seven locations during the week and give out prizes at fueling stations across the country, Gray said.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employs 8,000 drivers and refers to this week as “transportation appreciation week.”

In addition to the festivities planned for the drivers at stores and terminals, each driver is given the chance to raise money for a local school. For every accident-free mile they drive during the week, the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club Foundation will make a financial contribution of 5 cents to a local school, according to company press release.