Saturday, January 05, 2008

Wearing seat belts saves lives

Did you know that in 2006, 703 drivers of large trucks died in truck crashes and 314 of those drivers were not wearing seat belts?

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has launched its “Saved by the Belt” award program to recognize those commercial motor vehicle drivers who have buckled up and whose lives were saved or injuries significantly reduced as a result of wearing a safety belt.

“CVSA created this new program to emphasize safety belt use by commercial motor vehicle drivers and to use these drivers as role models for safety belt use for their peers and their families,” said Jim McFarlin, ABF Freight System Inc.’s Director of Safety and Security and Chairman of CVSA’s “Saved by the Belt” award committee in a recent press release.

“It benefits everyone traveling our highways when we increase public awareness on the benefits of safety belt use and having more people buckling up.”

The “Saved by the Belt” award program is sponsored in part by YRC Worldwide Inc.

Anyone interested in nominating a person must submit a completed nomination form and a brief narrative of the crash, along with the accident or incident report and other supporting documents and indicate why the nominee should be considered for the award. For more information on the program, please visit CVSA’s Web site at

CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico. OOIDA has been a member of CVSA for more than 20 years.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Senator charges U.S. ignoring ban on Mexican trucks

The Bush administration is allowing Mexican trucks to continue to travel deep into the United States despite what critics say is a congressional mandate to ban the trucks from U.S. highways.

Congress voted last year to halt funding for a pilot program that allows Mexican 18-wheelers to begin traveling freely into United States as part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The Department of Transportation contends, however, that the congressional action permits the current program to continue while banning any new program.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Department of Transportation agency that regulates the program, quietly acknowledged last week that the program is still under way, adding that it has issued permits to 11 Mexican companies with a total of 56 trucks. Mexican trucks previously were confined to a 25-mile border zone.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, in a letter Thursday to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, scoffed at that interpretation and called on the Bush administration to end the program immediately.

“The DOT response is both arrogant and wrong!” Dorgan wrote. “The Department of Transportation is making a serious mistake if it believes it is not required to abide by this legislation.”

The 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents U.S. long-haul truckers, expressed outrage at the administration and vowed to press ahead with a lawsuit against the program, which is pending in a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

“We’re not happy,” Teamsters spokeswoman Leslie Miller said. “We believe they are breaking the law.”

Under the program, launched this fall, up to 500 trucks from 100 Mexican companies could travel into the U.S. interior over the next year.

The agreement also allows 100 U.S. companies to send their trucks beyond a restrictive border zone in Mexico. Four U.S. companies with a total of 41 trucks have been cleared to travel into the Mexican interior.

More than 500 inspectors have been deployed to enforce safety, vehicle and driver standards, said Melissa Mazzella DeLaney, a spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

DeLaney said the Mexican companies had made 71 crossings into the U.S. interior as of Dec. 11. The U.S. companies, she said, have made 144 crossings into Mexico.

“It’s something U.S. companies have never had the opportunity before to do,” she said.

“There have been no incidents,” DeLaney said of the Mexican trucks. “They are the most vetted, the most scrutinized and the most inspected trucks on American roads today.”

She didn’t have a cost breakdown but said the Transportation Department budget paid for the program.

With lawmakers in both parties widely opposing the initiative, Congress clearly intended to strip out money for the program in a $106 billion housing and transportation funding bill that President Bush signed Dec. 26, Dorgan said.

The legislation said: “None of the funds made available under this act may be used to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

Dorgan released an opinion by Senate legislative counsel Polly W. Craighill asserting that the legislation was intended “to preclude the carrying out of any demonstration program, including the pilot program put into effect in September of 2007.” Dorgan sponsored a funding-cutoff amendment that passed the Senate 74-24.

The latest furor over the controversial program erupted after Dorgan learned of the DOT statement, which received limited attention during the holiday season. Under the 2008 funding measure, the DOT said, it will “not establish any new demonstration programs with Mexico.” But it added: “The current cross-border trucking demonstration project — established in September — will continue to operate in a manner that puts safety first.”

The Bush administration and allies in Congress contend that the program will be monitored rigidly and is necessary to fulfill the 13-year-old free-trade agreement that expanded commerce among the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Fighting to teach labor history

Strong support has developed in favor of a bill requiring every school district in Wisconsin to teach labor history and collective bargaining in the schools. The major blockade is Republican sponsorship, particularly in the Assembly.

The proposal is needed because of the appalling lack of knowledge that high school graduates have about unions, said David Nack, representing the Wisconsin Labor History Society in testifying for the bill at a December hearing.

“When we’re talking about the history of working people, we’re talking about the history of the United States,” Nack said.

“If this new proposal is to win passage, it’s critical that all persons who care about children being given education about working people and their unions contact their state senators and representatives,” commented Ken Germanson, president of the society.

The future of the bill rests on action in the Legislative session that continues into early 2008. With the Democrats in control of the Senate, it is expected there will be action on the measure; however, in order for it to be scheduled for a vote in the Assembly, some Republicans will need to understand the need for the bill and join in supporting it.

Six state senators have introduced Senate Bill 108 which would call for schools to meet an educational goal to provide: “Knowledge of state, national, and world history, including the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process.” The bill proposes adding the words shown in italics to Sec. 118.01 (2) (c) 6 of the State Statutes, a section that provides guidance on educating children in preparing them for citizenship.

This is the fifth time in the last 15 years that efforts have been made to pass a measure requiring the teaching of labor history in the schools. All previous attempts have failed, usually due to almost solid opposition of Republican legislators in one or more Houses of the Legislature. The measure has passed the State Senate in the past, with some Republican support, only to be stalled and never brought to a vote in the Assembly.

SB 108 was given wide support in testimony at the December hearing held by the Senate Education Committee and chaired by Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine). Testimony in support of the bill came from Phil Neuenfeldt, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO: “Senate Bill 108 is here because of what union leaders have told us over the years. They see younger workers coming into the workforce without any knowledge of the labor movement they are about to join. Labor history is really the greatest story never told."

Don Garner-Gerhardt, government affairs director of Teamsters Joint Council 39, said the history of labor is “seminal” in teaching about the history of Wisconsin.

He submitted a strong statement of support from Fred Gegare, president of Wisconsin Teamsters Joint Council 39. Others testifying in support were State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay); Russell R. Retzack, retired member of the Operating Engineers Local 139; and Jim Cook, NECA-IBEW Apprenticeship Program. In favor of the bill were representatives of the AFT-Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

The only persons registering against the bill represented the School Administrators Alliance and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

The bill’s key sponsors are Sen. Hansen and Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee). Co-sponsors (all Democrats) include Senators Lehman, Bob Wirch of Kenosha, Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee, Fred Risser of Madison and Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa; and Representatives Mike Sheridan of Janesville, Chris Sinicki and Tamara Grigsby of Milwaukee, Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie, Spencer Black, Teresa Berceau and Mark Pocan, all of Madison, Andy Jorgensen, of Fort Atkinson, Bob Turner of Racine, and Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

YRC Stock Slides Further

Shares in trucking company YRC Worldwide Inc. fell for the second day running on Thursday, sliding more than 10 percent as analysts recommended avoiding the stock following a hefty write-down on Wednesday.

YRC's renewed fall was fueled in part by a downgrade to "underperform" from "market perform" from Wachovia.

"We are having trouble finding a bottom for this stock and have little confidence that material improvement is on the horizon," analyst Justin Yagerman wrote in a research note. Full Story.....

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

YRCW takes up to $800 milion in 4th quarter acquisition charges

North America's largest trucking company, YRC Worldwide Inc said on Wednesday it expects to take non-cash impairment charges of $700 million to $800 million before taxes in the fourth quarter to reflect the decline in the value of companies it acquired.

The impairment charges reflect current market conditions and mainly relate to the fair value of former USF Corp. companies YRC acquired in 2005.

The charges will not affect YRC's cash flow or its ability to obtain financing, the company said, and do not change YRC's outlook for its companies.

YRC said it is making progress in efforts to cut costs and improve its operations. Last month it reached a tentative agreement with the Teamsters union toward a new five-year labor contract.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Teamsters to Vote on Master Freight Agreement

Approximately 75,000 Teamsters nationwide will vote, starting in mid-January, on the National Master Freight Agreement the union reached with a group of trucking companies in mid-December.
The vote will follow a Jan. 8 meeting at Teamsters headquarters in .D.C. for local leaders to go over details of the 5-year pact, the union added. Negotiators are recommending its ratification.

The new contract "provides good wage increases and protects members' jobs and their health, welfare and pension benefits. It also allows the unionized freight companies to better compete with the non-union companies and gives the unionized companies opportunities to grow business in new areas," lead union bargainer Tyson Johnson, director of the union's National Freight Division, said in a statement.

He added the pact improves the grievance procedure for workers and addresses the issue of excessive overtime, though he was not specific.

The contact is with TMI, Trucking Management, Inc., the primary multi-employer bargaining arm of the unionized freight trucking industry. Unionized TMI member firms include Yellow Transportation, Roadway Express, USF Holland and New Penn.