Friday, January 11, 2008

Bush Administration's Illegal Rule Makes Roads Less Safe, Court Told

Safety Advocates File Brief Saying FMCSA Lawlessly Ignores Court Ruling That Twice Strikes Down Hours-of-Service Rule

The Bush administration broke the law again when it reinstated an hours-of-service rule that is making highways more dangerous, safety advocates told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday.

The Teamsters Union joined Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Public Citizen in fighting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) interim final rule issued in violation of a court order in December.

The rule, which was twice thrown out by the court, allows truck drivers to drive for 11 hours, one more hour than they were allowed previously. It allows them to work as many as 84 hours a week, which could lead to dangerous fatigue.

“The Bush administration has no shame about breaking the law,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “This hours-of-service rule is as lawless as opening the border to unsafe Mexican trucks, but they just don’t think the law applies to them.

“People are dying on the highway because FMCSA is more concerned about making its corporate bosses happy than it is about making our highways safe,” Hoffa said.

The reply brief filed on Thursday refutes FMCSA’s argument that the rule has improved highway safety.

The percentage of fatal crashes that result from driver fatigue rose 20 percent from 2004 to 2005. “Because 2004 was the first year in which the new, longer hours of driving and work were put into effect, the negative impact is obvious,” the brief states.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that deaths in truck accidents increased in 2004 and 2005.

FMCSA has acknowledged in the past that the risk of a crash doubles from the 8th hour to the 9th hour of driving, and doubles again from the 10th to the 11th hour.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first promulgated the hours-of-service rule in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can drive. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.

FMCSA issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2005, proposing a rule that was little changed from the 2003 rule that had been struck down.

On July 24, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the second time threw out the rule that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and allowed drivers to go back to work after being off duty for only 34 hours.

In the 39-page opinion, Judge Merrick Garland called the rule “arbitrary and capricious.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was a party in the case, joining Public Citizen and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association

The deadline for the court’s July decision to go into effect was Sept. 14. But legal challenges pushed that deadline back. FMCSA issued the interim final rule on Dec. 11.

Fight doesn't stall trucks at border

Sides haggling over wording of law passed in December

It all comes down to the word "establish."

In the latest battle over cross-border trucking, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Teamsters and Congress are at loggerheads over whether to allow trucks from Mexico to cross freely into the United States.

The Transportation Department has decided to continue its pilot program despite a law against it that Congress passed in December. DOT's argument is that the law prohibits the government from spending any money to "establish" the program but it began the program in September and simply is continuing it.

The law says: "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."

Semantics aside, the fact that Mexican trucks still are rolling into the United States has rankled the Teamsters Union, which this week filed a letter in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco claiming: "The Bush administration broke yet another law in continuing to allow long-haul trucks from Mexico to use U.S. highways."

"The lawlessness, recklessness and sheer arrogance of the Bush administration just blows my mind," Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement. The Teamsters say the trucking program creates a safety hazard on U.S. highways because Mexican trucks and drivers are not held to the same safety standards as their U.S. counterparts. But even before the cross-border trucking pilot program began last year, hundreds of Mexican trucks already were making legal deliveries to the interior of the United States. Full Story

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Trucking company workers say bid to join union sparked layoffs

Representatives from the National Labor Relations Board will be in town next week taking statements from employees who were recently laid off from a local trucking company — just as they were trying to organize under the local Teamsters union.

Scott Armstrong, president of Teamsters Local 549, said 33 employees of Tennessee Commercial Warehouse (TCW) in Kingsport were permanently laid off as they tried to join the union.

A TCW official said Tuesday the company has no comment on the matter.

Armstrong said he was contacted in October by TCW employees.

“They were wanting to talk to me about organizing — said they had bad working conditions,” Armstrong said.

He said employees complained that their pay wasn’t consistent, that the company made payroll errors and altered the wage structure with little or no notice to workers, and that TCW offered expensive, insufficient health insurance.

“They just wanted better working conditions,” he said.

By mid-December, the majority of the workers had signed authorization cards to retain the union as their bargaining representative, and Armstrong filed for recognition for the employees on Dec. 19 with the National Labor Relations Board. The board planned to hold a recognition hearing Jan. 4 but canceled the meeting after TCW laid off its drivers Dec. 29.

“TCW staged an aggressive anti-union campaign against these workers, but the drivers stood strong,” Armstrong said. “Nearly 80 percent of the drivers had signed authorization cards, so the company permanently laid off the entire unit rather than bargain for fair pay and benefits.”

He said TCW retained its supervisors, office personnel, dispatchers and security guards.

“But they laid off all the truck drivers that I had petitioned for,” he said.

The company blamed the layoffs on lack of work. But former employees argue that position.

“Before we got laid off, the company had us working six days a week and was giving us job applications to pass along to other commercial drivers we knew because they couldn’t keep up with the volume,” said Tony Davenport, a former driver who had worked at TCW for more than three years.

Jeff Lane, another former TCW driver, said he grew up in a union household “and I know what it means to have a union in your corner.”

“I wanted to try to make things better at this company by bringing in the Teamsters,” he said.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said TCW’s actions are “sickening.”

“This is yet another example of how the deck is stacked against workers seeking union representation in this country,” Hoffa said.

TCW handles warehouse and distribution services for several companies, including Eastman Chemical Co.

Armstrong said officials with the National Labor Relations Board will take statements from those who lost their jobs beginning Monday.

“I’m hoping that they’ll put these guys back to work there in Kingsport and we’ll pursue with the union and negotiate a contract,” Armstrong said, “but that’s up to the government.”

Monday, January 07, 2008

David Cogswell Named President of Data-Tronics Corp

Data-Tronics Corp., the information technology subsidiary of Arkansas Best Corporation, has announced the appointment of David A. (Dave) Cogswell as president of the company, effective February 1, 2008.

"Data-Tronics has worked hand-in-hand with ABF Freight System to develop a world class IT platform for the transportation industry and has a well-deserved reputation for delivering timely, cost-effective IT solutions. ABF and Data-Tronics have received numerous awards based upon this collaborative work. More importantly, this robust IT platform provides superior internal management systems as well as innovative logistics and supply chain management tools for ABF's customers," said Bob Davidson, Arkansas Best President and Chief Executive Officer. "Dave Cogswell has been an important part of Data-Tronics' and ABF's past success, and his experience and insight will be valuable as he now leads Data-Tronics into the future."

Mr. Cogswell has 28 years of experience with Data-Tronics, having joined the company in July 1979 in the computer applications area. In August 1989, he was named to his current position as Director, Technical Services with responsibility over systems infrastructure, voice and data communications and capacity management. Mr. Cogswell is a native of Olathe, KS and a 1979 graduate of Kansas State University.