This week’s round-up of bite-sized news from the wide world of trucking features a dirty politics report involving the railroads’ Capitol Hill opposition to bigger trucks; a report that says problems with truck tire failures at higher speeds go unreported; more data about the effectiveness of hair testing in drug screens, and last but not least, the mystery of the “truck-eating” bridge—with video.
He said, she said: The railroad industry is paying law enforcement officers to lobby against longer and heavier trucks, The New York Times has discovered. And a group representing shippers who want more options is calling them out on it.
The Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP) is calling for the non-profit group, Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, to disclose who it is funded by following the investigative report. The dangers of bigger rigs are simply potential and unfounded, CTP contends.
“The railroad industry is spending millions of dollars to block truck weight reform and other trucking productivity efforts, but much of its campaign is predicated on creating appearances that don’t hold up.” says John Runyan, executive director of CTP. “The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks is organized and funded by the rail industry, yet it doesn’t provide transparency or public disclosure of its activities to Congress or even to some of its allies in law enforcement. As the New York Times reported, the group puts former law enforcement officials on the payroll and brings other local officials to Washington to lobby, without disclosing any railroad ties. We see all too often that Congressional offices have no idea that the railroad industry is behind truck productivity opposition.”
Runyan added that “truck weight reform will not divert any significant freight from rail.”
Not so fast: South Dakota is another state to raise the speed limit to 80mph or more—but most truckers won’t be pushing that hard, according to the report by KELOLAND TV.
"If you know your tires would start to deteriorate at 75 don't drive 75. This is not a mandate,” says the head of the South Dakota Trucking Association. “This change in speed limit today is not a mandate. … We want to get the commodities there safely and get them there on time. We're not going to sacrifice driving 80 miles per hour to do that.”
Speaking of tires: Many tractor-trailers on the nation's roads are driven faster than the 75 mph their tires are designed to handle, according to an Associated Press exclusive report. And that’s led to wrecks and blowouts but has largely escaped the attention of highway officials.
"It's a recipe for disaster," said the president of an automobile-hauling company that filed a complaint with regulators after seven blowouts caused an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in damage to its rigs.
The disconnect between highway speed limits and safety standards was discovered by The Associated Press in a government document that detailed an investigation into truck tire failures.
Locks don’t lie: Some big trucking companies would like to see hair testing approved by FMCSA for driver drug screens, according to a report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Ten years ago, two J.B. Hunt drivers were involved in fatal accidents. Both drivers tested positive for drug use. The company has since conducted hair and urine drug screens on more than 82,000 drivers, and of those, 3,845 drivers went undetected for drug use in the urine exam but tested positive in the hair test.
"The majority of these motor carriers believe that the urine testing program as set forth by the DOT is no longer effectively catching drug users," says a testing lab representative. "So we do have companies actually reaching out to us and contacting us. I know that's true of the other two major hair-testing labs as well."
Duck: What is the problem behind a “truck-eating bridge” in Davenport, IA? The answer, there and elsewhere, may well be truck drivers’ over-reliance on personal mapping and navigation systems that come on smart phones, says OurQuadCities.com.
"(It's an) automotive GPS technology, which isn't set up for trucks at 13-foot, 6-inches tall," says the owner of a local trucking company. "Goes back to [drivers’] planning and preparing for their day.”