Fleet Ops: Fuel Efficiency
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ATA pushes for national speed limit policy
WASHINGTON -- Fuel prices are squeezing truckers hard on both sides of the border. But at least stateside, the issue is worthy of a serious discussion before Congress. Speaking to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- in a session titled "Rising Diesel Fuel Costs in the Trucking Industry" -- a high-ranking official of the American Trucking Associations called for a national speed limit of 65 miles per hour as one way to cut national fuel consumption, and, in effect, the skyrocketing costs of diesel. ATA State Vice President Mike Card asked Congress to consider several fuel-saving initiatives such as creating incentives to ignite purchases of anti-idling technology, such as APUs; further supporting the EPA's and industry's SmartWay program; and establishing a national a national speed limit of 65 mph. It's unclear whether Card was referring to a universal enforcement limit, or mandatory speed governors on vehicles. Like the Ontario Trucking Association in Canada, ATA also supports speed limiter legislation, but it has been more vocal in suggesting that all vehicles -- not just trucks -- should have the technology. "Our industry can't simply absorb this rapid increase in fuel costs," Card said. "We must pass some of these costs through to our customers, which ultimately translate into higher prices on the store shelves." The cost of a gallon of diesel has risen 48 percent in the past year and nearly doubled in the last four years. Meanwhile, the session showed that at least some politicians are taking seriously the effect of fuel prices on the trucking industry. "The men and women in the trucking industry ... are ... facing situations that were unimaginable just a few years ago," said committee chairman James L. Oberstar in a prepared statement. "It costs nearly $800 more for a driver to fill a standard tractor-trailer than five years ago."

The effect of fuel on truckers is part of the topical
agenda in Washington. So, where's Ottawa on the issue?
Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) testified that while every American driver is impacted by the dramatic gas price increases, the toll on the trucking industry -- especially owner-operators -- is even greater. Oberstar also said the hearing would look at fuel surcharges and how they're paid forward and collected among motor carriers, brokers, shippers, and independent drivers. Last month, Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R-ME) introduced a bill that would make it illegal to refuse to pass on 100 percent of fuel surcharges to whoever buys the fuel. "Currently, fuel surcharges are left to the discretion of an individual motor carrier or broker arranging for transportation, with few disclosure requirements and without any government oversight," Oberstar said at the hearing. "This lack of transparency affects independent owner-operators and drivers who often do not control if, and what amount, a broker or motor carrier charges a shipper for the rising cost of fuel." Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, backed up the point, telling committee members that small-business truckers are victimized not only by high fuel costs, but also by "questionable business tactics in the industry."
 
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