BEWARE OF CHEAP DRUG TESTS
A U.S. District Court in December sentenced Elizabeth “Betsy” Pope to eight months house arrest, four years’ probation and $109,000 in restitution for falsifying drug test results of truck drivers. Pope would sign the drug tests with the name of a medical review officer who had not worked at her company, Eastgate Laboratory Testing, for several years. She pleaded guilty to the charges in July 2014. FMCSA says it and the drivers who used her services “relied on the suspect drug test reports to demonstrate compliance with federal regulations.” Motor carriers are still responsible for their testing program. Apparently, Ms. Pope offered drug tests at a very low rate. Once again, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Carriers can protect themselves by dealing only with accredited testing companies listed on the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association’s website (www.datia.org).
DOUBLE-BROKERING SCHEME EXPOSED
The operator of an Illinois-based trucking company pleaded guilty in December to fraud charges in a scheme where he would “double broker” loads. Dragan Simovski, operator of Freedom Transportation, Inc., was charged with wire fraud and mail fraud in April 2013. Simovski admitted that he, along with other co-conspirators, would negotiate contracts with companies, promising his company, Freedom, would transport the freight. Truth is, Freedom had no trucks, however, and would give the loads to a broker, who would then find companies to transport the goods. Then, Freedom would bill the customers as if it had performed the job. The DOT says the loss to the companies who actually delivered the goods was $532,000.
A MOUNTAIN OF REGULATIONS
The National Labor Relation Board’s recent activities, including new representation election procedures, unquestionably favors unionization. On December 15, 2014, the new (and final) NLRB union election rules were published in the Federal Register. The NLRB adopted the new rules by a 3-2 vote with the two Republican NLRB members dissenting. Needless to say, the Democratic Party seems to have declared war on the employers in the United States. If you wish to get a copy of this entire rule, please contact NTA. Members can get a copy of this rule (and others) at no charge. For information about membership, contact NTA at (562) 279-0557 or visit their website (www.ntassoc.com).
TRUCKING COMPANY UNIONIZES
After getting some pressure from the local Teamsters union, Carson-based Shippers Transport Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SSA Marine, chose to change their business model from an independent contractor-based operation to an employee-based business. On Friday, January 9, nearly 80% of their 111 drivers voted to support this unionization of the company. Once this vote is verified by a neutral third party, Shippers Transport will recognize Teamster Local 848 as its drivers’ union representative. If you are a motor carrier that does not want this to happen to your company, NTA can help. NTA can offer you tips on how to fend off union organizing campaigns at the most effective points – before the campaign begins. They can also expose factors that provide a foothold for unions and how to avoid them from your operation, train managers on how to avoid liability traps, and help to educate your drivers on the value of remaining union-free. This service is available to all NTA members. For information about membership, contact NTA at (562) 279-0557 or visit their website (www.ntassoc.com).
CALIFORNIA’S TRUCKING FUTURE
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown laid out what he called “bold commitments” to sustain the environment in the nation’s most populous state (California), by reducing energy consumption. Among his goals over the next 15 years is to reduce petroleum use in both trucks and passenger vehicles by up to 50%, along with increasing the percentage of the state’s electricity derived from renewable resources to 50% and doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings, including making heating fuels cleaner. While some in trucking worry this will mean more regulations and higher costs, Brown’s announcement is not a major policy change. California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has been working on its Sustainable Freight Initiative for a long time now, which is due out later this year. It is expected to introduce regulations requiring improved efficiency in all freight movements, along with zero or near-zero emissions from equipment used to transport cargo. One of CARB’s goals is the migration towards electric-powered heavy-duty vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles. They don’t even view natural gas as a so-called bridge fuel. For instance, truckers should expect to start seeing mandates in 2017 that would ban the use of diesel-powered equipment for vocational trucking running in the Los Angeles basin, which would be in place by the middle of the next decade. Nearly four years ago, a lawsuit was filed against CARB challenging the legality of its statewide truck and bus rules that required equipment to be less polluting. That effort still continues, with the next hearing set for this month (February). For on-highway truck owners, either those running intrastate in California or those running in and out of the state, there is less reason for concern. The long-haul segment has less to worry about from this in terms of being potentially forced into purchasing newer trucks that basically right now don’t exist (for example, there is no electric line haul truck available). While there is less certainty about the possible California mandates in the future, some might say, for instance, you can’t use diesel anymore and/or you have to use natural gas as a bridge fuel on long-haul trucks. This is where the lawsuits by several organizations against CARB become all the more important. When and if the dust settles on this and CARB feels there is nothing that can be done to stop them from making mandates, they will keep passing even stricter rules in the future.