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Industry News

Billion dollar settlement

U.S. diesel engine manufacturers agree that settling claims made by the Environmental Protection Agency is easier than challenging the agency in court. In October, the manufacturers agreed to a one billion dollar out-of-court settlement with the EPA.

The agency alleges that six U.S. manufacturers specifically designed the computer programs in their heavy-duty diesel engines to "know" when it was being tested and when it was on the road. The agency claims the engine makers used time and temperature cut-off points tailored to the U.S. test to create engines that operate cleanly under test conditions only.

The six engine makers (Navistar International Transportation, Caterpiller Inc., Cummins Engine Co., Detroit Diesel Corp., Mack, and Volvo Truck Corp.) agreed to individual settlements, but all continue to deny they violated any laws. Before the settlement is final, it must pass a judicial review and consider public input.


Audit of IRS turns up fraud, operations problems

Individuals sweat at the mention of an IRS audit, now the IRS is sweating the results of a General Accounting Office audit of their financial management practices. The GAO turned up evidence that IRS employees may have embezzled more than $5 million between 1995 and 1997.

One less-than-brilliant strategist altered a check payable to "IRS" to read "I.R. Smith" and deposited the money in a personal bank account. Another employee manipulated the system over time to issue herself over a quarter of a million dollars worth of refund checks. Yet another thief stole a tax payment check for a large amount of money, used the account information off that check to create other checks. The bogus checks were made out for less significant amounts in an effort to avoid suspicion.

The GAO report also notes that problems with IRS' financial management operations are longstanding, due in part to an antiquated computer system that cannot properly track tax receipts. One area of concern is the IRS has difficulty accurately tracking taxes that have been assessed, but not paid. The GAO found that, as a result, the IRS continued to dun taxpayers, even after the amounts owed had been paid. In other cases, checks attached to tax returns were initially overlooked, creating delays in depositing the funds, resulting in a significant loss of interest income for the government over a period of time.


Clinton signs Kyoto treaty

Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries (the largest polluters) agreed to be the first in cutting emissions five percent below 1990 levels starting in 2008. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat indicated that the signing of the protocol indicates that the U.S. is willing to "play a stronger role" in resolving differences that have held up the process of creating a blueprint for curbing global warming. As the world's largest polluter, the U.S. had agreed to a seven percent cut. The United States is the last major industrialized nation to sign the protocol.


New IRS hotline

The Internal Revenue Service's problem resolution service now has its own toll free number: 1-877-777-4778. Easier access to problem resolution caseworkers is one of many changes brought by about Congress, whose goal was to make the IRS more fair and consistent in its dealings with taxpayers. Taxpayers with a question or problem are encouraged to first call the main IRS help line at 1-800-829-1049. Then if the problem is not resolved, a call to the problem resolution service is indicated. Both the main help line and the problem resolution hotline will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, beginning January 1, 1999.


AmeriTruck Distribution Corp. files Chapter 11

On Nov. 9, AmeriTruck Distribution Corp., Fort Worth,TX, filed for bankruptcy protections under Chapter 11. The company plans to liquidate the assets of the reefer division (AmeriTruck Refrigerated Transport, Inc.) and use that money to reduce the company's overall debt. The company says this development should not affect service in the non-reefer business segment.

In October, Prime Inc., Springfield, MO, reportedly signed a letter of intent to buy AmeriTruck Refrigerated's business. On Nov. 11, sources at AmeriTruck reported that efforts by Prime and an unnamed company "fell through." However, Stephen Crawford, corporate counsel for Prime, told Land Line that Prime was still considering the buyout of the refer division.

Is your favorite fuel stop closed?

As the December 1998 deadline nears for petroleum underground storage tank (UST) compliance, truckstops and truck dealers who operate diesel, used oil bulk fluid, or gasoline USTs will need to confirm their tanks meet Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) requirements. If they can't comply, truckers are likely to see a number of smaller fuel stops close.

In 1988, the U.S. EPA gave stations a decade to replace unreinforced tanks with double-walled containers. As of Jan. 1, gasoline distributors will be prohibited from delivering to stations that don't have tanks tagged as legal.


Smithway buys JHT

Smithway Motor Express of Ft. Dodge, IA, has purchased JHT, Inc. of Grand Rapids, MI. JHT operates approximately 185 tractors serving the dry van market, slightly less than half of which are owned by owner operators. Smithway also recently acquired a flatbed carrier, TP Transportation, of Enid, OK. Smithway has now acquired a total of eight carriers since May 1995, bringing the company's total power to more than 1,450 units.

Iowa trucking company owner to be jailed

John E. Hoth, owner of Shuttle Service Express of Cedar Rapids, IA, has been ordered to pay more than $23,000 and to spend six months in jail. Hoth pleaded guilty before a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Iowa to falsifying driver records.

Sources say fines could be as much as $500,000. Six of Hoth's drivers pleaded guilty to one count each of making false certifications. The drivers will be sentenced Dec. 1 and could face fines and prison sentences as well. Hoth reportedly is considering appeal.


Truckers face stiffer testing in Alberta

Currently, there is no standardized driving certification in the province of Alberta, but that might change. A graduated licensing system is one of the proposals currently considered in a joint initiative between the provincial government and the trucking industry. The graduated system could limit the size of rig or bus a driver operates during a probationary period.

Routes or time of day a probationary driver might drive may be restricted as well. Alberta's government will kick in more than a half million dollars for developing the new training program.


Who will lead the Teamsters?

More than 1.4 million Teamster members are awaiting the results of the controversial election rerun for the presidency of the Teamsters Union. Members have been voting since Nov. 2 on whether James Hoffa or Tom Leedham will head up the union. According to news sources, Hoffa is the front runner. Leedham, who heads the union's warehouse division, is an ex-aid to former Teamsters President Ron Carey.


IL CDL scandal results in two guilty pleas

One state employee and a truck-driving school instructor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering in a CDL for sale scheme. Carmen Fajdich, an employee at a driver testing facility in the Chicago area, and Janusz Krzyzak, the driving instructor, admitted to taking roughly $25,000 from approximately 100 applicants for commercial driving permits between April, 1996 and August, 1998. Three other individuals are also charged in the scandal.

Daly sues firearms industry

Chicago Mayor Richard Daly has filed a $433 million lawsuit against the firearms industry, claiming manufacturers have created a public nuisance by deliberately marketing guns to criminals. Named in the suit are 22 manufacturers, four firearms distributors, and 12 suburban Chicago gun shops. Daly alleges the suburban gun shops cater to criminals and gang members who are not able to buy guns in Chicago, where gun laws are very stringent. He accuses manufacturers and distributors of pumping massive amounts of inventories into these surburban shops, knowing the weapons are destined for Chicago, where the death toll from guns last year was 570.


Beltway interchange to be rebuilt

Fairfax County's I-95/I-395/495 Springfield interchange in Virginia is the most dangerous spot on the 64-mile highway according to a two-year federal study. In January, an eight-year, $350 million project will begin to rebuild the interchange, nicknamed the "mixing bowl." The interchange will be open to all traffic during the entire construction period.


Drivers honored by Dart Transit

OOIDA member Woody Copenhaver of Troy, IL is one of 16 professional drivers who collectively have more than 30 million miles of accident-free driving. Copenhaver and two other drivers, Bud Adrian of Chippewa Falls, WI and Gary Shoemaker of Anaheim, CA have more than three million accident-free miles each.

Since Dart began its safety recognition program in 1980, 320 Dart contractors earned the National Safety Council's Million Mile Club Safety Award, and 35 earned Two Million Mile awards. Four earned Three Million Mile awards, and one earned a Four Million Mile award.


State Senator and trucker trade citizens' arrests

Idaho state Sen. Evan Frasure who pleaded innocent to charges of reckless driving stemming from his pursuit of a trucker, will testify at the trucker's arraignment in December. Frasure chased a trucker who passed him on I-84 and made a citizen's arrest. The trucker, Roger Pummill of North Carolina, also filed a citizen's arrest complaint.

Frasure is the chairman of the Idaho Senate Transportation Committee. He played a key role in last winter's bill. He supported higher weights and lower truck speeds in Idaho.