Short takes

Dick Larsen

Striking situation: A U.S. district judge has extended a restraining order against striking truckers at the Port of Miami to allow the truckers time to seek legal representation. A hearing is set for Sept. 3 to consider whether to issue an injunction against the truckers. The Miami drivers and other port owner-operators nationwide took part in work stoppages before and after the July Fourth holiday to bring attention to fuel costs, anti-union laws, unfair wages and inadequate surcharges. Activity was reported in Savannah, GA, New Orleans, Boston, Houston, Miami, New Jersey and South Carolina.

A Prime example: New Prime Inc. of Springfield, MO, will pay more than $400,000 in a settlement to three women who claim they were sexually harassed and assaulted during driver training, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced. The EEOC filed the suit against New Prime in July 2001 in U.S. District Court. A jury in September 2003 found in favor of one woman who claimed her male driver-trainer made sexual advances during a trip and forced her to stay for two days at his home, where he allegedly tried to lure her into bed. The settlement also covers two women who lost a jury verdict in September.

A Swift kick: The FMCSA rejected Swift Transportation Co. Inc.’s request to dismiss $37,440 in proposed fines ordered after an investigation into allegations that drivers falsified safety records. However, a Swift request to have the case referred to a U.S. DOT administrative law judge was granted. FMCSA Assistant Administrator John Hill said that once the judge ruled on the fines, a decision would be made on Swift’s safety rating. FMCSA began investigating Swift partly because of questions about the company’s accidents. Swift, on average, is involved in a fatal wreck every 12 days.

Hazmat red flag: On July 30, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began enforcing a safety permit program for carriers hauling certain hazardous materials in interstate and intrastate commerce. The final rule was published in the June 30 Federal Register — the docket number is FMCSA-97-2180. The rule covers the shipment of: radioactive materials; explosives; matter that’s toxic by inhalation; and shipments of compressed or self-generated liquid methane or natural gas or other liquefied gas.

Taxing questions: Legislators working on the highway and transit reauthorization bill face a crucial issue — money. Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, conference committee leader, has proposed a $318 billion spending level that was approved by the Senate. But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-TX, said the “Senate is using (the bill) as a slush fund to rob other programs and raise taxes. It’s not going to happen. The Senate bill is begging for a veto. We must rely on more jobs and more economic growth to fund our highways, not new tax increases.” In response, Inhofe said: “I have concluded that he (DeLay) has not read the Senate Highway Reauthorization Bill … There are no ‘tax increases’ in the Senate bill.” For more information, see Washington Insider.

Politicos want security via thingamajigs: The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee wants to increase the use of technology to secure port and border areas. Toward that end, Committee Chairman John McCain, R-AZ, announced that he and others — including Chuck Schumer, D-NY, Hillary Clinton, D-NY, Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Jon Kyl, R-AZ — have introduced the Border Security and Technology Integration Act. The bill was developed in collaboration with Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-AZ, who introduced the House version. “An estimated 1 million people enter this country illegally every year,” McCain said. “Although the vast majority of these individuals do not intend to harm our nation, we must recognize that our borders are porous and pose a significant vulnerability.”

Dick Larsen can be reached at