Transport Financial Services

Trump nominates Raymond P. Martinez to head FMCSA

President Donald Trump plans to nominate Raymond P. Martinez to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to an update posted to the White House’s website. Martinez is the current chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. 

 

For Martinez to become the official head of FMCSA, he must be confirmed by the Senate.

Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010. Prior, he was commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Martinez has also held positions as the Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority and as Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. State Department, according to his bio on New Jersey’s website.

How technology has come to affect trucking

Mobile technology has revolutionized truck driving, making drivers more connected than ever before and changing how they work, relax and interact. The five ways it’s happened include:

Connection – Though trucking still comes down to a driver and a truck, the job is a lot less lonely than it used to be, thanks to the smartphone. No other piece of mobile technology has done more for truckers. It offers instant connections with friends, family and work; it’s also a safety device and source of entertainment. 

“I don’t have to look for a pay phone on a street corner in the rain or cold, blowing wind. Now, I sit in my truck and make my phone calls,” said Gary Wiggins, a Texas-based owner-operator.

While smart phones keep drivers in touch with family and friends, they’re also business tools.

“I use my phone to call agents about loads. Then I have the agent email the pickup info and delivery info. Then I print that info out on my printer in the truck. After I deliver a load, I call the agent on my cell phone to let them know their load has been delivered. Then I scan the paperwork and BOL and email that to the company that I’m leased to to get paid. I get paid online, I pay my bills online,” Wiggins said.

Navigation – Truckers do still get lost on occasion, but it’s rarer than it used to be, thanks to GPS technology. Satellite navigation, backed by apps that provide up-to-date maps, weather conditions and road construction, makes it easier for drivers to arrive safely and on time.

Entertainment – Laptops, tablets and smartphones put a world of entertainment at the disposal of drivers. They can binge on Netflix in their sleepers, listen to audiobooks and music or play Xbox as well as they could in their living rooms. That makes nights on the road a lot more bearable.

Accountability – Drivers like to say that they could never be cooped up in an office; ironically, their whereabouts are probably more closely tracked than that of many office workers. GPS devices on trucks and e-logs tell employers exactly where drivers are and, in many cases, how they’re driving. Dash cams record video of driving behavior while engine telematics track speed and acceleration, all of it information employers can use to monitor drivers.

Drawbacks — Though there is no doubt that mobile technology has made trucking easier, safer and more profitable, some drivers feel something has been lost along the way.

“Electronics is a double-edged sword,” said William Kolias, an owner-operator in New Hampshire and driving instructor. While electronics has removed a lot of the inefficiency from the industry, it has pushed the human element – the driver – to the limit, he said.

Technology and trucking will remain linked and drivers will continue to adapt mobile technology to make their jobs easier and to remain competitive.

IANA Panel Agrees Transportation Needs Are Dire, But They’re Not Sure About Funding

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Politicians in Washington agree on the dire need to modernize the ports, railroads and highways in the United States, but the “how do we pay for it” question sparks a debate between Democrats and Republicans.

At the Intermodal Association of North American exposition here, stakeholders discussed two funding ideas that are already the buzz on Capitol Hill: taxes and public-private partnerships.

 

“Our funding stream for infrastructure, especially freight movement, needs tremendous help. What we’ve relied upon primarily, the gas tax, is a nonsustainable funding stream. It will decrease as we go forward with better efficiency and less reliance on gas,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Ports Caucus, told members of the expo late last month. “Right now, [lawmakers] are laying out the parameters. But we haven’t dealt with the 800-pound gorilla of how we’re going to pay for all of this with sustainable funding streams.”

The federal tax on diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon. For gasoline, it’s 18.4 cents per gallon.

In June, Lowenthal introduced House Resolution 3001 — The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act — that would institute a new 1% ground transportation tax on freight transportation on railroads or in Class 7 and Class 8 trucks. Lowenthal believes the funding stream would be more stable than the gas tax.

“We already have it on air transportation, but we don’t have that kind of thing on surface transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it would raise a minimum of $8 billion annually,” he said.

On public-private partnerships, or P3s, there was a skepticism that the idea should be used as frequently as President Donald Trump would prefer.

“I don’t think there should be this blatant, overall, ‘let’s do P3s for the sake of doing P3s’ mentality. In certain contexts, it might not be the most efficient way to deliver a project,” said Shant Boyajian, attorney in the infrastructure group of Washington, D.C., law firm Nossaman. “Every public agency should think when doing a project what’s the most efficient way to actually deliver it and maximize the value of money.”

Lowenthal added that while public-private partnerships make sense in some cases for urban infrastructure projects, they don’t make sense in the rural areas.

When revamping the nation’s infrastructure Jones Lang LaSalle economist Walter Kemmsies noted that the design should focus on a transportation network designed for imports and exports. He argued that when the national highway system was originally built, it was prioritized towards importing based on economic conditions after World War II.

“The problem is we’ve succeeded. We have a growing global middle class, but our industries do not get access to those markets,” he said. “If we’re to rebuild our infrastructure to support our exports, that’s where the employment and wage growth comes from. Does the U.S. produce what the global consumers are buying? Yes. But are we supplying the global customer? Increasingly, no. The world market is where we’ll get our best return on investment.”

Emergency Freight: What Harvey Tells Us About Irma

https://www.dat.com/blog/post/emergency-freight-what-harvey-tells-us-about-irma

Less than ten days after Hurricane Harvey, trucks were already moving freight out of Houston, with almost the same volume as before the storm. That doesn’t mean nothing has changed. 

Harvey hit Houston on Friday evening, August 25, and hung over the metro area for days, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on Southeastern Texas and Southwestern Louisiana. Floods in the Gulf Coast region tragically cost the lives of at least 60 people. Economically, Harvey inflicted enormous damage on homes and businesses.

Houston is home to a number critical industries, including energy exploration, oil and gas refineries, and related manufacturing of petrochemicals and plastic resins, among others. Houston is also a major freight hub for rail and sea traffic, as well as trucking, including trade with Mexico by land and with South America and other regions by sea. The port has since re-opened, as have some portions of the railroads, but some capacity has yet to be restored. It could take months. 

Houston Rates Remain Elevated, Due to Disruption and Pent-Up Demand

Immediately after the rain subsided, trucks began hauling in emergency relief supplies for residents of the storm-affected zone. Inbound rates skyrocketed, as trucks were likely to leave empty, and so were paid the equivalent of roundtrip rates, with additional compensation for detention and layovers.

Outbound freight has picked up by now, and rates have declined in both directions after the initial, post-storm peak. But rates remain elevated in the region due to supply chain disruptions and pent-up demand. Ripple effects from Harvey, and now Irma, extend across the country, and will be felt for months to come. 

Irma’s Impact on Truck Freight is Different from Harvey’s

Hurricane Irma’s impact on freight appears to be following the patterns that are more typical of a big weather event, while Harvey was exceptional in many ways.

Big weather events, like Super Storm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, usually affect freight movements in three stages: 

  1. Before the storm, if it is predicted in advance, shippers hustle to move freight out of the way of the impending onslaught. Outbound rates rise sharply in the zone that will soon be battered by wind and rain.
  2. During the storm itself, nothing moves in or out of the area. It’s just not safe. FEMA and other organizations may move emergency relief supplies to a location on the outskirts of the storm zone, so they are ready to act as soon as roads are clear.
  3. After the storm is over, those emergency supplies are brought in, and the inbound rates shoot way up. This is usually a temporary increase, because conditions are still iffy. Plus, very few loads are available so soon after the storm, so truckers will probably have to deadhead back out. They are glad to help, but they want to be compensated for their time and effort. Van and reefer freight moves in first, and flatbed demand follows when it’s time to bring in construction equipment and materials for cleanup and rebuilding.

As of now, Irma is almost finished assaulting the Southeast. It is sunny today in Tampa and Atlanta, with a light breeze. But Irma caused the deaths of at least 11 people in the U.S., and dozens more in the Caribbean. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Millions are still without power in Florida. On a more positive note, relief supplies are being delivered by FEMA and other groups, and cleanup will get underway as conditions allow. 

It will take a very long time for freight transportation and logistics to return to normal, after two such monstrous storms in the same month. After Harvey smacked into Houston, some shippers started supplying the South Central region from distribution centers in the Southeast. So Atlanta,  Charlotte, Memphis and other regional hubs were moving freight to Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma, because Houston couldn’t do it. 

Then Irma headed toward Florida, and those same Southeast hubs re-focused and moved freight south instead of west. Meanwhile, the Midwest had to supply the Northeast, to compensate for all the freight that would ordinarily arrive from Atlanta. And the Midwestern warehouses were also called on to supply Colorado, which is often served by Houston. So it’s not so surprising that rates went a little crazy last week, in between the two megastorms. The pressure intensified even more because it was a short work week following Labor Day. 

We’ll see how this plays out, and you can score the accuracy of my predictions. Keep checking the DAT blog and DAT Trendlines for updates, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and let us know how the hurricanes have affected your business.

Stay safe out there!

Want to Help With FEMA Loads? It’s Complicated.

https://www.dat.com/blog/post/want-to-help-with-fema-loads-its-complicated

First there was Harvey, then Irma. Clean-up and emergency relief efforts are still underway in Texas, Florida and surrounding regions. Now the Northeast is bracing for possible impact from Hurricanes Jose and Maria. So if you’re looking to haul FEMA freight, or to help with disaster recovery, there’s still plenty to do.

Trucks, warehouse space, and logistics services are needed in Florida, Georgia and even Texas, and they may be required soon in Massachusetts or New Jersey. You can volunteer or look for paid work. The paying jobs typically offer great rates, but that’s because they are complicated, difficult, and sometimes risky for the driver and the rig. 

There are a few things you should know before you accept a load, especially if you’re the driver. Information is available online, but you may need to do extra research before you get started with emergency freight for FEMA and other organizations. 

How can you help?

Find FEMA loads or trucks. Many freight brokers, including some of the largest 3PLs, have been charged with moving and warehousing emergency freight. They may be handling this work on behalf of FEMA itself, or for a non-governmental agency like the American Red Cross. If you’re a broker, and your customers have emergency freight, you may be working in an unfamiliar area where you don’t have a lot of carrier contacts. Look for trucks posted on DAT load boards with a destination near the storm-affected area, or use the LaneMakers tool in DAT Power to find carriers that run those lanes often.

Provide warehousing or trucks for non-FEMA relief. After the storm has passed, there will be a lot of stores and warehouses that need re-stocking, because inventory was either sold out or ruined by the floods. Brokers and carriers can learn about immediate needs at American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) which provides a handy map and list of aid requests. This won’t necessarily be FEMA freight, but it could still be emergency relief, because there is urgent need for so many products, as local people try to put their lives back together.

Don’t become part of the problem. Safety is your number-one priority at all times, of course, but when you’re heading into a disaster area, conditions can be hazardous well after the storm has passed. Be sure to check your routes. If you’re the broker or dispatcher, learn as much as you can about the loads, the routes and the loading or unloading environment before you assign the truck. For example, there are a couple of section of interstate highways that are still closed due to high water in Houston, and many other roads are closed or partially closed for repairs, usually at night. Look at a map of road closures in Houston or Florida, sign up for alerts in the states you expect to drive through, or call 511 before you go. Brokers and dispatchers should be sure to give the driver an emergency contact number and be sure you don’t encourage risky behavior.  

Fuel is not always available.  Gas stations in Florida were running out of every kind of fuel, as hundreds of thousands of people were attempting to evacuate. After the storm passed, the shortages got bad again in Southern Georgia, as the evacuees headed home. Check on fuel availability before starting out. 

If you can’t go, you can still donate. The American Red Cross has a special donation site for hurricane relief. DAT employees are donating there, and the company is matching those funds. Many other organizations are  also helping out, including organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society that focus on evacuating shelter animals to make room for local pets who need a place to go during the storm. Unfortunately, some scamsters are also out there pretending to be relief organizations so they can steal your money. To be sure you are giving to a legitimate relief organization, check out National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) which publishes “How to Help” advice and resources.

Remember that you can also help with disaster relief just by doing your everyday job. Massive numbers of loads have been re-scheduled and re-routed in recent weeks, and shippers are desperate for help, just to re-stock warehouses and distribution centers, which in turn, re-stock store shelves all over the country. That’s especially important in the storm-affected areas.

I have a cousin in Miami who made it through Hurricane Irma safely with her family, but they ended up with a week-long power outage and a stinky mess in the house from piles of seaweed, plus three kids and two dogs who could not go outside for days. You’d better believe that when it was safe to drive, my cousin was on her way to Publix or Walmart for carpet shampoo, bottled water, coffee, fresh food, and maybe a new bottle of ibuprofen. If you helped move those loads from Columbus to Atlanta, and those items eventually ended up on the shelf in that Publix store in Miami, you helped to restore hope and a sense of normalcy for my cousin and her neighbors. That’s a big win.

Expedited Loads: 5 Tips for Fast Negotiations

Hurricane Harvey led to a lot of urgent loads on DAT load boards, and Hurricane Irma could lead to even more. Combined with already higher than usual demand for trucks, that’s creating some fast negotiating.

Why does the broker need a rate so fast? The load could be time-sensitive for the pick or drop-off. The agent could also be competing with other brokerages to be the first to secure a truck. 

Tips for Negotiating Expedited Loads:

1. If you are posting your truck and getting so many calls that you are missing calls, then you need to add more details to your truck posting. Be the person who knows what they want.

2. In the past, I’ve had the best luck posting my truck when others don’t, either after business hours or on the weekend.  

3. Try your best to quote the load now. Don’t tell the broker you will call back with a rate. It’s better to overprice the load than not price it at all. At least now the negotiation can begin. 

4. Know the mileage. A laptop with Google Maps opened up and ready to go is a fast way to calculate mileage while on the phone. Often brokers know what the zip codes for the city names you need and this is faster than trying to spell complicated city names. There are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to mileage:

  • Where is the load picking up? 
  • What is your deadhead to pick the load up?
  • Where is the load going?
  • What will your loaded miles be?
  • What would the miles be to get to a desired location? 
  • What is the total number of miles, including deadhead?

If I am unsure about the market the load is going to — or I will be off-loading during the weekend and/or getting reloaded will be unlikely — then I like knowing what the mileage will be to get to my next destination. Remember, this needs to happen fast and with little time for research, but it’s almost impossible to give a realistic rate without knowing the mileage.

5. What are the inconveniences? There are no rules or formulas for fast broker negotiations. I like to look at each load differently, with the thought of how much discontent the load will bring to my life. I told a broker once that I didn’t want to sit in a truck stop parking lot over the weekend, so the agent agreed to pay an extra $300 for a hotel room. Personally, with van and power-only loads, I often use $2.30 times all miles as my magic number.

Thanks for reading, I really like running expedited freight and will share more tips and strategies in future blog posts.       

ould be time-sensitive for the pick or drop-off. The agent could also be competing with other brokerages to be the first to secure a truck. 

Coalition of large carriers press FMCSA to allow hair sample drug testing of drivers

A coalition of major carriers has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to immediately allow hair sample tests to satisfy federal rules requiring trucking companies to drug test truck drivers pre-employment. Currently, the agency only recognizes urine sample tests.

The Trucking Alliance, a carrier advocacy group that includes fleets like Maverick Transportation, Knight Transportation, J.B. Hunt and Dupre Logistics, submitted the petition.

The FAST Act highway bill passed last year opens the door for the agency to recognize hair tests in lieu of urine samples, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services creates guidelines for hair sample testing. The FAST Act requires HHS to finalize guidelines within a year of the law’s enactment, which would be Dec. 5, 2016 of this year.

The guidelines have not yet been finalized, however, and the Alliance says HHS likely will request more time to do so, further delaying carriers’ ability to test driver via hair sample, the Alliance argues.

Final highway bill: CSA revamp in, younger truckers and carrier ‘hiring standards’ out

The FAST Act highway bill brings with it a bevy of big and small regulatory changes for the trucking industry. Here’s what did and didn’t …

“On this issue, the private sector is already far ahead of the public sector in utilizing the latest methods to detect drug users,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “While we wait on HHS and FMCSA, we can possibly save lives with this exemption by keeping many hard drug users out of our trucks and off our highways.”

Some carriers like J.B. Hunt already test drivers via hair sample, but such carriers must still spend the money to test drivers via urine sample too, a practice that could be ended if the agency accepted drug screening via hair analysis, the Alliance members argue.

ELD enforcement to be ‘phased in’ through April 2018

The US shipping community received a reprieve Monday from worst-case potential disruption caused by an electronic logging mandate for truck drivers that takes effect Dec. 18. An association representing state law enforcement agencies said it would postpone putting drivers out-of-service for not complying with the mandate until April 1, 2018.

“Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with the required device,” the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) said in a statement. The April 1 “effective date” for applying electronic logging device (ELD) out-of-service criteria will give truckers and shippers time to adjust to the rule with “minimal disruption to the delivery of goods.”

Starting Dec. 18, “roadside enforcement personnel will begin documenting violations on roadside inspection reports and, at the jurisdiction’s discretion, will issue citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers operating vehicles without a compliant ELD,” CVSA said in a statement. But carriers in effect will have an additional three-and-a-half months to install ELDs.

The CVSA’s action alleviates fears that thousands of truckers could be placed out of service for not having ELDs starting Dec. 18, stranding freight a week before Christmas. That holiday logistical nightmare would likely have spiked spot market rates as trucks were dispatched to rescue stranded cargo and drivers. Concern about capacity shortages is already rising.

The Aug. 28 announcement clarifies how events are likely to unfold as the mandate takes effect and gives motor carriers struggling to prepare for the requirement, which effects approximately 3 million drivers, more breathing room. “Phased-in” enforcement of the mandate also may blunt attempts to delay implementation of the rule on Capitol Hill.

“The December deadline for this important safety regulation was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA] in 2015 following a decade of regulatory inquiry, study, litigation, and ultimately a congressional mandate,” CVSA executive director Collin B. Mooney said in a letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson.

He expressed “strong opposition” to any delay in the mandate. “Despite what opponents of the mandate may argue, the enforcement community is ready to begin enforcement of the requirement on Dec. 18,” Mooney said.

In short, truckers may receive a citation (and associated fine) if they do not have ELDs installed and operating Dec. 18, but they will not be ordered off the road and out-of-service. Information on companies and drivers that receive citations could be used by regulators to identify and investigate carriers suspected of not complying with the mandate.

Starting April 1, however, truck drivers that do not have ELDs will not drive away from a roadside inspection. They will be placed out-of-service by the state regulatory officials, roadside inspectors, and police officers represented by the CVSA, using its North American Out of Service Criteria. Someone else will have to pick up the freight being hauled by that out-of-service driver.

The electronic logging mandate is expected to have a far-reaching effect on US businesses and domestic and international supply chains, starting with a potential spike in port drayage costs. Truckload carriers and owner-operators may feel the brunt of the impact, but the advent of the ELD era could affect supply chain strategies that extend well beyond trucking procurement.

As Dec. 18 draws closer, many smaller trucking companies reportedly are far from ready to switch from paper logbooks to ELDs. A variety of groups, led by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, are seeking either an outright delay of the regulation or exemptions for specific types of trucking operations, such as drivers of rental trucks.

Companies that have not yet placed orders for ELDs may face shortages of the devices as the Dec. 18 deadline approaches. “The vendors don’t have barges sitting off the coast loaded with thousands of these devices,” John Seidl, a transportation consultant with Integrated Risk Solutions and former roadside inspector, said during an Aug. 3 JOC.com webcast.

Logistics executives, including C.H. Robinson Worldwide CEO John Wiehoff, have expressed concern that implementation of the ELD mandate in December could get “very messy.” The CVSA decision to phase in enforcement should alleviate the threat of an immediate pre-Christmas capacity snap and make a more gradual tightening of capacity over the next year more likely.

“CVSA member jurisdictions have used this phased-in approach in the past when implementing a significant change in regulatory requirements,” Mooney said in his letter. He said the CVSA board and FMCSA agreed the two-phase enforcement strategy would be the best approach and would “promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement.”

However, truckers, fleet operators, brokers, and shippers should not delay compliance plans. Those that do not take advantage of the “wiggle room” the phased-in approach affords may find themselves in a tight spot April 1. 

Trimble Registers FMCSA-Compliant ELD Solution

SUNNYVALE, Calif.Sept. 21, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) announced today that its FieldMaster Logs application has been registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a self-certified Electronic Logging Device (ELD) solution. 

FieldMaster Logs adds Hours of Service (HOS) and Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) functionality as part of its robust Fleet Management portfolio. In order to prevent driver fatigue and reduce accidents, the FMCSA’s HOS rules restrict the number of hours a driver may operate his/her vehicle. Trimble’s FieldMaster Logs tracks driver activity, provides clear communication to the driver about hours remaining and gives robust reports to managers to measure their driver’s activity and availability. Using FieldMaster Log’s DVIR features ensure that drivers perform safety inspections of their vehicle and that vehicle issues are captured and communicated to the maintenance team. 

Trimble’s Fleet Management portfolio offers reliable hardware and software solutions for capturing vehicle positions, tracking driver behavior and communicating with the vehicle’s engine bus to obtain diagnostic information. Monitoring these activities allows carriers to reduce fuel costs and improve driver safety.

“Trimble’s FieldMaster Logs application allows companies to improve productivity, profitability and most importantly, driver safety for our partners,” said John Cameron, general manager of Trimble’s Field Service Management Division. “We’re pleased to announce that our solution meets the FMCSA’s requirements for tracking HOS and DVIR activities, well in advance of the mandate’s deadline.”

In 2016, the FMCSA mandated that carriers who do not already have an Automatic Onboard Recording Device (AOBRD) installed on their vehicles must install a certified ELD solution by December 18, 2017. In addition, those vehicles that do have installed AOBRDs must replace them with certified ELDs by December 17, 2019.

To learn more about Trimble’s ELD options, join a webinar on Thursday, September 28 at 2:00 pm EDT. For more information or to register, visit:  http://resources.trimblepulse.com/sign-up-for-our-eld-webinar.

 

About Trimble’s Field Service Management Division

Trimble’s Field Service Management Division provides visibility into field and fleet operations so businesses can streamline efficiency and increase productivity. The Field Service Management suite includes Fleet Management, Work Management and Scheduling, Worker Safety and Mobility solutions that transform the effectiveness of work, workers and assets in the field. The cloud-based portfolio allows Trimble to offer customers industry-specific, enterprise-level solutions for exceptional performance and ease of use. For more information, visit:  www.trimble.com/fsm.  

About Trimble

Trimble is transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. Core technologies in positioning, modeling, connectivity and data analytics enable customers to improve productivity, quality, safety and sustainability. From purpose built products to enterprise lifecycle solutions, Trimble software, hardware and services are transforming a broad range of industries such as agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation and logistics. For more information about Trimble (NASDAQ:TRMB), visit:  www.trimble.com.

Costco drops trucking company accused of labor violations

Costco, one of the world’s largest retailers, has stopped doing business with a California trucking company accused of trapping drivers in debt and then using it to force them to work overtime.

The action comes as brands across the U.S. face increased scrutiny for ignoring labor abuses in their supply lines, a widespread problem first revealed in a USA TODAY Network investigation in June.

Earlier this month, four prominent Democratic Senators, led by Sherrod Brown of Ohio, sent letters to 16 retailers, calling on them to root out “shameful” labor abuses first outlined by the USA TODAY Network.

Soon after, Costco Wholesale dropped Pacific 9 Transportation, one of the biggest port trucking companies in Southern California.

Hewlett-Packard also sent an auditor to investigate the company’s labor practices.

Both retailers declined to comment on their actions. Alan Ta, chief operating officer for Pacific 9, said that even before Costco withdrew, his company had stopped leasing trucks to drivers and launched a series of reforms to improve their pay.

 

A wave of pressure from retailers and manufacturers has hit port trucking operations across the industry, according to drivers who say their employers have been fielding calls from clients.  

Those clients include Walmart, which pledged in a letter responding to the senators that it would cancel contracts with any trucking company that did not provide “assurances” it was following fair labor practices.

“The stories profiled in that article are deeply concerning,” Executive Vice President Jay Jorgensen wrote of the USA TODAY Network investigation, “Rigged.”

“Any motor carrier that fails to comply with law, such as those alleged in the article, would be in violation of our contract and would therefore be subject to cancellation,” he wrote.

The series revealed how port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs they could not afford.

The longer drivers worked, the more trapped they felt. After just a few months, drivers typically had paid thousands of dollars towards a truck.

If drivers quit or got fired for any reason, most of them lost the truck and everything they had paid in. Many worked 20 hours a day to keep up with their truck payment and feed their family.

For years, Pacific 9 used the same kind of lease-to-own program.

Forty drivers have won California labor commissioner cases against Pacific 9, accusing the company of using the leases to cheat them of fair pay. Half of them testified that they had to work up to 19 hours a day, violating federal fatigue laws for truckers.

As the USA TODAY Network began investigating and as labor judgments piled up against Pacific 9, the company stopped using leases. In April 2016, facing almost $7 million in court-ordered back pay and penalties, the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

It has since started rehiring drivers as full-time employees and stopped charging them truck expenses.

Ta and many of his drivers said the company is now working to become a model for the rest of the industry.

Pacific 9’s sudden loss of business comes at a precarious time for the company – the tail end of drawn out bankruptcy negotiation with truckers.

Drivers and their attorneys sent at least two letters to the senators pleading with them to ease pressure on retailers using Pacific 9.

Rivera and Shackelford, a San Diego firm representing some Pacific 9 drivers, said Costco’s decision might “lead to the closing of Pacific 9 altogether,” undoing months of negotiations and possibly leaving drivers empty-handed.

“We believe this would be a tragedy,” the attorneys wrote.  

Some drivers feel the same — even those who once testified about pervasive labor abuses inside the company.

“Pacific 9 has followed through on its commitments to us drivers,” wrote trucker Santiago Aguilar, who filed a labor claim against the company in 2013 and has since been rehired as an employee with full protections. Aguilar’s letter was signed by 13 others at the company. “Now, I get a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work,” he said.

Pacific 9 is one of the busiest operators at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, according to port truck data obtained through a public records request.

Using the data, reporters tracked the movement of the company’s 160 trucks and found that they were on the clock for more than the 14-hour maximum set by federal law at least 7,500 times over three years. Almost all of the company’s rigs exceeded the time limit set for commercial truckers at least once.

But executives say those practices are a thing of the past.

“We have made significant change in our company and to our industry,” Ta said in an email.

Other companies that have used Pacific 9, either directly or as a subcontractor, include Hasbro and Goodyear. Hasbro did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said the tire giant “took immediate action and ceased use of Pacific 9 within two weeks of the California Labor Commission’s ruling against them.”