Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DOT official’s day in the cab an eye-opening experience

When it comes to working relationships, sometimes it feels as if truckers and their state’s department of transportation get along about as well as Felix and Oscar of “The Odd Couple” fame.

But OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl said his recent experience offering a ride-along to a member of his home state’s DOT was anything but prickly. In fact, both men say it was an illuminating experience.
OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl, left, and Jason Beloso, planning manager for the
Washington Department of Transportation’s rail freight and port division,
did a ride-along together earlier this summer.

Curl, of Olympia, Wash., took the opportunity to spend some quality time getting to know Jason Beloso, a planning manager for the state DOT’s department of rail, freight and ports division.

The two met at a public meeting this summer to discuss truck parking in North Bend, Wash. The focus of their day trip together initially started on truck parking, but broadened to include a variety of issues, such as lane restrictions and even navigating an 18-wheeler through a roundabout.

“It was quite an eye-opener for him,” Tilden said. “He was real appreciative at the end of the day that he had the opportunity.”

For his part, Jason said riding in the cab of a truck was something he’s “always wanted to do.”

“One of the big takeaways for me was putting a human element on this profession, and the pride that drivers take in their profession,” Jason said in a phone interview with Land Line. “Thanks to the ride-along, I now have a greater appreciation for the work that truckers do, the issues they face on a daily basis, and the key role they have in keeping our highways safe.”

The day trip started with Tilden picking Jason up outside of Seattle, delivering a load in Bellingham, picking up another load, and making the return trip.

Tilden says the pair has discussed doing it again because there are more questions they’d like to discuss.

“It was quite an education for him on the specific problems truck drivers face through the course of the day,” he said. “I think anybody that has the opportunity to work with their state officials and do a day trip with them should, even if it’s just a short ride. It exposes them to something that is unfamiliar to them, yet they still are involved in regulating or passing judgements or whatever to accommodate truck drivers. What you might think would be a good idea from a regulatory standpoint in practice is not. And it gives them the opportunity to see that difference.”

For Jason, the trip offered a chance to see firsthand the unique challenges truckers face on a daily basis.

“Sitting in that passenger seat of that truck, one of the things I was able to see is due to the narrow lane width, truck drivers have to pay closer attention to the other vehicles on the road. They really had to concentrate on keeping the truck in the middle of the lane,” he said. “Due to size, weight and lack of maneuverability of large vehicles, truck drivers really have to think a lot further ahead than we typically do when driving our vehicles to anticipate the hazards and react to situations.”

Tilden admits he learned a few things about how Jason and other folks in the state DOT do their jobs, too.

“The state is up against a lot of constraints; part of that is how to spend limited budget dollars,” he said. “I think sometimes we might not really give the states credit enough for trying to spend dollars as best they see. Because even though trucks are a large part of the transportation plan, they also have to be concerned about ships and rail transportation. There’s a lot of different entities vying for that resource, and the states have to figure out how they can best serve their public and what is the best way to allocate those dollars.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of a country music video

Journalism has allowed me to do some cool things over the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend some of the biggest sporting events, to meet some of my childhood heroes, and to get a behind-the-scenes view that most people aren’t afforded.

This past weekend, I was able to add to that list of cool things. After attending the Guilty By Association Truck Show on Saturday, I was privileged to watch the making of a country music video on Sunday.

OOIDA Member Tony Justice had a big idea for the video for his song, “Stars, Stripes and White Lines.” He wanted to get footage of a convoy of tractor-trailers with a patriotic theme.

The big idea turned into reality. Fourteen tractor-trailers, many of which were driven by veterans, took part in the video shoot. OOIDA’s “The Spirit” driven by Jon Osburn was the lead truck. Sean McEndree’s “Band of Brothers” truck, which serves as a tribute to Purple Heart recipients, and Grant Maxey’s stunning patriotic tanker were among the more than a dozen trucks involved.

I was even able to participate as McEndree allowed me to ride along.  

The convoy started at the Petro Stopping Center off Highway 43 in Joplin, Mo., and turned around about 50 miles later at a Wal-Mart in Bella Vista, Ark. Christopher Fiffie, of Big Rig Videos, was in charge of capturing all the footage along Interstate 49.
Christopher Fiffie of Big Rig Videos with OOIDA Member
and singer Tony Justice.
Photo by Barry Spillman

It was interesting to see the reaction of all the other drivers and motorcyclists traveling along the highway. An enthusiastic wave or a salute was among the common responses.

Soon, the footage will be edited and made into Justice’s latest video.

I can’t wait to see it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Like clockwork, tractor-trailers demonstrate precision

The goal in the trucking industry is to run as efficiently as possible. Every owner-operator sets out to maximize profits and limit costs.

To do so, precision is a must as every minute counts and truckers aim for each delivery to run like clockwork.

However, comparisons between the trucking industry and a clock were recently taken to a new level.

As a way to boast about the performance and reliability of their trucks, Scania created a gigantic clock made out of trucks. The difficult task required 14 trucks, 90 drivers, and 750,000 square feet of deserted airfield somewhere in Europe. The goal was for the clock of big rigs to run for 24 hours.

Trucks that made up the second hand had to drive on a round track in a perfect circle every 60 seconds. The inside truck had to maintain a constant speed of 8 mph, while the outside truck remained steady at 33 mph.

The video footage taken from the air is mesmerizing.

Scania fleet managers tracked the efforts in the control tower, monitoring the status of each vehicle to avoid unexpected stops. The drivers also played an integral role.

“The most demanding challenge in long haulage is precision and punctuality,” Elin Engstrom, a driver in the project, said in a news release. “The clock was the ultimate test of staying in your line, maintaining your speed and keeping track of every second for 24 hours straight. All the drivers had to be in perfect sync, and precision was the key to achieving this.”

The clock was filmed with five different cameras.

Check out the website to learn more about the unique operation.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear Charlotte protesters ...

While I support your right to protest and speak out on social injustice, please let cooler heads prevail when you approach that fine line that distinguishes a protest from a riot.

I was a ‘60s kid. I have felt the sting of tear gas in a packed park.

I was in Chicago in 1968 when 10,000 young folks tested the grit of the National Guard. It was August. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April. People were so bereft, so shocked. Hundreds of cities saw protests.

It was, like this year, a presidential election year. In my mind, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy should have been the Democratic presidential nominee. I was rabid about it. To my horror, he was shot dead on the campaign trail after winning the California primary in June – just a couple of months after the death of Rev. King. At the Chicago Democratic Convention, Hubert Humphrey was chosen to top the ticket and he was defeated by Richard Nixon.

It was a year we learned what Black Power meant and what a Tet offensive was. We also learned how to recite the phrase “get your hands off me unless you intend to arrest me.” 

I believe in objecting, dissenting and making an enormous life-sized fuss over it.

But I am urging you, Charlotte protesters – don’t succumb to the potentially destructive power of a crazed mob.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Seems my in-the-box Optimus Prime just lost some value

As uncharacteristic as it may seem, I geek out a little bit over Transformers. I grew up with a little brother obsessed with the toys and cartoons. I picked up quite a bit through osmosis from him.

But when my kids got into the modern era movies and such as tweens and young teens, sure I watched the movies with them.

Western Star was big into this and, of course, when I got a chance at a limited edition Optimus Prime Transformer toy, I took it.

It sits proudly on my desk unopened. I could say it’s because I’m preserving its value. That would be a filthy lie. I know once I get it “transformed,” I would never be able to return it to its original state. And the Western Star Transformer cap I have? No one is touching that. Not even my kids.

All that said, when I stumbled onto a for real, in the world, BMW that transforms into a robot, I was in orbit. It had to be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while.

Seriously. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LL’s speed limiter video contest results

Well, we asked for it, and truckers delivered a pack of dashcam footage showing four-wheeled drivers
doing dumb, risky and downright dangerous driving around speed-limited trucks.

In case you missed it, here’s our original Facebook post from last week. The winning video was the unanimous selection of the Land Line newsroom staff. The winner will receive a free “Don’t Like Trucks? Stop Buying Stuff” T-shirt from OOIDA.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bus gets stuck on Smugglers’ Notch, but there’s a twist

#SMH ... It’s the only acceptable reaction to the latest news coming out of Smugglers’ Notch, the winding section of Vermont Route 108 where large vehicles find themselves getting stuck. I wrote about this road here and here, and due to continued incidents, have been reduced to tweeting about it to save time.

Welp, it happened again. Another large vehicle got stuck at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont. However, this time it was a bus.

Yup, a motorcoach found itself wedged at the sharp turn at Smugglers’ Notch, which has caused headaches for city and state officials. Before listen to this: The bus will not be fined.

According to Vermont state law, “Commercial vehicles are prohibited from operating on the Smugglers’ Notch segment of Vermont Route 108.” The catch? “As used in this subsection, ‘commercial vehicle’ means truck-tractor-semitrailer combinations and truck-tractor-trailer combinations.”

That’s right. The law does not apply to motorcoaches or any other vehicle type similar in length. Only trucks.

Ripple effect from high seas shipping company failure inevitable

Effects of the Hanjin shipping line collapse continue to spread even as Korean electronics companies and U.S. retailers work desperately to untangle the mess before Christmas shopping season.

Like the fate of many small trucking companies, Hanjin failed because of shipping overcapacity. To keep up with boom-time growth in the early 2000s, major shipping lines ordered massive new container ships. Those orders could not be canceled when the world economy faltered in 2008. The new ships typically handle 19,000 containers compared with the 8,000-container ships regarded as huge just a decade ago.

Just like new trucks bought by optimistic fleets in the early 2000s, those big ships were put in service to generate revenue. All that capacity forced rates down.

Sound familiar?