Friday, December 2, 2016

Greed and profit drive Anti-Trucker Alliance, I mean Trucking Alliance

Your safety and paycheck as a truck driver are not even a blip on the radar of the Trucking Alliance’s
agenda. Not that they try very hard to hide their corporate greed-driven agenda at all.

It’s time for a smidge of a history lesson. The newly founded Trucking Alliance showed up on the D.C. scene back in 2010. Formal papers were filed under another name that half-heartedly tries to make the group sound less economically driven. “The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security” is the official name. Yeah, another one of those. Hide behind the term “safety” and paint pictures of busloads of nuns and puppies as victims. Blah, blah.

Either the group wasn’t impressed enough with the official name or knew it was too easy to see through, because the group’s press releases and such only identified it as the Trucking Alliance for quite a number of years.

Maybe they didn’t try to sell the safety card too hard because of their key agenda items: electronic logs, speed limiters, higher insurance requirements, more truck “safety” technology and hair testing.

The ATA apparently wasn’t moving things along fast enough so the Trucking Alliance was able to pluck some rather large members to join its new association – and surely sturdy up the lobbying cash flow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Feds encourage truck platooning with $$$

First there were the Supertrucks. Now the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is boosting two-truck platoons.

Last summer an outfit called the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE) issued a report saying platooning is not that far off, and it will definitely begin with two-truck platoons. They say two-truck platoons could yield fuel savings of 4.5 percent for the lead truck and 10 percent for the one following for an overall savings of 7 percent. According to NACFE, almost every technology needed for two-truck platooning already exists commercially. We're only missing one thing: truck-to-truck communications.

Now DOE is encouraging just that with a $5 million grant to Purdue University.  For the next three years the school will be working with Cummins, Peterbilt, ZF TRW, and Peloton (the Silicon Valley company that demonstrated platooning in Utah back in 2013). The DOE wants to raise the average savings of two-truck platoons from 7 percent to 20 percent. That financial incentive would be enough to get a whole lot of carriers interested in platooning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fact, fiction or fake news?

Did you know that Kurt Cobain predicted back in 1993 that “someone like Donald Trump” would one day be elected president? Or that President Obama and Michelle have secretly been divorced for a year because she is gay? You’ve probably read the latest on Hillary, so you know that she and Bill murdered Justice Scalia and the FBI has it on video.

Those and more stories were shared with me recently by readers, friends and acquaintances via social media. Friends who obviously don’t check sources … because stories like this are pure hooey. They come from fake news sites that publish false information and outrageous “facts” about people or issues on the internet. They look and sound like real news outlets, but the stories they peddle are completely unsubstantiated crap.

Millions of gullible readers share this outrageous stuff every single day thinking that it’s real. They can create hoaxes with just a retweet or “share” – or worse, they actually believe it and send it on to others who fall for it, too, and they share. To be convincing, some sites mix some real news with stupid reports. Fake news sites like National Report and World News Daily Report are utterly shameless. Recently, someone shared with me the “first successful head transplant” and the 76-year-old mom “getting kicked out of KFC for breastfeeding her 42-year-old son.”

A few are truly satire, like The Onion. It’s published by a “news satire” company and describes itself as a “farce.” You know when the story is about millions of deceased Cubs fans drinking and rioting “in Heaven” following the World Series win – it’s probably a joke. The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz Report is also satire, although that one has fooled a lot of people.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Truckers For Troops 2007 – Year One

It was 2007 and as you recall, it was a worrisome year in a number of ways. In addition to a faltering economy, many OOIDA members and employees had sons, daughters and adult grandchildren stationed in a war zone somewhere overseas.

OOIDA Life Member and Board Secretary Bob Esler, Taylor, Mich., was among those holding their breath until a loved one was home. Bob’s grandson was serving overseas.

In case you’re a little fuzzy on the details of 2007, the U.S. had 26 American combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the year that President Bush (GW) increased the number of American troops in Iraq in order to protect Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province. They called it “the surge” of 2007 and more than 28,000 soldiers went in – mostly to Baghdad – to secure neighborhoods and deal with terrorists and roaming death squads still in the city.

The U.S. had sent 4,000 Marines to the Anbar area because al Qaeda terrorists had gathered and violence was escalating. During the surge, those Marines’ assignments were extended seven months. No going home that year. They were ordered to find the terrorists and clear them out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and NATO also had operations alongside the Afghan Army in Afghanistan, fighting against the Taliban.

It was the year that Congress heard the testimony of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, who survived being captured after she was enemy territory. A joint special forces team raided the hospital where she was held, rescued her, and retrieved the bodies of eight other American soldiers. Jessica’s father, Greg, was a self-employed trucker and OOIDA member. He is still a Land Line reader.

Here at OOIDA headquarters, the holidays were coming and we had an idea to raise some money to send giant packages of items and hand-written cards to our troops in war zones. We would call it Truckers for Troops and make it a telethon event on our satellite radio show.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Artificially restrictive speed limits won’t work now either

What is the speed limiter proposal for trucks all about? The National Motorists Association thinks it might be a backdoor way to work toward another hated and counterproductive National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) that would reduce safety overall. If authorities could first get trucks electronically limited to 65 mph, they could then propose to set the posted speed limits for cars to the same speed.  We all know from the NMSL era of 1974 to 1995 that effective enforcement for cars at levels which actually reduce speeds to any real degree is not possible. But random enforcement blitzes and periodic speed traps are extremely profitable city/county/state budget-deficit-fixers.
Courtesy National Motorists Association
Who wins in this scenario? The big trucking firms win by reducing the competitive and safety edge held by the independent truckers and the small trucking firms. States and cities that choose to randomly ticket mostly safe car drivers for the “crime” of driving at the safest speeds near the 85th percentile speeds win, because they can enforce for big profits. The insurance industry wins for the massive insurance premium surcharges they could issue to safe drivers caught in the speed traps and enforcement blitzes.

Who loses in this scenario? The independent truckers and small trucking firms that are more efficient and safer than the big firms would lose some of their competitive edge. Car drivers would lose billions of dollars in the for-profit ticketing schemes, plus the unjustified insurance premium surcharges. Safety would lose overall; more traffic would use rural two-lane highways as the interstates would lose their legal speed advantages. The public would lose as shipping costs would go up for all of our goods that move by truck. And drivers who roughly complied with the artificially low-posted speed limits would lose some of their travel freedom by having longer trip times.

Any OOIDA or NMA members who have not submitted comments yet on the truck speed limiter proposal (NHTSA-2016-0087, FMCSA-2014-0083) should do so before the new Dec. 7 extended deadline. It is a terrible idea for all of us, truck and car drivers alike.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Feds raid Chinese booths at SEMA, AAPEX

It’s pretty nervy to come to the U.S. with counterfeits and knockoff parts to display and try to sucker buyers, but it happens. (Anyone remember when the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association found Chinese brake pads that were made from compressed grass instead of friction materials?) It’s particularly plucky and downright dumb to come here and do it at prestigious equipment shows where the real product owners may be right down the next aisle.

This year, it happened at one of the premier automotive product trade events – the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas Nov. 1-4. SEMA is such an exclusive show that it’s not even open to the general public.

But this time the victims of the counterfeiters struck back. The show had just begun when after hawk-eyed employees of Omix-ADA, maker of aftermarket Jeep parts, spotted the Chinese booths with fakes on display, some bearing Omix-ADA’s trademark “Rugged Ridge” on the phony parts.

The Georgia-based company quickly got an attorney and obtained an emergency restraining order, which led to a search and seizure by the U.S. Marshals Service. On Nov. 2, federal marshals raided a couple of booths owned by Chinese companies showing off and selling knockoffs (not their own patents) aftermarket parts like hood latches, light mount assemblies and Jeep Wrangler front grilles.

But that’s not all. Later that day, several automotive publications reported that six additional booths belonging to other Chinese aftermarket parts were shut down at the Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo nearby.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cost of ELD mandate too high for small business to bear

I have personally fought the ELD mandate every step of the way since I was the chairperson of the Minnesota Trucking Association in 2012. I never believed that professional truck drivers should be mandated to have an electronic log. If they choose to, that is a different story. Forcing them is un-American. What an insult to a group of professionals.

The reality of what this mandate is going to cost our small company is keeping me awake at night and stressing me out beyond words. Back in about 2009 I started doing some research on these things they called “electronic on-board recorders” or EOBRs. I couldn’t believe we were getting prices in the $200 to $300 per unit range.

I thought that was ridiculous. So we backed off and stuck with our paper logs; they worked just fine and cost way less.

Then the word “mandate” came about, and I really backed off. The last thing our small company needs is to be forced to buy a product we cannot afford. Our drivers also voiced their concern, saying they felt the devices would neither be helpful nor improve safety.

Fast forward to 2016, and now it seems we will be forced to buy a product we cannot afford. Except now the price has gone up to $1,200 per unit. And, yes, that would be per truck.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What does the election mean for truckers?

The upcoming election is certainly the hot topic around the country. But, given the seemingly relentless legislative and regulatory attacks on truck drivers, this election in particular has many wondering what any outcome holds.

In fact, this upcoming election and its effect on truckers and trucking issues was a big topic of discussion during the OOIDA Board of Directors meeting held at OOIDA HQ this past month.

The short-version answer delivered to the board was that things rarely change much following a big election when it comes to trucking.

In addition to the obvious presidential election, a number of key congressional seats that are up for grabs involve lawmakers serving on committees overseeing trucking.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Jay Grimes reported that a number of longtime lawmakers who have served in key posts on trucking-related committees would be retiring at the end of the year. Names you may recognize retiring from the Senate include Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

In addition to those retirements, the OOIDA Government Affairs team is monitoring the elections of nine lawmakers up for re-election who currently serve on the powerful House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The issues for us don’t change much, regardless of who is in office,” OOIDA Executive President Todd Spencer told board members in his opening remarks. “On the regulatory front we are attacked by both sides. If we want regulators to treat small-business truckers fairly, we will have to fight to get that through to them.”