Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Read the whole story, people!

Since news broke of a fatal wrong-way crash involving some off-duty New Jersey police officers who hit a tractor-trailer head-on, thousands have turned to social media to weigh in on the tragic wreck that killed two people and injured three others.

It’s unbelievable what you can find in the comments that jump to the conclusion that the trucker was at fault. Yes, some actually thought the trucker going the right way was at fault.

Investigators are still trying to piece together why a Linden, N.J., police officer, Pedro Abad, 27, steered his Honda Civic the wrong way onto the West Shore Expressway in Staten Island, N.Y., on his way home from a gentleman’s club in the early hours of Friday, March 20.

While the mainstream press has written extensively about the four people who were in the car, there has been little mention of the truck driver, who was also injured in the crash. Some news reports didn’t even count the trucker as one of the injuries.

All that is known so far about the truck driver is that the driver is 33 years old and drives for Pennsylvania-based Snavely’s Mill Inc. While investigators are not releasing the truck driver’s name at this time, they say the driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to an area hospital and later released.

Tragically killed in the crash included one Linden police officer, as well as, a civilian passenger in the car. Two police officers, including the driver of the Honda, were critically injured in the wreck.

Some social media commenters have been inexplicably quick to blame the truck driver, who happened to be going the right direction on the expressway. One comment (now deleted) said the driver should go to jail once released from the hospital. WHAT?

I want to believe one commenter on a news story didn’t read the whole article before posting a comment, alleging the truck driver was to blame for the crash. The comment read, “Why the heck would there be an article about the truck driver? These brave heroic selfless officers, though no fault of their own, are in the hospital. That should be the focal point.”

Several hours prior to the crash, Abad had posted a photo on his Instagram page of three shot glasses filled with “Jack Daniels Fire on the house.” While blood samples from the off-duty police officer have been sent to the lab, his blood alcohol results are not back.

Another commenter on a news story about the fatal crash made reference to the fact that the guys in the Honda Civic are lucky that they “hit a large truck that could withstand a hit and the driver of the truck driver wasn’t injured or killed.”

The trucker in this crash was not at fault, but a fatality crash linked to the Pre-Employment Screening Program report, or PSP, and the psychological damage may haunt this driver forever. Our prayers go out to the driver and hope he/she is not reading the news or insensitive and inaccurate social commentary.

Friday, March 20, 2015


I just got this great news in a memo from OOIDA’s Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek.

We previously reported on a law that was enacted in Kentucky in 2013 that would require all motor carriers in the state to complete an annual educational training course before renewing their plates under the International Registration Plan (IRP).

Today, Mike says OOIDA sent letters to all Kentucky members announcing that this law has been repealed in its entirety, which means there is no longer an educational requirement tied to IRP.  

It was scheduled to take effect in 2016. The collective annual cost to OOIDA members was expected to exceed $100,000 while providing no benefit to owner-operators or public safety.   

In addition to the savings for OOIDA members – and all motor carriers in Kentucky – Mike says OOIDA saved a significant amount of money from the likely lawsuit that would have been filed against the State of Kentucky had the law not been repealed.    

We would like to thank OOIDA Members Gil and Mary Barany from Kentucky and OOIDA's General Vice President Woody Chambers of Eddyville, Ky., for their relentless work educating lawmakers about this issue. We would also like to thank Kentucky State Sen. David Givens and Kentucky State Rep. Richard Heath for their leadership in repealing this law.

But most of all, we would like to thank each of you who took the time to contact your state legislators in support of our effort.  Without you, the outcome might have been much different.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Eye the iWatch

Never mind a little drum roll, imagine the sound of trumpets. Hell, throw in trombones and the whole brass section. Imagine a regal fanfare that builds in anticipatory crescendo to a climactic, straining chord. Then silence. The curtains part, a white-hot spotlight pierces the darkness, and there on a plinth for the world to behold ...

A watch.

Not just any watch, but a battery-powered watch so special it can’t run an entire 24 hours without a recharge.

Of course, it's the Apple iWatch that officially debuted on Monday in a typically Apple-sauced  event. This was going to be big, and in its own way it was. The media made as much of it as they could. It was a coveted reporter's assignment after all. Nobody really wanted to call it a waste of time, so very few did.

OK, maybe it wasn't a complete waste of time. The iWatch is a nifty gadget. Just about anything you can do with your iPhone you can do with the iWatch. You can email, you can text, you can watch streaming TV, you can even find out the time. Trouble is, you can't do most of those things without having an iPhone nearby, like in your pocket. The iWatch talks to your phone wirelessly, and your iPhone does the heavy lifting computing-wise.

Yes, there are things you can only do with an iWatch, like send a lover or cardiac specialist your actual heartbeat. Like other smart watches, the iWatch can monitor vital signs and help track your health. At the big event, Steve Job's successor Tim Cook promised lots of nifty apps to come. Even so, for the most part the iWatch is an advanced combat unit of the iPhone. It can lay down small arms fire, but the mothership has the artillery.  

The question is, if you already have an iPhone, do you really need an iPhone extension on your wrist? Is it that much trouble to pull the phone out of your pocket? If you have an iPhone mount on your dash for navigation, what's the point?

In fairness, the letdown of the iWatch debut was only in comparison to the level of genius Apple has shown in the past -- marketing products like the iPod, iTunes, iPad, and the most disruptive product of this new century, the iPhone.

The iWatch is not in the same league as those products that made Apple one of the richest, most successful companies on the planet – not even close. But Apple products often have an edge over competitors. They’re beautifully designed, more intuitive to use, and more expensive -- status symbols to be sure. You can impress your pals at the Iron Skillet by talking to Siri on your wrist.

Beyond technology, the iWatch is jewelry, and as you might expect it can be expensive. A top-of-the-line model will set you back anywhere from $10,000 to $17,000. The cheapest model (which does all the same things, by the way), on the other hand, goes for $350. That’s pretty much in line with competing smart watches.

But the truth is a real smart watch has yet to arrive. That would be one with all the functionality of a smartphone – but without the smartphone. So you might just want to hold out. Even then, do you really want to watch Monday Night Football on a watch?

Stay tuned for the smart pinky ring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More access to questionable information

What do you do when truckers file lawsuits against you to remove questionable and inaccurate data about motor carriers from public view? If you’re the FMCSA, you create a smartphone app and share that data with the world.

FMCSA rolled out a new app, called QCMobile, this week. The agency says it will allow more convenient access to currently available online safety performance information for interstate truck and bus companies. It will also be a handy tool for law enforcement to check a carrier’s status at roadside in an effort to “expedite an inspect/pass decision by a certified commercial vehicle safety inspector.”

The agency’s timing is not very good, and the app itself is … well, less than good.

OOIDA and five members filed a pair of lawsuits in 2012 and 2013, later combined in 2014, alleging that FMCSA’s large database known as the Motor Carrier Management Information System, or MCMIS, lacks the assurance of data accuracy as well as a functioning process to resolve disputes.

MCMIS is the database that stores data used for the agency’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) and Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.

OOIDA and truckers are hoping to force FMCSA to delete references to state safety enforcement actions against truckers from the database.

Yet here we are with a new publicly viewable version for smartphones.

To us, the app will only perpetuate the problems that already exist with CSA – problems that have been pointed out by lawmakers and oversight agencies – such as how CSA is geared to be penal and never rewarding no matter how good the carrier. Another big problem with CSA is that it does not distinguish who is at fault in a crash. It assumes that because a truck was involved in a crash that the carrier is more likely to be involved in a crash in the future.

That made no sense when CSA was launched in 2010 and it makes no sense now.

FMCSA says having CSA scores and other data available to everyone with a smartphone is responsible and transparent.

But unless the data is accurate, sharing the information is nothing short of irresponsible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Strong-armed citizen helps dump truck driver escape fiery wreck

We’re all about celebrating “highway heroes,” and this story out of Cheektowaga, N.Y., certainly qualifies.

Dump truck driver Larry Coulter was hauling a load of stone westbound on Interstate 90 in western New York on Monday, March 16, when he suffered a blowout on one of his tires. The loss of a tire forced his truck into a guardrail, causing the whole thing to overturn and catch fire.

WIVB 4 News had cellphone video footage of the blaze, along with an interview with Coulter posted on Tuesday. The video shows the dump truck fully engulfed in flames as thick, black clouds of smoke pour across the interstate.

With the truck on its side, Coulter told the news agency that he couldn’t escape via the passenger door, and the encroaching flames made it impossible for him to open the driver’s side door and climb out.

“The tires were bursting all around me,” Coulter said in WIVB’s report. “I just kept thinking it was the end.”

And it might well have been, were it not for the actions of Ed Brunner, a passerby who stopped and began hurling large stones from the truck’s cargo at the windshield, attempting to break Coulter free.

The heavy stones opened a crack in the windshield that Coulter said he was able to kick out and then make an escape from the cab with Brunner’s assistance.

Rescue workers arrived at the crash site, but Brunner reportedly had already left. Coulter was taken to the Erie County Medical Center where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.

For his part, Brunner told the news station that he did it “because I saw another man who needed my help.”

“God put me there for a reason,” he said. “Thankfully I was able to break the window.”

Coulter told the news station that Brunner is his “guardian angel.”

“I was very, very, very, lucky,” he said in the report. “If he wouldn’t have been able to break that glass, I would have died. He saved my life today. I owe him eternal gratitude.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

A day at the proving grounds: Goodyear demonstrates fuel economy and traction

It takes a certain belief, and bravado, for a company to invite the media for an inside look at where the magic happens. What if a demonstration somehow backfires or favors a competitor’s product?

A stopping test put Goodyear against a competitor on wetted,
polished concrete. We were advised not to walk on the
slick surface
The folks at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. had no such fear when they opened their doors to media scrutiny in early March during Tire Technology Day at the company’s proving grounds in San Angelo, Texas.

“We bare our souls here each day,” said Frank Payne, Goodyear’s general manager of fleet sales, told the visiting group, which consisted of trucking journalists and a few dozen fleet owners and managers.

The San Angelo Proving Grounds, far and away the company’s largest testing facility, puts 50 to 60 products and 23,000 tires through the paces each year according to proving grounds manager Chris Queen.
Starting line for the coast-down test, with Goodyear on one
truck and competitor tires on the other. Rolling resistance
is one of Goodyear's keys to improving fuel economy.

We were on site to check out how the company’s new Fuel Max LHS steer and Fuel Max LHD G505D drive tires fared on various test tracks and in the shop.

Balancing fuel economy and traction is the name of the game in tire technology. Demonstrations such as the “coast-down” showed how Goodyear’s low rolling resistance stacks up against a competitor. The coast-down test followed a stopping test that pitted the grab of the Fuel Max line against a competitor on wetted, polished concrete.

“There’s an inherent tradeoff between fuel economy and traction,” said Goodyear Product Manager Jason Stine. “The key is to optimize both.”

Finish line for the coast-down test, showing the Goodyear-
equipped truck out-coasting a competitor's tires.
When asked the secret to optimization – because it doesn’t seem logical for a tire to have superior stopping power and low rolling resistance – Stine cracked a smile, saying the secret is closely guarded. He was able to share that it has to do with the chemical compounding and internal tire design that Goodyear works so very hard at.

A road test for fuel economy put Fuel Max tires up against yet another competitor’s product over a 120-mile round trip between San Angelo and Abilene. This test was considered a standard Society of Automotive Engineers Type II test that meets strict standards and is repeated over and over again to generate data.

As with the rolling-resistance and stopping-distance tests, the results of the SAE Type II fuel economy test favored Goodyear – by 3 percent – without the company’s apprehension or fear that it could have gone the other way.

Perhaps the control and test groups were selective, but never once did a demonstration run out of Goodyear’s favor.

This tire had 69 punctures in it and was still
holding at 120 psi.
A two-part demonstration that beckoned for some hands-on by the trucking press was the puncture test. During the first part of the demonstration, Goodyear Brand Manager Norberto Flores showed how tires manufactured with the company’s DuraSeal product built into the casing would stay inflated at drivable psi even when the truck backed over a bunch of nails.

“Sometimes people see they have picked up a nail. They take the truck in and find out they have five, six, seven nails and didn’t even know it,” said Flores after a demonstration driver backed up over three large, protruding nails. Spikes, really.

I had some fun during part two of the puncture test inside one of the buildings. It allowed us to operate a drill press to drive a spike into a tire ourselves. The tire I punctured – twice – contained 67 other punctures according to the readout and was still holding at 120 psi.

The tires we were shown during Tire Technology Day had been in development for two- to three years before hitting the proving grounds. A lot can be said about the engineering, development, materials and claims about a product, but as Goodyear demonstrated, the rubber really meets the road at the proving grounds and on the roadways.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Regulations giving out brain freezes

Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Roll ’em up an’ twist ’em up a high tuc-ka-haw
An’ twist ’em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw

All right, so those lyrics may not jog your memory, but perhaps this will:

“Turkey in the Straw” is the song that many children in the United States associate with ice cream trucks. Kids are conditioned to drool over the sound it (someone should do an experiment about this). But maybe not for long.

According to the Napa Valley Register, many parents in American Canyon, Calif., are pushing for legislation to ban ice cream trucks immediately after school hours. More specifically, ice cream trucks in the city cannot operate from 15 minutes before school ends to one hour after dismissal. The proposed changes would also ban ice cream trucks from peddling their wares after sunset. To make matters worse, no music allowed.

Ice cream truck drivers are about to get a dose of what commercial truck drivers have been dealing with for decades: overregulation. In this case, a vocal minority shouted their grievances, which forced lawmakers to make a kneejerk reaction. Truckers see this whenever an isolated incident happens on the road and lawmakers instantly bring up hours-of-service rules.

While lawmakers are trying to ban ice cream trucks from operating for all but a few hours a day, anyone can drive one. Currently, there are no requirements for background checks for drivers, despite working primarily with children. Lawmakers are addressing a non-issue while ignoring a very real issue. Sound familiar? *cough* driver training *cough*

Politicians have a history of implementing rules and regulations based on nothing more than a gut feeling or moral compass. In the book “Think Like a Freak” by the authors of “Freakonomics,” the writers noted that when politicians make decisions based on their moral compass, “facts tend to be among the first casualties.” Safety groups appeal to emotion by tugging at the heart strings of lawmakers. Facts about crashes and causation seem to drift away when Congress is being shown images of fatal scenes. Now, even ice cream trucks are under attack of the Appeal to Emotion logical fallacy. No one is safe!

The aforementioned book also explains the “I don’t know” phenomenon. This refers to the petrified fear that decision makers have of the words “I don’t know.” Rather than admit that they do not know the solution to a problem, lawmakers tend to submit ideas despite not knowing why, how or even if the solution is a good one. Decision makers do this so that they do not come off as incompetent, regardless of the possibility of their ideas failing.

Sometimes, government regulations completely overstep boundaries. It is up to a child’s parents to regulate ice cream consumption, not the ice cream truck driver or the government. Similarly, it is up to individual truckers to determine when it is time to tuck themselves into bed, not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Through the eyes of politics, we are all children.

For ice cream truck operators, lawmakers don’t know how to deal with people’s children buying ice cream. Commercial drivers are dealing with lawmakers who do not know the particulars of crash data. Either way, an industry is losing money due to illogical rules and regulations.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What’s spring training got to do with port unrest?

I had a history teacher once who linked each decade in the 20th Century with a common theme, a baseball player and often a baseball team that reflected culture and politics of the era.

Babe Ruth, the Roaring ’20s and the New York Yankees, he said, represented the free-flowing capitalism and personal excess that led to both the Great Depression and the shortening of Ruth’s career. Third baseman and devout Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, he said, represented the rise of evangelical Christianity that dominated sports and politics during the 1980s.

Here’s hoping Dr. Linder can one day draw a line between labor issues in America’s pastime and the goods movement industry during the 2010s.

In late March, Major League Baseball will celebrate 20 years since labor problems last forced a work stoppage.

The player’s strike of 1994, which torpedoed a contention season by my Kansas City Royals, stretched into spring training and threatened to ruin 1995 before then U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor stepped in and issued a preliminary injunction against the MLB – ending the strike.

Sotomayor, now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, famously told attorneys in the case, “I hope none of you assumed … that my lack of knowledge of any of the intimate details of your dispute meant I was not a baseball fan. You can’t grow up in the South Bronx without knowing about baseball.”

Truck drivers, even ones who rarely go into a major port, can’t do their jobs for long without learning the difficulties faced by owner-operators at ports.

And because so many imports and exports go through U.S. ports, trucking felt the pinch of work slowdowns at West Coast ports during negotiations between longshore workers and the Pacific Maritime Association.

That’s why so many breathed a sigh of relief after it was announced Feb. 20 that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the PMA had reached an agreement on a five-year labor contract for workers at 29 ports along the West Coast.

Small port drivers at big ports like Long Beach and Los Angeles often must carry out duties of a company driver while not receiving employee pay or benefits. They scuffle for rates against companies who may not play by the same rules.
Port truckers wait in line for repairs to chassis they don’t even own, and fight for rates that don’t always account for long lines and other inefficiencies ports have been trying to solve for decades.

Drivers have been winning recent battles over misclassification as owner-operators.

Immediately following last week’s announcement that the longshore workers contract had been ironed out, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, its port division and the Justice for Port Truck Drivers affiliate organization, signaled that labor issues aren’t fully resolved at the ports just yet.

If the driver classification issues improve, ports and shippers will have cleared a second labor hurdle and calmed some prosperous waters.

Baseball saw revenues increase from $1.4 billion to $9 billion during the peaceful two decades since the 1994 work stoppage.

As the job market grows and economists point to signs of a recovering economy, here’s hope for a rising tide to lift ports, trucking and the U.S. like baseball experienced for the last generation.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Colorado DOT flummoxed by Mystery of the Serial Book Dumper

Since December, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been trying to solve a mystery: Who’s been dumping hundreds of books on a stretch of Highway 287 outside of Boulder? The latest incident occurred Monday, Feb. 23.

CDOT spokesman Jared Fiel says the agency has collected more than 300 books so far, but hasn’t been able to pick up any clues as to who’s doing the littering.

“It’s very random, except that it’s along the same stretch of Highway 287,” Fiel said in a phone interview with Land Line. “It seems deliberate. It’s not like (a vehicle would be) turning right there. They’re often in the median. We’re not finding them anywhere else.”

In the beginning, the books were mostly “romance novels” but lately it’s become “a more eclectic mix” according to Fiel.  

While most of the tomes are paperback, Fiel said it still presents a travel and safety issue for motorists and for the DOT employees who have to go out and pick up the mess by hand.

“It’s very frustrating because that’s a pretty heavily traveled road,” he said. “It’s just so stupid and so frustrating for our guys. Obviously this is snow season so they’re working late nights/early mornings and then during the day they’re out there picking this stuff up.”

Most of the books end up being thrown away because “they’re pretty trashed” he said.

Fiel said the agency doesn’t really have any ideas as to why the books have been littering that particular stretch of road.

CDOT is asking for the public’s help in catching the perpetrator or perpetrators. If you spot suspicious activity along the road, contact the main number for CDOT at 303-757-9011. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Honey, I Shrunk the Truck Driver

Don’t be surprised if someday soon a broker asks you to scrunch down in your seat so the shipper can’t see you.

Let me explain.

According to a recent transportation news blurb, “40 percent of manufacturers and retailers expect their logistics providers to have some understanding of driverless vehicles.”

The statistic was attributed to the Eye For Transport 2015 3PL Report, an annual survey of shippers and 3rd Party Logistics providers, more than 400 of them according to EFT. I downloaded a copy.

The relevant survey question was for shippers: “Do you expect your 3PL to have any expertise of, or (for 3PLs) are you looking to provide services which incorporate driverless vehicles/trucks?”

Sure enough, according to the survey bar chart, a bit more than 40 percent of respondents, roughly 160, selected the option “Some expertise/knowledge would be useful.”

How or why such knowledge would be useful and to whom isn’t explained. I suppose it might also be useful in some obscure way for a broker to have a working knowledge of calculus, a degree in cognitive dissonance, or a 2003 Buick.

But wait. At the top of the bar that reflects responses from shippers is a red sliver that represents at least 2 percent of the total. These folks answered the same driverless truck question by checking this amazing answer:

“I would expect my 3PL to be able to provide both expertise and services in this area now.”

OK, so if my arithmetic is right, there are at least eight shippers out there who expect that, should they ask for one, a driverless truck will back into their dock this afternoon.

Who will they call?

Look no further than the bar that reflects 3PL responses. The red sliver on top represents a little less than 2 percent of respondents. According to the survey these, let’s say seven, 3PLs are looking to dispatch driverless trucks today.

So who do they call?

It could be you, and with a special set of scrunch-down pickup instructions.

Should it happen, don’t take it personally. Just try to look small.