Friday, December 9, 2016

If HOS violations decline, does anyone hear it?

Normally I would answer that question with an emphatic no. However, someone did take notice. I stumbled across a fantastic piece reviewing hours-of-service compliance over the past three years. The Journal of Commerce did a great job spotting the violations that matter (driving over hours) and those that are pretty much BS (form and manner).

It was a well thought out and researched piece. I differ with the writer’s end-shot (more on that in a second), but I want to hit a few high points in the piece.

The overall number of hours-of-service violations decreased 13.7 percent from fiscal year 2015 to 2016, JOC reports from FMCSA data. Even better news, the Journal reports, is that violations for driving after 11 hours and driving after 14 hours both dropped by “double digits.” I did some quick math on the same FMCSA Analysis and Information data and found that to be 12 percent and 15 percent declines respectively. There’s more good stuff in the article here. Check it out.

While those are impressive declines, JOC also reports a jaw-dropping 62 percent decline in year-to-year in violations was for logs not being kept current.

I love the insight the reporter showed when talking about “form and manner” violations. Those violations, in the reporter’s words, are “typically minor logbook errors ranging from missing data and incorrect use of abbreviations in remarks to sloppiness in graphically recording hours.” Well done, sir. Well done.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Which states are the deadliest to drive in?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people lost their lives in traffic crashes last year, marking the largest annual increase in 50 years. With the roads being a dangerous place, where are the worst places to drive?

Montana.

The Auto Insurance Center compiled 11 years of fatal crash data from NHTSA and ranked states by fatalities per 100,000 residents. Topping the list by a rather large margin is Montana with 108.12 traffic deaths for every 100,000 residents. Check out the map to the right.

With the exception of Montana, a majority of the states with high fatality rates are concentrated in two areas: the South and three connected states in the Midwest. Glean what you will from that information, but several theories may help explain Montana’s high rate of traffic deaths.

To start, Montana has speed limits of up to 80 mph. Trucks are limited to 65 mph, one of the largest speed differentials in the nation. High passenger speeds mixed with significantly lower heavy-duty commercial vehicle speeds is a recipe for disaster.

Second, seat belt use in Montana in 2015 was the fourth worst in the United States (77 percent), followed only by New Hampshire (69.5 percent), South Carolina (73.6 percent) and Massachusetts (74.1 percent). The national average was 88.5 percent.

Lastly, Montana ranks sixth in highest percentage of traffic deaths where a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher was involved (38 percent) in 2014. In fatal crashes involving a BAC of 0.15 or higher, Montana tied Rhode Island for highest percentage of crashes in the state at 30 percent.

With high speeds, large speed differentials, low seat belt usage and a lot of drinking and driving going on, it’s not too surprising that Montana’s fatal crash rate is the highest in the nation.

Let’s not forget the fact that Montana is among the most rural states in the country, placing firehouses and hospitals further away when compared to more urban and suburban areas. Your chances of survival decrease each passing minute it takes for emergency crews to respond.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What does the word ‘self-driving’ even mean?

Self-driving.

It’s a term you have probably seen a lot lately and should expect to see pop up often for … well … the rest of our lives at this point. But what does it mean?

That’s actually a really good question and one the consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is demanding the California Department of Motor Vehicles clarify. In a letter to the director of the DMV, Consumer Watchdog asks the department to “start a formal rulemaking to enact a regulation protecting consumers from misleading advertising.”

More specifically, the consumer group is talking about the use of the term “self-driving” whenever the DMV is referring to vehicles that feature any level of automation. Consumer Watchdog claims that “self-driving” can leave a dangerous and sometimes fatal impression that a car is more capable of driving itself than it actually is.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Don’t let the mega carriers call the shots on speed limiters

We hear it every single day. On the phones with members. Chatting with visitors to OOIDA’s HQ. And poor Jon Osburn, captain of OOIDA’s tour truck, he hears it all day long, every day.

Speed limiters.

You would think with that much angst and complaining that we would be seeing some sort of legitimate movement. But, as of last check first thing Monday morning after they posted the weekend comments, there were only – and I stress only – 6,411 comments filed.

I promise I’m not going to get into a bunch of government jargon and politi-speak. So keep reading.

The mega carriers are behind this boneheaded idea. They are literally ramming it down the throats of company drivers and small-business motor carriers for one reason only – to hamper their competition. They want costs to go up for their competitors. That’s it.

The so-called “safety” groups are piling on out of emotion rather than science or real-world experience. They just want to “feel” safer and think that slowing trucks down will accomplish that.

Those of us involved with the on-the-road reality of trucking know this is a terrible idea. Many of you express legitimate fears over the increase of rear-end collisions. Many of you tell tales of idiot drivers maneuvering around two speed-limited trucks stuck in a five-mile-long attempt to pass.

There are a few more days left to file comments on proposed mandatory speed limiters. Truck drivers – both company drivers and owner-operator/small-business owners – can not only tap the brakes on a speed limiter mandate, but shut it down altogether.

You don’t have to be an attorney or a “good writer” as many of you think. Comments can be brief and to the point: Speed limiters are unsafe, and here’s something that happened to you or you saw because of a speed-limited truck.

It’s really good to give them an example of a passenger car using the shoulder and/or grass median to pass an elephant race of two speed-limited trucks. Anything like that. Drive the point home and make the agencies remember their time on the highways stuck behind these slow trucks with traffic stacking up behind them.

Don’t let the process intimidate you. Government jargon makes it seem really hard; hell, even I glaze over reading the tip sheet on how to comment and I deal with this stuff every day. So ignore all of that, and if you follow my steps it won’t take much longer than posting an update to Facebook or sending a fax to a broker. Promise.

Here’s how you do it online:
·         Click this link. (Or type in: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FMCSA-2014-0083-0003)
·         Type in your comment
·         Fill in your name (You can do it anonymously, but names are better)
·         You don’t have to give your contact info (If you do, it will appear with your comments)
·         Under category, select “Public Comment(s)”
·         Hit continue
·         Preview your comments
·         Hit “I read and understand the statement above”
·         Click “Submit comments”

You can have someone else do it for you online, too, if you want to enlist a kid, grandkid or spouse to help. The steps are the same except on the first page, they should click that they are submitting for a third party and fill out their info as the representative. The other fields are unnecessary in terms of organization and such.

Prefer to hand write or type it out and fax it? Easy enough. On the top of the page include this ID: FMCSA-2014-0083. Make sure you include your name. Fax it to 202-493-2251.

Only a few more than 6,000 comments have been filed on this. Trust me, we have to send a very loud and clear message. File comments now. You only have until Wednesday.

If truckers don’t stand together and push back, you’ll just see groups like the fat cat Trucking Alliance getting richer and calling the shots on your operation and your paycheck.

Really. Enough is enough.


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 injured.in 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.