Friday, July 25, 2014

FTDMA debuts Super ELDS in NPRM

We now join a press conference already in progress. The executive director of the Federal Truck Driver Micromanagement Agency (FTDMA) is discussing a new Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which includes its latest safety initiative, Super Electromagnetic Logging & Driver Superintendent (Super ELDS), a personal monitoring device to be worn by professional drivers at all times.

“... so the Super ELDS will resolve the duty status issue as well as how much sleep a driver has had. We’ll have no more fatigue-related crashes. Questions?”

“Ed with Semi-Smart Recruiter Magazine here. That’s pretty cool. Can you wear a hat over it?”

“You may have to cut a hole for the antenna, Ed, but sure.”

“How does it work?”

“The Super ELDS maintains a driver log. It links to the truck engine by Bluetooth and monitors the driver to determine, among other things, on- or off-duty status.”

“Wow. How does it do that?”

“Algorithms, Ed, algorithms. Next?”

“I’m Susan from Land Line Magazine. Will Super ELDS pass muster with the Supreme Court?”

“You would be referring to a previous FTDMA initiative, ILDS, the Intravenous Logging & Driver Superintendent. The new Super ELDS just measures brain waves and stuff. It doesn’t break a driver’s skin. We believe that’s what got the justices all riled up.”

“Yes, all nine of them.”

“Ahem. Next?”

“Gail with Trucking Tycoon Magazine here. How will Super ELDS benefit socially responsible, economically efficient, and environmentally conscious big fleets?”

“Good question, Gail. Super ELDS clearly establishes responsibility. So if there’s a breach of the rules, well, the state police will know who the breacher is.”

“No fleet breaches, of course.”

“That’s a pretty good bet, Gail, ha ha ha.”

“Will Super ELDS provide any other benefits for large efficient fleets with eloquent mission statements?”

“You need to ask the Super ELDS manufacturers, Gail. I believe one offers an anti-hanky-panky module for morally conscious carriers. Next?”

Land Line, again. In the Supreme Court decision on ILDS the justices used words like invasive, overreach and tyrannical. Wouldn’t these words also describe Super ELDS?"

“What’s the big deal? Super ELDS is like a helmet with suction cups ...”

“…and an antenna.”

“Yes, Susan, and an antenna. We promote safety whenever and wherever a driver is.”

“Even when he or she is off duty?”

“If a driver is not on duty, then he or she should be sleeping. We’re just making sure of that.”

“Then why did the FTDMA drop the Diazepam injection requirement for off-duty, not-sleeping drivers in NPRM?”

“Turns out it’s not practical to inject sleep aids through the skull, Susan. Besides, injections would break the skin, and we don’t want to provoke the Supremes, now do we?”

“... and what happened to the idea of remotely shutting the truck down when a driver runs out of hours?”

“Well, the Great Big Carriers Association pointed out that critical shipments might be delayed, the economy would grind to a halt, and ‘Dancing With The Stars’ would be canceled. So are you done with your silly questions Susan? Next?”   

“Ed with Semi-Smart again. Will the Super ELDS come in colors? Can recruiters tell prospective student drivers who don’t wear hats how cool they’ll look?”

“This agency does not regulate fashion, Ed, but by all means tell your readers they’ll look really cool in their Super ELDS.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chicago has some explaining to do

An army of red-light cameras has apparently launched a robot takeover of Chicago. How else would one account for a series of unexplained surges in $100 tickets handed down from the city’s automated enforcement system?

In an expose, the Chicago Tribune says it has “clear evidence” to suggest there’s plenty of blame to go around, going so far as to say that some of the 380 cameras may have been altered or tampered with.

In a 10-month investigation, the Tribune found 13,000 “questionable” tickets and patterns at 12 intersections, and almost no accountability or follow-up from officials.

The tickets were questionable, according to the news organization, because some intersections that had been capturing one or two “rolling right turns” per day suddenly and without warning began capturing up to 56 violations per day.

Some ticket surges sometimes lasted weeks, the Tribune found. In its investigation, the news organization analyzed some 4 million tickets issued since 2007.

A company called Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., operates Chicago’s camera system.

Transportation officials have not yet offered an acceptable explanation for the surges or the lack of accountability, but the critics are all over it. Some have suggested that ticketing procedures were quietly altered behind the scenes to snare more violations and generate more money, or that somehow the cameras were malfunctioning.

One analyst quoted suggested that something “diabolical or mechanical or electronic and accidental” was afoot.

A small fraction of those who got dinged with $100 fines during the ticket surges have beaten their raps in court. Chicago law only allows a three-week window for someone to appeal a red-light camera ticket.

Chicago makes its photos and videos of red-light violations available online to vehicle owners. Officials say very few people appeal their red-light tickets once they see themselves on video or in a photograph violating a traffic law.

Those who win their appeals usually argue that the cameras don’t supply enough proof that they violated the law.