Friday, February 13, 2015

Talking ChampTrucks and sweet jumps with stunt man Mike Ryan

2014 was a pretty good year in Mike Ryan’s world. Just check out the video highlights below.

Ryan, an OOIDA member from Santa Clarita, Calif., is a renowned stunt driver and champion truck racer. You might have seen some of his stunt work in films like “The Fast and the Furious” franchise and in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to name a few. Or maybe you’ve seen some of the awesome stuff he’s posted to YouTube like his incredible drift-racing semi in “Size Matters 2” which received over two million views after it was posted last March.



“It’s just really fun,” Ryan said in a phone interview with Land Line on Friday. “It’s taken a career – 37 years in the stunt business – to be the guy in that position. It’s cool to have the trust of clients and friends to go out and do things like this.”

Perhaps you saw his coup de grace, when he set a world record by jumping a tractor-trailer over 83 feet last November, as part of a special promotion with EMC and Lotus F1 racing team. If you missed it, Mike actually jumped the truck over a speeding race car. It’s pretty sick.

“(The jump) had been a dream for years. … It may be the high point,” he said. “It’s probably the signature stunt. There are plenty of guys that have rolled (trucks) intentionally for film use, or crashed them or jackknifed them. But I’ve never heard of anybody that jumped one so I feel pretty good about that.”

“What I did was nothing. We knew if the thing went up it would come down. Getting the car under there safely was a big deal to me. It was all I thought about during the whole thing.”

The take was a one-and-done, after the engine and transmission fell off their mounts and knocked out the oil pan, he said.

Ryan said he had another “unscheduled jump” this year when he crashed his truck during the Pike’s Peak race in June. Despite crashing off a 40-foot embankment down into a pine forest, Ryan said he managed to walk away uninjured. The truck wasn’t so lucky.
“Sadly all the GoPro (cameras) broke in that and I never got an inch of footage,” he said. “That would’ve been YouTube stuff for sure. That was a pretty exciting ride.”

Ryan said he’s hoping the truck will be repaired in time to take it to Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville next month. He’s also hoping to promote his other passion, ChampTruck World Series, a road racing series that will feature Class 8 tractors with commercially available diesel engines. The inaugural season has 12 teams and 10 races lined up, including events at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Fourth of July Weekend.

“ChampTrucks has been three-and-a-half years of dreaming and scheming,” he said. “We have committed track dates, deposits for those dates, support series, some co-op marketing with the track owners… We have a dozen trucks that should make the first race.”

Ryan said a couple of those trucks will be on display at MATS. The first race is slated for April 24-26 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

“What I want to do is share this, because I’ve had a ball,” he said. “Racing side-by-side with your pals and having competition is always good fun. I think seeing three or four trucks all stacked up trying to make Turn One is going to make people stand up in their seats.”

Ryan said similar racing series are big draws in Europe, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

“I think that it’s going to be huge,” he said. “People have a lot of emotions about trucks. I think the curiosity will be there to see what this is going to be about. One of our catch-phrases is ‘As big as racing gets.’”

He also said the European model of truck racing serves as a powerful recruiting and publicity tool for trucking companies overseas.

“I’ve witnessed it several times in European truck racing. They typically have 170,000 to 220,000 people; it’s like a Mid-America Trucking Show at the race track,” he said. “That’s my big fantasy. … How many people in the public show up at a truck industry trade show compared to how many would show up a race track and be exposed to something for the first time that they’ve never seen? People are gonna think trucking is a little sexy maybe. Maybe they’ll want to come race or get involved with a driver or as a technician? I think we’ve got a tremendous opportunity for the biggest public outreach in the trucking industry that there can be.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lip service and the almighty dollar

After all these years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe various groups advocating for more regulation or touting “better” business practices without wondering what their real motivation is. In my mind, more people should be looking for the core truth.

Two recent, very good examples of large fleet representatives preaching one thing but leaving out the reality come to mind as to the root of what’s wrong with the trucking industry. Yet none of the media coverage saw past the surface comments to the reality that lurked beneath.

Exhibit A:
Jim Mullen, executive vice president and general counsel of Werner Enterprises, recently testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

The topic of the hearing was improving performance of our transportation networks.

It didn’t take him long to launch into the mega-motor carrier’s so-called solutions to making the road safer – and preach the virtues of speed limiters. Fine, we’ve come to expect this rhetoric out of the big fleets.

Mullen tells the committee how Werner was a pioneer with electronic logs. That a mandate is “logical and appropriate.” Blah, blah. You know how it goes.

Here’s where it gets good. Later in his testimony, when talking about CSA and crash ratings, Mullen told the committee:

“At Werner, the most common DOT-reportable crash is where the truck is being struck from behind by another vehicle.”

You don’t even have to be a first grader with a big crayon to connect those two dots.

News flash, Werner, you probably wouldn’t get rear-ended if your trucks could at least drive the speed limit in all states. Go with the flow of traffic.

If the speed-limiters are so much safer and promote so much better compliance, then why did your drivers rack up 0.10 speeding violations per driver when non-speed limited companies like Bennett Motor Express and Landstar only have 0.08 and 0.07 violations per driver? Check out the research into this by the OOIDA Foundation here.

In my best former Arkansas vernacular: Werner, that speed limiter dog don’t hunt.

Exhibit B:
Shepard Dunn, the chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association and head of Indiana-based Bestway Express, spoke to fleet managers at the 2015 Recruitment and Retention Conference recently.

Dunn told the crowd, among other things, if they want to reduce driver turnover and keep good drivers, fleets need to be paying them $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

A couple of things came to mind when I first read this.

First, I imagined that there was a ripple of chuckles that swept the room, mixed in with a few guffaws. A collective reaction of “yeah, that’s going to happen.”

Second, I cruised over to Bestway’s website. Let’s see if Mr. Dunn’s company put its money where his lip service is. Turns out I was right. He talks a good game, but his company’s pay scale tells a completely different story.

Direct from their website, here’s Bestway’s pay scale:
  • Starting Pay: 32 cents per mile
  • After 6 Months of Service: 32.5 cents per mile
  • After 1 Year of Service: 33 cents per mile
  • After 10 Years of Service: 35 cents per mile
  • After 15 Years of Service: 35.5 cents per mile
  • After 20 Years of Service: 36 cents per mile
  • After 25 Years of Service: 37 cents per mile
     *Drivers who hire in with 10 years of verifiable experience through DAC will automatically start         at 35 cents per mile.

So in addition to my vision of a room full of fleet execs laughing that it will never happen, I’m also thinking there are about 300 Bestway drivers who are saying, “Yeah, $65,000 sure would be nice.”

Put the math to it. You’d have to be with Bestway 25 years, making 37 cents per mile, and getting paid for more than 175,600 miles a year to make $65,000 a year. That’s nearly 3,400 miles a week, every week out of the year. No time off. Forget whether it can be done legally.

That’s insane.

The verdict:
The common theme in these above two situations is corporate greed. Not safety and not the drivers. It’s only about lip service and the almighty dollar.

Mega fleets use speed limiters to reduce fuel consumption. That warm, fuzzy safety blanket argument they try and wrap their agenda in has their hind ends – literally the ends of their trailers – hanging out there to get smacked.

Driver pay? Quit talking about it and do it. It’s pretty hard to believe these assertions that pay needs to increase are sincere when 37 cents a mile is your company’s top publicized pay rate.

The sooner lawmakers and regulators go deaf to these half-baked arguments designed only to promote an agenda of corporate greed, the better off we all will be.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Spring training – brought to you by truck

A few of us here at OOIDA HQ are huge baseball fans. So of course we were excited to see this story about a trucker who annually hauls the spring training gear for the Cleveland Indians down to Goodyear, Ariz.

The folks at MLB.com put together a delightful story and video about 62-year-old Ed Fisher, a household goods mover based out of Cleveland, who for the last eight years has been the man behind the wheel ensuring all of the Indians’ gear gets down to Arizona for the start of spring training.

According to MLB.com, the route is Fisher’s favorite of the year.

“To be perfectly frank with you,” Fisher told MLB.com, “it’s one of the only jobs I really enjoy doing anymore. The guys are great, and they make you feel like you're a part of the team. It's comfortable. ... I think they realize that I take pride in my work, just like they take pride in their baseball team.”

Fisher said he’s been a fan of The Tribe since birth. His first year on the route was the Indians’ last year of spring training in Winter Haven, Fla., a drive that took about a day and a half from Cleveland. The run to Goodyear, Ariz., can take almost four days in nice weather, and longer if road conditions prove treacherous on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma, North Texas or eastern New Mexico.

The whole article is worth a read, with Fisher recounting some of the more memorable loads he’s hauled as a household goods mover. MLB.com even has a short video interview with Fisher as well. You can check that out below.


Fisher’s story is just one example of the “overlooked but important role” truckers have in Major League Baseball’s universe, as “the groundhog who, on an annual basis, doesn't see his shadow. It is a credit to him that spring always arrives on time, come hell or congested traffic patterns.”

This post is really just an excuse to remind you that pitchers and catchers report in eight days…