Friday, March 20, 2015

Repealed!

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Today, Mike says OOIDA sent letters to all Kentucky members announcing that this law has been repealed in its entirety, which means there is no longer an educational requirement tied to IRP.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amount of money from the likely lawsuit that would have been filed against the State of Kentucky had the law not been repealed.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.”