Friday, December 30, 2016

Can drinking too much coffee get you a DUI?

“Buzzed driving is drunk driving.” You’ve probably seen that PSA throughout the holiday season. For one man in Solano County, Calif., that almost included a caffeine buzz.

Recently, a story has been going viral claiming a man was pulled over by a California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officer after nearly hitting the officer and weaving in and out of traffic. After sobriety field tests, the officer found the man “highly agitated, ‘amped up’ and with pupils that were dilated,” according to a Solano County District Attorney press release. The man was arrested for driving under the influence.

Blood tests revealed the man was on a stimulant: caffeine.

In fact, that was the only stimulant the blood test found. Additionally, the man had a blood alcohol content of 0.00. Surely, he was off the hook.

Except he wasn’t.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

You think you’ve seen it all: Tire chain edition

It’s that time of year: tire chain season. ... Each state has its own laws pertaining to what is and is not acceptable regarding tire chains and when/where you can use them. It can be daunting keeping up with these laws, but some things are universally understood across state lines.

For example: Zip-ties are not an acceptable form of tire chains. Sounds dumb, right? Well, it happened:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Traffic deaths are lower as people get higher

Ever since states started legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes people have been arguing about the effects on traffic fatalities. Will there be a positive correlation with marijuana use and traffic deaths, negative correlation or no correlation at all?

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health conducted a study to answer that question. The results?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A plea from a ‘speed-limited’ Canadian trucker to U.S. regulators

We spilled a lot of ink the past few weeks writing about NHTSA and FMCSA’s joint proposal to mandate speed limiters on heavy vehicles. Maybe you read some of it and maybe you were among the 6,500-plus who took the time to file comments on the proposal. 

Many of the comments submitted offered thoughtful and well-reasoned arguments against the proposal, which would cap the speed of all vehicles with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more at either 60, 65 or 68 mph.

A few days after the comment period closed, I got a phone call from an Ontario trucker named Craig Gable. As you may know, Ontario has a speed limiter mandate in place that restricts trucks to about 65 mph within the province. It is universally unpopular with drivers I’ve spoken to who are from the region or have to travel through it regularly. And Craig was no exception. However, his reasons for hating the mandate were new to me and worth passing on, potentially as an omen of things to come if the agencies decide to move forward with the rulemaking process.

We’ll let Craig, who hauls dry van in Canada and in the U.S., take it from here in his own words:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Kids love and miss their trucking parents

This is an equally wonderful and tough time of the year for truck drivers. The distinction between the two for many depends on whether they are going to be able to spend the holidays with friends or loved ones.

After all these years of covering the trucking industry, I know how devout to family many of you are. For parents, it’s particularly hard to miss so much of your children’s lives while you’re supporting your family and out on the road doing a job that borders on thankless.

Some may wonder just how much of an effect a truck-driving parent can have on kids. A lot is the answer. We hear it every year when we read applications to the OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Fund.

This year, I had the pleasure of meeting a driven young man who was looking to complete his senior project to finish high school graduation requirements. Kiernan loves trucking, and he has an interest in journalism. He submitted a piece to Land Line that really speaks to the connection that trucking parents have with their children, even when they are out on the road.

It’s my honor to share Kiernan’s piece and hope that it reminds you how special you are to your kids at home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How ‘First Observers’ could help thwart another ‘Berlin’ attack

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in which a commercial truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin, officials with the Transportation Security Administration have issued a warning encouraging industry partners to practice “continued vigilance and timely reporting of suspicious incidents” during the holiday season.

The unclassified bulletin follows the deadly attack in Germany’s capitol that injured dozens and left 12 people dead.

The TSA bulletin states that the agency is unaware of any imminent plots against surface transportation in the U.S.

“The risk posed by homegrown violent extremists is increased by their ability to plan and initiate attacks with lower probability of detection,” the bulletin states.

Increasing the probability of detecting a potential terror attack is the aim of TSA’s First Observer Plus program, a voluntary training program that provides truckers and other transportation professionals with training on effectively assessing and reporting suspicious individuals, vehicles, packages and objects. OOIDA is a subcontractor for the program.

Friday, December 16, 2016

OOIDA Board election: Voting ends at midnight Dec. 31

Time is running out to cast your ballot in the 2016 OOIDA Board of Directors election. Voting is scheduled to end at midnight on Saturday, Dec. 31.

Nine OOIDA members are running for seats on the Board of Directors. They are Mark Carter, Pine, Colo.; David Jungeblut, Sibley, Mo.; John Koglman, Oberlin, Ohio; Michael Kordi, Sunnyvale, Texas; Bob Lloyd, Ottawa Lake, Mich.; Jose “Tony” Martinez, North Bergen, N.J.; Chuck Paar, Mount Jewett, Pa.; Hamlin “Trot” Raney III, Wake Forest, N.C., and Doug Smith, Bountiful, Utah.

We’ve compiled background info on all nine candidates, as well as links to their interviews with Land Line Now.


Ballots were mailed out to the membership on Nov. 15 and are due back by Dec. 31. Current OOIDA members can also vote online at OOIDA.com.

Click on the name below to view the bios of each board candidate, including their photos and interviews with Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig.

Mark Carter, Pine, Colo.

David Jungeblut, Sibley, Mo.

John Marshall Koglman, Oberlin, Ohio

Michael Kordi, Sunnyvale, Texas

Robert Dee Lloyd, Ottawa Lake, Mich.

Jose “Tony” Martinez, North Bergen, N.J.

Charles “Chuck” Paar, Mount Jewett, Pa.

Hamlin (Trot) Raney III, Wake Forest, N.C.

Douglas Ralph Smith, Bountiful, Utah

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

VIDEO: Check out this massive tire blowout

Have you checked your tires lately? If you thought you had a bad tire blowout before, just wait until you see this.

The other day, Associate Editor Greg Grisolano wrote a story about dogs in New Zealand receiving more driver training than truckers. Keeping with the international theme, let’s go a little north…okay, WAY north…to Russia.

In the dashcam video below, you see a truck pulling into a truck stop. Not much is going on, but wait until the 1:00 mark …

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A tale of two (failed) truck companies – and the carnage they left behind

Remember Jevic Transportation? The New Jersey-based carrier was around for 27 years mostly in the Northeast before it suddenly closed its doors in 2008, leaving 1,800 employees without work and stranding a few drivers on the road

Now the ghost of Jevic is in the headlines. A dispute over who gets paid first out of Jevic's bankruptcy assets has finally worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Seems the Jevic holding company and some lenders reached a settlement that left one group out in the cold. Guess who? Unpaid drivers, of course.

The settlement between financial institutions even blocked the drivers’ ability to sue the company some blamed for Jevic’s demise – Sun Life Financial.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Dec. 7. A lawyer for the drivers pointed out that by law and custom, employees should be paid before some lenders. The corporate lawyer argued that the Jevic case was an exception.

From the transcripts it’s hard to tell what the justices were thinking, except for Justice Sotomayor. Speaking of the drivers, she told the corporate lawyer, “You took away a legal right from them. They had a legal right to sue Sun Life. They had a legal right to pursue their other claims. And the settlement extinguished those claims.”

Do any other justices see it that way? We’ll have to wait to find out.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Reminder - In New Zealand, even dogs get on-road driver training

When Land Line Managing Editor Jami Jones shared a Dec. 10 video from aggregator In The NOW’s Facebook feed of rescue dogs driving a car on a closed track in New Zealand, my first thought was, “Huh. Looks like dogs in New Zealand have more mandatory windshield time for driver training than truckers in America do.”

Sure, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration just passed a proficiency-based entry-level driver training standard – the first of its kind in the U.S. – last week. But the folks at FMCSA seem to have forgotten the most critical component of that regulation – mandating some on-road and range time for new drivers. The committee of 26 industry stakeholders (including OOIDA) passed on a recommendation of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training for new truck drivers when the proposal passed through the negotiated rulemaking committee last year. FMCSA said they opted not to include a minimum number of hours behind the wheel, but did say it would study the results of training and make future adjustments if necessary.

Meanwhile, the dogs in the video received two months’ worth of driver training before going on live TV and demonstrating their skills on a closed race track.

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.

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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Artificially restrictive speed limits won’t work now either

What is the speed limiter proposal for trucks all about? The National Motorists Association thinks it might be a backdoor way to work toward another hated and counterproductive National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) that would reduce safety overall. If authorities could first get trucks electronically limited to 65 mph, they could then propose to set the posted speed limits for cars to the same speed.  We all know from the NMSL era of 1974 to 1995 that effective enforcement for cars at levels which actually reduce speeds to any real degree is not possible. But random enforcement blitzes and periodic speed traps are extremely profitable city/county/state budget-deficit-fixers.
Courtesy National Motorists Association
Who wins in this scenario? The big trucking firms win by reducing the competitive and safety edge held by the independent truckers and the small trucking firms. States and cities that choose to randomly ticket mostly safe car drivers for the “crime” of driving at the safest speeds near the 85th percentile speeds win, because they can enforce for big profits. The insurance industry wins for the massive insurance premium surcharges they could issue to safe drivers caught in the speed traps and enforcement blitzes.

Who loses in this scenario? The independent truckers and small trucking firms that are more efficient and safer than the big firms would lose some of their competitive edge. Car drivers would lose billions of dollars in the for-profit ticketing schemes, plus the unjustified insurance premium surcharges. Safety would lose overall; more traffic would use rural two-lane highways as the interstates would lose their legal speed advantages. The public would lose as shipping costs would go up for all of our goods that move by truck. And drivers who roughly complied with the artificially low-posted speed limits would lose some of their travel freedom by having longer trip times.

Any OOIDA or NMA members who have not submitted comments yet on the truck speed limiter proposal (NHTSA-2016-0087, FMCSA-2014-0083) should do so before the new Dec. 7 extended deadline. It is a terrible idea for all of us, truck and car drivers alike.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Feds raid Chinese booths at SEMA, AAPEX

It’s pretty nervy to come to the U.S. with counterfeits and knockoff parts to display and try to sucker buyers, but it happens. (Anyone remember when the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association found Chinese brake pads that were made from compressed grass instead of friction materials?) It’s particularly plucky and downright dumb to come here and do it at prestigious equipment shows where the real product owners may be right down the next aisle.

This year, it happened at one of the premier automotive product trade events – the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas Nov. 1-4. SEMA is such an exclusive show that it’s not even open to the general public.

But this time the victims of the counterfeiters struck back. The show had just begun when after hawk-eyed employees of Omix-ADA, maker of aftermarket Jeep parts, spotted the Chinese booths with fakes on display, some bearing Omix-ADA’s trademark “Rugged Ridge” on the phony parts.

The Georgia-based company quickly got an attorney and obtained an emergency restraining order, which led to a search and seizure by the U.S. Marshals Service. On Nov. 2, federal marshals raided a couple of booths owned by Chinese companies showing off and selling knockoffs (not their own patents) aftermarket parts like hood latches, light mount assemblies and Jeep Wrangler front grilles.

But that’s not all. Later that day, several automotive publications reported that six additional booths belonging to other Chinese aftermarket parts were shut down at the Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo nearby.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cost of ELD mandate too high for small business to bear

I have personally fought the ELD mandate every step of the way since I was the chairperson of the Minnesota Trucking Association in 2012. I never believed that professional truck drivers should be mandated to have an electronic log. If they choose to, that is a different story. Forcing them is un-American. What an insult to a group of professionals.

The reality of what this mandate is going to cost our small company is keeping me awake at night and stressing me out beyond words. Back in about 2009 I started doing some research on these things they called “electronic on-board recorders” or EOBRs. I couldn’t believe we were getting prices in the $200 to $300 per unit range.

I thought that was ridiculous. So we backed off and stuck with our paper logs; they worked just fine and cost way less.

Then the word “mandate” came about, and I really backed off. The last thing our small company needs is to be forced to buy a product we cannot afford. Our drivers also voiced their concern, saying they felt the devices would neither be helpful nor improve safety.

Fast forward to 2016, and now it seems we will be forced to buy a product we cannot afford. Except now the price has gone up to $1,200 per unit. And, yes, that would be per truck.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What does the election mean for truckers?

The upcoming election is certainly the hot topic around the country. But, given the seemingly relentless legislative and regulatory attacks on truck drivers, this election in particular has many wondering what any outcome holds.

In fact, this upcoming election and its effect on truckers and trucking issues was a big topic of discussion during the OOIDA Board of Directors meeting held at OOIDA HQ this past month.

The short-version answer delivered to the board was that things rarely change much following a big election when it comes to trucking.

In addition to the obvious presidential election, a number of key congressional seats that are up for grabs involve lawmakers serving on committees overseeing trucking.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Jay Grimes reported that a number of longtime lawmakers who have served in key posts on trucking-related committees would be retiring at the end of the year. Names you may recognize retiring from the Senate include Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

In addition to those retirements, the OOIDA Government Affairs team is monitoring the elections of nine lawmakers up for re-election who currently serve on the powerful House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The issues for us don’t change much, regardless of who is in office,” OOIDA Executive President Todd Spencer told board members in his opening remarks. “On the regulatory front we are attacked by both sides. If we want regulators to treat small-business truckers fairly, we will have to fight to get that through to them.”

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Psychic Highway

Halloween is the time of year when you can dress however you want and talk about the occult without people questioning your sanity. This is a good time, therefore, to bring up the Psychic Highway.

As an avid reader, I always read a book related to the occult or monsters, a horror novel, or something related in October. This year, I’m reading “Occult America” by Mitch Horowitz. I came across a chapter titled “The Psychic Highway” that might change your perspective of U.S. Route 20.

A 3,365-mile stretch of highway connecting both coasts in the northern section of the country, US 20 is the longest road in the nation. Clearly the highway is essential for the movement of freight, but in the 18th and 19th century, the route (before it was a highway) was essential for the movement of ideas – more specifically, spreading the word of mystical religions.

In the early 19th century, western and central New York was known as the “burned-over district.” Coined by Charles Grandison Finney in his 1876 autobiography, the term refers to an area during the Second Great Awakening that was so evangelized as to have no “fuel” (unconverted population) left over to “burn” (convert).  

The Second Great Awakening was a sweeping religious movement that enrolled millions of converts. It used the power of mysticism and the supernatural to appeal to unconverted parties. During this time, western and central New York was virtually untouched in terms of religious clergy. With no professional clergy to guide a population, the area was ripe for the picking regarding spreading new and progressive ideas.

The Erie Canal connected the eastern and western ends of New York state, allowing migrants with mystical and spiritual religions to access the untapped land of unguided believers. In fact, historian Whitney Cross used the term “psychic highway” to describe the Erie Canal. After all, it spread the ideas of “psychic” mysticisms to the region.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Let’s talk about cellphone distractions

What is the problem with cellphones and driving? Is it talking on them or everything else? I think it’s the latter, but a recent survey tells a different story.

According to a recent survey conducted for Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario, nearly 1 in 3 Ontarians (32 percent) admit to distracted driving as a result of a mobile device. I suppose the key word here is “admit.”

I’m skeptical of this survey because of the top 10 reasons for distracted driving by mobile device: 
  1. Someone has called (44 percent)
  2. Emergency purposes (33 percent)
  3. Have to get in touch with someone I am meeting (27 percent)
  4. Someone has texted (26 percent)
  5. Have to talk to spouse (21 percent)
  6. Have to talk to parents (17 percent)
  7. Able to multitask (15 percent)
  8. Use for work (11 percent)
  9. Bored at red light (11 percent)
  10. Have to talk to children (9 percent) 
Half of these explicitly involve voice calls. Where are the apps? And check out #1 and #4. Someone else called/texted them, absolving them of blame. Emergency purposes? Able to multitask? Bored at red light? What do those even mean?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

True or false? Truckers with a BMI of 40 or above are off the road

Information travels fast these days.

As soon as a story is published and posted on social media websites, it can quickly be shared to the segment of the population that wants or needs that information. In moments, thousands of people have easy access to the story.

This can be a wonderful thing, of course. The increase in speed can give drivers extra warning about such things as inclement weather or road closures. It also can spread word to be on the lookout for criminal activity or a missing person.

The problem, however, is that misinformation spreads just as fast. In some cases, it may travel even faster. If the story (true or false) affects a lot of people, it won’t take long for it to end up in your news feed.

For example, it has been reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board and Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee voted to approve obstructive sleep apnea recommendations that would require medical examiners to immediately disqualify truck drivers with a body mass index of 40 or more.

Before you panic and pass that information on to five of your friends, realize that it simply isn’t true.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What’s next, self-delivering pretzels?

Raise the flag, break out the yogurt, and call the hogs home. It has happened – the very first commercial delivery by an autonomous truck.

The big day was Thursday, Oct. 20. The load was canned Budweiser beer on pallets from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs in Colorado, about 120 miles on Interstate 25. The truck was a Volvo modified by Otto to drive itself. Otto is not the German baker down the block. It’s a San Francisco technology startup recently acquired by Uber.

Manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo have demonstrated autonomous trucks and plan to bring them to market in the next few years. Otto isn’t waiting. They’re developing kits that can make many standard Class 8 tractors – like that Volvo – autonomous now.

No, the Otto Volvo did not drive dock-to-dock on its own. A human driver steered it onto I-25 in Fort Collins and took over again in Colorado Springs. On the interstate, the Volvo drove itself with the driver still aboard. It was not a technological landmark moment. We already know this stuff works.

But in terms of marketing, Otto pulled off a huge publicity coup in the logistics and tech media to position itself out in front of the big truck makers.

Check out the snazzy video about the beer trip.

Monday, October 24, 2016

After accident, trucker looked to help others

Hours after a tour bus accident that killed at least 13 people, it was apparent the driver of the big rig that was struck from behind remained in shock.

“I’m blessed to be alive, and I pray for the families that didn’t make it,” the truck driver said in a cellphone video obtained by CBS News that was taken after he was released from the hospital on Sunday, Oct. 23.

According to multiple reports, a tour bus returning from a casino crashed into a semi-truck on 10 Freeway near Palm Springs, Calif. Thirteen people were killed in the accident, and 31 others were injured.

The truck driver, who identified himself as “Bruce,” in video captured by cab driver David Hirschfield during his ride from the hospital to a Palm Springs hotel, said the accident occurred without warning.

Friday, October 21, 2016

‘Movin’ On’ gets its own museum in superfan’s house

Big wheels rollin', gotta keep 'em goin' Big wheels rollin', movin' on.
It takes a special breed to be a trucker, but an even more special breed of fan to open the world’s only official museum dedicated to the trucking-themed TV show “Movin’ On.”

That’s exactly what Bill Bazen did in his Wake Forest home near Falls Lake State Park. Bazen’s tribute to the show, which starred veteran character actor Claude Akins as independent trucker Sonny Pruitt, and Frank Converse as his college-boy co-driver, Will Chandler, received a write-up in a recent edition of The Charlotte Observer.

Bazen, 52, was obsessed with the show as a boy, because his dad was also a long-haul trucker who ran up and down the East Coast. He told the newspaper the museum is a tribute to his father and to truckers.

Among the items on display are a line of trucker hats with the tag line “Do It… Like Pruitt” autographs from every guest star, original scripts, series props, and even a four-finger cigar case that Chandler’s character wore during the show.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When DUI turns into PUI, truckers intervene

Few encounters on the road are as scary as watching a driver apparently under the influence on the road ahead of you. A video making the rounds shows a pair of truckers following an obviously impaired driver going down the interstate.

The car weaved in and out of its lane for quite a while before the driver decided to make a pit stop – right in the middle of the interstate. After the driver relieved himself in the middle of the road and attempted to get back in his car, via the passenger door, the truckers worked together to block the driver from leaving until police could arrive.

Once all potential for harm to others is eliminated, the scene turns from scary to almost surreal or comical. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself. (Other than foul language, the video is safe-for-work viewing.)


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Arkansas bridge survives controlled demo, has to be tugged down

Perhaps nothing will sum up the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s first effort to knock down a bridge on U.S. Highway 70 in Little Rock on Tuesday quite like their own tweet.

Indeed, the bridge still stood, despite a controlled demolition that was supposed to split it up like slices in a loaf of bread, according to AHTD spokesman Danny Straessle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pair of Little Caesars’ big rigs dedicated to charity

Tractor-trailers are tasked with providing goods and supplies to the communities that need them. While this is typically for commercial use, Little Caesars dedicates two of its big rigs to pizzas with charity in mind.

The pizza company equipped two of its trucks, which are called “the Little Caesars Love Kitchen,” with pizza ovens. The operation started in 1985 and serves communities in need 365 days a year. Two drivers are assigned to each truck.

According to the Little Caesars website, the mobile restaurants have served more than 3 million people and 6 million slices of pizza in the United States and Canada.

The mobile kitchens travel to areas that have been affected by hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as to such places as soup kitchens, Boys and Girls Clubs, food banks, rescue missions and homeless shelters.

Earlier this week, The Richmond Standard reported that one Little Caesars Love Kitchen served 275 people at the Bay Area Rescue Mission in California. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New ATA honcho calls speed limiter mandate ‘flawed’

“Be careful what you wish for …”

For more than a decade, the American Trucking Associations has lobbied Congress and the federal government to step in and mandate speed limiters on commercial trucks. Now that NHTSA and FMCSA have finally released their joint proposal to do just that, the new head of the ATA issued a statement last week saying the current proposal is flawed, and that the largest lobbying group for fleets will not support the proposal as written.

In the statement, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said the feds’ proposal to electronically speed-limit trucks suffers from a lack of data and a lack of direction, and actually makes the roads less safe by increasing speed differentials between trucks and other motorists.

“Despite ATA's decade-old, pro-safety policy on speed, the new joint rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposes a menu of three speed options for commercial trucks, not one. It provides insufficient data, and fails to make a recommendation regarding which of the three proposed speeds it believes is best and why,” Spear said in the statement posted on ATA’s website.

Monday, October 10, 2016

New camera system lets bosses see you in real time

Here’s looking at you, trucker. Some driver-facing cameras will soon be able to see a lot more than they used to.

Lytx, the largest supplier of camera-based technology for trucking, has introduced Unisyn, a platform that allows Lytx customers to custom configure cameras on their trucks. According to a Lytx press release, fleets “can access, review, and manage video ... when, where, and how they want, in real time, or a few days after an incident.”  

Lytx made the announcement in conjunction with the recent 2016 ATA Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Lytx Senior Director of Corporate Communications Gretchen Griswold confirmed the Unisyn customization applies to all Unisyn onboard cameras -- including a driver-facing camera if there is one. But Unisyn is really designed for cargo security, not driver monitoring, she noted.

Launched in 1998 and originally known as DriveCam, Lytx is the largest provider of video-based safety systems for trucking. DriveCam is still the name of the company’s flagship video program. Fleets using DriveCam include Swift Transportation, NFI, Dart Transit and US Foods, the sixth-largest private fleet in North America.

Griswold explained the Unisyn platform is separate from and does not apply to current DriveCam cameras.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bo knows obesity?

Picture your favorite athlete.

Maybe it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James. Or maybe it’s Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. If you’re more of a baseball fan, it could be Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

What do these men have in common besides being superior athletes who have excelled in their respective sports?

They are all overweight or obese. Yep. Never mind that they are three of the fittest people on the planet and all likely have less than 10 percent body fat – they’re either severely overweight or obese. Well, at least according to their Body Mass Index (BMI).

And this isn’t unique to these three athletes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How long before vehicles drive themselves?

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon. It was a technological feat that seemed impossible. Fast forward less than 50 years later, and we are all carrying around mobile phones that pack more computing power than the Apollo Guidance Computer.

According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles every 18-24 months – i.e. computers get twice as powerful every two years. It is the exponential growth of technology that both excites and frightens us.

What is so exciting about rapid technological growth is all the cool stuff we get: smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth, the internet, improved fuel efficiency, etc. What is frightening to us is the danger of technology taking over and/or being used negligently or maliciously.

Autonomous vehicles highlight the good and bad of new technology.

We can argue the effects on industry all day long, but the idea that cars are close to driving themselves is pretty awesome. The problem is that even though we are closer to driverless cars than ever before, we are still a long way from it. However, too many people do not understand that.

A recent report by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation in Canada reveals how misinformed many people are regarding autonomous vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of respondents claimed to be familiar with AV technology. However, 1 in 6 said driving an AV would make it unnecessary to pay attention to the road, 24 percent would be more likely to drive tired, 10 percent would actually take a nap, and 9 percent would drink and drive.

Anyone who is legitimately familiar with AVs can tell you why this is dangerous. AVs only take over the driving function in certain situations (on the highway) and only in certain circumstances (favorable weather, light traffic). Even then, the driver has to be 100 percent attentive and ready to take over at any moment. Yet too many people believe that we skipped straight from standard motor vehicles to the Jetsons.

Correction: If you watch the Jetsons intro, George clearly has his hands on the steering device. Cartoons from the ‘60s were more realistic about vehicles of the future than some people are about vehicles of the present.

Technology advances at an exponential rate, but there are still limitations. As Land Line reported earlier this year, consumer groups and auto safety advocates urged the White House to slow down on autonomous technology. As the fatal crash involving an autonomous Tesla showed, we are putting too much faith in technology that is not quite ready yet.

Sometimes technology advances faster than our brains and society. Too many people still don’t understand the repercussions of social media. Some of our brains still cannot grasp the idea of putting your thoughts out to billions of people in the matter of seconds. In some aspects, society has regressed as a result. Oddly, our brains are moving faster than AV technology. We think it can do more than it can rather than the other way around.

It takes years, sometimes decades, for technology to go from its infancy to mass market daily use. Autonomous vehicles are still in their infancy. It will be many years before vehicles become completely driverless. Safety is dependent on this realization.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Recovery of beloved pet brings some relief to mourning family

Nothing will make up for their loss of a loved one, but the recovery of his beloved dog has brought some comfort to a family in mourning.

Bryan Cobb and Sandy Cobb are reunited with "Little Man"
on Monday in Effingham, Ill. The dachshund was the pet of
51-year-old OOIDA Member Rudy Cobb, who died during an
accident last week on Interstate 57 in Effingham. After locals
found the dog a few days after the accident, Rudy's son and
mother traveled to Illinois to bring the beloved pet back to
Kentucky. (Photo provided by Cobb family)
Rudy Cobb, a 51-year-old OOIDA member from Kentucky, was killed during an accident last week after he suffered a heart attack on Interstate 57 in Effingham, Ill. After the accident, Cobb’s dachshund named “Little Man” ran away, and authorities on the scene weren’t able to retrieve him.

For truckers who travel with pets, the bond Cobb had with “Little Man” is easily relatable.

“He spent a lot of time on the road,” said Tara McLeane, who was Rudy’s cousin. “All Rudy knew was trucking, and that’s all he ever wanted to do. That dog was his companion.”

McLeane said “Little Man” rode more than 93,000 of the 100,000 miles Rudy put on the 2002 Mack truck he recently rebuilt with his 19-year-old son, Bryan.

Rudy’s mother, Sandy Cobb, hoped to find the dog so she could give it to Bryan. Local news stories told residents to keep their eyes open for the little dog. Soon, local authorities received dozens of calls about the missing dachshund. McLeane used Facebook to interact with organizations from Effingham that could help the family locate the dog.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Uber – the real one – plans to enter trucking

Uber plans to enter the trucking business -- the long-haul, truckload sector, in fact.

That's the gist of a story the Reuters news agency released on Thursday. The story is at best, let's call it unfocused.

For certain we're talking about the real Uber - the one that brings elderly ladies to doctor appointments, hauls drunks home at closing time, and provides thousands of part-time jobs. Or maybe it’s the Uber that's putting taxis out of business with thousands of low-pay, no-benefits workers. Kinda depends on your point of view.

We’ve had a flood of companies that refer to themselves as Uber for trucking; this one is the real thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

No vaping around big trucks – true or false?

Persistent road rumors have it that FMCSA has now made vaping illegal in and around commercial motor vehicles as accidents continue to cause personal injuries. Not true, but here’s what the agency did last month that has spawned the talk.

On Aug. 3, Land Line reported on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s announcement that it is issuing this safety advisory to provide notice and information to owners and operators of commercial motor vehicles concerning incidents that have occurred relating to the possession and use of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices. Specifically, the advisory mentioned e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, e-hookahs, personal vaporizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems. It was clear in explaining transportation safety risks associated with the use of these devices.

According to an October 2014 report from the U.S. Fire Administration, battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices were first patented in 2003 and have been available for sale in the United States since 2007. These devices have been rapidly growing in popularity as the number and selection of products expand. According to the report, the devices contain a liquid, an atomizer or heating element, and a battery. When the device is operated, the heating element vaporizes the liquid, which is inhaled by the user.

The use of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices has resulted in incidents that include explosions, serious personal injuries, and fires. The explosions regularly involved the ejection of a burning battery case or other components from the device, which subsequently ignited nearby flammable or combustible materials.

According to the FMCSA, news sources place the number of explosions at over 1,502.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DOT official’s day in the cab an eye-opening experience

When it comes to working relationships, sometimes it feels as if truckers and their state’s department of transportation get along about as well as Felix and Oscar of “The Odd Couple” fame.

But OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl said his recent experience offering a ride-along to a member of his home state’s DOT was anything but prickly. In fact, both men say it was an illuminating experience.
OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl, left, and Jason Beloso, planning manager for the
Washington Department of Transportation’s rail freight and port division,
did a ride-along together earlier this summer.

Curl, of Olympia, Wash., took the opportunity to spend some quality time getting to know Jason Beloso, a planning manager for the state DOT’s department of rail, freight and ports division.

The two met at a public meeting this summer to discuss truck parking in North Bend, Wash. The focus of their day trip together initially started on truck parking, but broadened to include a variety of issues, such as lane restrictions and even navigating an 18-wheeler through a roundabout.

“It was quite an eye-opener for him,” Tilden said. “He was real appreciative at the end of the day that he had the opportunity.”

For his part, Jason said riding in the cab of a truck was something he’s “always wanted to do.”

“One of the big takeaways for me was putting a human element on this profession, and the pride that drivers take in their profession,” Jason said in a phone interview with Land Line. “Thanks to the ride-along, I now have a greater appreciation for the work that truckers do, the issues they face on a daily basis, and the key role they have in keeping our highways safe.”

The day trip started with Tilden picking Jason up outside of Seattle, delivering a load in Bellingham, picking up another load, and making the return trip.

Tilden says the pair has discussed doing it again because there are more questions they’d like to discuss.

“It was quite an education for him on the specific problems truck drivers face through the course of the day,” he said. “I think anybody that has the opportunity to work with their state officials and do a day trip with them should, even if it’s just a short ride. It exposes them to something that is unfamiliar to them, yet they still are involved in regulating or passing judgements or whatever to accommodate truck drivers. What you might think would be a good idea from a regulatory standpoint in practice is not. And it gives them the opportunity to see that difference.”

For Jason, the trip offered a chance to see firsthand the unique challenges truckers face on a daily basis.

“Sitting in that passenger seat of that truck, one of the things I was able to see is due to the narrow lane width, truck drivers have to pay closer attention to the other vehicles on the road. They really had to concentrate on keeping the truck in the middle of the lane,” he said. “Due to size, weight and lack of maneuverability of large vehicles, truck drivers really have to think a lot further ahead than we typically do when driving our vehicles to anticipate the hazards and react to situations.”

Tilden admits he learned a few things about how Jason and other folks in the state DOT do their jobs, too.

“The state is up against a lot of constraints; part of that is how to spend limited budget dollars,” he said. “I think sometimes we might not really give the states credit enough for trying to spend dollars as best they see. Because even though trucks are a large part of the transportation plan, they also have to be concerned about ships and rail transportation. There’s a lot of different entities vying for that resource, and the states have to figure out how they can best serve their public and what is the best way to allocate those dollars.”


Monday, September 26, 2016

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of a country music video

Christopher Fiffie of Big Rig Videos with OOIDA Member
and singer Tony Justice. Photo by Barry Spillman
Journalism has allowed me to do some cool things over the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend some of the biggest sporting events, to meet some of my childhood heroes, and to get a behind-the-scenes view that most people aren’t afforded.

This past weekend, I was able to add to that list of cool things. After attending the Guilty By Association Truck Show on Saturday, I was privileged to watch the making of a country music video on Sunday.

OOIDA Member Tony Justice had a big idea for the video for his song, “Stars, Stripes and White Lines.” He wanted to get footage of a convoy of tractor-trailers with a patriotic theme.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Like clockwork, tractor-trailers demonstrate precision

The goal in the trucking industry is to run as efficiently as possible. Every owner-operator sets out to maximize profits and limit costs.

To do so, precision is a must as every minute counts and truckers aim for each delivery to run like clockwork.

However, comparisons between the trucking industry and a clock were recently taken to a new level.

As a way to boast about the performance and reliability of their trucks, Scania created a gigantic clock made out of trucks. The difficult task required 14 trucks, 90 drivers, and 750,000 square feet of deserted airfield somewhere in Europe. The goal was for the clock of big rigs to run for 24 hours.

Trucks that made up the second hand had to drive on a round track in a perfect circle every 60 seconds. The inside truck had to maintain a constant speed of 8 mph, while the outside truck remained steady at 33 mph.

The video footage taken from the air is mesmerizing.



Scania fleet managers tracked the efforts in the control tower, monitoring the status of each vehicle to avoid unexpected stops. The drivers also played an integral role.

“The most demanding challenge in long haulage is precision and punctuality,” Elin Engstrom, a driver in the project, said in a news release. “The clock was the ultimate test of staying in your line, maintaining your speed and keeping track of every second for 24 hours straight. All the drivers had to be in perfect sync, and precision was the key to achieving this.”

The clock was filmed with five different cameras.

Check out the website to learn more about the unique operation.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear Charlotte protesters ...

While I support your right to protest and speak out on social injustice, please let cooler heads prevail when you approach that fine line that distinguishes a protest from a riot.

I was a ‘60s kid. I have felt the sting of tear gas in a packed park.

I was in Chicago in 1968 when 10,000 young folks tested the grit of the National Guard. It was August. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April. People were so bereft, so shocked. Hundreds of cities saw protests.

It was, like this year, a presidential election year. In my mind, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy should have been the Democratic presidential nominee. I was rabid about it. To my horror, he was shot dead on the campaign trail after winning the California primary in June – just a couple of months after the death of Rev. King. At the Chicago Democratic Convention, Hubert Humphrey was chosen to top the ticket and he was defeated by Richard Nixon.

It was a year we learned what Black Power meant and what a Tet offensive was. We also learned how to recite the phrase “get your hands off me unless you intend to arrest me.” 

I believe in objecting, dissenting and making an enormous life-sized fuss over it.

But I am urging you, Charlotte protesters – don’t succumb to the potentially destructive power of a crazed mob.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Seems my in-the-box Optimus Prime just lost some value

As uncharacteristic as it may seem, I geek out a little bit over Transformers. I grew up with a little brother obsessed with the toys and cartoons. I picked up quite a bit through osmosis from him.

But when my kids got into the modern era movies and such as tweens and young teens, sure I watched the movies with them.

Western Star was big into this and, of course, when I got a chance at a limited edition Optimus Prime Transformer toy, I took it.

It sits proudly on my desk unopened. I could say it’s because I’m preserving its value. That would be a filthy lie. I know once I get it “transformed,” I would never be able to return it to its original state. And the Western Star Transformer cap I have? No one is touching that. Not even my kids.

All that said, when I stumbled onto a for real, in the world, BMW that transforms into a robot, I was in orbit. It had to be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while.

Seriously. Check it out.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LL’s speed limiter video contest results

Well, we asked for it, and truckers delivered a pack of dashcam footage showing four-wheeled drivers
doing dumb, risky and downright dangerous driving around speed-limited trucks.

In case you missed it, here’s our original Facebook post from last week. The winning video was the unanimous selection of the Land Line newsroom staff. The winner will receive a free “Don’t Like Trucks? Stop Buying Stuff” T-shirt from OOIDA.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bus gets stuck on Smugglers’ Notch, but there’s a twist

#SMH ... It’s the only acceptable reaction to the latest news coming out of Smugglers’ Notch, the winding section of Vermont Route 108 where large vehicles find themselves getting stuck. I wrote about this road here and here, and due to continued incidents, have been reduced to tweeting about it to save time.

Welp, it happened again. Another large vehicle got stuck at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont. However, this time it was a bus.

Yup, a motorcoach found itself wedged at the sharp turn at Smugglers’ Notch, which has caused headaches for city and state officials. Before listen to this: The bus will not be fined.

According to Vermont state law, “Commercial vehicles are prohibited from operating on the Smugglers’ Notch segment of Vermont Route 108.” The catch? “As used in this subsection, ‘commercial vehicle’ means truck-tractor-semitrailer combinations and truck-tractor-trailer combinations.”

That’s right. The law does not apply to motorcoaches or any other vehicle type similar in length. Only trucks.

Ripple effect from high seas shipping company failure inevitable

Effects of the Hanjin shipping line collapse continue to spread even as Korean electronics companies and U.S. retailers work desperately to untangle the mess before Christmas shopping season.

Like the fate of many small trucking companies, Hanjin failed because of shipping overcapacity. To keep up with boom-time growth in the early 2000s, major shipping lines ordered massive new container ships. Those orders could not be canceled when the world economy faltered in 2008. The new ships typically handle 19,000 containers compared with the 8,000-container ships regarded as huge just a decade ago.

Just like new trucks bought by optimistic fleets in the early 2000s, those big ships were put in service to generate revenue. All that capacity forced rates down.

Sound familiar?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Truck curfew story fishier than ‘Deadliest Catch’ marathon

Quickmeme.com
A common saying is that if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Well, the same logic can apply
to outlandish, negative stories. 

If your gut tells you something isn’t right, then that’s probably the case. 

Earlier this week, a questionable website, BestSourceVideos.info, posted an article titled “11 States Agree to Implement And Enforce TRUCK Curfew.” The story goes on to say that in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Washington will begin enforcing a mandatory truck curfew from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. as soon as this month. 

The brief article uses Department of Transportation representative Donald McCarthy as a source. But the problem is that no one by the name of Donald McCarthy represents the Department of Transportation. 

However, even if you had no way of knowing whether or not McCarthy was a legitimate source, there are plenty of clues to tell us that this article is among the increasing number of fraudulent stories floating around on the internet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Move over rail intermodal. Meet the autonomous transporter

Courtesy http://tti.tamu.edu/freight-shuttle/
Last Friday, Texas A&M University rolled out the Freight Shuttle System, a new freight moving

scheme they call simply FSS. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was there to talk it up. A Port of Houston representative said the port may be the first to put the idea to work. 

FSS is a cross between an old-fashioned New York or Chicago elevated line, or “El,” and a Disney World monorail. Like the monorail, FSS is up in the air supported by single pillars. Like a city elevated line, it moves vehicles in both directions at once. FSS requires little real estate and can presumably be built along existing rights of way, even on Interstate medians. The vehicles themselves are autonomous.

At one end, a dedicated crane plucks trailers from power units or containers from chassis and plops them on FSS flatbed-type units. I think of them as pods. The process is reversed at the other end. 

The front and back of an FSS unit look alike. Each resembles the front of a European or Japanese bullet train – very aerodynamic. A single box up to 53 feet long fits between them for the ride. An FSS pod can zip along at speeds up to 70 mph and consume two-thirds less energy than a truck.

Friday, September 9, 2016

91-year-old woman realizes dream of driving a big rig

 It took decades, but Louise Spencer’s dream finally came true.

Spencer, who is set to turn 92 years old this month, recently drove a tractor-trailer for the first time. She even sounded the horn.



“It’s always been something in me that I wanted to do,” Spencer told local media on Friday, Sept. 2 in Winona, Minn.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shady or stupid, feds blow it with speed limiter proposal

As complicated as it may seem to some, there are steps to the rulemaking process. Those steps are in place, and each has a purpose, to ensure a transparent rulemaking process that allows the public the access and opportunity to give input on regs that agencies are planning to dictate our lives with.

The “proposed” regulation on speed limiters misses the mark. So bad. Like falling out of a boat and not even hitting water bad.

For starters, this is all because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a petition a decade ago to consider mandating speed limiters.

That didn’t obligate the agencies to anything.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The high seas version of an Arrow Trucking collapse

Remember 2009 when Arrow Trucking abruptly went out of business leaving 1,400 drivers stranded
around the country?

Their fuel cards were useless, and they had no instructions beyond “turn your truck in at the nearest Freightliner or International truck dealer.” Driver paychecks bounced and confusion reigned among shippers and brokers. Where the hell is my stuff? How can I get it back?

Something very similar is happening now, but on a much larger scale – this time on the high seas.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Mainstream media’s coverage of truck safety is misleading

Earlier this week, Land Line Associate Editor Greg Grisolano called into question the mainstream media’s coverage of a proposed speed limiter mandate. CBS Evening News covered the story without citing any of the studies that show an increase in crash risk when split speeds occur.

This time, mainstream media has missed the mark regarding a story about truck drivers and crashes. Fox 28 in Spokane, Wash., reported on Thursday, Sept. 1, that Washington State University has planned a $1.4 million study to see if truck drivers are getting enough sleep. The story opens with a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control that says one out of every three truck drivers has reported being in a serious crash.

There are so many problems with that opening statement it’s difficult to know where to begin.

First, let’s start with the absurdity of the statistic. Does anyone really believe that 33 percent of the nation’s truck drivers have been involved in a serious crash?

Not surprisingly, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has evidence to refute that claim.

When the ‘hammer lane’ was known as the ‘Monfort Lane’

Some of my favorite Land Line articles are about the history of trucking. For instance, I’ve learned about Blue Highways from Dave Sweetman, about the Red Ball Express in World War II from Bill Hudgins, and about the nicknames truckers used back in the day as recounted by Bob Martin.

This past February I was reading remembrances of OOIDA Board Member “Wild Bill” Rode. “He liked to remember the old ways and the old truck companies, and he’d smile about Burma Shave signs, Green Stamps and the Monfort Lane.”

I had seen Burma Shave signs in the ‘50s and had pasted Green Stamps in saver books in the ‘60s. But I’d never heard of Monfort except in connection with the owners of the Colorado Rockies.

As the copy editor for our magazine, I check facts and spelling all day long. So I looked up the Monfort Lane and was caught up in what I read.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Are self-driving cars the ‘simple solution’ to all our traffic woes?

Slow drivers, distracted drivers and generally bad drivers are people we typically blame for traffic congestion. A YouTube video published on Aug. 31 with 1.5 million views (as of press time) has a simple solution … that will never work.


The video starts by pointing out the various factors that slow down traffic, including intersections and the slow chain reaction involved with red-to-green traffic light movement and braking vehicles on the highway. Really, it makes perfect sense.

How do we solve these problems? According to the video, by changing human behavior. To be fair, the video quickly dismissed this idea as implausible as we would need 100 percent participation. Instead, it suggests we use a more practical solution: a “structurally systematized solution.”

What does that even mean? It’s code for “self-driving cars.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CBS News wades in on speed limiter proposal

Perhaps you saw the piece on last night’s CBS Evening News about the speed limiter mandate? According to Jon Osburn, the skipper of OOIDA’s Spirit of the American Trucker tour truck, the folks who came by and paid him a visit at the Petro in Clearwater, Minn., sure did, and they weren’t exactly thrilled by what they saw. Which is understandable, since (based on what we’ve been hearing from members) the proposed speed limiter mandate is virtually unanimously despised by those who have to drive trucks, and by many of us who share the roads with them.

Here’s the report:



When the news agency tweeted out links to the teaser video last night, OOIDA responded with a friendly reminder that the proposed mandate will make highways less safe, and that all traffic should move at the same relative speed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

‘Power of One’ confirmed ... again

Voters in one Oklahoma locale decided this week whether to impose a new sales tax to maintain and construct streets, roads, bridges and drains.

The proposed half-cent tax on the city of Poteau’s primary ballot was defeated. Final tally: 190 in favor and 190 in opposition. That’s right. The community of about 8,600 residents was equally divided on the issue.

Well, all we can do is assume residents of the community located south of Interstate 40 near the Oklahoma-Arkansas line was equally divided on the issue. A scant 17 percent, or 380 people, of the town’s reported 6,729 registered voters bothered to cast ballots on the issue.

There is a very good chance a wider turnout would have proved to be the difference one way or the other.

The ballot result this week got me to thinking about a magazine article I did years ago titled “The Power of One.” It attempted to communicate the importance of taking the time to get registered, and casting a ballot, whether by absentee, early voting, or on Election Day.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Going the same speed on the same road just makes sense

When I was in my early 20s, a friend and I traveled from Kansas to Florida to visit a mutual friend from high school. After arriving at the airport, we rented a car and headed down the highway about an hour to our friend’s house.

After about five minutes on the road, I became very confused after seeing what I believed to be a 40 mph speed limit sign. It was a four-lane highway, and we weren’t in a construction zone.

Still perplexed, I turned to my friend and asked, “What’s the speed limit?” He replied, “I don’t know. It has to be 65 or 70, right?”

I told him that I thought I saw a speed limit sign that said 40 mph. “There’s no way that’s right,” he replied. Having taken into account the flow of traffic, we agreed that I must have been mistaken.

However, I kept a keen eye out for the next speed limit sign. Sure enough, the next sign displayed “40” in big font. But what I missed the first time was that underneath the number was the word “minimum.” Shortly after, there was another sign that read, “Speed limit 65.”

My friend and I had never witnessed stand-alone minimum speed traffic signs before. It seemed as if Florida authorities were attempting to enforce the minimum speed just as much as the maximum.  

Being an inquisitive person, I asked as many Florida residents as I could about this weird phenomenon. The answer was the same every time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The New Trucking Glossary

Not sure what a word or phrase means in trucking today? Here to help is the handy New Trucking Glossary.

Autonomous Trucks
These are trucks that do whatever the hell they want. They don’t listen to anybody. Maybe they’ll take you to the pickup, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll go the consignee’s, maybe they won’t. It all depends on how they feel.

Driverless? Up to a point, maybe. Autonomous trucks are not stupid. If they don’t have to drive themselves, they’ll let you do it while they watch the Cartoon Channel on your TV. In case you’ve been wondering, that’s the real reason autonomous trucks haven’t caught on.