Friday, May 27, 2016

Google patents “sticky” hood to catch … pedestrians?

The folks at Google are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to safety features on their autonomous vehicles. The California-based tech juggernaut was recently awarded a patent for an “adhesive vehicle front end” that the company says will “mitigate” secondary impacts for pedestrians.

If you think it sounds as if they’ve basically just turned the hood of a car into a human flypaper trap, well, that’s about the nut of it. According to the patent, once an object strikes the hood, it breaks a special coating that covers the adhesive layer. Once the coating is broken, the system will protect “a colliding object” from a secondary impact by causing the object to stick to the hood.

The idea seems to be that, it would be safer for the pedestrian to stick to the hood, rather than be tossed through the air and suffer a second violent collision with the ground, or a tree or a building, etc. And it could theoretically reduce the number of hit-and-runs, or at the very least make it easier to locate the offending party.

When the freight is out to get you

Flashback. That’s what I had when I read Mark Schremmer’s story in Land Line Magazine’s web news. Mark reported that driver Eugene Boone of Charlotte, N.C., died after a heavy bundle of cardboard fell on him as he opened the doors on his trailer one day in May. The massive bale crushed him.

That report took me back to a sunny spring morning 46 years ago at A-P-A Transport, the carrier I drove for. Dispatch gave me a load to Manhattan, huge rolls of paper for giant web presses. A freight bill on my clipboard meant the dock boss had signed off; the load was secured and ready to go.

At least that’s what it was supposed to mean.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Recent bust signals hope in fight against tow corruption

Earlier this month, four people connected to an auto body shop and tow company in Texas were arrested following a raid conducted by the Houston Police Department.

According to a story by the Houston Chronicle, Ricardo Gonzalez, 41; Andres Vasquez, 38; Ruben Barhona Rendon, 26; and Brenda Reyes Awawdeh, 34, were all charged for engaging in organized criminal activity. They were accused of using the business USA Auto Collision to charge motorists unnecessary repairs and fees.

USA Auto Collision was designated as a Safe Clear provider, meaning that the business was on the police’s list of the tow companies to call when there was an accident, but could charge no more than $155.50. According to the allegations, however, members of the business deceived motorists into signing documents that authorized the body shop to perform repairs and charge additional fees.

The reports allege that USA Auto Collision billed insurance companies for overpriced and unnecessary repairs. A specific example alleges that the business charged more than $200 for “transfer fees” to move the vehicle between the storage lot and the repair shop, which were within a few feet of each other.

To top it off, the company is accused of using an electronic communication jamming device to prevent customers from using their cellphones to call the police or to check with an insurance agent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

‘Granny Glitter’ and her heart of gold

Saturday, May 21, in Nashville, Tenn., was uncommonly cool and breezy, but there was no lack of warmth at the newly christened Candy Bass Travel Center as more than 100 people gathered to salute this 41-year trucking veteran.

Nicknamed “Granny Glitter” by radio personality Marcia Campbell for her love of the twinkly powder, Bass left sparkling pixie dust patches on everyone she hugged. And there was a lot of hugging going on at the event held under a tent behind the travel center building.

OOIDA Life Member “Candy” Bass, center, with family, clockwise from bottom - son-in-law  
Christopher Taylor,  daughter Anita Taylor, Rachel Davis, wife of grandson Cody Davis who is kneeling.

“I call all of you my grandchildren!” she declared as she “adopted” someone she’d just met.
Originally from Nashville, Bass, an OOIDA life member, adopted the downtown travel center because she’s spent so much time there during 41 years of trucking. The emcee for the event was Homer Hogg, who is now technical development manager for the TA Truck Service and Petro:Lube Truck Service business. Years ago he was a mechanic at the travel center who spun wrenches on Bass’ truck.

Homer Hogg, tehcnical development manager for TA & Petro
makes some remarks at the ceremony honoring Candy Bass.
Hogg first met Candy when he was a mechanic at the Nashville TA.
“Back then a lot of mechanics wouldn’t work on a woman driver’s truck,” Bass said. “They didn’t
think we belonged out here and wouldn’t take our word for it when we said something was wrong.

“But Homer told me, ‘I’ll work on your truck. A truck’s a truck to me, no matter who’s driving it.’”

The presentation opened with a three-song set by recording artist and Highway Angel Program spokesperson Lindsay Lawler, which included her signature song, “Highway Angel.”

During the presentation, travel center chefs grilled mounds of brats and burgers for the cookout lunch. Also on hand were OOIDA Life Members Buz and Laurie Scutt with their NASCAR simulator.

Among her many charitable and service contributions, “Grandma” Candy has been involved with Trucker Buddy International, sponsored a Special Olympics swimming team, and been active with Truckers United For Charities. In addition, she was inspired to found a charity, “Hats for Heroes,” a program that provides baseball caps to veterans who have head injuries or burns.

Associate Editor Greg Grisolano contributed to this report.

It’s all in the game

Here comes the latest trucking buzzword – gamification.

According to Merriam-Webster, gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.”

I’ll definitely catch flak for saying this, but at its core gamification attempts to make inherently boring things less boring.

In trucking, gamification applies almost exclusively to drivers. It’s possible because of the avalanche of tell-all digital technologies that include GPS, cameras, and all manner of onboard measuring devices. Management can know virtually everything you do and how well you do it.

In simple gamification, those performance stats – your fuel mileage, driving habits, and who knows what else – are compiled and displayed so you can note your “score” and try to beat it next time out. Some incentive programs offer prizes for good performance, things like gift cards, for example (money would be more meaningful, but let’s not go there right now).

No problem. Everyone should try to improve at what they do – all the more so for drivers where safety is concerned.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Citizen Driver honoree Jon Osburn all about helping others

If you’ve ever spent any time around Jon Osburn, you know he can talk to pretty much anybody about pretty much anything. Unless you’re trying to get him to talk about all the things he does to be of service to his fellows.

Greg Grisolano, Land Line Magazine
Jon Osburn and his wife, Vicki, outside the newly rechristened TA in Boise.
Osburn, an OOIDA Senior Member from Boise, Idaho, and the “skipper” of the Association’s Spirit of the American Trucker tour truck, is a 2016 TA Petro Citizen Driver honoree. At a ceremony on Friday, May 20, to rename the TA in Boise the J.D. “Doc” Osburn Travel Center, the normally gregarious driver kept his official remarks rather brief.

“I tried to do stuff in my life where I was not in the spotlight, so this is kind of uncomfortable,” he said during the dedication ceremony.

Fortunately, his family, friends and even the folks at TA Petro were only too happy to share their thoughts on Jon’s legacy of service, and what makes him deserving of the award.

Fellow OOIDA Life Member Rene Guenther has known Jon since 2006 when they met at a World’s Largest Convoy for Special Olympics. She said she considers him to be “part of my family.” She and her mother, Dee Lindsay, both of Kingman, Ariz., were there Friday to help him celebrate.

“He’s always there for other people,” Rene said. “He wants to educate the drivers, he wants to do things for the kids … he gives more than he receives.”

Dodging a different kind of danger on the highway

Recently, Land Line’s online website polled readers, asking if their truck had ever been shot at or had rocks thrown at it? Of those who responded, 51.72 percent said yes; 31.03 percent said no; and 17.24 percent said they thought so, but weren’t sure.

The rash of random rock-throwing and shootings on our interstates has become a growing concern of truckers, motorists, law enforcement and, well, everyone who spends any amount of time on our nation’s super slabs. All drivers – and passengers – are at risk, but when it comes to who spends the most time out there, truckers win hands down.