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.