This is the TDMST Weekly Round-Up of news affecting professional truck drivers, written by Vicki Simons for the week ending October 12, 2019.
We welcome your comments, thoughts and feedback on the items of your choice below.
Numerous articles this week describe the economy either as stronger than may have been thought in recent months -- or in a decline.
In an October 6, 2019, article, FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez was quoted as saying that, "The U.S. economy has been growing at a frantic pace since 2018, and with historically low unemployment numbers at 3.7%, the lowest in 50 years."
Of course, some trucking companies have shut down in recent months, including the most recent one being 600 trucking jobs lost when the tanker division of Stevens Transport permanently ceased operations.
As was stated on October 9, FTR has reported:
News of the Class 8 truck retail sales volume being up in September 2019 was also published here.
A seemingly contradictory article stated:
The for-hire trucking industry cut its employment figures in September for the third straight month, an indicator that the industry continues to lose steam in a year that's seen a marked slowdown from strong growth in 2017 and 2018.
So, is the economy strong or not so strong?
Perhaps it depends on which part of the trucking industry you're in.
"Mesilla Valley Transportation announced that it would be equipping all of its new trailers with the FlowBelow Trailer AeroSlider system, an aerodynamic device that reduces drag from a trailer's wheels and suspension", according to an October 7, 2019, article.
The article further states, "AeroSlider comes in two versions, Stage 1 and Stage 2... [with] system ranges from 1.37% to 2.07%, respectively."
If you drive for Mesilla Valley and have "before" and "after" numbers to share about the increased fuel economy you have experienced since having the AeroSlider installed on your trailer, would you please write a truck parts review?
I reported the following on Facebook recently:
This is for every professional truck driver or trucker advocate who is concerned about how artificial intelligence or automated driving systems (aka "autonomous trucks") will take over the trucking industry.
The article from earlier this month (September 2019) opens with this statement:
"A computer attack by hackers demanding payment in exchange for removing the ransomware has caused serious problems at a Wyoming hospital for three days."(a)
That attack was on a single location -- a hospital.
What will happen if a hacker takes over an entire fleet of autonomous trucks in different locations?
It's something serious to think about.
Now, I see the article, "Why Trucking Companies Need to Plan Now for a Cyber Attack".
According to an October 8, 2019, article: "A Michigan trucker is facing a murder charge after authorities say he was watching a video on his phone when he failed to stop for traffic along Interstate 64 last month, resulting in a deadly collision."
Since this trucker was "watching a television show on his phone, which was mounted on the dash at the time of the fatal crash", I am reminded of dash-mounted GPS units that run while drivers are driving.
Remember, your responsibility as a professional truck driver is to safely transport freight from one area to the other.
You are not being paid to watch videos!
No matter how alluring a show, a movie, a video, or a game may be, do not allow yourself to be distracted while you're driving.
No video is worth a person's life!
"The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has once again released its annual list of the top issues concerning trucking stakeholders and topping this year's list for the third year in a row is the so-called driver shortage," states an October 8, 2019, article.
This topic was also written about here.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) responded to the report by telling motor carriers who "are highly concerned about hiring and keeping drivers" that they need to "pay them".
The article about OOIDA's response further stated, "Truck driver respondents said compensation is the most critical issue in the industry, while carriers insisted on perpetuating their decades-old claim that they can't find enough workers."
True! They can't find enough workers who are willing to work for peanuts.
And truckers who respect themselves and their skills ought not to work for peanuts!
PennDOT will be closing rest areas on both the northbound and southbound sides of I-81 in "Grantville near mile marker 79" for 18 months due to construction.
So drivers will need to find alternate parking.
Meanwhile, "City officials in Richmond, Indiana, voted 8-1 against a proposal that would have banned residential truck parking", according to an October 8, 2019, article.
Even though the authorities found no negligence, a woman whose two young children were killed in an accident with a big truck "has filed a $10 million [wrongful death] lawsuit against the trucker and [his] trucking company", according to an October 7, 2019, article.
Bear in mind that it was the driver of the SUV who lost control of the vehicle in snowy weather conditions.
The SUV "spun in the path" of the truck, was consequently hit by the truck, and sent off the interstate highway into a ditch.
The article states that an investigation that lasted nearly 5 months found that the trucker "was driving in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration road and weather conditions, and was not driving at an excessive speed for the conditions".
I therefore conclude at this time that the lawsuit is full of imagined allegations against the defendants.
Still, this situation points very strongly to the need for every trucker to have some kind of legal services plan that includes defense representation.
News of this lawsuit was also covered here.
In a federal appeals court for the American Trucking Associations' truck-only toll lawsuit, the ATA and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) "presented their oral arguments", which "revolved around whether tolls are taxes or fees under the Tax Injunction Act."
The article further states:
At the heart of the case is the Tax Injunction Act of 1937. The act prohibits federal courts from suspending or restraining the collection of taxes at the state or local level, assuming a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy” can occur in a state court.
In one of those few moves that the ATA makes that actually helps truckers, they have argued that "tolls are not taxes" and hence are exempt from the Tax Injunction Act.
"RIDOT claims that tolls are taxes and cannot be restrained by the federal government."
In this case, if the tolls are collected on trucks only -- and not on all vehicles -- toll collection seems lopsided to me.
Are fuel taxes supposed to be used to help benefit roads?
According to an October 9, 2019, article, "Action taken by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will result in a fuel tax revenue diversion, with billions of dollars touted to benefit roads and bridges instead to be routed for other purposes."
The article further:
A video showing a man "clinging" to the back of a trailer that is being transported down the road at highway speeds has gone viral, according to an October 9, 2019, article.
The video is here.
Other than flagging down the trucker from another vehicle after the truck is already in motion, how can this type of potential for smuggling be prevented?
According to an October 10, 2019, article:
A California-based autonomous trucking company is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to test its self-driving technology in winter conditions.
The company says the partnership is an effort to test the performance of its self-driving trucks in the "toughest winter conditions, in order to inform public policy discussions."
This topic was also reported here.
I could be wrong, but I don't think that machines will be able to navigate trucks as well in winter weather as humans can.
My husband Mike and I wish you -- and all professional truck drivers -- safe travels and lots of money saving opportunities on the road.
a. https://oilcity.news/associated-press/2019/09/23/ransomware-attack-still-causing-problems-at-wyoming-hospital/ (no longer online)