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Monday, February 10, 2020

Mobile Pre-paid Broadband Internet - I Found a Good One!

My Review: RVers and long haul truckers have had a longstanding problem obtaining reliable and affordable broadband service on the road. All the major carriers that I know of have cap limits or use throttling during periods of congestion. If using a cell phone as a hotspot, most find they will be up against their data cap limit in short order, having to buy expensive extra data plans. Having been retired for a couple years as a trucker, this winter, I’ve been spending extensive time in a motorhome getting away from the cold Wisconsin arctic air down in Florida. At most campgrounds, if they have WiFi at all, it's rare that you'll find it to be satisfactory and usually you'll be fortunate just to be able to read your email. I found out about this fairly new provider thanks to my sister.

After setting up the motorhome at her place in the yard we were able to connect to their WiFi for internet service. In that part of Florida, because of the extreme damage from Hurricane Michael back in 2018, there was a motivation to get people connected again as quickly as possible. Out of this, a company called Blue Magic ISP out of Marianna, Florida was formed. Their ISP is fixed wireless and operates off of all major networks and their participating towers. They offer a plan which is unlimited with no data caps and do not throttle back speeds. The customer service rep that I spoke with said they had satisfied customers all over the country and their service should work most anywhere major cell providers have coverage. The prepaid data plan is $69 per month plus tax. You can pay as you go and, if you wish, only for the months you want service.

My experience so far? Last week I ordered a Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 through Amazon (about $300) and contacted Blue Magic to sign up for service. They sent us a data sim card through the mail with instructions to call them for activation when I was ready to go. After arriving at a campground near Pensacola, one phone call and 15 minutes later, it was working. And working great! The Nighthawk MR1100 offers increased network performance with Dual-Band 2.4GHz/5GHz dual concurrent WiFi. Video streaming was buffer free at 5GHz in the campground we were at, right next to Interstate 10. I’m sure performance is somewhat dependent on location and proximity of nearby cell towers, but so far, so very good! This campground was part of a large national chain and had good WiFI. We used Blue Magic to stream video through the TV and used the park WiFi on our other devices.

You can purchase your mobile router through Blue Magic or provide your own unlocked one. I would encourage the use of the MR1100 although it is quite a bit more expensive. I was able to purchase one for about $300 on Amazon verses the $450 Blue Magic will charge you. If you connect your own device, there is a $50 extra fee. Blue Magic offers a cheaper compatible Netgear Unite Pro 781S for about $200. My sister has the cheaper Unite Pro and after using both I think the MR1100 is far superior. The WiFi range for the Unite Pro is only 20 to 25 square feet vs 1800 sq ft for the MR1100. One important point if you purchase your own, it needs to be an “unlocked” router. Some units are “tied in” to a carrier and will not be compatible with Blue Magic. All ongoing prepayments can be handled online with your account number.

As we travel around the next couple months I'll provide updates on our experience and keep you posted. I'll be very interested to see how it works back in our home state of Wisconsin. Meanwhile you can check them out at the links provided. This is a non-compensated review of my experience with this company. Also, my experience so far has only been in Florida. The service rep told me it should work anywhere, but we have not left Florida yet.

Update: Moved to a new campground near Panama City Beach which "featured" WiFi throughout the park. Well, as is so typical, the signal was bad, slow and kept dropping. To my pleasant surprise, when I lost campground WiFi, it automatically switched over to the Blue Magic WiFi on all our devices with the Nighthawk MR1100! In fact, I was unaware of this until I looked at my router and saw how much data it was using. The thing is, we really like this campground, other than that, this place is excellent. We are considering extending our stay here, but maybe not if we had to put up with their connectivity. Making up for the crappy campground WiFi with our own hotspot, I'm a happy camper with Blue Magic so far.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Why Americans Won't See LCV Expansion Anytime Soon [Opinion]

Article thanks to Charlie Willmott and Links provided:
Nov 12, 2019 by Charlie Willmott:  Having read Jim Park's recent commentary on LCV adoption in the US, I have to say I found it a thorough and excellent review of the compelling rationale for the expanded use of long combination vehicle nationwide for the benefit of freight efficiency, reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and public safety. I commend Mr. Park on his research, writing and summary of conclusions. But I sadly have to say that all that and a $1.50 won’t get you a cup of coffee anywhere, anytime soon. 
Sorry, but the simple truth is that there won’t be any nationwide thaw in the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act's freeze on LCVs anytime soon; not in my lifetime anyway, nor probably in my children’s lifetime. I would put money on it.
To fully explain why, I need to go back a decade before ISTEA.

A Brief History of Trailer Size and Weight

In 1982, the federal government passed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), mandating that every state wanting federal highway dollars had to allow 48-foot long and 102-inch wide trailers on the Interstates and primary US highway routes. This measure was broadly supported by truckers, carriers, and politicians alike because state size and weight laws were widely disparate and utterly confusing, which stifled interstate commerce and crippled trucking efficiency. Prior to 1982, allowable trailer sizes ranged primarily from 38 to 45 feet with 48-foot trailers allowed in some jurisdictions. Members of Congress were tired of hearing from constituents about the resulting interstate commerce dysfunction and then-president, Ronald Reagan, was on board as part of his effort to streamline government and promote economic growth.
STAA’s standardization of 48-foot trailers was a huge productivity gain for freight transportation in general but it did not have nearly as big an impact on the trucking industry as the change in trailer widths from 96 inches to 102. By increasing the allowable trailer width, carriers were able to load two pallets side by side rather than pinwheeling the second pallet and losing both loading time and valuable trailer floor space. For most operations, this added another two pallets to every load, over and above the additional pallets in the rear of the new, longer 48-foot vans. Increasing the width was a sea change because while it was easy to lengthen a trailer, widening a trailer just wasn't feasible. With the new 102-inch standard, the 1982 STAA effectively obsoleted the existing national trailer fleet and ushered in a multi-year bonanza for trailer manufacturers building 48-foot, 102-inch wide trailers.
Changes to trailer lengths didn’t stop with the STAA as intended, however. In the mid-1980s certain shippers formed a group called the 60NR Committee, which stood for "60 Feet No Restriction." Members of the group were mostly cube-sensitive shippers, such as bottle and can manufacturers, tobacco companies, etc. At the time, many states had laws on the books limiting the overall vehicle combination length to 60 feet. This meant that if you used a cab-over tractor rather than a conventional tractor you could actually pull a trailer as long as 53 feet.
Although states were largely resistant to any further changes to truck size and weight rules following the STAA, the members of the 60NR Committee campaigned vigorously state by state explaining to each governor that surrounding states were offering a more favorable manufacturing and employment environment by allowing 53-foot trailers. The 60NR negotiating tactic worked, and states fell into line one after another allowing 53-foot trailers.
It is interesting to note that while shippers were enthusiastically supporting 53-foot trailers, truckers were not that keen on the idea. The STAA had just forced carriers to re-tool their fleets to be competitive and investing in even newer, longer trailers was not on their wish list. I remember speaking with J.B. Hunt back in the early 1990s and asking him if he liked the new longer trailers and would he make them his new standard. He told me that he hated the idea of 53s and wished he could go back to 45s because he got paid by the load and 53-foot trailers meant fewer loads. Nevertheless, he understood he had to convert again in order to be competitive in the market. I recall him saying something to the effect, 'there’s always another idiot out there waiting to lose money to steal my customers,' or words to that effect.

The Influence of Railroads

The other major players in the unfolding drama leading up to 1991 were the railroads.
Railroading had suffered mightily in the three decades prior to the 1990s. Rail freight tonnage was down, and passenger service had all but disappeared in favor of cars and airplanes. Bankruptcies were up. Lines were abandoned, and tracks torn up. Boxcars had all but died. Rail piggyback wasn’t efficient, and the double stack container revolution was just beginning. By 1990, there were just nine Class 1 railroads still standing and they were struggling to redefine themselves in the face of competition from the recently deregulated trucking industry. 
Meanwhile, despite their fundamental problems, railroads remained hugely influential in federal, state and local governments. Fighting for survival, it was widely speculated that the industry decided to use their significant influence to fight further changes to truck size and weight regulations. Truckers were in no mood or position to fight back and Congress had grown tired of refereeing. The result was the landmark transportation bill named the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, otherwise known as ISTEA, which included a freeze on changes to the size or weight of longer combination vehicles on the federal Interstate or primary highway network.

LCV Freeze

Contrary to what Mr. Park suggested in his commentary, there have been numerous attempts by very capable, well-funded and well-connected coalitions to re-visit the LCV freeze over the decades since it was enacted. Despite emphasis on transportation efficiency, fuel conservation and public safety, none of these efforts could even thaw the edges of the freeze. Each has met with fierce opposition from activists such as Ralph Nader of Public Citizen and Joan Claybrook of CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways).
Throughout the nearly 30 years since ISTEA, there have been several demonstrations of triple 33’s and double 53’s which garnered a fair bit of support from key lawmakers on Capital Hill, but nothing ever changed. Speculation that the railroads funded organized opposition through CRASH has continued to swirl. 
The most recent effort to advance triple 33-foot trailers a couple years ago, led enthusiastically by FedEx and several other well-known LTL carriers, ran head-long into new opposition from their brother carriers at the Truckload Carriers Association, who strongly objected to the perceived competition they would see from these longer rigs. ATA’s lobbying efforts in favor of the change were hobbled and despite support from GOP lawmakers who then controlled both houses of Congress, the initiative fell apart.
It is worth noting that the trailer OEM I represented at the time built some of the 33-foot demonstrators at the demand of one of my customers, despite my warnings to them of likely failure in their efforts. I believed it then and sadly it's still true today;  regardless of the sound rationale for change in the interest of economic efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, enhanced public safety, the flag and apple pie, the freeze will remain until the rules on special interest lobbying and campaign finance are re-written to promote public service and responsibility over self-interest and getting re-elected. In other words, sadly, not in my lifetime.
Charlie Willmott is CEO of WillGo Transportation Consulting LLC specializing in the new and used trailer, container and chassis industries.  His career in freight transportation spans over four decades and includes executive sales and marketing positions in both public and private companies in manufacturing and leasing.  Find more at www.linkedin/in/charliewillmott/ including a series of recent industry related articles.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

What? Canadian Tax Dollars at Work

It’s coming up on elections in Canada, and the promises are flying thick and fast. Canada’s Liberal party, under the spokesmanship of Prime Minister Trudeau, suggests a future where Canadians might see more of the great outdoors. In the vision, by school grade eight all Canadians would be taught camping skills. Further, low-income Canadians would be given campground space up to four days a year in a national or provincial park, and a stipend of up to $2,000 to help make the trip possible.

Monday, September 30, 2019

FMCSA to Drivers: Don’t Overthink Personal Conveyance Time
Article thanks to Transport Topics. Links provided:

April, 2019  LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some truck drivers still are grappling with the definition of personal conveyance time. They shouldn’t be, according to a top executive for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Here’s a simple way to evaluate whether a driver is on personal conveyance time, according to Joe DeLorenzo, FMCSA’s director of enforcement and compliance: “Am I off duty? Am I doing any work at the request of the motor carrier, rather than for myself? Is the major purpose of why the motor vehicle is being moved personal? Is it for a nonbusiness-related purpose?”
DeLorenzo gave those words of advice during an electronic logging device update session at the Mid-America Trucking Show here March 30.
Although DeLorenzo was offering a variety of tips about steering clear of trouble using the devices, it was personal conveyance time — also known as authorized personal use time — that garnered the most questions from drivers.
Some common examples of personal conveyance time include time spent traveling to lodging, restaurants or entertainment venues, time spent traveling to a reasonable, safe location to obtain required rest or moving a truck at the request of a safety official during the driver’s off-duty time, DeLorenzo said.
A driver cannot use the time for the sole purpose of advancing the freight or time spent transporting a vehicle to a facility for maintenance, he said. There are no specific time or distance limits for legitimate personal use movement of commercial motor vehicles.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re hauling or whether you’re loaded or unloaded or hooked up to a trailer or not,” DeLorenzo said. “You can move the vehicle to the nearest safe location on personal conveyance time to get rest, and you don’t have to go backwards. This is one of those times where it’s OK to continue on the progress of the load as long as you are stopping at the nearest reasonable, safe location. We deliberately don’t define that because that’s a judgment call on the part of the driver.”
He added, “We don’t want a driver parking in a lot that doesn’t have any lighting or any protection. We don’t want anybody parking on the side of the highway where it’s unsafe. You can make the call.”
When it comes to the use of ELDs, DeLorenzo said drivers foremost need to know whether they are using automatic onboard recording devices or ELDs during roadside inspections.
One of the more common violations regarding both ELDs and AOBRDs involved drivers not knowing how to transfer data to roadside inspectors.
DeLorenzo encouraged carriers using AOBRDs to make the transition to ELDs now rather than waiting to meet the Dec. 16 deadline at the last minute.
“It’s human nature to procrastinate to the last minute,” he said. “Please take the time and talk to your providers right now.”
While there have been rumors that the use of ELDs was causing more speeding violations to be written, FMCSA records indicate there has been only a slight bump in speeding violations in recent months. “There are a couple of little tiny spikes,” he said. “But generally, I think it hasn’t been as bad maybe as some people think.”
DeLorenzo added, “In terms of ELD compliance, things are going fairly well. Of roadside inspections, there are only about 1% that are getting cited for having no ELD.”

Monday, August 5, 2019

'Peace with Grease' Reunion a Huge Success in Crivitz, Wi

After almost a year of planning, everything came together on Aug 3rd for a great afternoon and evening of entertainment, featuring four bands, playing for a good cause in Crivitz. Proceeds from the event will go towards funding a new band shell for the park, enabling many future years of live entertainment for the entire area. Many thanks to Bob Berndt and the Sounds of the Decades committee for putting this all together for a great cause. There are many volunteers to thank as well.

"Peace with Grease" was the second band in the lineup and responsible for the original idea Bob had of pulling off this great event . The band began as a one night gig at Carroll College in the fall of 1972 when 8 “music geeks” decided to put a 50’s rock and roll band together for a talent show. Blue Moon, Book of Love, Little Darling, Duke of Earl; full orchestration and five part harmony, add in a full horn section and you have the makings of one of the top night club attractions in the Milwaukee area. The band remained together until 1977 when members families and jobs took them all over the country. For this event members flew in from Florida, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, and Boston! The act is good old rock and roll and the hair styles ( those that still have hair) are classic fifties. Hoping maybe next year, one more, so you can pull out your lettermen’s sweaters, poodle skirts and dance the night away to one of old Milwaukee’s premier bands “Peace with Grease”.
Pictured in the upper photo from left to right are: Back row: Jim Koehler - drummer, Jim Toth - vocals, Gary Marquardt - vocals & sax, Bob Berndt - vocals & trombone, Lance Koehler - vocals & trumpet, Tim York - Bass. Front row: Randy Fischer - keyboard, Rick Bichanich - guitar.
Today's "Peace with Grease"

The first event of the evening started after a short rain delay with the performance of "Eddie's Crew". The band is named after a band member and dear friend of the entire community, Ed Osten. Gordy Jacobs and Pete Swanson, a former student of Berndt, have carried on with the band in Osten's name and they were rocking the park with good old classic country and rock tunes. Gordy Jacobs is the lead singer and guitar player who has been playing music for a long time in the Crivitz area . Pete Swanson is on the drums and brings his renditions of 50's & 60's music to the group along with harmony and background vocals. Guy Wolford brings his bass guitar expertise along with background vocals and has played in the area for many decades. Dean Kostrova adds his rhythm and steel guitar sounds to fill in the classic sounds of the group.

Following "Peace with Grease", the third band of the evening was a reunion of "Daze Revue", a popular area band that was formed in 1983 and performed through the 90's. They covered songs through the 80's and 90's. The picture on the right is from back in the day. The one below was from Saturday.

The final band to perform was the current and still going strong "Daze 2 Nights", whose musicians combine generations that played with or listened to "Daze Revue". They are still very active, playing numerous venues throughout the area.
You can click on the link to read a related post about how my buddy and I first got to know these guys!
Madman Moser and Dangerous Dan Busted! Hope they can do it again next year!
By the way, thanks to Bob Berndt for much of the material contained in this post.