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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tesla-Truck Crash: Cruise Control on Steroids

Photo: NTSB/Florida Highway Patrol
Article thanks to Senior Editor Jack Roberts and Links provided:
June, 2017  Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the Harry Potter movies. But they must be pretty good, considering that Joshua Brown, the victim of last year’s famed “Tesla Crash” was allegedly watching one of the films right up to the point when his car T-boned a tractor trailer last year, killing him.
New details about that crash have emerged from the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, including the well-publicized fact that Tesla’s autonomous system warned Brown seven different times that he needed to assume control of the car, and that he manually bumped his speed higher just two minutes before the crash occurred.
I’m not familiar with the Tesla autonomous driving system, although I have spent a limited amount of time behind the wheel of Freightliner’s Inspiration Truck while it was in self-driving mode. And I can attest that programming the truck to slow down and eventually pull off the road in the event road conditions aren’t absolutely perfect for autonomous vehicle control is one of the system’s core attributes. In fact, the Daimler Highway Pilot system is so safety-conscious, it will pull the truck off the highway if any number of critical information inputs aren’t being met. Anything from faded lane markings to a spotty GPS signal is enough to make Highway Pilot punt and hand control back over to one of us human beings or simply pull off the road if – I dunno – the wizard is about to zap a dragon with his magic wand, or something.
If you’re lucky as a writer, you might get to invent a bunch of new words (like that show-off, Shakespeare) or, more likely nowadays, get credit for coining a new phrase. So I’m going to note right here and now that “Cruise Control on Steroids” is mine. I’ve been saying for a couple of years now – and I’ve been told by several autonomous vehicle designers that it is a perfect description for the first generation of autonomous vehicle control systems that are just now starting to show up on roadways all over the globe.
For all the angst about the societal implications of autonomous vehicles (and autonomous trucks in particular), the fact is we are still a long way from the time when you’ll be able to watch Harry Potter VII: Curse Of The Unpredictable Bowels or argue with your significant other on FaceTime while your rig drives itself down the highway.
That said, based on my as-yet-limited experience behind the wheel of an autonomous truck, I believe drivers today will actually be pretty enthusiastic about these control systems once they’re commercially viable and being spec’d on trucks.
Full-on everywhere-you-look autonomous vehicle use isn’t likely to happen until we make considerable strides in upgrading our infrastructure, including major investments in vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology and capability, as well as a common platform for vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) systems – and the deployment of those technologies in sufficient numbers to make a significant impact on how vehicles behave in various driving scenarios.
Case in point: One of the more memorable aspects of my Inspiration Truck test-drive was watching with hands off the wheel, while the truck worked its way through a bumper-to-bumper traffic snarl heading into Las Vegas. That’s a stressful situation that every driver on this planet hates. So why not take a break? Rub your eyes. Stretch your back. Relax for a few minutes while the truck does the monotonous work of inching its way through the traffic jam?
I can also recall mind-numbingly straight and dull stretches of highway all over this country – from Texas to Florida to New Mexico – where there’s just not a hell of a lot for a driver to do other than hold the truck between the lines for hours on end. Or a few stretches of I-40 out west, where the afternoon sun parks itself right in your face and sits there, seemingly for hours, while you squint through your sunglasses and constantly move the sun visor around trying to get some relief. Again, in those instances, I have to believe there are a good number of drivers who would welcome the opportunity to let the truck take the wheel for a bit and go from “pilot” mode to “lookout.”
Just like there are always people scared of new technology, there are also people who place way too much trust in new technology. Which was clearly the case with Joshua Brown and his Tesla sedan. Technology – most of the time – is used to solve problems. But new technology has its limits. And autonomous vehicle technology is no different. Use it wisely, use it correctly, and it will be a powerful tool to help drivers out. Particularly truck drivers.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Albuquerque No. 1 in Auto Theft Rate
Article thanks to Links provided:

June, 2017  The greater Albuquerque, N.M. metropolitan area had the highest per-capital auto theft rate in 2016, according to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
In 2015, Albuquerque ranked second, behind Modesto, Calif., in auto theft rate. Last year, six of the top 10 metropolitan statistical areas in vehicle theft rate were in California. 
Hot Spots, a report that NICB releases annually, examines vehicle theft data collected by the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas. These statistical areas, designated by the Office of Management and Budget, often include population centers much larger than the cities for which they’re named. For example, the Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area includes the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the area within Albuquerque city limits.
New to the top 10 this year is Anchorage, Alaska (No. 6) and Billings, Mont. (No. 10). As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can — and often does — have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it, NICB explained. This is how Billings, with 877 auto thefts, placed 10th while Los Angeles, with 60,670 thefts, placed 35th.
For 2016, the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vehicle theft rates were:
  1. Albuquerque, N.M. (10,011 thefts in 2016, up from 6,657 in 2015)
  2. Pueblo, Colo. (1,325 thefts in 2016, up from 983 in 2015)
  3. Bakersfield, Calif. (7,176 thefts in 2016, up from 6,000 in 2015)
  4. Modesto, Calif. (3,820 thefts in 2016, down from 4,072 in 2015)
  5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (25,708 in 2016, up from 25,001 in 2015)
  6. Anchorage, Alaska (2,273 in 2016, up from 1,359 in 2015)
  7. Merced, Calif. (1,605 in 2016, up from 1,132 in 2015)
  8. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (29,414 in 2016, down from 30,554 in 2015)
  9. Fresno, Calif. (5,682 in 2016, up from 5,149 in 2015)
  10. Billings, Mont. (877 in 2016, up from 775 in 2015)
To learn how your area ranks, click here.
Each year, the FBI releases preliminary Uniform Crime Report data for the previous year’s January-June time frame. When the preliminary 2016 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 6.6% across the nation. This increase is reflected in the Hot Spots report and is expected to hold when the final data is published in the fall, NICB said.
For comparison, below is a table showing the preliminary Uniform Crime Report vehicle theft data, the percent change from the previous year, and the final Uniform Crime Report vehicle theft figure:
Source: NICB
Source: NICB
The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, when there were more than 1.6 million reported thefts. In 2015, the total was 707,758 — a 57.4% reduction since 1991.
"While the final result for 2016 is expected to be higher than 2015's number, the vehicle theft environment across the country is vastly improved from the 1990s," NICB said in the organization's released statement about the Hot Spots report.
Video: Top Ten Cities in Stolen Vehicle Rate

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Communications Keep the Trucking Brotherhood Alive

Trucker Talk

Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands. Links provided:

Trucking is not for social butterflies. Except for team drivers, truckers are by themselves most of the day. A lot of their in-person interactions are quick and transactional in nature: pickups, deliveries, buying fuel or food. Their schedules don’t allow much time to socialize with each other in person.
Someone who can’t handle 13 hours in a cab with no communication outside of the CB, cell phone and dispatcher will have a hard time. Drivers who aren’t comfortable being by themselves tend not to last long in the job. But even drivers who prize their privacy feel the need to communicate with each other, even if it’s not face to face.
Decades ago, truckers had only the CB and casual conversations at truck stops. Now, cell phones and social media make it easy to reach out and talk at almost any time. The results are dozens of YouTube channels devoted to trucking, as well as online forums where truckers can ask questions, get advice and comment on the industry and everything else. Drivers also communicate in less formal ways, like a late-night call at 3 a.m. or a check of CB chatter to see who else is bored crossing Oklahoma on I-40.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that being able to communicate with each other is important to drivers.
“We interact with other truckers because they are the only ones that understand. We, in a way, are lonely, needing attention of others and bored. We have a camaraderie that is a brotherhood,” said Maggie Riessen, a member of the RoadPro Pro Driver Council.
Drivers are the best source of information for each other on such things as traffic conditions, shortcuts, radar traps and safe places to park.
“I like to talk with other truckers for many reasons,” said Pro Driver Council member Joanne Fatta. “The number one reason is they are the only ones up at 3 a.m. We call each other to occupy time, discuss our day or just talk about life. I communicate on social media often when drivers are checking in at a location or having trouble on road, break down or have a long wait at a stop.”
There is also the sense among truckers that only other drivers can relate to their experiences. The gulf between them and non-truck drivers is too wide to bridge.
“I communicate with other truck drivers to gain knowledge,” said Council member Brita Nowak. “The fact is that only other truck drivers truly understand truck drivers. It is those ‘little things’ we whine about that other people would never even consider a problem. Through long nights, we can keep each other awake. Other times, we notify each other of problems on the road, closures, construction, ways to get around something, where the cheapest fuel is, where the bears are lurking etc. Company drivers ask me a lot about whether they should buy their own truck or not; they want some insight, advice.”

Council member Ryan Sexton said it’s a help to know that there are others out there living the same life and working the same job. “It's always nice to see and hear what places people come and go to. Gives you something to look forward to at the end of a long day,” he said.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Minibike, Two Angry Milwaukee Cops and a Police Station
I was about 12 years old when my father bought a house and moved our family out to 103rd and Lancaster Ave in the northwest part of Milwaukee in 1964. I became close friends with Tom P****n who lived a couple houses down from us. A couple of years or so later, before we were old enough to get our driver’s licenses, we somehow obtained a mini-bike frame that was in pretty rough shape. There was no engine, throttle or brakes, just basically a frame, a couple axles and wheels, I don’t think there was even a seat on it, we used a board to sit on.

We began working on it, obtaining an old lawn mower engine from somewhere and putting it together. We were able to get it to run, at first having no brakes and no throttle control on the handlebars. We didn’t have money to buy a decent throttle, so we rigged up a clothes hanger wire to the carburetor that stuck out the side, we would steer it with one hand while operating the throttle with the other. I think I wore out at least one pair of shoes trying to stop that thing while riding it! Tom’s dad worked at a steel fabricating shop and took mercy on us by fabricating a set of brakes with a foot pedal. We took turns riding the thing around the neighborhood.

Originally we told our parents we would find places to ride it that were off the street, but it didn’t take long for me to completely mess that up. One day I was riding it a couple blocks away from the house, on the street, when a Milwaukee Police ambulance/patrol wagon with two cops in it came up behind me.

In those days, police officers manned the ambulances and when there were no medical emergencies to attend to, they would be out patrolling the neighborhoods, same as the regular squad cars. They had a fleet of 1960's International Travelalls as in the photo above serving as ambulances.

One of the cops walked up, asked me where I lived, and told me I couldn’t be riding that thing on the street. He said to take it home and not be out there again with it. Well, did you think I would have listened and taken him seriously? Fat chance.......

A couple days later, I was quite farther away from the house, riding it down by the Red Owl grocery store on 110th and Hampton Ave. There was an alley behind the store and I was riding along, heading back out to the street. Would you believe the same two cops in the same wagon turned in the alley? After telling me to stop, they both got out and this time they were very angry. “What were you told about riding on the street?”, hollered one of them. My protest about not being on the street, but in an alley were ignored, as they opened the back doors and ordered me to get off the bike. “You’re going to take a ride with us”, I was told.

Well, I then was hauled down in the ambulance with the minibike in back to the 4th district police station at 70th and Silver Spring and I was locked in a room while they went and called the house. Pretty soon, my dad showed up, and he was NOT in a good mood. Thankfully, we had a pretty big 1957 Chrysler New Yorker that we could fit the bike in the trunk to get it home. I don’t remember how long I was grounded, but on the way home my dad ordered that the mini-bike not be ridden again and we were to “sell or get rid of it”. I'm sure my dad talked to Tom's dad and our fun riding was ended, courtesy of me. I can’t remember who we may of sold it to or what we did with it, but that turned out to be my last ride on the bike. Just another one of many life lessons learned!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Driver Shortage: Finding and Recruiting Talent in the Millennial Era

Article thanks to the blog. Links provided:

June 13, 2017  Retiring Baby Boomers are one of the leading factors of the driver shortage. Currently, the average age of professional drivers is 52. Additionally, over 60 percent of drivers are older than 45, and just six percent are younger than 35.
Competition from other industries has also swayed potential drivers who instead are going to work in the construction, oil, and energy industries. Stricter regulations are also playing a role in making the talent pool shallower.
As the industry deals with the aging workforce and stricter regulations, companies have to look at millennials to fill the vacancies. According to Pew Research Center, millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. The question remains, how can the industry add millennials to its talent pool.
The first way is to understand how the budding population looks their careers. A recent survey by Fleet Owner tracked factors that matter to millennials and showed:
  • 23% indicated that the ability to make an impact on the business mattered most
  • 20% wanted a clear path to advancement
  • 16% would be interested in a company that provided development and on-going feedback
  • 13% listed income as their top priority
While one key is understanding the new workforce, the second is finding and enticing them. Millennials grew up in a digital world on mobile platforms and social networking. That’s where companies need to be to recruit them.
Secondly, while some claim advanced vehicle technology has deterred drivers, it can be used to recruit new talent to the industry – especially millennials. Increased road safety regulations have played a large role in driving advancements in onboard vehicle technologies, many of which assist drivers or even automatically intervene to prevent a collision before it happens. Adaptive cruise control, forward-looking radar, collision-avoidance and lane-departure warning systems are examples of technologies’ increasing automation, which is currently available and in use in many commercial fleets.
These technologies actually change the commercial driver profile of who to recruit and what level of sophistication they have around technology and the industry in general. The increased focus on technology, environment, and innovation all act as attracters for the new generation of drivers. When combining connectivity, telematics, safety features and automated manual transmission, all are leading to semi-automated and eventually fully automated trucks that a younger generation of drivers would be more inclined to operate as a career.
Many companies are developing a creative list of ideas to attract drivers, in addition to the obvious approach of simply offering more money. One strategy companies can use to entice new drivers is to target high unemployment areas and offer to relocate recruits where they are needed. Companies can also expand their search parameters looking to bring in women, veterans, and retirees.

Partner Up

When recruiting, partnerships with organizations can lead to a specialized talent pool. One of these groups is Hiring our Heroes, an organization that assists veterans and transitioning service members to find employment. Many trucking firms are successful in hiring returning veterans. They are in the job market, and may already have the training and experience needed to drive. Veterans possess many of the invaluable skills and qualities that are essential to be drivers. Through specialized training, recruits can become key employees in the trucking industry.
A second organization, Women in Trucking, is promoting the truck driving profession to women. Through a partnership with this organization, trucking companies are focusing on positively changing the ergonomics of their trucks to recruit women. Adding women to the driver pool is not just something done simply to fill a need; it is something done because there is an opportunity to utilize under-represented potential.

Other Best Practices

Along with expanding the talent pool, companies can offer creative benefits such as:
  • Tickets to sporting events after a certain time of service
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Military leave with no vacation time required
  • More paid vacation
  • Bonus and incentive plans

Interested in employment opportunities nationwide with Ryder? Check out their career opportunity website: