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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perdue, trucking company will pay $2 million after big rig full of chicken killed off-duty deputy

Photo: Courtesy of the Law Office of Michael A. Kernbach, PC
Article thanks to Scott Daugherty and Links provided:

The family of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy killed three years ago by a big rig hauling frozen Perdue chicken parts has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $2.05 million, according to court documents.
Earl Baynor Jr. Trucking, the owner of the big rig, and its insurance company will pay $1.05 million. Perdue will pay $1 million.
“The family is relieved that the case has been resolved,” said Michael Kernbach, the family’s attorney. “It is a sad case all around.”
A Perdue spokesman declined to comment on the settlement, citing a confidentiality agreement. Attorneys for the trucking company did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit, which initially sought $25 million in damages, stemmed from a Sept. 4, 2014, crash on U.S. 13 near its intersection with Eyreville Drive in Northampton County.
Albert Thomas, 50, was driving a tractor when he was fatally rear-ended by a 2005 Peterbilt 387 semi hauling a 53-foot Perdue trailer. Rodney Shepherd was driving the big rig.
According to the lawsuit, Shepherd was working for Baynor Trucking at the time of the crash. Perdue hired the company to transport chicken from its processing plant in Accomack County.
Thomas was moving the tractor as part of a second job, according to Kernbach.
After the crash, Thomas – a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office who was assigned to the Eastern Shore Regional Jail – was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and pronounced dead two days later.
The lawsuit alleged the trucking company had a poor safety record that included repeated falsified hours-of-service documentation, as well as drivers in possession of alcohol, positive tests for cocaine and daylight wrecks that occurred during dry conditions.
Shepherd pleaded guilty in January 2015 in Northampton General District Court to misdemeanor reckless driving for following too closely.
He was ordered to serve four days in jail and pay $731 in fines and court costs.

Scott Daugherty covers courts for The Virginian-Pilot.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Road Trip: Crossing The Evergreen State In a 1957 Chevy
Article thanks to Kyler Lacey and Links provided:

One of the universal dreams in the automotive community is the idea of a long road trip in a classic car. Nothing but open road, good tunes, and your vintage steel. We’re no different, and we have always wanted to do something like that, so we prepped out 1957 Chevrolet and took off on a nearly 800-mile trip from Kingston, Washington, to Spokane Valley, Washington, and back – with a few stops in between. We did it the right way too, and for the most part, used the old US highways rather than the interstate—two lanes, wheat fields on either side, and stoplights in every little town along the way.

We took the car to Spokane Valley, because we bought it from a friend of ours that lives out there, Dave Leigh, and we thought it would be fun to show him the progress of his old car. Not only that, but we recently learned that the old Brown and Holter Chevrolet dealership, where the car was sold brand new, is still standing in Pullman, Washington. So we thought, what the heck, let’s visit out car’s old home and make a couple hundred-mile detour on our way.

Our 1957 Chevy is powered by a small-block 350 cubic-incher, a cast-iron two-speed Powerglide, and the stock rearend. We’re riding on drum brakes all around – no brake booster, relying on the old generator, factory power steering, and the 1957 date-stamped radiator. The temperatures were forecast to be 100 degrees on the way out, and our only air-conditioner is available in the form of rolling down the windows. We crossed our fingers, loaded the trunk, checked our fluids and tire pressure, and hit the road.

We started with a ferry ride across the Puget Sound, and landed in Edmonds, where we headed straight for good ole Highway-2. Sure, it’s a slower road than I-90, but it’s also a heck of a lot more scenic. We passed through little towns like Gold Bar, Leavenworth, Cashmere, and Wilbur, and didn’t pass by very many gas stations. Our small-block Chevy drinks gasoline like it’s going out of style.

We made it to Spokane without any major issues, but the inline fuel filter started plugging up and caused us it to choke a little when accelerating to highway speeds. We knew Dave had a lift we could use, so we bought the $5 part and headed over for our visit. What was meant to be a 10-minute part replacement turned into a five-hour ordeal when we pulled into Dave’s driveway, put the car into reverse, and started moving forward.

The immediate assumption was that we’d just blown our 60-year-old transmission, but once it was up on the lift, we found that some bushings had fallen out of the linkage and caused things to go out of whack. Dave sat in the car while we tried to adjust things from below. When he shifted into reverse, the linkage just wouldn’t push it far enough to click into gear and it stayed in low, which is why it went forward instead of backward.

After hours if adjusting and readjusting, we got Park, Neutral, Drive, and Low to line up, then we used some well-placed springs to assist the linkage in pulling the selector into place on the transmission. It was a temporary fix, but that’s part of owning and driving a 60-year-old car. You’ve got to roll with the punches and make it work with what you’ve got. We made it home alright and we’re going to fix it the right way over the next weekend.

After visiting Dave and making our repairs, it was time to head down to Pullman. We took a couple pictures in front of the old dealership building where the car sold new, and headed over to the new dealership building where Brown and Holter is still operating under their new name for the last couple decades: Chipman and Taylor Chevrolet.

After that, it was time to head home and we made our way back via highway 195 from Pullman to Colfax. Then, from there, along Highway 26 until we hit Vantage and merged onto I-90 West. All-in-all, we spent roughly 15 hours in the car and made our way across more than 750 miles of road. The Chevy takes to the highway better than anything modern, and even in the hot temperatures, we couldn’t have been more comfortable. If you can take a road trip in your classic car, and the car can handle the strain, we recommend that you do it.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Driver pay, trucking’s image, and the worsening driver shortage
Article thanks to Cristina Commendatore and Links provided:
The average age of the truck driver is 52 and each year that number continues to increase, according to Leah Shaver, COO at the National Transportation Institute. But as fleets are finding it more and more difficult to attract a younger driver base, partly because of an industry-wide image problem, what can they do to soften the blow of a deepening driver shortage?
“Our efforts to recruit and retain millennials today are not as successful as we need them to be. The incoming students are not coming in at fast enough rates, and they’re not sticking with the industry the way that we need,” Shaver explained during a recent Fleet Owner webinar sponsored by Ryder.
Titled Listening to the Voice of the Driver can Ease the Shortage, Shaver along with Patrick Pendergast, group director of talent acquisition at Ryder System, discussed how driver income, trucking’s image, and the economy are impacting the worsening truck driver shortage.
NTI, which tracks driver income for both for-hire and private fleets, has found private fleet income is always more stable than for-hire income. According to Shaver, one of the problems is that over the last 10 years, for-hire income has at times been the opposite of the rate of inflation. In the last five years, she explained the rate of change for driver compensation has gone up by only 6.3%. Compare that to minimum wage, which has gone up by 45.26%, and the income for a worker at McDonald’s, which has increased by 94%.
NTI also compared earnings for for-hire fleets versus private fleets per region nationwide and found that the median W2 income nationwide is about $54,000 for for-hire fleets and well over $70,000 for private fleet drivers.
“That’s a big gap,” Shaver stressed, noting that private fleet drivers also have more consistent workloads and time spent at home. “Private fleet drivers tend to retire from their jobs. They don’t age out or wear out in the same way that they do in for-hire fleets. It’s a lifelong career, and they do retire. Private fleets are seeing retirements in record numbers, and they’re really expanding their recruiting and retention efforts.”
Shaver noted that throughout the industry, however, there really haven’t been significant changes in driver compensation this year, which is difficult to understand considering the decrease in the supply of drivers. There has been a small increase—0.6% in the maximum a driver can earn at a company—but overall the industry has seen very little movement in earnings, she added.
Plus, the industry is still trying to overcome an image problem. “In recent news we see that media can pick up on a story, and image can still affect our industry,” Shaver said. “Ultimately, that image makes it very hard to sell as a career.”
Shaver referred to articles from the New York Times and USA Today in which drivers interviewed said they really feel a continued disconnect with their companies and often feel like they’re “throwaway people.”
“When we visit with carriers, we’re seeing some upward movement in driver turnover,” Shaver explained. “Carriers are telling us pretty consistently that turnover has spiked up, and driver supply is becoming even more difficult.”

Driver satisfaction: Best practices

According to Pendergast, pay is a crucial component to how satisfied a driver is, but it’s not the only one. He outlined some best practices for fleets to consider.
Appreciation: “How do we figure out within our own group of employees, our own group of drivers, what really matters to them,” Pendergast asked. “We encourage companies to spend time talking to their drivers. Some drivers feel disconnected and don’t feel their company recognizes them as a true partner.”
Using advanced technology to attract talent: “Millennials have grown up with a tremendous amount of technology all around them,” he noted. “As Leah pointed out, the trucking industry does have an image problem. It’s incumbent on us in the industry to talk about the changes in engine technology and talk about collision avoidance and all the things that are attractive to the younger generation.”
Have a plan around retention: “This problem isn’t going away,” Pendergast stressed. “The ostrich approach isn’t going to work.” He added it is critically important for fleets to listen to their drivers to understand what challenges they face. “Some managers might be nervous to hear the challenges the drivers have, but that’s the first step to understanding what your turnover looks like.”
Pay and benefits: Pendergast advised carriers be in line with what the market is paying and the environment in which they’re operating.
Treatment: “Do your managers understand the roles they play in your turnover percentage,” he asked. “They are certainly playing a big role in how the driver feels when they get in their truck and go out for their loads that day.”
Employee involvement and training: Pendergast advised that fleets get employees involved in the decisions that affect them and acknowledge any input they give. When it comes to training and advancement, he said all employees, but particularly millennials, have a real thirst for learning and understanding how they get ahead and what the next steps are.
Recognition and performance management: Perks such as performance bonuses for safety, driver of the month, safety banquets, and other events that highlight what drivers are doing really well and what matter for your company go a long way, Pendergast stressed. He also noted that open communication and regularly scheduled performance appraisals are invaluable in driver retention efforts.
According to Shaver, researchers at NTI know and believe that the driver turnover will continue to rise. “It’s going to be stuck at over 80% in the foreseeable balance of the year—that’s our prediction,” she said. “We think that GDP (gross domestic product) is going to continue to grow. Unemployment has dropped. Blue collar jobs are not being filled. Construction is booming. Labor shortage is an issue. All of these signs point to economic growth, but our prediction remains nearly flat for driver pay.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Driver-Facing Cameras Get the Boot in Quebec
Article thanks to and John Bendel. Links provided:
Sept 8, 2017  Driver-facing cameras just got a poke in the eye from a Canadian court.
A Quebec Superior Court in Montreal has upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that Sysco Quebec cannot have driver-facing cameras in its delivery fleet. Sysco Quebec is part of Sysco, the food supply company that operates the 2nd largest private fleet in North America. Sysco Quebec employs approximately 70 drivers, according to court records. Their fleet is primarily day cabs.
Problems first arose when Sysco Quebec installed DriveCam exterior and interior cameras in November of 2012. Drivers were happy to have the forward facing cameras. They were not happy about the cameras staring them in the face.
Lytx, the company that distributes DriveCam, explains that while the driver facing cameras record all the time, they continually overwrite their memory. Video is only saved when an event – an accident, for example – causes the system to save 10 seconds of video immediately before the incident and 10 seconds after. Those are the only images management sees, the company says.
Even so, the Montreal Sysco drivers were not happy. They complained to their union that they felt intimidated by the cameras. Sometimes, they claimed, a bump in the road would cause the camera to save and transmit video back to Sysco.

So the union filed a grievance asking that the driver-facing cameras be removed. Sysco declined, and the grievance ultimately made its way to an arbitrator who ruled in May of 2016 that the cameras had to go.

Now it was Sysco’s turn to be unhappy. Sysco obeyed the ruling and removed the interior cameras; they also filed suit claiming the arbitrator had misinterpreted and misapplied the law. The arbitrator, Sysco said, had failed to properly consider a driver’s expectation of privacy while in the driver’s seat.

According to Sysco, the case was about the balance between a driver’s right to privacy and the company’s duty to proactively promote safety and health.

In its August 18th decision, the court found the arbitrator had considered that balance correctly. Methods “less intrusive” than those cameras could be used to further the interests of safety, the court said.
So the arbitrator’s ruling stands – at least for now.
Lytx deferred to their client, Sysco, for comment. For its part, Sysco declined to comment, but in an interesting way. Sysco’s corporate director of external communications wrote in an email: “Thank you for reaching out. Sysco does not provide comment on pending litigation.”
Pending litigation?
Sounds like Sysco may not have accepted the latest court decision as the final word.
Even if it were, the issue of driver-facing cameras is not really settled in Quebec. In 2014, Linde Canada installed the same DriveCam systems in its trucks. Linde is the German-based company that supplies industrial gases across North America. Some of those gases are dangerous.
Linde drivers complained about the cameras, a grievance was filed, and as in the Sysco case, the issue went to arbitration. But in the Linde case, the arbitrator found in favor of the company. The nature of the cargo made the difference. Hazardous cargo, such as hydrogen, tipped the scale and the Linde fleet now has driver-facing cameras.
These two conflicting opinions make it hard to predict the future of driver-facing cameras, at least in the Canadian province of Quebec – the only place in which those decisions apply.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Commentary: Over-Regulation and Idiotic Enforcement

Rolf Lockwood
Article thanks to Rolf Lockwood and Links provided:

Aug, 2017  Gallons of ink have been consumed in bitching about the extreme over-regulation of this industry. Ink and a lot of hot air. But we’re right to bitch and moan.
The nuclear-power world is full of rules and regs, too. Possibly — but only possibly — more than we face. At least there’s an obvious calamity quotient there. Sure, our trucks can do damage in a bunch of ways, but the controls outweigh the risk we represent by a factor of about five gazillion to one. And they’re driving people away from trucking. The headaches are just too many.
Case in point: scalehouse inspectors and other enforcement folks who don’t know their stuff. If we’re going to have all these rules, can we please have them applied fairly and correctly?
You don’t know how many letters and calls and e-mails I get from drivers, owner-operators, and fleet managers who say they’ve been poorly served at this scale or that. Yes, we rarely hear the other side, and no doubt some of the complaints I receive are misplaced, misguided, or just plain wrong. I understand that the inspection/enforcement job is a very tough one. I’m also sure that most people doing this thankless job take it seriously and make the effort to understand the laws they enforce.
But not all of them.
Take this true case from a few years ago, about an absurd ticket handed out by police in a sizeable city. It has nothing to do with trucking, but it easily could. A 77-year-old guy — with but one ticket in 61 years at the wheel – was nailed for talking on his cell phone while driving. Thing is, he does not and never has owned a cell phone. He figured it was a clear case of a ticket quota at work, and the evidence would seem to prove him right.
How can we possibly respect the enforcement community when this sort of thing goes on?
Another damning incident involves a reader I’ve known for a while, a veteran driver who knows his stuff. Including when to be polite, though that patience was severely tested during a scale stop not long ago. Running a four-axle dump truck, his job at the time gave him no way to check axle loads before hitting the road.
In this case the inspector came out and said the reader was 5,500 pounds heavy on the drives but his gross was fine. Then he added, “You’re maxed out on both steer and lift axle.” What? How can the gross be good if the steer and lift axles are maxed and the drives are 5,500 over? How, my reader asked, does that math work?
This particular gravel load is what the guys call “soup.” It self-levels, so when the inspector suggested shifting weight onto the lift – even though it was “maxed” in his own words – my driver friend asked, “How?”
This inspector, not at all new to the job, was completely baffled when he shouldn’t have been. And by all accounts he managed to enrage the local trucking community in the process.
We all deserve better.