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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Immigrant truck drivers: Shhhh. We don’t talk about it.

Photo: Pressmania
Story thanks to Larry Kahaner and Links provided:

Yet recruiting immigrants to be drivers appears to be a successful tactic, despite trucking's reluctance to discuss it.

June 11, 2017  When U.S. motor carriers discuss recruiting new drivers they're eager to chat about efforts to reach out to underrepresented groups such as women, minorities and military veterans, but there's one group they're reluctant to discuss for publication: Immigrants.
Schools, organizations and companies that train new drivers also shy away from the subject of immigrant drivers; ditto for some state carrier organizations.
Fleet Owner reached out to eight industry stakeholders with multiple phone calls and email messages to discuss immigrants in the U.S. trucking industry and either received no response or the equivalent of “no comment.”
This reluctance belies the fact that recruitment of immigrant drivers appears to be successful. Currently, of the 1.2 million motor carrier-employed U.S. truck drivers (operating Class 8 trucks) about 224,722 or 18.6% are immigrants, according to U.S. Census data for 2011-2015 as analyzed by Justin Lowry, PhD, a Postdoctoral Researcher at George Mason University's Institute for Immigration Research. Figures for 2010-2012 clocked in at 15.7%, he said.
Although Lowry has looked at other industries, driving jobs (including truckers) stood out as one of the industries that grew in terms of immigrant workers.
"In general, immigrants in the workforce of the trucking industry are helping to buoy the industry itself because of the lack of workers,” Lowry said. “There's a high demand for truckers and not a whole lot of native-born U.S. who are entering into it. If you look at the age distribution of native U.S. citizens to foreign-born in the trucking industry, you'll note that the U.S.-born tend to be older, because the younger generation of U.S. citizens don't think of trucking as a natural career path."
Where do the immigrant drivers come from? "The top five are Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, India, and Guatemala," Lowry noted. "Eastern European countries like Poland and Ukraine are next and then it drops off quickly: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bosnia, Honduras, Columbia, Russia, and China."
The largest group -- representing 32% of immigrant truck drivers – is from Mexico.
According to the Institute's 2014 report – Who’s Behind the Wheel? Immigrants Filling the Labor Shortage in the U.S. Trucking Industry, authored by Zahra Sohail Khan – the percentage of immigrant drivers is higher than that of the total percentage of immigrants in the U.S., which is estimated at 13%.
"The proportion of immigrant truck drivers is particularly high in certain states such as California (46.7%), New Jersey (40.4%), Florida (32.2%), and New York (25.7%)," the report noted.
How did U.S.-born truckers react to seeing the report? "After the original release of the truck driving brief, I got some phone calls from truckers who wanted to talk about what was really going on,” Lowry explained. “Some of them were very keyed into workers' rights issues going on in the trucking industry right now where there's an interplay between large corporate trucking companies and the drivers themselves trying to manage the exploitation of low-wage workers."
Several truck drivers Fleet Owner spoke with are concerned that immigrant drivers lower wages for all drivers.
"It's not an uncommon argument for people to make that increasing the size of the workforce drops the wages on the entire workforce," Lowry pointed out. "And I think that it is a difficult argument to contextualize on a larger scale. Even though you may see an initial trend of lower wages for immigrant workers, I don't think that that means that the immigrants are causing the wages to be lower."
He added: "What I can tell you is that there is a demand for new truckers. Now, whether the demand is created by a lack of wages or the demand is created by a lack of interest in the industry, I don't know. I know for a fact that if they would increase wages, they would have higher demand.”
The fundamental fact is when immigrants come into a country they are probably working at the lowest wages, Lowry noted, and that tends to happen across all industries. But as they grow in the field, they tend to bolster it, he stressed.
“If the new immigrant workers are incorporated into the collaborative bargaining groups, then there's a huge power in the communities of immigrants in addition to existing drivers to leverage bargaining power for increased wages or better work conditions," Lowry emphasized.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

City admits mistake in trying to fix previous error on red light tickets
Article thanks to David Kidwell and Links provided:
Jan, 2017  In its effort to clean up a mistake it made on 1.9 million red light and speed-camera tickets, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has erred again.
In a mass mailing last week to recipients of those tickets, City Hall offered a second chance to appeal the violations. The effort was intended to fend off a class-action lawsuit alleging the city failed to give ticket holders adequate time or notice the first time around.
One problem: The city's ticket website is not allowing many ticket holders to view the violation video or photographic evidence used to issue the fines in the first place.
One attorney said many of his clients who got letters from the city are getting error messages when they go to view their violations, some more than 6 years old.
"It's alarming to me that they would do something like this," said Kimberly Slider, 46, of Sauk Village, who received notices on five red light camera tickets she received in 2010 and 2011. "Of the five, I could only see two of the videos.
"They are just up to the same old money-grabbing tactics," said Slider, an attorney in the consumer fraud division of the Illinois attorney general's office. "I know these tactics when I see them."
Emanuel's Transportation Department spokesman, Michael Claffey, said Friday that "as soon as the city was alerted to this problem, we immediately contacted our vendors for the automated enforcement programs, and they are adding additional resources to get every violation uploaded as soon as possible."
Claffey said the process may take several days, and that to ensure everyone has ample time to contest their violations, the city is extending the deadline for filing the new appeals by two weeks to Feb. 19.
The city offered no explanation for the glitch, but Claffey said some of the data from older tickets — from 2010 and 2011 — still has yet to be uploaded into the system. He also suggested high traffic on the website might be to blame.
"We are updating our website this evening to alert people to the issue and the extension to contest violations," he said.
Claffey also cautioned people to make sure they are checking the correct database on the city's website. Red light camera tickets and speed camera tickets have to be looked up separately, and an error message will appear if the citation number is plugged into the wrong database.
Asked what the city is going to do for those who have already discarded their notices because of the frustration at being unable to see the violation video, Claffey said, "All we can do is apologize."
Claffey added that violation videos can be viewed by entering a vehicle owner and vehicle tag number.
The mass mailing to nearly 1.2 million recipients of 1.9 million tickets offers a second chance to appeal red light camera violations issued between May 23, 2010, and May 14, 2015, or speed camera tickets since May 2012, which is when that program began.
The appeals offer by the city follows a ruling last year by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy denying the city's motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit alleging the city violated due process by failing to mail out second notices and wait the full 25 days required by law to assess late fees.
Chicago attorney Jacie Zolna, who filed the suit, has called the Emanuel administration's effort to force people to relitigate the city's illegal behavior a sham. On Friday, he scoffed at the idea the city would allow his clients to appeal violations when they cannot see the evidence used to fine them.
"I think they've got another problem here," he said. "It appears to me they have a difficult time doing anything right."
The notice instructs ticket holders to visit the city's website at, but after plugging in the citation and license plate numbers to view the video, many see only the error message "invalid citation/pin number combination."
Zolna said no photos or video were available on 18 of 37 cases of which his office is aware, including two violations sent to him personally. The dates on tickets where no video is available range from 2009 all the way through 2015, Zolna said.
Of six notices for rehearing sent to the Chicago Tribune for violations on company cars, the video evidence was unavailable on only one, a red light camera ticket from 2010.
Zolna's suit was among half a dozen lawsuits that followed a Tribune investigation of corruption and mismanagement within the city's $600 million red light program. The series exposed a $2 million City Hall bribery scheme that brought the traffic cameras to Chicago as well as tens of thousands of tickets that were issued to drivers unfairly.
The investigation found malfunctioning cameras, inconsistent enforcement and millions of dollars in tickets issued purposely by City Hall even after transportation officials knew that yellow light times were dropping below the federal minimum guidelines.
Throughout the scandal, the Emanuel administration has been reluctant to issue refunds, in some cases forcing drivers to file paperwork and apply for a rehearing process some critics have called onerous.
Former City Hall operative John Bills was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to steer tens of millions of dollars in red light camera contracts to an Arizona company, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. The former CEO of the company was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison.
According to testimony at his federal trial, Bills took a cash bribe of up to $2,000 for each of the 384 red light cameras that were installed while he oversaw the program. The Tribune found that up to 40 percent of those cameras made intersections more dangerous by increasing injuries from rear-end crashes by 22 percent.
One of the suits that stemmed from the scandal was filed by the Emanuel administration itself, seeking more than $350 million in damages from Redflex.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Trucker and a Father: How to Make it Work
Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands. Links provided:

It can be hard on trucker dads when providing for a family requires being away from that family.
On Father’s Day, June 18, many trucker dads will be on the road and not at home to receive cards and gifts. It’s a fact of life for OTR truckers, but the absences still hurt.
“It’s very hard being a dad on the road,” said Ryan Sexton, a member of the RoadPro Pro Driver Council. It can mean missing big events, like birthdays, as well as little ones, like dance competitions and games of catch.   
Of course, it’s easier now than ever for truckers to stay in touch, thanks to digital technology and social media. Long gone are the days of waiting in line for pay phones at a truck stop. Cell phones mean family is never more than a text or call away and Skype allows dads and children to talk face-to-face even if the family is in Dallas and dad is in Duluth. Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms let absent dads keep up on what the family is doing.
“I use pretty much all forms of social media as well as many, many phone calls,” said RoadPro Pro Driver Council member Thomas Miller. “There is, of course, Facebook, calls, text, but I particularly enjoy Snapchat with my 15-year-old daughter, and FaceTime with my grandson. My wife and I generally stick with calls and text.”     
Tom Kyrk, a member of the RoadPro Pro Driver Council, said habit is key for younger children: “Try and create a routine where you talk on a regular basis or schedule. If kids are young, maybe read or tell them a story near bedtime or something that happened out on the road they will find interesting.
“My biggest advice is to never make a promise such as I will be home Wednesday,” Kyrk said. “In this industry, a lot can happen to keep you from fulfilling that promise. I have found it’s much better to say I will do my best or that is the plan. This way you don’t come across as a liar if you cannot make it due to unplanned events, like an accident or weather.”   
Jon Osburn was in the military before he became an OTR driver so his children (now grown) were used to him being away much of the time. Osburn, who drives the “Spirit of the American Trucker” semi for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said he took his children on the road with him when they were younger to spend time with them and to show them what it means to be a driver.
He also made it a point to be home for his children’s big events, such as prom – even if it meant parking his rig and flying home and back in 24 hours. Based in Idaho, he also organized family outings when he was home, such as river rafting and snowmobiling.
He added that he was also careful not to disrupt his wife’s routine and rules when he was home: “I’m not going to tell her how to raise her kids. If I disagreed with something, we’d talk about it.”      
No matter how much trucker fathers do to stay connected and active in their children’s lives, some feel guilty about not spending more time with their kids. One OTR truck-driving father who asked to remain anonymous once told a social worker that he felt like a failure because he wasn’t always able to be there for his child.

“I was told words I’ve never forgotten,” the driver said. “There is more to being a dad or father than just being at home. You have the responsibility to earn and support your family. You are in a vital occupation. As a result, you may not be home much, but you’re always willing to spend time with him on the phone and time with him when you are home. You are working hard and showing him the importance of working and not living off the government. To me, you’re the epitome of what a father is -- a person who will make the hard sacrifices to put the needs of his family first.”
Four Ways to be a Better Father
The National Center for Fathering is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of fathering and to making sure every child has a father or father figure in his or her life. It offers a four-point program truckers can use to be better dads: ICAN. Here’s how it breaks down:
I is for Involvement – Stay connected while on the road through phone calls, texts, FaceTime, Skype, social media or whatever works, said group spokesman Steve Wilson. Can’t attend a recital? Watch a live stream of it. When truckers are at home, they should spend dedicated time with their kids.
C is for Consistency – Establish a pattern for staying in touch. A good-morning text and a nightly Skype call lets the child know the absent father is thinking of them and cares for them. “Kids might not express that, but they crave that kind of consistency,” Wilson said.
A is for Awareness – Many fathers are more aware of what’s happening in Washington or with their favorite teams than what’s going on in their children’s lives. Fathers should know the names of the children’s teachers and best friends, their likes and dislikes, Wilson said.
N is for Nurturing – Truckers should tell their children they love them, Wilson said. Truckers might think their children know they’re doing a tough job out of love, but it never hurts to tell them. “They need to have that affirmation,” Wilson said.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Four Generations of Fathers and Sons Drive Pennsylvania Trucking Company

Photo Credit: Art Gentile/The Intelligencer
There are no statistics to bear this out, but anyone who knows trucking knows it to be true: there is a strong father-son connection to trucking. Trucker dads have trucker sons (and daughters). And those trucker children sometimes go on to have their own next generation of truckers.   
Google “and sons trucking” and the results go on for pages: Jernigan & Sons, Cotterman & Sons, Flores & Sons, the ampersand a small mark signifying something big, the joining of two generations, sometimes more.
It’s not surprising, really. All small boys, at some point, want to be like their fathers. And when that father has a job driving an enormous truck, one with a loud horn to blow and a seat from which a boy can look down on roofs of cars other people are unfortunate enough to drive, the attraction can be irresistible.
But this type of succession is not a simple matter of handing over the keys. Trucking is hard. Businesses fail or get bought out; a son might decide he’d rather sit behind a desk than a wheel. Each generational succession is the result of hard work, desire and circumstances.   
In honor of Father’s Day, RoadPro Family of Brands is featuring one such company, one that’s been led for 85 years by successive generations of fathers and sons.   
* * * * * * * *
R.W. Smith Trucking Co. in Danboro, Pa., doesn’t use an ampersand in its name or on its trucks, but if it did, it would need three. Four generations of Smiths have worked in the trucking business.  
It started in 1932 when Max Smith began hauling coal from the Pennsylvania mines to homes in Doylestown. His son, Richard W. Smith Sr., joined him as soon as he was old enough to reach the pedals. His trucking career was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, but when he got out, he started his own company, hauling coal, cinder, sand and gravel.     
His son, Richard Jr. began driving at age 16, the third generation of Smiths behind the wheel.
“He did give me a choice. He said you don’t have to do this,” Richard Jr. said of his father. But there really was no other option.
“I always wanted to do it,” said Richard Jr., 56. “I always helped him with the trucks. We had a good relationship. It was only natural that everything fell into place.”   
Richard Sr. had a stroke in 2004, but recovered and kept driving. He finally retired in 2015 at age 82.
“He was always a very hard worker. He liked to drive and he really liked trucking,” his son said. “He didn’t have any hobbies so he stuck with it as long as he could.”
Richard Sr.’s retirement was the end of a period when three generations of Smiths drove together. Richard Jr.’s two sons, Robbie, 29, and Kevin, 27, got behind the wheel as soon as they could earn their licenses.
Just as his father did for him, Richard Jr. gave his boys the option of doing something else.
“It was never a question what I was going to do,” said Kevin. “My entire childhood was all about trucks.  My brother and I knew we were never going to do anything else.”
As trucking firms go, R.W. Smith is small – eight trucks operating mostly within a 100-mile radius of Danboro. Richard Jr.’s mother, Marlene; sister, Jolene; and wife, Kim, run the front office. They have five other employees, most of whom have been with them a long time. Richard Sr. and Richard Jr. live in houses on either side of the trucking garage. Robbie and Kevin live just a few minutes away.
Not long ago, Richard Jr. saw a local business, a construction firm, end because the founder’s son had no interest in running it. The son sold off the equipment and the company went out of existence. It wasn’t Richard Jr.’s business and not his decision to make, but it made him sad, nonetheless. And happy that it won’t happen to the company started by his grandfather.
“It eases my mind knowing that if something were to happen to me, my boys would keep it going. We’d be in good hands,” he said.

Kevin agreed: “Once my dad doesn’t want to do it anymore, my brother and I will be able to carry on.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Truck Driver Caught With Nearly Half Ton Of Drugs

Story thanks to Sarah Pridgeon and Links provided:

Man Caught With Nearly Half Ton Of Drugs

6/8/2017  A Florida man faces multiple felony charges for allegedly attempting to smuggle almost 800 pounds of marijuana and marijuana-related products through Crook County. Michael Liegakos was arrested in late May on a tip from Montana DEA.
Wyoming Highway Patrol was contacted on May 28 by a DEA Special Agent from Billings, Montana, with information on a vehicle that was possibly involved in smuggling narcotics.
The agent shared that one of his informants had overheard a conversation in a bar in Butte. A truck driver was allegedly bragging to a waitress about hauling shipping containers from Washington and making up to $14,000 per round trip.
The driver allegedly bragged that there were no shipping papers with the load. He was described as a 60-year-old while male with gray beard and cowboy hat.
On May 29, Highway Patrol received an update from the DEA confirming the driver was heading for Long Island, New York. A trooper headed for Hwy 212 in case the truck took that route, which would allow Liegakos to bypass all ports of entry in Wyoming.
Just before 4 p.m., the trooper saw a black tractor pulling a flatbed with two blue shipping containers. He caught up to the suspect near milepost 16 and observed multiple lane use violations.
When the trooper activated his lights to initiate a traffic stop, the truck allegedly failed to yield, overtaking a semi truck instead. The suspect eventually noticed the trooper’s vehicle and pulled over to the shoulder of the roadway, where the trooper made contact with the operator and allegedly smelled a “thick, strong odor” of alcohol on his breath.
The driver informed the trooper that he did not have shipping papers for the load as the company did not give him any. He allegedly stated that he was hauling used car parts to New York from Oregon and that he makes the trip twice a month, being paid $24,000 in total for doing so.
The trooper calculated that this totals 12,000 miles each month, equating to $2 per mile.
“The average breakeven price to operate a truck is $0.36 per mile, which includes paying a driver,” he says in his report.
“$1 per mile is considered excellent pay for a load. $2 per mile is a nearly unheard of price in the trucking industry.”
Field sobriety tests and a breath sample indicated that Liegakos was double the legal blood alcohol limit for driving a vehicle and four times the legal limit for a commercial vehicle. He was placed under arrest.
The trooper ran his K-9 around the suspect vehicle. The dog allegedly appeared to detect the odor of a controlled substance near the rear of one of the shipping containers and down the entire driver side.
“It was obvious to me as her handler that she was alerting to an odor of a controlled substance,” says the trooper in his report.
As the trooper contacted his lieutenant to advise him of the situation, he saw that Liegakos was hanging out of the window of the caged area of his patrol car. The suspect was apparently in distress.
The trooper let Liegakos out of the cage and removed the handcuffs. “Liegakos was lying on the ground writhing in pain and clutching his chest, moaning that he was having a heart attack,” says the trooper’s report.
The trooper requested an ambulance, loaded the suspect into the cage and transported him eastbound to meet the ambulance. He then followed the vehicle as it was towed to the WYDOT shop in Sundance and executed a search warrant for the shipping containers.
After a cutting torch had been used to remove the padlock, the trooper noted an “overwhelming odor of marijuana and dryer sheet”. Eight large, steel tool boxes were lined up inside, each secured with padlocks that also had to be pried and broken open.
“All eight boxes contained marijuana in plant form or marijuana products ranging from THC infused liquid, THC infused edibles, THC infused vapor cartridges for vapor pens and butane hash oil,” says the trooper in his report.
In total, 372 pounds of plant material, 254 pounds of vapor pen cartridges, 141.5 pounds of edibles and 18.7 pounds of THC-infused liquid was seized. Liegakos was also found to have multiple prior lifetime convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Liegakos has been charged with two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and one felony count of possession with intent to deliver, all carrying maximum penalties of five years’ incarceration, a $10,000 fine or both. He has also been charged with one misdemeanor count of driving while under the influence, second offense.