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Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Distracted Driving Report

Story thanks to Link provided below:

Getting away from hand-held cell phone use doesn't solve problems with distracted driving.

A new distracted driving report confirms what truckers know intuitively and expands upon what other studies say: Hands-free communications technology is just as distracting as hands-on.
The study was released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. It’s based on lots of surveys and included drivers wearing geeky headgear with electrodes measuring brain activity.
When compared with other diversions inside the car, “interacting with the speech-to-text system was the most cognitively distracting,” the report said. “This clearly suggests that the adoption of voice-based systems in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.”
Hardly what the public thinks. Seven out of 10 people believe using hands-free devices is “somewhat” or “much” safer than using handheld devices while driving, says another study the foundation has been citing in conjunction with this topic.
The stakes are big. More than 3,000 people are killed, and almost a half-million injured, in accidents due to driver distraction. Many of those cases are related to a cell phone. As the foundation notes, these numbers could be underestimated, since it’s often difficult to document distraction factors after a wreck.
Now back to “cognitively distracting.” Use of communications technology often produces what the study calls “inattention blindness.” This means your eyes get it, but your brain doesn’t. The braking or swerving to avoid a wreck comes too late, if at all. A voice-based system can free your hands, but they remain on cruise control.
Driver attitudes toward talking or texting on a cell phone fall into the “do as I say, not as I do” category, based on surveys the AAA Foundation cites. Not surprisingly, these same hypocrites are also fond of other risky behavior, such as speeding and aggressive lane-changing.
A commenter on the Washington Post site notes that penalties for drunken driving are getting more severe (I’d say not enough, given the thousands of deaths and irresponsible behavior), but distracted driving penalties are treated as wrist-slappers. Another person offered an explanation: It’s the drunks who are perceived as the bad guys, the other guys. The cell phone addicts are the good guys, us.
Given such faulty reasoning and sloppy emotionalism that fuel certain safety initiatives, that’s not likely to change any time soon. Instead, we’ll continue to see countless dollars and man-hours poured into CSA minutia that have nothing to do with driver behavior, even though the 600 or so annual truck-related fatalities amount to only one-fifth of the fatalities linked to distracted driving.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Drive the Detroit DT12 Automated Manual 12 Speed Transmission - Road Test
Two more gears, "Mexican Overdrive", and a totally different experience!

Several months ago, I drove a tractor equipped with an automatic transmission for the first time in my life. See the following link to that post: I Drive the Smart Shift Automatic Transmission

I was not at all happy with it, especially driving it on slippery, snow covered roads.

A few weeks ago one of our drivers picked up a new test tractor in Denver for our location to try out. He brought it back to Salt Lake City and we have been running it in our fleet. The tractor is a Freightliner Cascadia conventional sleeper with a 13 liter Cummings and the new Detroit DT12 Automated transmission in it. "The Detroit DT12 is a 12-speed non-synchronized manual transmission with pneumatic X-Y shift and clutch actuators." We were to test it pulling Rocky Mountain doubles but before that ever happened, the powers that be found out that the tractor is not warranted to pull over 90,000 lbs gross combination vehicle weight. Add to that, the 13 liter engines have 300 to 400 lbs less torque than our current 15 liters. That immediately made the tractor impractical for us as we pull a lot of combination trailer sets in the Rocky Mountain region with gross combination weights of up to 128,000 lbs!
Detroit DT12
We still have the tractor for now and I had the chance to drive it from Salt Lake to Richfield, Utah a few days ago on a round trip of about 300 miles. I pulled a single 48 foot trailer and was grossing about 75,000 lbs to Richfield and came back empty.

It had a paddle shift on the right side of the steering wheel that was somewhat similar to the Smart Shift. One switch to choose neutral, drive or reverse and another to choose automatic or manual. For a manual downshift, you push the lever towards the dashboard away from you and for up-shifts pull the paddle towards you. One difference is that the Jake brake is also controlled by the paddle. Having the paddle in the raised position towards the top of the steering wheel has the Jake off and pushing the paddle sequentially towards the floor gives you three choices of Jake brake retarding (all the way down is full on).
Smart Shift Automated

The Bobtail  After pre-tripping the tractor at the shop I had to bobtail it a couple of miles to pick up the loaded trailer. I decided to just put it in drive and see what would happen. Exiting the driveway I was surprised at how smoothly the transmission up-shifted. Compared to the Smart Shift, it was a very big difference. The Smart Shift was much more of a sudden, unpredictable and rough shift, and when I drove it on snow, the wheels would constantly break traction (even while trying hard to stay light on the throttle) while bob-tailing with the rough shifts.

Another big difference with the DT12 was that it would skip shifts if not needed to pull a load. The Smart Shift, on automatic, would always start in second gear and shift through every gear all the way to 10th, no matter what. Bob-tailing was ridiculous with the constant slack and surge from running through every gear! The DT12 would actually start out in 4th gear bob-tailing and skip to 6th on the next shift, I don't know how it could figure I didn't have a trailer!

The Load  After hooking my loaded trailer, I took off out of the yard a few blocks before coming onto the freeway entrance going south. Under load and level terrain, the tractor would start in second gear (same as I would if doing it myself) and up-shift through every gear if you kept your foot hard on the throttle. If you had some momentum and backed off the throttle some, it would sense that it could skip a gear and do it. The only bad side was that it seemed a bit sluggish and slow shifting, but the shifts were predictable and I could feel when the they were coming, unlike the Smart Shift!

The Hills  There is supposed to be a performance automatic mode option available but the transmission I had did not have it. While pulling a load with the cruise control set, no matter what the grade of a hill you are approaching, the tranny will not downshift until it lugs down to about 1100 RPM. With the smaller 13 liter engine and a big hill coming up, I found that an earlier downshift at about 1300 or 1400 RPM provided much better performance. The only way to get that earlier downshift would be to floor the accelerator with my foot (or have it in manual mode). If you didn't want to lose your momentum, you had to constantly monitor upcoming grades and take action with your foot.

The "Mexican Overdrive"  One interesting feature of this transmission is "eCoast".  With the cruise control set, it disengages the transmission (shifting it to neutral)  from the drive-train while the truck is coasting, allowing the engine to idle at 600 RPM and reducing mechanical drag. This is something that I was taught never to do as a driver with a manual transmission, as the truck could easily get away from you on a downgrade, consequently not being able to get it back in gear as you start overheating the brakes. If the truck is coasting below 4 MPH over your cruise control set speed, the eCoast will engage. If your speed increases too much, it will disengage, downshift and apply the Jake as needed. Behold the wonders of technology!

The Empty  After swapping trailers in Richfield, I returned to Salt Lake with an empty. With the light trailer, the tranny would often skip a couple gears if it didn't need them. The shifts were surprisingly smooth and I could feel when they were coming. When decelerating from highway speed, the transmission will downshift using the Jake brake if you have it on.  The DT12 will skip-shift more often than not, even when decelerating, which really smoothed things out. As Jim Park remarked in his test, "I found it useful to shut off the engine brake below fifth gear, because it got a little "torque-y" in the cab at low speed".

The Verdict  I was impressed with DT12. I could get used to driving with this transmission, but if it was up to me, I would still go with a manual 10 or 13 speed. Being more of an "old school" driver, I prefer the satisfaction of using my skills to shift smoothly and work my truck efficiently. Seems to me that a good old mechanical tranny and clutch would be a lot cheaper, more reliable and subject to fewer breakdowns and problems. Although, unlike the Smart Shift, which was a near constant irritation to drive, I could live with the DT12. I averaged 8.5 MPG on my round trip (only loaded one way) which was very good mileage. I am sure the MPG was a result of the smaller engine and not only the transmission. This particular engine-tranny combo will not work for us but it would seem to be a good choice for fleets that drive out east.

Link to my related post:
I Drive the Smart Shift Automatic Automated Transmission


Friday, June 28, 2013

Eliminating Water Tanker Rollovers is Goal of NTTC/DOT Video


Free video for downloading.

On November 11, 2012, Firefighter Mark Haudenschild II, 26, was killed when the water tanker he was driving overturned while he was responding to a brush fire near Fort Wayne, Ind. He left a wife and two young children. He was a volunteer with the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department serving his community.
Over the past several years, too many firefighters have been killed or injured in water tanker/tender rollovers while responding to emergencies. National Tank Truck Carriers has produced a new version of the Cargo Tank Rollover Prevention Video it developed with the U.S. Department of Transportation to help educate water tanker drivers on the special characteristics of tank truck vehicles and the actions they can take to avoid rollovers.
“While this DVD was originally developed for commercial tank truck drivers, the principles of tank truck vehicle dynamics, road challenges, and safe driving practices it presents are equally applicable to water tankers used in emergency response,” said Jim Shaeffer, president of McKenzie Tank Lines, Tallahassee Fla., and chairman of National Tank Truck Carriers, Inc. 
Fire Department water tanker rollovers are not a new phenomenon. The Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report onFirefighter Deaths from Tanker Truck Rollovers in 2001. That report said there had been 62 deaths from water tanker rollovers from 1977-1999. The report did not include the injuries. The ability to track media and other reports on such crashes today shows that they continue to be a real issue of concern. Firefighters continue to be killed and injured in these usually preventable crashes.
The original 20-minute video was produced by the U.S. DOT with input from National Tank Truck Carriers in 2010 following increased industry and government concerns about the number of tank truck rollovers. It focuses on: Tank truck vehicle design; cargo/load factors; highway factors; and driver factors. 
The video features real tank truck drivers who share their experiences, different types of tank truck equipment and detailed graphics, and various highway challenges. The video has been translated into French, Spanish and Japanese. 
The video was based in part on information developed in 2007 in a detailed cargo tank rollover report prepared for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by Battelle. Among information in that report was that over 75%t of rollovers are caused by a driver’s action or inaction, the majority of rollovers are single vehicle crashes that occur on straight dry roadways (not exit ramps as is often thought,) and that about one-quarter of tanker rollovers involve straight trucks where the tank sits on the truck body. 
The DVD is free for downloading at
A free copy of the DVD can be obtained for review and reproduction by contacting NTTC at 703-838-1960, by email to, or by mail to NTTC, 950 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington VA 22203. None of this material is copyright protected.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Truckers face big labor shortage
Trucking companies have a shortage of about 30,000 workers currently, and new federal rules that reduce driving hours could create a need for an additional 100,000 drivers.

New rules, set to go into effect July 1, will mean truckers cannot drive more than 70 hours in 7 days. Truckers had been allowed to drive 82 hours under the former rules.
Trucking companies hired about 40,000 workers over the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the largest companies are still recruiting aggressively.
Werner Enterprise (WERN)offers a $5,000 sign-on bonus for some jobs, and Swift Transportation(SWFT) is trying to lure military veterans by offering them free tuition for its driving school.
Roz Wilson, a senior analyst with the Delcan Corporation, estimates trucking companies have a shortage of about 30,000 workers. Reducing hours could create a need for an additional 100,000 drivers.
Turnover for long-haul truckers is dramatic, averaging about 98% in 2012. Some are opting for higher paying jobs in construction and the shale oil industry, while others are retiring, Wilson said. Companies simply can't hire enough new workers fast enough to make up for the exodus, she said.
But safety advocates argue it's not the restrictions, but poor working conditions, that are the reasons for the labor shortage.
"Drivers are over-worked, underpaid and have high health and safety risks," said John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition. "With so many people unemployed, you have to ask yourself, why can't they hire and retain people?"
The Truck Safety Coalition wants drivers to be restricted from driving more than 10 hours in any given day, whereas the new rule allows for up to 11 hours a day, as long as the total doesn't exceed 70 hours in a week. The group also advocates for drivers to be paid by the hour, instead of by the mile, or per delivery.
Median pay for a tractor-trailer truck driver is about $38,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Obviously, we want truck drivers to be safer and get compensated in a better way, and I think it would be good for everyone," Lannen said.
Crashes related to large trucks have been declining since the 1970s. About 3,800 people were killed and 88,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2011, according to Department of Transportation figures.
Still, neither the industry nor safety advocates are pleased with the new rules.
The Truck Safety Coalition thinks the new rules aren't strict enough, whereas industry group the Truckload Carriers Association says the regulations will be a blow to their business. Both sides have even filed lawsuits in an appeals court in Washington DC, aimed at altering the new regulation.
"It's safe to say, nobody's really happy with the rules," said David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association. "We're still hoping for the courts to rule against the government." To top of page

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Alligator attacks fleeing suspect Bryan Zuniga
Story thanks to Andre Senior of News 10, Tampa Bay. Link provided below:

Pinellas Park, Florida - "Taking a bite out of crime" lives up to its meaning after a Pinellas Park man comes face-to-face with an alligator.

It started as 20-year-old Brian Zuniga was being pulled over by a Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy just before 3 a.m. Thursday for failing to maintain his lane.

"I left to go to work early this morning and I saw a bunch of deputy cars down on one of the cul-de-sacs," said resident Darren Davis.

At some point during the traffic stop, the 20-year-old jumped out of the car he was driving through the passenger side, and bolted.

The deputy lost him when he slipped under a fence near a lake on Westchester Blvd. and 71st St. N.- where Zuniga would soon learn the hard way that it's infested with alligators.

See Also: Man attacked by gator while fleeing speaks to 10 News

Authorities caught up Zuniga a few hours later... at the hospital, where he was being treated for multiple puncture wounds to his face, arm and armpit. Zuniga told deputies a gator attacked him near a water treatment plant in unincorporated St. Petersburg.

Zuniga was later released from the hospital and taken to the Pinellas County Jail without further incident.

Among the charges Zuniga is facing, fleeing and eluding a police officer, driving with a suspended or revoked license and resisting an officer without violence.

No word on what became of the alligator.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Schneider National Increases Tanker Driver Pay
Thanks to Link provided:
Schneider National Inc. announced it is raising company driver pay rates in its tanker division. The pay increase is effective June 16, 2013, and most new drivers will earn an additional $0.02 to $0.03 per mile.
In addition, for a limited time, Schneider is offering a $7,500 sign-on/on-boarding bonus to experienced drivers and driving school graduates joining the tanker division. The bonus is being offered to quickly add drivers for growing, existing accounts and new business in the chemical industry.
Schneider National Bulk Carriers, the company’s tanker division, will add 100 drivers by July 1 to meet customer demand.
Drivers and trucking school graduates can take advantage of regional or over-the-road (solo or team) opportunities in many areas of the U.S. If drivers do not have tanker experience, Schneider will provide the specific training to ensure the smooth, safe transition to pulling tankers. A complete benefits package and paid orientation are also provided, along with predictable work schedules and home time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

EEOC sues Illinois trucking firm for religious discrimination
Article thanks to  | Fleet Link provided:
Star Transport, Inc., a trucking company based in Morton, IL, was charged withviolating federal law by failing to accommodate two employees because of their religion, Islam, and discharging them, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed on May 29.
The lawsuit alleged that Star Transport refused to provide two employees with an accommodation of their religious beliefs when it terminated their employment because they refused to deliver alcohol.
“Our investigation revealed that Star could have readily avoided assigning these employees to alcohol delivery without any undue hardship, but chose to force the issue despite the employees’ Islamic religion,” according to EEOC District Director John P. Rowe, who supervised administrative investigation prior to filing the lawsuit.
The EEOC charges that failure to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees, when this can be done without undue hardship, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
The EEOC filed suit in the District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its statutory conciliation process.  The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the fired truck drivers and an order barring future discrimination and other relief.
“Everyone has a right to observe his or her religious beliefs, and employers don’t get to pick and choose which religions and which religious practices they will accommodate,” John Hendrickson, the EEOC Regional Attorney for the Chicago District Office said. “If an employer can reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practice without an undue hardship, then it must do so. That is a principle which has been memorialized in federal employment law for almost 50 years, and it is why EEOC is in this case.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website

Sunday, June 23, 2013

5 Ways to Succeed or Fail as an Owner-Operator

Story thanks to Jim Park at Link provided:

Your relationship with the carrier or customer is an important factor in determining your ultimate success or failure, but your part in succeeding can't be understated.

Take off the rose-colored glasses. Life as an owner-operator is an uphill climb with plenty of curves to keep you on your toes.

Sometimes owner-operators are their own worst enemy. They too often do things to undermine their business – like budgeting based on the best of times, not year-long averages.
Or they switch carriers to one promising more home time, for example, without checking everything, only to discover they can't make payment with the truck parked in the driveway every night.
A small fleet owner in Eden, Minn., who has had experience with owner-ops who don't look at the big picture, offers these Top 5 ways to sabotage your future:
  1. Assume that the warranty on a new truck will result in near zero maintenance costs.
  2. Assume that a big horsepower engine hauling light weights will actually get better mileage than the smaller engines, and assume the truck will deliver the fuel economy numbers the sales rep promised, all year round under any load.
  3. When starting a new job, and having checked out trip sheets and income statements for existing drivers, assume your work ethic is at least as good as theirs, and that you'll be happy doing the work required to produce the big income.
  4. Believe whatever a recruiter tells you is involved in the job, and assume that it can all be changed in a heartbeat at your request.     
  5. Assume the work will always be there, and live (and budget) as if you costs and revenue will never change.
That may sound cynical, but his observations are accurate – at least some of the time in almost all cases. It's human nature to be optimistic, but as a business operator, only you can make the right decision. Whether it's running a single-truck operation or a large fleet, you have to do what's best for the business. Good decision-making comes from being informed and knowledgeable.
That's why one of the biggest and most common mistakes both new and seasoned owner-operators make is not asking enough questions. That one's followed closely by looking at the world through rose colored glasses.
Here's my Top 5 list of things you must do to prosper as an owner-operator:
  1. Understand and accept that people will pay you only for the work you do. If you're willing to do more work and take on more responsibility, you'll earn more. Nobody makes $2.50 a mile in a hook-and-drop operation.
  2. Build long-term relationships. Jumping from carrier to carrier only costs money, and the reason you have to jump is probably because you didn't do enough research up front. Rates, costs, customers, safety records, internal relationships all affect your operation. Know what you getting into before you sign on so you won't have to quit and start all over again in three months.
  3. Understand the economy and sector of the business you're getting into. Avoid sectors in a downturn. Search out carriers that serve growth industries, have long-term relationships with good customers and their own drivers. High-turnover carriers aren't the place to build long-term relationships.
  4. Keep your revenue and income expectations realistic, and budget for the slow times. Know your costs, and live within your means. This applies especially when choosing your truck – spec to squeeze every penny of profit out of the thing, and drive it like your life depends on it.
  5. Never lose sight of the fact that trucking is a business and a truck is just a tool. It's easy to be in love with the open road and a big shiny truck. Many successful owner-ops have achieved all of that and more, but it takes years of hard, smart work to get there.
Success in business is not a right. It's a reward for a well-executed business plan.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ask a cop: Are security systems worth the money?
Thanks to Officer Anonymous and of Salt Lake City. Link provided below:
SALT LAKE CITY — People ask me all the time if getting a security system or surveillance system is worth the money. I ask them a few questions to see what they want to get out of having a system.
First and foremost, I tell them that most police departments don't respond to “burglar alarms,” especially in the Salt Lake Valley. They usually look at me curiously and I tell them that the vast majority of alarms are false and tie up the majority of patrol officers' time.
I then ask them what their goal is with the alarm. Do they want to prevent the burglars from getting in and stealing anything, or do they want to try to catch the burglars after the fact — or both? There are fairly cheap and reliable audible burglar alarms that go off as soon as an intruder opens a door or window. Unfortunately, if the burglars know you aren't home, or they're brave, they can disable them quickly and continue to steal everything you own.
You can go with a surveillance system and have cameras positioned to catch the criminals in the act so you can review the recordings later and provide them to police. The problem with these is that they are defeated by a $1 ski mask. The installer can also put them in terrible places where even if they don't have a ski mask on you still can't get a decent picture of their face. This tends to be a common problem with store surveillance. The cameras are terribly positioned and all we get are blurry photos of the suspect or the back of their head. Even if we do get a picture of the suspect, it usually doesn't come with a name unless someone knows them.
On the other hand, some of the home security systems out there are actually getting really good. They feature a combination of audible alarms, intrusion sensors and surveillance systems. They are also combined with a mobile app that sends you an alert and live video of what's happening at your house. I think a system like that is the the best option right now. Unfortunately, those systems are expensive. I plan on getting one when my kids turn into teenagers.
After hearing the options, people start asking questions like, 'Can I put some sort of spring-loaded trap on the front doorstep and catapult criminals across the block?' 'Would flame throwers throw off my paint scheme?' 'Do gun ports have curb appeal?' I explain to them that no matter how funny it would be to open up a trap door so a burglar falls into a vat of piranhas, the civil liability is too great. They're not things I could condone.
I instead mention simple things you can do to get potential burglars to move on to the next house. Dogs are a great deterrent and sometimes just a dog warning sign or a doghouse suffice. I've had an empty doghouse in my backyard for years and never had a problem. I especially like the non barking at night and the lack of dog poop in my yard.
You can plant prickly bushes under your ground level and ground accessible windows. Make it difficult to verify whether you are home or not. A lot of criminals like to knock on the front door, supposedly selling something, and then when there is no answer start looking into windows and enter one of them or kick in the back door. You may also want to think about replacing that back door that has a glass window. The easier burglars can get into a house, the better for them.
Don't let newspapers stack up in your driveway. For the younger people, newspapers are a form of media that are printed on paper for a hands-on reading experience. They used to have professional writers who had to be accurate in their reporting. Not like these Internet “reporters” writing opinion articles for entertainment purposes with no experience ... wait ... never mind.
There are other things that you can do to increase your chances of being burglarized: backing up your car in your driveway for a vacation; posting on Facebook how you just got a big-screen TV or are going to Disneyland for a week; leaving your garage open at night or expensive bikes and lawn-care equipment on your front lawn. Some people think it's a good idea to advertise that they have guns in the residence, but be careful. That just seems like advertising that there are guns to steal in the house.
Now that the weather is warm and more people are out at night, it's a good idea to evaluate your residence and see what you can do to tighten it up. Whether it's landscaping, habits or an alarm system, no one likes to be the victim of a burglary. Make sure you document the serial numbers of your items that are harder to replace. Get to know your neighbors because they are the ones calling the police on someone suspicious on your property or in your house.
A favor to ask:
If you know of a police officer who did a great job or a police department that deserves recognition, I would like to hear about it. We get more than our fair share of bad publicity, but I would like to recognize those individuals or deeds that may otherwise go unnoticed. Send me an email at with the circumstances and names and I will add them to my article that runs every other Monday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Collecting DNA prior to a conviction? Troubling!

On The Front Lines

Gutting the Fourth Amendment’s Presumption of Innocence, U.S. Supreme Court Allows Warrantless Collection of DNA by Police in 5-4 Ruling

June 03, 2013  WASHINGTON, DC —In a devastating ruling handed down in Maryland v. King, a divided U.S. Supreme Court has approved the practice by police of forcefully obtaining DNA samples from individuals arrested for serious crimes, even though they are presumed innocent, without first obtaining a search warrant. As Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissent, points out, the Court’s ruling succeeds only in burdening “the sole group for whom the Fourth Amendment’s protections ought to be most jealously guarded: people who are innocent of the State’s accusations.” Moreover, if such a dubious practice were to prevail simply for the sake of “solving more crimes,” as Scalia suggests, it would not take much to justify the “taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school.” The Supreme Court’s ruling in Maryland v. King is available at
“Any American who thinks they’re safe from the threat of DNA sampling, blood draws, and roadside strip and/or rectal or vaginal searches simply because they’ve ‘done nothing wrong,’ needs to wake up to the new reality in which we’re now living,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, whose timely new book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State paints a chilling portrait of a nation in the final stages of transformation into a police state, complete with surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing dogs, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, blood draws at DUI checkpoints, mosquito drones, tasers, privatized prisons, GPS tracking devices, zero tolerance policies, overcriminalization, and free speech zones. “As the Supreme Court’s ruling in Maryland v. King shows, the mindset of those in the highest seats of power—serving on the courts, in the White House, in Congress—is a utilitarian one that has little regard for the Constitution, let alone the Fourth Amendment. Like Justice Scalia, all I can hope is that ‘today’s incursion upon the Fourth Amendment’ will someday be repudiated.”
In 2009, Maryland police arrested Alonzo Jay King Jr. on charges of assault. Relying on a state law which authorizes DNA collection from people arrested but not yet convicted of a crime, police carried out a cheek swab on King to obtain his DNA profile without first procuring a warrant. The DNA sample was then matched up against a database which identified him as having allegedly been involved in a 2003 rape. King was then convicted of the 2003 crime. On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in April 2012 that the state law violated the Fourth Amendment. In an unusual move, in July 2012, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued a stay of the lower court’s ruling, prior to the Court’s even agreeing to hear the case, using the rationale that collecting DNA from people accused of serious crimes is “an important feature of day-to-day law enforcement practice in approximately half the states and the federal government.” In agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Fourth Amendment allowed law enforcement officials to collect DNA from people who have merely been arrested and so are presumed innocent. Yet as constitutional attorney John Whitehead warns, the Court’s subsequent 5-4 ruling which equates forcefully obtaining a DNA sample to “fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” further guts an already severely disemboweled Fourth Amendment. Justices Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito affirmed the practice of warrantless DNA grabs by the police. Issuing a strongly worded dissent were Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Nisha Whitehead
(434) 978-3888 ext. 604
(434) 466-6168 (cell)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Infamous “Trucker Spy” Guilty of Attempted Murder
Story thanks to, link provided below:
6/7/13  Even if you’ve never heard of Joseph Volpe, you've probably heard of people like him. Volpe was known as the “Trucker Spy” and would drive around the nation’s highways with video cameras hoping to find truck drivers with unsafe driving habits. His “company,” Third Eye Highway Safety, would then send a copy of the video to the driver’s trucking company who would pay him for exclusive rights to keep the video from being released to the public. Essentially, it amounts to good old fashioned blackmail. Living in a legal gray area for years, he took his unsavory activities quite a bit further, jumping all the way to attempted murder.
A court has found Volpe guilty of second-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. The incident occurred when, as usual, Volpe was driving on the highway looking for an easy mark. What he found instead was the truck of Bruce Johnston, a veteran owner operator.
Johnston had been forced from the middle lane of a three-lane interstate into the restricted left lane in order to avoid causing an accident. This placed him directly behind Volpe who began brake-checking, bringing his speed all the way down to 30 miles per hour. Volpe was becoming angrier and angrier until Johnston was able to get out of the left lane and back up to normal speeds. At this point, Volpe claimed that Johnston tried to run him off the road, but there is no evidence of anything like that happening.
What did happen is that Volpe pulled his car up to Johnston’s rig and fired a single round from his 9mm at Johnston through the back of the sleeper cab. The bullet passed through Johnston’s seat, missing his head by mere inches, and lodged in the driver’s side door.
Johnston was uninjured in the incident.
Three guilty verdicts were handed down to Volpe late in May and sentencing is scheduled for later this month.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Road Test - Dodge Dart will save you a speeding ticket
Story thanks to Brian Champagne and in Salt Lake City. Link provided below:

SALT LAKE CITY — Dodge loaned us a Dart Limited for a week of testing. It had an impressive list of options for a car of its size and price, but it lacked one big one feature.
As equipped, the tester retails for $25,190. That’s the higher-end of the price category, but consider:
It has a power seat for the driver, and shotgun gets ratcheting height adjustment. If you've ever used it (it's popular on Volkswagens), you know how good it is at getting the seat in a position you actually want. The seat bottom flips up to give a small storage area. The seats are both quite comfortable and supportive.
The cruise control downshifts. This can prevent you from speeding when you come to downhills, and avoid getting a speeding ticket in a place like Mantua, which comes at the bottom of a long decline.
The automatic high /low beam works pretty good. Yes, Cadillac had this feature in the 1950s, but you don’t see it often today, and especially not on economy cars.
Blind-spot detectors are on many higher-end cars these days, and the Dart had it. A small triangle lights up in the corner of the side mirrors when a vehicle enters your blind spot.
The biggest like is the tech, and how you interact with it. The heated seats, steering wheel, climate, and radio work with the knobs or touch screen.
You can rewind songs on satellite radio (why not local broadcast bands?), get gas prices in the area, and get movie listings. Other vehicles provide these higher-end features, but the Dart interaction is one of the easiest to navigate.
The gas gauge and RPM needles are real; the rest of the instrument panel is virtual and configurable. Best of all, it’s all very easy to use; there are no joysticks or mice.
The Dart name is being put on an Italian-designed, adapted platform shared with Fiat. Those older than 40 will remember the value name from the 60s and 70s. the original Dart moved from a mid-line to an economy name along its lifespan, with a few sporty and muscle-car variants along the way.
The modern Dart has a proper e-brake so you can drive rally-style. To many, having a brake you can yank with your right hand is no big deal, but it’s becoming an endangered feature.
Matthew Huff agreed to help test-drive the Dart. He says he loves long road trips in the car, alone, or more likely nowadays, with family. His current car is a 2007 Lexus IS250 with all-wheel drive. He says “It corners really well, but you can never really get off the line quick enough to get a buzz.”
Huff says the Dart is faster than his Lexus, but “The problem is I’m not very impressed with the getup and go of my Lexus, and I’m not very pleased with the get up and go of this Dart.”
Our loaner had a good looking, two-liter Tiger Shark engine. The plastic cover doubles as the air intake. Dodge claims 160 horsepower going through a six-speed automatic. There’s a smaller turbo claiming the same power, and a 2.4 boasting 184 horsepower. But 160 horsepower just didn’t feel that quick off the line, maybe because it only makes 147 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage is 25 city, 36 highway, 29 combined.
As for the handling, tested in Logan canyon, Huff says “My Lexus handles a little better. It digs into the corners, grabs the road a little better.”
The Dart has 10 airbags and lots of handling and aerodynamics technology. Base models start at $16,000. A Mopar Dart is scheduled to come out this summer, with the 1.4-liter turbo with few enhancements to enhance power.
The Dart, at least with the automatic transmission, cannot get you a ticket for coming away from a green light too fast. It did, however, just get an honor from Road and Travel magazine for being earth-friendly with its fuel economy.
If speed is not at the top of your shopping list, the Dart will impress with its command of technology, and the ease of using it.
Brian Champagne has reported on cars for more than nine years. He holds a Masters Degree in Communications from the University of the Pacific, and teaches at Utah State University.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Should you buy a $25 computer?
Story thanks to Kim Komando at Link provided below:

The hottest computer on the market isn't a $1,000+ decked-out gaming machine. It's actually a bare bones circuit board the size of a credit card. And it costs just $25!
Meet the Raspberry Pi. What's it good for?
For starters, you hook the Pi to an HDTV or digital monitor using HDMI. It can display high-definition videos, browse the Internet, play games or work on spreadsheets.
Sound great! Is it for you, though? Well, it depends.
First, let's look at a bit of history.
The low-cost Raspberry Pi is the brainchild of Eben Upton. In 2006, he was teaching computer science at the University of Cambridge. He found that computers were too expensive and too hard for ordinary users to program.
So, he set out to make a low-cost programming computer. His charitable foundation is working to get Raspberry Pis to kids all over the world. He hopes this will create a new generation of programmers.
Watch what a middle school girls engineering class in Charlotte, NC, does with the Pi. One student programmed a Pi to control brake and turn-indicator lights on her rolling backpack!
Upton expected to sell 10,000 units, tops. So far, it has sold more than a million units and counting. It isn't just schools who want it. Computer programmers and hobbyists around the world are going crazy for it.
So, how can it improve your life?
At a basic level, you can use a Raspberry Pi as a media computer. It's also a capable second PC or a computer for kids. It runs the Linux operating system, which is free and very secure.
There are two models. The Model A ($25) has 256MB of RAM and one USB port. Model B ($35) has 512MB of RAM and adds a second USB connection and an Ethernet port.
Both flavors have an HDMI connection, an audio jack and an RCA video jack. You can add a USB hub to connect a keyboard, mouse and USB Wi-Fi.
The Pi is powered by a 32-bit 700 MHz ARM processor that's roughly equivalent to the performance of a Pentium 2 chip. Upton says the multimedia performance is between a Playstation 2 and Playstation 3. That's enough for most basic computer uses.
To make the Pi operational, you need to supply a 5 volt micro USB power supply. An Android smartphone charger should do the trick. Just be sure to read the label. It needs to provide 700mA or better at 5V. Otherwise the Pi will behave erratically (or won't work at all).
The Pi has no internal storage; it boots from a standard SD card. You can buy a card pre-loaded with a compatible operating system. Or make one yourself by downloading a drive image from the Raspberry Pi website. Of course, you can also hook up an external hard drive.
You should buy a case for the computer. It could get fried if it comes in contact with liquids or conductive metals. Or you can make your own, if you're so inclined. Some people have used LEGO!
Cases, power supplies and other accessories are available from a variety of third-party vendors. The two official U.S. Raspberry Pi sellers - Allied Electronics and Newark - also sell accessories and bundles.
You can use the Raspberry Pi for basic computer functions. Or you can take it to the next level with your own programs.
Python is the programming language of the Raspberry Pi. It's easy to learn but very powerful. Click here to find out where you can take free self-guided Python lessons online. You'll be coding in no time!
If you're considering buying, definitely check out the Raspberry Pi website for more information. Read through the instructions and see if it's something you can handle. Be sure to check out the forums for great ideas on ways that you can use it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beige Book relays concerns over HOS rules

JUNE 5, 2013

The Federal Reserve’s latest commentary on current economic conditions throughout its 12 districts — popularly known as the Beige Book — noted concerns over the availability of truck drivers, especially in light of the upcoming changes to the hours-of-service regulations. Unless blocked by a federal appeals court by then, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on July 1 will implement new rules that will restrict use of the 34-hour restart of drivers’ cumulative duty-time and require drivers to take a break during their driving time.
According to the Fed’s Fourth District in Cleveland, freight executives in the region were optimistic about growth prospects for the rest of the year but were worried about the potential impact on operations of the HOS changes. Another concern noted in the Fourth District was a shortage of skilled mechanics.
The Fifth District in Richmond also reported that a national trucking firm executive indicated that implementation of new federal restrictions on driver hours of service will exacerbate the shortage of drivers for long-haul trucking. The driver shortage wasn’t just a concern for trucking companies themselves, the district said. It noted that despite the prospects of higher port traffic due to the soon-to-be-completed expansion of the Panama Canal, one port operator in the region is concerned that the truck driver shortage could slow container shipping.
A shortage of truck drivers was also reported in the Kansas City and Dallas Fed districts. Two other Fed districts — Atlanta and Chicago — reported higher demand for heavy-duty trucks.
For a copy of the entire Beige Book report, click here.