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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Not at fault in trucking accident? CSA says it doesn't matter!
Article thanks to Kevin Jones and Links provided:
Trucking industry calls for fairness, clarity where trucks not at fault
Jan, 2015  Even though 9 in 10 police accident reports (PARs) contain the type of information needed to determine fault in truck crashes, a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has concluded that incorporating such determinations would be time-consuming and expensive, and would not improve the agency’s ability to identify those carriers most at risk of future accidents.
The report, made public Wednesday, comes in response to trucking industry criticism that the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system for evaluating carrier safety does not distinguish between accidents in which the truck or truck driver is to blame and accidents in which the truck clearly was not at fault. Accidents figure into CSA’s Crash Indicator BASIC, a calculation which ranks carriers based on their propensity for accidents.
FMCSA currently considers all recordable crashes involving a commercial vehicle occurring in the preceding 24 months. Independent research has demonstrated that a motor carrier’s involvement in a crash, regardless of their role in the crash, is a strong indicator of their future crash risk, the agency contends. 
And while incorporating fault determination could improve future crash prediction by as much as 5% for carriers involved in fatal accidents, such accidents represented only 3% of all crashes in the agency’s database.
“Analysis using all crashes shows that incorporating crash weighting determinations does not consistently improve the Crash Indicator when the various weighting approaches are applied,” the study concludes.
Additionally, the timeframe for the entire process—including the submission of the PAR by law enforcement, its receipt by FMCSA, analysis to make a crash weighting determination, possible appeal of the analysis results, and final disposition of the appeal—could exceed the 2-year analysis period used by the SMS.
The study also estimates that the annual costs for operating a system to process PARs would be between $3.9 million and $11.2 million. 

Trucking reacts

Trucking interests expressed “disappointment” in the study’s conclusions and in the agency’s reluctance to correct a process considered to be unfair.
“It is not lost on the trucking industry that the word ‘Accountability’ is in the title of CSA, yet FMCSA continues to ignore crash accountability,” said American Trucking Assns. Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki.
ATA has called for improvements to CSA, particularly where, in the association’s view, the agency contends that just being involved in a crash is an indicator a carrier may not be safe.
“Numerous times over the past five years, ATA has respectfully requested FMCSA to screen out crashes from CSA where it is plainly evident the professional truck driver and motor carrier were not at fault,” said Osiecki. “Instances where a truck is rear ended by a drunk driver, or hit head on by a motorist traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate, or as happened just Monday when a truck was struck by a collapsing bridge are clearly not the fault of the professional driver and certainly should not be used to target his or her carrier for potentially intrusive government oversight.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. called on FMCSA to thoroughly apply the data available to it.
“If the agency is providing information to the public that is to be used to make safety decisions or conclusions, that information should be relevant, accurate and as complete as humanly possible,” said OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor.
Now that the study of crash accountability is complete, FMCSA will invite public comment on the report along with a request for feedback on what steps the agency should take regarding the weighting of crash data in the agency’s systems based on the carrier’s role in a crash. 
That notice will be published in the Federal Register on Friday.
ATA Chairman Duane Long is holding out for a reasonable resolution of the issue.
“We want to be fairly judged and not be penalized by crashes our professional drivers could not reasonably avoid,” said Long, chairman of Longistics, Raleigh, N.C.  “It’s not only a fairness issue; it’s a good government oversight approach.  We continue to trust FMCSA might eventually arrive at this conclusion.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Safer Way to Clear Snow and Ice From Van Trailers

The plow-like scraper removes snow as the trailer moves under
the device. A rubber tip on the steel blade protects the roof.
Pyle has 15 installed at its terminals in the Northeast,
 with two more scheduled.
Article thanks to Tom Berg and Links provided:

Jan, 2015  Blocks of snow and ice blowing off the roofs of trailers while they’re moving down the highway are common sights in winter, irking motorists and sometimes causing damage and accidents. Although laws in several states require owners to clean off the roofs before the vehicles head for the road, that’s easier decreed than done.
However, A. Duie Pyle, the old-line freight carrier operating in the Northeast, has found the answer in the “snow scraper” from Scraper Systems. The fleet has installed the equipment at 15 of its 17 terminals, and the other two should have them soon, says Randy Swart, the chief operating officer based at the company’s headquarters in West Chester, Pa., outside of Philadelphia.
The devices are built not far west from there, in Lancaster, by Quintin Machinery. A video on the company’s website shows how the plow-like device works on high-roof trailers or truck bodies.
The video says a driver can operate the scraper alone, but Swart says rigs can be cleaned off much faster, one after another, if the drivers just drive and a second man operates the blade. If a lot of snow has fallen, a third person might have to use a plow or wheel loader to keep the lot near the scraper clear.
“Prior to purchasing these scrapers, we ‘de-snowed’ the roofs by hand,” Swart says. “Employees would climb up a ladder onto the trailer roof and shovel the snow off. This posed a very real safety risk for our employees working 13 feet off the ground in slippery conditions.”
Plus, newer, lighter-weight trailers with fewer ribs and translucent roofs are susceptible to damage when walked on.
Pyle bought the first scraper in 2004, well before the laws were passed requiring snow removal, because “it was the right thing to do,” Swart explains. “It is dangerous to all motorists who share the road to have snow blowing off the roof of a trailer, creating a mini blizzard and minimizing visibility of what lays ahead of them.”
Light, fluffy snow is bad enough, but ice, formed when snow melts and refreezes, is more dangerous. It sometimes comes off in large sheets and can damage cars and injure motorists, and other drivers have to dodge pieces left on the pavement. The scrapers can remove much of the ice, as well. This also minimizes the company’s legal liability.
The installed cost is around $15,000 each, and there is minimal maintenance, other than lubricating moving parts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The road to the self-driving truck
The potential benefits are huge, and much of the technology is ready, but significant challenges remain

Article thanks to Jim Mele at Links provided:

Jan. 8, 2015  Is the self-driving truck this century’s flying car, or is it a true technological breakthrough that will transform the lives of drivers and the operations of fleets that employ them?
Tough question, and the answer depends on who you ask.  Lawyers and legislators will certainly have a say in the future of self-driving trucks and other vehicles on our roadways.  And some thorny issues around drivers themselves will also need to be addressed if we’re ever going to realize the promise.  But when it comes to the technology, we pretty much have the answer already.
Before we get to that answer, though, we need some definition. As with most complex new technologies, there’s confusion over what’s actually meant by a self-driving truck, or what is more correctly called an autonomous truck by the engineering community.
What we’re really talking about is a group of technologies that can be combined in a variety of ways to create levels of automation that relieve a driver of different responsibilities under a wide range of circumstances. 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) formally divides vehicle automation into five levels.  NHTSA’s Level 0 is no automation at all, with the auto or truck driver in complete and sole control of the vehicle at all times.  Level 1 adds automation for specific control functions, with technologies such as electronic stability control or ABS. Level 2 extends that by combining two or more of those systems to take over control from the driver in specific situations.  NHTSA’s example of a Level 2 vehicle is one where adaptive cruise control is combined with a lane sensing system to keep it centered in its lane and traveling at the same speed as the vehicle in front of it.
The next level
What most of us would think of as a self-driving truck is classified as Level 3 by NHTSA, or what it calls “limited self-driving automation.”  At Level 3 a driver could turn over full control of the vehicle under the right conditions for long periods of time.  The vehicle monitors conditions around it and when necessary turns control back to the driver, who is always available to take control.  Trucks that could drive themselves on highways either alone or in a platoon would be considered Level 3 vehicles.
A fully autonomous or Level 4 vehicle would be able to initiate and complete an entire trip without any driver input beyond entering navigation waypoints or a destination.  Once directed to a destination, the Level 4 truck could even operate without anyone aboard.
From this perspective, the self-driving truck isn’t that always-in-the-future flying car, at least not at Level 3. In fact, most of the foundation technologies are already available in production trucks, or will be within the year.  And the final pieces needed to create the Level 3 autonomous truck are already well along in the development stage. 
“What I see is evolution, not revolution,” says Alan Korn, director of advanced brake system integration for Meritor Wabco. Early stages in that evolution could be considered the introduction of active safety systems like stability control and ABS, technologies that make control decisions solely on vehicle conditions. The first truly “big stepping stone” in the evolution of a self-driving truck was the introduction of heavy-truck collision mitigation systems like Meritor Wabco’s OnGuard and Bendix’s Wingman “because they make control decisions based on both the vehicle and the environment,” says Korn. “Taking control [of the truck] based on what’s outside the truck was, for me, a very large step technology-wise.”
Working together
The next steps in Korn’s evolutionary vision involve integration. First, in the very near future, discrete technologies like lane departure warning, smart cruise control and blind-spot detection will be integrated to give the driver 360 deg. vision of the entire tractor and trailer. That will help the driver reduce accidents but still leave them in full control of the vehicle.  Fusing all that data with powerful processors and software would then allow automation of common control decisions, taking yet another major step toward the Level 3 self-driving truck, he believes.
With such data fusion in place, technology can begin to develop trucks that can drive themselves for periods of time. According to Korn, the key is that such technology would have to outperform a human driver in terms of safety.  Truck fatality numbers have dropped to below 1.5 for every million miles traveled, he points out. “Subtract the numbers that were not the truck driver’s fault, which would be the majority, and the technology would have to better that number before we could move to autonomous,” he says. “That’s quite a challenge.”
Fusion of vision technologies is also seen by T.J. Thomas as the next key step in development of the self-driving truck. Thomas, director of marketing and customer solutions for the Control Group at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, explains that the radar used in smart cruise control and blind-spot warning systems identifies the speed and distance of moving objects well, while the cameras used for lane detection can identify the things they see but aren’t ideal for judging relative speed.  Using processors to fuse those two data streams is critical to making the reliable control decisions needed for even limited autonomous operation.
Add in high-speed information from other vehicles on the road and perhaps the road infrastructure itself, and you face “what is probably the biggest challenge in terms of decision making for an autonomous vehicle—being able to gather and meld all that data,” says Jim Szudy, engineering manager for vehicle systems at Bendix.  Since trucks carry systems from a variety of suppliers, there need to be standards and protocols for coordinating that information. 
“Making a left turn is easy, but what if there’s an emergency vehicle coming down the road, and the truck needs to make a decision?” Szudy says. “Some way to process all that data and use it to make the right decisions all the time is one of the biggest things still to be developed.”
Ready and waiting
While development work on information processing is still in the early stages, the systems needed to actually control a truck’s movements without driver input are already largely in production or will be within the next year or so.
Roughly 75% of the technology needed to produce a Level 3 self-driving truck “is already in place,” according to Dennis Mooney, group vice president of global product development at Navistar. Like others involved in autonomous truck projects, he identifies the fusion of camera and radar information as the next step.
“We’re already seeing it on some luxury cars,” Mooney says. “It lets us recognize objects that we couldn’t in the past, things like road signs and both moving and stationary objects.  That keeps the vehicle from reacting to things it shouldn’t react to.”
Another technology already working its way into production trucks is predictive abilities for control systems, according to Mooney.  The latest automated mechanical transmissions not only keep the truck in the right gear, but by using 3D maps and other advanced location information can predict the shifts required for maximum fuel economy based on the terrain ahead. 
Autonomous systems that can anticipate road and traffic conditions would not only improve safety, but also make it possible to platoon trucks for better fuel economy, allowing a lead driver to perform steering, braking and other functions for trucks operating autonomously behind.
“With lane detection warning already available, we’re now working on actively steering the truck,” says Bill Kahn, principal engineer and manager of advanced concepts atPeterbilt Trucks.  “Some luxury automobiles already have that capability, and it’s just a few years out for trucks.  Highway travel sets up well for lane keeping technology, so with active steering you could probably accomplish 80% autonomous miles for an on-highway truck.”
The accuracy of GPS and other location information is one issue still to be addressed, as is handling weather variables, Kahn explains, who prefers to classify such an active steering system as “autonomous assist.”  In his view, “keeping the driver invested in driving the truck is important. They have the ability to monitor all the variables presented by the surroundings and varying truck specs.”
And while current collision mitigation systems can detect and identify moving objects, the fusion of camera and radar systems will probably bring the ability to do the same for stationary ones within the next year, according to Kahn.
In slower speed operations within well-defined areas, true autonomous truck operation is also within reach, Kahn says.  At the recent Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s 2014 World Congress,  Peterbilt demonstrated just such a concept truck that could be programmed to park itself at a terminal or dock. “Farmers already have autonomous equipment in their fields,” Kahn says.
orking with key suppliers Bendix and Meritor Wabco on vehicle-based automation systems, Kenworth Trucks is also exploring the feasibility of platooning as one practical route to self-driving trucks, says Kevin Baney, chief engineer.  The Menlo Park, CA-based technology company Peloton is currently demonstrating its platooning system with Kenworth tractors paired using a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, radar-based active braking and new vehicle control algorithms.
“Commercial vehicles already have a lot of processing capability with 20 to 30 controllers on them,” Baney says. “But add terrain mapping and so on, and the controllers have to be even more powerful to make arbitration-type decisions about things like speed and energy management.  Having the computer capacity to do that is important, and that’s what we’re evaluating right now.”
Overall, though, Baney is optimistic that higher levels of automation are on the way. “It feels like the technology at the truck level is beginning to take care of itself,” he says.  “The cameras and radar, sensor technology, and the ability to process information that allows [the systems] to adapt to surroundings have matured in the automotive side and are now migrating to trucking.”
Heavy trucks in Europe have for some time used electronic braking systems (EBS) that rely on wires and electronic controls rather than the fully pneumatic systems required by U.S. law. EBS and its controllers represent a smaller leap to autonomous systems than our air-based ones, so it’s not surprising that European truck makers are further along in at least demonstrating self-driving truck technology.
Volvo Trucks, for example, has taken the lead truck role in SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), a joint European platooning project begun in 2012, and is also working on its own autonomous truck components. 
“I believe platooning is something we could see before the truly autonomous truck,” says Carl-Johan Almqvist, traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks.  “You still have a human being up front, but with special training and the support of all the safety systems available.  The only thing we don’t have yet is the short-range communications to control all the brakes on all the vehicles at the same time. We can’t rely on radar to keep the same distance between trucks on braking.”
As for the independent self-driving truck, “so many of the systems are already in place,” Almqvist says.  The next step is steering control, which he believes can be achieved with Volvo’s current electronically assisted steering system.  “We already let that system take over [limited] steering in high crosswinds.”
One more formidable challenge is the handoff of control from the autonomous systems back to the driver. “How do you figure out that the driver has taken over control again? How does the system detect that the driver is there and conscious?”  Almqvist says. 
Despite all the technological progress, Almqvist isn’t convinced that the autonomous truck is about to take itself down the road anytime soon. “I guess I’m too much of a technician,” he says. “Things do happen quickly, but we’re talking about big objects moving around out there.  On restricted highways, maybe, but mix in other traffic and drivers and you have much more complexity to take into account.”
A decade away
One OEM with a more aggressive view on the arrival of the self-driving truck is Daimler Trucks.  With great fanfare earlier this year, it unveiled a concept vehicle it calls Future Truck 2025 by having the tractor-trailer combination drive itself into a hangar filled with media as Daimler Trucks head Wolfgang Bernhard sat in the driver seat reading a newspaper.  Three months earlier, the company had autonomously run the first version of its Future Truck at speeds up to 80 km/hr. with simulated traffic on a German motorway.
The prototype is built on a current Mercedes-Benz Actros chassis fitted with both current production advanced systems and others still in the development stage.  A radically new cab and interior was also crafted to up the “wow” factor at truck shows and other events.
The project truck carries the third generation of Daimler’s active brake assist with full braking functions, as well as its current lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, attention assist, and predictive powertrain control. All of those systems but the blind spot assist are already in production, and the blind spot assist will be brought to market soon, according to Martin Zeilinger, head of advanced engineering for Daimler Trucks.
Autonomous steering, which is not in production, was achieved by replacing the standard ZF hydraulic steering gear with an “electronically supported” one from ZF, “then we developed a new architecture to merge those systems and added a high-capacity computer to get everything done in the appropriate way,” he says.
In its current state, the Future Truck 2025 can operate on a highway in “a highly automated mode,” though changing lanes or getting on and off the highway are still done under the driver’s control, Zeilinger says.
Yes and no
Delivering a fully self-driving truck to the marketplace in 10 years, or even 20, probably isn’t realistic, especially when you take into account legislative and infrastructure hurdles still to be addressed, says Zeilinger. “But the reality is we have a lot of the technology behind us. Twenty years ago, the driver was responsible for everything—fuel economy, appropriate shifting, safety, hours on duty. Now we have technically appropriate solutions to help the driver with those things, and soon we’ll be adding automated braking.  It makes things easier for the driver.
“A good truck driver sees, hears and relies on their experience and then decides what to do, but they can also have a weak second,” Zeilinger says. “Even full electronics can’t have enough inputs to equal that driver’s experience, but it’s also really reliable and doesn’t have that weak second.  The best thing for safety and economical operation is a combination of the two.”
So, the answer to our original question is both yes and no. We’re on a steady technology course that sooner rather than later will bring us a self-driving truck. But the true sweet spot for truck fleets may be stopping short of NHTSA’s Level 4 full autonomy and instead give us trucks with self-driving attributes that complement rather than replace drivers. 
Driving a self-driving car
A car is certainly not a truck, but as a number of engineers involved in developing autonomous truck technology have pointed out, cars—at least high-end ones—are leading the way to the self-driving vehicle. While the most advanced autonomous systems under discussion for heavy-duty trucks are only just beginning to show up in prototypes and engineering test vehicles, a few production cars are already carrying some of those systems, usually as options in an automaker’s top-of-the-line model. To get some first-hand experience with piloting such a state-of-the-art production vehicle, I recently borrowed a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 spec’d with all of the company’s latest autonomous driving technology.
First, let’s put aside any misconceptions. This car does not drive itself. Instead, it has limited, though impressive, automation that under certain circumstances improves safety by taking control of acceleration, braking and—this is the big leap—steering.
MB lumps all of this electronic wizardry under the term “Intelligent Drive,” which combines adaptive cruise control, lane departure detection, and blind spot alert with active steering and braking. As mentioned by the truck engineers in the main story, the core enabling technology is a “fusion” of data from multiple radar sensors and stereoscopic cameras that allows the car’s processors to identify objects and situations that activate autonomous control of the car.
What exactly can Intelligent Drive do, and what does it feel like to be in the driver’s seat when it does do what it does?
Today, adaptive cruise control is no longer a novelty; in fact, it’s becoming something of an expected feature on heavy trucks.  But the first few times you pull up on that car slowing to a stop in front of you, it takes strong willpower not to stomp on the brake.  For all the MB’s advanced electronics, it can’t “see” the light turning red up ahead, or the car with its turn light blinking. Still, this is a sophisticated adaptive cruise that can smoothly brake to a complete stop and then accelerate smoothly as the car in front moves off.  And over miles and miles of fast two-lane country road, it maintained a set following distance unobtrusively no matter what the speed of the car in front.
Similarly, lane departure and blind spot alerts—again fairly common these days on heavy trucks—did their jobs quietly and reliably with a combination of well-placed warning lights and not unpleasant audio signals.
Up to this point, the MB’s autonomous features are very much like those found on many new fleet trucks optioned with smart cruise and various types of blind spot and lane monitoring systems.
But then the active steering starts to show what it can do. According to the car’s manual, it monitors the lane markers on either side of the road and the lane position of the vehicle in front of it up to 37 mph.  Over that (and up to 125 mph!), it monitors the lane markings only.  If you have the smart cruise engaged and it detects you leaving the lane, electronics briefly take control of the steering and gently guide you back into the lane.  If you want to scare the passengers, you can even take your hands off the wheel and the car will steer itself around a curve without losing any speed.  However, the car’s electronic brain frowns on that kind of behavior, and if you leave your hands off the wheel for more than 11 seconds, it lights up blinking red hands on the display. Continue past 16 seconds, and it shuts off the steering assist, warning you verbally first, of course.
Although I didn’t get a chance to try it, apparently the car can also manipulate steering and brakes to parallel park itself.  Not an unwelcome feature for a 17-ft.-long car this expensive.
Beyond the gee-whiz factor of self-steering, the really impressive thing about the S550 is just how well it integrates all of these functions.  Intelligent Drive may be a collection of electronic systems, but for the driver it functions as a seamless assist in a variety of situations where that’s welcomed, at least by me.   And the integration even extends to other systems that, while not strictly contributing to autonomous driving, touch on future capabilities. The car’s infrared night vision, for example, appears quite naturally at dusk in the center of the display and can identify and highlight both pedestrians and animals based on their shape.
While this car is considered to be on the leading edge of self-driving vehicles, in the final analysis most of its autonomous systems can also be found today on production trucks. And the one that isn’t—self-steering—will also soon be available in some commercial vehicles.  But the real revelation is just how well the engineers have managed to integrate all these systems into an environment that fosters driver confidence and comfort without needless complexity or distraction.  And that bodes well for the future of the self-driving truck.
See more at:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Truck Driver Health: Symptons of a Heart Attack
Story thanks to Links provided:

In the past week, there have been a handful of headlines about truck accidents as a result of a heart attack. Drivers, you need to be aware of the symptoms and the things you can do to head-off a heart attack and how to prevent one altogether. Also, learn how to distinguish between a possible heart attack and heartburn.

Men’s Symptoms of a Heart Attack:

All men should be familiar with these heart attack symptoms:
  • Chest pain or discomfort that can feel like uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest. It may last for more than a few minutes, or it can come and go.
  • Discomfort or pain in other areas, such as one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, or sweating
  • Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion
Chest pain is a classic male heart attack symptom, and men know it well. But they’re often clueless about other symptoms, experts say.

Women’s Symptoms of a Heart Attack:

These chest-related heart attack signs often appear in men, and many women get them, too:
  • Pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of the chest, which may spread to the neck, shoulder or jaw;
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath;
But many women don’t have chest pain.
In the Circulation study, common female heart attack symptoms include:
  • shortness of breath (57.9%)
  • weakness (54.8%)
  • unusual fatigue (42.9%)
Women also had these symptoms:
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that may feel like indigestion
  • Back pain

What to do if You Think You’re Having a Heart Attack:

Calling 911 is best, too, because emergency medical personnel can start treatment, such as oxygen, heart medications, and pain relievers, as soon as they arrive. They can also alert the hospital to begin preparations for tests and treatments.
While you’re waiting for an ambulance, here are other ways to help yourself or someone else having heart attack symptoms:
  • The patient should chew and swallow an aspirin, if there is one on hand.
  • Patient should stop all activity, lie still and try to remain calm.

Heartburn or Heart Attack?

Signs more typical of heartburn include:
  • A sharp, burning sensation just below the breastbone or ribs.
  • Pain generally does not radiate to the shoulders, neck, or arms, but it can.
  • Pain usually comes after meals, when lying on the back, when exercising or when experiencing anxiety.
  • Symptoms usually respond quickly to antacids.
  • Rarely accompanied by a cold sweat.
Signs more typical of angina (severe pain in chest area) or heart attack include:
  • A feeling of fullness, tightness, or dull pressure or pain generally in the center of the chest.
  • The feeling of a belt being tightened around your chest
  • Sudden chest pain or pressure that worsens
  • Dizziness
  • Pain may spread to the shoulders, neck, jaw or arms
  • Pain often responds quickly to nitroglycerin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Often accompanied by a cold sweat
  • Possible lightheadedness
If you have any pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or any warning signs of a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention. If there’s any confusion about whether your symptoms are heartburn or a heart attack, also seek immediate medical attention.
Many people have different acid reflux-related heartburn triggers, but most people have similar heartburn symptoms.
  • A burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours.
  • Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down, or eating.
  • Burning in the throat — or hot, sour, acidic or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Feeling of food “sticking” in the middle of the chest or throat.
  • Heartburn may cause chronic cough, sore throat, or chronic hoarseness.
*Information taken from WebMD.

How to Help Prevent a Heart Attack

1. Quitting smoking.
2. Eating healthy. Avoid fatty foods, excess salt, and red meats.
3. Controlling high blood pressure and diabetes.
4. Ensuring regular exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Walking is most beneficial.
5. Preventing obesity. Doing all you can to maintain weight.
6. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle.
7. Practicing meditation.
8. Doing regular relaxation and breathing exercises.
9. Undergoing periodic cardiac evaluations.
10. Including foods that are rich in anti-oxidants in your diet.
*Information taken from

Saturday, February 14, 2015

McCarthy and Rodgers - Creating the New Joe Cool

How Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have blended new-school tactics with Montana-era West Coast offense principles to bring the Packers to the brink

Very interesting piece thanks to Chris B. Brown and Linls provided:

Jan. 7, 2015
When Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy began his first NFL job in 1993, as a Kansas City Chiefs offensive assistant working with quarterbacks, he immediately inherited a rather tricky assignment: coaching Joe Montana.
McCarthy had gone to K.C. to work with his mentor Paul Hackett, the Chiefs’ new offensive coordinator and a former assistant for Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers. While working together at the University of Pittsburgh, Hackett and McCarthy had installed a version of Walsh’s legendary West Coast offense, which had powered four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s. McCarthy became enamored of the system during those years with the Panthers, immersing himself in the offense that was taking over football. By the time he went to the Chiefs, McCarthy felt he was ready for any challenge.
Well, almost any challenge: Prior to the 1993 season, the Chiefs traded for Montana, the veteran quarterback with extensive West Coast offense experience and four Super Bowl titles, and the man Jerry Rice referred to as “God.” McCarthy told Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel that the gravity of the assignment didn’t register until he excitedly let some of his close friends know that he’d be coaching Montana, and one responded by asking, “What in the [expletive] are you going to teach Joe Montana?” It was a good question, and it led McCarthy to become as much Montana’s student as his teacher, soaking in all the knowledge he could from the future Hall of Famer.
More than 20 years later, on the brink of a divisional-round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, McCarthy again finds himself in a teacher-student partnership with an elite pupil: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Though McCarthy is facing a similar challenge of figuring out how to help one of the game’s best quarterbacks get even better, his relationship with Rodgers is far more collaborative than his pairing with Montana ever was, allowing coach and quarterback to try to improve themselves, each other, and the very offense Walsh taught Montana so long ago.
At some point, the story of every great quarterback morphs from anecdote to myth, and Rodgers’s narrative fits the mold. Barely recruited out of high school, Rodgers wound up at Butte Community College, where Cal coach Jeff Tedford (while scouting a tight end) noticed a skinny QB running around making accurate throws, and offered him a spot with the Golden Bears.
Under Tedford’s tutelage, Rodgers vaulted from unknown passer to surefire first-rounder, wowing pro scouts by tying an NCAA record with 23 consecutive completions to start a game in a near road upset of top-ranked Southern Cal, a team loaded with future NFL stars (and coached by some guy named Pete Carroll). Rodgers looked like the potential first overall pick, but he fell to no. 24, where the Packers selected him as Brett Favre’s heir apparent. Favre, of course, was uninterested in mentoring his replacement, famously telling ESPN, “My contract doesn’t say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play … I’m not obligated one bit to help anyone.”
It was an inauspicious start for a young quarterback, but Rodgers credits his early years as being crucial to his development. Though the player Rodgers is today stems primarily from his talent and work ethic, being a successful NFL quarterback requires luck as well as skill, and being lucky usually means getting to work with the right people. When the Packers fired Mike Sherman and hired McCarthy as head coach after Rodgers’s first season, it altered the direction of both McCarthy’s and Rodgers’s careers.
McCarthy was hardly a slam dunk hire, having coached relatively pedestrian offenses in New Orleans from 2000 to 2004, and having spent the 2005 season as offensive coordinator for the 49ers, a 4-12 team that finished a woeful 30th in the league in scoring and 32nd in total yards. But Packers general manager Ted Thompson brought in McCarthy hoping the coach’s deep knowledge of the West Coast offense and renowned touch with quarterbacks would tame Favre after a 29-interception season, while also developing Favre’s anointed replacement. Though Favre bounced back under McCarthy, throwing for 4,155 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 15 interceptions in 2007 en route to the NFC title game, he began to threaten retirement, and by 2008 Thompson and the organization were ready to switch to Rodgers, convinced after witnessing his dramatic improvement that the QB had the makings of a future star.
Since his days as an assistant under Hackett at Pitt, McCarthy has run a “QB school” every offseason, where, away from the pressure of preparing for a weekly opponent, McCarthy can teach his quarterbacks the finer points of the position. In addition to extensive drill work, McCarthy often gives his quarterbacks lengthy written tests, once (according to the Sentinel) even asking his non-Montana quarterbacks in Kansas City to write an essay describing the Chiefs’ version of the West Coast offense “from a philosophical perspective.”
Rodgers has clearly benefited from McCarthy’s training. As good of a prospect as Rodgers was coming out of Cal, it’s striking how different he looks now: he’s more athletic, more natural, and has a stronger arm. While primary credit goes to the long hours Rodgers spends developing his craft on his own, McCarthy provided a structure for that process.
Specifically, when Rodgers arrived in the NFL, there was what McCarthy has labeled a “stiffness” to his game. Under McCarthy’s tutelage, that has since melted away to reveal the fluid, smooth quarterback we see today. Tedford, Rodgers’s college coach and a current CFL head man, is an excellent quarterback teacher, but his college passers tended to be a bit robotic: They all dropped back, held the ball, and released it the same way. That made sense for raw high school and junior college passers who had to quickly learn the fine points of quarterbacking in order to execute Tedford’s pro-style attack, but great NFL passers must make their fundamentals serve them, not the other way around.
The most obvious example of Rodgers making this shift is that he used to hold the ball up near his ear while in the pocket on the theory that it cut down on the time he had to bring the ball back before throwing it forward. Under McCarthy and Packers quarterback coach/offensive coordinator Tom Clements, however, Rodgers gradually began holding the ball between the middle of his chest and his throwing shoulder, a more natural spot that keeps his throwing motion compact while allowing him to rotate his body just enough to create extra velocity.
More subtly, Rodgers has improved his accuracy, which might sound crazy when discussing a guy who once completed 23 passes in a row in college. But in the NFL, accuracy must be an every-snap thing, particularly in the West Coast offense. Walsh used to jump all over Montana and Steve Young if they missed the precise spot he wanted on a given play — the upper right corner of a receiver’s jersey, a receiver’s left eye, etc. For Rodgers, the key to improved accuracy was perfecting his footwork. “Learning to time up my drop with each route has been a big thing with me,” Rodgers told ESPN The Magazinein 2011. That didn’t just mean opting for a three-step drop versus a five-step drop, but instead learning that while a hitch route might require a three-step drop with one big and two quick steps, a slant route might benefit from three big steps. Rodgers said that mastering those nuances for every conceivable route allows him “to throw the ball in rhythm and hit the same release point with every throw, meaning that no matter what else is happening, the ball comes out on a similar plane. That’s when accuracy comes.”
Indeed, Rodgers is the most visceral of today’s great quarterbacks, oscillating effortlessly between quick timing passes and lasers thrown while on the move after being flushed from the pocket. He often reminds me less of a traditional quarterback than of a great jump shooter in basketball who can hit a shot falling sideways and out of bounds because he always maintains perfect upper-body form. But the real fun comes from watching Rodgers operate the Packers’ modernized West Coast offense, a system perfectly tailored to his quick release and even quicker mind.
The offense Rodgers operates in Green Bay is based on the same ideas, concepts, and even specific plays that Hackett, McCarthy, and Montana used in Kansas City and that Montana and Hackett had run with the 49ers, all of which is rooted in Walsh’s West Coast offense. While most people think of short timing passes when they hear the term “West Coast offense,” Walsh’s coaching tree — and the coaching tree of his coaching tree — is so long because his insights extended beyond well-designed pass plays to encompass a uniquely thorough, detailed approach to game planning, analyzing defensive weaknesses, and teaching and developing players. Those precepts are Walsh’s true legacy, and they now fuel the Packers’ offensive success.
In McCarthy’s early years, he immersed himself in Walsh’s ideas and language — 22 Z-In, 2 Jet X-Sluggo Seam, and so on. But rather than adhering religiously to those lessons, McCarthy and Rodgers have crafted a version of Walsh’s offense that constantly evolves to keep pace with a changing game. Quoting former Chiefs assistant Jimmy Raye, McCarthy once told USA Today: “‘Football is a cycle. You’re going to see things in this league or out of this league and in college football.’ It’s very important to stay on the front side of that cycle.” The Packers’ offense may be rooted in the playbook McCarthy learned from Hackett 20-plus years ago, but it works because he and Rodgers have subtly blended in new-school tactics.
While the West Coast offense dominated the NFL in the 1990s and early 2000s, it has increasingly fallen out of favor because its emphasis on precision and preparation has too often translated into inflexibility and needless complexity. The traditional West Coast offense features a seemingly countless number of plays — former Packers coach Mike Holmgren once said his playbook contained at least 1,500 plays — because on each play each player had a specific job, such as running a post or a slant. As a result, the only way to take advantage of a shifting, evolving defense was to add yet another new play and hope to call it at the right time, in what amounted to an impossibly hard game of rock-paper-scissors.
That’s not a feasible approach against modern, malleable defenses, and with Rodgers under center, it’s also not necessary. For example, one of the Packers’ most productive pass plays is “three verticals,” in which Green Bay’s receivers have the option to change their routes based on the coverage, trusting Rodgers to see their adjustments in real time.
This idea of multiple concepts within each play flows through Green Bay’s offense. Under Favre and in Rodgers’s early seasons, this typically meant combining multiple pass concepts within the same play and letting the QB pick the side based on the defense. More recently, however, the Packers have made extensive use of “packaged plays,” which combine run blocking from the offensive line with screens or downfield passes by the receivers, while the QB has the option to hand off to a running back or throw downfield.
Under McCarthy, Green Bay was among the first NFL teams to begin using packaged plays, which first began bubbling up in college football roughly five years ago. (McCarthy has several friends coaching college on whom he leans for new ideas, including Kevin Sumlin, the forward-thinking coach at Texas A&M.) The above inside zone running play married to quick “pop” or seam routes by the slot receivers is straight from college football, and is a simple way to keep defenses honest if they try to crash down on Eddie Lacy and Green Bay’s increasingly productive run game. It’s also a way for the Packers to use Rodgers’s quick decision-making ability without putting him in harm’s way.
But the Packers’ success doesn’t stem solely from their ability to embrace the latest and greatest; while Green Bay excels at innovating, it’s also better than any other NFL team at executing many of the same plays Walsh used with Montana, most notably the slant pass. Hard as it is to believe, few NFL teams consistently throw the quick slant anymore, as most have replaced it with skinny posts or quick square-ins, or stopped bothering altogether. Put on a Packers game, though, and it can feel like watching old 49ers game film.
It’s not uncommon for Rodgers to complete five to 10 slant passes in a game — he likes them against soft coverage because they give him easy access, and he loves them against the blitz. When New England tried to bring pressure on Rodgers late in the half, he checked into a basic slant to Nelson and, 45 yards later, Green Bay had scored.
The most famous Joe Montana anecdote so perfectly meshes with his reputation as “Joe Cool” that it seems more written than real: Standing around during a TV timeout, with the ball on the 49ers’ own 8-yard line and his team down three points to the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, Montana saw that his teammates, including lineman Harris Barton, had tensed up. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something else. “There, in the stands,” he said to Barton. “Isn’t that John Candy?”  His teammates immediately relaxed, Montana marched them down the field for the game-winning touchdown, and his legend grew. Great quarterbacks come in different flavors, but the preternaturally relaxed field general is an archetype as old as football itself.
Rodgers is a few Super Bowls shy of earning direct comparisons to Montana, but — particularly compared to Peyton Manning’s manic nerdiness and Tom Brady’s newfound love of high fives, head butts, and F-bombs — he’s the closest thing we have to a modern-day Joe Cool: This season alone, Rodgerspointedly told Packers fans to R-E-L-A-X after a loss and, on one of the most remarkable plays I’ve ever seen, calmly threw a game-winning touchdown pass without even bothering to buckle his chin strap.
By all accounts, Rodgers has always been this way. At a coaching clinic in 2011, Tedford recalled that, before the aforementioned crucial game against USC, Rodgers “was just walking around in the locker room with a smile on his face and getting [his teammates] going, but also getting them relaxed. He was not going haywire and yelling and screaming. He had this confidence about himself, and his leadership ability was unbelievable.”
Of course, similarities in demeanor between Rodgers and Montana wouldn’t matter if the two weren’t also so similar on the field. “When I think about fundamental quarterback play, I think of Aaron and Joe Montana,” McCarthy told the Sentinel. “The productivity is obviously there, but just the way they play the position — their footwork, the balance, the athletic ability, the accuracy of the football, the vision.” I see it too. Montana’s gifts were his accuracy, his decision-making, and his feet, and Rodgers boasts those same attributes — plus a stronger arm.
Rodgers’s talent, drive, and approach to mastering the hardest position in sports have gotten him to this point, but so has his collaboration with McCarthy. Together, coach and QB are on the cusp of winning their second Super Bowl. They’ve already taken the Packers, the old West Coast offense, and the quarterback position into the modern age.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Former Ice Road Trucker Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping

Timothy Zickuhr. (Courtesy, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

Former reality TV star pleads guilty to kidnapping Las Vegas prostitute

Article thanks to David Ferrara and the Las Vegas Review Journal. Links provided:

Dec 15, 2014  A former “Ice Road Truckers” reality-television star pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping and extorting a Las Vegas prostitute, just as he was scheduled to face a jury on the charges.
Timothy Zickuhr made a deal with prosecutors after defense lawyers learned of DNA evidence that pointed to Zickuhr in the robbery of an 80-year-old woman that occurred while he was out on bail in the kidnapping case.
The 40-year-old Zickuhr was arrested in December after police said he kidnapped Lisa Cadeau, also know by her prostitute moniker “Snow White.” Three months later, authorities said, Zickuhr snatched a purse from an elderly woman outside a Las Vegas casino. In August, authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in the robbery.
“We were concerned about the factual allegations in the new case, while we had definite defenses to the Snow White case,” defense lawyer Roy Nelson said. “It was in Tim’s best interest to negotiate everything.”
Originally facing the possibility of life in prison in both cases, Zickuhr’s deal means that he would be sentenced to a maximum of 6 to 15 years in prison. The sentencing will be held after he pleads guilty in the robbery.
Few details were available Monday about the robbery, but authorities said the victim suffered serious injuries, including a broken hip.
In December, Zickuhr took Cadeau to his apartment on Lynnwood Street, near Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, after she allegedly took more money than Zickuhr agreed to pay her for sex a few days earlier, police said.
His plot was foiled after Cadeau gave him the phone number of Metro officer Adam Seely, who had previously used Cadeau as a source, according to a police report.
Zickuhr called Seely, not knowing he was a police officer, and demanded $1,000. He then gave the phone to Cadeau, who told Seely, “He’s going to kill me!” the report said.
After arranging a meeting behind the Eureka casino, Seely and another officer drove to the area and arrested Zickuhr.
Zickuhr told officers he planned to sell Cadeau’s services on Craigslist until he recouped the money she owed him, the report said.
He also said he poured cold water onto Cadeau from a mop bucket and locked her in a closet, using backpack straps to bind her wrists, the report said.
Zickuhr appeared in 11 episodes of the History Channel show “IRT: Deadliest Roads,” according to the Internet Movie Database.
He has not worked in television or trucking since his arrest, Nelson said.
Contact reporter David Ferrara at or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker