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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trucking industry faces severe driver shortage

A Wisconsin perspective. Story thanks to Rick Romell and Links provided:

Oct 26, 2015  From the seat of his Freightliner, hauling brake rotors from Wisconsin to Ohio, bucking traffic around Chicago, regularly dodging close calls, Robert Johnson takes a dim view, generally speaking, of his fellow truck drivers.
"They'll put anybody in a truck," Johnson, who has 15 years at the wheel, said between bites of a sandwich and fries at the Richfield Truck Stop on I-41. "...Anybody who wants to drive."
That, of course, is exaggeration. Applicants are rejected frequently. But trucking companies in fact are harder pressed than they've ever been to attract enough drivers to an industry that carries nearly 70% of all the freight that moves in the United States.
"It's the worst we've ever seen," Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, said of the current driver shortage.
The shortage — Costello estimates it at nearly 48,000 drivers, the great bulk of them in the long-haul, truckload sector — is being felt industrywide.
Companies such as Green Bay's Schneider, one of the country's largest carriers, are working to make schedules more predictable for over-the-road drivers. Marshfield's Roehl Transport lets them bring along a dog or cat under its new Pet Passport Program. Kreilkamp Trucking, in Allenton, has begun doing its own driver training.
"Experienced drivers are not out there, so we have to make them," President Tim Kreilkamp said.
Most significantly, the shortage has been driving up pay. Pay rates at Schneider have risen 4% to 10% over the last couple of years, Chief Operating Officer Mark Rourke said.
Kreilkamp, which says its drivers average $55,000 to $65,000 a year, has raised pay, too, and probably will raise it again, Tim Kreilkamp said.
Both firms pay bonuses for new drivers. Kreilkamp's bonuses go to truckers who bring in recruits. Schneider is paying retention bonuses of $5,000 to $10,000 to new drivers who stick with the company, something the carrier was not doing several years ago.
Nationwide, pay for long-distance truckload drivers has been increasing much faster than for production and nonsupervisory employees generally, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. From 2009 through 2014, the truckers' average weekly earnings rose 19% — half again as much as the increase for nonsupervisory workers as a whole.
That marked a sharp reversal from the previous five years, when the increase in pay for the truck drivers lagged far behind that of other workers.
But even with the gains, long-haul truckers' pay — it averages $46,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — is not attracting enough people to a job with long hours and extended time away from home.
Boosting wages further isn't the entire answer, but pay definitely needs to rise more, Costello said.
"If we're at $46,000, $47,000 today, $48,000 — whatever that number is, because we don't quite know — where does it need to go?" he asked. "Well, it's got to go well north of $50,000 for sure, and probably pushing $60,000.
"But understand, you're talking about an industry with profit margins of about 5%," Costello added. "So it's not like if you're a fleet you can just say, 'You know what, I'm going to do the right thing and I'm going to pay all my folks $65,000.' Because if they don't get that from their customers they're going to be out of business real quick, and those drivers are going to lose their jobs."
Trucking has been down this road before, most recently about 10 years ago. The current shortage, however, is more severe and could rise to 174,000 drivers by 2024 if the trend continues, Costello said.
He estimates there are 800,000 drivers in the long-haul truckload sector, the almost entirely nonunion wing of the industry, where trailers are filled with a single load from one shipper to one recipient. Other estimates place the number of such drivers as high as 1.5 million.
Truckload is a relatively easy business to enter, making for intense competition that, historically, has tended to keep the brakes on shipping rates and wages. However, pay tends to rise during labor shortages, and the current situation sees carriers facing particularly stiff challenges.
The improving economy has opened more employment alternatives for people who might otherwise be drawn to trucking, Costello wrote in a recent report.
Meanwhile, the growth in the U.S. labor force has been slowing, economist Noël Perry of FTR Transportation Intelligence, a consulting and research firm in Bloomington, Ind., noted. When trucking demand outstrips overall growth in the workforce, Perry said, the industry increasingly has to recruit people "who are not inherently well-suited for this lifestyle."
Which gets to a key problem: Trucking does offer relatively good pay, but at a price.
The $46,000 a year that long-haul truckload drivers average is $9,500 more than the average for production and nonsupervisory workers as a whole, BLS data shows. Drivers with private fleets average $73,000, according to the ATA.
But the private-fleet jobs tend to go to experienced, proven drivers — and fortunate ones at that. Landing those plum spots may require years in truckload, and while some have a taste for it, for many it's a grind.
Truckers are allowed to — and do — drive up to 11 hours a day and work up to 60 hours a week. Work hours can be irregular. Drivers may be gone from home for a week or two at a time.
Johnson, who gets home on weekends, is making $60,000 to $65,000 annually — about 15% more than when he started with his current employer five years ago. That's good money, he said, but he'd rather be home with his wife every night.
"It's a job, that's all it is," he said.
While participants across the industry agree there is a driver shortage, freight is still moving. Spot-market shipping rates have even fallen this year, Perry said.
And while Rourke, of Schneider, said the company could easily add as many as 500 drivers right now if they were available, that would amount to less than 4% of its roughly 14,000-driver workforce. Kreilkamp, with just short of 400 drivers, would immediately add 20 if it could.
Those gaps, however, could easily widen.
For one thing, trucking is demographically challenged. The average age of an over-the-road truckload driver, according to Costello, is 49. It will take something like 40,000 new drivers a year just to replace retirees.
Add industry growth and other factors, and Costello estimates the industry will need about 89,000 recruits per year for the next decade — more than it has been attracting in recent years.
The situation has the trucking association supporting moves to ease the current rule that bars drivers younger than 21 from crossing state lines. Critics, though, question whether people in their late teens are mature enough to handle 80,000-pound vehicles.
Other regulatory changes could intensify the driver shortage. One imminent rule will require use of electronic log books. Another proposed regulation would establish a searchable database of drivers who failed drug and alcohol tests.
Electronic logs could have the effect, at least initially, of requiring more drivers, because truckers who are willing or pressured to exceed the allowed limits on their driving time would find it harder to do than with paper logs. A drug-and-alcohol clearinghouse, meanwhile, would potentially reduce the overall driver pool because those who failed tests at one carrier could no longer hide that fact from a new employer.
New regulation indeed stands to tighten the industry's labor supply, Perry said. However, within a decade, he said, the situation will reverse as increasingly automated trucks make driving easier and enlarge the applicant pool.
And as automation progresses and enhances safety with measures such as distance- and lane-control systems, and automatic braking, trucks will get bigger, Perry said. Which means fewer drivers will be needed.
"This is going to happen," he said of the automated future. "It's just a matter of time."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Amazon Flex Program is Like Uber
Amazon Flex Program is Like Uber for Last-Mile Delivery

Story thanks to Deborah Lockridge and Lins provided:

Sept. 29, 2015  Amazon has unveiled what some are calling Uber for last-mile delivery, after the fast-growing service that replaces traditional taxis with an app that links riders and drivers.
Flex would allow ordinary people to make $18 to $25 an hour delivering packages for Amazon using their car and a smartphone, as an independent contractor. 
Flex drivers (must be 21 years old) will deliver ultra-fast Amazon Prime Now packages. This program for paid Amazon Prime members promises deliveries as quickly as one hour for $8, or free for two hours or more. In the future, Flex drivers may deliver other types of Amazon packages as well, according to the website.
Initially launched in Seattle, the service will expand to Manhattan, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Portland.
Amazon says tens of thousands of items are available for delivery under Prime Now including, in Seattle, alcohol, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon has had a significant impact on supply chains and the e-commerce industry in North America and Europe, with its focus on same-day delivery and its developing relationships with 3PL companies for last-mile delivery, according to a survey of third-party logistics provider CEOs, sponsored by Penske Logistics and released Monday.
On average, e-commerce now accounts for an average of 11.85% of North American 3PLs' revenue, and CEOs predict it will increase to 20.85% in three years.
The survey also noted that ride-sharing companies, most notably Uber, are believed to potentially pose a threat to aspects of the 3PL industry in the future by providing last-mile delivery services and taking business away from small-volume couriers.

One problem for this model, however, may be the independent contractor status of these drivers. There already are lawsuits against Uber, grocery delivery startup Instacart, Postmates and others over whether these workers were misclassified and should be entitled to back pay and benefits as employees rather than contractors.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Voice of the Truck Driver

Special Report thanks to Perry Townsend, Group Director, Ryder Dedicated Transportation Solutions

The professional truck driver shortage isn’t news anymore. With just about every industry publication writing articles on the subject as well as mainstream newspapers, television and online coverage, it is something the industry and most of North America is well aware of. Surveys show the truck driver shortage is the top concern for fleet managers, and it will be for years to come. While there is an overabundance of articles and research on the driver shortage, there is a lack of information on one of the main ways companies can overcome the shortage – listening to the voice of the driver

"We expect the problem to get worse in the near term as the industry works to find solutions to the driver shortage." - Bob Costello, chief economist, American Trucking Associations (ATA), Inbound Logistics

Numerous surveys ask fleet managers why they believe drivers are leaving or what they are doing for prospective and current drivers. However, drivers are rarely asked what they want from the company they work for. While industry research and information is a strong base, going directly to the source – in this case the drivers – always yields the best results. One best practice to give transportation managers some of the answers they desire is to conduct a post-hire interview with a driver within six weeks of starting with the company. A second best practice is to create a driver council made up of a mix of veteran and new drivers who give insights to fleet managers from the view of the driver’s seat. Lastly, conducting an annual survey allows your drivers to voice their likes, dislikes, concerns, and ideas. Using all three of these practices has confirmed some of the results from surveys of fleet managers and executives, but it also has unveiled many new opportunities for the industry to be able to recruit and retain drivers. MORE THAN JUST PAY In most industry surveys and communications with drivers, increased pay is the top desire for drivers. However, this would be the case for any industry or job title not just transportation. The use of pay raises to improve retention has jumped more than 13 percent across the trucking industry from 2014 to 2015 , and is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.

As carriers continue to increase driver pay, others in the industry follow suit to stay competitive. An increase in pay does not only mean salary or per mile rate, it may also include better benefits such as enhanced healthcare coverage and 401(k), as well as paid vacation.

 In listening to the responses from drivers, the difference between increased pay and other factors is not as drastic as some research shows. In many instances, drivers have equally ranked increased pay, respect from managers, predictable home time, and reliable equipment as the reasons why they should switch jobs. The definition of respect is broad and varies from company to company. For drivers, respect includes open communication with managers and fair treatment from dispatchers, along with holding recognition events for drivers and thanking them for a job well done. Often drivers have said their expectations for the job don’t always match the job description. Clear and detailed job descriptions help manage expectations and help drivers understand where they fit into the big picture. Regular communication between the manager and driver will help answer any questions and level set expectations. Managers should have daily contact with local drivers whenever possible. For remote drivers, speak to them once per week on the phone and have a meeting once per month. For newly hired drivers, assigning a mentor (senior driver) can help with onboarding and retention. Having a mentor allows the new driver to voice their concerns with someone, who can inturn speak to the managers. However, a mentor should not be a substitute for daily communication between the new driver and manager.

These tactics will ensure expectations are met for both the driver and the manager. Regular communication also allows the manager to work on correcting issues including diminishing downtime for the driver, while giving more say to them, including the possibility of picking their own routes. While letting drivers choose their own adventure is not always possible, giving them predictable home time is. Just as everyone else wants to spend time with family and friends – going to a child’s ball game, dance recital, or school play – professional truck drivers want to do that too. At Ryder, 9 of 10 drivers are home every night. Equipment is another area of concern for drivers. Whether it is having a reliable and clean truck, or comfortable conditions at maintenance shops, drivers deserve the best possible working environment. According to the National Shippers Transportation Council, restrooms are among the top complaints of drivers. Kimberly-Clark Corp., was recently praised for installing new restrooms and well-stocked rest areas for drivers at its distribution centers. They are not the only ones updating infrastructure and cleaning driver facilities at service locations.

Delays and breakdowns are driver’s biggest headaches, and not having reliable equipment is one of the top contributors to these delays. Should drivers need to take their trucks into a shop, improving the infrastructure of the shop should be top priority for service centers. This includes making sure the driver’s lounge is comfortable and the showers are clean and free of mold. The latter is a common complaint from drivers throughout the industry.

Transportation companies are also doing several things to improve the reliability of and comfort inside trucks. This includes switching to automatic transmission vehicles, improving the ergonomics of the truck, and properly maintaining the vehicle. A COMMITMENT TO DRIVERS Drivers are the most important employee for transportation companies. It is time managers and executives listen to their voices. The industry is short more than 35,000 drivers and that number continues to grow. Managing through the driver shortage means having a strong recruiting, training, and retention program. The key to developing a program is not just using industry research and executive surveys, but also from the comments, concerns, and desires of current and former drivers. Recruiting and retaining drivers is not all about money and benefits. The industry has found through driver surveys, exit interviews, and the formation of a driver’s council that lifestyle flexibility, dignity, respect, and honesty are just as valuable to drivers. But the definitions of all those terms are broader than you may think. That is why opening the lines of communications with drivers will ensure expectations are met and concerns are addressed. Soliciting feedback from drivers on an ongoing basis can provide valuable information to companies in the trucking industry. One of the goals of speaking to drivers should be to validate industry research, and more importantly to understand what issues affect your drivers the most. No matter how many surveys of executives and managers are conducted, the information does not compare to that directly coming from the men and women who sit in the driver’s seat day in and day out.

 Learn more at Ryder and the Ryder logo are registered trademarks of Ryder System, Inc. Copyright © 2015 Ryder System, Inc. Ever better is a trademark of Ryder System, Inc. PT0028281 091715

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Old Mobster Now on Trial for the Massive Airport Heist From 'Goodfellas'

Photo by REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Story thanks to John Surico and Links provided:

Oct. 20,2015  In a Brooklyn federal courtroom on Tuesday, Gaspare Valenti did the one thing mobsters like him aren't supposed to do: talk.

As his son glared at him from the gallery and his cousin sat enraged at the defendant's table, Valenti recounted how the first time he went on a score, he showed up in a seersucker suit, not quite understanding that "come dressed" meant come with a gun. He even told the court how he "got rid" of a body by pouring lime over it. "I was told it helps it decompose faster," the 68-year-old said, nonchalantly.

But when asked what his biggest crime was, Valenti replied with one word: "Lufthansa."

That answer marked the first time a gangster has admitted in court to helping carry out what was once the largest cash theft in American history: the 1978 Lufthansa heist at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. The robbery was a key plot point in Martin Scorsese's 1990 gangster classic Goodfellas, and the way Valenti described it, you could see why it showed up in a movie.

"I was separating gold chains and watches and the diamonds and emeralds and rubies," the criminal told the court of the spoils.

Valenti is the key witness in the trial of Vincent Asaro, his 80-year-old cousin, who is charged with taking a cut from the $6 million heist, as well as murdering Paul Katz—who was believed to be a snitch—with a dog chain a decade earlier. That's the man Valenti graphically described burying, exhuming, and then "getting rid of" a second time, years later.

Valenti was arrested in 2013 for racketeering conspiracy, pleaded guilty, then agreed to wear a wire to help the Feds catch his cousin mouthing off about the heist. A year later, Asaro was arrested. When asked by a federal prosecutor on Tuesday what the penalty is for talking to law enforcement—one of the biggest no-no's in Mafia politics—Valenti responded quickly: "Death."

Throughout Valenti's testimony in the courtroom on Tuesday, Asaro stared at him, his hands clasped below his chin. At one point, when Valenti described a robbery where he dressed up like a woman to avoid detection, Asaro broke character, laughing to himself, perhaps at the memory of a mafioso in drag getting cat-called on the streets of Queens. It was clear that at one point, the cousins were friends.

In many ways, Asaro and Valenti's relationship closely resembled the one famously shared by the two other major players in the heist: Jimmy Burke and Henry Hill, the Lucchese family associates respectively played by Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta inGoodfellas. According to Valenti, Asaro and his father, who were both part of the Bonanno crime family, brought him into organized crime. Asaro apparently taught him how to rob, signed off on all of his scores, and, in one situation, instructed Valenti to brutally beat a bartender "who showed him disrespect" after a Fourth of July party.

But most importantly, Asaro always wanted to make sure he was making money, Valenti said, which is why he was invited to get in on the multi-family Lufthansa heist led by Burke. Fortunately for prosecutors, Valenti was able to offer a play-by-play of the caper.

If true, Valenti's account of the Lufthansa heist represents pure gangster gold.

He reeled off a list of alleged participants—something that the feds were never able to fully compile—and discussed the meetings held beforehand at Burke's club in Queens to plan just exactly how they'd rob the airport hanger. (Blueprints were apparently provided by Henry Hill's friend, Marty Krugman—the guy in Goodfellas who keeps pleading to Liotta for the heist money. He was later allegedly murdered in cold blood.)

On the night of the heist, Burke and Asaro waited a mile away in a "crash car," according to Valenti, and before arriving at the scene, Tommy DeSimone—Joe Pesci's character—bragged about using his silencer. Valenti then recounted how he and Burke's son, Frank, held up two terminal workers at gunpoint, hiding them in a van while the two mobsters cleaned the place out.

What happened afterward, though, is where the key details lie. "A robbery that big and nothing discussed of where anyone would go afterward," Valenti recalled thinking to himself.

Apparently, the group hadn't chosen a place to store the money, so at the last minute, according to Valenti, his own house in Brooklyn was chosen to stash the burlap sacks filled with the stolen $6 million. It was initially divided up around Christmastime to the families involved who were guaranteed a cut. Valenti asserted that he and Asaro were promised $750,000 at the onset. "Jimmy and Vinnie said, 'Don't spend anything,'" Valenti said. "'Don't catch any heat.'"

But the final amounts weren't fully doled out, he said. Some participants were apparently killed for disobeying Burke's orders (you might remember this scene from the movie, set to "Layla"), and others went missing. So the rest of the cash and diamonds allegedly remained in Burke's possession, especially when Burke later came under fire for unrelated crimes—something that apparently particularly pissed off Asaro, as he and Burke were partners for some time.

Years later, Asaro's frustration was caught on Valenti's wire. "We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get... Jimmy kept everything," Asaro is reportedly heard saying. Prosecutors claim that whatever cut Asaro did end up with, he blew it all on gambling. (That vice ran in the family: Valenti testified that he, too, went straight to the racetracks and social clubs with his end of the heist.)

After an explosive first-day primer of Mafia life, the key witness's testimony made up the entire second day of Asaro's trial, and could provide the feds with their best chance at booking Asaro for the age-old crimes with a life sentence. However, just as Valenti's memory serves the prosecution nicely, it also lays the groundwork for the defense to argue that his knack for details is suspicious—or too good to be true.

Regardless of Asaro's fate, Brooklyn federal court saw history on Tuesday: an admission from someone who was apparently involved in a legendary crime nearly four decades ago. In the process, old grudges—these rivalries and relationships that once dominated the New York City crime underworld—were given a dramatic public airing.

Follow John Surico on Twitter.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Speed Traps and Toll Roads in the "Land of Lincoln"
We were coming back from our annual two week vacation in Wisconsin a few weeks ago. One of Mary’s daughters lives in Cheyenne, WY and she wanted to stop and see her, so the most direct and practical route for us since we were leaving from Milwaukee was to go southwest to Beloit, WI, south into Illinois on I-39 and west on the Illinois tollway I-88 towards Iowa.

I’ve always hated driving through Illinois, stemming from my days in the early 1990's of having to drive a truck through Chicago twice almost every week when I lived in Wisconsin. It’s not changed much in all these years with speed limits set artificially low and state troopers preying on the motoring public for revenue, especially harassing truckers and out of state motorists. I make it a point not to buy any fuel or even stop in that state, I don’t want my money going into their sales tax coffers. See the related post below from the National Motorists Association.

As we turned west on the I-88 tollway the orange signs were set up warning of construction ahead. They had torn up the interstate from I-39 all the way to the toll plaza at Dixon, IL. It had to be about 30 miles of one lane traffic each way with a 45 mph speed limit the entire way! It was basically a 30 mile long speed trap as drivers started getting fed up with crawling along and started pressing the limit to get through. Most of the way, there was nobody working the construction and the lanes were wide enough that the speed limit was ridiculous. Of course there were cops along the way ready and waiting with their radar guns. For that 30 mile stretch of torture, I had the privilege of paying almost $5.00 at the toll plaza!

I am so fed up with that state, from now on I will find a way to go around it. The heck with them all! Read the following for a backup story. Help join the fight for motorist’s rights. You can join the National Motorists Association for free. Click the link.

September, 2015 Illinois is known as the Land of Lincoln, but the title of this e-newsletter is also a motto the state has used to promote tourism. Since Illinois also collects hundreds of millions of dollars annually from motorists for everything from tolls to speeding and red-light camera tickets, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that many government administrators automatically hear ka-ching whenever the magnificent mile slogan is uttered.
Take the following story as a case in point. A Wisconsin-based friend of the NMA shared his plight with us to see if we had any suggestions. His is a tale of a system that is designed to extract as much money from the citizenry as possible and of hard lessons learned:
In 2011 I got a speeding in a construction zone ticket in Illinois (of course). The thing about it was that there was no construction going on and it was mid-day during the week, so the road was packed. If I was going any slower then I was, I would have literally been run off the road. There were infinity cars in front of me and behind me all very close so I literally going with the flow. Obviously Illinois seems to do these traps on purpose because when I showed up for court everyone in the courtroom was there for the same ticket given in the exact location as I was. They actually had people stand up in rows to all plead at once. I assume they had the entire day scheduled that way as I was just one time slot with hundreds of people for that same time slot.

But I digress. I pleaded guilty as literally everyone did, and was more or less encouraged to, and went on my way. I thought I had paid before leaving so I didn't have to go back there again. Four years went by of me never thinking about it again with no calls or letters in the mail, etc. Suddenly three weeks ago I saw a ding on my credit for the ticket I got in 2011! So I called to take care of it right away (I called them mind you, still no contact from them to me). I was ready to pay and give them my credit card info over the phone, but right before he was about to run it he verified the total with me. To my surprise it was almost double the original ticket! They let massive interest build on the ticket without me knowing it was even still owed for four years.

I told them there was no way I was going to pay that as it was completely unfair for me to have to fund their bankrupt state by means of shady tactics. I am sure you saw John Oliver recently do a huge piece on municipal fines and how he can't believe it is legal to do things exactly like this. At the end of the call the guy said he would see what he could do and give me a call back. Of course he never did. So three weeks later I called them back. This time they claimed they couldn't find my information and just referred me to the circuit court office. They informed me that the only thing I could do is file a motion to have the collection fees dropped which would require me sending a certified letter and then going to court (back in Illinois).

I just wanted to see what your opinion on the matter was. Should I move forward with all that? Is it better to just suck it up and pay nearly $800 on an original $500 ticket that was a scam to begin with?

Where do we start? A double-the-penalty construction zone ticket when workers aren’t even present is something we have lobbied against for years. The cattle-call processing of speeding ticket guilty pleas in traffic court is not the court’s fault; that is on the drivers for caving so easily and not challenging the system. (A system, we might add, that in most places begins negotiating at the slightest whiff of resistance by the defendant rather than expend the resources to try the matter in court.)
Our suggestions to our beleaguered colleague caught in the clutches of the Illinois ticket machine, knowing that his original plea of guilty severely limits his options:
  • Contact the credit agencies and contest the ding on your record. It would help if you have proof that you paid the original ticket or have tried to work things out with the court or the collection agency.
  • Negotiate with the collection agency. Despite any hardball positions they might take, everything is negotiable. They'd rather get something rather than nothing. Ask them for a breakdown of the interest and collection costs that increased the ticket from $500 to $800 and offer to settle for a reduced amount, perhaps the base ticket cost plus reasonable interest. The state charges something like nine percent interest in cases like this which is well above current rates. Offer to pay them less, perhaps four percent interest, and have them forgo the collection costs—let them tell you what they are first—because it is clear that since you've not been contacted in the four years since the traffic penalty was established, they have not expended much (if any) effort to find and notify you.
  • Make sure any agreement is in writing and shows that you have cleared the matter by paying the original ticket and agreed-upon penalty.
  • Even if you decide to pay the full $800, make sure you have in writing that the debt has been paid so that you can go about clearing your credit record.
Ultimately the responsibility for an unpaid ticket and its consequences are on the motorist. The government is perfectly happy to let the penalty accrue interest over time or to engage a collection agency to extract an additional pound of flesh.
To quote the recently departed philosopher extraordinaire Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teens Livestream theft from ice cream truck

How stupid can they be? Article thanks to Links provided:

July, 2015  WEST WEBER — Two teens are accused of burglary and theft after Weber County deputies say the pair live streamed their escapades on the Twitter app Periscope.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office said just before midnight Sunday they received a call from someone watching the live stream that reportedly showed two 16-year-old boys breaking into a semitruck at 4300 West and 1150 South in West Weber.
The driver of the semitruck confirmed to deputies that it had been broken into. The truck was full of ice cream.
Deputies said they found the teen who created the video, who they said lives in the neighborhood.
Investigators said both teens admitted to stealing the ice cream and randomly placing the tubs of ice cream on neighbors' front porches as gifts.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Arrow Trucking and the Pielsticker legacy
Remember Arrow trucking and the sudden shutdown that left drivers stranded all over the country just before Christmas in 2009? I found this article thanks to Desiree Wood on Credit to Links provided:

14 years after plane crash kills father, son is due for sentencing

By MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer

October, 2015  Swooping in for a water landing between periodic snow showers, the pontoon plane buzzed over a hunting lodge deep in the Canadian wilderness, 400 miles north of the U.S. border.
Hearing it just before sunset, the lodge manager expected the pilot to be in a hurry to get airborne again before dark. So when the plane hadn’t shown up at the dock after 20 minutes, he sent a boat to look for his missing guests.
Six wealthy Oklahomans were going to spend the night at scenic Mollet Lake after a long day of hunting caribou in northern Quebec. Exactly what went wrong has never been determined, but their single-engine plane ended up nose-down in the water with four injured passengers clinging to the fuselage in 34-degree weather.
A fifth passenger was floating face-down and lifeless, while the pilot and one more passenger were trapped inside, where they were either killed on impact or knocked unconscious before drowning, according to a Canadian accident report.
Much of the initial news coverage in October 2001 eulogized Charles Ryan, the 50-year-old president and chief operating officer of the Nordam Group. But it was the death of Jim Pielsticker, the 63-year-old chairman of Tulsa-based Arrow Trucking, that would set off a series of events that has kept the Pielsticker name on the front page for 14 years.
A tireless executive and savvy investor, Pielsticker took over the company in 1968, the same year his son, Doug Pielsticker, was born. Starting with just half a dozen rigs, he built it into a major corporation with 1,362 trucks, more than 1,400 employees and $250 million a year in revenue. Well-liked by his employees, he was known to come out of his office in shirt and tie to help load cargo, and he always made sure to ask about a co-worker’s children by name.
When news of the plane crash reached Tulsa, Arrow employees openly wept and clung to each other. But they had no idea how big a catastrophe their boss’ death was going to be for the company.
Eventually, some of those employees would be stranded hundreds of miles from home just days before Christmas in a shutdown that revealed a pattern of bank and tax fraud among top executives. Pielsticker’s son will be sentenced Thursday in federal court for his role in the company’s downfall.


A few days before Christmas 2009, Donna Creekmore drove to work early for a scheduled meeting with upper management at Arrow headquarters, tucked away in an industrial area north of Interstate 44 on the west bank of the Arkansas River. She expected to be asked to take a pay cut, and while the sacrifice wouldn’t be easy, she had already decided to do it.
“It was family,” Creekmore says. “My blood ran green,” the color of the company’s logo, “like everyone else’s. We all loved that company.”
Instead, as she drove up to the truck yard that morning, she found a long line of wreckers at the front gate.
“They looked like vultures to me,” Creekmore says. Arrow’s entire fleet was being repossessed.
In hindsight, she should have seen it coming for months. In the summer of 2009, the company had overdue bills, and checks occasionally bounced. Several trucks sat idle, waiting for spare parts that, for some reason, nobody was authorized to order.
It was part of Creekmore’s job, as a drivers manager and executive assistant, to keep track of where all the drivers were going across the country. As far as she could tell, the company was doing plenty of business. Yet, by Dec. 22, the company had reached a $28 million credit limit.
“My biggest concern then,” Creekmore says, “was getting the drivers home. We were going to have people stranded all over the country.”
Most drivers didn’t live in Tulsa, but some had brought their rigs into the yard for maintenance. Workers frantically siphoned fuel into trash cans, then filled up any rig that was ready to leave — not to make deliveries, but to get the drivers home. Several got on the road before the wreckers came through the gate and put a stop to it, Creekmore says.
Later, inside the corporate office, she quietly printed out a list of all the drivers and where they were stranded, slipping it into her purse before casually walking past investigators. Technically, that list was Arrow property. Creekmore kept glancing in the rear-view mirror all the way home, expecting the police to pull her over.
“I was ready to go to jail for that,” she says. “There was no way I was just going to abandon those drivers.”
At home, with that list in hand, she opened a Facebook page to coordinate efforts to get drivers home for Christmas, an effort credited with helping hundreds of people.


Doug Pielsticker took over the company almost immediately after his father died in 2001. But more than a year went by before Creekmore laid eyes on him.
Thirty-three years old at the time, Doug Pielsticker had spent time working in various departments at Arrow, but former employees say he actually did very little. He had no experience running the business, and he would later describe his own management style as “somewhat removed,” according to court records.
That’s an understatement, Creekmore says.
“He was rarely ever seen,” she says. “And when he did come in, he looked like he had been sleeping in his clothes. If he came to a meeting, he would just sit there sniffing his nose and not say anything. I got the impression that he wasn’t even listening.”
Arrow couldn’t afford to repair trucks, Creekmore says. But when Doug Pielsticker couldn’t find a local mechanic to fix his Bentley, he spent more than $5,000 to have the luxury car towed to Dallas and back, according to court documents.
As paychecks began to bounce, Pielsticker spent $5,695.68 in one day at his favorite sushi restaurant; and in November 2009, the month before Arrow closed, he dropped $1,280.86 at a flower shop, according to court documents. He was also billing the company as much as $60,000 a month in travel expenses. And he used a portion of the company’s money to support a lavish lifestyle that included a $1.3 million mansion, expensive jewelry and one of the most extravagant weddings Tulsa has ever seen — with nearly 1,000 guests at the Philbrook Museum and a cake so tall it couldn’t fit through the door and had to be assembled inside.
He owed at least $400,000 in past-due child support and alimony to his ex-wife.
As irresponsible as that may sound, it probably wasn’t enough to drive the company into bankruptcy. The 2008 recession and a record spike in fuel costs put the entire trucking industry in a crisis. But in the summer of 2009, Arrow officials became so desperate for money that they resorted to a criminal conspiracy, federal prosecutors allege.
It began, apparently, by accident, when a clerk mistakenly overbilled the Transportation Alliance Bank of Ogden, Utah, which was basically fronting the cash for Arrow to make deliveries.
The bank didn’t notice the error and gave Arrow the money, which sparked an idea. Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Moore is accused of telling clerks to start overbilling the bank on purpose, assuming nobody would look at the invoices too closely. But the bank caught on.
In September 2009, a finance manager came to Tulsa twice to discuss “discrepancies” with Moore and General Counsel Joseph Mowry.
Arrow went out of business less than four months later, leaving Moore and Mowry, along with Doug Pielsticker, under federal investigation.

‘A long time’

On her way to Texas with a load of roof shingles, Deana Woods stopped to refuel in Matthews, Missouri, 150 miles south of St. Louis, where another Arrow driver called to warn her that “something weird is going on.” Deliveries were being canceled across the country, and drivers were being told to turn around and go back to their terminals.
Woods had just finished pumping $700 worth of diesel into her truck when she got a hold of Creekmore at the Tulsa corporate offices.
“Doug just closed the doors,” Creekmore explained, sounding as if she was on the brink of tears. “It’s over.”
Three days before Christmas 2009, Woods was suddenly unemployed and stranded 500 miles from home. Her Arrow Trucking credit card was canceled, leaving her stuck with the bill for the fuel.
“I didn’t have that kind of money,” she says. “What was I supposed to do?”
Hundreds of drivers across the country found themselves in similar situations. Some abandoned their trucks at rest areas or dropped them off at dealerships, where they could be repossessed. They hitch-hiked home or called relatives to come get them or scraped together enough cash for bus tickets. Or, in some cases, they drove their Arrow trucks home and told creditors, “If you want it, come get it.”
In Missouri, where Woods couldn’t pay for the fuel she had pumped, the truck stop called the police. She got a ticket and had to surrender her commercial driver’s license. But then the truck-stop manager, who was sympathetic after finding out why Woods couldn’t pay the bill, took her to breakfast. And as word spread that one of the biggest names in trucking had laid off its entire staff, other drivers began walking over and dropping cash on the table.
By the time she finished eating, Woods had enough money to get home to Chandler, Texas, near Dallas.
“The compassion and complete brotherhood in the driving industry started to really shine that day,” Woods says. “Doug Pielsticker, with all the money he had, didn’t care about us at all.”
She now works for another trucking company, but it took months to resolve the court case in Missouri and get her license renewed, and a long time after that to recover financially. Now, she says, it’s time for Pielsticker to pay.
“I’d like to see him go to prison,” she says. “And for a long time.”


Nearly 14 years to the day after a plane crash left him in charge of his father’s company — and six years after that company went out of business — Doug Pielsticker will face a sentencing hearing Thursday in federal court.
Most recently working as a real estate agent in Dallas, Pielsticker was indicted last year on 23 counts of conspiracy and tax evasion. A plea agreement last February reduced the list of charges to two.
Theoretically, Pielsticker could face up to 10 years in prison — five for each count. But he’s asking the court to go easy on him, saying other corporate officials were to blame. Pielsticker didn’t know about the fraud for four months, according to court records.
“Mr. Pielsticker found himself in the midst of fully developed schemes sponsored and supervised by his two most senior advisers,” according to the memorandum. “At that point, Mr. Pielsticker naively hoped that Arrow could perform its way out of the fraud” or find a way to pay back the money.
Moore, the company’s CFO, signed a plea agreement last year and will be sentenced next week. Mowry, the company’s general counsel who is accused of helping Moore orchestrate the scheme, died of natural causes in 2011.
Together, they conspired to defraud the bank and the IRS, while Pielsticker merely failed to stop the criminal activity when he found out about it, according to a sentencing memorandum.
Pielsticker told the court he has a medical condition that puts him “constantly at risk for a fatal heart attack,” offering that as another reason to be granted a light sentence or, better yet, probation or home detention.
Federal prosecutors urged the court last week to take into consideration that Pielsticker pleaded guilty and “assisted authorities in the investigation and prosecution of his own misconduct.”
Prosecutors, however, also pointed out that it’s one of the biggest federal fraud cases in recent memory, involving more than $10 million in taxes and more than $11.4 million from the bank, according to recent court documents.
“Combined, it involves a case of unprecedented scale,” prosecutors told the court, “especially in light of its relatively short duration. Few have stolen so much so quickly.”
U.S. Attorney Danny Williams is recommending six and a half to eight years in prison. Anything less than the maximum will disappoint former Arrow employees such as Thomas Packer, a 10-year driving instructor for the business.
“He ruined that company and didn’t care what happened to anybody else,” Packer says. “Whatever he gets, it won’t be enough.”