Follow by Email

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Driving a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5T and Feel Guilty for Liking It This Much
Article thanks to Timothy Cain and Links provided:

June, 2016  We were in our Honda Odyssey last Saturday, transporting our dog to a special canine event 20 miles from our home, when the gorgeous 2016 Mazda6 was taken from our house and a Chevrolet Malibu was backed into the driveway.
Not the ninth-generation Malibu, a car which drew my ire in a TTAC review last spring. This is the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, a follow-up to the abbreviated ninth-gen car that chronically underperformed despite GM’s swift (and insufficient) response to early critiques.
Surely I’m no different from many of you. I’m predisposed to disliking Malibus, not because of inexplicable inner bias or a distaste for the Bowtie or a fondness for Honda Accords, but because the Malibu has spent much of the last two decades sucking. The eighth-generation car, which GM sold from 2008 to 2012, was an exception, but its two immediate predecessors were sad examples of the midsize breed. The 2013-2015 Malibu was a step backwards. As a result, the Malibu name conjures up memories of wooden dynamics, harsh interiors, strange noises, and pitiful styling.
Yet with each passing day of its stay at GCBC Towers, I’m steadily finding more and more things tolike about the new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.
What’s happening to me?
Perhaps the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is less likely to reveal additional faults as the week progresses simply because so many of its blunders are abundantly evident from the moment you open the driver’s door, quickly examine the cabin that awaits, and settle your hind end into the decidedly unbolstered seat.

This is not a class-leading interior. This isn’t nice. In fact, I don’t get the impression that General Motors attempted to make the cabin nice. GM appears to have invested few resources into following the welcome trend of making mainstream interiors appear premium.
Say what you will about auto writers’ emphasis on squishy dashtop surfaces — personally, I’m not terribly concerned — but a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu LT’s driver’s door should be touchable without inflicting pain. It isn’t. Do not rest your left arm on this door. Do not wear shorts and allow your left knee to make contact with this door.
Not classy!
GM’s longing to bring rubbery surfaces to a steering wheel near you is evident here, too, only in this example, it gets worse. This isn’t the typical top-trim press car tester, but a heavily optioned LT. As a result, there are a couple of rubbery switch blanks resting near your left thumb for the duration of your Malibu ownership experience.

The shifter’s manual mode is engaged via the +/- switch atop the shifter itself, a GM afterthought that’s managed to prevail for too long. In an attempt to give weight to some controls, the volume knob seemingly does not want you to find its detents. A hilarious amount of finger torque is required.
Bad decision!
The new Malibu’s A-pillars are thick, very thick at the bottom, and raked in such a way as to further limit visibility.
We need to see what’s going on!
All of these missteps are front and centre; so obvious you can’t miss ’em. Acknowledging these facts, I began my first drive in the new Malibu with a measure of disappointment, struggling to understand how GM could recognize that the ninth-gen Malibu was a flop and a new Malibu was urgently needed, make the successor look rather good, but not put in a full effort.
And yet it’s in driving the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5T that you’ll gain a real appreciation for the car.
Sure, there are other things GM got right. Straightforward climate controls are a pleasant touch when some rivals demand that you crawl through an infotainment unit’s sub-menus in order to change fan speed. The touchscreen, CarPlay compatible, is high-mounted and swift to respond to inputs. The seats have a huge range of motion, though much too flat for my lanky frame and enthusiastic driving manners, and the steering wheel is willing to reach way out to meet me. Rear seat space is now class-competitive.
But who’d have thunk that, despite interior letdowns and all that the Malibu nameplate represented to a generation that never thought of this when they heard the model mentioned, the 2016 Malibu would be redeemed by on-road appeal?

The 163-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is no powerhouse, but it’s only tasked with motivating a 3,100-pound midsize sedan, a relative featherweight. Off the line, the 1.5T is unimpressive and slightly buzzy, but the mid-range punch — 184 lbs-ft of torque plateaus at 2,500 rpm — is entirely sufficient. More importantly, the 2016 Malibu sends power through a six-speed automatic — not a CVT, not the Chrysler 200’s anti-shift nine-speed automatic. The Malibu’s transmission is forgettable like a midsize sedan’s automatic transmission ought to be.
The lightweight structure pays greater dividends when twisty roads appear before your eyes. GM’s chassis gurus managed to create a 16-foot-long sedan that feels light on its toes and nimble when appropriate, but planted and composed when you need the Malibu to be mature and stable. This isn’t the highly communicative and always-athletic Mazda6, but the 2016 Malibu handles very nearly that well and provides far superior ride quality and far less road, wind, and tire noise. Brake feel is spot on. The steering is quick to respond to inputs with no recalcitrant spirit and none of that artificial heft too many modern cars possess in lieu of feel.
My desire to drive the Malibu feels strange in the same way my desire to eat McNuggets or fascination with watching Brexit debates is strange. I like healthy food, watching hockey, and CAD $31,980 midsize sedans (around $28,000 in the U.S. market) with wannabe-premium interiors.
Nevertheless, I like the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu more today than yesterday, and I’m rather certain I’ll like it more tomorrow than I did today. Also, more nuggets and more BBC.
Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and onFacebook.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Uber Experience - Great Value for the Passenger

Not so great, it seems, for the driver.

After finally getting a smart phone a couple months ago, I decided to get signed up for Uber after hearing from one of my bosses about his experiences with them in San Francisco.

I’ve now used them four times in the last couple of weeks and have found it to be an excellent experience with prompt service and low fares. A really great feature is when you open the app, it shows all the Uber cars in the area around you and the approximate wait time to get a driver.

My first trip was to get a car to my house, pick me up and take me to get a rental car to drive back to Wisconsin about five miles away. About 8 am on a Friday after punching in my address and destination and requesting a ride, in a couple seconds, up came a picture of my driver and his make and model car informing me that he was four minutes away! I barely had time to collect my things, get my shoes on and get out the door before he was there. After the short ride, the fare was $8.52 with Uber getting about $1.50 booking fee and the driver getting the rest. Total time from my request to time of arrival to destination was about 20 minutes!

Two days later, on Sunday, I was visiting my brother in Minneapolis and we decided to go out to a nice restaurant for dinner. I was telling him about Uber and figured we may as well try it out in the Twin Cities and see how it worked. Once again the destination was less than five miles away, after requesting the ride, the driver was six minutes away. Fare, $8.59 with the driver getting about $7.00. The ride back after the meal, wait time eight minutes, fare only $6.88.

After getting back home and turning the rental car in, the wait for my ride back home was 11 minutes, fare $7.01, but Uber said I had earned a promotional discount and the ride was free!

As you can see, great prices for the passenger, but I think, not so great for the driver. He (she) is only paid for the actual time spent transporting a passenger. They are not paid for the time and fuel used in going to the pick-up and departing from the destination.

Notice that my first trip took twenty minutes from the time the driver was notified, arrived to pick me up and drop me at my destination. His take for that 20 minutes was about $7.00. If the next passenger is too far away, I just don’t see how they can be making much of anything. Let's say that he could immediately do the same thing twice more (very unlikely), his take for one hour is $21.00! That's not much when you consider the fuel and maintenance has to come from somewhere.

The guy who took us back from the restaurant was driving a late model Cadillac Escalade, we asked him how long he had been doing Uber and he said “two days”. The guy that took us to the restaurant had been doing it for two weeks. My first driver said this was his second summer and my last one in Salt Lake appeared to be retired and only worked in the mornings. In fact, he complained that Uber had attempted to cut rates back so low for awhile that he stopped driving for them. Evidently, they lost a lot of drivers and he went back after they raised the rates back up some.

With Uber, your fare is automatically charged on your credit card on file and there is no need for cash. Tipping the driver is not required and drivers cannot request a tip, however they can accept, if offered. I tipped $2.00 on every ride, considering these guys are not getting rich off this deal. When you consider the wear and tear of your vehicle and cost of fuel, I doubt I would ever consider doing it myself, but I won’t hesitate to use them for rides in the future. Great service!

Have you had a negative experience using Uber? If so, I'd love to see your comments about it below.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Driving is a Lifestyle, Not a Job

Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands. Links provided:

There are plenty of “just a job” jobs out there. Jobs that provide a steady paycheck, regular hours, a cubicle and, maybe, donuts in the break room. Lots of people have those jobs and some even like them.
But those aren’t trucking jobs. Trucking jobs are, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, vastly different than those other jobs. The pay varies and so do the hours; truckers can work, eat and sleep in the same cab, but it might be in a different state every day; they all have window offices and the view is ever-changing.
Driving a truck attracts and repels with equal force. Just as there are people who can’t imagine driving a truck for a living there are those who can’t imagine doing anything else.
Trucking is a hard, often-lonely job. While the pay can be decent, you don’t meet a lot of rich drivers. Trucking takes drivers away from their family and friends and it doesn’t respect birthdays, anniversaries and family events.
So why do truckers do it?
For some, trucking is freedom. Whether they’re fleet drivers or owner-operators, truckers have a degree of independence that cubicle dwellers don’t. They’re not staring at the same four walls, eating at the same fast food places for lunch or spending the day with the same co-workers. Yes, most truckers have bosses, but they aren’t down the hall.
Others like the travel. While driving is hardly a vacation, OTR truckers get a chance to see big parts of this country through their windshields. Get them talking and even the most grizzled drivers will reminisce about the glorious sunsets they’ve seen.
And they know their work is important. Though it’s not always reflected in their pay and public image, truckers are vital to the economy. Getting goods and raw materials from Point A to Point B safely and on time is what keeps this country ticking.
It can be gratifying work. Despite all the regulations and hassles from employers, shippers and dispatchers, there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in hauling loads from place to place.
Lastly, it’s a lifestyle. Trucking consumes your life more than, say, accounting does. For people who want that, it’s great. For those who don’t, it’s a poor fit, something new drivers will discover in a hurry.
As one member of our RoadPro Road Warrior Pro Driver Council put it: “Out here. you practically live, eat, and breathe the road. If you don't embrace it as a lifestyle and all the ups and downs that go with it, you could be in for a long, miserable JOB.”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Accident from bald tire on fleet pickup nets record settlement
Article thanks to Jill Odom and Links provided:
Editor’s note: This story, written by Jill Odom, first appeared in HWT’s sister publication, “Total Landscape Care.”
Former Pennsylvania landscaper David Williams will receive $26.55 million – the largest ever legal settlement in a Philadelphia County personal injury case – after suing ServiceMaster, TruGreen and other defendants in the wake of a November 2011 accident that left him a quadriplegic.
According to Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky P.C., the law firm representing Williams in the case, the landscaper was driving a company truck when he suddenly lost control and it swerved off the road. In the rollover, he was ejected from the truck and suffered a fractured spinal cord that has required several surgeries.
The 32-year-old father of three sons now requires constant nursing aid and must be awakened and repositioned in bed several times each night. Experts have estimated Williams’ lifetime medical expenses will total millions of dollars.
“David was the picture of vitality and energy when his life was violently turned upside down in that totally preventable rollover,” said David Kwass, a member of Williams’ legal team. “While he has very limited use of his hands and arms, he has no feeling below the chest so he will never again kick a soccer ball, walk on the beach or hike a trail with his boys.”
Williams’ lawyers say the crash was the result of the defendants’ failure to replace bald, dangerous tires on the company truck.
“The defendants were alleged to have knowingly and recklessly permitted a dangerous and potentially lethal bald tire on Mr. Williams’ 2005 Ford-350 TruGreen truck to continue in service after it failed their own inspection,” said attorney Bob Mongeluzzi in a statement.
Williams’ lawsuit against ServiceMaster, TruGreen and Dickinson Fleet Management states that a field-service technician for Dickinson, which services TruGreen’s vehicles, recognized the insufficient tread on the rear right tire of the truck Williams was driving on the day of the accident, yet neither company decided to have the vehicle taken out of service.
“We would have demonstrated at trial how easy it would have been for the defendants – including ServiceMaster, TruGreen (owned at the time by ServiceMaster), and Dickinson Fleet Services LLC, to just do the right thing: remove the truck from service until the hazardous tires were replaced,” Mongeluzzi said. “Tragically, no amount of damages can restore a semblance of normalcy in the shattered life of David Williams.”
As part of the settlement, TruGreen and ServiceMaster will pay $16.75 million, Dickinson will pay $9.5 million, and Brooks Auto Repair, which also serviced the truck, will pay $300,000.
“David hopes that in some way this settlement sends a message to all those who own, operate and/or service fleet vehicles; remember David when you do an inspection, never look the other way when you see a defective tire, worn brakes or some other hazardous condition that can ultimately cost someone their life,” said Benjamin Baer, another member of the law firm representing Williams.
- See more at:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chevrolet Silverado HD gets new intake for 2017
Article thanks to Jason Cannon and Links provided:
June, 2016  Chevrolet Silverado HD trucks will feature a new air intake system for 2017 that the company says provides cooler air for its flagship Duramax diesel engines.
Highlighted by a dramatic hood scoop, Chevy says the all-new air intake system provides 60 percent of the air to the Duramax diesel engine from an inlet at the front of the hood, with the balance coming from from the grille and a filter housing in one of the front fenders that blends airflow with air from the hood inlet before funneling it into the Duramax’s combustion chambers.
“While developing this all-new induction system, we considered our customers towing a maximum-weight trailer through the Eisenhower Tunnel on a hot, rainy summer day,” Eric Stanczak, chief engineer, Silverado HD, says of the highest vehicle tunnel in the world and, at more than 11,000 feet, one of the highest elevations for any roadway in North America. “The 2017 Silverado HD was engineered to provide maximum utility for our customers in even the most extreme situations.”
With incoming air hitting the intake at highway speed, the system also features a ram-air effect, which helps pack more and denser air into the engine.
The functional hood scoop also includes a air/water separator to ensure only dry air is drawn into the engine. The air charge enters an expansion chamber containing a sharp, 180-degree turn on its way to the air filter housing, which creates a velocity change that causes humidity form water droplets that are flung centrifugally against the outside wall of the housing. The collected water drains through a valve, while the air charge continues on to the filter housing and into the engine.
“Big, heavy raindrops from a thunderstorm are relatively easy to eliminate from air. The more challenging issue comes from the mist-like spray generated by semitrucks on wet highways,” says Kevin Dunn, global vehicle performance for splash engineering. “Those very fine water droplets prove more challenging to separate from the air. The air intake is an elegant solution that works well with water droplets of all sizes. For customers, the results delivers maximum engine performance and even greater towing confidence.”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tribe Express Takes the Long View on Driver Retention

Photo: Tribe Transportation
Article thanks to David Cullen and Links provided:

May, 2016  Founded in 2010 with five trucks as logistics provider Tribe Transportation’s asset-based arm, Tribe Express now has over 235 trucks and it plans to be running 350 by year’s end. But the truckload carrier recognizes it can only field more trucks if it can find and keep qualified drivers.
While the driver roster boasts many veteran truckers, between 50 and 60 years old, the carrier is seeing significant growth in both the number of younger (age 28 to 35) and female drivers it employs. Most importantly, its turnover rate is “generally as low as 33%,” says Matt Handte, executive vice president. He credits that success to “showing our employees how important they are to us and how much we value their efforts.”

Helping in a big way to express that appreciation is Tribe’s premium equipment. The fleet is currently buying Kenworth T680 tractors with 76-inch sleepers, which Handte credits with both finding and keeping drivers. The trucks are powered by Paccar MX-13 engines, rated at 455 hp and driven through Eaton Fuller Advantage automated manual transmissions.
Given that Tribe drivers run a lot of miles – about 250,000 on average for teams and 125,000 for solos — the company believes it’s crucial to provide them with a comfortable truck. The sleepers boast a drawer-style refrigerator, rotating table, and room for a microwave. The cabs feature the OEM’s SmartWheel steering wheel, Driver Performance Center, and radio with high-performance speakers as well as SiriusXM satellite radio and enabled Bluetooth.
Tribe recently also opted to outfit its entire fleet with EpicVue in-cab satellite TV and its DirectTV programming packaged with truckers in mind. After ordering 200 EpicVue systems in late 2015, the company has committed to buying another 100 in-cab satellite TV systems for new tractors being added this year.
The fleet is installing the satellite TV systems in existing trucks based on driver seniority and expects to complete that work in six months. EpicVue will be installed in new trucks as they are placed into service.
“EpicVue offers the kind of value and comfort we try to provide drivers by giving them the ability to watch a game, movie or program they might watch at home,” says Handte. He figures the investment will quickly pay dividends in driver retention. “It can cost us $2,000 to recruit, train, and orient a new driver,” he says, “and an empty seat can cost $5,000 per week in lost revenue. 
“That makes the payback on EpicVue for installation and subscription costs very fast,” he continues. “Based on how positively our drivers have reacted to our decision to equip the entire fleet with satellite TV, we believe the systems will lower our turnover rate even further.”
Who: Tribe Express
Where: Gainesville, Ga.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Must-haves for the New Driver
Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands. Links provided:
Everyone who drives for a living has had the experience of needing a certain something on the road and not having it. Whether “it” is a dry pair of shoes, a fuse, a pair of pliers or a cooler, having the right gear can make the difference between a safe, comfortable trip and a difficult, unpleasant one.
To learn what gear is most important to have on the road, we asked veteran truckers what they would advise a new driver to pack. There were so many replies that we grouped them by category:
Tools and spare parts
A flashlight, good for checking under the hood or in the corners of a dark trailer, was mentioned more than anything else. That was followed by a tool kit for emergency repairs and replacements. Drivers specifically mentioned hammers, tire thumpers, tire gauges and tire plug kits, side cutters, multi-tools, 5th wheel pullers, jumper cables, vise grips and air hoses for gladhand connectors. WD40, duct tape and electrical tape also are must-haves. For winter driving, make sure to have additives that liquify gelled fuel and thaw out frozen fuel filters.
Tools and spare parts often go hand-in-hand. Drivers recommended carry extra fuel filters, fuses, light bulbs, replacement headlights, marker lights and even an alternator.  
The requirements here depend on the time of year and where you’d driving. If it’s winter up North, pack as if you might be stranded in the cold because that’s a possibility. That means a winter coat, warm clothing and even thermal underwear. A sleeping bag can keep you warm as well.
Regardless of the weather, work boots (insulated or not) are always a good idea. Bring an extra pair of footwear in case one gets wet. Packing a pair of tennis shoes makes it easier to get in a workout.
One or two pair of good work gloves (one rubberized) is another necessity, drivers said. And a reflective safety vest can save your life in a dark terminal or by the side of the road.  
For over-the-road drivers, the cab is home and outfitting it for maximum comfort and efficiency is important.
Our respondents singled out the CB radio and a high-quality Bluetooth headset as must-haves. A power inverter to power appliances and electronics is another recommendation.
More truckers are preparing and packing food in order to eat healthier and save money so it’s not surprising that appliances were on everyone’s list: mini-fridges, 12-volt ovens, crockpots, microwaves and coffee makers.
Sometimes, the little things make a difference.
Though virtually every truck and cell phone is equipped with a GPS, several drivers still recommended packing an old-fashioned road atlas for those times when electronics fail.
Things bounce around in trucks so it’s a good idea to pack some bungee cords and zipties. Glass cleaner and paper towels keep your windows clean and hand cleaner, soap and disposable towelettes can do the same for you.
A first-aid kit is a good idea as is additional food and water.
But the most important thing to bring on the road, according to many drivers, is common sense or, as one trucker put it, “Don’t forget to pack the brain between your ears.”
Whether all the items listed here can even fit into a sleeper cab is questionable and there probably isn’t a driver on the road who carries all these items, but it’s a good start from which drivers can make their own list according to their own needs and circumstances.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

America's First Road Trip

How a $50 Bet and a Dog Got a Nation on the Move

Story thanks to Richard Ratay and Links provided:

May, 2016  The first noteworthy attempt to drive across America began as many ill-advised feats do — on a bet. While visiting California in 1903, a 31-year old doctor named Horatio Jackson accepted a friend’s invitation to join him for a drink at San Francisco’s University Club.

It’s there, over a cocktail — or likely several — that Jackson found himself in debate with another gentleman on the topic of whether automobiles, then just beginning to appear on city streets, were merely a passing fad. An enthusiastic admirer of the new contraptions, Jackson passionately argued that cars were nothing less than the future of transportation.

In fact, Jackson boldly asserted, automobiles were already so rugged and reliable he could drive a car clear across the country back to his home in Vermont.

Perhaps to his chagrin, Jackson’s declaration was immediately challenged and a wager was set: $50, about $1200 in today’s money. Jackson wasn’t fazed by the amount; he was wealthy. Nor apparently was he dissuaded by the fact that he didn’t own a car, had barely driven one, or that scarcely any roads existed west of the Mississippi River. But he may have regretted having to explain his bet to his young wife the following morning. Rather than joining her husband on the adventure, she opted to take a train home instead.

Undaunted, Jackson prepared for his epic journey. He hired a young mechanic, Sewall Crocker, to serve as his backup driver and traveling companion. On Crocker’s advice, Jackson purchased a two-cylinder, 20-horsepower Winton touring car. With perhaps a touch of inflated optimism, Jackson named the car Vermont, after his home state and the destination he hoped to reach.

Together, Jackson and Crocker planned a route heading north along the California coast before proceeding east along the Oregon Trail. Their aim was to avoid the treacherous Rocky Mountains and baking deserts of the Southwest that had doomed earlier attempts to cross the country by car.

The pair then loaded their Winton with all manner of gear: sleeping bags, blankets, canteens, overcoats, watertight rubber suits, a water bag, axe, shovel, telescope, tools, spare parts, cans for extra gasoline and oil, rifle, shotgun, pistols, and a pulley system they could use to extricate themselves should they become stuck in mud. Last but not least, they bought an Eastman Kodak camera to document their adventure. On May 23, 1903, Jackson kissed his exasperated wife goodbye and he and Crocker set off.

Things didn’t start smoothly. Not even 15 miles into their journey, the duo’s car blew a tire. On the second night, the men realized the Winton’s side lanterns weren’t nearly bright enough to light their way after dark, and they were forced to purchase a large spotlight to mount on the front grill.

Days later, Jackson and Crocker failed to hear their cooking equipment fall off over the din of the car’s engine. Near Sacramento, the pair was given bad directions—on purpose—by a woman because she wanted her family to get their first look at an automobile. The detour added 108 miles to their route. In Oregon, the pair suffered two more flats. Lacking spares, they wound thick rope around the wheels as a makeshift substitute until they could find new tires.

Not long afterward, they ran out of fuel. Jackson was forced to rent a bicycle and pedal 25 miles to a town to purchase gas then ride back with four heavy cans strapped to his back. Along the way, the bicycle also blew a tire. All this before the twosome had even really left the West Coast behind.

By the time Jackson and Crocker reached Idaho, news of their quest was beginning to spread. Their fame was bolstered by Jackson’s decision to pick up another traveling companion — a spunky pitbull named Bud.

While driving across the arid salt flats of Utah, the dog’s eyes became so irritated by dust kicked up by the car’s tires that Jackson had Bud fitted for his own driving goggles. The press ate it up, turning out to take pictures and conduct interviews with the trio at every stop. Jackson, Crocker and Bud became national celebrities.

After reaching Nebraska, the quality of the roads improved and so did the adventurers’ luck. Finally, on July 26, 1903, after 63 days on the road (and off it), the Vermont and its exhausted crew rolled onto the streets of New York City, completing the first successful crossing of the North American continent by automobile.

So, the next time you load up your SUV, get the kids situated in the backseat with their iPads, and set off on smoothly paved interstates following a route carefully planned by your GPS navigation system to some distant destination, remember to tip your cap to Jackson, Crocker and Bud. After all, they’re the ones who started us all down this road.
Richard Ratay is the author of the upcoming book “Don’t Make Me Pull This Thing Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip.” Follow him on Facebook.