Technology Advances Holding Us Back?

on May 12, 2014

As technology advances, so does neglect.

People are relying more and more on gadgets and devices these days that they forget to implement the most basic safety measures that are crucial regardless, such as sufficient sleep, logging truthful information for their own sake, failure to load properly, texting while driving, and staying up to date on constantly changing regulations.

Electronic safety inventions were meant to aid in safety, not take away from it. What was found to have the most effect on driver’s influence for motivation was their score compared to other drivers

“Everyone loves some good competition,” Offers Samuel Doleco, a 7 year Trucker from West Virginia. "That's why score cards are crucial, because driver's want to know where they hold in comparison to other drivers. But Samuel is a big fan and defense of the techno world. He shows us several of what he calls ‘new-fangled gadgets’ that line his truck

“This device from SmartDrive now has a U-Turn trigger on its recorder. If I miss a turn, this thing can sense an unsafe maneuver and make that conclusion to lead me back onto the proper road. Other vehicles can afford to miss a turn or two, but us truckers can’t. We have a dispatcher, 2 companies, a family, or whatever combination that is dependent on our timely arrival. The dangerous part though, is that if I make a wrong turn and end up on a road that is not capacitated for trucks, I could ram the road or worse yet, be too tall for an upcoming bridge.

“My NexTraq has this Bluetooth trigger unit that works with an app on my phone to block all calls while I’m driving. It’s hard for me to control myself from the delicious sound of someone calling me, or even just the screen lighting up with a phone number. I let this app keep me in check.”

Doleco says his antennae are up for all the newest safety measures that are invented. He is looking forward to the new inventions that are ever changing and bringing safety closer to reality, such as intelligent transportation systems, vehicle-to-vehicle, and vehicle-to-infrastructure/infrastructure-to-vehicle data.

Some companies don’t invest in high technology for their fleets though. Doleco says he feels lucky to be part of one that does. “My company understands that investing in our safety is investing in themselves. 

You see this safety camera here? If I get into a collision, which is already a less-likely scenario due to all the other safety measures implemented, then this camera can provide proof of my not being at fault. That reduces my insurance dramatically and takes a heck of a monetary load off of the company.” is lucky to be a part of Doleco’s satisfying trucking career: “My company also invests in loading gear that is top quality only and within the best results for your buck. This allows them to keep us safe inexpensively while still affording us higher salaries than most.”

Owner-Operators: Do they really earn more?

on May 06, 2014

Is owning your own truck really going to save you $$$ in the long run?

Some beg to differ.

For Samuel Slatin, his investment in his own big rig seemed to be the best decision he ever made. The hours were his own to choose from, gas was a meek 87 cents a gallon, and the paycheck came in more often.

Now, he says, things have gone from bad to worse.

Expenses have gone through the roof in more ways than one and giving up is close on his radar.

Tolls are about $100 for truckers, insurance is sky high, gas is 3.99 a gallon, and his truck gets by on only 5.2 miles a gallon.

Any slight traffic infraction could raise his insurance. His health insurance is something he can’t afford and the stress makes for a weaker heart which he now needs regular checkups for, all of which must be out-of-the-pocket, sometimes having to dish out upwards of $100 at a time.

Slatin says he left Europe, hoping for a better income and got his wish, but it was short-lived.

“I almost wish I stayed working for someone else, for a company. Being my own boss comes with all the expenses and responsibility that, at the end of the day, is costing me more!”

He points out that worker’s compensation, social security contributions, unemployment insurance, or high protection levels by safety and health regulation are just a handful of the many things he is missing out on as an owner-operator.

Back in the 1980’s, when truckers made today’s equivalent of $44.83 an hour, most of those 75,000 port truck drivers were unionized.

Now, more than half of the percentage have become independent owner operators. Initially, it was the envy of the industry – someone with his own truck and his own freedom. At this point however, independent truckers have been making an average of $28,000 a year, $7,000 less than employee drivers, who are paid by the hour and receive more comprehensive benefits. Port truckers are sometimes made to wait at the port for just one shipment for almost a day – simply because no one loses out except them, and no incentive is put in place to avoid this.

Slatin shared his musings with us:

“My marriage has been sourly affected, and I had to give up on our home mortgage because it was either that or the truck. And I need my truck to continue working. I’ve declared bankruptcy and I owe debtors. The hardest part of it all is, I am very attached and truly love my truck at this point, but I may have no choice but to sell it. The miles are high though, so it can’t be worth that much on the market by now. The saddest part is, my case is not uncommon.

“With all the expenses piling up, I have no choice but to scratch it down to bare necessities. This includes all the straps, chains, load locks and tools needed to secure my load that need replacement. If I don’t have the correct strong and sturdy securing ropes that my load requires, I could be risking a horrible accident where my load goes airborne and results in injury or worse: fatality. 

I want to thank for providing me with all the equipment I need and more, and after they heard my story, have given me the discount I needed to splurge on a gift for my wife. Things are lookin’ up, slowly.”

The Text and Drive Epidemic

on April 30, 2014

Texting has evolved from just a secondary means of communication to the foremost preferred. Whereas phone conversations were the escape from face-to-face confrontation, texting now takes up precedence as the novel way to escape voice confrontation as well. 

Candid exchanges have become almost extinct. Assuming that texting requires half the effort, drivers the world over mistake it as an easy multitasking option for driving and communicating in one shot. It only requires, well, your line of vision, concentration, and hands. Other than that, sounds like a safe way to multitask, right? Wrong. 

Statistics back up the fact that no matter just how tech-savvy, and how ‘I-can-watch-the-road-while-siri-types-what-I-say’ you are, previous results are not on your side.

According to the Department of Transportation, nearly 16,000 truckers were ticketed for using their cell phones last year, but only four of those were suspended and taken out of service, WABC reported.

In just one scenario, ABC reports a George and Kathy Weed who were killed one year ago when a truck driver who police say was texting while driving slammed his tractor-trailer into the back of the upstate New York couple’s car on a Pennsylvania highway.

“Dad was in his lane and coming to a stop,” said their son, Brian Weed. “The truck just came up and hit him from behind and pushed him into another truck.”

“This utterly destroyed us,” said their daughter, Tricia Weed.  “I mean, devastating beyond words.”

This immeasurably horrifying tale is only one among thousands. Even if the driver lives to tell the tale, he may wish he hadn’t. 

In another example, in Arizona, a truck driver has pleaded not guilty to murder charges after a police officer was killed when the driver crashed into police cars and emergency vehicles.  The driver was allegedly looking at pictures on his phone at the time of the crash.

Practicing unsafe loading can aggravate the chances for a fatal crash as well, due to unwanted shifting and tumbling of heavy cargo in the wake of a texting-induced crash.

When WABC investigative reporter Jim Hoffer asked National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Robert Sumwalt if the consequences for texting while driving are strict enough for truck drivers, he had this to say:

“Well, is it really changing behavior?” 

“From your video, that indicates a lot of people driving commercial vehicles that are still using personal electronic devices,” he said. “And that would indicate the enforcement side of it is not strong enough.”

An investigation in New York City showed that the two crashes are not isolated incidents.  Cameras set up on major New York highways caught truck drivers dialing, texting and talking on their cell phones.

In one of the worst cases observed by the cameras, a truck driver carried on two conversations on two separate phones.

An institution of stricter laws have been consequentially put into place:

A truck driver stopped by police for talking on a cell phone in New York would receive a $150 fine and five points on a driver’s license. Accumulating 11 points over an 18-month period may result in a suspended license in New York, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The hope is that the fear for suspension will deter avid texters and lousy loading to a thing of the past.

Are You an Aspiring Trucker? Here's What NOT to do:

on April 07, 2014

V. Valesquez is a an example of a trucker that has managed to kill a lot of birds with one stone, and has also managed to violate multiple rules in one shot.

He was driving along the I-88 in West Suburban Aurora, where at that point he had already passed the 11 hour limit, and 14 hour limit of straight driving. In fact, he was driving approximately 30 hours straight with minimal sleep, and had lied in his logs.

The result? Two fully illuminated stationary vehicles – one an Illinois State Trooper with his emergency lights on as well as an Illinois Tollway vehicle with an activated warning arrow. As he crashed both vehicles consequentially burst into a gulf of flames.

The Illinois State Trooper who was injured from the crash, Balder, 38, remained hospitalized Wednesday at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood in a medically-induced coma. The father of two has been a Navy reservist since 1994 and was given a hero's welcome home last summer after returning home to Oswego following his third tour in Africa. 

The Tollway worker who was killed, Petrella, became the first Illinois Tollway employee since 2003 to be killed on the job. The 39-year-old father of two was an equipment operator with the Illinois Tollway since 2005 and began his career as a toll collector, officials said.

Years prior, in 2001, Valesquez had been arrested for selling two kilos of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was arrested at the time and sentenced to 50 months in Federal Prison.

Now, his accident has gotten him charged with Class 4 felonies of operating a CMV while impaired/fatigued, a false report of record and duty status, driving beyond the 11 hour rule, and driving beyond the 14 hour rule. He was charged as well for failure to reduce speed for avoiding an accident, in addition to failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles (Scott’s Law).

His history of driving violations included convictions for speeding and improper backing on a one-way street, and a collision resulting in property damage in March of 2013.

The prosecutor in the latest case had stated that Valesquez had been intoxicated at the time of the crash. His lawyer however put in the defense that his client’s blood-alcohol test indicated that he was in fact not under the influence at the time. 
It was rebuffed with "It was an accident that didn't have to happen. Driving tired is as bad a driving impaired or driving drunk.”

His attorney, Steve Goldman responded to the DUI claim with: "That’s what’s alleged. I don’t know if that’s true," he described Velasquez as a "loving father and a loving husband."

"He's devastated. He’s devastated this happened," Goldman said of his client. "It was an unfortunate and tragic accident."

While he may have learned his lesson, lives with irreversibly affected and we want to implement prevention for the future. Safety comes first. Simply stay honest on your logs, and don’t give yourself a reason not to be. Load securely, keep sober, and rest up. The rest is the result of your choice: it’s reward or consequence.

The reward? Your life. The consequence?... Your life.

shouldn't be volgur.