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We’re all just passing through, and it’s easy to be more than just a face in the crowd



A couple of Saturdays ago, I had nothing to do and all day to do it, so I decided to go out to the nearby truck stop where we look for people to interview.

Usually, when I go to the truck stop the trip is very purposeful. I show up with my camera around my neck, notepad and digital recorder in hand, and try to find a truck driver who’s in the right frame of mind to chew the fat for a few minutes – and that’s not a dig at truck stop food. We talk, I snap a couple of photos, and I’m off.

This time, I thought, I’m going to do something I’ve always thought about doing. I want to take my time, just hang out, spend a couple of hours and just observe. I mean, who spends that much time at a truck stop, other than truckers or the people who work there?

So, I plopped myself down at a centrally located small table near the restrooms and doodled in my notepad while watching the people go by.

As I sat for a while watching the free-form parade pass left and right, the prevailing impression that came over me was what an anonymous experience the truck stop can be. People come through, do whatever they are there to do and pay little attention to anything or anyone else. I’d sat there for a couple hours, hadn’t spoken to anyone and no one had spoken to me. I noticed that a couple of the employees had noticed me, but I got the impression that my just sitting there might be a little confusing, a little unusual, but since I wasn’t causing any trouble, they had figured, “OK, let him sit.”

I started to play a game – guess who’s a trucker and who’s a four-wheeler. Some were obvious. The white-haired little old lady in the shiny purple Disney jacket making a beeline for the restroom, I’m pretty sure she’s travelling by car.

Truck drivers come on all shapes, sizes, and styles, but I have picked up some pretty certain tip-offs. Anybody at the truck stop wearing a headset, even if it’s around their neck – almost for sure a trucker. If they’re lugging a duffel bag full of laundry, that’s another safe bet.

I’ve also noticed more often, anyone wearing flip-flops or Crocs in the dead of winter – for some reason that seems to be a fashion trend among drivers, stretched-out socks optional. Why do I see more and more drivers at the truck stop not wearing grownup shoes? I must look into that sometime.

Let’s look at the bright side, at least they haven’t adopted the pajamas-in-public look. Clomping around in sweats is bad enough. Seinfeld said it best, that’s a look that says, “I give up; I might as well be comfortable.”

Eventually, an employee parked a utility cart outside the men’s room, temporarily closing it for maintenance. A minute later, a would-be patron decided to wait it out and to put the time to good use helping his fellow man.

Every few moments, another guy would approach, and when stopped by the utility cart barricade, his body language would express mild panic and confusion, as though the realization the men’s room was closed had snapped them out of a trance.

Every time, the man who was waiting would say, “it’s closed,” as though his soothing words were there to help ease the others on their jolting transition back into reality. Some would simply sink back into their comfortable private stupor and trudge off in a different direction. A few acted as though they were personally offended by the inconvenience.

Finally, one guy saw the cart, and when the first guy offered the complimentary, “it’s closed” confirmation, just smiled and decided to wait it out, too. The two immediately started comparing their trips. One of them had started in Joplin and was headed to Charleston. The other was on his way to Houston from Indiana. They talked about the weather they’d encountered. The driver from Indiana won; his weather had been worse.

The two men chatted and chuckled for two or three minutes. Then the restroom reopened, and the conversation ended as quickly as it had started. The second man headed into the facilities. Oddly, the man who’d been waiting longer did not. He went off in a different direction.

I didn’t even notice that until I replayed it in my head. Come to think of it, the two guys never introduced themselves to one another, and there was nothing in their clothes or their conversation that indicated whether either of them was a truck driver or just a guy on a road trip. Plainly, they’d never met, and I’d be willing to bet by the time this is published, they might not be able to pick each other out of a lineup if they were asked to. But for a couple minutes, they made their trips and each other’s trips a little more enjoyable.

Maybe it was just the setting that lent to the symbolism I was reading into it, there at the truck stop, a place designed for people’s paths to intersect but not necessarily connect.  it was such a perfect example of how easily it is to pass through life anonymously, and how easy it is not to.

I decided I wasn’t going to snag any interviews just sitting there, so I got up and started pulling out my equipment. Just then a woman walked by. I noticed the blinking headset draped around her neck.

“Excuse me, are you a truck driver?”

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Penske Logistics closing Indiana terminal, laying off 80



Reading, Pennsylvania-based Penske Logistics has indicated it plans to close its terminal in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The move will result in the layoffs of 80 workers, most of them drivers.

A company spokesman said the closure is in response to a “recent local trucking contract termination.” The layoffs are scheduled to begin when the contract runs out July 20, according to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) that it filed with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development on May 18.

The WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ notice of a possible plant closing or mass layoffs.

“All affected employees have been notified of their separation dates and have been told their separation from employment will be permanent,” Penske said in the WARN notice.

The notice goes to say there will be no “bumping” rights for any of the affected employees, meaning none of them can displace another company employee somewhere else by virtue of seniority or some other perceived hierarchical advantage.

However, Penske Logistics also told a local business news outlet that they are looking for possible relocation opportunities within the company for the laid-off workers.

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Bendix offers tips on preventing OOS order during Roadcheck



During Roadcheck 2018 brake systems, tires and wheels, and brake adjustment represented well over half – 63.8 percent – of the violations that led to vehicles being placed out of service. (Courtesy: BENDIX)

ELYRIA, Ohio — Need evidence of how important foundational maintenance is to keeping vehicles on the road and operating safely?

Try this: During last year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) International Roadcheck, brake systems, tires and wheels, and brake adjustment represented well over half – 63.8 percent – of the violations that led to vehicles being placed out of service.

With this year’s International Roadcheck around the corner on June 4-6, Bendix (Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake) reminds fleets and owner-operators that taking care of the basics is a must.

“The 2018 Roadcheck followed a common pattern of brake, tire and wheel-end issues accounting for the majority of the out-of-service violations,” said Lance Hansen, Bendix North America regional vice president – fleet/trailer sales and service engineering. “This year’s program includes a special emphasis on steering and suspension systems – but that doesn’t mean there will be less scrutiny of brake and wheel-end concerns. Simple, routine maintenance is designed to catch these issues, from improperly inflated tires to out-of-adjustment brakes. Roadcheck also highlights something else of vital importance – the need for technicians to have the latest training.”

Since its inception in 1988, International Roadcheck – the largest targeted commercial motor vehicle program in the world – has conducted more than 1.6 million total roadside inspections in the United States, Canada and Mexico. On average, the 72-hour period will see roughly 17 trucks and buses inspected every minute, with most of them undergoing the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection, a 37-step procedure that reviews both driver operating requirements and a vehicle’s mechanical fitness.

With braking systems, wheel-ends and tires in the spotlight, offers key points on inspecting and maintaining these crucial components.

Brake Check

Brake systems and brake adjustment reflect a range of issues that are easily averted through regular pre-trip inspections and preventive maintenance. Before hitting the road, drivers should always conduct standard walk-arounds with an eye out for visible brake system problems such as loose hoses or damaged brake components – air chambers or pushrods, for example.

In the shop, air brake system inspections should include the following – all of which relate directly to items inspected during Roadcheck:

  • Conducting a 90- to 100-psi brake application and listening for leaks
  • Measuring chamber stroke at each wheel-end to ensure proper brake adjustment
  • Examining friction for good condition and minimum thickness
  • Measuring/inspecting each rotor and drum for wear and heat cracking and/or leopard spotting

Also essential is checking the condition of friction for compliance, whether during maintenance or pre-trip. This means inspecting for issues including lining cracks, missing portions of the lining, oil or grease contamination of the lining, and compliant friction lining thickness.

“Should you need to replace air disc brake pads or drum brake shoes, select components that will ensure the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) requirements are met, so that your vehicle remains compliant with the standards required of reduced stopping distance (RSD) braking systems,“ said Keith McComsey, director of marketing and customer solutions at Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB). “For example, not all friction that is marketed as acceptable under today’s RSD regulations will actually perform to that standard, so Bendix recommends replacing like-for-like OEM friction. This is the best way to maintain your vehicle’s braking performance in stopping distance and wear when replacing linings on vehicles equipped with RSD brakes.”

In addition, Bendix recommends remanufactured drum brake shoes that have been coined back to their OEM-engineered shape, as opposed to those that have simply been relined with new friction. Relining a shoe that’s been exposed to the extreme force and temperature changes of normal use without having been coined can lead to reduced stopping power and premature wear.

“Getting the most out of each part is key to achieving the best and safest performance from a braking system. Don’t let inferior friction or a twisted shoe undercut the stopping power of a high-performance brake,” McComsey said. “And you can draw a direct line between a braking system and connected safety systems: A full-stability or collision mitigation system will be negatively affected if brakes aren’t performing at their peak.”

Fleets spec’ing drum brakes and incurring repeated violations because of out-of-adjustment brakes might consider air disc brakes instead, McComsey noted, citing the Bendix ADB22X air disc brake as an example. “The ADB22X includes an internal self-adjustment mechanism that can help lower the risk of brakes being found out of adjustment during inspection, which can affect Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring.”

Tire Time

Roadcheck’s focus on tires serves as a reminder of the importance of proper tire pressure: Industry research shows about 90 percent of tire failures can be attributed to underinflation, and nearly half of all emergency service road calls are tire-related.

“Underinflated tires also experience greater stress and generate a higher internal running temperature, which compounds the risk of a tire blowout,” said Jon Intagliata, Bendix product manager for Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). “In fact, the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council estimates that 20 percent underinflation can shorten a tire life by 30 percent.”

Use of a system such as the SmarTire Tire Pressure Monitoring System by Bendix CVS – or the SmarTire Trailer-Link TPMS by Bendix CVS for trailers – can help reduce that risk by providing real-time pressure alerts to the driver. Bendix SmarTire systems use a wheel-mounted sensor that continuously monitors temperature as well, allowing alerts that compensate for changing operating conditions, and can point to other potential wheel-end issues that lead to high tire temperatures, such as a dragging brake.

Tires also impact the performance of advanced safety components and technologies, such as RSD-compliant brakes, air disc brakes, full stability, and advanced driver assistance systems such as Bendix Wingman Fusion.

Keeping Current

Staying informed on regulations, as well as remaining knowledgeable about today’s ever-advancing commercial vehicle safety components and technologies, is an important part of keeping vehicles on the road and operating safely. Fleets aiming to equip their technicians with the most current and in-depth training and information can turn to a variety of options.

The in-person Bendix Brake Training School – an annual series of multiday courses offered across North America – is among the industry’s longest-running educational programs. At the Bendix On-Line Brake School (, participants can access more than 70 courses for free, including Bendix’s comprehensive and interactive Air Brake Training course. The company also offers a host of 24/7/365 post-sales support options, including webinars, podcasts, blogs, video tech talks, and much more.

At the heart of Bendix’s training education programs are its field-tested sales and service professionals, along with its veteran field technical support team and the Bendix Tech Team at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE – an expert technical support group providing service advice, brake system troubleshooting, and product training. Bendix also provides technical materials – including archives of the Bendix Tech Tips series – through the Bendix Knowledge Dock multimedia center at

“Roadcheck demonstrates how being prepared and running safe, well-maintained trucks requires year-round attention,” Hansen said. “Bendix is there to support the industry with maintenance know-how and resources. It’s another way we are working together to shape tomorrow’s transportation.”




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TuSimple’s self-driving trucks go postal, on 2-week trial with USPS



The United States Postal Service is using Peterbilts fitted with self-driving technology by TuSimple to make five round-trip mail runs between Phoenix and Dallas over the next two weeks. (Courtesy: TuSIMPLE)

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Most people think that is the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service. It isn’t. It was engraved over the entrance of a New York City Post Office branch in 1914, and it just sort of caught on everywhere.

Actually, the phrase was written by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, describing the couriers who served the Persian army in a sixth-century war with the Greeks. So with no ancient Greek copyright laws to worry about, after 1,500 years the motto may soon need a reboot: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor bathroom breaks nor meals nor sleep nor Hours of Service …”

On Tuesday, May 22, USPS began a test run using self-driving trucks to transport mail between distribution hubs in Phoenix and Dallas. It is the first of five round-trip runs over a two-week period in a partnership between USPS and autonomous vehicle startup TuSimple.

Founded in 2015 and based in San Diego, TuSimple has been on the leading edge of development of SAE Class 4 commercial truck technology. Having raised $178 million in funding since its inception, in 2018, the company, expanded its Tuscon, Arizona, testing facilities from 6,800 to 50,000 square feet and began and began making commercial deliveries in August for about a dozen customers along the I-10 corridor within the state of Arizona. The company currently has 12 contracted customers and is making three to five delivery trips per day.

After its last round of funding in February, TuSimple announced plans to have 50 vehicles on the road in Arizona in June. The pilot program with the Post Office will mark the company’s first foray into interstate delivery, as well as its first venture into Texas.

The mail deliveries will be done in Class 8 Peterbilts fitted with TuSimple technology, including its eight-camera array, which uses lidar and radar to “see” 1,000 meters in all directions. The route will run a shade over 1,000 miles each way over I-10, I-20 and I-30.

TuSimple will have a safety driver behind the wheel, as well as an engineer in the passenger seat monitoring the autonomous systems.

“It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” said Dr. Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple’s founder, president and chief technology officer. “Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress.”

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