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At the Truck Stop: This expediter’s loads are light and so are his spirits

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Seeing Ray Shamel standing in line at the Petro truck stop off Interstate 40, exit 161, near Little Rock, Arkansas, you could almost mistake him for a professional truck driver. He looks the part. And he’s obviously at home at a truck stop.

Then again, he’s got a little more pep in his step, he’s a little less bedraggled than most truckers are as they take care of business and life’s necessities. He’s quick to smile and to start a conversation wherever he finds one. He’s relaxed rather than weary.

There’s a simple explanation for the similarities and the differences, and he’s happy to reveal it.

“I’m an expediter,” he said with a wide grin, as though he had just revealed a plot twist to a mystery. He’s a professional driver, all right, but instead of a big rig, he drives a sprinter-style van for Barrett DirectLine Expedited Service, based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I haul small freight,” Shamel said. “I can haul up to three skids.” When someone has a small load that has to get somewhere quickly, that’s the niche expediters like Barrett fills, anywhere in the Lower 48, although, “usually we stay in the freight lanes, normally east of the Mississippi, mostly.”

Shamel has been driving for Barrett for about a year. Before that, he’d driven a straight truck near his home in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint about 65 miles north-northwest of Detroit.

“I always liked driving, but my kids were young and at home, so I stayed at home and worked local until my kids were grown,” he said. “So now I decided to get out and see the country, drive and make money doing it.”

The way Shamel describes it, with expediting, he enjoys the best aspects of long-haul driving without a lot of the headaches. Take all that angst about Hours of Service, especially since ELDs became mandatory. Shamel has been following the issue, though none of it applies to him.

“We manage our own time, so we’re more able to stop where we want,” he said. When it is time to stop, he doesn’t have hunt for parking like he would with an 18-wheeler. His van has a pulldown bed, so he can get a room or just park somewhere.

“If I want to pull into a roadside park and get some sleep, a truck may not be able to get in, but I can do that.”

Ask almost any driver about the best aspects of being an OTR driver, and they will tell you it’s the chance to see the country.

“In a van, you can get more places that you want to see,” Shamel said. “Let’s say I’ve got a delivery near Niagara Falls, and I’ve always wanted to see it. Once I drop that, I go out of service for a day or 12 hours or whatever, I can go, take a look, take some pictures, enjoy myself, enjoy my day.”

Or suppose he’s out West and wants to take a short detour and see the Grand Canyon. Would he be able to maneuver those narrow, winding national park roads in a semi?

No driver likes to deadhead, but with his fuel costs being just a tiny fraction of what it would be driving a tractor-trailer, it’s not as big a deal if he decides he doesn’t want to wait to get home.

Like any driver with a family, being away from home can be the most depressing downside of the job. Shamel is out on the road for three to four weeks at a time. But he and his wife have more quality time now that he’s on the road.

“When I was working a regular job at home, I was driving long hours,” Shamel said. “I’d get home, my wife worked third shift. I’d get home either right after she left for work or right before she left. And then she’d be gone all night. We had to fight for moments to have time together.

“Now that I’m an independent contractor running through a carrier, I’m able to come in and go out of service whenever I want. If my wife says, ‘I have a two-week vacation in June, do you want to do something?’ we can book a cruise. I’m able to work it round her schedule now so every moment that she has off, I’m able to be there with her.”

Expediters have a tight community out on the road. Shamel belongs to Facebook group called Transportation Life: Wheels, Wings and Rudders, They number about 3,000 members.

“It’s like having this huge extended family of fellow expediters,” he said. So even though you’re away from home, you have friends that are out here. We’re able to meet up, you know, have dinner somewhere.”

It’s a nice feeling to pull up somewhere and see a couple of vans. “There’s a lot of women out here who are solo,” he said. “If they’re in an area with other members of the community they might feel safer.”

Then he added, honestly, it’s comforting even if you’re a guy to know you’re among friends.

Shamel had been sitting in Little Rock and had just gotten a call. In just a couple of minutes he’d be heading out to pick up a load to take to Louisville, Kentucky.

After that? Who knows, but that’s part of the fun.

 

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Nebraska officer earns grand champion award for roadside inspection

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Courtesy: CVSA Sgt. Benjamin Schropfer of the Nebraska State Patrol has earned the 2019 Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s highest honor for the commercial motor vehicle roadside inspector. (Courtesy: CVSA)

PITTSBURGH — Sgt. Benjamin Schropfer of the Nebraska State Patrol has earned the 2019 Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s highest honor for the commercial motor vehicle roadside inspector.

After a week of in-depth training and intense competition, Schropfer received the award Saturday at the North American Inspectors Championship (NAIC) here at a joint awards ceremony with the American Trucking Associations Newsal Truck Driving Championships and Newsal Step Van Driving Championships.

Every year since NAIC started 27 years ago, each jurisdiction from Canada, Mexico and the United States is eligible to send one inspector to represent their jurisdiction, receive valuable training and compete against other top inspectors for the ultimate title of NAIC Grand Champion.

This year, 51 commercial motor vehicle inspectors gathered in Pittsburgh, August 13-17 to compete at NAIC, the only event dedicated to testing, recognizing and awarding commercial motor vehicle inspector excellence.

Each contestant competes in six inspection categories. The competition includes a North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria exam as well as thorough assessments of each inspector’s knowledge and expertise by providing various identical vehicles from which contestants must identify regulatory violations and critical vehicle inspection item out-of-service conditions, all while being timed. Contestants are tested on real-world vehicle and driver inspection scenarios and must appropriately evaluate the situation and properly identify violations within the recreated roadside inspection scenario. Inspectors are tested on the out-of-service criteria, inspection procedures, hazardous materials/dangerous goods requirements, passenger carrier vehicles and more.

In addition to the NAIC Grand Champion Award, other notable awards were earned by this year’s competing inspectors.

The one inspector who scores the most points representing each of the three participating countries in the competition receives their country’s High Points Award.

The following High Points Awards were presented:

  • Sean McAlister High Points Canada Award: Brittany Linde, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • High Points Mexico Award: Gustavo Ruiz Alvarado, Policía Federal
  • High Points United States Award: Benjamin Schropfer, Nebraska State Patrol

First, second and third place awards are given for the following inspection categories:

The North American Standard Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods and Cargo Tank/Bulk Packagings Inspection is an inspection of the requirements related to identifying hazardous materials/dangerous goods markings, labeling, placarding, packaging, identification, etc.

  • First Place: Brittany Linde, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Second Place: Michael Trautwein, local member, Houston Police Department
  • Third Place: Benjamin Schropfer, Nebraska State Patrol

The North American Standard Level I Inspection is the most commonly performed inspection. It is a 37-step procedure that includes an examination of driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness.

  • First Place: Delaney Malsbury, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General
  • Second Place: Benjamin Schropfer, Nebraska State Patrol
  • Third Place: Andrew James – Arkansas Highway Police

The Team Award is given to the team with the highest combined score. The team with the highest score this year was the Blue Team, led by team leader Joe Manning with Pennsylvania State Police. The Blue Team had the following members: Brittany Linde, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure; Stanton Ishii, Hawaii Department of Transportation; Ryan Dahm, Iowa Department of Transportation; Herbert Bradley, Kansas Highway Patrol; Level Walley, Mississippi Department of Public Safety; Benjamin Schropfer, Nebraska State Patrol; Tommy Torok, South Dakota Highway Patrol; Jose Najera, Texas Department of Public Safety; and Vidal Zamora – U.S. DOT/FMCSA.

This year, NAIC contestants voted to present the John Youngblood Award of Excellence to Joshua Bradley with the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The John Youngblood Award of Excellence is an honor NAIC contestants bestow upon a fellow NAIC inspector who exemplifies high standards and unwavering dedication to the profession. It’s the only award that is awarded to one inspector by their peers. Inspectors vote for the inspector who exemplifies the spirit of cooperation, leadership, a professional image, a dedication to their profession, a positive attitude, organizational ability and congeniality.

“I started my CVSA career 16 years ago at the 2003 North American Inspectors Championship in Columbus, Ohio, so this competition is near and dear to my heart,” said CVSA President Chief Jay Thompson with the Arkansas Highway Police. “I know firsthand what an honor it is to be selected by your agency to compete on behalf of your jurisdiction against the best of the best inspectors from across North America. Each competing inspector – whether they receive a trophy or not – leaves NAIC as a winner.”

In addition to the competitive events, each inspector receives hands-on training on the latest safety information, technology, standards and procedures, while sharing ideas, techniques and experiences with fellow inspectors. Since NAIC is co-located with ATA’s championship, certified inspectors and professional drivers are in an environment where they can interact with, learn from and support each other throughout the week.

NAIC was created to recognize roadside inspectors and enforcement personnel – the backbone of the commercial motor vehicle safety program in North America – and to promote uniformity of inspections through training and education.

Next year’s NAIC is scheduled for August 18-22, 2020, in Indianapolis.

 

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WIT’s Ellen Voie wins inaugural Cinderella to CEO of the Year honor

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Women In Trucking Association President Ellen Voie, left, accepts a copy of the book “From Cinderella to CEO, How to Master the 10 Lessons of Fairy Tales to Transform Your Work Life” from its author Cary Broussard. Voie was named the 2019 Cinderella to CEO of the Year. (Courtesy: WOMEN IN TRUCKING)

PLOVER, Wis. — Women In Trucking Association President and CEO Ellen Voie has been named the 2019 Cinderella to CEO of the Year — along with winning her award category “Climbing the Beanstalk” — for cultivating an innovative improvement to the workplace that creates inroads for women to achieve career goals and enhances work-life balance opportunities for all genders.

The Cinderella to CEO Awards recognize women who have overcome obstacles to change businesses, communities and industries for the better.

The inaugural awards, inspired by the book “From Cinderella to CEO, How to Master the 10 Lessons of Fairy Tales to Transform Your Work Life,” by Cary Broussard, honored 200 women across industries and communities who were nominated for the awards.

“Our goal is to accelerate the successes of women who have worked hard and helped others to also succeed by connecting them to opportunities and each other,” said Broussard, CEO of Broussard Global. “In 2030, women in the U.S. are expected to control 75 percent of the wealth in this country. We want the wealth to be in the good, caring hands of those who strive to make the world a better place.”

Nine category winners, including Voie, were recognized by a Cinderella to CEO panel of judges for their support of other women, their transformational ability to overcome obstacles and barriers, and their desire to motivate others to accomplish their dreams. Each award category is tied to a chapter in Broussard’s book.

“I am so honored to receive the very first Cinderella to CEO award, as there were hundreds of nominations featuring some amazing women who have done truly notable and altruistic projects,” Voie said. “I am especially thrilled to be recognized by an organization outside the trucking industry, which makes the award even more special.”

The Women In Trucking Association is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17 percent of its members are men who support the mission.

 

 

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FMCSA explains Hours of Service proposed rule

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Here is what they have to say…

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