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I’ve had some secondhand second thoughts about those 18-year-old drivers

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In my last column, I mentioned something about looking at online reader comments, and how truckers tend to do a better job of staying on topic and making actual contributions to whatever the story is about compared to what you find on the internet in general.

I also said something about regularly checking our reader comments to see what drivers have to say about whichever topic is taking its turn as one of the “hot” ones of the moment.

These days, the question of whether 18-year-olds should be allowed to drive commercial vehicles interstate has been getting a lot of attention, in part because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced it is seeking comments about a proposed pilot program that would qualify 18- to 20-year-olds to drive interstate.

By the way, if it seems the FMCSA has been doing a lot of this “public comment” stuff lately, they have. And reading between the lines of what the people at FMCSA have been saying, it’s clear they are paying attention to the feedback they’re getting on this and other topics. But this time I am disappointed by the method by which they’re taking comments. It’s the kind of governmental, designed-by-a-bureaucrat, user-unfriendly online method that practically guarantees a low response and almost makes you wonder if that’s on purpose.

I don’t have room to even try to explain the process, which is why you won’t find an explanation in any of the articles about how they want your comments.

That’s too bad, because if the feedback to the story we ran on the pilot program is any indication, there are a lot of strong opinions out there waiting to be shared.

In the past, I’ve written in favor of letting younger drivers drive interstate, or at least for it to be an option. But having read some of the comments on our site, I’m going to attempt to do something here that’s so rare in today’s media, heck, in our entire society, some might consider it un-American — with a few prompts by the audience, I’m going to make a case for the other side.

If our small sampling is any indication, people who are already OTR drivers aren’t too keen on lowering the age of eligibility. In fact, a few suggested it should be raised. We know that’s not going to happen, just like we know the big motivation behind the push for younger drivers is to ease the driver shortage in the OTR truckload sector. Aside from the immediate potential relief, the argument has been made that this will allow young people into trucking before they are lost to other professions.

“You realize 18- to 20-year-olds already can drive intrastate?” reader Nathaniel McComb wrote.

I’m not sure whether Nathaniel was pointing out that that the profession is already open to 18-year-olds if they are interested, or the fact that our highways aren’t strewn with the carnage left in the wake of the young intrastate drivers who are already out there. Or maybe both.

In any case, there’s a good point to be found there. And it’s a point that reader Rachel Booth expanded on:

“I think intrastate driving from 18 to 20 is a good idea,” she wrote. “It gives them experience and more of an idea of what the job involves physically. Interstate driving should remain at 21. Leave it alone.”

Now, that’s reasonable thinking, Rachel. OTR driving is some of the most demanding, not to mention highest-paying, driving there is. What profession starts kids at the most demanding, highest paying level?

What’s wrong with letting them earn their chops for a few years? At that age, even when they make big life decisions, most of those decisions don’t stick. Nothing does. The ages of 18 to 25 is “grownup orientation” for most people. Most of them struggle with the concept of having to work, period, especially at a job that’s, like, hard.

“Would the 18- to 20-year-old people even be interested in being drivers?” reader Andy Schmitz asks. “Our government loves spending money on research & polling — have they actually visited high school seniors or anyone 18-20 to ask if they would be interested in a job that would put them on the road 300 days a year?”

Those pushing for opening up interstate driving to younger drivers claim that the industry loses too many young people to other professions because they make them wait until they are 21. Really? Are high school seniors looking out the window, noses pressed up against the glass, staring at big rigs as they go by and whispering to themselves, “If only …”?

No, they aren’t. In fact, nobody is. That’s the problem. The long-haul truckload trucking segment has long had a problem attracting new talent. And now, just as the demand is greatest, the industry finds itself competing to draw from the tightest labor pool in 50 years.

Trucking knows it’s the ugly duckling in that competition. They’ve been making efforts to gussy up its image. They’ve even raised mileage rates. But money isn’t everything. And they’ve tried to let women and other minorities know the door of opportunity is open to them.

Now they are trying to create a new door, not because it’s the right thing to do, but out a growing sense of desperation.

The benefits would be minimal, and it hardly seems worth the risk. Veteran drivers bristle at the idea, and who would know better?

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Canadian study identifies speed as best predictor of car crashes

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Researchers said when crash cases were compared to the control cases using a sophisticated penalty system for four kinds of bad driving, speeding emerged as the key difference between them. (Courtesy: UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO)

WATERLOO, Ontario, Canada — Speeding is the riskiest kind of aggressive driving, according to a unique analysis of data from on-board devices in vehicles.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo examined data from 28 million trips for possible links between four bad driving behaviors – speeding, hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering – and the likelihood of crashes.

Their analysis revealed speeding is a strong predictor of crashes, while statistically significant links for the other kinds of aggressive driving couldn’t be established.

“For insurance companies using this telematics data to assess who is a good risk and who isn’t, our suggestion based on the data is to look at speed, at people driving too fast,” said Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor in Waterloo’s faculty of mathematics.

Data for the study came from insurance companies in Ontario and Texas with clients who had on-board diagnostic devices installed in their vehicles.

In the first study of its kind, researchers initially analyzed the data to identify 28 crashes based on indicators such as rapid deceleration.

Each vehicle in those crashes was then matched with 20 control vehicles that had not been in crashes, but were similar in terms of other characteristics, including geographic location and driving distance.

Steiner said when the crash cases were compared to the control cases using a sophisticated penalty system for the four kinds of bad driving, speeding emerged as the key difference between them.

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” said Allaa (Ella) Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Now it is formulated. We know aggressive driving has an impact.”

Steiner cautioned that the study was limited by several unknowns, such as different drivers using the same vehicle, and more research is needed to verify the results.

But he said the analysis of telematics data could eventually revolutionize the insurance industry by enabling fairer, personalized premiums based on actual driving behavior, not age, gender or location.

Hilal believes the data could also make roads safer by giving drivers both tangible evidence and financial incentives to change.

“Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviors,” she said. “We are super pumped about its potential.”

Manda Winlaw, a former mathematics post-doctoral fellow, and statistics professor Jock MacKay also collaborated on the study, using telematics data to find risky driver behaviour, which appears in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NATSO releases industry guide addressing top industry questions

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NATSO said "Answers to the Top 18 Questions about the Travel Center Industry" is an essential resource for data on travel center and truckstop industry operations. (Courtesy: NATSO)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NATSO, representing America’s travel plazas and truckstops, has released a detailed industry guide  answering the top questions about the travel center industry.

Industry knowledge can improve business performance and help operators drive targeted results, according to Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president, membership.

But finding answers isn’t always easy. This is why Schulte dug into the more frequently asked questions about the truckstop and travel center industry and answered them in this new industry guide.

“Answers to the Top 18 Questions about the Travel Center Industry” is an essential resource for data on travel center and truckstop industry operations, Schulte said. The guide contains comparable data that operators can utilize to assess their own operations and better understand the competitive landscape. Operators can then use this information to improve their analysis and strategize advantageous investment decisions.

With the report in hand, operators can gain greater insight into the average sales at a full-service restaurant or a garage or service center, how much a professional truck driver spends on fuel at a truckstop, average staffing costs at a location, and specific sales and costs within a location.

The downloadable “Answers to the Top 18 Questions About the Travel Center Industry” is available for free to NATSO members and non-members for $250.

To download or purchase the guide, click here. 

“The Answers to the Top 18 Questions About the Travel Center Industry” was produced in partnership with Travel Center Profit Drivers, a NATSO initiative that provides access to specialized, experienced consultants and the tools they have created to help travel centers thrive. Truckstop and travel center operators looking for help building or growing their business should contact Don Quinn, NATSO Services vice president, at (703) 739-8572 or [email protected] to discuss how the NATSO team can help.

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Ohio’s Scott Woodrome wins top honors at Newsal Truck Driving Championships

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FedEx Freight driver Scott Woodrome stands beside the two trophies he won at the 2019 Newsal Truck Driving Championships. It was the second consecutive year he was named Bendix Grand Champion. He also won the Twin Trailer Division. (Courtesy: AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS)

PITTSBURGH — Scott Woodrome, a professional truck driver from Middletown, Ohio, representing team FedEx Freight, has been named the Bendix Grand Champion of the 2019 Newsal Truck Driving Championships conducted by the American Trucking Associations.

This is Woodrome’s second consecutive year of winning the Bendix Grand Champion trophy.

“Congratulations to Scott and his great team at FedEx Freight, as well as the entire Ohio trucking industry, for repeating as this year’s Bendix Grand Champion Award winner,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This process began with thousands of drivers competing at the state level, but only one driver can emerge as overall grand champion. It’s a true reflection of Scott’s commitment to safety and the trucking industry as a whole that he was able to take home top honors again this year.”

Woodrome, a longtime competitor in truck driving championships with more than 1.8 million lifetime safe driving miles, competed in the Twins division. He has been in the trucking industry for 25 years, spending 13 of those years with FedEx Freight.

Woodrome took home the 2018 Bendix Grand Champion Award for his performance in the Tanker class, as well as the 2017 Newsal Champion Award in the Tanker class and six Ohio state championships.

“It’s been such an honor to host hundreds of our nation’s elite truck drivers this week and showcase their skills as safe professionals,” said ATA Chairman Barry Pottle, president of Pottle’s Transportation. “From start to finish, Pittsburgh was a great location and we loved to see such enthusiastic support from the families and friends who came out to support these impressive drivers.”

ATA also recognized John Sanderson as the 2019 Rookie of the Year. Sanderson claimed the title after an outstanding performance in the three-axle division. To be a “rookie,” drivers must be first-time competitors at the state level who advanced to nationals. This year, there were 32 rookies competing at the Newsal Truck Driving Championships. Sanderson was the only rookie who advanced to the championship round of competition.

In addition to the individual awards, the team of drivers from Pennsylvania went home with the Team Championship. Pennsylvania hosted this week’s competition and had three drivers advance to the championship round of competition. The state of North Carolina took home 2nd place honors, with Virginia coming in 3rd place.

Several individuals excelled outside the driving course throughout this week’s competition, demonstrating their professionalism, knowledge and dedication to the trucking industry. Professional truck driver Robert Dolan of XPO Logistics was recognized with the highly-coveted Professional Excellence award. Additionally, Jason Imhoff of Walmart Transportation is taking home the Vehicle Condition Award for his outstanding performance during the pre-trip inspections.

Nine drivers achieved perfect scores on the written exam phase of the championships and are receiving the Highest Written Exam Award for their efforts. The nine drivers were Paul Brandon, Miguel Corral, Ina Daly, Brent Glasenapp, Julie Hjelle, Barry Kraemer, Jottyn Santos, Jimmie Wisley and Scott Woodrome.

Champions from each of the nine vehicle classes were also announced. Joining Woodrome on the list of national champions include (listed in order of first, second and third with company and home state):

Three-axle: Brian Walker, UPS Freight, North Carolina; Jeffrey Slaten, YRC Freight, Florida; and John Sanderson, FedEx Express, Oregon

Four axle: Adam Heim, FedEx Freight, Idaho; David Rohman, FedEx Express, North Carolina; and James Plaxco, Old Dominion Freight Line, Oregon;

Five axle: David Hall, ABF Freight, Arkansas; Ina Daly, XPO Logistics, Arizona; and Alphonso Lewis, YRC Freight, Alabama.

Flatbed: Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight, North Carolina; Scott Osborne, FedEx Freight, Mississippi; and Eric Flick, FedEx Freight, Nevada.

Sleeper Berth: Mike White, Walmart Transportation, Indiana; Terry Wood, Walmart Transportation, Pennsylvania; and Michael Barnes, Walmart Transportation, Virginia.

Straight Truck: Jason Imhoff; Walmart Transportation, Ohio; Robert Dolan, XPO Logistics, Pennsylvania; and Matthew Hart, FedEx Freight, Nevada

Tank Truck: Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight, Connecticut; George Wells, Shamrock Foods, Arizona; and Cecil Hicks, FedEx Freight, North Carolina

Twins: Scott Woodrome, FedEx Freight, Ohio; David Mogler, FedEx Freight, Colorado; and Shannon Lynch, United Parcel Service, Indiana

Step Van: Adam Stroup, FedEx Express, Nebraska; Gregory Long, FedEx Express, Virginia; and Eric Damon, FedEx Express, Colorado.

ACT 1 served as a premier sponsor of the 2019 Newsal Truck Driving Championships and Newsal Step Van Driving Championships.

Since 2011, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems has been the sole sponsor of the Bendix Newsal Truck Driving Championships Grand Champion.

 

 

 

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