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U.S. states’ drones inspect bridges, help predict avalanches

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This Jan. 16, 2019 photo taken by a Utah Highway Patrol drone shows a big rig that has crashed into a restaurant in Wellington, Utah. In Utah, drones are hovering near avalanches to measure roaring snow. In North Carolina, they're combing the skies for the nests of endangered birds. In Kansas, meanwhile, they could soon be identifying sick cows through heat signatures. A survey released Monday, May 20, 2019 shows transportation agencies are using drones in nearly every U.S. state. (Utah Highway Patrol via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah, drones are hovering near avalanches to watch roaring snow. In North Carolina, they’re searching for the nests of endangered birds. In Kansas, they could soon be identifying sick cows through heat signatures.
Public transportation agencies are using drones in nearly every state, according to a survey obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release Monday. The report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows a sharp increase in their use over the last few years, reflecting the rapid adoption of the technology by governments as well as hobbyists.
In 2016, the nonprofit group found no state transportation agency was using drones on a daily basis. Now, 36 states have certified drone pilots on staff. When the survey was done this month, all but one state was using drones in some way. Since then, the lone holdout — Rhode Island — has bought a drone, said Tony Dorsey, a spokesman for the group.
The small, unmanned aircraft are often used for mundane tasks, like inspecting bridges and roads. With sophisticated cameras and thermal technology, they can detect tiny cracks and identify potential potholes before they’re visible to the human eye.
Drones have caused their share of headaches for officials over the years as personal devices forced the grounding of planes at airports or those fighting wildfires.
But they also can be useful for work that’s dangerous for people. In Utah, drones record from the air as state workers set off planned avalanches, allowing them to watch the slides close up in real time, said Jared Esselman, director of aeronautics at the state Department of Transportation.
Drones also can measure snow and other elements of the state’s rugged terrain to keep them from blocking roads or other infrastructure.
“We can predict not only snow slides, but mudslides and water runoff as the snow melts,” Esselman said. “Drones are a perfect tool for any job that is dangerous or dirty.”
Utah is getting 40 new drones to take photos at traffic wrecks for the investigation.
In North Carolina, drones are finding the nests of endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, said Basil Yap, unmanned aerial systems program manager at the state’s transportation department.
People used to fan out in helicopters or all-terrain vehicles to check for evidence of the protected birds before building new projects, but the drones can do the job quicker with less disruption, Yap said.
They’re also used to check for protected bats nesting under bridges and to spray herbicide on invasive plants near shorelines.
North Carolina is one of three states working with the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones beyond the operator’s line of sight, at night and over people. The FAA does not usually allow those uses without a special waiver.
Also part of the program is Kansas, where workers are using drones to create sophisticated farming programs and monitor cattle heat signatures to prevent any illnesses from spreading.
A number of states are beginning to explore how to regulate a flood of private drone traffic expected in the future. In Ohio, the state is working on an air-traffic control system called SkyVision, which would allow drones to detect and avoid other aircraft in flight.

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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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