Welcome to the Zion Transport Blog!

In this space we will introduce various topics in our industry that relate to you, our customer. We want to you to be well-informed and aware of how these changes affect you and how we can help you navigate these changes.

FMCSA: Safety in Our Time!

Written by Peter Friberg.

Material Handling & Logistics reported a week ago (I don’t know how I missed this) that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says, “…on an annual average basis, use of [Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)] should help save 26 lives and prevent 1,844 crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles...”

What?!? How?

Do they have data that says there were 26 lives lost and 1844 crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles last year where the cause was attributed to drivers filling out paper log books and causing an accident? Or maybe they think the ELDs will prevent drivers from driving while tired? Or do they honestly think they can eliminate rule-breakers with more laws? People who already follow the laws will adhere to the ELD mandate. People who already break the law will find new ways to circumvent the ELD laws to make a buck.

Good Idea or CYA?

Written by Peter Friberg.

We live in a CYA (cover your a**) world. Frequently decisions to do or not do something have more to do with the questions, “Will I get in trouble for this?,” or, “Will this make me look good?,” than they do with whether or not something is truly a good idea or legitimately beneficial.

Consider the following:

Political aid: Sir, there this the bill on the floor you need to decide if you support it or if you are opposed to it.

Politician: What is my party’s stance on the bill? Is the general public in favor of the bill? Will the media trash me if I take a stand on the bill?

Thank You for Helping Us Impact Others

Written by Peter Friberg.

I am so excited to finally bring this blogpost to you all.

This past Saturday (Dec. 12, 2015) we, our team at Zion Transport and our families, served lunch to the homeless of San Diego. We’re telling you because you, our customers, made it all possible.

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We fed nearly 150 people and gave away toiletries, socks, sweaters, blankets, and other needed items.

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So thank you to all of you who tendered shipments to us for helping us make a difference.

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If you would like your shipments to make a difference, and all the while use a carrier and/or brokerage you can trust, give Zion a call today.

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Sleep Apnea Regulation: Safer Roads or More Red Tape?

Written by Peter Friberg.

Apparently the federal government is now looking at truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea. In one sense, kudos to them. If drivers are unsafe, for whatever reason, they shouldn’t be driving. But my follow-up question is also valid, how many truck accidents were there where sleep apnea actually played a role?

Here’s the dumb math:

  • There are X number of accidents on highways every year.
  • There are Y number of miles being driven annually.
  • So there is 1 accident for every X/Y miles.
  • Since long-haul truckers drive the most miles. And since their vehicles are the heaviest, the slowest to stop, etc., they must also be the most dangerous vehicles and/or drivers on the road.
  • Therefore, if we can eliminate the most dangerous truck drivers we’ll save a bunch of lives!

Worse Than The Driver Shortage

Written by Peter Friberg.

As the President and CEO of the American Trucking Association, Bill Graves, pointed out, “…we often talk about the impact of the shortage of truck drivers. But we mustn’t forget trucking’s need to have many skilled technicians and mechanics to keep their rigs in working order and their wheels moving.”

He’s right, the driver shortage is often reported and possibly even over-stated (if trucking companies treated drivers/employees better there would be less driver turnover but rather than affect positive change, companies can avoid a self-critical evaluation by blaming external factors such as driver shortage). Diesel technician shortages, however, are underreported and probably more critical. Not only is there already a shortage but with many (most?) technicians over the age of 50 we are losing technicians to retirement far faster than we are replacing them.

I think college is good; important even. But I also think it can be overrated. There is such pressure to send our kids to college where they can get good, white-collar jobs. Rather than pushing every kid towards college we need to let them know that the skilled labor force is viable, necessary, and respectable way to earn a living.

Having said all that, I want to offer a hardy thanks to all those men and women out there turning wrenches for a living. It’s not just the drivers who help America ship her goods and services.

Thanks for reading.

Will Autonomous Trucks Eliminate Drivers?

Written by Peter Friberg.

This blog’s first post was on Sept. 14. In that piece I wrote about autonomously-driven trucks. Today I have decided to explore this topic again from a slightly different angle.

Ginger Christ asks, over at Materials Handling and Logistics (MH&L) if driverless trucks will take over the industry. And I think the answer is an unmitigated, “yes.” However, in her piece she quotes Ted Scott, director of engineering for the American Trucking Association, who says, “If I have to spend $150,000 to autonomize a truck, why would I put a driver in it? It doesn't make sense to put a driver we're paying $50,000 to $100,000 in a truck.”

CSA Scoring Resurrected?

Written by Peter Friberg.

One of the byproducts of writing this blog is that I have become, or rather, I am becoming rather well-versed in transportation politics. When the DRIVE and STRR acts were being passed by the Senate and House, I was aware of it and aware of some of the problems within the otherwise good bills. When the 2 bills went to committee, I was on top of those developments. As Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx rolled out new ideas (or rehashed old ones) I was aware of those also.

But this baffles me:

A proposed federal rule that would give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration another means to score and target unsafe carriers has cleared the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

In the passage of the recent Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, congress stripped the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scores, calling them unfair. Now, as James Jaillet writes, the Department of Transportation has been working on this new rule since 2007.

Did the DOT know their CSA scoring system was unfair and were they working on some new reporting system that is more fair – or worse, just as unfair but somehow legal? Or is it something else?

Jaillet goes on to write,

Few details are known about what it entails. According to the agency’s regulatory summary, it would give FMCSA a new system to “determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate.”

The rule’s final publication could still be a few years away.

ELD Rule Flawed; Is It Good Enough?

Written by Peter Friberg.

Leadership experts and motivational speakers often tout the cliché, “The biggest barrier to ‘great’ is ‘good.’” When we want something to be great, we cannot settle for something good. However, when making process-improvements, sometimes the biggest barrier to progress is trying to achieve or find greatness prior to taking the first step. Obviously those two philosophies are at odds with each other. So which one is right?

Now that we have achieved confusion, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is now final and trucks and drivers have two years to comply (the compliance deadline is Dec. 16, 2017).

FAST Flawed

Written by Peter Friberg.

Material Handling & Logistics (MH&L) reported yesterday that the newly signed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a flawed bill. I agree. I previously reported that there is no such thing as a perfect bill.

Michael Collins, president of MPC Consulting, is quoted extensively and says that the bill…

…fails to address a chronic shortfall in financing for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for such projects, and has been the subject of a fierce long-running disagreement over federal tax policy. In fact, how to pay for this program remains vague and is still being debated.

 

[Additionally, the] bill appropriated no money for water and sewer problems or for the electrical grid. Water contamination causes 5,500 citizens to get sick every year, and there are 240,000 water main breaks every year. Meanwhile, the electrical demand has exceeded the building of transmission lines by 25% per year.

 

Like it or not we are in the middle of an infrastructure collapse and we are going to have to pay for it by either raising taxes or deficit spending –- or we will pay for it through emergency funding, which is also deficit spending, that is estimated to be $189 billion per year.

 

To make real progress and create jobs we need a minimum of $415 billion per year.

Mr. Collins is right; we need to know how this bill will be funded. Are we just spending more and more without any measure of fiscal responsibility? Can you continuously add items to your family budget without removing items to balance it or without earning more money? Then why do we let our government?

But his comments about water, sewer, and electrical infrastructure ring hollow to me. It’s not that we don’t need to improve our infrastructure, but I would question why would should put them in a transportation bill. Those items should be debated upon and funded by their own bills. And aren’t most of those water and sewer pipe issues he mentions covered by the local municipalities?

Even his claim about needing $415 billion per year. How does he justify that number? Why is it $415 billion and not $375 billion or $450 billion? And who says his evaluation is the one that is right? Please do not misunderstand me. I do not know Mr. Collins. He may be the foremost expert on the subject and his opinions may provide the absolute best solutions. I just question some of his reasoning. And I’d like to know how he came to his conclusions.

Thanks for reading.

Truck Parking; Why It Matters To You

Written by Peter Friberg.

One thing I hate is when people complain about things they need and/or use without acknowledging that their need; their usage is contributing the very thing they complain about.

When I was in college a fellow student was complaining about how much our university president earned. I attended a private, Christian, liberal arts university and we had chapel services every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And every year we had one service that was less a religious service and more of a “State of the Union” type address regarding our school’s financial standing. Within that service was a disclosure of the university president’s salary.

Sure enough, the class I had immediately following that chapel service a fellow student was horrified about how much our president earned (this was roughly 1998 and I think the job paid less than $200k at that time). Do we want a first-rate education? Do we want a beautiful school campus? Do we want a financially solvent institution? If the answer is yes to any of those, then we need to pay competitive salaries to those who can provide them. I countered to my fellow student that it was a travesty we were paying him so little. A local public university not noted for its academics was paying their president $500k at that time.

So what does that have to do with a shipping and logistics company blog? While a lot of consumers bemoan the loss of “mom and pop” small businesses, we like the savings we get from big box stores. We say that we think highways are unsafe while we drive 10 mph over the speed limits. Then to top it off we complain when we get a ticket that the police should chase “real criminals” rather than waste their time writing tickets. Really?!?

The trucking industry is at a crisis. It may not seem like one, but it is. They don’t have places to park their trucks; particularly in heavily populated areas. The very industry that makes it possible for you to pay $0.75 less on a gallon of milk, that transports fuel from depots to service stations, that brings cattle and other animals to butcher-yards, that delivers your children’s toys to the toy-stores, etc. is being choked by lack of parking.

In 2009 Jason Rivonberg was shot and killed by a thief during a robbery attempt. Jason and his truck were targeted because he was parked at an unusual place – he couldn’t find parking at a rest area, at a truck stop, or at another typically safe location. We want; we need the goods truck drivers deliver. And thus, as a society, we owe it to them to provide safe locations for them to park. Keep in mind, we have laws that require them to take breaks; to only work so long – and those are good laws. They help keep our roads safer. Thus it is our responsibility to provide places for them to pull over and sleep; safely.

Our government just passed a much-needed bill designed to tackle many issues the transportation industries have moving forward. It isn’t a perfect bill (is there such a thing?) but it does a lot that is severely needed. What we need now is a bill that helps provide safe parking for those who need it. It could be a public/private co-op that gives tax credits based on parking slots for truck-friendly fueling stations or something…

Mostly I want to say, let’s not be on the wrong side of this issue. Let’s advocate for our drivers not complain about them when we desperately need them.

Thanks for reading.

 

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