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.

Trucks, Regs, & a Cool Video

Written by Peter Friberg.

This will be a different sort of blog-post from me today. I am going to highlight the trucks; some new regulations, some cool things, etc. I hope you enjoy it.

A few years back (2009, I think) President Obama raised carmakers’ Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirement (an average MPG rating across the automaker’s entire vehicle inventory) to 54.5 MPG by 2025. While new cars’ average MPG ratings have been steadily climbing and even increasing their rate of advancement, they are not necessarily on pace to reach that 54.5 MPG aggregate rating in time.

According to Car and Driver, President Obama stepped in and told automakers and government regulators to start working together rather than merely fighting over the rules. What came out of their new cooperation is CAFE credits. For instance, the EPA gives a 3.0-4.3 MPG “credit” for solar-reflective glass and paint that lowers interior temperatures and reduces HVAC system loads and thereby reduces a vehicle’s carbon footprint.

As our industry heads into the EPA’s and NHSTA’s Phase 2 of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Standards for Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles, industry advocates and equipment-makers alike are saying that while the goals of the GHG regulations are good, the regulations are too strict and the timeline is too tight.

It is easy to see, however, that the EPA will work with truck, engine, and trailer manufacturers in the same format that it does with auto-makers. I am not an engineer. I do not want to insinuate that I know what is and what is not possible. But I cannot help but remember the story of the Bugatti Veyron. The CEO at a major press conference and without the knowledge of his engineering team told the gathered press that Bugatti Veyron (up to then, just a concept car) would go into production and that it would achieve 1000+ HP, 1000+ lb-ft of torque, and have top speed of more than 250 MPH.  

The Bugatti engineering team was aghast; livid. “How dare he make such claims without their input!” they thought. But with that bar being raised. They accomplished it.

That story needs to be a motivating factor to engineering teams at truck manufacturers, engine developers, etc. throughout the world. They can get there. It won’t be easy. It might be expensive (the Bugatti Veyron costs upwards of $2 million). But it might also be worth it.

Lastly I want to close today’s post with fun story/marketing video Volvo Trucks released highlighting the durability of their new FMX truck. The video is definitely worth your 2 minutes.

FAST Act Signed, Foxx Thankful but More Progress Needed

Written by Peter Friberg.

Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, wrote a blog-post about the FAST Act. In his post, he talked about his history as mayor of Charlotte and then as the Transportation Secretary; how he and President Obama have been working hard to get bills done that would improve infrastructure and the nation’s highways and solve other transportation-related needs.

He states that he is proud of helping the FAST Act get through Congress and signed and thankful towards all those who were involved in its passage:

I thank the President for supporting the Department's efforts to help Congress get a bill across the goal line. I thank Congress for the demonstration of bipartisanship it took to pass this legislation and for adopting some important provisions from the GROW AMERICA Act. And I want to thank the many stakeholder organizations and everyday citizens who never let up in their calls for action.

Interestingly, Foxx seems to imply that the CSA scores which were removed from public view because of some inherent unfairnesses built into them should still be public, “…we also know the bill took a number of steps backward in terms of USDOT’s ability to share data with the public and our ability to exercise aggressive oversight over our regulated industries.”

Foxx west on to argue that the FAST Act was a good first step but that America’s lawmakers need to take the next step and bring the GROW AMERICA Act to fruition as well.

I do not know much about the GROW AMERICA Act, yet, but I’m researching it. I can say, because Foxx mentions it in his blog, that while FAST Act increases transportation funding by 11%, the GROW AMERICA Act would increase it by 45%. While our highways, byways, ports, and rail systems could all use the huge influx of funding, so could a lot of other projects and there is only so much tax revenue to go around.

Foxx’ blogpost is interesting and I encourage you to read it… Speaking of reading, thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

And if we can help you with your shipping needs, do not hesitate to give us a call today.

FAST Act Approved by House & Senate, Obama to Sign

Written by Peter Friberg.

Congress approved the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act yesterday. The House passed the bill 359 to 65 and the Senate voted 83 to 16. The bill now moves to President Obama’s desk. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has stated that President Obama will sign the bill into law today. The current, temporary highway bill expires today. The FAST Act is the first long-term highway bill the government has successfully completed in a decade. The bill is estimated to cost taxpayers $305 billion over its five year duration.

Capitol Christmas Tree Delivery & Lighting Highlights Safe Industry

Written by Peter Friberg.

Taking a break from the heavier politically relevant items that affect our industry (no pun intended), here is a fun, whimsical story about our industry.

John Schank hauled the Capitol Christmas Tree from Tacoma, WA to Washington, D.C. The 74’ Lutz spruce was cut down in Alaska and shipped via boat to Tacoma where Schank took over. The tree arrived in D.C. on Nov. 20 and was lit by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) on Dec. 2.

Schank was previously awarded Alaska’s “Driver of the Year” in 2014. He has driven more than 5 million miles – all without incident. Schank is a wonderful example of how tractor-trailers are not inherently dangerous. In fact, most truck drivers’ accident rates are far better; safer than that of the average driver. Kudos to Schank for a job well done and an admirable and safe career.

DRIVE + STRR = FAST; Bills Merged and Sent Back to Chambers

Written by Peter Friberg.

Twelve Senators and 28 House Representatives met in committee to hash out the differences between the Senate’s DRIVE Act and the House of Representatives’ STRR Act. Their efforts have produced the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act is a $305 billion, 5-year bill.

In the American Journal of Transportation, the Coalition of America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) praises the multi-year funding for transportation infrastructure upgrades.

“We are thrilled to see Conferees recognize so many of the Coalition’s long-standing priorities,” said Leslie Blakey, CAGTC President. “Over the past fifteen years, we have advocated for a minimum annual investment of $2 billion in the freight network. This afternoon, despite the arguments of powerful opponents, Conferees answered our call, and in doing so demonstrated a commitment to American manufacturing, agriculture, and retail. Investment of this magnitude will increase the efficiency and reliability of our commerce network, and we urge quick passage by Congress of this landmark legislation.”

One item that has been of great concern to our industry was the STRR Act provision that gave advantages for “interim hiring standards” to carriers and brokers with “Satisfactory” CSA ratings. While that sounds reasonable, it penalized the smaller companies (representing almost half of all truck drivers) who had yet to be rated. We are pleased to report that this provision has been removed from the FAST Act.

Additionally this bill deals extensively with port performance, drug testing, it removes CSA scores from public view, and touches many other related issues.

As you can note in Blakey’s quote above, the FAST Act bill is not a done deal yet. It still needs to be voted on in the House and Senate and, of course, it needs President Obama’s signature.

We’ll be talking more about this bill in the days and weeks to come.

Thanks for reading.

Food Transportation Safety Compliance; I'm Required To Do What?

Written by Peter Friberg.

Despite well publicized instances to the contrary, food safety in the U.S. is probably on par or better than virtually any other modern nation on the planet. That said, it would be counter-logical and counter-productive to suggest we cannot continue to make improvements…

With that in mind, in 2011 Congress passed a law, The Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA), which transferred food transportation safety into the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA, as you can see from Aaron Huff's article, jumped right in:

On Feb. 5, 2014, the FDA proposed a new rule that would impose more stringent obligations on shippers, motor carriers and receivers. Perhaps of most interest to carriers is that failure to maintain shipper-defined standards for temperature and other conditions will make the carrier liable for damages, even if the cargo itself is not damaged.

 

The burden of proof for cargo claims would shift to motor carriers, making it necessary to have highly accurate, real-time information about the condition of loads and equipment at all stages of transit, including trailer pre-cool verification.

This is significant for our industry. Shippers will now be required to make certain data available but the carrier may be liable if the shipper fails to provide that info. What happens if the shipper provides inaccurate date? Additionally more trailer-specific data will be required to be captured by the carrier and disclosed to the potential shipper. Additionally trailer-cleaning methods will be standardized and become certifiable (can you say, “hidden expense”?).

As I stated yesterday, “Now, more than ever, it is imperative for shippers to work with carriers and/or brokers who are trustworthy; who know the laws; who can protect their clients.”

If you need just that sort of carrier, give Zion a call today.

(Additional FMSA info can be found here.)

Driver Coercion Law Published, Are You Compliant?

Written by Peter Friberg.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) published the new rule that prohibits companies from pressuring truck drivers to operate their vehicles illegally. The rule will go into effect January 30, 2016.

This is a good rule. If we want truck drivers to follow driving hours limits and other safety-enhancing laws, we (as consumers, as carriers, as shippers) cannot expect them to skirt the very laws designed to keep us and our highways safe.

The interesting part, however, is the wording (taken from James Jaillet’s piece at the Commercial Carriers Journal):

The rule defines coercion as: “A threat by a motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary, or their respective agents…to withhold business, employment or work opportunities from or to take or permit any adverse employment action against a driver in order to induce” the trucker to drive “under conditions which the driver stated would require him or her to violate one more more of” FMCSA regulations.

I want to highlight one particular phrase, “…to withhold business…”

Does this mean that if a driver, particularly an owner-operator, doesn’t win a bid for a certain job and deems that the reason he or she didn’t win was because his competition was willing to drive more hours than are legal in a single day or skirt other legalities, he can report a business and they can be fined?

Now, more than ever, it is imperative for shippers to work with carriers and/or brokers who are trustworthy; who know the laws; who can protect their clients.

Give Zion a call today!

Happy Thanksgiving

Written by Peter Friberg.

At Zion Transport, we; the owners, the admin team, the dispatchers, the sales team, want to offer a heart-felt thank you to God and to all our customers for making all this possible. We truly appreciate the opportunity to serve you and we look forward to growing our relationships with you.

We hope your Thanksgiving weekend will be joyous and safe.

Again, thank you all!

Robert Gray for Governor!

Written by Peter Friberg.

I love this! This is really “old news” but I just found it. A Mississippi truck driver, Robert Gray, got his name on the Democratic primary to run for governor of his state. And he won. He is facing the incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Bryant next November.

Look, I get it, politicians can be proverbial joking punching bags. No one likes them and no one trusts them, or so it seems. But the fact is, the more people stand on the sidelines and do nothing – especially the more good people stand along the sidelines – the more we’re going to see crooked, untrustworthy people dominant that arena. Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  

Well Robert Gray isn’t doing nothing.

One of the aims of this blog is to keep political happenings that affect our industry in front of the public so we can do something about it. And that’s the beauty of the Robert Gray story. He’s doing something about fixing his state.

Look, am I going to change the world? No. Are you? Probably not. But the more of us that stand together and speak out for progress, the more positive change we can affect.

Oh, and while we’re at it, vote for Robert Gray!

FMCSA Overwhelmed by Good Ideas?

Written by Peter Friberg.

In 2004 a provision was set to go before California voters that would create a high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles. That provision was delayed until 2006 and then again to 2008 where voters passed the initiative 52.6% to 47.4%. The initiative earmarked $9.95 billion for the high-speed rail project. Construction began this year on the Merced to Bakersfield portion (the first) in what now looks to be a $60+ billion project (the entire annual state budget is roughly $165 billion, according to CAfwd.org).

I’m not here to argue for the rail system or against it, the problem is how will the state government fund it? And therein lies the crux of some of the features within the House’s STRR Act and the Senate’s DRIVE Act.

Aaron Huff, of the Commercial Carriers Journal, reported Friday that FMCSA is overwhelmed by some of the projects or proposals that will become their responsibility should they become law. And in fact the House’s version caps their funding for the next 6 years.

There are so many good ideas out there and there probably an equal number of problems. But our tax dollars simply cannot be stretched enough to implement them all and/or solve them all. And sometimes voters (whether mere citizens or elected officials) forget our fiscal limitations and vote for ideas merely because they sound like good ideas.

Let’s make sure we keep that in mind as it is a lot easier to criticize a government organization than it is to see things through their perspective.

Thanks for reading.

 

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