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Step aside, Uber and Google, a career trucker is making history for self-driving tractor trailers.

Jeff Runions, autonomous-truck test driver, prepares the future of the trucking industry. As he told NPR, Runions works for Starsky Robotics. They are a small company developing fully autonomous trucks for the highway. The trucks are driven by professionals once the trucks got off at the exit.

As truck drivers continue to decrease in numbers, Runions hopes autonomous trucks will be a huge opportunity for the industry to keep up with demand. In his interview with NPR, he says automated vehicles would allow drivers to spend less time on the road and more time at home with their families.

This would be a drastic change from the three weeks of on-road time he remembers from working on his own and with a commercial trucking company. In fact, Runions would like to see drivers having a “regular life” with a 40-hour work week. By making drivers’ lives more enjoyable, he hopes to spike interest in the industry from potential drivers.

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Image from landlinemag.com

The TU-Automotive’s Connected Fleets USA conference in Atlanta featured speakers exploring brave new transportation landscapes, including the one that mandates electronic logging devices.  Clem Driscoll, a telematics analyst and founder of C.J. Driscoll and Associates, was among the speakers. He presented findings of his company’s survey, revealing that, despite the impending deadline for switching over to ELDs, many carriers have still been monitoring drivers via paper logs.

Driscoll said the study surveyed 529 U.S. fleet operators. With the mandate for electronic logging devices coming up Dec. 18, 60 percent had not yet deployed ELDs; 33 percent were using AOBRDs and 6 percent were using a combination of e-logs and paper. Driscoll emphasized that the information was gathered in the second quarter and would likely be fluid.

One question for the fleet operator included if they deploy the electronic devices. In addition, it asked for third quarter, fourth quarter or not at all? A third said they planned to either switch to ELDs in the fourth quarter or wait as long as possible.

His company’s research also indicated that large companies preferred to equip their fleets with the same make of the device.

Driscoll said most of the large fleets generally opposed “bringing your own device” or letting drivers using their own devices for a couple of reasons.  “The majority we interviewed favor a company wide solution that would be installed in the vehicle,” said Driscoll, “They wanted consistency with the drivers, who move from one truck to another.”

In addition, he said the fines were a factor in favoring the same ELD configuration.  “They know they receive a fine if not in compliance. These companies, particularly the large fleets, really don’t want to depend on the drivers bringing their own phone. What if something happened to the phone or it was lost?”

Driscoll said a separate survey done in the second quarter asked questions of owner-operators. Of those surveyed, none had deployed ELDs yet.

Driscoll unveiled the highlights of his firm’s study, the 2017-2018 Survey of Fleet Operator Interest in MRM Systems and Services during TU-Automotive’s Connected Fleet event in Atlanta. According to Driscoll, this multi-client study sponsored by 19 companies is believed to be the largest study conducted to date on the U.S. commercial telematics market.

In a phone interview, he told Land Line he did not expect a delay of the mandate and predicted a heavy last-minute demand for the devices.

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overdriveonline.com

The Department of Transportation announced Oct. 5 a new initiative to achieve an incredible highway safety feat by the year 2046: Zero traffic deaths.

Overdrive magazine wrote about the announcement in a news article.

“Overall, our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The U.S. DOT and three of its sub-agencies — including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — said the Road to Zero project will give $1 million a year for the next three years to “organizations working on lifesaving programs.” Road to Zero partners include, in addition to DOT and FMCSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the private non-profit National Safety Council.

Details on specific initiatives Road to Zero will promote are scarce

In addition, Overdrive wrote, the DOT focuses on several areas. For example, some of these include promoting broader use of seatbelts, greater use of rumble strips and greater use of data in enforcement.

Also, the DOT points to the fast-developing field of vehicle automation. This serves as reason to “[believe] the liklihood that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years.”

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Chris Spear

Chris Spear

In his first American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition speech as president and CEO of the organization, Chris Spear put the trucking industry’s foes – including some lawmakers – on notice. Truck News captured Spear’s important speech:

“Trucking is already one of the most regulated and taxed industries in America,” Spear said. “In the eyes of some elected officials, we look like a money-filled piñata. I’m here to tell you that those days, those impressions of our industry – are over…If you want to throw the first proverbial punch, you need to knock us down. Because you will feel the one we throw back. ATA will fight your one-line sound bites and baseless rhetoric. We will publicly call out the hidden agendas of other industry groups.”

Spear said ATA fights to reduce the industry’s taxation, and he advocates for those with CDL trucking jobs.

“Shaving just five points off our corporate tax rate would allow you to make critical investments in your businesses and your employees,” he told the packed crowd. “That’s money to use to purchase new, more efficient equipment with safer technologies, increase driver pay and provide additional training to your employees.”

Spear also cautioned against reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This serves as a big topic in the 2016 election.

“Any attempt to re-open or threaten this longstanding agreement could have dire repercussions on our industry,” Spear said, noting trucks carry 70% of surface freight between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. “America relies on free trade and trucking is key.”

Also, Spear said the trucking industry must shape autonomous trucking regulations and remain united. To see his comments about that and how autonomous trucking could improve safety and reduce congestion, read the rest of the Truck News article here.

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trucks.com

Bill Graves retired from his position as president and chief executive of the American Trucking Associations earlier this year. But the longtime trucking executive still has a lot to say about where the industry is headed. In a guest column for Trucks.com, Graves opines about the most daunting challenges facing the trucking industry today, and he makes some interesting observations:

As I step aside as president and chief executive of the ATA, I look ahead to the issues that will define our industry going forward. Here are five of great significance.

A growing and critical shortage of labor

Trucking has a shortage of drivers and of technicians. While some may dispute this, every measure from ATA’s economics team and nearly every conversation I have with those in the industry highlight the fact that trucking companies have trouble attracting qualified drivers and technicians to keep America’s trucks moving.

trucks.comAs our trucks grow more and more complex, with more and more advanced technology, it will become even harder to find professional, dedicated technicians to maintain these vehicles.The simple solution to both of these issues is to improve the image of our industry and improve the pay of those who work in it. Both of these things are happening, and will continue to happen, so long as there’s a shortage of labor.

Development of automated vehicle technology

Whether it’s called driverless or automated or smart, the rapid development of automated vehicle technology has the power to transform our industry in many ways. We see the need for these systems in the market today. They improve safety and efficiency, and from here the technology only advances.

However, unanswered questions remain as we head down this path. We need to ensure that these technologies don’t compete with one another.

Movement toward alternative fuels

While the industry enjoys affordable diesel fuel prices, this situation loses sustainability overtime. As the economy grows, demand for oil (and the gasoline and diesel fuel it produces) puts pressure on prices.

Graves adds that these are just a few of the issues that trucking will face as it moves forward. “One thing is certain,” he says. “Regardless of these challenges, the trucking industry continues to serve a vital part of our nation’s economy. It moves America’s goods safely and efficiently.”

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ttnews.comBlueGrace Logistics, based in Riverview, Fla., announced that Warburg Pincus agreed to an investment of $255 million in the firm, Transport Topics reports. Also, that includes committed capital and direct investment to increase growth and acquisitions.

In addition, BlueGrace Logistics expects to increase employment in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Tampa and other markets. Overall, they plan to hire 500 to 700 new employees, nearly doubling the current 370 employees.

Whether the new jobs include CDL trucking jobs remains undetermined.

“This investment gives a major shot of adrenaline to our already fast-growing operations,” BlueGrace CEO Bobby Harris said. “We help customers transform their shipping across the country. And, for me, it’s especially gratifying to see more employees come to the company and find a great career.”

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace developed a proprietary software platform.

Overall, it provides customers who need to ship goods with multiple offers from trucking companies. New York-based Warburg Pincus “has been a long-term investor in the technology-enabled logistics market. BlueGrace is a rapidly growing innovator in that industry,” said Alex Berzofsky, managing director of Warburg Pincus. “We see meaningful opportunities for continued growth for the company. And, we look forward to supporting the BlueGrace team.”

Read the rest of the Transport Topics story here.

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timesfreepress.com

Covenant Transport, one of the largest trucking companies hiring in the United States, celebrated a landmark anniversary this month, its 30th year in the industry. Covenant feted the occasion in style on the grounds of its Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters. The Chattanooga Times Free Press was on hand to cover the event.

A carnival was gearing up in the tractor lot outside Covenant Transportation Group headquarters. A band tuned its instruments. Funnel cake batter dropped into searing grease. And David Parker, chairman of the trucking company he founded in 1986, was busy at work. But he welcomed the chance to talk a few minutes about the significance of the milestone.

“Thirty years,” he said. “I’m 30 years older.” He flashed a big smile and leaned back in his chair.

Parker was raised in the trucking industry by longhaul trucking pioneer Clyde Fuller. Parker and his half-brother, Max Fuller, worked for Fuller in their youth, coming up in the business.

That was in the 1970s and ’80s. In the mid-’80s, Clyde Fuller left his company, Southwest Motor Freight, to his boys. They eventually sold the company. After the sale, Parker, a devout Christian, felt a calling to start Covenant Transport. So in 1986, he did. His half-brother Max Fuller, along with Pat Quinn, started U.S. Xpress Enterprises the same year in Chattanooga. All three inherited trucks from Southwest Motor Freight.

“We were 28 years old when we started this sucker,” Parker said of himself and his wife, Jacqueline.

Covenant has grown a lot since then. How will Covenant evolve in the next 30 years? Time will tell.

Read the rest of the Chattanooga Times Free Press story here.

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Less than a year after announcing it would produce a line of trucks for on-highway use, Caterpillar discontinues production of vocational trucks.

CCJ  published an article about this issue, and what it means for CDL drivers.

In May of last year, CAT rolled out two new refreshed trucks: the CT680L and the CT680LG. However, based on the current business climate in the truck industry and a thorough evaluation of its business, CAT says it decided to withdraw from the market.

CAT stops vocational trucks for people with CDL trucking jobs

“Remaining a viable competitor in this market requires significant additional investment to develop and launch a complete portfolio of trucks,” says Ramin Younessi, vice president with responsibility for Caterpillar’s Industrial Power Systems Division. “And, upon an updated review, we determined no sufficient market opportunity to justify the investment.”

Caterpillar shuttering its truck operations is the company’s latest effort in an ongoing restructuring.

It consolidates its Electric Power and Marine & Petroleum Power Divisions into a new Electric Power, Marine and O&G Division.

But what could this mean about the maintenance of the trucks already on the road? Not to worry, CAT says that it will continue to support those trucks.

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Trucking Software Company Gets  Million in Venture Capital from Big Names

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One tech startup got a big financial boost this week when it received a $16 million windfall from investors. The Seattle-based trucking software startup Convoy makes a big splash with big-name tech investors. Investors include Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who likes what Convoy peddles.

Overall, Convoy’s software matches trucking companies to firms that need products transported.

Transport Topics magazine said word of the $16 million in new venture capital for Convoy. This comes only months after Convoy made a foray into Washington state’s technology scene. In addition, they raised $2.5 million in seed money from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, among others.

“The new round, led by Menlo Park, California-based Greylock Partners, with participation from high-ranking Amazon.com executive Jeff Wilke, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, Acosta Executive Chairman Gary Chartrand and LinkedIn executive Mike Gamson,” Transport Topics wrote.

Convoy creates software that connects truck drivers with freight that needs hauling. The startup developed a website and app into which freight companies enter information about what they need moved. It includes the equipment required. Next, Trucking companies then swoop in and claim the job. The traditional model involves companies working with third-party brokers to find truckers. Convoy lowers transport costs by cutting out the middle man and automating part of the process.

Convoy raised this second round of funding thanks to its rapid growth and increasing demand from trucking companies.

The company now stands at 31 employees

They preppe to relocate to a larger, 6,000-square-foot office space. It also announced this week that it will expand into Oregon. It plans to use its new funding to continue its expansion throughout the year.

“One of the only limits to our growth is how fast we can hire the people that we need,” Forecki said.

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Ever wonder if your brakes are safe enough for your trip? Getting brakes inspected regularly and practicing braking system safety extends their life. In addition, it ensures the safety of people with CDL trucking jobs, states a CCJ article from Feb. 11.

In the article, writer Jason Cannon writes about the importance of brake inspection. They also say technological leaps in braking systems are only as good as their upkeep.

“It is critical [brakes] are kept within their adjustment spec, which will give the vehicle even and balanced braking for better control,” says George Bowers, director of maintenance operations, Ryder. “Proper brake inspection is more than just the ability to stop the vehicle. It is about vehicle control.”

Matthew Mendy, product segment manager, Daimler Trucks North America Aftermarket, says fleets can actually lower their cost-of-operation by having brake maintenance procedures meet all industry standards and state and federal regulations.

Brake violations were one of the three most cited violations in the past 5 years. In his article, Cannon reiterates the importance of routinely checking your brakes.

A driver’s pre- and post-trip inspections are critical parts to identifying issues before violations occur. Rust streaks; air leaks; oil stains; worn, missing, broken or loose brake components; air lines rubbing on cross members or frame rails and/or bad or missing glad-hand seals are all obvious red flags every driver should be on the lookout for.

Routine brake inspections will not only keep you safe, but will also extend the life of the brake system itself.

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