Having been a professional truck driver and trainer for more than 30 years, I find that you never, ever know it all. There are always new things to learn. My primary goal with this blog is to help other drivers (especially newer ones) with pertinent information and tips to enable them to work happier and more safely.
Drivers will be faced with penalties that make compliance absolute
Feb, 2018 We have all heard the myth that stop signs with white borders are optional. That one always got a laugh, but it concerned me a bit when I sat down to write this column, so I researched the tall tale on Google. This was clearly not the first time that this particular subject was searched for on the Internet.
Seriously, are folks that gullible, or are they just looking for a way around a particular rule? I have read the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations cover to cover and could not find a sentence proclaiming that the rules governing the operation of a commercial motor vehicle are optional.
While my sarcastic demeanor is evident when it comes to this particular subject, I can say that there have been some interesting reactions from our driving community in response to the compliance date of ELD technology. Heralded by its detractors as bringing possible anarchy to our highways, the December 18 compliance date inevitably came and went with little to no disruption to the normal workday.
Hardly a trade secret, these baseless negative opinions were noted, but the general shock and disdain for these devices trumped the reality that ELDs do not represent a problem, the rule is not optional, and its compliance with the federal Hours of Service regulations should never be viewed as a hindrance.
We have seen all of the quotes from drivers popping up on social media and in the comment threads of our favorite industry publications regarding the implementation date. “The 14-hour clock adds pressure to continue driving.” “Where I was is nobody’s business but my own.” How about this oldie but goodie, “ELDs place pressure on a driver because he is now on a clock.” And my particular favorite, “Privacy and time constraints with ELDs hurt my bottom line.”
So, during the past 10 years, these drivers have either not paid attention to what an ELD is or truly have a problem with the Hours of Service regulations.
My point is that we, as an industry, cannot advocate for more sensible rules when many are publicly declaring that the rules in question are optional to them. And we, as an industry, can all agree that the 14-hour clock does add pressure to continue driving. Time constraints can be a financial burden, and the previous statements about ELDs are inherently true whether there is a device present or not.
In fact, many of us, including me, have argued about the burden the 14-hour clock places on our industry because of its inability to stop when started—a true obstacle when trying to be efficient with both productivity and safety. The problem with making this argument previously was the lack of proven, accurate data that supported our arguments. We made blanket statements because many drivers camouflaged logs that hid detention time and an inflexible 14-hour duty clock to the point that many viewed our reasoning as baseless. ELDs are going to bring these issues to the forefront of our ongoing conversations about hours of service and the changes that need to happen.
Now, December 18 is no longer the date in question, and the April 1 out-of-service enforcement date looms on the horizon. Shortly after that, drivers will be faced with penalties that make compliance with HOS regulations absolute. Compliant drivers not only create a level playing field but will also tell a story. Yes, an inflexible 14-hour window lacks the real-world opportunity to accurately portray a day in the life of a driver.
Drivers today face an abundantly broad range of issues that consistently delay their schedules or place them in an environment that could potentially interrupt what we would call a relatively productive day. That being said, the presence of ELDs will now highlight these issues and provide our industry with the opportunity to tell our story, which is supported by ample data.
This new influx of data can help the industry and agencies make meaningful changes to fix an hours-of-service problem that has plagued our industry for years. With hard dates to adhere to and a chance to accurately comply with a rule that can no longer be viewed as optional by some, we can finally make sleeper berth flexibility a reality rather than a pipe dream.
Feb. 20, 2018 A truck driver is accused of trying to get thousands of dollars in ransom in exchange for delivering a trailer he’d been hired to transport.
An arrest warrant filed Tuesday in Northwest District Court charged Michael Fisher, 39, with class A felony theft, saying he refused to return a trailer worth $75,000 until he was paid $2,000.
Fisher, who is the owner and operator of Great American Transport, was hired by R&R Oilfield Services to move a flatbed trailer loaded with oilfield equipment from Arnegard to Monohan, Texas, according to an affidavit of probable cause. He picked up the trailer Dec. 26, and the next day called the company that had hired him to say the trailer had broken down in Bismarck and was in for repairs.
On Dec. 29, he called the company again and said he’d paid more than $1,900 for the repairs and asked to be reimbursed, charging documents state. Police say the garage Fisher said he had the work done at doesn’t exist in Bismarck, and that Fisher was actually at a different garage in Bismarck having work done on his truck, rather than the trailer.
Later on Dec. 29, Fisher demanded more than $4,000 for storage, fuel and mileage, according to court records. He changed the price several times, asking for $2,000 and then $3,000.
On Jan. 2, an employee from R&R Oilfield Services asked Fisher to tell him where the trailer was so someone from the company could pick it up, an investigator wrote in the affidavit of probable cause. Fisher said it was in Grand Junction, Colorado, but wouldn’t give an exact location without being paid.
Police say they pulled the GPS tracking on Fisher’s truck and that he never went to Colorado.
Fisher called twice more to try and get money in exchange for telling where the trailer was being kept, according to court documents, and on Jan. 31 he told the company the trailer was in Minot. The Ward County Sheriff’s Office recovered the trailer where Fisher said it would be.
If convicted, Fisher could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. No hearing has been set in the case and as of Tuesday afternoon, Fisher had not been arrested.
Feb. 15, 2018 Drivers who participated in an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) study said they are somewhat cautious about adaptive cruise control and active lane keeping features and prefer systems they believe make smooth, gradual movements.
Overall, drivers in the study said they would be reluctant to use the features in challenging driving conditions such as stop-and-go traffic and on local roads, but were comfortable using them in light traffic and on interstates.
The findings came in an IIHS analysis of 51 co-workers test drives to assess drivers reactions to these two semi-autonomous vehicle features.
The IIHS and HLDI employees who participated in the study drove one of five vehicles — a 2017 Audi A4, 2017 Audi Q7, 2016 Honda Civic, 2016 Infiniti QX60 and 2016 Toyota Prius — equipped with adaptive cruise control. With the feature, the vehicle maintains a set speed and a set following distance from the vehicle in front of it. Three of the vehicles — the two Audis and the Civic — were also equiped with active lane keeping, which provides sustained steering input to keep the vehicle within its lane.
The drivers used the vehicles — with the technology continually activated — for periods ranging from one day to three weeks.
While the drivers viewed adaptive cruise control and active lane keeping somewhat positively overall — the kind of systems installed in the vehicles made a difference in their perceptions of the technology.
For example, drivers of the Audi A4 and Q7 viewed the adaptive cruise control more positively than the active lane keeping feature. The reverse was true for the Honda Civic where the active lane keeping earned higher accolades than the adaptive cruise control.
In addition, the drivers favored active lane keeping that they believed made infrequent steering corrections. They also preferred adaptive cruise control systems that they felt made smooth, gradual changes and consistently detected moving vehicles ahead.
Feb, 2018 For the sixth consecutive year, Los Angeles topped the list of the world’s most gridlocked cities, with drivers spending 102 hours in congestion in 2017 during peak time periods, according to the annual INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard.
The U.S. accounted for five of the Top 10 cities worldwide with the worst traffic congestion. In addition to Los Angeles, New York City tied with Moscow for second place with 91 hours in congestion, San Francisco (79 hours) ranked fifth, Atlanta (70 hours) ranked eighth, and Miami (64 hours) ranked tenth.
INRIX analyzed 1,360 cities across 38 countries. Based on the findings, the U.S. ranked as the most congested developed country in the world, with drivers spending an average of 41 hours a year in traffic during peak hours. The report concludes that congestion costs drivers nearly $305 billion in 2017, an average of $1,445 per driver.
While the economic impact is one issue, gridlock can also have a major impact on road safety. Experts have long known that frayed nerves from sitting in hours of congestion can lead to aggressive behavior.
A study published in 2016 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 78% of U.S. drivers reported having engaged in at least one aggressive driving behavior during the past year. The most common behaviors included: Intentionally tailgating another vehicle (50.8%); yelling at another driver (46.6%); and honking the horn “to show annoyance or anger” (44.5%). The study suggests that underlying issues in the driving environment, such as congestion, can contribute to aggressive driving.
However, the new data from INRIX implies that traffic congestion across the country is unlikely to clear up anytime soon. Additional noteworthy facts from the report include:
New York’s Cross Bronx Expressway topped the list as the U.S.’s worst corridor for the third year in a row, with the average driver wasting 118 hours per year
Commuters within Boston and San Francisco had the highest U.S. congestion rates on arterial and city streets during the peak commute hours (23 percent)
The worst downtown slowdowns were in El Paso, Texas, where speeds dropped from 43 mph at free flow speeds to 5 mph when congested
New York businesses suffered the most from congestion with an average of 14 percent of travel time on weekdays in gridlock and where drivers wasted the most daytime hours stuck in traffic in the entire U.S.
Santa Cruz, Calif., had the worst overall daytime congestion on arterial and highways, with drivers spending 12 percent of their days sitting in traffic.
Jan 30, 2018 Some Good Samaritans in Colorado nearly paid an unthinkable price this week while trying to save the life of a truck driver.
This heart- and gut-wrenching scene serves as yet another prime reminder to drive carefully because a split-second is all it takes for a bad decision to turn deadly.
Boulder residents Jeff and Krysten Fogg and been driving Monday with their two-year-old son on U.S. 36 in Boulder County when a tractor-trailer ahead of them suddenly slowed down and began to roll in reverse.
The truck, which had been towing a dry freight trailer, kept backing down the highway until it jackknifed onto the side of the road. Jeff Fogg and another motorist went to see if they could help the trucker, while Jeff’s wife stayed behind in their SUV to call 911.
A dispatcher instructed Krysten Fogg to first make sure the hazard lights were on in their SUV and then asked her to go check on the driver. As she walked towards the truck, the unthinkable happened: a pickup traveling at around 60 mph crashed into an oncoming ambulance and then collided into the Fogg’s SUV sending it and their two-year-old son inside about 30 feet from where it had been parked.
“I was screaming. I was like my baby is in that car, my baby is in that car, and my husband took off running,” Krysten Fogg told Fox 31 Denver.
Thankfully, Hudson was still buckled safely in his car seat and appeared to be unharmed. Jeff Fogg said his son was more concerned about the glass in his Pringles chips.
No details have been released on the trucker who unfortunately died of an unknown medical cause.
The Foggs, obviously still shaken up by the day’s events, are hoping that motorists will drive more carefully. We are too.
“People just don’t pay attention as much anymore,” Jeff Fogg said. “They’re on their phones or doing whatever and I don’t know if this man was on his phone, but there were lights and sirens on both side of the road and he decides to fly through them. Man, just slow down. Being late is not a big deal.”
The Fogg’s story recalls a harrowing accident on Detroit highway last week when a tow-truck driver was shown on video nearly getting hit by a speeding car whose driver had apparently been oblivious to him and the Michigan state trooper parked nearby.
Amazingly, the tow-truck driver was not hurt. Too many others have not been so fortunate.
The sad part here is that all of these incidents were completely avoidable if the drivers had been more concerned about driving safely versus doing God knows what else, whether that’s texting while driving, looking for a dropped cell phone or getting impatient with traffic. On that note, take a look at the video below and watch as a pickup driver in Florida, tired of waiting for a train, darts across the tracks and avoids getting nailed by just a second or two. Really?!
Jeri West, who had given her husband Geoff a dashcam for Christmas never thought that they’d record such lunacy. Sorry to say, but that camera will probably be capturing a lot more reckless driving in the days ahead among the dumb and the senseless.
Feb 22, 2018 It may be a strong trucking market by all accounts, but it isn’t a strong market for the sale of used trucks. On Thursday, Ryder chairman and CEO Robert Sanchez addressed that issue at a Miami conference, and so did the transport analysis group of Stifel Financial.
Sanchez, speaking at the Citi 2018 Industrials Conference in Miami, said a 2 ½ year decline in used truck pricing appears to have leveled off. That decline has weighed on the Ryder’s earnings, significant enough that Stifel led its section on used truck sales with the rhetorical question: “Used trucks--when's the pain gonna stop?”
“There’s an oversupply of used trucks, and there aren’t enough buyers,” Sanchez said at the Citi conference. But he said by the fourth quarter of 2017, prices had stopped sliding. As to whether there was an upturn, Sanchez said Ryder’s expectations are that prices “won’t pick up yet. We just have not seen it and we didn’t want to forecast it.” Sanchez said the company needs to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 trucks annually.
Later in the presentation, Sanchez expressed some confidence that the cycle on used truck sales would turn. “If it follows a normal used truck cycle, it would tell you that what you have is upside,” Sanchez said. “It came down for 2 ½ years, it’s now flattened out and it should go back up, if that’s the history.”
But as Sanchez noted, that’s not in Ryder’s forecast. In its projections for 2018, Ryder, after talking about positive growth projections, states: “These benefits are expected to be partially offset by impacts from the extended downturn in the used vehicle market.”
The Stifel report showed an aerial shot of a lot of used trucks in Iowa. The smallest quantity of vehicles could be seen in 2014, a significantly larger number of trucks in 2016, and a smaller number in 2017 though clearly more than the ’14 vehicle count. The report cited the ELD mandate as a reason why reversing the market may be difficult. The mandate “disproportionately (is) pressuring small fleet operators (the main buyer for used tractors). It is unlikely the used market will get significantly better soon.”
Independent research analyst CFRA said recently of the used truck market, “Although Ryder saw strong operating revenues amid good demand, continued weakness in used vehicle values hurt results somewhat.”
Will ELD enforcement weaken the market further?
Sanchez did not address the Stifel report specifically, but said in his remarks that he believes the ELD mandate is already “baked in” to the used truck market. If the ELD mandate was going to push an owner/operator out of the trucking market, it would have occurred already, and “I don’t see them coming in in April and getting out,” a reference to when the ELD mandate is to be more stringently enforced.
On a separate issue, Sanchez said his estimate is that driver wages are up 3-4% in the last year, a number that drew some skepticism from his questioner, who asked Sanchez whether such a number, seen as less than what other companies are reporting, could be a result of the fact that Ryder drivers are home most evenings. “That’s the key,” he said. “Our deliveries are typically closed-loop, the drivers come home every night. So the more experienced drivers seek those routes that have them coming back to the same place.”
The driver shortage has helped Ryder’s Dedicated Transportation Solutions division, Sanchez said, discussing Ryder’s sector that essentially takes over a client’s transportation requirements. Two to three years ago, that division had an 8-9 percent growth rate, with Sanchez attributing it to a serious driver shortage. In late 2016-2017, Sanchez said the driver shortage subsided, “and growth dropped a bit.” But the pipeline of new activity into 2018 is strong enough in that division, spurred by renewed driver tightness, to have Ryder project a growth rate in fleet size of 9% for the year, with 6 percentage points coming from its rental sector.
Stifel asks: where have the margins gone?
Beyond the discussion of used truck sales, the Stifel report was critical of Ryder’s margins in its Fleet Managements Solution division, which includes the vehicle rental and leasing activities. In a chart showing the margins of the FMS group, Stifel asked: “Where have FMS margins gone? Assuming 2014-2015 was boosted by strong used truck pricing, normal EBT margins have not approached 2004-2008 since. Is it the lower-return world leading to lower required returns, or is something else wrong?” Elsewhere, Stifel noted, “the company is indicating that we'll see single-digit margins for the third straight year (disappointing).”
Still, although Stifel lowered its EPS estimate on Ryder for 2018 to $5.52 from $6.32 (with a minor 1-cent decline in its 2019 estimate to $6.57), it kept a Hold rating on Ryder’s stock.
Feb 16, 2018 If we start with the premise that a commercial driver can be both 100% compliant with hours-of-service (HoS) regulations and sound asleep at the wheel simultaneously, then we have a starting point for healthy debate as requested by OOIDA in its recent petition to the FMCSA.
To suggest otherwise and imply compliance to unsafe regulations equates to safety is misleading at best, and downright dangerous at worst.
Why so? Well, we ask drivers to be safe, yet we don’t equip them with either the opportunity or skills to do so, and by skills, I mean those required to deal with constant sleep deprivation caused by inconsistent trip start/end times and those impossible 10-hour breaks that occur after sunrise. Studies show that after sunrise, when the body clock’s sleep/wake cycle is triggered by blue light, a 10-hour break will yield at best 4 to 4.5 hours of sleep and poor-quality sleep at that.
Humans are nocturnal sleepers and have evolved to wake with the sun and sleep in the dark, so anytime a driver tries to sleep in the day they can be both sleepy but not fatigued and fatigued but not sleepy. It’s nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster with the latter the most problematic, and why drivers often say they feel wide awake and ready to roll during the day but can’t because they have to wait until 10 hours has elapsed. When it does, they often feel tired because of the way our alertness circadian rhythm cycles up and down throughout the day. Adding flexibility to the way rest breaks are constructed over a 24-hour period is key, and why an exemption to the 14-hour clock rule with a clock-stopping break is not only a great idea, it has to be considered if improved road safety is truly a desired outcome.
Why it Matters
The OOIDA petition suggests that after allowing for a 10-hour continuous break, a 17-hour workday can commence which means, on occasions, a new workday starts 27 hours, or 3 hours later, than the prior day (or what’s known as a forward rotating schedule). This is much better than the 1934 HOS 10-on/8-off rule that allowed a new workday to start 6 hours earlier every 24 hours, or what’s known as a backwards rotating 6-hour schedule. Schedules that start earlier each day truncate sleep rapidly which cause drivers to suffer from jet-lag on a daily basis; the equivalent of flying east from Dallas to London and then attempting to fall asleep immediately upon landing – it’s almost biologically impossible to achieve without some form of pharmacological assistance. The OOIDA petition is the opposite in that it occasionally creates a forward rotating 3-hour schedule which is more in line with the bio-compatible schedules the FMCSA is attempting to achieve.
My only caveat with any exemption request or petition is that where possible, drivers must try and stick to a 24-hour routine of work and rest as often as possible, so that sleep occurs at the same time every day (along with the timing of light to the eyes).
We Should Be Regulating Sleep
The bottom line is we’re regulating the wrong thing … we should be regulating sleep and not hours worked since sleep drives human performance far more than skills, experience and training. The idea that by regulating hours worked we somehow magically ensure drivers are well-rested for the next shift is completely flawed. Even mandating a 10-hour continuous break is questionable since most humans only need 6 to 7.5 hrs of sleep per day to be fully functional, so exemptions to the 14-hour clock rule and allowing off-duty rest/sleep time to be spread across the 24-hour day makes complete sense.
Hours of Sleep
In 2006, a consortium of truckload carriers applied for an exemption to parts of 49CFR 395 – it was called “Hours of Sleep” for a very good reason. The exemption requested the 24-hour day be defined as 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. rather than the ludicrous 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. For over-the-road drivers running on the 70-hour/8-day rule, getting back hours from the 8th day prior at midnight is arguable the worst time to start a workday. The exemption also asked for flexibility with the 14-hour clock rule and 34-hour restart provision, and in doing so, would allow a driver to construct the 11 hours driving and 10 hours off-duty however they wanted (with the exception that 6 of the 10 hours had to be continuous), essentially allowing them to drive when they’re awake and sleep when they’re tired (just like with paper logs). This meant they could drive 3 hours, sleep 1.5 hours, drive 6 hours, sleep 3 hours and so on, but at the end of the day they would record no more than 11 hours driving and no less than 10 hours off-duty every 24 hours.
Sounds logical doesn't it? According the FMCSA at the time, it would not allow the exemption until, “every fleet had electronic logs and the playing field was leveled.” LTL carriers also objected to truckload carriers getting any sort of advantage and the project eventually got voted down by the ATA Hours of Service sub-committee.
It’s flexibility that drives safety outcomes, not prescriptive regulations based on a one-size-fits-all model (where only a small percentage of drivers fit). Flexibility widens the safety aperture and catches more drivers in the safety net as it caters for individual driver sleep personalities and work preference.
Making regulations economically affordable is a well-proven method for increased compliance and improved road safety, that’s why the hours-of-sleep project was so attractive to carriers because the increased flexibility with hours-of-service compliance added another hour on rolling time per day which was equivalent to a 11% rate increase, a 11% increase in driver pay and 15% reduction in driver turnover on top of a projected 22% reduction in preventable accidents.
Now that the ELD Mandate is in place, now just may be the right time to apply for exemptions to rules like the 14-hour clock and introduce performance-based safety programs that reward drivers for good performance with economically affordable regulations rather than impose prescriptive regulations for the lowest common denominator. Wouldn’t it be better to reward the 90% of fleets and drivers for doing the right thing than try to find the 10% who consistently underperform no matter what?
Unlike in 2006 when the Hours of Sleep project began, we now have incredibly accurate machine learning technology that can predict sleep and model driver risk down to the minute, so why not let fleets who want to not only meet regulatory standards but exceed them by doing far more than required apply for exemptions based on performance.
Still Not Convinced
If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still not convinced, ask yourself how do we achieve the goals of the HOS regulation as outlined by the FMCSA, which state, “As the driver of a large, heavy truck, you have a lot of responsibility as you drive down the road. The biggest concern is safety. That brings us to the main reason for the hours-of-service regulations – to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long you may drive, to ensure that you stay awake and alert while driving, and on a continuing basis to help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.”
Drivers aren’t robots and one size doesn't fit all, so in the absence of flexibility, wide-awake drivers will be attempting to sleep in rest-stops on 10-hour breaks during the day, and tired drivers will be always on the road and on occasions sound asleep at the wheel … but they’ll be compliant.
It’s as if the current regulations are achieving the exact opposite of what they set out to do, but then that’s what happens when you live on an island surrounded by reality, aka Washington D.C., which also ranks as the worst city for driver wait times according to a recent FreightWaves study.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m supportive of most HOS changes since 2004 to better align a driver’s workday with the 24-hour rising and setting of the sun (11 hours driving, 3 non-driving and 10 hours off), but it’s the 14-hour clock rule that’s the most egregious and why the OOIDA petition and KeepTruckin petitions are so important.
Since drivers are paid by the mile and have to fit in 11 hours of driving into a 14-hour window, the prescriptive and inflexible 14-hour clock rule often robs drivers of the incentive to recharge their sleep battery by stopping when they are tired. It’s illogical to think that a nap can’t extend your workday, after all, it does in every other modern workplace.
Paper Logs vs Electronic Logs
Having been an over-the-road driver and used both electronic logs and paper logs, I knew that log compliance had nothing to do with my safety, so in 2006 I began a 5-year study of accident rates of fleets using both types of logs to prove my theory, i.e. that being compliant to unsafe regulations won’t make you a safer driver, in fact it will make you worse.
Using a publicly available data set in 2007 from the FMCSA Safer system recording DOT-recordable accidents, I studied 30 truckload carriers who ran close to 12 billion miles annually and in 2007 observed that fleets on paper logs recorded a 30% lower DOT recordable accident rate. Fast forward to 2011 and the fleets that had converted from paper to electronic logs had almost the same DOT-recordable accident rate. In more recent years I’ve studied thousands of accidents from fleets with electronic logs – the findings are the same; drivers still fall asleep at the wheel even though they’re compliant with HOS regulations. It’s not the regulations that drive safety, it’s allowing drivers to listen to their bodies and sleep when they’re tired and drive when they’re awake.
These studies also highlight one of the biggest issues drivers have with the ELD Mandate – it removes the flexibility that paper logs afforded them, and by that I mean not doing more hours … just doing them differently based on individual work and sleep preference.
The key is to make work start/end times consistent so that we satisfy the body’s drive for “anchor sleep” i.e. sleep in the same place and at the same time every day. I’m all for more flexibility in how drivers rest and meet their anchor sleep requirements, and in particular being able to stop the 14-hour clock in the interests of improved productivity and safety (which aren’t mutually exclusive).
Dean Croke is chief analytics officer for FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves Dean was vice president of data products at Spireon where he headed up the development of new high-frequency telematics data products. He also ran Lancer’s long-haul truck insurance business after spending many years as vice president of Omnitracs Analytics, where he developed data science technologies including machine learning, complex business rules engines and data analytics for transportation companies. Dean was one of the original founders of FleetRisk Advisors and has 35 years of experience in data analytics, transportation, supply chain management, mining and insurance risk management. He still holds a CDL and has driven more than 2 million miles.
In a couple days, after retiring the first of this year, I am moving back to my home state of Wisconsin. I’ve spent almost 25 years living and working in Utah and it’s been quite a ride. This move is with mixed feelings, knowing I will always miss this place.
Having been a regional semi-driver from Wisconsin since 1980, I transferred out here with Ryder in July of 1993 driving a 24 foot U-haul truck with all my possessions, pulling a car and tow dolly behind. Coming across I-80 in Iowa I had to detour many miles off the interstate due to flooded roads from the huge winter storms of early 1993. Back on I-80, in the western side of Nebraska, just east of Wyoming, I ran into a thunderstorm and saw an empty semi-truck with a husband-wife team get blown sideways in a micro burst and flip over only a few hundred feet in front of me. Thankfully, both were unhurt and able to climb out the top through the passenger door of the cab-over as I pulled up. They were pretty shook up and I had never seen anything like that before. Coming down Parley’s canyon into the Salt Lake valley with that U-haul and tow vehicle behind was a whole different experience than with my car a few weeks earlier! I remember having thoughts, wondering what I was getting myself into.
Being from the mid west, I didn’t know what a mountain was until Boyce, Bob and other drivers coached me through a few canyons, my wide eyes staring and white knuckles on the wheel! Utah is a special place to live and work, having traveled and spent extended time as a trainer in cities throughout the inter-mountain west. There is nowhere I’d rather live other than in a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin, getting back to a small town quiet life, near family and friends.
There are so many people I’d like to acknowledge, I’ll miss them, fellow drivers, supervisors, employees and vendors of our customer. I’ve worked with so many people in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver and elsewhere. A lot of great friends, the list would be long and thanks to Facebook, I can hopefully stay in touch. Most of all, thanks to my “Utah family” of the last 10 years, who always made me feel welcome and I will forever love and miss! Thanks for all of the great memories. The circle of life pulls me back to Wisconsin, but my time here has been so special! Oh, and by the way, I will never miss being stuck in Wyoming weather...... and that’s all I got to say about that, LOL. I hope the drive back (in another U-Haul and my car on a tow dolly) will have a lot less drama than the first one coming here. Take care!
Jan 26, 2018 Yesterday CNBC reported that a number of current and former Tesla employees have confirmed that Model 3 productions problems are deeper and more persistent than has been previously reported or acknowledged by the company in its last earnings call. When in the past Tesla CEO Elon Musk has tried to minimize the depths of ‘production hell’ at the Gigafactory, he pointed to specific, limited issues like a last minute rewrite of battery software to explain hangups in production. Yesterday’s reports, however, identified more widespread problems, ranging from hand-assembled batteries to hiring temp workers with no automotive experience to perform quality control.
Responding to concerns about the company’s reliance on unqualified temps, a Tesla spokesperson wrote that “We’ve been able to teach new skills to thousands of new employees.” Tesla stock has dropped 5% since reaching its peak on January 23rd.
Most startling were the claims by two engineers that Model 3 lithium ion batteries were being assembled by hand so hastily—borrowed Panasonic employees were “slapping bandoliers together as fast as they possibly could”—sometimes without adequate gaps between the cells. If separate battery cells touched, the engineers warned, the battery could short-circuit or even catch fire.
“The implication that Tesla would ever deliver a car with a hazardous battery is absolutely inaccurate, contrary to all evidence, and detached from reality,” a Tesla spokesperson wrote in response. “Every battery in a Tesla vehicle has thousands of cells, the vast majority of which are at the same voltage potential as neighboring cells. Hypothetically, even if two cells of the same voltage potential were touching, there would be absolutely zero impact, safety or otherwise – it would be as if two neutral pieces of metal touched,” the spokesperson continued. The Tesla representative went on to describe the safety and quality checks performed in Tesla’s battery production process.
Model 3 batteries are still being assembled by hand at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory because the machines that would automate that process are still being completed. Early last year, Tesla made a controversial decision to skip the soft-tooling prototype stage of car production that would have allowed the company to adjust and calibrate its machines before the final versions were ordered. At the time, Elon Musk argued that skipping soft-tooling would allow the Model 3 to reach full production more quickly, but the opposite has proven true. One Tesla engineer said that even today, “There's no redundancy, so when one thing goes wrong, everything shuts down.” Tesla is still not close to mass-producing the battery for its basic $35k Model 3.
Of course, we know that Tesla doesn’t actually want to sell the base model because they’ve said they’re prioritizing the higher-spec models—the least expensive car they’re offering is priced at $49k. “While I've no doubt that Tesla will eventually work out its Model 3 production problems,” said Mark Spiegel of Stanphyl Capital, “the base model will cost Tesla at least mid-$40,000s to build. The company will never deliver more than a token few for less than the current $49,000 lowest-cost offering. Sales will hugely disappoint relative to expectations of over 400,000 a year. And even at those higher prices Tesla will never come anywhere close to its promised [profitability].” Stanphyl Capital has taken a large short position against Tesla stock, representing about 15% of Stanphyl’s assets under management. Spiegel clarified that he doesn’t expect Tesla stock to decline linearly, but instead views the company as a landmine that could explode at any moment with “company-killing news”, and he wants to make sure that he has a large short position when the inevitable happens.
For his part, Elon Musk told the New York Times that, “I actually see the potential for Tesla to become a trillion-dollar company within a 10-year period.”
But what do the Model 3’s seemingly insurmountable production issues mean for the Tesla Semi? Tesla’s arduous pursuit of profitability will only be encumbered by an additional multi-billion dollar investment in completely new truck manufacturing lines. The carmaker is already more than $8B in debt and would have to raise additional capital to begin truck manufacturing—far more money than what Tesla has already collected from pre-order deposits. Even though a Tesla Semi was spied on the road in Santa Clara (see Brandon Camargo’s video), the array of other issues Tesla is currently facing make it difficult to imagine mass production of the Semi by 2019.
To sum up: Tesla is having trouble mass producing the Model 3 and only has a hope of making a profit on the most expensive $49k higher spec version. A car at that price is much less competitive in the mass market than a car selling for $35k. If Tesla is forced to commit to the high end version of the Model 3, the company will not meet its sales targets of 400k units in 2018 and will continue losing market share to its competitors. Where does the money to invest in the Semi come from in that scenario?
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Jan. 19, 2018 Court documents provide new details and shed light on a possible motive behind a shooting earlier this month on Interstate 80 in Atalissa.
According to an application filed Jan. 18 in Cedar County District Court in support of a search warrant, accused shooter Charles S. Johnston told police after his arrest that he had become “enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation. “
The 60-year-old Belvidere, Illinois, man told officers that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized, according to the application.
A spokesperson for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is investigating the case, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Johnston is charged in Cedar County with attempted murder, a Class B felony, and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon, a Class D felony.
He will be arraigned March 2, according to online court records. Bond has been set at $1 million cash-only.
According to the application for the search warrant sought by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office:
Around 2:15 p.m. Jan. 11, the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office started receiving multiple reports of a person shooting a firearm at vehicles on I-80. Reports also came from the area of 273 mile marker towards the Atalissa Pilot Station that shots were being fired from a small black car.
A semi driver was pulling out of the Pilot Station onto Atalissa Road when a person in a black Volkswagen was pulling in. The driver of the Volkswagen, later identified as Johnston, pointed a handgun out of the window and fired multiple shots at the semi driver.
The semi driver saw the car circle around behind him on the passenger side, and so he swerved and struck the Volkwagen, pinning the car under the trailer.
Johnston fired several more rounds into the passenger door of the semi. The semi then pulled onto Atalissa Road, just south of the interstate, and observed the black Volkswagen travel south on Atalissa Road and turn around and park.
Moments later, the black Volkswagen approached the semi.
A trooper with the Iowa State Patrol arrived on scene, and shortly after getting out of his patrol vehicle, Johnston fired two shots at the trooper, striking the squad car.
Officers fired shots on the Volkswagen. Several additional officers arrived and secured the scene while orders were given for Johnston to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
After several minutes, he eventually exited the vehicle and followed commands of the officers and was taken into custody.
Johnston was brought to an ambulance to be checked out and then was transported to the Cedar County Jail. After his arrest, he mentioned that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized.
Officers found several prescription pill bottles in plain view in the vehicle.
Johnston also said that he became enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation, according to the application.
No one was injured in the shootings. The search warrant application did not indicate why Johnston was in the area that day.
Offices searched the Volkswagen and found a metal marijuana pipe; a prescription bottle with marijuana inside; a prescription bottle with no label and with marijuana inside; a jar of "Explosion Pre-workout" with a glass pipe; a prescription bottle that held pills that did not match the label; and a box of cigarettes with a marijuana "joint" inside, according to a receipt for property that was filed with the search warrant.
Johnston said in court documents that he is employed by Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.
College spokeswoman Kim Pohl confirmed in an email Friday that Johnston has been employed by the college since 1996 and is an associate professor in the psychology department.
She said Johnston is “absent without approved leave” and that he has been barred from campus.
“Harper College is prepared to cooperate with authorities in whatever way possible,” Pohl wrote in an email.