As fleets adopt technology, the public remains skeptical of safety focus

freight technology

Commercial drivers are among the safest drivers on the roadways, but based on general public perception, and anti-trucking safety groups that highlight the number of yearly incidents involving big rigs, it would be difficult to tell that.

According to data within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), there were 164,529 large trucks involved in crashes in 2018, with 79,879 injuries and 4,708 deaths reported. Those numbers were comparable to 2017's figures, with 154,634 crashes, 75,985 injuries and 4,858 deaths.

In 2013, the American Trucking Associations released results of a research project conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. That study looked at 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes and found that in 81% of the incidents, the car driver was assigned fault, versus just 27% of truck drivers to which fault was assigned. Similarly, a 2003 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified 10,092 fatal car-truck accidents and assigned blame to the car driver 91% of the time in head-on crashes. It also found that 71% of the time the car driver was responsible for rear-end crashes.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) said that commercial trucks traveled over 9.4 billion miles in 2017. While the numbers can be significant, when putting them in context based on the number of miles traveled and compared to automotive-only numbers, a different story emerges.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 0.94 passenger car occupants were killed in 2017 per 100 million truck miles traveled. Conversely, 1.16 people were killed per 100 million miles traveled overall in 2017. Statistically speaking, fewer people die in truck-car crashes than in car crashes alone.

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Mexican officials: wait times at Otay Mesa Port of Entry up to five hours

Delay Times at Port of Entry

Truck wait times on the Mexican side of the Otay Mesa port of entry have jumped as the inspection process lengthens, leaving trucks backed up for hours, said officials in Mexico.

"Both Mexican and American customs are spending more time reviewing the trucks – with wait times between four and four and one-half hours," said Salvador Díaz González, president of the Tijuana-based Industrial Association of Otay Mesa (AIMO).
The long lines for the commercial crossing checkpoint in Otay affects not only the companies and transporters, but also the people who [travel] through the area, since the [trucks] massing invade the surrounding roads, Díaz said in an August 14 report in elimparcial.com.

Carrier wait times in the whole Otay Mesa/Tijuana/San Diego market have been trending up since June 1 – up 30 percent to 133 minutes average per load/unload event per month.

The average wait time for commercial trucks in the market is 126 mins over the last year. This information comes from the FreightWaves SONAR platform.

While traffic may be affected in Tijuana, wait times are not affecting the U.S. side of the border. Wait times are hovering around 40 minutes, as of noon August 14, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

With the FreightWaves SONAR Van Inbound Tender Rejection Index (VITRI.SAN) at 1.81 percent and dropping, carriers are still willing to accept loads into the Otay Mesa/San Diego market. SONAR's Van Outbound Tender Rejection Rate (VOTRI.SAN) is also around 1.81 percent, meaning there are no capacity issues in the market.

Díaz said he understands why officials have been stricter with inspections, but the negative effects are causing lower carrier productivity, more air pollution in the Tijuana area and traffic jams that affect others who drive in the area.

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U.S. Senators introduce $287 billion highway bill

$287 billion highway bill

A $287 billion highway bill proposal reauthorizing funding to maintain and repair the country's roads and bridges includes a first-ever title addressing carbon emissions and supporting electric vehicle infrastructure.

The legislation, a five-year reauthorization of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to be called America's Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, was introduced on July 29 by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The proposed funding for federal-aid highway programs is a 27 percent increase from the $226 billion authorized in the current legislation, which expires in October 2020.

"The [EPW proposal] is the most substantial highway infrastructure bill in history," said the committee's chairman, John Barrasso (R-Wyoming). "The bill cuts Washington red tape, so road construction can get done faster, better, cheaper and smarter. It will help create jobs and support our strong, growing and healthy economy. Infrastructure is critical to our country and we should responsibly pay for this legislation."

Tom Carper (D-Delaware), the committee's ranking member, said addressing air pollution in a highway bill will help move the country "toward a safer, more connected, efficient and climate-friendly transportation system" to keep up with the global economy.

"We're just getting started, but I look forward to moving this bill out of committee this week and the work ahead of us to get it across the finish line." The bill must be paired with a version from the U.S. House of Representatives that is not expected to be introduced until the fall of this year, at the earliest.

The Senate legislation increases funding for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program for freight projects to $5.5. billion, a 22 percent increase from the $4.5 billion authorized in the FAST Act. It increases the minimum amount of INFRA funds to go towards smaller projects from 10 to 15 percent, and sets aside $150 million per year for a pilot program that prioritizes projects offering a higher non-federal match. It would also create new transparency requirements for administering the grants.

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Stresses Benefits of Long-Term Highway Bill

Secretary Elaine Chao

June ended with the country's top transportation officer emphasizing that a multiyear highway policy directive from Washington is more beneficial to state agencies than a series of short-term extensions of federal guidelines.

Secretary Elaine Chao drilled down on this point, admittedly obvious to stakeholders, during an in-depth conversation with Hugo Gurdon, editor of The Washington Examiner, on June 26.

"The general pattern is in fact to just have extensions, not full reauthorization. But clearly, the certainty of having a longer time frame is very important to those who are involved in infrastructure," said the secretary, sitting across from the journalist on stage at the Heritage Foundation. "State and local governments, you know, if they know they're going to have this money for five years rather than six months, they can actually plan for the future. So a longer-term horizon is better."

The conservative think tank is a few blocks from the Senate side of the Capitol, where the surface transportation panel on July 10 ideally will kick off the obvious task of determining a strategy for reauthorizing surface transportation policy. The current highway law expires in less than 15 months.

By now, a consensus has been established inside the Beltway that advancing comprehensive infrastructure policy is unlikely this year. Separate press conferences in May from President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing their failed negotiations on a $2 trillion infrastructure measure cemented the notion that top-level infrastructure talks had collapsed.

Since then, Trump has focused on immigration policy. Pelosi has pressed forward with investigations into Trump's political and business worlds. The Republican leadership in the Senate has not proposed an infrastructure measure during Trump's tenure.

Reacting to Gurdon's suggestion that comprehensive infrastructure policy would not advance in the foreseeable future, Chao exclaimed, "I haven't given up hope yet."

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With U.S.-Mexico reaching agreement, trade tensions at southern border lessen

Mexico/ US Border Crossing
Canadian border with the USA. Canadian customs.

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor • June 10, 2019

With last Friday's news that the United States and Mexico reached a deal that will put off the implementation of tariffs by the United States on Mexico, which it had planned to start today as a countermeasure to what President Trump called an "ongoing illegal immigration crisis" at the Southern border, it is likely cross-border trade stakeholders are breathing a collective sign of relief.

Had the U.S. tariffs come to fruition, it would have begun with the U.S. imposing a 5% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico and then raised to 10% on July 1, 15% on August 1, 2019, to 20% on September 1, 2019 and to 25% on October 1, 2019.

As previously reported, President Trump said in late May that tariffs would permanently remain at the 25% level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal flow of aliens coming through its territory. And he added that if Mexico fails to act, tariffs will remain at a high level, with Mexican-based companies potentially moving back to the U.S. to make their products and goods, and companies that relocate to the U.S. not subject to tariffs or be otherwise impacted. Trump added that aside from immigration being the primary impetus for these planned tariffs that: "[o]ver the years, Mexico has made massive amounts of money in its dealing with the United States, and this includes the tremendous number of jobs leaving the country."

Well, quickly and fortunately, it looks like things are not going to get to that point, according to a joint declaration issued by the U.S. and Mexico that stated Mexico will "take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border."

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House Funding Leaders Easily Advance Fiscal 2020 Transportation Bill

Transportation Bill

Legislation that would increase funding for infrastructure grants and the agency overseeing trucking regulations was easily approved by a subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 23.

The fiscal 2020 transportation funding bill would provide $1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grants, a $100 million increase above the 2019 enacted level.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, with jurisdiction over trucking and bus operations, would receive $677 million, which would be $10 million above the 2019 enacted level.

The bill advanced by a voice vote to the Appropriations Committee, which is expected to consider the measure in the coming weeks.

Overall, the legislation would provide the U.S. Department of Transportation $86.6 billion, slightly more than President Donald Trump's request and $167 million above the 2019 enacted level.

For the Federal Highway Administration, the measure would provide $48.9 billion, $1.7 billion above the president's request, and $404 million below the 2019 enacted level.

For other agencies, the measure would provide the Federal Transit Administration $13.5 billion, $1.1 billion more than the president's request, and $60 million above the 2019 enacted level. The Federal Railroad Administration would receive $3 billion, which would be $877 million above the president's request, and $96 million more than the 2019 enacted level.

And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would receive $1 billion, which would be $81 million above the president's request, and $44 million more than the 2019 enacted level.

The bill also would provide Amtrak $2 billion, highway infrastructure programs would receive $1.75 billion, and the Port Infrastructure Development Program would be provided $225 million.

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OEMs Offer Over-the-Air Software Updates as Latest Advance in Truck Maintenance

Latest Advance in Truck Maintenance

Computer and smartphone users don't have to take their devices to their dealers for each software update. Now, the same can be said for trucks.

Truck manufacturers increasingly are enabling fleets to update truck software and programming parameters "over the air" — an innovation that is saving days of downtime.

Ken Calhoun, fleet optimization manager at Altec Service Group, said the potential benefits are "huge."

"Obviously, our greatest desire is always to be able to keep the truck on the road doing its job, and if we can eliminate a significant portion of those service events, how is that not a win?" said Calhoun, who also is general chairman of American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council.

Volvo Trucks North America introduced its remote programming offering in the fourth quarter of 2018 after a soft launch with certain customers earlier in the year. The service provides software updates for powertrain components, with more updates on the way, and 250 parameter updates for speed limiters and other functions. Updates are available for both over-the-road and vocational applications.

Ashraf Makki, product marketing manager, said Volvo fleet customers are notified by an agent that a software update is available. Software updates require about 20 minutes. Parameter updates require 10 minutes, including the conversation between the agent and the driver. The truck must be parked due to safety concerns, with the battery healthy enough to ensure the service won't be interrupted.

The challenge during testing wasn't on the technical side, Makki said. Instead, the company had to train its agents to communicate with customers to instill confidence so they would change their long-standing procedures.

As of late April, Volvo had 783 customers using the service with a total of 18,535 trucks. Those using the service range from large national fleets to single-truck customers.

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Trucking industry sifts through an abundance of tech options

technology in the trucking industry

As the transportation industry adapts to a digital world, owner-operators to large fleets are all grappling with how to adopt new technology.

"There are more technology choices than ever. Bob's trucking, Sue's trucking, Mario's trucking are hearing from nine million different sources, trying to sort that out," said industry consultant Randy Mullett of Mullett Strategies during Transparency19 on May 8.

Matt McLelland, innovation strategist at Covenant Transport (NYSE: CVTI) and Mario Pawlowski, CEO of iTrucker.com, joined Mullett in a discussion with FreightWaves Associate Editor John Paul Hampstead about how technology trends are affecting the transportation industry.

The wide-ranging conversation included the current struggles among some owner-operators to adapt to electronic logging devices (ELDs), to the ultimate implications of 5G wireless technology and green trucking.

"If drivers and small fleet owners don't adapt, they are going to be out of business," said Pawlowski, whose company provides ELDs and other tech solutions.

At Covenant, McLelland is tasked with identifying emerging technology and working with executives to incorporate it into the fleet.

"We're figuring it out. We don't have a lab or a testing facility," McLelland said.

The company will be taking delivery on a 2020 Freightliner Cascadia, which includes Level 2 automation, largely covering safety features.

The adoption of 5G networks may not deliver any immediate benefits to the industry. But it will open the door to bigger breakthroughs in technology because of the additional bandwidth.

"That may translate into someone who can drive a truck with a joystick sitting in a room somewhere," Mullett said.

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Driver Training Center in Mexicali Offers Greater U.S.-Mexican Highway Safety

Driver Center in Mexicali

On April 6, officials from the municipality of Mexicali, CANACAR (Camara Nacional del Autotransporte de Carga, Mexico's counterpart to the American Trucking Association), Cecati 84 (workforce/training agency for the State of Baja California), Kenworth Mexicana, and U.S.A. de C.V. a subsidiary of truck manufacturer Kenworth Trucks, gathered in Mexicali, Baja California for the inauguration of a new heavy truck driver training center.

John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems LLC (ATS), which supplied CECATI 84 with 2 Fleetmaster - KW 680 motion-based simulation technology and ATS's Quadrant Driver Training Methodology for the new center, and Enrique Mar, COO, ATS, issued a joint statement that "This center provides dynamic world class simulator-based effective training for new drivers. It will mean better prepared drivers resulting in safer deliveries and highways on both sides of the border."

The director for the new Mexicali center CECATI 84, Jesus Omar Bon Campos, notes that its training will be provided through the ATS Quadrant methodology of integrating "adaptive training" into a time-tested three-element approach: instructor-led training, computer-based training, and simulator-based training. He pointed out that aspiring drivers can learn the basics of driving, as well as develop the skills necessary to deal with adverse weather and road conditions— before boarding a real truck. They have five simulators, two trailers, and a maneuvering track of 20 hectares (about 50 acres).

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DOT sends HOS rule change to White House for review

DOT Changes Rules

Under current HOS rules, drivers can be on the road no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. If they stop to avoid rush hour or are stuck in a port waiting for a container, the clock on this 14-hour period keeps going.

Drivers want more flexibility and the ability to stop the clock on the 14-hour period if they take a break. This has become even more of an issue for drivers since the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) became mandatory.

"No one is looking for more drive time," Brian Brase, a heavy hauler out of Pennsylvania who helped plan a protest of HOS rules, told Supply Chain Dive earlier this year. "They just want some flexibility in it."

An early study on the effect of the ELD mandate showed it increased HOS compliance. The share of inspections that resulted in HOS violations fell from 6% before the mandate to 3.8% during a light enforcement period and finally to 2.5% during a strict enforcement period.

The DOT published an Advanced NPRM last August to get input on HOS and "received more than 5,200 comments, which have been carefully noted and considered," Chao said. This Advanced NPRM continues to receive comments.

"HOS needs more flexibility to allow for bad weather, delays at shippers and receivers, and traffic situations (wrecks, delays, construction, etc.)," a commenter named Sean Wright posted yesterday.

Many of the comments focus on a rule that requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. Peter Dombrowski, in a comment posted yesterday, suggested ending the 30-minute break requirement, saying drivers already take these breaks throughout the day.

Still, others are happy with the way things are: "Please keep the hos as is! Elogs are keeping companies from working drivers 18 hours a day," Robert Parker posted in February.

The details of the NPRM won't be known until its posted on the Federal Register. There is no set timeline for when this might happen or how long OMB will spend reviewing it.

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