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Jury Says Truck Driver Not Adequately Trained Awards $58 Million

Posted by Richard Hayes on

News of a jury award in a wrongful death lawsuit in Santa Fe, NM, that awarded the family of a crash victim $58.5 million dollars comes as no surprise to me. In essence the jury said that the driver of a tanker truck that made a left turn in the path of the victim’s oncoming vehicle did not have adequate training. The Jury also decided that the bulk of the responsibility for the crash lied with the management company that contracted with the trucking company.

The jury held the management company of Bergstein Enterprises of Lubbock, TX, 70% accountable for the March 2010 crash that killed Kevin Udy.

The jury also decided that twenty percent of the liability fell on the oilfield trucking company Standard E&S, also of Lubbock, TX. The owner of the tanker truck, Zia Transport of Hobbs, NM, was 9 percent responsible the jury said. The driver of the truck, Monte Lyons, was only 1 percent responsible. Only 1% is $580,000!

The award consists of $11.5 million in actual damages and $47 million in punitive damages paid to Santa Fe Trust, a fund set up for Udy’s family.

What we have here is a failure by the FMCSA to protect trucking companies from bearing the brunt of lawsuits. The failure to recognize or give any credit to the trucking companies that provide CSA training is just incredible. Under current conditions no trucking company following CSA rules can be judged CSA compliant in the operation of their fleet in North America, none! The very fact that the FMCSA only points fingers at trucking companies and does not recognize any transportation company that has training programs in place is bad business. No safety compliance recognition opens the court room doors for lawsuits to completely wipe out North American trucking as we know it today. Justice for Truckers warned of these actions three years ago before CSA begin and everybody was shaking their heads, no way!

Ray LaHood has single handedly set up our trucking industry to fail. As we had suspected from the beginning CSA has set the stage for law firms across North America to gain the type of knowledge it would need to bankrupt trucking. Believe me, this is the tip of an iceberg. Next insurance companies will react to this news and small trucking companies will not be able to secure insurance because of the additional cost. Attorneys will scan the carrier SMS scores looking at any and every carrier that is either close too or over the stated CSA threshold limit. Then any carrier who has a driver who has an accident where someone is injured or killed will have to defend its CSA driver training practices to the letter of the law. Can You?

Ray LaHood made sure the FMCSA would not recognize any attempt made by carriers for their CSA training efforts. Even after a DOT audit where government agents decide the carrier has earned the FMCSA highest rating of satisfactory the rating is not considered good enough to operate by the FMCSA beyond the day of inspection. A lose, lose, for trucking and a win, win, for the FMCSA and DOT if your aim is to destroy trucking as we know it.

Let us not forget the shippers either. The big shippers are not going to be able to hire anyone to deliver freight at this rate of attack by the courts.

Carriers need to be asking themselves how much longer they are going to wait before they put a stop to this madness by the FMCSA. Yes the FMCSA can control trucking using rules and regulations and laws. Yes, Ray LaHood has proven he could circumvent driver’s constitutional rights by making rules instead of laws. Yes Ray LaHood has proven his theory that carriers would not stand up for themselves against the FMCSA. I’m forced to give him that.

What I won’t give into is that carriers and the transportation industry will continue to let this happen. Trucking is in a free fall right now because of a tyrant named Ray LaHood and he is betting that none of you transportation companies have the balls to stand up to him or the government. You may not be able to stop CSA but you can force change and you can prove that trucking is suffering at the hands of CSA rules where everything you do can be judged wrong but nothing you do can be right. You can also use our constitution to regain the right to be judged by a jury of your peers instead of your accusers. LaHood has the power to correct mistakes in CSA but refuses to do it. He can’t afford to admit he was wrong?

Right now, today, trucking has the choice of being eaten by the rules or being defended by the law. If you are going to choose being protected by the law you better get started. The fact is until you turn the law against Ray LaHood he is going to continue to use it to destroy carriers and drivers. The real damage has just begun.

Carriers who do not have a documented CSA training program in place with proof of driver attendance to the training and follow up training will be at the greatest risk. Carriers who do not have any outside influence on the type of CSA training program that is offered will have more difficulty also because of an assumed inherent inability to only teach what is good for the company and not for dispatchers and drivers. Our survey shows that 80% of the drivers in the Southeastern states do not recall any CSA training and have not seen or know about their PSP reports. The west coast is worse. What about your drivers?

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Which Regions Bring the Highest Price?

Posted by Richard Hayes on

The graph below shows the result of organizing NADA’s CY 2012 retail sales data for sleeper tractors into region. The analysis is an attempt to show the relative difference in value placed on trucks sold in each region.
For reference, the average sleeper tractor retailed in the US in 2012 was a MY 2007 aerodynamic truck with a large raised-roof sleeper, just over 450HP, and a 10-speed manual transmission. That truck sold for $49,086 and had 547,881 miles.

We adjusted for mileage and model year differences between region, but there are a few factors to consider:
First, trucks sold in the CA and Desert Southwest regions were notably newer than those in other regions. In fact, there were no sleeper tractors older than MY 2005 reported sold from either region. This is most likely due to the stringent emissions requirements for trucks operating in that region. Our age adjustment came into play here, but this is still a factor to keep in mind.

Deviation from Average Nationwide Retail Selling Price All Sleeper Tractors Reported sold in CY 2012Second, trucks sold in the Mountain region tended to have a higher level of spec. In addition, this region represented the highest concentration of traditionally-styled owner-operator trucks. This factor is logical, given the need for higher-horsepower engines for trucks operating in mountain States. We did not adjust our results for specs.

Finally, you may note that the New England region is not represented in the graph. NADA does not receive a robust amount of sleeper tractor sales from that region. We are always looking to expand our network of reporting dealers. Anyone who wishes to report sales to us is invited to contact cvisser@nada.org.

In sum, the actual dollar variance between the highest and lowest regions would likely be lower if every possible variable was accounted for. At the same time, we are confident in the relative rankings of each region as they stand.

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Can Technology Address The Truck Driver Dilemma?

Posted by Richard Hayes on

The driver shortage is one of the most compelling issues facing fleet managers and company owners. Recently the ATA predicted that over the next decade we will need close to 100,000 new truck drivers a year to replace those who are retiring or leaving the industry.

Bob Costello, chief economist for the ATA produced the following graph illustrating the potential shortfall over the next ten years of 239,000 drivers. Notice the gap continues to widen over time.

ATA November 2012 Truck Driver Shortage Update

Source: ATA November 2012 Truck Driver Shortage Update

There are many reasons cited. Among these are:

Pay not good enough to be frequently away from home
Tougher regulations imposed by the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) Program
Stricter Enforcement of Hours of Service requirements
The “Big Brother“ effect of in-cab technology
We probably cannot do too much about the safety regulations getting tighter and even though some may disagree on how these regulations are enforced, particularly with the Hours of Service requirements, I don’t think anyone disagrees with the concept of safer drivers. We are all striving to create a safer trucking industry with safer professional drivers.

So let’s focus on the other two points – more compensatory pay and creating a positive impact of technology on the driver. That is something that fleets as well as we, the technology providers, can potentially influence.

A running theme in my blog posts lately had been the impact of the “mobile revolution” on businesses in general and specifically to the trucking industry. As I discussed in my last blog, the providers of in-cab technology like Qualcomm, XRS and PeopleNet are recognizing that the smart phone and/or the tablet adds an entirely new dimension to mobile communication by allowing mobile communication systems to not only be vehicle based BUT driver based as well.

One only needs to look at UPS and FedEx drivers to see a model for professional tech-savvy drivers who are comfortable with driver based systems.

Current smartphone technology creates an environment where all trucking companies can have access to technology that previously only big well-funded carriers had. Cameras, document imaging, signature capture, web access and email on a smartphone in the driver’s hands can create significant efficiencies for the trucking company – transferring responsibilities that were previously in the office to the driver. At the same time, driver based communication systems should be family friendly allowing the driver to communicate with his family and feel more connected both to his company and to his family while he is on the road.

I am optimistic and believe the “mobile revolution” can be an asset in attracting safer, responsible, tech-savvy drivers in the new economy. Those carriers who will successfully recruit and retain these drivers will be those that:

Bring the drivers into the technology discussion
Connect vehicle based technology with driver based technology
Make the driver an integral part of your IT system
Pay them well and justify it with increased efficiencies
Make Mobile Communication systems family friendly
We, as technology providers, owe it to the fleets we serve to help them use technology to attract drivers not to push them away. Fleet owners and managers are our partners in addressing this very serious issue.