Some Nor’Eastern States Ban Trucks from Highways During Winter Storm

In the span of just two weeks, the Northeast has gotten pounded with snow and severe weather conditions. This, of course, affects the roads and highways. Currently, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have placed a tractor-trailer ban on highways, as there have been several tractor-trailer involved accidents. Needless to say, drivers be careful out there and check your routes!

Matt Cole of Overdrive writes:

For the third time in two weeks, a nor’easter storm is wreaking havoc on the Northeast, causing some states to institute tractor-trailer bans on highways Tuesday, March 13.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation placed a travel ban on tractor-trailers on all state highways from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the truck ban late Monday night on Twitter.

 Several tractor trailer accidents in Massachusetts Tuesday morning prompted the Massachusetts State Police to issue a truck ban on the Massachusetts Turnpike(I-90) from the New York state line to exit 14, just west of Boston. There is no timetable on when the restriction will be lifted.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement Monday night acknowledging Rhode Island’s truck ban, but said his state didn’t have plans at the time for a similar ban.

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ATA President Addresses Trucking Efforts at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting

Trucking is the backbone of the American economy, which is why the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) President, Chris Spear, stated that trucking deserves a seat at the negotiating table. Spear went on to say that while we’re experiencing a booming economy, that also means that demands go up.

Jack Roberts of Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)/Truckinginfo writes:

American Trucking Associations president Chris Spear told a packed room at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting that the time was right for trucking to take its rightful seat at the negotiating table, tell its story and make certain it was not cut out of the picture in the legislative, policy and technology issues both today and in the future.

“We believe the best way to to that is to tell the truth and pack it to the brim with data is the best way to insure positive outcomes in those negotiations,” Spear told attendees at TMC’s Town Meeting, Monday evening in Atlanta. “You are driving those outcomes. You are framing the future that will allow this industry to grow.”

The Strong Economy

Spear began his remarks by acknowledging recent changes made to TMC’s leadership structure and program to reflect both a changing industry and attendee and exhibitor wishes. He then noted strong economic conditions in the United States today, pointing out that trucking today moves 71% of all domestic freight in the country today. Trucking also employees 7.4 million Americans in today, with 3.5 million truck driving jobs in the mix. Spear also noted that 1 in 16 of every job in the U.S. today is in the trucking industry, with trucking now the top job employing Americans in 29 states.

“This is our time to shine,” Spear said. “We are the backbone of this economy today, which is booming thanks to the largest tax code reform since 1986. All the key ingredients are coming into place to insure a wonderful future for this industry.”

But, Spear cautioned, a booming economy also mean demands to move even more freight and expose the industry’s weaknesses. “The economy is strong, but it shows we have a lot of work to do,” Spear summed up. “We are short of 50,000 truck drivers now. And that shortage could grow to 100,000 drivers in five years if current trends continue.”

Finding the Next Generation of Drivers

The time has come, Spear told TMC attendees, to stop talking about problems and start solving them, instead. To that end, he pointed out recent ATA efforts to address the 18 to 21 year old hiring ban that keeps young drivers out of truck cabs — often until they’ve already been snapped up and started careers in other industries. “The fact that we can’t hire these young people to drive our trucks, but they are old enough to go overseas and fight our wars and operate multi-million dollar pieces of equipment is absurd,” Spear said. “To counter this problem, ATA is working on new solutions with built-in controls to protect the public while attracting young talent and nurturing them and helping them eventually earn a Commercial Driver’s License.”

A key part of this effort, Spear said, was for ATA to work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor to initiate President Trump’s new Apprenticeship Program. “There is no better industry than trucking to partner with the Federal government and wisely use taxpayer dollars to bridge that relationship,” Spear added.

Spear also called out the media for what he called “hyping” emerging technologies in ways that could scare potential workers away from the trucking industry. Trucking should embrace new technology, Spear said, and not fear it.

“We need to get past the hype, however,” Spear warned. “For the media to suggest that drivers will be taken out of the picture — that we’re going to have trucks with no steering wheels, or pedals or drivers tomorrow can drive potential employees away. Who would want to join an industry where autonomous technology will take their job away in a few short years. So, I say to the media, let’s be realistic and solve the problems new technology will create. But let’s not blow new technology out of proportion.”

Spear wrapped up his remarks by noting that a strong, modern infrastructure was also crucial for trucking to continue to power the U.S. economy and compete globally. To counter this trend, Spear said ATA was continuing to advocate Congress for a fuel tax “baked into the price of fuel and hardly noticeable to consumers,” as a way to short up the U.S. highway trust fund and generating $340 billion in real revenue that can be used to repair the nation’s degrading roads and bridges. “This is an investment in our future, which is why Ronald Reagan signed two similar bills into law during his presidency,” Spear said. “If we don’t invest in our infrastructure now, our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate at a rate that we will eventually not be able to recover from.”

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Backs Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Plan

Tolls. Private Investments. Higher fuel tax rates. These are a few of the issues surrounding the proposed $1.5 trillion dollar infrastructure plan. And Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary, stands by the plan amidst backlash.

Eugene Mulero, Staff Reporter for Transport Topics writes:

 In her first appearance on Capitol Hill since the White House presented to lawmakers its $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao sparred with Senate Democrats skeptical about the proposal’s funding goal.

Appearing March 1 before the Environment and Public Works Committee, Chao was challenged on the plan’s reliance on $200 billion in unspecified federal funds to achieve the topline $1.5 trillion over 10 years, primarily through nonfederal funds.

White House officials have said the proposal’s “principles,” unveiled Feb. 12, are meant to help guide legislation, but committee members were nonetheless pointed in their questioning.

“The states tell us they’re cash-strapped and we know the vast majority of projects to repair or replace infrastructure will not attract private investment,” committee ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said.

He also cited a Penn Wharton Budget Model analysis published last month that determined the White House had exaggerated its $1.5 trillion topline claim.

That analysis maintains that much of the new federal aid would lead to state and local governments increasing total infrastructure investment by less than the value of the aid itself. It estimates that total new infrastructure investment would increase between $20 billion to $230 billion, including the $200 billion federal investment.

Chao dismissed the analysis, telling Carper marketplace experts would best understand the White House’s $1.5 trillion claim.

“It actually takes people with real-life business experience to know how it works,” she said.

Chao also told the committee that administration officials had reviewed the performance of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s loan programs to conclude $1.5 trillion would be achievable under the proposal.

Chao batted back a question about President Trump’s reported support for a potential increase in fuel taxes.

Asked by Sen. Chris Van Hollen about Carper’s assertion that Trump during a Feb. 14 meeting with transportation leaders endorsed an increase, Chao said she would not “divulge conversations with the president.” She added the Trump administration would collaborate with Congress on identifying “pay-fors” — or funding mechanisms — for the proposal’s $200 billion ask.

“We’re talking about a $200 billion plan, which many of us think it’s already too small to start with. The leverage assumptions, many of us think are way off,” Van Hollen said. “But even that $200 billion is a hallucination until we have a real funding source.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), meanwhile, questioned the soundness behind proposing to shift long-standing transportation funding dynamics between states and the federal government by tapping the private sector to take on a greater role.

“My fear is, I’ll be honest with you, I just think that Wall Street will say, ‘Well, we’ll come in and help.’ But they’re going to have to be paid. And that’s going to be tolls,” Markey said. “I have a big problem with the math. I just don’t think it’s going to work.”

Democrats also criticized the proposal’s allocation for rural districts, and its push to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects.

The hearing came a few days after Republican leaders sounded doubtful whether an infrastructure bill would be considered this year. EPW committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) did not address the chances a bill would advance in the coming months.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), suggested Congress meet during weekends, if necessary, to finalize a bill this year. His colleagues did not comment on his suggestion.

Much of the transportation community continues to urge lawmakers to approve a higher fuel tax and to advance a sustainable infrastructure funding package soon. Funding authority for federal transportation projects expires in less than three years.

Several groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Society of Civil Engineers, support a fuel-tax increase as a model for boosting the depleting Highway Trust Fund. Last year, American Trucking Associations proposed the establishment of the Build America Fund, which the group estimates could generate about $340 billion over 10 years through a 20 cents per-gallon built-in fee on transportation fuels.

The federal Highway Trust Fund, backed primarily by revenue from the excise tax on gas and diesel fuel, is used to assist states with infrastructure projects.

 

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Holds Discussion On Infrastructure And U.S. Economy

 

 

Blockchain Technology Could Impact the Transportation Industry

Although blockchain technology was initially built for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, it could make its way into the transportation industry for good. Some people feel that it may actually bridge the gap for companies using different operating systems.

Roger Gilroy of Transport Topics writes:

Freight contracts, document transfers, food safety, driver security, parts management and asset tracking are among the many elements of the trucking business that could become easier and more secure through new applications built around the shared digital ledger called blockchain.

The blockchain concept originally was developed to support the digital currency Bitcoin, but technology experts are exploring a whole universe of possibilities to apply it to other industries, including transportation.

Trucking fleets, transportation software companies and other industry players are studying blockchain, testing it and anticipating it could reach a tipping point within two years.

“If you are looking for some kind of immutable, secure, trackable, incorruptible data, then that is what you need blockchain for,” said Ken Craig, vice president of special projects at McLeod Software. “It is going to have a lot of uses in the trucking industry where those types of applications and functions are needed.”

Simply put, Craig said, blockchain provides another aspect of interoperability and visibility within the supply chain, much like electronic data interchange, application programming interfaces or web services.

However, blockchain without its own truly interoperable standards will develop into nothing more than a new process that mimics the difficulties surrounding the use of EDI, he said.

“We have programmers today [at McLeod] that work on nothing but developing new and very proprietary ‘standard’ EDI transaction sets dictated by various shippers,” Craig said.

The push for standards comes as some companies already have forged ahead with their own blockchain applications.

“Two years ago, I was a centralized database kind of guy, looking at big-data warehouses, and I didn’t see the value of blockchain, at first,” said Tim Leonard, chief technology officer at TMW Systems.

Fast forward to now. TMW has 54 separate blockchain applications, he said. Among those are ones covering truckload, less-than-truckload and dedicated activities.

Leonard described blockchain as “the big visibility,” with the contract information, lanes and proof of delivery all contained within the digital contract itself. “And it is a living, breathing ledger, which means it is constantly going back to the transportation management systems, for updates to itself,” he said.

In August, a consortium was launched to develop blockchain standards for freight movements.

By November, it had changed its name to the Blockchain in Transport Alliance after starting out as the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance.

The change was requested by key members, said Craig Fuller, CEO of TransRisk and BiTA’s co-founder.

“Companies like UPS Inc., FedEx Corp., YRC, BNSF and C.H. Robinson do more in transport than trucking. It felt like the organization was well-positioned for cross-­industry collaboration, regardless of mode,” Fuller said.

He added: “We love that TMW [also a member of BiTA] is starting to develop appli­cations inside their ecosystem, but the world of transportation is massive and collaboration with competitive platforms is necessary for the technology to proliferate.”

BiTA said it has 160 member companies and saw applications for membership surge to more than 900 as of January.

North America’s largest truck manufacturer, Daimler Trucks North America, is considering applying for membership.

“Joining BiTA is a talking point, right now, for the company,” Lori Heino-Royer, DTNA’s director of business innovation, told Transport Topics.

DTNA plans a pilot test of blockchain internally in the first quarter, she said, “before we start moving into how do we work with outside suppliers and vendors or our carriers. But I would definitely say that we will make a progression on those fronts.”

There are elements of blockchain she likes and parts she questions.

On the positive side, blockchain could become an agnostic means of linking companies currently using different operating systems. This would reduce the widespread inefficiency in the trucking industry, she said.

“Whenever there is a physical movement and a financial transaction that occurs with that physical movement, it is right for blockchain,” Heino-Royer said.

However, blockchain’s latency, or the time it takes to get all of the verifications out there and understood, needs to improve, she said. “It’s not instantaneous.”

Also, blockchain’s immutability concerns her since entering information correctly 100% of the time is not what happens in the real world, she said.

Lastly, there is a private and a public key to every blockchain transaction to control access to the information.

“If the private key that your organization has gets damaged, that blockchain is then null. It is no longer verifiable. So what happens then? I haven’t seen a good solution that solves that,” Heino-Royer said.

In August, IBM announced a globally focused blockchain to collaborate on food safety with Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick & Co., McLane Co., Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart.

Steve Rogers, IBM’s vice president of supply chain for blockchain, said the emergence of blockchain will be supported by cloud computing, the use of remote servers hosted on the internet to store and process data in lieu of on-premises computer systems.

“The good thing about this new technology is that it is coming after the cloud revolution so people don’t have to worry about fitting up that huge data center with equipment that they then are going to buy lots of software and storage for and have huge IT departments to run that,” Rogers said. “Most blockchain-related services are going to be cloud-based so people can get into blockchain-related solutions much, much easier.”

Transflo, a unit of Pegasus TransTech, is actively studying how it wants to position itself with this technology, Chief Technology Officer Salem ­Elnahwy said.

Transflo provides document scanning and delivery services at truck stops and via its mobile app.

The company handles millions of documents and performs automatic recognition and identification of data on these documents, Elnahwy said, “so we are in a very good position to start with automating some of that data gathering and using blockchain to create a better digitized standard protocol communication across the whole supply chain.”

Another area with big potential for blockchain is improving yet simplifying security challenges with driver identification, particularly given the broader use of mobile apps and electronic logging devices across the industry.

“There is more to be thought through there, at least from the transport side,” Elnahwy said.

Penske Logistics sees blockchain potentially benefiting its customers that operate in the manufacturing, food and beverage sectors, the company said in a statement.

Penske pointed to the benefits of further digitizing and securing supply chain and logistics processes, improving order ac­curacy, tracking physical assets such as vehicles, trailers, trucks and containers, and securing freight bill pay and audit transactions across its freight brokerage and ded­icated carriage operations.

Polaris Transportation Group is one fleet that believes blockchain could provide a competitive advantage.

“In terms of operational precision, blockchain pivots the traditional ‘waiting for an order’ to a more proactive relationship where a customer request is anticipated as early as when the raw materials are sourced in another part of the world,” company President Dave Cox said in a statement.

The Toronto-based fleet said it is the largest privately held Canadian cross-border LTL carrier serving every U.S. ZIP code and Canadian postal code on a daily basis.

“When you think about the ­value of knowing what orders you’ll have to execute tomorrow today, for an LTL operator, it ­allows the system to flow in a ­totally different and better way,” Cox said.

Meanwhile, blockchain and its distributed ledger technology will be here much sooner than later, predicted Jack Legler, technical director of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council.

“I think we will see distributed ledger technology find its way into the mainstream of contract transactions in our industry,” he said. “As a consequence, warranty and truck parts supply chain transactions will adopt blockchain-based systems once the cost-savings potential becomes more identifiable and distributed ledger technology is proven in reliability,” he said.

When that happens, it will be “like Carfax on steroids,” said Mauricio Paredes, vice president of business technology at transportation firm PS Logistics, a BiTA charter member.

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