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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate has confirmed Elaine Chao as U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Chao, who was Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George HW Bush, was Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush.
Reports suggest she wants to lean more heavily on public-private partnerships and reduce regulatory barriers for private companies involved in them.
The new transportation secretary faced several questions about autonomous vehicles during confirmation hearings early this month.
“What we are seeing is, obviously, technology outstripping the consumer ability to accept and understand that technology,” she said. “It behooves all of us, as a country and as a society, to bring greater familiarity and greater comfort for passengers and other stakeholders who will be eventual users of this technology – to understand the benefits, the limitations, and what it means going forward in the future.”
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America was among the first industry associations to offer congratulations.
“Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind period of innovation in transportation—driven by swift advances in cloud computing, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. This, in turn, is changing the fundamental makeup of entire industries,” Regina Hopper, ITS America president and Chief Executive Officer, wrote in a congratulatory letter. “Our members would like to work closely with you to build a transportation infrastructure that is the technological envy of the world—a national system that drives economic growth, enhances global competitiveness, advances safety, and improves mobility.”
NATSO, an association of travel plazas and truck stops, said it looked forward to finding sustainable solutions for the Highway Trust Fund that is behind infrastructure investments. “Specifically, we hope that the Department of Transportation will eschew such revenue schemes as tolling and commercializing rest areas, both of which harm interstate exit-based businesses, the local communities that they support and consumers,” the group said.
“We look forward to addressing all the vital issues involving small-business truckers and highway safety regulations,” added Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) executive vice president Todd Spencer. “Chao’s previous experience should assist in successfully bringing an infrastructure bill from discussion to reality.”
REGINA, SK -- Approximately one in five bridges in the U.S. is in need of some improvement. "Despite overall condition improvements over the past 25 years, big challenges lie ahead," says Regina-based Infrastructure Data Solutions, Inc. (IDS) President Dr. Mahmoud Halfawy.
"Based on our analysis, the average age of bridges nationwide is 36 years, and given that the average design life of most existing bridges is 50 years, a big wave of structurally deficient bridges is expected to spike over the next 20 to 30 years."
The analysis undertaken using NBI benchmarking software also reveals that the total deck area of bridges built in the 1960s and 1970s represents almost 35% of the total deck area of nationwide inventory. Many of these bridges will soon be due for major rehabilitation or replacement.
With current levels of funding available to agencies, it is extremely challenging to keep up with the expected needs. "To sustain past progress, agencies will need to get aggressive in implementing new efficiencies and introduce innovation in bridge preservation, programming, and project delivery," Halfawy said.
Generally, though, sustained funding and improved practices over the past 25 years have led to a steady improvement of the condition of U.S. bridges.
The latest National Bridge Inventory (NBI) data released by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration reveals a remarkable decline of structurally deficient bridges to 55,309 (9% of nationwide inventory) in 2016 from 118,757 (21% of the inventory) back in 1992. Since last year alone, the number of deficient bridges dropped by 2,735. However, the number of functionally obsolete bridges nationwide has dropped slightly from 80,461 in 1992 to 75,703 bridges in 2016.
Between 1992 and 2016, the number of structurally deficient bridges has been on a downtrend in most states. New York has seen the largest reduction from 9,884 (57% of the state inventory) to just 1,885 (11%).
Other significant reductions were in Missouri (27%), Mississippi (21%), and Oklahoma (20%). The five states with the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in 2016 are Iowa (4,931), Pennsylvania (4,410), Oklahoma (3,414), Missouri (3,147), and Nebraska (2,326). California continues to have the highest total deck area of deficient bridges, followed by Louisiana, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
Analysis results of National Bridge Inventory data can be accessed at NBIBenchmarking.com
The parent company to names such as Freightliner, Western Star, and Mercedes posted strong profits and revenue in the fourth quarter of last year. Daimler AG reported the best year in the company’s history, with strong automotive sales more than compensating for a weaker commercial truck market, and it's expanding investment in research and development.
For all of 2016, net profit increased 1% from 2015 to best-ever figures of 8.8 billion euros, as revenue moved up 3% to 153.26 billion euros.
“With our very attractive products and the measures taken to enhance efficiency, we have made considerable progress and stabilized our business despite volatile market developments," said Bodo Uebber, member of the board of management of Daimler AG responsible for finance and controlling and Daimler Financial Services.
Daimler increased its total unit sales in 2016 by 5% to around 3 million vehicles, due in large part to unit sales increasing 10% at Mercedes-Benz Cars and 12% at Mercedes-Benz Vans.
In contrast, Daimler Trucks’ unit sales of 415,100 vehicles were substantially lower than the high prior-year figure of 502,500. Revenue decreased to 33.2 billion euros from 37.6 billion euros. The division’s earnings before interest and taxes of 1.95 billion euros was significantly below the high level of 2.58 billion euros achieved in the previous year.
The 17% decline in truck unit sales for 2016 was due sharply lower sales in North America, Turkey, the Middle East, Latin America and Indonesia. Daimler Trucks earnings were also reduced by intense competition in Europe, according to the company.
Unit sales at Daimler Buses were significantly lower than in the previous year, falling 7%.
Daimler officials also said the copmany has dramatically increased spending on research and development for 2017, up 15% from 2016 to more than 7.5 billion euros. That R&D will focus on new vehicle models, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly drive systems, new safety technologies, autonomous driving and digital connectivity of its products.
"In the coming years, we want to actively shape mobility with groundbreaking innovations, and in parallel we will push forward with digitization,” said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
Daimler believes demand for medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the regions it serves is likely to remain at the rather weak prior-year level. In the North American region, the cyclical market correction can be expected to continue, according to the company.
“In weight classes 6-8, it must be assumed that demand will decrease by approximately 5% after the significant drop in 2016. In the heavy-duty segment, the weakening of demand is likely to be rather more pronounced,” Daimler said.
There are many ways to create a driver-centered culture and if done properly they are all capable of being fun and effective. With driver turnover cost estimates ranging from $6000.00 dollars up to $12,000 dollars per person, it makes cultural and monetary sense to invest in turning your company into a fun place to work and to reduce turnover. So how do you do it? One of the first things to do is to ask people what they like and don’t like about your company. Doesn’t it seem obvious? Ask the questions and react to the answers. You don’t have to be an industrial psychologist to get to the bottom of your issues — Ask!
A simple survey of your driving force can reveal all kinds of opportunities for improvement to turnover. Another off shoot of asking pointed questions is that you are showing your drivers that their opinions have value. I hope this point is understood. If I ask your opinion on a subject it is because I value your opinion. It’s powerful but only if I react and reply to your answer. If an opinion is asked for and no reply is given then the natural instinct of the person who offered the information would be, so why did you ask? So don’t start this exercise unless you plan on following through!
What do you ask? Well, it’s again very simple when you break it down into small chunks. I would ask each area of your company to come up with three questions to start with. Payroll might ask the drivers if their pay statements are easy to read, maintenance might ask for a rating on how punctual their scheduled maintenance appointments are. Safety might ask how engaging their safety meetings are. Operations might be interested in knowing their opinion on the functionality of the satellite system or phone system. Whatever the common points of contact are with the drivers, each department should address them. An overall approval rating by department should also be obtained and a 1-10 measurement is all that is needed. I would also leave space for additional comments.
After the request for feedback of your internal procedures and policies it is natural to try and get feedback on your Driver and Owner Operator’s daily environment. Ask them who their favorite shippers and receivers are and then who their least favorite shippers and receivers are. You might want to inquire as to your driver’s favorite fuel stops and least favorite
Run a contest for the collection of surveys and put the names of those who participated into a draw for company merchandise. Or have your safety department have them filled out during
Once the information is collected, it needs to be reacted to and the people who gave you their opinions need to know what you did with the data. You might want to show them the results of each question so they can see how other drivers reacted to the questions asked. You should obviously react to finding out who the worst shippers are by trying to help them change how they are perceived by your drivers – or by replacing them. They are causing you turnover! Let your drivers know that you did react and what you did about the information you collected. Your best shipper could be thanked in letter form, or with the presentation of a plaque and copies of the letter from your drivers.
The information collected is now the basis of your retention effort going forward. Every area of the company can improve somehow with the information collected. It’s gold. This type of program can also establish a measurable system of driver approval from department to department. A benchmark is established and then it is up to individual departments to work at improving their overall approval ratings. They should set incremental goals for improvement and then devise a strategy to get there.
Two other initiatives are a natural spin off of this exercise and are important to overall success. First, each and every improvement or increase in approval rating should be celebrated. Let your people enjoy their victory. Nothing spectacular is required, but something that they can all enjoy and that allows everyone to reflect on their success. Small milestones are what are needed to continue the momentum and to reach the goal. Second is broadcasting to the entire company the success that has been attained. Communicate what has been accomplished and what is to come. Every company with two employees has a rumor mill so feed yours with as many positives as you possibly can.
This stuff is simple but very powerful –
Millennials, or those aged 18 to 35, are the largest cohort in Canada’s workforce. Yet they represent a very small percentage of the trucking workforce.
Ten years ago, 18% of our drivers were 25 to 34 years old.
Five years ago, that number was less than 15%.
Today, a recent survey of trucking employers shows that virtually none (yes, none) has an HR plan to attract or retain young people.
Now let’s pretend that I have sound effects. That’s me blasting the air horn.
In trucking, Generation Y is more like Generation Where? Engaging with this age group now, in a meaningful way, is a business imperative.
And in order to engage with millennials we first need to understand them. Here are three basic things you should know about hiring and managing millennials:
They’re technologically savvy
This generation grew up during an explosion of new technology. They have never known life without smart phones, texting, and social media—they’re constantly “on.” Their highly sophisticated use of technology has helped them become masters at multi-tasking, immersed in global communities, and the lines between work and life have blurred.
It’s a just-in-time generation
Technology has provided millennials with the means to connect and communicate immediately. Information is always at the tips of their fingers—a click, tap, or swipe away. When they want information, they’re accustomed to immediate responses, gratification, and feedback.
They’ve been shielded and engaged
Helicopter parents, no-fail educational policies, being rewarded with a medal for last place—this generation has been consistently told they are special and cannot fail. Additionally, people in this age group have been raised to respect the environment, have a high rate of volunteerism, and have a desire to make a difference in their communities and the world.
How can this information help you?
Consider your company’s brand. Just think of the boost to your reputation if a few young people promoted you as a great employer to their vast social networks
Look at your management style, especially when something goes wrong. Mentorship and coaching programs can give this generation the guidance they crave. A little constructive criticism can soften the blow and help younger employees focus on how to improve.
Offer young employees opportunities to contribute to the company in meaningful ways. If you don’t know what that means, ask them. Just be prepared to respond quickly— remember, immediate feedback.
Lastly, make recruiting and retaining millennials part of a strategic and focused HR plan. You just may find yourself blasting the air horn at the competition.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Meritor’s aftermarket business is taking steps to become more customer-focused and easier to do business with.
Brett Penzkofer, vice-president, North America aftermarket, told trade press during a Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week briefing, that the company is pursuing various ways to become a better partner to its customers.
“There is a lot of opportunity for us to get more customer-focused and to understand the needs of our customers and respond to that,” Penzkofer said. “We are becoming extremely customer-focused and having a determined focus on, first and foremost, increasing the ease of doing business together.”
This means getting products customers need to them more quickly and responding appropriately when things go wrong. Meritor is also focused on expanding its product portfolio, particularly in the all-makes and reman’ product lines.
The company is also improving the packaging and delivery of its products.
“Providing consistent, strong delivery performance and fill rate performance,” Penzkofer explained. “The key word is consistent. We do a very good job most of the time but there have been times we haven’t always hit the mark with our customers with every, single fast-moving product line. This is a critical focus. We are extremely focused on providing that consistency.”
Meritor is re-examining the packaging of some products and looking to find a balance between offering sufficient packaging to protect the product while also eliminating the waste customers have to dispose of.
The cold shoulders shippers have given intermodal rail over the past two years are beginning to warm.
Modal lines that hardened as US economic growth slowed dramatically in 2015 and 2016 and truckload rates plummeted appear to be softening. As the economy improves, businesses expect truckload rates to rise, and those companies are looking for alternative routes to savings.
Shippers pursuing freight bids are testing opportunities to control transportation costs by shifting some of their volume to different sectors or modes. Logistics consultants say they see that trend more frequently during bids, as shippers look for savings across tens of thousands of lanes.
“This bid season has been really interesting,” said Ben Cubitt, senior vice president of engineering & strategic carrier management at Transplace. “We see some real trends (in mode selection),” he said, particularly in the interplay between truckload and intermodal.
Shippers rushing to negotiate truckload pricing contracts ahead of potential rate hikes are likely to alter their modal mix as they move freight inland and across highways and rail lines, said Brian Broadhurst, vice president of transportation solutions for Spend Management Experts.
As truckload rates rise, perhaps by the low single digits, less-than-truckload carriers also may benefit, he said. “Higher truckload rates create more demand for LTL, because the breakpoint (between truckload and LTL rates) is better,” Broadhurst said. “There’s a domino effect.”
That’s not to say the boom intermodal days of the early post-2009 recovery are returning, when third-party logistics operators helped fuel rapid expansion of multi-modal transportation. Freight shift between modes this year is likely to be marginal and highly dependent on volume and, as always, on when customers need freight and just how fast they expect it to be delivered.
But rising costs from parcel to LTL to truckload will encouraging more shifting of freight, and more experimentation with shipping methods, Broadhurst and Cubitt said in separate interviews.
The biggest benefactor is likely to be intermodal rail. “Any lane that has intermodal potential, we go out and look for an intermodal option,” Cubitt said. As truckload and LTL rates rise, “rail is where we would see the most opportunity” for savings in freight bids, Broadhurst said.
Their observations suggest the diversion of some intermodal freight back to trucks over the past few years, as truckload rates and fuel prices plummeted, was purely opportunistic. The long-term value of intermodal rail is “hard-baked” into shipper transport strategies, Cubitt said.
“We’ve seen a general three- to five-year trend of people converting long-haul and even intermediate-haul truckload to intermodal,” he said. “It used to be if they were converting 50 percent they were happy. Now if something doesn’t go intermodal, they have to explain why.”
Transplace saw “a small amount of intermodal lanes going back to truckload” as over-the-road rates dropped, he said. Bidding activity suggests that trend is likely to reverse as truck rates rise and railroads make greater progress improving the consistency and speed of service.
Modal shift isn’t just about the highway-rail dynamic, however. Broadhurst sees opportunity for shippers to shift some parcels to pallets in LTL trailers as dimensional packaging restrictions increase shipping costs. Parcel rates “are pushing 5 percent on the base rates and that’s before accessorials,” Broadhurst said. “We don’t see truckload or LTL rates rising 5 percent this year.”
As packages get smaller, more of them can fit on a shrink-wrapped pallet. “That makes LTL more of a viable candidate, just because the package size is smaller,” he said. That trend, if it manifests, could help fill LTL trailers with more e-commerce shipments, beyond industrial freight.
“There’s also not a lot of new business in the LTL space,” Broadhurst said. “There’s not much more capacity than there was (previously). Just as we would expect a modest increase in truckload pricing for 2017, we would expect the same for LTL,” in the low single digits.
He also noted increased use of transloading at ports as a means of getting the most out of available capacity, lowering costs.
"You can transload product from three ocean containers onto two 53 foot trailers," Broadhurst said, whether those are domestic intermodal trailers or containers or over-the-road truck trailers. Shippers that used to send containerized goods inland before deconsolidating and sometimes shipping freight back west are transloading sooner to get freight to local markets faster and avoid equipment imbalances.
"It’s a good example of where a shipper efficiency will reduce the volume needed for the move," reducing cost and freeing up capacity in the network, Broadhurst said. "From a shipper perspective it’s a win on two fronts, from the rate perspective and consumption perspective. "Both are important, especially at a time where we’re expecting less truck capacity."
Although dedicated trucking is a seen as type of truckload shipping, it is pulling more freight from over-the-road, irregular route tractor-trailers. That’s clear in the growth of dedicated truck fleet operators such as J.B. Hunt Transport Service’s Dedicated Custom Services division.
“I have a conversation almost every week with a shipper interested in dedicated,” Cubitt said. “People are trying to identify more freight in their networks they can move to dedicated to get a three-year contract and lock in capacity.” That interest is sure to grow in 2017.
PORTLAND, ORE--Freightliner Trucks has begun production on its new Cascadia.
Designed and engineered with an emphasis on six Real Cost of Ownership solutions the new Cascadia is said to set the benchmark for fuel efficiency, safety, connectivity, quality, uptime and driver experience. The new Cascadia (equipped with AeroX and Integrated Detroit Powertrain (IDP) including a GHG17 DD15 engine, DT12 with Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM4) and 2.16 direct drive axle ratio) boasts up to an 8% fuel-economy increase over a similarly spec’d 2016 Cascadia Evolution.
Freightliner debuted the new Cascadia in September 2016 and production of the 126-in. BBC Day Cab and 72-in. Raised Roof Sleeper Cab models has begun.
“It’s exciting to see trucks rolling off the assembly line and being delivered to customers. The new Cascadia delivers fuel efficiency, connectivity, safety, quality and a premium driver experience for our customers,” said Kary Schaefer, general manager, Marketing & Strategy for Daimler Trucks North America.
The new Cascadia is available with the IDP, which combines the fuel-efficient downsped 400 hp,1,750 lb/ft. of torque, the Detroit DD15 or Detroit DD13 engines with the Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission, IPM4 and corresponding Detroit steer and rear tandem axles. The new Detroit rear axles have features such as lower sump volume, gear-set coating, friction reducing gear cutting and optional Axle Lubrication Management that reduces parasitic loss and improves fuel economy.
Standard enhancements such as an upper door seal, elliptical-shaped mirrors, sloped hood, bumper with integrated air deflector and integrated antennas all minimize drag. The optional Aero and AeroX packages provide additional aerodynamic benefits to manage airflow, including a low ground clearance bumper with flexible air dam, longer side extenders, lower chassis fairings, drive wheel covers and proprietary-designed drive wheel fairings.
The new Cascadia is loaded with improvements ranging from the layout of gauges and switches in the driver compartment to features inside the sleeper area, including a new Driver Loft configuration.
Available in a variety of cab configurations, the new Cascadia is all about customizable living-space options that address the realities of professional drivers while they’re on the road. The sleeper area has been redesigned to include more cabinets, as well as larger spaces that can accommodate standard appliances. For entertainment, a sturdy television swivel bracket holds up to a 26-in. flat panel TV for movie-theater-like viewing. Double-bunk and a new Driver Loft option is also available that incorporates a unique folding workspace/dinette with a full-size Murphy style bed.
A new cargo shelf option allows drivers to store containers or duffle bags easily. If an upper bunk is spec’d, it will come standard with an easily released telescoping ladder, making getting into the upper bunk a breeze.
New splayed frame rails create more room in the engine compartment to allow technicians easy access for maintenance tasks, and most electronic control units are now stored securely in the cab in the new eVault for easier convenience and protection from the elements. In front of the eVault is the fuse and relay box which is easily accessible with no hand tools needed. To increase dash component accessibility, the dash panel was designed to be easily removed. Additionally, the standard two-piece front bumper of the Cascadia can be quickly removed within minutes.
The optional Detroit Assurance 4.0 suite of safety systems includes Active Brake Assist that now provides full braking on stationary objects, moving pedestrian warning & partial braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning with optional video capture. This proprietary safety suite includes driver-friendly controls and is seamlessly integrated into the truck’s dashboard, engine and transmission electronics and can enhance driver safety by mitigating potential collisions.
Daimler says customers will benefit from the proprietary connectivity platform introduced by Detroit exclusively for the new Cascadia. The new platform, which will use cellular service from AT&T, will facilitate the delivery of current Detroit Connect features, such as Virtual Technician remote diagnostic service, as well as new features designed to provide deeper insights on fuel efficiency and safety performance. The introduction of the new platform also marks the debut of Detroit Connect Remote Updates which enables over-the-air engine parameter programming and Detroit-initiated remote engine and other powertrain electronic controller firmware updates. Remote Updates features will be available to customers during the second half of 2017.
Ticktock…Ticktock…Ticktock! The clock is ticking for anyone in Ontario who wants to get a Class AZ driver’s licence. The mandatory entry-level standards will be a reality by July 1, 2017. But I believe the clock is ticking even louder for all trucking companies. If they are not awake yet, they soon will be. The industry is at the threshold of Triple Threat… a driver shortage; an aging workforce and now mandatory standards for new drivers. I think it may be more of a time bomb than a clock ticking and it’s getting ready to explode.
A few weeks ago, I received an SOS call from a carrier who has long avoided all opportunities to interview and hire graduates from any truck driver training school. For the last 30 years their position has been strong and unyielding… they will only hire drivers with 3 years experience. Recent graduates need not even apply, they are not even considered and are told to go and get their experience somewhere else. Somewhere else? Where?
Who doesn’t want the perfect candidate? I would also like to hire only employees who have experience, who know exactly how to do each task perfectly, who get along with everyone and who can come up with good suggestions for improvements from time to time. The reality is far from that mirage. I am now beginning to see that the tables are slowly turning on the trucking industry. The day is coming where the inexperienced truck driver may soon be in the driver’s seat to pick and choose a job.
Those companies who have looked at their workforce honestly know that the average age of their drivers is between 55 to 60 years of age. Those who will successfully manoever through this crisis are those who have established quality training programs for new drivers. And these companies are prepared to recruit from many sources and have solid on-boarding programs.
Some carriers may believe that having a Driver Certification Program (DCP) will shield them from the shortage. Although a company can become a Signing Authoriy and issue Class A licenses, it can only train its own employees and must meet and comply with the Ministry of Transportation’s standards. Getting a program ready for approval from MTO and setting up a training program is not that easy. It takes time and costs money. And how many employees can a company hire and then pay for their training without knowing if they’ll stay? Not many can afford these upfront costs to solve a driver shortage.
As a 30 year veteran of the truck driver training industry, I have seen many companies start up and then close their internal “schools”. There are many reasons why it won’t work for a trucking company. I believe it boils down to a simple truth. Basically, trucking operations conflict with training activities. They do not blend well together and have a fundamental conflict
One would think that it is an ideal arrangement to have a student start training in a company where they can actually learn on the job. Although it works to have a licensed driver work alongside an experienced coach, it requires a complete teaching system to start a driver from “scratch”. And the customers… how many would accept having students, who do not have a driver’s license, practice backing or delivering goods on their property?
Now remember that most people who are truck drivers want to be truck drivers. They don’t necessarily have the skills, the interest or the ability to teach. Yet for some reason, employers think that if a driver is a good truck driver, he/she should be a good instructor. And ‘this good truck driver’ is certainly not trained or ready to teach a person who has never been behind the wheel of a truck. Trust me… you will run out of interested trainers in a very short time. It is just not sustainable.
It would make more sense to groom some of the drivers who express interest and have the skills, to become coaches of newly licensed drivers. Some larger carriers have very good on-boarding programs. But let’s be honest. They have the resources to make the DCP happen. The smaller trucking companies cannot afford to operate a DCProgram. Even if curriculum and resources are made available at a reasonable price, it still remains the responsibility of the carrier to find, recruit and pay their own instructors and dedicate equipment to teach students according to the MTO standards.
So what’s the solution? It’s never one thing that will make the problem go away. Trucking companies who are serious about succession planning, must use several approaches that work for their organization.
There’s one thing that I know for sure… All carriers need to start NOW. Start by meeting truck training schools throughout the province. Visit their facilities, ask about their programs and observe their teaching. Interview their graduates and take them for a test drive. Start with one new driver and develop a system that prepares them for your operation. You will know quickly which schools are the most compatible with your organization. Find out about the DCProgram and decide if it’s right for you. Educate yourself about the new standards and educate your staff. Knowledge and focused actions are key.
The clock may be ticking but each carrier can make the decision to take a proactive approach to this new reality. The impact of these trends are coming and are here to stay. Don’t wait. Act now.
I’m sitting writing this from back in my old 20. The family and I had to come over to the UK to do some family stuff, so here we are.
Landing at Heathrow means that our journey begins on the M25 London Orbital Motorway, an interstate ring road type of thing.
Some of you may have heard of it, as it has a reputation for being very congested.
Twenty mile back-ups are part and parcel of life on the M25.
Fortunately, we landed on a Saturday morning, so the commuters were thankfully absent and progress was good.
I was in my element, as I could see all the new lorries (the British version of a truck) up close, rather than in pictures.
There some big differences compared to the trucks I usually see and drive and I have to say, we have the better deal by far in most respects, especially cab size.
Sure, the lorries may have full-width cabs and high roofs that allow you to stand up on the seat. They also have storage cupboards and cubby holes up in the roof space, but they have tiny bunks, literally cut out behind the seats with a slightly wider section in the middle.
I slept in similar or worse during my 20-plus years of trucking over here, but since I’ve had the luxury of North American sleeper berths, there is no way I would want to go back to sleeping with the back of a seat inches from my face.
Drivelines are pretty much the same. Daimler, Paccar and Volvo all have European products that use the same engines we do. Transmissions differ – most here are autoshift, but their standard transmissions are synchromesh and they shift a lot slower and more ponderously than our Eaton Fullers.
It’s pretty much like stirring a pail of oatmeal with a hockey stick.
One area in which they do have the edge on us is in the stopping department. Apart from construction trucks, everything is on discs and has been for quite some time.
That’s good because with high traffic volumes and speed-limited trucks (90 km/h is law in all of Europe) they drive far too close to one another for my liking and with thinking and reaction distances severely reduced, the stopping distance itself has to be shorter to avoid massive chain reaction wrecks.
We stopped off at a service station, much like an OnRoute on the 401.
Facilities inside are very good. You have a choice of cuisine from Chinese, fish and chips, Indian, KFC, McDonalds, Noodles, Starbucks and a high-end grocer that has the most delicious nibbles, all at a very reasonable price compared to what we would have to pay in Canada, if such things were even available in the first place.
However, there’s a downside – isn’t there always?
Parking is not free. If you stay more than two hours you can be charged anywhere up to $50 per night.
Yes, that’s right, fifty bucks!
They do give you a voucher to go towards food or drink on site, but at most that’s worth $20 and the rest goes towards renting the asphalt for the night. So, in summary, I like disc brakes and the choice of food in some of the service areas, but the rest of it, no thanks, I’ve got it far better in Canada.
Almost every professional driver will tell you, one of the worst aspects about being a truck driver is that it can be a lonely occupation. Days turn into weeks on the road and if you have a spouse waiting for you back at home, things can get stressful.
So it only made sense that somewhere along the line, a driver had the idea to invite their spouse with them on the road, not only to keep them company but to earn some extra cash as their team driver. Usually, the average 50-something driver invites his wife on the road (Women in Trucking Association says the average age of a female truck driver is 52) with him after the kids are out of the house. Together they can earn more money and travel North America without missing each other.
This trend has caught on, and more and more husband and wife driving teams are popping up across North America. Some say it could help solve the driver shortage by getting more people into the industry and could also assist in getting more women get behind the wheel.
But husband and wife driving team Harwinder and Ramandeep Dhaliwal, are different.
What makes the Dhaliwals noteworthy is that they are the ideal drivers almost every fleet in North America is looking to hire. They’re young – both just 29 years old. They’re both visible minorities – Harwinder was actually born in India. And they both have a passion for learning and driving trucks with an ambition to grow their careers in the industry.
Today, they drive for Speedy Transport as owner-operators and are loving every minute of it, forming a team both on and off the road.
So what brought them into trucking in the first place?
“The money,” admits Harwinder.
Harwinder moved to Canada in 2013 from India when he decided that he’d give trucking a go.
“In my community, a lot of people were trucking and they told me it was good money so I figured I would try it out too,” he recalls. “I got my licence and started doing long-haul because I didn’t have much experience. I was on the road for five days at a time and I was only home with my wife for a day-and-a-half.”
Eventually, Harwinder got a gig as a short-haul driver at a company that had many husband and wife driving teams. Curious, he asked his company if he could train his wife so she could join him in the truck.
“They said I could train her and she wanted to learn, so I did,” he said.
Ramandeep started her driving career as a team driver in 2014 and so far, she loves it. What attracted her most to the career is something a lot of other millennials could find intriguing about the job: the independence she gains from the open road and the fact she can travel on the job.
Harwinder said his favorite part of the job, especially as an owner-operator, is there is room for him to grow…and to grow as much as he wants.
“In trucking, there is lots of opportunity,” he said. “Most of the time you can choose your runs and it’s flexible. You can plan your goals and realistically achieve them in trucking.”
Harwinder’s goal of becoming an owner-operator happened late last year when he and Ramandeep joined Speedy Transport.
“We chose Speedy initially because of their rates,” he said candidly, but added they were willing to sign him and his wife on as owner-operators, something his previous company wouldn’t do. “When we met with them, they were also professional and it seemed like they had good management.”
Today, the couple runs from Speedy’s Brampton, Ont. facility to Charlotte N.C. and then back up to the company’s terminal in Montreal. They are normally gone for five days – they leave early afternoon on Monday and are back home Saturday mornings. Being a young couple in the trucking industry, the Dhaliwals certainly turn some heads.
“When we’re at Customs, a lot of the officers will joke with us and say ‘You’re married? Still?’” Ramandeep said.
But if there’s one thing the couple has figured out it’s how to be a husband and wife both in and out of the truck.
“We’ve been driving team for two years now, so we know how to take care of each other,” Ramandeep said. “I still like to be a wife and so I do the wifely duties in the truck, like the cooking and the cleaning.”
She also takes credit for bringing nutrition goals into the truck for the benefit of both her and Harwinder.
“We work well together,” Harwinder added. “If I’m getting sleepy I can always ask her to take over…and she learned to drive very quickly and always gets compliments when we’re on the road. She’s been doing such a great job.”
Ramandeep said that as a woman she feels empowered in her new career.
“I haven’t found it to be discriminating at all,” she said. “It’s empowering, really. People look at me all the time and say ‘Oh my god, you’re driving a truck?’ And that feels good because so many drivers are men and so when they see me driving a truck too, it’s kind of like a hit on their ego because I can do it too.”
And while the couple does find comfort in the fact that now they are together all the time on the road, it still gets hard when they miss family events. But the couple says their family understands why they are away so much and supports them entirely.
“And it gets hard running errands and things like that. But we’ve learned to use our time wisely on the weekend,” Ramandeep added.
Looking into the future, the Dhaliwals say they are going to continue their careers as drivers with the ultimate goal of owning a few more trucks in the next five to 10 years.
“Our goal is to own a few more trucks and have a business,” Harwinder said optimistically. “There’s a lot of big trucking companies that started off with just one truck, so you never know.”
LAS VEGAS, NV – Accuride appears to have turned a corner after taking the company private – and is pledging to double or even triple the size of the wheel-making business in as little as three to five years.
After selling off five operating divisions including Bostrom Seating, Brillion Iron Works, Fabco Automotive, Imperial Group and Brillion Casings and Farm Equipment, “we are now just a wheel company and a wheel end company,” president and Chief Executive Officer Rick Dauch said in a briefing to industry media.
It has been a long road. Accuride emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy, blamed on the debt from a 2005 acquisition. Crestview Partners acquired the company in 2015 in a deal that was completed in November. Crestview, founded by two partners of Goldman Sachs, oversees $7 billion of aggregate capital.
“We’ve reduced our debt by over $85 million,” Dauch noted. That has allowed a shift from bonds to a debt structure, realizing more-favorable interest rates. “That frees up cash flow, which allows us to invest in our business,” he said.
Dauch also recalled being thrown out of Volvo offices in 2011. Now Accuride is a Supplier of the Year nominee, and it reclaimed the standard wheel position on Volvo trucks after losing that role in 2007.
There’s also a need for plants to be flexible, especially in the face of the recent downturn in Class 8 truck sales, he said. Internal processes have been streamlined to include just one Enterprise Resource Planning system that is applied across nine operating sites. Almost all of the production meets Six Sigma quality standards as well.
Recent product introductions and extended warranties have related directly to the fight against rust and corrosion, which Dauch says costs the industry US $4 billion per year. “There’s a lot of rust on trucks,” he says.
The focus is ensuring that wheels are not part of the problem.
Wheels with Steel Armor coatings now have a five-year warranty, and EverSteel wheels have eight-year coverage. The EverSteel coatings could last more than a decade, he suggested. That could lead to even longer warranties once more field data is in hand, Dauch said.
Future products could include a lightweight aluminum brake drum that is being tested by six fleets and could come to market as early as 2018. One of those fleets are realizing 500 pounds of extra payload because of them, and makes four such trips per day.