Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Switching from Recycled to Finished Product

Departed the Clopay Plastic Products parking lot - on the southeast side of Nashville, Tennessee - at 1:00 AM CDT with a load of recycled film and plastic that will eventually be reprocessed into Procter & Gamble product containers. Dropped this load at Plastic Recycling Technology in Piqua, Ohio (photo above) at 9:32 AM EDT.

Deadheaded to the eastern edge of Lima, Ohio to drop our empty trailer at a huge Procter & Gamble distribution center we've been to many times before. Our outbound load of finished P&G product won't be ready until tonight, so we drove a mile away to the SNI/P&G trailer drop yard (photo below) next to P&G's production plant. I was granted permission to park here on break, until our load is ready and we roll again at 10:00 PM tonight. As you can see by the pictures, it's a beautiful, sun-filled day. Temperatures in the Midwest are cool at night and early morning, then warmer during the day. It's a great time of year for temperate weather.


Yesterday, we brought you a recap of our recent interview with Mike Stock, president and CEO of QualChoice, one of Arkansas’ largest health insurance providers.

A topic of our discussion centered on how the business community is assessing the changes forthcoming in the new health care legislation.

Stock says many questions remain unanswered at this point and businesses are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. However, some firms – such as AT&T, John Deere & Co. and Caterpillar – have already accounted for tax credits they expect to lose related to prescription drug coverage.

From our content partner, The City Wire, Michael Tilley talks with a number of local big businesses in the Fort Smith/Van Buren region. Most expect a negative economic impact, but to what extent they’re unsure.

Cliff Beckham, president and CEO of Van Buren-based USA Truck Inc., said the trucking and logistics company does not extend benefits to retirees and will avoid some of the extra costs on that front. Beckham said the company is in the midst of reviewing what the new law will mean for the trucking company that has financially struggled to survive a national freight recession that began in October 2006.

“There is little doubt in my mind that it will raise costs, but we are not familiar enough with the details yet to speculate as to how and how much,” Beckham said in an e-mail interview.

Officials at Fort Smith-based Baldor Electric Co. also have not determined the financial impact of the new bill, although they anticipate it will add costs for the company.

“We do know, however, that the legislation which passed last week will have a negative effect on our overall health care costs. Health care costs for our company and our employees will increase next year as a result of the new provisions required by the law,” said Tracy Long, Baldor’s vice president-investor relations.

You can read more at this link.


Sometimes, no matter how much preparation you put in, things will still be screwed. Such was the case yesterday with Craig's deliveries. Oh sure, the first one went like clock work, but it was just tempting the trucking Gods too much to hope that the next two drops would go as smoothly.

As was expected, the receiver in Livermore still had the issue of the tight quarters in the dock area, but to add insult to injury, they took well over 3 hours to unload 3 pallets of meat. Then once he got to the receiver in San Francisco, about 30 minutes ahead of his appointment time, they informed him that his appointment was actually 5pm, not 4pm, and that he would have to vacate the premises until his appointment time. Oh yeah, let's see how many spots you can find in San Francisco to park a 18 wheeler!

Driving around for awhile, Craig finally saw some trucks parked along a street and thought he just might as well park there too. It served him well, and at the new appointed time, he pulled into the receiver again to find the docks still full. Inquiring inside, and after reminding them that they had indeed said he would have a dock at 5pm, they booted a Foster Farms driver out, which made him a tad bit upset, but at least Craig was in a dock.

You would think life would be great at that point, but as Craig's 14 hour driving clock was dwindling fast, he started thinking of what his options would be. Since he started the day at 6am to get to his first stop in Sacramento, he could only drive up until 8pm. But as it turns out, driving would be the last thing he would be doing.

Tick Tock.....Tick Tock.....the 14 hour clock runs out and Craig is still in the dock and the last pallet is finally unloaded from the trailer just after 8pm. All Craig can do is pull out onto the street, park, and pray that it is a place he can legally stay for at least 8 hours before he can legally drive again. He notices a couple of trailers parked here and there, and walks the street for a bit to make sure there are no posted "no parking" signs. Feeling somewhat confident, he crawls into bed and hopes for the best.

Awaking around 4am, he does the "peek out the curtain" routine to see if there was a ticket anywhere on the truck. Finding none and breathing a sigh of relief, he proceeds to get as far away from San Francisco as he can, before the morning commute starts. He has an easy drive into the yard in French Camp, where his truck is promptly put into the work bay, and I am waiting to whisk him away for a nice hot breakfast at the restaurant down the street.

It seems all is right in our little trucking world again. Although it had it's rough moments, the last load was successfully completed, with a boatload of detention pay, the truck has been repaired, and Craig has a full belly. It may not have worked out as we planned, but it worked out okay, and we'll take that outcome any day.

Trucking by Lorna Sim – closing soon!

Congratulations to Canberra photographer Lorna Sim on her wonderful exhibition, Trucking, which is now showing at PhotoAccess. Lorna's stunning images of trucks on the road tell an eloquent story about an essential industry we all take for granted and, without ever showing them directly, the people who make it work. Trucking finishes on Sunday, 4 April. Try not to miss it if you are in the Canberra region.

More information, gallery details and the exhibition catalogue are available here. PhotoAccess will be closed on Good Friday (2 April) but open from 12 to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NJ Court finds Owner-Operator to be Employee for Worker's Compensation Purposes


39-2-7290 Chaverri v. Cace Trucking Incorporated, App. Div. (per curiam) (8 pp.) This appeal concerns whether an injury of petitioner, Guillermo Chaverri, occurred during the scope of his employment with respondent, Cace Trucking Incorporated. Chaverri was the owner and driver of a tractor trailer. He entered into a written lease agreement with Cace whereby Chaverri agreed to use his tractor trailer to perform hauling services exclusively for Cace. Chaverri further agreed to maintain, register and insure the tractor trailer at his own expense. Chaverri was performing maintenance on the tractor portion of the vehicle at his residence when he injured his right eye, causing him to lose the sight in that eye. The appellate panel concludes as a matter of law that the injury occurred during the scope of Chaverri's employment with Cace and consequently reverses the contrary ruling of the compensation judge.”

The Outfit in Chicago

This Sun Times article is a window into how the Outfit (Chicago's Mafiosa) continues to have influence.

He's also the father-in-law of trucking magnate Fred Barbara -- a longtime Daley friend and nephew of the late Ald. Fred Roti, whom the FBI identified as a "made member" of the Chicago mob.

Barbara's companies have been paid a fortune through city deals under four Chicago mayors, and Barbara's wife, Lisa Humbert, was president of Karen's Kartage, a company that was paid more than $2.5 million from the city's scandal-plagued Hired Truck Program.

Barbara himself participated in a 1980s bombing of Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park, according to testimony in the landmark "Operation Family Secrets" mob trial in 2007, though Barbara -- who didn't respond to a request for comment -- wasn't charged.

The article is about several employees that received cushy deals while working at McCormick Place. One of them is the father in law of Joseph Barbara. Barbara was implicated in a mafia investigation, though never indicted or convicted. Barbara's father, former Alderman Roti, was identified by the FBI as part of the outfit. In fact, Barbara's grandfather Bruno Roti Sr once ran with Al Capone himself.

Barbara is a trucking magnet that is also tied to the Hired Truck Scandal. He's identified as a long time friend of Mayor Daley. In fact, they went to high school together. There are just enough Outfit members that know Daley from the "old neighborhood" and from all their high school days. They've used those ties to help maintain influence.

Reuters vs reality

(Reuters) - If you think now is a good time to try your hand as a U.S. truck driver with steady pay and a life on the open road, think again.


The U.S. recession has turned a serious shortage of drivers into a surplus virtually overnight. Disappearing credit has hurt production and shipments of goods of all kinds all at once, idling thousands of trucks.

"When I began trucking two years ago you couldn't throw a dime up in the air without hitting a trucking job," said Brian Short, 26. "Those days are gone."


That's Reuters take.

Reality is that good drivers are hard to find. Who wants to work for the low ball wages of 35-40K that some of these corporations are offering drivers?

No thank you. They'll just sit back and collect their unemployment check instead.

Good truck drivers are hard to find.

You want good drivers? Pay more!

The Reuters story?

It will soon be hopelessly dated.

Idle Pastime: In Off Hours, Truckers Pick Up Stitching

WALCOTT, Iowa—Semi driver Dave White happily sequestered himself in his rig at a truck stop on a rural stretch of Interstate 80, waiting to pick up his next haul: 45,000 pounds of Spam. He used to loathe the downtime in his job.

Then, he bought a sewing machine.

For long-haul trucker Dave White, there's more to life on the road than finding a good rest stop. There's quilting. WSJ's Jennifer Levitz reports.

Since last year, when the economy left drivers with fewer hauls, Mr. White, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound ex-Air Force mechanic with a bushy mustache, has hunkered down inside his truck in his many off hours, making quilts from patterns with names like "Meet Me In Paris." When he's not sewing, he's daydreaming about it, he said as he ran a square of yellow cotton with little violets through his machine. "Oh, there's many a time you're just going down the road at O-dark-thirty in the morning and you just start thinking about a particular pattern."

Some truckers are finding themselves with more spare time on the road. Loads of goods delivered by truckers fell 15% in 2009, to 170 million loads, the largest drop in modern history, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. That came on top of a slow downswing in hauls because of what the industry laments as "miniaturization" of goods: It takes less space to move flat-screen TVs and iPods than their clunkier predecessors.

With declining freight, truckers who drive hundreds of miles to make a delivery may not immediately have a load lined up for the return trip. So they bide time at truck stops, where they can shower, dine and sleep in their rigs. A couple of years ago, a driver might drop off a load and pick up a new one in two hours; now the wait can be two days, said Mr. Costello.

Though evidence is anecdotal, industry groups and trucking-company owners say the increase in spare time has spawned more hobbies. "We've got guys who are into opera, photography, skydiving," said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers' Association, a truckers' group.

Mr. White's employer, Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking Corp., last year started a loosely organized "sewing club," and encourages drivers who are nimble with a needle to show off their handiwork at headquarters. "We want them to pass the time to make themselves happy, rather than get frustrated waiting," said Dena Boelter, Hummer's human-resources manager, an avid sewer who calls the hobby a great stress reliever that can be done almost anywhere.

Kevin Abraham-Banks, a 37-year-old trucker with a shaved head and dragon tattoos, passes time at truck stops with his cocoa and knitting.

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Gretchen Abraham-Banks

Kevin Abraham-Banks, a Sioux Falls, S.D., trucker, likes to knit while passing the time on the road. Here he makes a sweater for his wife.



Mr. Banks, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and hauls romaine lettuce between California and the Midwest, learned to knit last year after load-volumes slowed. Creating something tangible beats sitting around the truck stop "talking about who has a bigger radio," he said. He's finished a scarf and socks, and is working on a sweater for his wife.

"The fact that you can take strands of thread and basically make something out of it, that's awesome I think," he said. "It's pretty cool stuff, man."

Still, trucking can be a macho world that doesn't feel conducive to knitting or sewing. Some 95% of truckers are men, said the ATA. At the Iowa-80 Truck Stop, whose signs bill it as the "World's Largest Truckstop," a top request at the theater is for "Smokey and the Bandit" and the on-site dentist, Thomas Roemer, often sees drivers only after they've tried to yank their teeth out themselves. Crafting with fabric and yarn is "nothing I would do—my mom does that," said Mark Sanchez, 47, a long-haul trucker.

Thomas McConnaughy, a married grandfather from Hemet, Calif., hauls cereal, reads his Bible, plays Sudoku, and talks trout fishing at truck stops. He doesn't let on to other drivers that he keeps 15 coils of yarn in his cab and makes what he describes as "really cute slippers."

"In the truck stops, it's usually a bunch of guys watching football," he said. "If I sat down with my knitting, I think there would be some funny remarks."

Mr. White, the quilter, who is 53, came to his new passion last summer after feeling he was wasting time "waiting on freight."

He drove 2,600 miles a week on average in 2009, versus 3,200 in 2008, even though he spent the same amount of time—about three weeks at a stretch—on the road.


He struggled to find a hobby, having burned out on reading. He tried carting along a remote-controlled helicopter, but it kept falling on him from a shelf in the truck. His wife, Dee, an accountant at their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a quilter and suggested he try it. By August, they had outfitted his truck's sleeper cabin with a $179 sewing machine, supplies, and a starter's pattern. "Boy, let me tell you, I created a monster," she said.

Since then, Mr. White has made seven quilt tops, which are finished with a filling and backing between trips. He spends three hours a day on his hobby, sitting on his bed, with his sewing machine next to his mini-fridge. Flowered "project boxes" sit next to neat stacks of blue jeans and baseball caps. Quilting, he said, "gives you a little bit of ownership. You've actually accomplished something with your time off."

He pulled over once to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and if time allows, visits fabric stores in towns he rolls through.

In his truck, he showed a quilt with illustrations of fruit, and emphasized the importance of strategically placing quilt blocks so that "you don't get three lemons in a row or two plums in a row."

His blue eyes widened behind his glasses as he moved to the topic of thread. "There is a variegated thread that goes purple to white then back to purple," he said. "Oh! Just beautiful."

Kentucky Collision Demonstrates Tragic Consequences of Trucking Accidents

Just before sunrise on March 26th, on a hilly stretch of Kentucky Interstate 65, a tractor-trailer loaded with auto parts drifted out of its lane, roaring over a median, passing into the northbound lanes of the highway, and striking a passenger van head-on.

The van carried a group of members of a Burkesville Mennonite church, who were headed north for a wedding that weekend in Iowa. The passengers included a recently-engaged couple and members of their family, accompanied by several children and grandchildren. Of the 13 total passengers, only two survived. When his vehicle smashed into a rock wall and burst into flames, the driver of the commercial truck was also killed.

Reports called the crash "one of the deadliest traffic accidents in recent Kentucky history." Leroy Kauffman, pastor of the victims' church said, "We're experiencing a lot of heartache and a lot of sadness." State officials offered their sympathies to the victims and their families; Governor Steve Beshear was quoted as saying "Our entire state grieves," while the senate observed a moment of silence. Meanwhile, representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began an in-depth investigation into the cause of the crash, examining not only the background of the truck driver, but the company that employed him, and any road conditions that might have contributed to the collision.

The trucking company involved in Friday's crash had a relatively strong record; the Associated Press noted that "according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's online records, the company's 25 trucks and 30 drivers had been involved in two crashes in the past two and a half years, and only one of those resulted in any injuries." However, because trucks have such limited visibility and awkward maneuverability, their drivers must be especially vigilant, operating with an exceptional level of caution and care. Lack of training, the influence of drugs and alcohol, or even simple exhaustion (the crash occurred at approximately 5:30 AM) can be enough to cause an accident.

Due to the tremendous size and weight of commercial trucking vehicles, even seemingly minor collisions can have devastating consequences; the dangers of such a crash are multiplied ten-fold on a major highway such as I-65. Indeed, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Ann Gibson noted that "cable-barriers" had recently been installed on that section of highway, so as to discourage and prevent vehicles from crossing over the median. However, such an impediment would have been insufficient in stopping or slowing a truck like the one that crossed over Friday morning.

Regardless of the NTSB's final determination as to the cause of the accident – and with whom the resulting liability rests – this tragic example underlines the extreme dangers present on highways and interstates across the country. If you or a loved one has been harmed in an accident with a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, seek out experienced representation that can help you right the wrong that has been done. Personal injury lawyer James R. Gillen has a wealth of experience handling cases arising from crashes of this type; to learn more about his work in this area of law, please visit the auto and trucking accident page of Mr. Gillen's website.