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After 31 years on the road, driver sees more is lost than gained through ELD oversight



Thomas Bast has made a good living for more than three decades hauling high-priced automobiles. He thinks ELDS have done little more than add to an industry that is “choking” in over-regulation. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

Standing at the grill counter, picking out the side dishes to his early afternoon meal, Thomas Bast seemed to be in no particular hurry. Or at least he didn’t seem like a man who felt rushed. He chatted a bit with the woman who was putting together his meal, and once he had his Styrofoam container in hand, he turned casually, in no great rush to get back to his truck.

Did he have time to talk? Yeah, sure, he could spare a few minutes. After 31 years behind the wheel, he wears his experience. You can see it in how he carries himself, taking his days in stride.

Just don’t get him going about ELDs.

Bast has seen a lot of changes to the business, and for his money there has been a decided turn for the worse in the last few years, and the reason? “This,” he said, tapping his finger on a picture of an ELD.

“These ELDs are a joke,” he said, “and they’re here to stay.”

Of course, the popular argument is that it’s not the ELDs, it’s the rules they are designed to monitor. But it’s the technology, Bast argues, that brings out the rigidity in those rules.

“The trucking industry is the most regulated industry in the country,” Bast said. “You have to be safe, that’s understood. But the more you regulate, it’s like choking” drivers who are trying to do their jobs.

“You can’t control what goes on outside your windshield,” he said. “You got roads, traffic, weather conditions. You’ve got four clocks to follow that don’t abide by any of those conditions at all.”

A prime example, he says, is the premise that he must take a 30-minute break “not before five hours and not after eight.”

“Listen, you got to be safe, right? We all know when to stop. Eleven hours is enough, a 14-hour day is long.”

Drivers know what they’re doing, Bast said, but the world doesn’t always cooperate with your schedule, and with paper logs, a driver could stretch the truth sometimes. Now, he said, the ELDs and other technology track drivers so closely it feels like a game of “Gotcha!” — a big money grab.

“They can fine you for talking to a dispatcher when you’re off duty, and they do,” he said.

“Now, what’s happening is you got truck stops filled up at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. You got guys sleeping on the side of the road. You’ve got troopers knocking on the window in the middle of the night who don’t care if they’re going to put them into violation; they got to get them off the side of the road.”

You didn’t see so much of that two years ago, Bast said. As he sees it, the emphasis on safety has actually cut into efficiency in the industry. Eventually, he said, we’ll all see the effects in higher prices for, well, everything.

“You got to be safe,” he said, “but you got to get out of the way more.” He even questions whether we’re really getting safety.

“You think this is going to slow them down?” he said. “It’s going to speed them up, because they got to get to the truck stop, got to get to that break, got to pull over.”

Bast, 52, became an over-the-road trucker at 21. He came to trucking by horse, racehorses, to be exact.

“My family was in the equine business,” Bast said. When he was young, he shoed horses. From there, he progressed to transporting them. When the family business folded, he moved from horses to horsepower, moving racecars.

Throughout his career, Bast has specialized in enclosed car transport, moving racecars, antiques and exotic cars. “Lambos, Ferraris, Bugattis … ,” he said. He’s a private contractor currently with United Routes Transport.

“I never did general freight,” Bast said. “I never ran by the mile. I always specialized, because that’s where you make good money.”

Still, the time restrictions matter. His contracts call for a percentage of the gross receipts of the truck. “When you broker a deal it’s three to five days, five to seven, or seven to 10 days. And when you don’t hit those deadlines, it comes off your gross receipts,” he said.

Being out on the road five or six weeks at a time, Bast said he’s pulling in about $90,000 a year, and he pretty much gets to call his own shots, professionally speaking, which goes a long way in offsetting his frustrations.

He’s also a little concerned about the driver shortage, or rather the reaction to it. “They’re spitting guys out of those schools that don’t know a steering wheel from a fifth wheel,” he said.

“A lot of these guys are because they were middle management, they lost their job in ’08, and this was the easiest thing to jump into. When I started, you were there because you wanted to be there.”

He still does, but after more than three decades doing it, he’d be a lot happier if there was a little more trust that he knows what he’s doing.

And with that, he excused himself. He had to get going.


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The Nation

Bendix Spicer Bowling Green brake plant receives platinum wellness award



Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. Left to right are Andria Keating, BSFB health and wellness coordinator; award presenter Jim Frazier, vice president of medical affairs for Norton Healthcare; and Matt Schwartz, chair of the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. (Courtesy: BENDIX SPICER FOUNDATION BRAKE)

ELYRIA, Ohio — Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB) has always been committed to helping employees and families improve their health and wellness at work, at home and in retirement.

Through its efforts to continually improve its resources for employee health, the BSFB Manufacturing Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville for exceptional commitment to employee well-being, integration of wellness into the workplace culture, and exemplary leadership in managing employee benefits.

The council’s annual conference, which took place last month, recognizes organizations in Kentucky that strive to create cultures of health through wellness policies and programs. Each employer is assessed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Worksite Health ScoreCard, which helps organizations review their health promotion programs to find gaps and prioritize the prevention of chronic conditions.

To earn a Platinum Award, the highest distinction, employers must meet stringent requirements, such as demonstrating management support, program variety, and community engagement, and reaching targeted improvement levels. The recognition is often given to previous award recipients honored earlier at the bronze, silver or gold levels.

Thanks to its inventive health efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake received the top award as a first-time honoree, according to .

Among its contributing efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake was recognized for partnering with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center in an innovative workplace health initiative. The partnership received a grant to cover the cost of qualified employees’ lung health screenings and participation in the Kentucky Cancer Registry. In addition, the grant helped to provide educational posters, classes on screenings, and radon prevention programs.

“We are proud to continue Bendix’s long-standing commitment to the well-being of our employees,” said Andria Keating, health and wellness coordinator at the Bowling Green facility. “The rate of lung cancer in Kentucky is one of the highest in the United States. Through our partnerships with distinguished cancer centers in the state, we hope to give our employees the resources and education they need for early detection and prevention.”

In earning a Platinum Award, the company also scored with distinction on the CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard, based on the success of its well-rounded wellness efforts. Those efforts are driven by the Bendix Be Healthy program, aimed at making healthy living easier and more convenient for employees and their families by emphasizing prevention and early detection of health issues, and support of employees seeking care. Bendix Be Healthy focuses on biometric screenings, preventative screenings, health fairs, tobacco cessation, weight management, lifestyle changes, emotional well-being, and financial wellness.

The vibrant wellness program in place at the Bowling Green facility is part of an active, multifaceted, employee-focused company culture that combines opportunities to learn, grow, and participate in health and wellness, community volunteerism, and employee team-building activities.




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The Nation

Woman charged with attempted murder after truck-driver fiancé fired



Natalie Williams, 32, is facing attempted murder charges, police say, after allegedly shooting several times at her fiancé’s former employer and his family at a truck stop parking lot. (Photo courtesy: SLIDELL POLICE DEPARTMENT)

SLIDELL, La. — A 32-year-old woman was charged with attempted murder after a shooting incident at a truck stop on Friday that is believed to have occurred in reaction to the woman’s fiancé being fired from his job as a professional truck driver.

The incident occurred at a TravelCenters of America truck stop just off Interstate 10 in Slidell, about 3 miles northeast of Lake Pontchartrain.

According to local reports, Slidell Police said they received several 911 calls at about 2:30 p.m. about a woman shooting at people in the truck stop parking lot. When they arrived they quickly found Natalie Williams, a resident of nearby Mandeville, hiding in a wooded area near the truck stop.

Police also found a couple that told them Williams had shot at them and their 1-year-old son. According to the police report, the man told them that he owned a trucking company and he had met up with Williams and her fiancé in the rear parking lot at the truck stop, where he had fired Williams’ fiancé for poor job performance and informed them that he was evicting them from the 18-wheeler.

The man told police that Williams then went to the truck, got a gun and started shooting at him, then fired several shots into the cab of the truck he arrived in and in which his fiancé and the child were still seated.

Police said no one was injured in the shooting.

According to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office records, Williams remains behind bars as of Tuesday, with bail set at $150,000.

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The Nation

Michigan Democrat wants businesses, trucks to pay more for road repair



Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig says new ideas need to be brought to the table for how to fund road repairs in the state. She and her colleagues have introduced a proposal that would increase corporate taxes and institute a 6-cents-a-mile tax on heavy trucks and a bridge toll on tractor trailers. (AP: David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich. — With state Republicans lawmakers firmly opposed to a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, Democrats want businesses to do more to help fix the state’s roads.

A new $1.2 billion proposal from House Democrats would raise the state’s corporate tax, create a new 6-cents-a-mile tax for heavy trucks and charge bridge tolls to tractor trailers. It also includes portions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan, such as raising taxes on certain businesses so they are taxed the same as traditional corporations and restoring tax breaks for pensioners.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig said Democrats agree with the Democratic governor’s call for $2.5 billion in new revenue and know that a fuel tax increase would likely be part of any final deal.

“We just felt it was important that we brought other ideas in since we haven’t seen anything other than a shell game and shifting around revenue from the Republicans, but yet they’ve said that they’re not going to support a 45-cent gas increase. So let’s put some new ideas on the table to get us to the $2.5 billion,” she said Friday.

By releasing the plan, Democrats risked looking like they oppose Whitmer’s fuel tax hike, which Republicans, who control the Legislature, have said is going nowhere and which Democrats have not introduced as legislation. Greig said Democrats are “100% supportive” of generating new revenue and their proposal is based on feedback from constituents.

“We just think that if you’re really struggling to a negotiation, that implies that you bring a bunch of different ideas and come up with a compromise,” she said.

Some in the business lobby have said raising gasoline and diesel taxes is simple and fair because everyone pays, including companies that move goods or have employees on the roads. But Greig said what they pay is not “proportionate.”

“To attract business, to attract talent, to keep our communities strong that support businesses, we have to have good roads and bridges,” she said, noting that businesses saw a $1 billion-plus tax cut under a 2011 overhaul enacted by Republicans. “Since that happened, we’ve seen our roads and infrastructure deteriorate. We’ve seen our ranking in schools drop nationally. So something is not right. To put this all on the backs of individuals is shortsighted.”

Increasing the 6% corporate income tax to 8.5% and raising taxes on flow-through entities, Greig said, would lead to businesses paying $800 million more annually — but still less than they were before the 2011 change. Assessing a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on the two heaviest classes of trucks would generate $390 million from those who cause the most road damage, she said, while the bridge tolls — based on a unique program in Rhode Island — would raise about $50 million.

Road-funding and budget negotiations are expected to extend into the summer as legislators scale back their voting days starting this coming week.

Greig urged the business community to “come to the table and say, ‘We will accept contributing more directly to the solution.’”

Republicans and business groups oppose raising business taxes, however, saying lower taxes help the economy. To soften the impact of a 45-cent gas tax increase by easing the tax burden on seniors, Whitmer has proposed boosting taxes on 150,000 corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies whose income is passed through to the entities’ owners and taxed at the personal rate of 4.25 percent. The Senate’s Republican leader has called it “stupid.”

So far, the main component to emerge from Republicans’ road-funding work is a budget plan in the House that would ultimately ensure $850 million in sales tax being collected at the pump goes to roads, without raising taxes. The revenue now primarily is dedicated to schools and municipalities.

Greig said it is “confusing” that a portion of fuel taxes funds other priorities and she has no problem “cleaning up revenue streams.” But new revenue should be generated to replace it, she said.

“They’re not doing that. That’s the problem,” she said. “We’re basically doing it on the backs of local governments and kids, frankly.”

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