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Bendix workers in Mexico channel their inner Vikings



Employees at the Bendix facility in Acuna, Mexico, took a break from manufacturing advanced truck safety systems to construct Viking-style longboats. The activity was a weekend team-building exercise. (Courtesy: BENDIX)

When people in trucking hear the name Bendix, they think of an industry leader in cutting-edge driver safety-assist technology. They think of Bendix’s ever-evolving Wingman system, and how its individual components, like its Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, and its collision mitigation and lane departure warning systems have been brought together in the latest incarnation, Wingman Fusion.

The company is unquestionably at the forefront of 21st-century trucking technology. It turns out they might be handy if you’re planning a raiding party.

Bendix’s manufacturing plant in Acuna, Mexico, is a sprawling complex. Opened in 1988, the 412,000 square-foot operation consists of three state-of-the-art facilities and a logistics center. The operation employs more than 1,800 workers.  Knorr-Bremse, the parent company of Bendix, considers the Acuna operation to be one of its jewels, naming it its top-ranked plant worldwide in 2011.

But even the best need a little boost now and then, and when management decided to hold an entertaining, team-building event at the hi-tech Mexican facility, they of course took their inspiration from 10th-century Scandinavia.

On a recent Saturday, about 200 employees from the Acuna plant got together for a little lighthearted but purposeful competition meant to foster creative thinking and communication. The groups were split into teams and given the challenge to build two, 45-foot wooden Viking boats.

Each team split into groups, each tasked with building a certain part of the boat, emphasizing how a team approach can be effective in achieving goals. The teams were faced with time, planning, and strategy challenges.

Acuna plant manager Jackie Perez explained the challenge was more than a chance to wear horned hats and have a laugh or two.

“It helps us consolidate practices that allow us, as a company, to achieve shared goals, drive camaraderie, and, above all, work together every single day for the same common purpose,” Perez said.

The ship-building activity was followed up with a conference on emotional intelligence, “designed to drive synergy and a sense of belonging through a deeper understanding of tools and recommendations to become more productive, maintain a positive attitude, and consolidate the company’s values,” according to a company press release.

“I was pleased to share and experience great team spirit, joy, and enthusiasm during the activities performed, culminating with the goal planned at the beginning of the event, building Viking ships,” said Belem Fierro, human resources manager at the Acuna plant. “These activities, as well as the emotional intelligence conference, are part of the training programs that Bendix is driving to continue to create leaders. The skills developed through these programs will contribute to a sustainable growth that will allow us to continue being the best in what we are and what we do.”

Just so long as they don’t decide to sack and pillage anywhere.

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The Nation

Can you say oversized load!



That is big!


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Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere



The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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The Nation

DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time



The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.



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