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Driver who aided woman after wrong-way crash named Highway Angel of the Year

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EpicVue CEO Lance Platt, left, and recording artist Lindsay Lawler present Brian Snell of Pottle’s Transportation with the Highway Angel of the Year award during the Truckload Carriers Association’s 81st annual convention. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

LAS VEGAS — For most people, there are maybe only a handful of instances in their lives that call for an act of heroism.

“We’d all like to believe that if the situation presented itself, each of us would be able to step up and offer assistance to others in their time of need,” Truckload Carriers Association Chairman Dan Doran said March 12 at the general session of the closing day of the 81st annual TCA convention.

With as much time as professional truck drivers spend out on the open road, they are more likely than most folks to come across fellow travelers who need help. And every year, there are several stories of drivers who step up to offer their assistance.

In 1997, TCA and corporate sponsor EpicVue created the Highway Angels program “to improve the public’s image of the trucking industry by highlighting positive stories of professional truck drivers who display exemplary acts of kindness, courtesy, and courage while on the job,” Doran said.

Highway Angels are recognized throughout the year. “EpicVue is honored to recognize these incredible professional truck drivers, who put themselves sometimes in great danger to help a fellow truck driver, a motorist, and even a small child who may be wandering alone in the dark,” said EpicVue CEO Lance Platt.

One of these drivers is then chosen for special recognition at the annual TCA convention as the Highway Angel of the Year. This year’s Highway Angel of the Year Brian Snell, a regional trainer with Bangor, Maine-based Pottle’s Transportation. Platt was joined by recording artist Lindsay Lawler in presenting Snell with the award.

Lawler, the official spokesperson for the Highway Angel program and whose song “Highway Angel” is a tribute to the spirit of the program and to the drivers who personify that spirit, said Snell “is passionate about what he does, humble, and an overall brilliant example of what this program aims to highlight.”

A brief video prior to the presentation described the early-morning rescue for which Snell was being honored. After the ceremony, he recalled the incident in his own words.

Snell was driving on I-495 in Massachusetts at about 2:15 a.m. on June 8, 2018, when he saw the headlights of a vehicle driving the wrong way up ahead before it hit something and spun out to a stop. Snell stopped his truck in the middle of the road, blocking oncoming traffic from the crashed car.

As other motorists stopped, Snell got out of his truck to assess the situation. The car’s front end was mangled, and the woman behind the wheel was unconscious.

Snell is no stranger to emergency situations. He joined the Marines in 1989, but an injury sustained in boot camp curtailed his military career. After his discharge in 1992, he spent nearly five years as a paramedic in Nashua, New Hampshire, near his hometown of Merrimack, before becoming a sheriff’s department rescue worker.

“I used to do a lot of high-angle rescue work,” Snell said. “It’s rope work. We were up on ledges, mountain work and all that.”

Even in his spare time, Snell has done “a ton of volunteering,” he said, including rescue work on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast and part of the Appalachian Trail. It is popular with hikers, cyclists and gliders, but weather conditions can turn treacherous quickly.

“And when the World Trade Center went down I wound up going to Ground Zero working search and rescue down there.”

Snell spent five days as a volunteer at Ground Zero “literally digging in the dirt and going through the pile itself,” he said. He was among the rescue workers who became casualties of the attack after the fact. Part of his diaphragm became paralyzed and he lost a lung due to the prolonged exposure to the particulate matter in the air.

“Obviously, after 911, law enforcement was out because of the disability with my lung,” Snell said.

Snell was already on his way to becoming a full-time professional truck driver. “My grandfather for years told me to get my truck license,” Snell said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to be a truck driver.’” But turning an economic downturn he had taken his grandfather’s advice and had started what had been a gradual transition from emergency work into trucking.

In those early morning hours last June, Snell’s professional worlds came together when he came to the driver’s assistance.

“The car was on fire,” he said. “I put the flames out with the fire extinguisher. Then I started working on her to make sure she was conscious and breathing and all that.”

While he was doing that, he heard one of the other motorists who had stopped to help yelling some distance away that they “couldn’t get in.” That’s when Snell realized that another vehicle had been involved in the crash.

“I thought she’d just bounced off the guardrail,” Snell said, but she had collided head-on with another car. He went over to the second car and saw the driver, a 32-year-old man, was dead.

There was a dog inside the car, and Snell had to smash a window to get to it. As it happened, the first officer on the scene was a K-9 officer, so Snell left the dog in his care then he returned to the first car to help rescue workers extract the woman.

He said when Highway Angel organizers first tried to contact him about being an honoree, he didn’t return their phone calls. “I don’t do what I do to be recognized, you know what I mean?” he said. “And finally my company got involved and said, ‘You got to call back.’

Being named a Highway Angel was an honor, he said, and then when he heard he had been named Highway Angel of the Year, he was “ecstatic,” but he admitted he’s had mixed emotions because of the circumstances around the incident.

“It’s a very bittersweet award to accept,” Snell said. “I’m literally being honored for saving someone who killed somebody.” The woman, who was intoxicated at the time of the crash, has been charged with vehicular homicide.

“Hopefully, she changes her ways,” he said.

The Highway Angel of the Year was created to honor the person who best embodies the spirit of the Highway Angel program. Snell, 50, said he’s been doing rescue work, professionally and as a volunteer, since he was on the American Red Cross Disaster Team in high school.

He’s even delivered a baby along the roadside. Putting yourself out there for your fellow human beings is simply part of the values by which he was raised.

“My whole family is community driven,” he said. “The Lord has always told everybody he wants us to be the Good Samaritan, and I don’t pass that up. Anybody I can help, I try to do anything I can for them.”

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The Nation

Lamb, SBTC plans to introduce legislation to stop enforcement of ELD mandate

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The proposed bill the Small Business in Transportation Coalition is planning to have introduced in the House would require the Secretary of Transportation to immediately cease enforcement of the ELD mandate. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — James Lamb is taking his fight against electronic logging devices right back to where the current mandate for ELDs was birthed.

The head of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) said Wednesday he plans to have introduced in the House the “Suspension of Electronic Logging Device Mandate to Protect Americans Working in Interstate Commerce Act” which would suspend the current ELD mandate.

The electronic devices were mandated by Congress as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century transportation bill passed in 2012.

Lamb said he would name sponsors of the bill when it is formally introduced.

He said he hopes to have an identical version of the bill introduced in the Senate.

The bill would direct the Secretary of Transportation to:

  • Immediately cease enforcement of the ELD rule promulgated at 49 CFR 395.8 (a)
  • Require carriers to revert back to paper record of duty status logs
  • Study the unintended consequences and effects of ELDs on operators of commercial motor vehicles
  • Determine whether commercial motor vehicle operators have experienced adverse psychological effects that have induced reckless speeding and have caused an increase in large-truck occupant fatalities since implementation of the ELD rule in December 2017.

Meanwhile, the SBTC has asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to delay the December 16 deadline for carriers using Automatic On Board Recording Devices to switch to ELDs.

In addition, Lamb and his organization, which reportedly has 15,000 members, are currently circulating an online petition to get the federal government to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

As of Wednesday, some 32,000 trucking stakeholders had signed the petition, which Lamb plans to present to the White House. He hopes to get 100,000 signatures by November 29.

The bill and the petition are only the latest efforts in Lamb’s fight against ELDs.

The first effort came when in February 2018 Lamb and the SBTC filed an application for an exemption from the ELD rule for carriers with fewer than 50 employees.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied the petition in July of this year and in late October, the SBTC filed an application for reconsideration of the denial.

The FMCSA immediately published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on the reconsideration application.

When Lamb filed the original exemption application, the FMCSA said it received over 1,900 comment, most in favor of the exemption.

Among other things, in the proposed legislation, Lamb says:

  • The ELD mandate must “must “ensure that… the responsibilities imposed on operators of commercial motor vehicles do not impair their ability to operate the vehicles safely…”
  • In 2018, the first full year the new ELD rule was in effect for the trucking industry to enforce commercial motor vehicle operators’ compliance with hours of service regulations, a total of 885 large truck occupants perished in crashes last year. That number marks the most since 1988. (The fatality total included all large trucks, which the federal government defines as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more; most Class 8 trucks such as tractor-trailers carry a GVWR of 33,001 pounds or more).
  • The number of speeding violations issued to U.S. truck drivers increased 7.8 percent in 2018, climbing to 146,945 violations, according to FMCSA data. The number of violations issued to truckers for driving 15 mph or more above limits rose 10.3 percent last year.

The bill would require the Secretary of Transportation to do a study to determine if a correlation exists between the implementation of the ELD rule in December 2017 and the rise in truck speeding incidents and large truck occupant fatalities in 2018.

Talk about electronic logging devices goes back to at least 2000 when the newly-created FMCSA first attempted to reform Hours of Service regulations to mandate the use of electronic tracking devices. This attempt to mandate HOS tracking with an ELD device was shot down by a 2004 court order.

 

 

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The Nation

James Lamb issues last call for truckers to sign ELD suspension petition

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The SBTC's Electronic Loggin Device Suspension Petition has gather 32,000 signatures toward the goal of 100,000. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — Small Business in Transportation Coalition Executive Director James Lamb Tuesday called for a final push over the next week to increase the number of signatures on an Electronic Logging Device Suspension Petition.

The petition calls on President Donald J. Trump to direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to act on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) findings and immediately suspend ELDs until unintended consequences can be studied to decide if the rule is ripe for repeal.

The petition can be accessed here.

Lamb said the NHTSA findings and unintended consequences revolve around recently-released statistics showing an increase in the number of fatalities involving large trucks.

The petition currently has 32,000 signatures.

Lamb set a goal of 100,000 signatures by November 29.

“We believe these data prove the ELD mandate took us ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire,’” Lamb said. Immediately, numerous trucking groups including “Black Smoke Matters” and “Trucker Nation” joined the SBTC’s efforts, he added.

Lamb said the new data show that in 2018, the first full year the new ELD rule was in effect for the trucking industry to enforce commercial motor vehicle operators’ compliance with Hours of Service regulations, an average of more than two occupants of large trucks died daily.

“This is the highest number of such deaths since 1988, making this statistic a 30-year high,” Lamb said. “We believe ELDs have caused drivers anxiety to such levels that many now recklessly speed to beat the clock. These data show the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was wrong that ELDs would save 26 lives per year.”

NHTSA defines large trucks as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.

Lamb also claimed many ELDs routinely malfunction and are unreliable.

“Case in point: the recent major crash of Omnitracs,” he said. “This poses public safety concerns if drivers have not been properly trained on how to use paper logs as a backup. and sheer chaos could result.”

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The Nation

Carriers on losing end as cargo thefts show upward trend; electronics most targeted product

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SensiGuard report indicated cargo thefts were up over Q2 2019 and Q3 2018, with electronics being the most often targeted product.

Sensitech United Technologies, a company specializing in supply chain integrity and visibility, has released its 2019 third quarter report on Cargo Theft based on data tracked by SensiGuard, a division of the firm dedicated to cargo security. The latest statistics do not include information truck carriers will find positive.

Cargo Theft Overview

In Q3 of 2019, a total of 165 nationwide cargo thefts were placed in the SensiGuard database, and the report notes that this figure will likely rise as late reports are received. The data shows monthly distribution of thefts as being 46 in July, 67 in August, and 52 in September with an average loss per incident of $155,709. The total thefts and average value represent increases over Q2 data by 13% and 31%, respectively. Compared to the same quarter in 2018, volume increased by 3% while value was down 8%.

Theft by Product

Of the 165 thefts reported, electronics were the target of the most thieves (22%), moving the product up two spots from the Q2 2019 report. The average value of electronics stolen per incident came in at $331,443, bolstered by single-incident thefts in California and Kentucky exceeding $1 million. Rounding out the top three product types stolen are Home and Garden (19%) and Food and Drinks (14%). It should be noted that Food and Drinks do not include Alcohol, which at 2% represents the lowest of any category tracked. Alcohol thefts were down 47% from Q2 2019 figures and 88% from Q3 2018. Clothing and Shoes thefts continued an increasing trend (33% over Q2), as did Home and Garden (35% over Q2).

Theft by State/Location

California reports the highest percentage of thefts among the states (26% of nationwide total), substantially increasing its lead over Texas (10%), the widening gap largely attributed to rush shipments from China ahead of tariffs. The quantity of container freight combined with limited security resources is reported as a major factor influencing California’s ranking. Following Texas, Georgia came in third place in incidents reported (9%), followed by Florida (<9%), and a three-way tie for fifth place between New Jersey, Illinois, and Tennessee (6%). In terms of the physical location of incidents, Unsecured Parking remains the most likely target (74%), followed by Warehouses (15%) and Secured Parking (11%).

Event Type

The most prevalent method of theft continues to be at the Full Truckload level (56%), with the average truckload cargo value of $166,787. This data is a decrease from Q2 2019 and Q3 2018 figures. Pilferage had set a record for five consecutive quarters; however, in Q3 2019 it fell 1%. The value of products stolen by Pilferage also decreased 29% below Q2 2019 data. Facility Thefts were up 59% over Q2 2019, although the average value attributed to this location ($189,800) decreased. Fictitious Pickup of products increased over previous quarters and represented 5% of total thefts.

In the report’s concluding statements, SensiGuard suggested that any decreases in the number of incidents of value per incident do not necessarily represent trends. “…The organized cargo thief is still shifting tactics to evade capture…” the report noted. Likewise, the report stated, “High value or low security will not be the only determining factors in theft risk to cargo as thieves will adjust to increased risk and modify their efforts accordingly.”

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