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I’ve had some secondhand second thoughts about those 18-year-old drivers

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In my last column, I mentioned something about looking at online reader comments, and how truckers tend to do a better job of staying on topic and making actual contributions to whatever the story is about compared to what you find on the internet in general.

I also said something about regularly checking our reader comments to see what drivers have to say about whichever topic is taking its turn as one of the “hot” ones of the moment.

These days, the question of whether 18-year-olds should be allowed to drive commercial vehicles interstate has been getting a lot of attention, in part because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced it is seeking comments about a proposed pilot program that would qualify 18- to 20-year-olds to drive interstate.

By the way, if it seems the FMCSA has been doing a lot of this “public comment” stuff lately, they have. And reading between the lines of what the people at FMCSA have been saying, it’s clear they are paying attention to the feedback they’re getting on this and other topics. But this time I am disappointed by the method by which they’re taking comments. It’s the kind of governmental, designed-by-a-bureaucrat, user-unfriendly online method that practically guarantees a low response and almost makes you wonder if that’s on purpose.

I don’t have room to even try to explain the process, which is why you won’t find an explanation in any of the articles about how they want your comments.

That’s too bad, because if the feedback to the story we ran on the pilot program is any indication, there are a lot of strong opinions out there waiting to be shared.

In the past, I’ve written in favor of letting younger drivers drive interstate, or at least for it to be an option. But having read some of the comments on our site, I’m going to attempt to do something here that’s so rare in today’s media, heck, in our entire society, some might consider it un-American — with a few prompts by the audience, I’m going to make a case for the other side.

If our small sampling is any indication, people who are already OTR drivers aren’t too keen on lowering the age of eligibility. In fact, a few suggested it should be raised. We know that’s not going to happen, just like we know the big motivation behind the push for younger drivers is to ease the driver shortage in the OTR truckload sector. Aside from the immediate potential relief, the argument has been made that this will allow young people into trucking before they are lost to other professions.

“You realize 18- to 20-year-olds already can drive intrastate?” reader Nathaniel McComb wrote.

I’m not sure whether Nathaniel was pointing out that that the profession is already open to 18-year-olds if they are interested, or the fact that our highways aren’t strewn with the carnage left in the wake of the young intrastate drivers who are already out there. Or maybe both.

In any case, there’s a good point to be found there. And it’s a point that reader Rachel Booth expanded on:

“I think intrastate driving from 18 to 20 is a good idea,” she wrote. “It gives them experience and more of an idea of what the job involves physically. Interstate driving should remain at 21. Leave it alone.”

Now, that’s reasonable thinking, Rachel. OTR driving is some of the most demanding, not to mention highest-paying, driving there is. What profession starts kids at the most demanding, highest paying level?

What’s wrong with letting them earn their chops for a few years? At that age, even when they make big life decisions, most of those decisions don’t stick. Nothing does. The ages of 18 to 25 is “grownup orientation” for most people. Most of them struggle with the concept of having to work, period, especially at a job that’s, like, hard.

“Would the 18- to 20-year-old people even be interested in being drivers?” reader Andy Schmitz asks. “Our government loves spending money on research & polling — have they actually visited high school seniors or anyone 18-20 to ask if they would be interested in a job that would put them on the road 300 days a year?”

Those pushing for opening up interstate driving to younger drivers claim that the industry loses too many young people to other professions because they make them wait until they are 21. Really? Are high school seniors looking out the window, noses pressed up against the glass, staring at big rigs as they go by and whispering to themselves, “If only …”?

No, they aren’t. In fact, nobody is. That’s the problem. The long-haul truckload trucking segment has long had a problem attracting new talent. And now, just as the demand is greatest, the industry finds itself competing to draw from the tightest labor pool in 50 years.

Trucking knows it’s the ugly duckling in that competition. They’ve been making efforts to gussy up its image. They’ve even raised mileage rates. But money isn’t everything. And they’ve tried to let women and other minorities know the door of opportunity is open to them.

Now they are trying to create a new door, not because it’s the right thing to do, but out a growing sense of desperation.

The benefits would be minimal, and it hardly seems worth the risk. Veteran drivers bristle at the idea, and who would know better?

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CFI Employees raise $41,000 in 26th annual Truckloads of Treasures holiday campaign

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CFI employees at the local Joplin, Missouri, Walmart with their shopping lists as they start the annual "shopping spree" to purchase gifts for needy kids and seniors. More than 100 CFI employees participated. (Courtesy: CFI)

JOPLIN, Mo. — Employees of CFI, an operating company of TFI International Inc., a North American provider of transportation and logistics services, supported 15 charitable organizations serving thousands of individuals in eight cities across the U.S., Mexico and Canada during CFI’s annual holiday giving campaign.

A longstanding tradition established in 1993 and unique to CFI’s family-friendly culture, Truckloads of Treasures starts in August with a seven-week raffle ticket fundraiser. CFI hosts activities throughout the year including book fairs to raise funds. Festivities accelerate in the fall with crowd favorites including “crock pot chaos,” a chili cook off, a silent auction and an ugly sweater contest.

The event culminates in shopping sprees across North America to benefit children and elderly in need during the holidays, typically during the first week of December. Over the 26 years of the program’s existence, CFI employees have donated over $880,000 with annual goals of raising $40,000. CFI has some 3,000 employees and independent contractors.

“This is one of the most inspiring events of the year for our company, our employees and the communities in which we live and work,” said CFI President Greg Orr. “Our employees embrace giving back, engaging with our communities to help those underserved and less fortunate. I’m extremely proud of our employees, and I appreciate the spirit, joy and commitment they bring to this campaign every year to help meaningful charities in Joplin and across North America.”

The campaign supported nine charities in CFI’s headquarters of Joplin. Early in December, some 200 CFI employees participated in the annual “Shopping Spree” at the Joplin Wal-Mart. Employees purchased over $21,000 in gifts and needed supplies, based on lists of items submitted by some 300 local underserved children and seniors identified by the Salvation Army.

At the Shopping Spree, the company also presented checks to local Joplin charities.

“All funds from Truckloads of Treasures are donated by CFI employees and Independent Contractors, reflecting strong support across our CFI family. Our terminals across North America select local charities to reach the communities in which they live and work,” Orr said. Those local charities include The Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, Area Agency on Aging, Camp Quality, Children’s Haven, The Ronald McDonald House, Pro Musica and Art Feeds. Other charities benefiting from Truckloads of Treasures include Bethany House, CASA of Crittenden, Cáritas de Monterrey A.B.P., Asociación Programa Lazos IAP and Southlake General Hospital Foundation, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

“With the parameters of supporting children and elderly in need, we find our terminals have long-standing partnerships with charities that have come to depend on our support,” Orr said.

Donations were raised through a company-wide raffle with prizes including gift cards for retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports and Outdoors, as well as other prizes. All prizes were purchased and donated by CFI’s executive management team. The raffle also included two special drawings awarding one- and two-weeks paid time off. Additional funds were raised through bake sales, a chili cook-off, book fairs and separate auctions of locally-donated prizes.

In addition, employees partnered with service organizations throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada to provide holiday gifts and food for underserved children and senior citizens.

Throughout the year CFI places an emphasis on charities with ties to military veterans, first responders, the transportation industry, empowering women and education.

Orr said the company’s support goes beyond monetary donations and includes volunteering and support for events.

Some examples include a monthly dinner CFI sponsors at the Ronald McDonald house.

Another annual favorite is a Wreaths Ride to support Wreaths Across America.  Company employees who are avid motorcycle enthusiasts also support charitable causes by joining convoys that ride with CFI’s specially-wrapped theme trucks.

The trucks with their customized graphic “wraps” honor military troops, professional women truck drivers and first responders.

This year, following the devastating tornadoes in the Midwest, CFI also made a special contribution to first responder organizations, providing a $100,000 grant which was used by local agencies in four states to meet specific needs for firefighting and rescue equipment.

Orr said holidays offer another opportunity to support communities, with CFI employees participating in food donation drives. The trucking industry also has a unique opportunity to donate in-kind services with the gift of transportation.

Since 2015, CFI has been a national sponsor of Holy Joe’s Café, which supplies donated coffee to our troops in over 70 countries. The company donates between $50,000 and $100,000 a year of in-kind transportation, moving coffee supplies to military bases in the continental U.S., which are then shipped to soldiers overseas to give them a small taste of home.

“As a responsible employer, it is important to demonstrate you’re a good citizen of the community,” Orr said. “We recognize that those cities and towns in which CFI employees live and work need support, often for critical services that only charities can provide. We have a culture that embraces giving back to those who may be less fortunate, and we take pride in supporting important charitable endeavors. We believe we have the best employees and Independent Contractors in the industry, a quality which is reinforced every year when we have the opportunity to give back.”

 

 

 

 

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24-year veteran of two military branches awarded Kenworth T680 as Top Military Veteran Rookie Driver 

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Joseph H. Campbell, Jr., of Roehl Transportation accepts the keys to a new Kenworth T680 from Kenworth marketing director Lisa Berreth. Cambell was named the industry's top military veteran turned rookie driver.

WASHINGTON – A distinguished veteran with 24 years of combined service in the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army received the annual “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award during a special ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Kenworth presented winning professional truck driver Joseph H. Campbell Jr. of Roehl Transport with The Driver’s Truck™ – a Kenworth T680 equipped with a comfortable 76-inch sleeper – as the recognition program’s award. Campbell’s special T680 features the complete PACCAR Powertrain with a PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission, and PACCAR 40K tandem axles.

For the fifth consecutive year, Kenworth teamed with the FASTPORT Trucking Track Mentoring Program and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes Program to find America’s top rookie driver who made the successful transition from active military duty to driving for a commercial fleet.

Campbell comes from a family of military veterans and achieved multiple accolades for successes while serving stateside and abroad in combat zones. Campbell now drives for Roehl Transport’s Flatbed Division. He achieved an accident-free record in his first year of employment and completed the initial year of a two-year apprenticeship program. He is preparing to become a certified trainer and is a member of the company’s Driver Advisory Group.

“It’s a great honor to receive this award. This Kenworth T680 will provide some exciting new opportunities for my future career in the trucking industry. Thanks to Roehl Transport, Hiring our Heroes, FASTPORT and Kenworth for supporting and encouraging veterans to make the transition into the trucking industry,” said Campbell.

Featured speakers at the special recognition event were Thomas J. Donahue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer; Joe Shamess, Flags of Valor co-founder, Eric Eversole, U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president and Hiring Our Heroes president; and Brad Bentley, FASTPORT president. Lisa Berreth, Kenworth marketing director, presented the keys to Campbell.

“We appreciate Joseph Campbell’s service to this country and his dedication to achieve growth and success in his trucking industry career. The Kenworth T680 will serve him well,” said Berreth.

“Joseph Campbell is a very deserving, 24-year veteran, and we commend Kenworth’s partnership and commitment by once again providing a Kenworth T680 to help service members make these transitions into industry,” said Eric Eversole of Hiring Our Heroes.

Runner-up award winners included Christopher Bacon (U.S. Marines) of TMC Transportation, Wade Bumgarner (U.S. Navy) of Veriha Trucking and Steve Harris (U.S. Marines) of Stevens Transport. Harris received $10,000 as the first runner-up, while Bumgarner and Bacon each received $5,000.

According to Brad Bentley of FASTPORT, the four finalists were determined by tallying scores from a Selection Committee. The four advanced to an online vote on the Transition Trucking website https://www.transitiontrucking.org, where people could view a video of each driver and submit votes for the top military rookie driver. In the closest competition in the contest’s history, Campbell received the highest overall tally.

Drivers were nominated by trucking companies that made a hiring commitment and pledge to hire veterans on www.truckingtrack.org and by members of the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools and Commercial Vehicle Training Association-member schools.

“Joseph Campbell separated himself by serving in two branches of the military, then translating those skills as an apprentice in Roehl’s Flatbed Division. He understands that his first responsibility is protecting the motoring public and then picking up and delivering cargo on-time and undamaged. Joseph demonstrated that by completing his first year of employment accident free,” said Bentley. “These military service members who transitioned into careers as professional drivers are hard-working, dependable, motivated, ethical and disciplined team players – an asset to the trucking industry and their companies.”

Other truck drivers who achieved Top 10 finalist status include:

–Thomas Blitch/U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves/Werner Enterprises

–Keso Going/U.S. Army/Epes Transport

–Kevin Lassing/ U.S. Army/U.S. Xpress

–Maliq Melton/U.S. Army, Melton Truck Lines

–Monte Morrone/U.S. Army and U.S. Marines/Prime Inc.

–Timothy Raub/ U.S. Navy/Averitt Express

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Pelosi reveals agreement on revamped U.S. Mexico Canada trade pact

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by House Congress members speaks at a news conference to discuss the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press: ANDREW HARNIK)

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced agreement on a modified North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a major Capitol Hill win on the same day that Democrats announced their impeachment charges against him.

The California Democrat said the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement, crediting Democratic negotiators for winning stronger provisions on enforcing the agreement.

“There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” Pelosi said in announcing the agreement, saying the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”

Trump said the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.

“It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody – Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions – tremendous support. Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!,” the president said in a tweet.

In Mexico City, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Monday night that there would be a meeting of the three countries’ negotiating teams Tuesday “to announce the advances achieved” on the trade agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is slated to appear.

American Trucking Associations leaders hailed the agreement that paves the way for USMCA’s ratification in Congress.

“Now with a clear path to USMCA’s ratification, this is an historic victory for truck drivers, motor carriers and the entire American economy,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “The vast majority of trade in North America moves on truck, with $772 billion worth of goods crossing our borders with Mexico and Canada every year. USCMA will provide the certainty our industry needs while ensuring the United States remains competitive on the world stage.”

“Trade is a tremendous driver of revenue and creator of jobs in trucking, which is why passing USMCA has been so important to our industry,” said ATA Chairman Randy Guillot, president of Triple G Express Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana. “Trade with our two closest neighbors supports nearly 90,000 Americans in trucking-related jobs and generates $12.62 billion in annual revenue for our industry. As USMCA deepens our economic ties, we expect these figures – like our economies – to continue to increase.”

“In a Washington that has been gridlocked by partisan politics, this is a great example of what is possible in creating consensus around good policy,” Spear said. “Truckers and our economy depend on good policymaking, and this bipartisan agreement is a reminder of how government can make our lives and businesses stronger. I thank President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and all who have put disagreements aside to achieve this historic agreement.”

The announcement came on the same morning that Democrats outlined impeachment charges against Trump. The pact is Trump’s top Capitol Hill priority along with funding for his long-sought border fence.

Vice President Mike Pence, a foot soldier in the administration’s campaign to sell the accord, said Pelosi had “acquiesced” in slating the pact for a vote this year.

“The USMCA will create even more jobs for the hardworking families who are the backbone of our economy – the farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small business owners,” Pence said in a statement.

Pelosi is the key congressional force behind the accord, which updates the 25-year-old NAFTA accord that many Democrats — especially from manufacturing areas hit hard by trade-related job losses — have long lambasted.

Pelosi has negotiated with the administration extensively to win stronger enforcement provisions. Her efforts have appeared to build support among Democrats.

“There are those who I read about in one place or another that say, ‘why would you give President Trump a victory?'” Pelosi said Monday night at a Wall Street Journal event for corporate executives. “Well, why wouldn’t we? This is the right thing to do for our trade situation, for our workers.”

NAFTA eliminated most tariffs and other trade barriers involving the United States, Mexico and Canada. Critics, including Trump, labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers, branded the pact a job killer for the United States because it encouraged factories to move south of the border, capitalize on low-wage Mexican workers and ship products back to the U.S. duty free.

Weeks of back-and-forth, closely monitored by Democratic labor allies such as the AFL-CIO, have brought the two sides together. Pelosi is a longtime free trade advocate and supported the original NAFTA in 1994. Trump has accused Pelosi of being incapable of passing the agreement because she is too wrapped up in impeachment.

The original NAFTA badly divided Democrats but the new pact is more protectionist and labor-friendly, and Pelosi is confident it won’t divide the party, though some liberal activists took to social media to carp at the agreement.

“There is no denying that the trade rules in America will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance. Working people have created a new standard for future trade negotiations,”said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “President Trump may have opened this deal. But working people closed it.”

Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also chimed in to support the long-delayed agreement.

“We are optimistic this development will open the door to final approval of USMCA on a bipartisan basis by the end of the year, which will especially benefit American farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses,” Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“This agreement has been the result of painstaking bipartisan negotiations over the past year, and would not have been possible if not for the willingness of President Trump to work patiently with Democrats to get something done that he knew was in the best interests of American workers, farmers and manufacturers,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a former U.S. trade representative.

Republicans leaders and lawmakers have agitated for months for the accord but Pelosi has painstakingly worked to bring labor on board. Democrats see the pact as significantly better than NAFTA and Trumka’s endorsement is likely to add to a strong vote by Democrats that have proven skeptical of trade agreements.

“I think the vote’s going to be pretty good,” said No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer, D-Md., a veteran party whip. “There’s a general agreement — not total agreement, it’s not unanimity — that USMCA is better. It’s an improvement. And to the extent that Trumka and labor comes out and says that this is an improvement, I think that that will be unifying.”

The pact contains provisions designed to nudge manufacturing back to the United States. For example, it requires that 40% to 45% of cars eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States and Canada and not in Mexico.

The trade pact picked up some momentum after Mexico in April passed a labor-law overhaul required by USMCA. The reforms are meant to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions, narrowing the gap with the United States.

The end-stage talks focused on provisions to improve the enforcement of the accord.

 

 

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