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Pilot Flying J throws a party for trucking enthusiast Brandon Chace’s 24th birthday

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Brandon Chace, seated in red hat and yellow vest, along with members of the Pilot Flying J staff at Barstow, California, and with Brandon's family, gives a thumbs up sign during his 24th birthday party. (Courtesy: PILOT FLYING J)

HESPERIA and BARSTOW, Calif. — Brandon Chace has a love for semi-trucks and is the “world’s biggest trucking fan,” according to his dad, Patrick.

Six years ago, Brandon stopped for the first time at a Pilot Flying J travel center while on a trip with his family. He was so excited to see all of the trucks and especially to meet the drivers. Brandon and his dad have since made frequent visits, becoming friends with the store managers and getting autographs from the many drivers stopping in.

Brandon Chace sits in the cab of a Pilot Flying J tanker during his 24th birthday party. (Courtesy: PILOT FLYING J)

“Brandon and I have been walking around the travel center together for years getting autographs and speaking with the drivers,” said Mark, general manager for the Pilot Travel Center in Hesperia.

Patrick reached out to Pilot Flying J to share that for Brandon’s upcoming 24th birthday, he passed up the chance to go to Disneyland so that he could visit our travel center to watch the trucks and talk with professional drivers.

In this post, Brandon Chace’s dad Patrick talks about his son’s enthusiasm for the trucking industry. (Courtesy: PILOT FLYING J)

The Pilot Flying J team was thrilled to have the opportunity to throw Brandon a birthday party complete with balloons, cake and Pilot Flying J swag. Of course, a birthday wouldn’t be complete without a surprise.

Pilot Flying J tanker drivers surprised Brandon with a ride-along in one of the tanker trucks. “Brandon was really excited to be riding in the tanker. He was also eager to get back to the drivers at the Travel Center to talk and get more autographs,” said Bobby, one of the tanker drivers.

Mark drove Brandon around the travel center in a golf cart to receive autographs and take a tour of the whole site.

His enthusiasm was so contagious that other guests joined in celebrating Brandon.

“Loud truck horns could be heard all over as Brandon waved and encouraged drivers to honk,” said Don, another one of the tanker drivers who helped celebrate Brandon’s birthday.

Brandon said it “was the best day of his life,” and it was obvious the guests and team members that joined in the celebration would agree that it was an incredible and unforgettable day.

“I want to thank Mark, Bobby and the Pilot Flying J team for making Brandon’s dreams come true,” said Brandon’s dad.

Brandon is a great reminder that professional drivers should be celebrated not only during Driver Appreciation Month but every day.

Pilot Flying J officials said they were happy to celebrate Brandon’s birthday at its store in Barstow. “They say don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Brandon definitely smelled the roses that day and they smelled like diesel,” Don said.

Mark looks forward to throwing Brandon a birthday party next year. He summed up the day describing that “the smile on Brandon’s face was priceless. It’s the little things in life that are most important.”

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The Nation

Lane Departures: Why would California lawmakers saddle trucking with the ABC test?

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Well, he said he’d do it.

If you look elsewhere on this website, you’ll see a story I did about a week ago about AB5, a bill passed by the California Senate on September 10 into the waiting arms of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had long telegraphed he was looking forward to signing it.

Yesterday, he did it. And come the new year, trucking is going to have to live with it.

AB5 — the full name is the “Employees and Independent Contractors” bill — is ostensibly intended to prevent employers from exploiting workers and skirting expenses by relying on “independent contractors” to make their businesses run instead of hiring full-fledged employees, who come with all kinds of nasty baggage like guaranteed minimum wages, overtime and payroll taxes, mandatory breaks, insurance and other horrific profit reducers.

The bill got off the ground in the wake of a court case last year in which a delivery company called Dynamex was determined to have improperly reclassified its workers as independent contractors in order to save money.  In making the decision, the court applied what is known as the ABC test, which presumes all workers should be classified as employees unless they meet three criteria.

Like the court case, the bill, which will codify the ABC test across the state, seems to have been at least in spirit aimed at companies like Dynamex that are part of that there so-called “gig economy” all the young folks are so hopped up about. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are almost always mentioned as Public Enemies 1A and 1B of supposed independent contractor charlatans.

The problem with AB5, its critics say, is it proposes to perform an appendectomy with a chainsaw, ripping into industries that have long-established business models that extensively use independent contractors to the satisfaction of all involved.

A great big example would be trucking, because it appears the ABC test would prevent carriers from contracting with owner-operators or smaller fleets in California. I’ll let you imagine the consequences if that’s true.

If you’ve read the article, or your planning to read the article, I’d like to apologize in advance because as I’ve been learning about this AB5 business, I have some lingering questions that I could not answer. I have calls out to a couple of experts on the legal and logistical nuances. Unfortunately, experts don’t observe journalistic deadlines.

But then, I figured, this story is going to be around a while, so we can keep building on what we know. I may have answers to some of these questions by the time you read this. Or maybe you will be able to provide some of the answers. I mean, you don’t need to have a title or a degree or be part of a think tank to know a thing or two.

My first question is this: They didn’t pull this ABC test out of thin air. A majority of states already use the test in some manner on matters of job status. California’s application of ABC is based on Massachusetts’ broad, strict use of the test. So, hasn’t trucking had to contend with this standard there and in in other states already? I haven’t heard reports of empty store shelves in Massachusetts. Is there some simple workaround already in existence just waiting for cooler heads to prevail?

Second, from what I gather, ABC has had its critics for as long as it’s existed. Is it just the sheer size of California’s economy that makes this case so important or somehow different?

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say “probably.” Last year, California’s economy outgrew that of Great Britain. If it were an independent country, California would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. And what happens in California rarely stays in California. The state has a major influence on the rest of the nation.

California’s economy is closing in on $3 trillion a year. Real estate, finance, the entertainment industry and that nest of tech behemoths in Silicon Valley are responsible for big chunks of that.

And let’s not forget agriculture. California ranches and farms reaped $50 billion in receipts in 2017. That’s a lot of food, a lot of truckloads.

California also has some of the nation’s largest seaports. The Port of Long Beach alone sees about $200 billion in cargo a year, with 11,000 truckloads leaving the port each day. And most of what doesn’t go by truck from there eventually winds up on a truck somewhere inland.

Add it all up, and trucking is a huge player in the California economic machine. Why would lawmakers want to strip its gears with this law? Some lawmakers are even on record saying they are worried about what this could do to the industry. Then why are they doing it?

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, is not some gung-ho rookie lawmaker. She’s in her third term, and she already has made a national name for herself as a champion of the working class with several pieces of legislation she has supported.

AB5 could fit into that collection quite nicely. But it isn’t a trophy she needs in a hurry. She won her last two reelection campaigns by about a 3-1 margin.

And she’s also been around enough that she surely understands that despite its best intentions, the broad-stroke, one-size-fits-all approach AB5 takes will do more harm than good to many industries, including trucking.

In fact, she’s as much as said so. Gonzalez has already indicated that once the bill becomes law, she’d be open to making amendments and granting exemptions.

So why wait? The bill already grants exemptions to real estate, to doctors and dentists. Even newspaper delivery people got a last-minute, one-year exemption.

The California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association pushed for an exemption. Dozens of truck drivers testified in Sacramento. And you have to think state legislators are at least vaguely aware of what goes on in their own districts.

So, they could grasp the importance of the guy who throws a newspaper in their driveway from a passing car at 4 a.m., but not of the people who deliver, like, everything everywhere all the time?

We all know how long fixing bad legislation can take. Even if they put it on the “fast track,” how much damage will occur before trucking can get an exemption?

I did hear back from one legal expert on the matter. Greg Feary, president and managing partner at Scopelitus, Garvin, Light, Hansen and Feary LLC, said there are a couple of cases in Ninth Circuit Court that could spell relief for the trucking industry. Even so, the legal system can move almost as slowly as the legislative system. He estimates California truckers are going to have to live with AB5 for at least a year.

Questions abound. I’m not looking forward to some of the answers.

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Trucking submarine style in Texas

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Texas is getting hit hard with flooding.  This takes it to new levels!


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Flooding in Texas – That cab’s gonna be a bit damp!

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KHOU reporter Melissa Correa happened to be on scene and captured this video.  Another motorist grabbed a hammer and rope and saved the drivers life.

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