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Somali immigrant driver shares story of happiness and success in trucking

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Somali immigrant driver shares story of happiness and success in trucking
Fahin Ahmed drives for Dart Transit. His ambition goes a lot further that just driving. One day, he wants his name painted on the side of a truck. (The Trucker: Kris Rutherford)

Okay. The Christmas/New Year’s Day holiday is over, and it’s time to return to school.

Let’s begin with geography. Today’s lesson is Somalia, a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Guardafui Channel and Somali Sea to the east and Kenya to the southwest.

It is located 9,376 miles from San Francisco (we’ll explain the significance momentarily) and 8,572 miles from Little Rock, Arkansas, where The Trucker met Fahin Ahmed on a crisp mid-winter afternoon in early January.

Ahmed is an immigrant success story in the making.

He’s been in America since 2005, when Ahmed, his mother and three brothers rejoined by a loving father who had left his family behind for three years in order to work at a service station in San Francisco (there’s the mileage connection) and save money to move the rest of the family to the United States. He chose San Francisco because of its climate, Fahin said.

When he arrived in the U.S., Fahin followed in his father’s footsteps by working at a service station.

Eventually, he found a job as a security officer at a company where he saw big rigs come and go on a regular basis.

Those comings and goings piqued his interest about the trucking industry.

“I asked the truck drivers ‘how much money are you guys making?’” Ahmed, now 36, said. “They said they made real good money.”

That was just what Ahmed wanted to hear, so a couple of years ago it was off to school to get his CDL at CRST International.

Upon completing CDL school, Ahmed worked for a while at CRST International, eventually taking a short one-month respite from driving before deciding he wanted to return to the road.

He landed at Dart Transit, a well-known carrier headquartered at Eagan, Minnesota.

“They hired me because they only require one year of experience,” Ahmed said.

When asked what he appreciated about driving a truck, Ahmed gave the same answer one usually hears from a truck driver, regardless of age and regardless how many years they’ve been on the road: he enjoys seeing the countryside.

But wait, another answer came quickly.

“What I enjoy the most is being able to make and save money,” Ahmed said.

Somalia, you see, ranks among the 10 poorest countries in the world. With a population of around 12.3 million, it is estimated that 43% of the population live in extreme poverty earning less than one U.S. dollar a day. Over half the labor force is unemployed.

Can you imagine the appreciation of a young man who can make as much or more money driving a big rig two miles down the road and earn more in two minutes than a fellow countryman can make in one day?

Ahmed said if someone asked about truck driving by someone who was considering it as a career, he would encourage them to sign up.

“The money is good, and the longer you stay in the business, the more you can make,” he added

One thing that Ahmed doesn’t like about driving in the U.S. is winter driving.

That’s understandable when you learn that the Somalia’s coolest average monthly low is 68 degrees in December and the highest average maximum is 106 degrees in June and July followed closely by August at 104 degrees and 102 in September.

“I don’t like the north during the winter. I try and stay in the warmer winter climates…Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas,” he said.

Ambition for Ahmed doesn’t end with just driving a truck.

“This is a long-term career for me,” he said. “I want to do this for a long time. I want to be able to buy and truck and get my name painted on the side.”

A wonderful ambition for a young man who is happy and doing well a long, long way from home.

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The Nation

House endorses adopting California AB5 provisions at federal level

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U.s. house of representatives passes pro act; endorses adopting california ab5 law at federal level
Owner-operators and carriers are weary of California's AB5 morphing into federal law. Introduced as the PRO Act, the proposed legislation will have far-reaching impacts on all sectors of the trucking industry.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation similar to California’s AB5 law in that it requires employers to prove that independent contractors used in conducting business should not be classified as employees. The controversial California law, as applied to the trucking industry, is currently under an injunction imposed by a U.S. District Court judge that prohibits its enforcement. California-based carriers, the California Trucking Association (CTA) and owner-operators doing business in the state, as well as trucking organizations on national and state levels, have all publicly opposed AB5. The Trucker previously reported that industry leaders feared a law like AB5 would spread beyond California’s borders. With Congress considering the “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act (HR 2474), those fears appear credible.

As widely discussed in trucking-industry circles, AB5 places the burden upon employers when classifying workers as employees or independent contractors. If a worker’s circumstances do not pass all components of a three-prong test, the individual is deemed an employee, a classification impacting company operations and the individual’s ability to choose working status. For this reason, many owner-operators who entered the business for its self-employment opportunities oppose AB5.

The federal PRO legislation incorporates the same tests imposed under AB5 and applies them nationwide. CTA contends that AB5 is prohibited under federal law, an argument with which the judge ruling in favor of the request for an injunction was noted as appearing to agree. With the injunction in place, the PRO Act could be considered a case of amending federal law for the purpose of allowing a state law to be enforceable.

The language in the federal act as included in Section 2(a)(2) defines an employee under the same terms as discussed in AB5. As with the California law, the sticking point relates to the (B) prong of the test. Under the (B) prong, a company cannot hire an independent contractor to perform tasks, inherent to the company’s business, which other employees already perform. A carrier in the business of moving freight and employing individuals who move freight could not hire an independent contractor to perform similar tasks.

Should PRO receive U.S. Senate approval, something political pundits doubt is possible, it would be passed to President Donald Trump to either sign into law or veto. Of the two, a veto seems most likely, as the administration has stated PRO “appears to cut and paste the core provisions of California’s controversial AB5, which severely restricts self-employment. AB5 is actively threatening the existence of both the franchise business sector and the gig economy in California. It would be a serious mistake for Congress to impose this flawed job-killing policy on the entire country.”

Truckers nationwide should remain in tune with further action on PRO. It may impact many careers.

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The Nation

OKC police confirm security guard who shot truck driver at TA has died by suicide

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police lights stock photo
A security guard who discharged his weapon, shooting a truck driver during an altercation at an Oklahoma City TA Travel Center, has taken his own life.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A security guard who shot a truck driver earlier this month during an altercation with a truck driver in Oklahoma City has died by suicide.

Sgt. Brad Gilmore, assistant public-information officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department, confirmed that 45-year-old George Bischoff went to a local shooting range, Big Boys Guns, Ammo & Range, on Feb. 20 around 1:35 p.m. and took his own life with a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Bischoff had been questioned twice regarding an altercation that took place Feb. 14 around 4:30 a.m. in which he confronted a truck driver, 42-year-old Paul Sisk, at a TA Travel Center in Oklahoma City regarding a reserved parking space.

“Somewhere during that altercation, it became physical and the security guard fired one shot, hitting the truck driver,” Gilmore said. “The truck driver was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and has since been released.”

Gilmore said the security guard was initially questioned following the incident but at that time, Gilmore said, police had not yet had a chance to talk to the truck driver.

“The security guard was brought back in and questioned again, and we were in the process of discussing the case with the district attorney’s office; and on our end, charges had not been filed,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore could not confirm whether the gun used at the range was rented or owned by Bischoff, but he said local news outlets have reported that the gun was rented.  Gilmore said the incident remains under investigation.

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The Nation

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations

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Fmcsa’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations in first weeks of operation
FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse program is designed to improve road safety by identifying drivers who are barred from driving commercial vehicles due to drug violations. (iStock photo)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released data on Feb. 21 following the first weeks of operation of its Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The information released showed the clearinghouse has detected and identified nearly 8,000 positive substance-abuse tests of commercial drivers since Jan. 6. The clearinghouse now has more than 650,000 registrants.

“We’ve seen encouraging results from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, but there’s still work to do to ensure we identify more drivers who should not be behind the wheel. The clearinghouse is a positive step, and the Agency continues to work closely with industry, law enforcement, and our state partners to ensure its implementation is effective,” said Jim Mullen, FMCSA acting administrator.

The clearinghouse is aimed at improving road safety by providing FMCSA and employers with the necessary tools to identify drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements and are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle. The goal of the clearinghouse is to ensure that such drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before they have the opportunity to resume driving.

Those required to register for the clearinghouse include:

  • Employers of commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders, or their designated service agents, and medical review officers who report drug and alcohol program violations that occurred on or after Jan. 6, 2020;
  • Employers or their designated service agents who conduct required queries that inform them whether prospective or current employees have drug and alcohol program violations in their clearinghouse records. Employers must purchase a query plan before conducting queries in the clearinghouse – query plans must be purchased from the FMCSA clearinghouse website only;
  • Drivers who respond to employer consent requests or would like to view their clearinghouse record when applying for a job; and
  • Substance abuse professionals who report on the completion of driver initial assessments and driver eligibility for return-to-duty testing for violations committed on or after Jan. 6, 2020.

There is no cost for registration. Commercial drivers are not required to immediately register for the clearinghouse but will need to register to respond to an employer’s request for consent prior to a pre-employment query or other full query being conducted. In addition, employers must be registered during the first year of implementation to ensure they are able to conduct the required annual query on all employed drivers.

Combatting drug abuse has been a top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration. President Trump has brought attention to the nation’s opioid crisis by declaring it a nationwide public health emergency and has implemented critical federal initiatives to help reduce opioid abuse.

For information about FMCSA’s clearinghouse program, including user brochures and instructional aids with step-by-step registration instructions, visit clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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