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TCA names 3 ABF Freight System drivers as Highway Angels

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Left to right, Joseph Wilbur, Jim Kurent and Terry Whittington, all drivers for ABF Freight System of Fort Smith, Arkansas, have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association. (Courtesy: TRUCKLOAD CARRIERS ASSOCIATION)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Joseph Wilbur, Jim Kurent and Terry Whittington have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association for heroic actions while on duty.

Kurent, who lives in Burlington, Vermont, and drivers for ABF Freight System of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was recognized for acting quickly to avoid a major highway collision.

On January 19, Kurent was on a two-lane highway in Vermont when a Subaru going in the opposite direction at 50 mph when it crossed over the center line right in front of him. Without a moment to spare, he swerved to avoid hitting the car head-on. The car bounced off the side of Kurent’s truck and ended up on the other side of the road.

Kurent’s truck slid in to a ditch, but he was able to get out of the cab. Uninjured, he walked over to check on the driver of the Subaru. It was later determined that the man was apparently listening to a book on tape and was distracted; the motorist did not notice he had drifted into oncoming traffic.

“I wouldn’t say this was a heroic deed, but I was just alert and doing my job as I always do,” Kurent said. “The driver of the car made a comment that my actions saved his life. I don’t know about that. But if I wouldn’t have been alert and swerved into the ditch, 50 miles an hour versus 50 miles an hour head-on would not have turned out as safe as it did.”

Wilbur, who lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and is a professional truck driver with ABF Freight System, was recognized for assisting at the scene of an accident caused by a wrong-way driver.

It was 3 a.m. and Wilbur had just left New Haven, Connecticut, and was northbound on I-95. Wilbur is a utility driver for ABF but was filling in for someone that night. Driving along, something  caught his attention on the southbound side. Taillights. A wrong-way driver was in the left lane driving north, against traffic.

Wilbur called 911 and was connected to a dispatcher with the Connecticut State Police. He managed to keep pace with the wrong-way driver, calling out mile markers and exits along the way to the dispatcher.

Thankfully, traffic was light. Southbound drivers were doing their best to avoid a collision. However, Wilbur said, the wrong-way driver never slowed down or swerved. As the driver approached a cluster of vehicles, one car didn’t have enough time to move out of the way.

The wrong-way driver hit the vehicle head-on, spinning it off to the side as the wrong-way driver’s vehicle rolled multiple times, right next to Wilbur, and landed on its roof. Wilbur quickly pulled to the shoulder and jumped the barrier. He could see red flashing lights coming toward the scene. It was an EMT, driving solo on his way back from a transport.

Wilbur and the EMT managed to pull back the driver’s door and found the driver unconscious and hanging upside down, still in his seat belt. Wilbur told the EMT he would help him extract the man. The EMT handed him sterile gloves and Wilbur crawled into the car to lift the pressure off the belt as the EMT cut it.

They then slid the driver out of the vehicle as he regained consciousness and began thrashing about. Wilbur stayed with the driver, who appeared to have head injuries, and kept him still while the EMT retrieved a neck collar.

Whittington, who lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and is a professional truck driver with ABF Freight System, also of Fort Smith, has been recognized for helping a fellow truck driver that was struck by a passing motorist while inspecting his vehicle.

It was 7:30 a.m. in June 2018, and Whittington was leaving Fontana, California, on Interstate 10 on his way back to his home terminal in Phoenix. He slowed as he saw an accident up ahead of him. Another tractor-trailer was parked on the right shoulder and Whittington could see what appeared to be a tarp lying in the road. However, as he got closer, he  realized it was a man lying in the road. Whittington quickly pulled to the right shoulder and ran over to the man, calling 911 as he did so. The driver was conscious and crying out for someone to help him get up.

Whittington learned the man was a driver for Roehl Transport who had pulled over to check his equipment when he was struck by a U-Haul vehicle pulling a car. The U-Haul had drifted toward the right shoulder when it struck the Roehl driver. The man’s legs were badly injured. Whittington got a jacket from his cab to place over the driver as he was clearly in shock and losing a great deal of blood. Whittington stayed with the driver to comfort him until first responders arrived. He later learned the driver passed away in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

“It was horrible,” Whittington said. “I just wanted to sit there and cry.” Over the ensuing days he had a hard time sleeping. “I kept envisioning that poor man and how he was asking me to help him get up. All he did was pull over to check his equipment and now he’s dead. People need to pay more attention when they’re out there on the road.”

Whittington has been a teamster for 32 years and has worked for ABF Freight for three years.

For their willingness to help in a time of need, Wilbur, Kurent and Whittington were presented with a certificate, patch, lapel pin and truck decals. ABF Freight has also received a certificate acknowledging their drivers as Highway Angels. Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job. EpicVue sponsors TCA’s Highway Angel program.

 

 

 

 

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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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