When people ask me about my job, one of the most common questions is where we get stuff to write about.
I wish I could say we keep our company Lear Jet on permanent standby to whisk us from Little Rock to wherever the action is. The truth is nowhere near as cool. We get most of it right here at our desks. Some of it comes to us in the form of press releases. We find other stuff on the news wire services, like Associated Press. A lot of the rest of it, we get from Googling. If we see something big or breaking, or cool and weird, we look into it.
My day usually starts with a keyword search of the world. A few days ago, it appeared that one item was by far the most important thing happening on planet Earth, at least under the headings “truck,” “trucking” and “tractor-trailer.” There were about a half-dozen websites posting on it. Immediately, I refreshed my coffee, then my fingers sprang into action to investigate.
Stop the presses, everyone, the story was about a new video game called Truck Driver due to be released in September. The game is produced by a Dutch company called SOEDESCO. Personally, I haven’t played a video game since the last time I ran out of quarters at the 7-Eleven. That was 1986, as I recall, so I couldn’t tell you if SOEDESCO is a major player in the game design world, but the press release and preview video for the game had apparently set the gaming world agog.
Apparently, this new game is going to put all previous truck driving video games to shame. “Really?” I thought. “There’ve been others?” I checked. Yes, there have — several, in fact. But this one promises to be the most realistic trucking experience available.
According to the official literature, some of the most exciting aspects of Truck Driver is you get to (and this is word for word): “Enjoy a trucking experience focused on your career as a truck driver, build stronger relationships with the local community with each job, customize your truck with tons of parts and tune it to your liking, explore a vast open world and watch it progress with you, navigate through beautiful landscapes and fully explorable cities.”
All without leaving mom’s basement.
I watched the preview video and read the literature. The premise of the game is that you’ve inherited a truck from your uncle, and the game is to become a successful independent owner-operator. You have to “interact” with fictional “customers,” building “relationships” by successfully hauling loads. The game features fun-filled challenges like backing up, hitching a trailer and pulling up to a fuel pump, and then traversing artificial highways and byways without crashing into stuff.
The first thing you do is pick your avatar. You can be male or female, white or black. All the choices are young, good-looking and incredibly fit, you know, just like real truck drivers.
I started to wonder if the game’s realism might be overstated. I had some questions the promotional video didn’t address. Does the game include being stuck at a shipper for hours on end? Do the challenges include finding parking for the night? How many braindead four-wheelers do you have to share the simulated road with?
Given the addictive tendencies of some of these gamers, is there a penalty for HOS violations?
On one of the websites that was sharing this major announcement, someone commented they looked forward to playing this game, right after they get done with “Hanging Sheetrock” and “Ditch Digging.” My reaction had been similar. Granted, as I said, when I left video games behind, they consisted of shooting space bugs, apes who threw things at you and round things trying to eat other round things. I know video games have gotten much more sophisticated and diverse and immersive.
Still, when I think of interactive fantasy play, hauling logs is never the fantasy.
I wasn’t sure how real truck drivers would react to this game. Would they find it ridiculous, maybe even insulting that their profession has been packaged into an oversimplified, sanitized game? Or that some of these passive dolts will think they now know all about trucking because they reached Level 4, or whatever?
If they really want to know what being a truck driver is like, hey, there are plenty of jobs available. They can pry their butts out of the La-Z-Boy and come find out.
Then again, it’s kind of flattering. Truckers often complain how disrespected they are, how people look down on them. The mere existence of a game like this shows that on some level, the opposite is true. Now, as always, the truck driver holds a certain mystique to outsiders. People are fascinated and intimidated at how you handle those enormous vehicles. You represent the romance of the open road. You’re mysterious in a cool way, kind of like a cowboy.
OK, maybe the game doesn’t show what it’s really like to be a truck driver. Maybe that isn’t the point. It’s about fantasy.
I looked to see if I could find any “pretend you’re a journalist” video games out there. Not a one.
If there is, I doubt I’d recommend it
NATSO releases industry guide addressing top industry questions
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NATSO, representing America’s travel plazas and truckstops, has released a detailed industry guide answering the top questions about the travel center industry.
Industry knowledge can improve business performance and help operators drive targeted results, according to Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president, membership.
But finding answers isn’t always easy. This is why Schulte dug into the more frequently asked questions about the truckstop and travel center industry and answered them in this new industry guide.
“Answers to the Top 18 Questions about the Travel Center Industry” is an essential resource for data on travel center and truckstop industry operations, Schulte said. The guide contains comparable data that operators can utilize to assess their own operations and better understand the competitive landscape. Operators can then use this information to improve their analysis and strategize advantageous investment decisions.
With the report in hand, operators can gain greater insight into the average sales at a full-service restaurant or a garage or service center, how much a professional truck driver spends on fuel at a truckstop, average staffing costs at a location, and specific sales and costs within a location.
The downloadable “Answers to the Top 18 Questions About the Travel Center Industry” is available for free to NATSO members and non-members for $250.
“The Answers to the Top 18 Questions About the Travel Center Industry” was produced in partnership with Travel Center Profit Drivers, a NATSO initiative that provides access to specialized, experienced consultants and the tools they have created to help travel centers thrive. Truckstop and travel center operators looking for help building or growing their business should contact Don Quinn, NATSO Services vice president, at (703) 739-8572 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how the NATSO team can help.
Ohio’s Scott Woodrome wins top honors at National Truck Driving Championships
PITTSBURGH — Scott Woodrome, a professional truck driver from Middletown, Ohio, representing team FedEx Freight, has been named the Bendix Grand Champion of the 2019 National Truck Driving Championships conducted by the American Trucking Associations.
This is Woodrome’s second consecutive year of winning the Bendix Grand Champion trophy.
“Congratulations to Scott and his great team at FedEx Freight, as well as the entire Ohio trucking industry, for repeating as this year’s Bendix Grand Champion Award winner,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This process began with thousands of drivers competing at the state level, but only one driver can emerge as overall grand champion. It’s a true reflection of Scott’s commitment to safety and the trucking industry as a whole that he was able to take home top honors again this year.”
Woodrome, a longtime competitor in truck driving championships with more than 1.8 million lifetime safe driving miles, competed in the Twins division. He has been in the trucking industry for 25 years, spending 13 of those years with FedEx Freight.
Woodrome took home the 2018 Bendix Grand Champion Award for his performance in the Tanker class, as well as the 2017 National Champion Award in the Tanker class and six Ohio state championships.
“It’s been such an honor to host hundreds of our nation’s elite truck drivers this week and showcase their skills as safe professionals,” said ATA Chairman Barry Pottle, president of Pottle’s Transportation. “From start to finish, Pittsburgh was a great location and we loved to see such enthusiastic support from the families and friends who came out to support these impressive drivers.”
ATA also recognized John Sanderson as the 2019 Rookie of the Year. Sanderson claimed the title after an outstanding performance in the three-axle division. To be a “rookie,” drivers must be first-time competitors at the state level who advanced to nationals. This year, there were 32 rookies competing at the National Truck Driving Championships. Sanderson was the only rookie who advanced to the championship round of competition.
In addition to the individual awards, the team of drivers from Pennsylvania went home with the Team Championship. Pennsylvania hosted this week’s competition and had three drivers advance to the championship round of competition. The state of North Carolina took home 2nd place honors, with Virginia coming in 3rd place.
Several individuals excelled outside the driving course throughout this week’s competition, demonstrating their professionalism, knowledge and dedication to the trucking industry. Professional truck driver Robert Dolan of XPO Logistics was recognized with the highly-coveted Professional Excellence award. Additionally, Jason Imhoff of Walmart Transportation is taking home the Vehicle Condition Award for his outstanding performance during the pre-trip inspections.
Nine drivers achieved perfect scores on the written exam phase of the championships and are receiving the Highest Written Exam Award for their efforts. The nine drivers were Paul Brandon, Miguel Corral, Ina Daly, Brent Glasenapp, Julie Hjelle, Barry Kraemer, Jottyn Santos, Jimmie Wisley and Scott Woodrome.
Champions from each of the nine vehicle classes were also announced. Joining Woodrome on the list of national champions include (listed in order of first, second and third with company and home state):
Three-axle: Brian Walker, UPS Freight, North Carolina; Jeffrey Slaten, YRC Freight, Florida; and John Sanderson, FedEx Express, Oregon
Four axle: Adam Heim, FedEx Freight, Idaho; David Rohman, FedEx Express, North Carolina; and James Plaxco, Old Dominion Freight Line, Oregon;
Five axle: David Hall, ABF Freight, Arkansas; Ina Daly, XPO Logistics, Arizona; and Alphonso Lewis, YRC Freight, Alabama.
Flatbed: Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight, North Carolina; Scott Osborne, FedEx Freight, Mississippi; and Eric Flick, FedEx Freight, Nevada.
Sleeper Berth: Mike White, Walmart Transportation, Indiana; Terry Wood, Walmart Transportation, Pennsylvania; and Michael Barnes, Walmart Transportation, Virginia.
Straight Truck: Jason Imhoff; Walmart Transportation, Ohio; Robert Dolan, XPO Logistics, Pennsylvania; and Matthew Hart, FedEx Freight, Nevada
Tank Truck: Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight, Connecticut; George Wells, Shamrock Foods, Arizona; and Cecil Hicks, FedEx Freight, North Carolina
Twins: Scott Woodrome, FedEx Freight, Ohio; David Mogler, FedEx Freight, Colorado; and Shannon Lynch, United Parcel Service, Indiana
Step Van: Adam Stroup, FedEx Express, Nebraska; Gregory Long, FedEx Express, Virginia; and Eric Damon, FedEx Express, Colorado.
ACT 1 served as a premier sponsor of the 2019 National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.
Since 2011, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems has been the sole sponsor of the Bendix National Truck Driving Championships Grand Champion.
Peterbilt Motors opens fifth technician institute campus
DENTON, Texas — Peterbilt Motors Co. has opened the company’s fifth Peterbilt Technician Institute (PTI) campus in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
“The PTI program helps meet the Peterbilt dealer network’s growing demand for entry level qualified diesel technicians. The unique value proposition for graduates of PTI is finding its graduates jobs that often turn into long-term careers,” said Brian Brooks, program manager for the Peterbilt Technician Institute.
“The 50% growth of the Peterbilt dealer network this decade ensures that there are plenty of long-term career opportunities with our dealers, many of which begin as a diesel technician. Through the Peterbilt Technician Institute, Peterbilt is educating the next generation of diesel technicians to deliver exceptional service and drive uptime for our customers,” added Peterbilt’s Technician Program Manager Curtis Crisp.
Since launching in 2013, the PTI program has graduated more than 600 factory-certified technicians and boasts a 95% placement rate at a Peterbilt service location.
Each PTI student earns 12 Peterbilt certifications as well as certifications for both the PACCAR MX-11 and MX-13 engines as they prepare for a career in the diesel industry. PTI is a collaborative program with Universal Technical Institute.
For more information about Peterbilt, visit www.peterbilt.com.
Schneider inducts 26 elite drivers into Haul of Fame for career achievements in safety
NATSO releases industry guide addressing top industry questions
ATA Truck Tonnage Index surges 6.6% in July, 7.3% higher than July 2018
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