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Trucking loses staunch safety advocate with loss of RJ

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RJ Taylor received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America in 2005. (The Trucker file photo)

A recent e-mail brought the sad news that RJ Taylor passed away at the age of 75.

In 1986, RJ founded Ol’ Blue, USA (the USA stood for United Safety Alliance).

Ol Blue, USA was a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) public charity dedicated to educating the nation on highway safety and improving relations between law enforcement, commercial drivers and the motoring public.

RJ went on many a National Safety Tour with “’Ol’ Blue, a 1951 Kenworth working truck pulling a 53-foot “rolling billboard” trailer featuring his sponsors’ logos and those of the California Highway Patrol, Nevada Highway Patrol and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RJ conducted simulated truck inspections at trade shows and truck stops and also took various programs to community events and public schools in efforts to teach safety around all large vehicles.

RJ and his close friend Monty Dial — who has retired from the Texas Highway Patrol but still knows more about trucking regulations than many active commercial vehicle enforcement officers — often appeared on what was then called Midnight Trucking Radio Network, now known as Red Eye Radio.

(Although Red Eye Radio has the same hosts as Midnight Trucking Radio Network — Eric Harley and Gary McNamara — and has expanded its topical agenda far beyond trucking, it appears that many of its listeners are still truckers.)

Everyone has — or should have — a passion for highway safety.

RJ’s passion extended beyond most others.

He lived, breathed and died thinking safety, safety, safety.

We first met RJ in either 2005 or 2006 when he stopped in Little Rock en route to an appearance at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

His big rig lumbered to a stop in the parking lot and out bailed RJ with his signature white hair and gruff voice, his external appearance just the opposite of his heart of gold.

As we were preparing to take RJ to a local elementary school, he opened the door of his trailer to reveal a complete apartment where he slept during his safety tours.

At the school, the students swarmed RJ and his truck, and he loved every minute of it.

There’ll always be a passion for safety in this industry, but there will never be another RJ.

Rest in peace, friend.

*                                  *                                  *

Rob Penner is chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association.

He is also president and CEO of Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Bison Transport has won the TCA safe fleets award for so many years in a row there are not enough fingers.

In his column in Truckload Authority, the TCA’s bi-monthly magazine, we asked Rob to weigh in on the fact that in the recent American Transportation Research Institute’s trucking concerns survey, drivers listed trucking parking as No. 2 while carrier executives ranked it No. 9.

Here’s Rob’s take:

“This speaks to the problem above. We can’t find drivers and the ones we have are subjected to ridiculous infrastructure challenges. We haven’t kept up with our investment requirements and as a result we have drivers sleeping on the sides of our highways and byways and we think nothing of it.  And this problem is amplified with HOS and ELD regulations. Truck stops and rest areas are filled to overflowing by 6 p.m. It’s crazy. Our drivers deserve safe haven and the basic amenities afforded us all. I dare say, if every one of our politicians, business owners or shippers had to live like our drivers do while on the road this issue would get the attention it deserves. We have all sorts of infrastructure problems in North America and the problem is we lump them all together and it seems we get overwhelmed to the point where no one does anything. I would like to think that it is something industry really can get together on and start making a difference. We need to wrap our arms around this quickly.”

Every trucker in America would agree.

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Bison Transport’s Treana Moniz all business when it comes to trucking

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Women In Trucking’s May Member of the Month Treana Moniz may be the only professional truck driver who has hand-crocheted doilies adorning the seat backs in her cab and another covering her CB radio. They’re a constant reminder of family, mementos hand-made by her late grandmother. (Courtesy: WOMEN IN TRUCKING)

Treana Moniz loves her career as a professional driver. “I can’t think of anything that I’d be interested in doing, outside of trucking,” she said. She spoke with me from the cab of her doily-decorated Freightliner as she approached the Ambassador Bridge from the Detroit side. Since more than 25% of merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the bridge, she’s no stranger to the crossing.

Moniz may be the only driver making the crossing with hand-crocheted doilies adorning the seat backs in her cab and another covering her CB radio. They’re a constant reminder of family, mementos hand-made by her late grandmother.

“I like old fashioned stuff,” she said, describing another family heirloom she cherishes. “I’ve got a tablecloth at home that she made for my mother,” she related. “She crocheted some beautiful things.”

Despite the touches of home in her truck, Moniz is all business when it comes to trucking. She’s earned a long list of accolades for her work behind the wheel and out of the cab as well. She’s currently a member of the2019-2020 Ontario Trucking Association’s Road Knights team and was selected as a Women in Trucking 2018 Canadian Image Team Member. She’s racked up several Driver of the Month awards at Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bison Transport, as well as Eastern Company Driver of the year last year. And, she was Women in Trucking’s choice for May 2019 Member of the Month.

Career drivers often say that trucking is in their blood, and Moniz comes by hers honestly. Her grandfather hauled logs with horse teams and her father drove multiple types of trucks before her. Her grandmother, mother and an aunt all served drivers by working in truck stops as cooks and waitresses. For a while, Treana did too, but the call of the open road was strong. “Waitressing was a job,” she said. “Driving is a career.”

When she met the man who began her driver training, she left the apron and coffee pot behind to learn the trucking business. When the training was interrupted by a her then-boyfriend’s medical condition, she attended CDL school and got her license. After her friend recovered, they teamed together for five years. When that relationship ended, she took her career solo, ending up with Bison Transport after a short stint at another carrier. She’s nearly as passionate about Bison as she is about driving.

“They’re a great company,” she said. “My truck is spec’d for driver comfort, with an electric APU and a big inverter.” The inverter is important, because cooking is another talent of Moniz. “I love cooking,” she said. “I do my own cooking on the road, and when I get home, I’m the chief cook and bottle-washer.”

When she’s not at home cooking for her son, daughter and four grandchildren, she’s representing the industry, Bison and trucking women at events for the OTA, WIT and others. “As a road knight, I’ve been going out to the schools and talking to the kids,” she related. “They may not get into the career, but I hope they’re listening and they learn what women are capable of.”

Some of her educational efforts are to other drivers, too. She recently became a Driver Mentor at Bison, but she doesn’t have to be assigned a student – mentoree to offer help. “I have a lot of newer drivers that talk to me and get my advice,” she explained. “I let drivers know they can talk to me, they can lean on me.” She shares her knowledge with a down-to-earth approach that other drivers appreciate. “If you don’t understand how to do something, ask. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to help,” she explained.

Her personality is well-suited for talking to people. “I’m an outgoing person, I like meeting new people,” she explained. Then, an understatement, “I’m not shy.”

Whether she’s assisting new drivers, talking to school children or representing her gender at a WIT function, her intent remains the same. “I’m always planting those seeds to be safe,” she said. “I tell them to be safe out there, always stay alert and watch out the other person.”

What’s next in Moniz’ career? “I want that gold ring from Bison,” she said, referring to Bison’s gift for accumulating a million safe miles. “I’m over 700,000, and I want my millionth mile.

After that? “I’m not sure,” she answered. “If I ever quit driving, I’d like to get into the driver development or safety aspect of the industry.” Some might argue that she’s already pretty good at developing drivers and promoting safety, as well as representing with pride the women in the trucking industry.

“If I ever get out of trucking, I’ll probably spend time with the grandkids,” she concluded. There likely will not, however, be a lot of shopping. “I hate shopping,” she quipped. “Are you surprised?”

Whatever the future holds, Treana Moniz will undoubtedly approach it with the same determination and drive that earned her the selection as WIT’s Member of the Month. She’s happy to help anyone else get there, too.

 

 

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Eye on Trucking: Time to stop being childish and get down to work in D.C.

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When President Donald Trump goes on a road trip he navigates the freshly cut lawn and climbs aboard Marine One for a quick trip to Joint Base Andrews, where he climbs the stairs to Air Force One waiting for the door to close and then takes off down a silk smooth runway. Think about that next time you travel one of those bumpy interstate highways.(Associated Press: EVAN VUCCI)

When President Donald Trump goes on a road trip (other than to play golf on a Sunday when he ought to be in church), he leisurely strolls out of the White House (probably wearing a red tie), throws a few nuggets to a press corps intent for the most part on hearing something that will make their report the top story on the evening news or the lead story in tomorrow’s print editions (at least where they still exist), navigates the freshly cut lawn and climbs aboard Marine One for a quick trip to Joint Base Andrews where he climbs the stairs to Air Force One waiting for the door to close and then for a takeoff down a silk smooth runway.

Contrast that to this.

We decide to take a 45-minute drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a nice lunch at a restaurant that has outdoor seating on Lake Hamilton.

We head north on our subdivision (the street is nice and smooth because the subdivision is only a year or so old), turn onto Denny Road, where we dodge potholes for a mile or so (hoping no one is in the other lane), then eventually make a right on Kanis Road as we head toward Interstate 430, which will take us to Interstate 30, which will take us to U.S. Highway 270, which will take us into Hot Springs.

Just before we leave Kanis Road, we are subjected to a section of road that has to be the roughest in the U.S.

I-430 and I-30 through Benton are nice, but just on the other side of Benton we hit a stretch of I-30 where the right lanes have been beaten down by big rigs to the point that now even they cheat and move to the left lane.

Meanwhile, when he gets back in Washington, the it’s time for the president to meet with Congressional Democrats to further talk about a $2.2 trillion infrastructure package they so smilingly agreed to a couple of weeks ago.

The president is back from a smooth landing at JBA and the Democrats have ridden down Pennsylvania Avenue, which I’ll guarantee you has no bumps or bruises or potholes.

Once inside, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused Mr. Trump of a coverup (who in Washington hasn’t covered something up, except maybe Jimmy Carter?) and Mr. Trump turned, took his bat and ball and went out into the Rose Garden to tell the press what happened.

How childish.

After the so-called meeting, Pelosi said she intended to pray for Mr. Trump following that surprise Rose Garden news conference where he demanded Democrats quit investigating him (how childish of them).

A lot of folks better pray for Mr. Trump, Pelosi and everyone in Washington who has anything to do with this partisan politics game that is preventing us from getting the roads and bridges that the general public richly deserves after sending their “offering” to Washington every paycheck.

It’s time for Washington to get down on its knees and then get up and do something about our infrastructure.

*                                              *                                              *

If you don’t think things are bad, consider the fact that the length of America’s structurally deficient bridges, if placed end-to-end, would span nearly 1,100 miles, the distance between Chicago and Houston, a new examination of federal government data shows. And it’s a problem that hits close to home.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the recently-released U.S. Department of Transportation 2018 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database reveals 47,052 bridges are classified as structurally deficient and in poor condition.

Cars, trucks and school buses cross these compromised structures 178 million times every day, the data show.

Nearly 1,775 are on the Interstate Highway System.

The most traveled structurally deficient bridges are on parts of Route 101, Interstate 405 and Interstate 5 in California, where daily crossings are as high as 289,000 vehicles per day.

Although the number of structurally deficient bridges is down slightly compared to 2017, the pace of improvement has slowed to the lowest point since ARTBA began compiling this report five years ago.

States with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,675 bridges); Pennsylvania (3,770); Oklahoma (2,540); Illinois (2,273); Missouri (2,116); North Carolina (1,871); California (1,812); New York (1,757); Louisiana (1,678); and Mississippi (1,603).

Those with the most structurally deficient bridges as a percent of their total bridge inventory are Rhode Island (23 percent); West Virginia (19.8 percent); Iowa (19.3 percent); South Dakota (16.7 percent); Pennsylvania (16.5 percent); Maine (13.1 percent); Louisiana (13 percent), Puerto Rico (11.7 percent), Oklahoma (10.9 percent) and North Dakota (10.7 percent).

Remember those numbers next time you cross a bridge.

 

 

 

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Augmented reality game designed to attract next generation of techs

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The TMCSuperTech game will be created based on actual tasks inspired by TMCSuperTech events. (Courtesy: DESIGN INTERACTIVE)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Design Interactive, providers of augmented and virtual reality-based fleet maintenance training solutions for the transportation industry, says it is providing a mobile augmented reality game of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) National Technician Skills Competition. TMC is a technical council of the American Trucking Associations.

The game is called TMCSuperTech.

“We made the decision to create this game with Design Interactive for two primary reasons,” said Robert Braswell TMC executive director. “To promote awareness of the vocation among middle and high school students who make up the next generation of vehicle maintenance personnel and to help technicians prepare for the TMCSuperTech competition by providing a hands-on training experience for the skills challenges.”

Available on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, Design Interactive’s gamified TMCSuperTech skills challenge uses AR technology to project a fictional city with a fleet of moving trucks. As the vehicles require service, they are brought into a virtual garage where the game will ask users playing the role of a technician to execute tasks inspired by TMCSuperTech events. Points are awarded for the time trucks are repaired and for the longer they remain in service.

“Augmented reality has already had a significant impact in other industries compared to traditional training methods,” said Matt Johnston, division head of commercial solutions for Design Interactive “For fleets, this technology helps lower labor and parts costs, increase vehicle uptime and shop productivity, and makes it easier to attract new technicians.”

Behind Design Interactive’s TMCSuperTech game experience is its Augmentor transportation focused training solution, which uses augmented reality to more effectively train technicians in the environment where service and repair tasks are performed. Augmentor sources content from fleet experts and ensures training consistency by bringing the best solutions onto the shop floor and enabling access to updated content for all technicians.

“With Augmentor, especially as new technologies continue increasing the complexity of the repairs, tools and skills needed by technicians, fleets can reduce classroom time and training costs,” continued Johnston. “It provides technicians with knowledge in a manner that is effective and productive and leads to higher quality and shorter times for vehicle diagnosis and repair processes.”

TMC is seeking sponsors to help support the adoption of its next-generation-workforce-focused product —TMCSuperTech: The Game. There are four levels of sponsorships available. TMCSuperTech is an annual two-day event organized by TMC’s Professional Technician Development Committee. The premier skills competition for professional commercial vehicle technicians from all segments of the trucking industry will be held September 15-19, 2019, at the Raleigh Convention Center in conjunction with TMC’s Fall Meeting.

For more information on sponsorships email rbraswel@trucking.org

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