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Category : Transportation Logistics

Take a Ride In a Self-Driving Semi

The automated, driverless vehicle is something we keep hearing more and more about. They could potentially remove the human error factor in driving, it could save a lot of lives. But it’s expensive, and not everyone is going to want to give up control of their vehicles.

But you have to admit, there’s something fascinating about the idea. Take a ride in world’s first road-ready self-driving truck:

What do you think? Is this our generation’s “Flying Car”? Fun to think about, but never gonna happen?

Is the Future of Freight Underground?

A company in the UK called Mole Solutions thinks so. They’ve designed pods, that would travel underground to deliver goods currently hauled by trucks. They travel via a computer controlled smart track, using electromagnets.

The company claims they could ship goods for 20% the cost of road shipping.

But is it feasible? Laying that much pipeline would be a massive undertaking that would take years, if not decades to complete.
What do you think? Are underground pipelines just a pipe dream?

Here’s some footage of the test pods in action:

Highway Bill, and what it means for You

Congress approved the Highway Bill, and President Obama is set to sign it on Friday, July 6, 2012. The report contains the TIA-OOIDA-ATA compromise language almost exactly.

How will this affect you?

Read the great blog post and summary from DAT.com.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Ban On Cell Phone Use While Driving Hits Commercial Drivers

Well, it’s official.  Effective January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and others implemented a rule banning the use of cell phones while driving for all commercial truck drivers.

Violations can be severe – up to $2,750 fine for each offense and possible commercial license suspension for multiple violations.  It’s not just the drivers either – companies that allow their drivers to use cell phones while driving could be hit with fines up to $11,000.

While this restriction will undoubtedly affect many carriers, Freight Tec strongly supports the FMCSA in this decision with the ultimate objective in keeping our public roads safer.

Brokers, Acid Reflux, and Nylon Stockings

Jobs with High Stress can easily help create Acid Reflux Disease.  Clearly, Brokers are in a high stress career and are just as prone to Acid Reflux issues as anybody.  If you don’t have Acid Reflux problems yet, chances are that you will sometime in the future. 

What is Acid Reflux Disease?  This is the painful condition where your stomach builds up excess stomach acid and it attacks your esophagus where it enters into your stomach and other areas.  It can be severe enough pain that most hospital Emergency Rooms will run an EKG to make sure your not having a heart attack.  Although there are some good medications that can help deal with Acid Reflux such as Nexium, Prilosec, and a host of others, many times Acid Reflux can be controlled by diet.  In fact, to avoid side effects from taking medications to reduce the pain, it makes sense to determine what in your diet is causing Acid Reflux.

Since this is such a common ailment, both doctors I have visited over the years automatically pass out a pre-printed sheet of paper with a list of common foods NOT TO EAT to avoid these problems.  The list includes:

            Carbonated beverages such as Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, energy drinks, and others.  Carbonation causes your stomach to produce excess acid.  But to complicate the problem, these beverages also contain caffeine which also stimulate acid production.  To make matters worse, if you drink diet sodas, the artificial sweeteners can also cause excess stomach acid production.  Sometimes, these problems can be handled just be taking a couple of TUMS tablets.  But as the disease progresses, TUMS will no longer work.

            Beer & Alcoholic beverages can cause bloating and slow digestion.  The stomach reacts by creating more stomach acid and so more acid reflux issues result.

            Chocolate is a big acid stimulator as are citrus fruits like oranges (including orange juice) and lemons (including lemonade).  Where possible, eliminate chocolate and O.J. 

            Hot drinks such as Coffee, Tea, and Hot Chocolate all attack the stomach lining and may contain such things as caffeine and chocolate which stimulate acid production.  So the “hot” plus the substances of caffeine and chocolate can hit your stomach with a “double whammy”.

            Sugarless chewing gum is also a problem in that the sugar substitute creates excess stomach acid and when you swallow, you also swallow excess air that causes your stomach to bloat which also creates additional stomach acid.  Since many gum flavors are peppermint, spearmint, etc., these flavors also can create stomach issues.

            Avoid peppers of all varieties, tomatoes, and onions.  Avoid salsa, hot chile, hot soups, and large quantities of ketchup!  Anything that puts acid into your stomach is not your friend when you have acid reflux.  You want to reduce acid, not ingest more.

            Finally, avoid greasy foods as they cause excess stomach acid to build up.  Eat lean meats.  Avoid peanut butter and excess mounts of butter as they require more acid to digest.

BIG QUESTION:   What can I drink and eat?  You can avoid a lot of problems by just drinking water for your primary beverage.  Low-Fat milk is fine for cereal.  Substitute peaches, pears, and apples for oranges.  Although these fruits have some acid it is much less than Oranges or Orange Juice.  Eat vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate ice cream.  Use common sense.

IS THERE HOPE THAT I CAN EAT OR DRINK SOME OF THESE ITEMS ON THE LIST?  Yes!  If you can go “cold turkey” and eliminate your acid reflux than you can consider adding a small amount of one “bad item” in your diet to see if you can tolerate it.  Only add one at a time and if it is food, be sure to eat something else with it to dilute it in your stomach.  Sometimes, you can tolerate a food on the list if you eat it sparingly and avoid Acid Reflux.  If by chance you do get Acid Reflux after eating that one food, then you know that you need to eliminate it from your diet.  Period.

One other big problem concerns certain pain killers such as ibuprofen, Aleve (for arthritis pain), and aspirin.  If you need to take these pain killers, always take them with food and always take the minimum amount your pain will tolerate.  Each of these pain killers is tough on your stomach lining.  Modern medicine has recently come out with some hybrid “dual medications” that combine the pain killer ibuprofen with the compound found in Nexium that decreases stomach acid so that people can control their pain and also get the benefits of ibuprofens anti-inflammatory properties.

What do nylon stockings have to do with Acid Reflux?

One medical doctor told me that we should compare our stomach that is under attack from acid-stimulating foods and pain killers to a pair of nylon stockings.  If the nylons get a hole in them, the hole will gradually expand.  The same thing happens to the damage done to the inside of our stomachs when they start creating too much acid.  The stomach lining can heal to some extent, but the damage is done and it is important to take care of what we have left with a little common sense.

The whole purpose of this article is to help Brokers and others in this industry with high stress jobs to be able to work pain free from Acid Reflux.  This is in no way a substitute for visiting a doctor or medical professional who is familiar with the medical issues you face.  We are not medical professionals.  See a doctor when you need to.

Interesting Times for Transportation

Transportation systems are very dynamic.  During the last few years the railroads have become more competitive with rapid service from Chicago to Los Angeles in order to out-compete trucking companies.  With this kind of service available, the large trucking companies have put more and more of their freight on the railroads double-stack container trains.  Truckers are countering this competition with requests to be able to run heavier trucks on the Nations highways with weights up to 97,000# as opposed to the current 80,000# limits on most roads.  This would drop the cost of transportation per ton for the shipper.

But as the railroads have gained market share, they now face an interesting test:  The peak Christmas shipping season is upon us but so is the need to absorb a huge fall harvest of corn and soybeans that must be moved to market.  Will the railroads be able to handle both peak seasons at the same time with their available capacity of equipment and people?  Time will tell but the railroads claim they will be able to handle the heavy volumes of freight.

Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railroad, and CSX Transportation are all bringing on furloughed people who had been laid off during the recession.  Union Pacific is bringing on 900 locomotives and a vast supply of hopper cars and containers to meet the demand.  The locomotives had previously been in idle storage during the recent recession.  Other railroads are doing much the same including bringing on line much new equipment that they were anticipating they would need.  In addition, railroads are hiring new people and matching them with experienced people and moving them to specific areas around the country to deal with the logistics of moving long trains on a timely basis.  So, hopefully, the Nations railroads are up to the task of meeting the demands of two peak seasons.

Meanwhile, the trucking industry has taken its hits from the Recession and many small carriers are now out of business creating a capacity shortage in some areas.  Adding to their troubles are the new CSA 2010 regulations coming into effect on Nov. 1, 2010 that will target driver safety issues as never before.  CSA 2010 will help to eliminate the unsafe drivers over a few months.  The Winter months are normally slower for trucks and the loss of 3% to 5% of the nations truck drivers may not show up until Spring when freight demand picks up.  But by then, trucking rates will increase due to the capacity shortage that will ensue due to a shortage of qualified drivers.

How does this all affect the shipper?  Generally speaking, from a cost point of view, railroad container freight is less expensive for lanes exceeding 1300 miles between cities where both the pickup and the delivery from the rail terminal is within the Commercial Zone.  Trucks are typically more cost efficient when the mileage between two cities is less than 1300 miles or where multiple stops are required along the route.  Trucks have the advantage of being able to drive directly from the shippers dock to the receivers dock.

Property brokers are finding they must also be more creative to provide the best value to the customer.  Larger Brokers move freight both on trucks and container railroads to meet their customers needs.  The brokerage business is unique in that the largest broker in the U.S. only has 5% of the market share.  According to the U.S.D.O.T., there are over 21,000 property brokers registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Brokers continue to grow as they provide the best value for their customers.

Another facet of the transportation industry are the freight forwarders—specifically those that are international in scope.  Several years ago it was predicted that the large multi-national freight forwarders would gain more and more market share.  Even though these large companies have grown, so has the market share.  But the gains in market share have been by smaller freight forwarders who provide incredible service to their shippers.  Why?  Shouldn’t the bigger multi-national forwarder be able to drive costs lower for shippers?  Yes, they do.  But many shippers would rather be Number One with the forwarder they use knowing that that forwarder will do everything possible to get their shipments to their customers on time as opposed to being customer Number 273 with a large multi-national forwarder.  The price is slightly more expensive with the smaller company, but the service is great and the shipper doesn’t need to worry about what would happen if the big multi-national has a conflict with the service needs of multiple shippers and the resulting costs and problems that would create with missed deliveries.

Transportation world-wide continues to be dynamic, competitive, and both service and cost oriented.  Different modes of transportation compete with one another to present a better value proposition to the shipper.  This is good!  Despite the rough economy during the past few years, business is picking up!  Shippers have more options than ever.

Shippers Beware!

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a final rule that will eliminate Cargo Insurance requirements for freight forwarders and most motor carriers.  Only household goods carriers will be required by law to maintain Cargo Insurance.  All other motor carriers and freight forwarders will no longer be required to maintain Cargo Insurance as of March 11, 2011.

What is the logic of this?  The FMCSA originally proposed eliminating Cargo Insurance in a proposed rule dated May 2005 along with the then new unified registration system.  The FMCSA has noted that motor carriers typically carry Cargo Insurance in excess of the regulatory requirements ($50,000 Minimum).  Most Shippers require the carrier to have cargo insurance as a condition for doing business.  Shippers also have the option of buying their own cargo insurance policy.  As a result, the FMCSA felt that since Shippers and motor carriers negotiate their own contracts, the FMCSA did not need to regulate Cargo Insurance.

Big and Medium Shippers understand this and have mechanisms for verifying that the motor carriers that they use do have Cargo Insurance.  But smaller, infrequent Shippers typically assume that the government regulates motor carriers and that a motor carrier automatically carries all the liability insurance necessary to protect the public—including Cargo Insurance.  As of March 11, 2011, this will definitely not be the case.  Any Shipper who ignores verifying the kinds of insurance that it feels is necessary to protect them and their freight from liability issues with a motor carrier will do so at its peril.

One Solution to this problem for Shippers is to use a freight broker such as Freight Tec to move their freight.  Freight Tec qualifies every single carrier and verifies that each carrier has Active operating authority, Cargo Insurance, Automotive Liability Insurance, and appears to be reasonably safe according to the information available from the federal government.  This is a great service for Shippers who do not have the budget or do not want to do a carrier qualification process by themselves.  In addition, Freight Tec carries its own Professional Errors and Omissions Liability Insurance Policy (same as Doctors, CPA’s, and attorney’s carry) to protect its Shippers from loss in the event Freight Tec makes a mistake and fails to properly qualify the carrier.  Less than 100 freight brokers out of 15,000 nationwide carry this insurance. This provides added Peace of Mind to Freight Tec’s Shippers.

Diamond Broker with $100k Bond

Freight Tec carries a significantly higher bond than is currently required by the F.M.C.S.A., and has for quite some time now.  Interesting to note that legislature is currently trying to raise the bond limit to $100k instead of just $10k, under the “Motor Carrier Protection Act of 2010” (S 3483).

In the May/June 2010 issue of IT (Internet Truckstop) Magazine, Freight Tec is recognized as a “Diamond Broker” with a $100k Bond.  We are one of only 21 brokers listed that carry this $100k bond.

What does this mean?

Carriers can be assured that Freight Tec’s credit-worthiness is at the top.  Shippers can be assured that Freight Tec is a prominent broker in the industry, and a broker they can trust.  We are ranked as one of the Top 100 Brokers in the Nation.

If you are a Shipper needing a load moved, or a Carrier looking for loads, Contact Us Today.

Protecting Carriers from Bad Brokers

Excellent article we wanted to share from Truck’n HotNews, by Utah Trucking Association, June 21 – June 27, 2010

LAWS TO PROTECT CARRIERS FROM BAD BROKERS

Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have
introduced the “Motor Carrier Protection Act of 2010” (S 3483), in response to
concerns about unscrupulous brokering practices that continually take advantage
of small business truckers. “If passed, this law would put a stop to a system that
allows rogue brokers and scam artists to operate unchecked,” said OOIDA Executive
Vice President Todd Spencer. “Too often, we’ve seen bad brokers get
away with collecting payment from shippers but leaving truckers holding the
bag.” The “Motor Carrier Protection Act of 2010” would:

  • Increase the broker bond from $10k to $100k and expand that bond requirement to freight forwarders
  • Increase requirements and disclosures for any person or company seeking to obtain broker or freight forwarder authority
  • Establish significant penalties for violations of broker regulations, including unlimited liability for freight charges for conducting brokerage activities without a license or bond
  • Create a requirement for brokers and freight forwarders to renew their operating authority annually and require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to revoke operating authority that is not renewed annually; revenue generated from the renewal fees will be dedicated to FMCSA’s oversight and enforcement of broker regulations
  • Establish strict guidelines on companies that provide brokers with surety bonds and on how they administer bonds
  • Clarify that trucking companies must have a broker’s or freight forwarder’s license and an appropriate bond in addition to their motor carrier operating authority to arrange freight for another carrier for compensation.