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Tractor-trailer jake brake law ‘difficult to enforce’

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Residents along Newport Gap Pike blame tractor-trailers that regularly rumble past their homes for sleepless nights to broken windows to potholes.

A law designed to limit noise from heavy-truck engines passing through Delaware residential areas is difficult to enforce because of a “loophole” written into its recently-adopted text, a state police officer said Monday at a town hall meeting attended by irate residents, who live along Del. 41.

The act, which bans the use of the cacophonous tractor-trailer braking system, known as jake brakes, passed the General Assembly last year. But a truck driver may still use the auxiliary, engine-compression brakes, if there is an emergency, Delaware State Police Lt. Mike Wysock said.

“Here’s what happens when you go to court…all you have to say is ‘your honor (the traffic light) was yellow, I didn’t want to run a red light,’ so it was an emergency and (the ticket) gets dropped,” Wysock said to the crowd of more than 100 residents, who for years have been petitioning the state to more strictly regulate the heavy trucks that pass by their houses.

“Everyone thinks, ‘oh, he jake braked, so we can go and arrest him.’ Well, you can, but as soon as you stop him, he’s got a valid excuse that’s going to get (the ticket) dropped,” Wysock added.

The Monday-night meeting, which occurred at Cedars Methodist Church, was the latest in a series of public gatherings by residents who are fed up with what they describe as loud trucks that speed daily – and nightly – through residential neighborhoods along the Del. 41 and Del. 48 corridors between Wilmington and Hockessin.

The noise and vibrations from the big rigs damage foundations of houses and other structures near the roadway, including Cedar Methodist, which sits a block from Del. 41, said Bill Taylor, an area resident and trustee of the church.

Truckers also rattle the nerves of residents[1] when they use “the terror of all terrors, jake braking in the middle of the night,” he said.

STORY: Capital One to stay in Wilmington[2]

STORY: Delcollo: Truck solution to make people equally unhappy[3]

Kim Williams, the sponsor of the anti-jake braking bill last year, was perplexed that the law was not having its desired effect. Further legislation may be necessary, she said at Monday’s meeting. She also expressed concern that any citation issued by an officer, who is not part of the state police’s dedicated truck enforcement team, does not show up on a truck driver’s federal registration.

”There was a little confusion there…my understanding is that they are issuing tickets and it affects their driving record,” she said.

Frustration with the heavy trucks caused a feud to arise over the last year between residents who live on Del. 41 and Del. 48, with each side insisting the other is more suitable for the trucks that pass between Wilmington and Lancaster.

The neighbors angrily accused the others of menacingly manipulating state transportation department into first placing, and then removing, signs that directed heavy trucks onto Del. 48.[4]

But that neighborhood infighting showed signs of diminishing Monday after many sounded a conciliatory tone despite continued frustration over the trucks that avoid police scrutiny.

“The problem that we have now is going to take cooperation from everyone, 41 and 48,” Taylor said at the meeting.

The truck-traffic dispute last year also caused political ramifications statewide after many observers say former-Senate Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, was unseated after the November election because of her stance that traffic engineers, not politicians, should decide the issue.

Republican Senator Anthony Delcollo took her spot to represent the district of residents who live along both the Del. 41 and 48 corridors.

Yet at the meeting Monday, scorn appeared to have shifted away from fellow neighbors and legislators. Instead, it zeroed in on Delaware Department of Transportation officials, who were noticeably absent. Williams said she was “embarrassed” that DelDOT had not attended.

Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Hockessin, echoed the sentiment at the meeting, asking rhetorically, “is anyone here from the governor’s office? Who is his cabinet secretary?”

“In her absence, where is the executive branch of government? They make the decisions,” Brady said.

DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan, in an email to the meeting organizer Mary Anne Summers, said she could not attend because she is currently out of the country. It is unclear why another representative from DelDOT did not attend. State officials attended numerous previous public gatherings on the issue during the past year.

After the 3-hour meeting came to a close, Delcollo said the state should immediately look into installing signs on Del. 41 that warn truck drivers of nearby traffic lights and should consider adjusting the speed limit.

“There are some things that would require minimal investment with infrastructure, (and) we could get to them very quickly,” he said.

Contact Karl Baker at kbaker@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.[5]

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References

  1. ^ rattle the nerves of residents (www.delawareonline.com)
  2. ^ Capital One to stay in Wilmington (www.delawareonline.com)
  3. ^ Delcollo: Truck solution to make people equally unhappy (www.delawareonline.com)
  4. ^ into first placing, and then removing, signs that directed heavy trucks onto Del. 48. (www.delawareonline.com)
  5. ^ kbaker@delawareonline.com (www.delawareonline.com)
  6. ^ iPhone app (itunes.apple.com)
  7. ^ Android app for phone and tablet (play.google.com)
  8. ^ iPad app (itunes.apple.com)
  9. ^ “like” us on Facebook! (www.facebook.com)
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Mandatory electronic logging devices and legalized marijuana

As of Dec. 18, anyone who operates commercial buses or trucks south of the border will be required to have a compliant electronic logging device (ELD) installed on their vehicle, and ensure their drivers and staff are trained on its use.

The rule applies to Canadian and Mexican-domiciled drivers and carriers as well as those based in the US. There are a few exemptions in place, such as vehicles manufactured prior to the model year 2000, those who use paper logs for no more than eight days out of 30, and those involved in driveaway-towaway operations.

But for the most part, if you are currently required to keep a paper log, you will be required to have an ELD installed in less than nine months. (If you have existing e-log technology that doesn’t meet the new standard installed prior to Dec. 18, you will have until Dec. 16 2019 to have it upgraded to meet the standards or replaced).

Are you and your company ready for this mandate? Do you have the information you need to ensure you are fully compliant with the rule prior to the drop-dead date?

If you are waiting for the last minute in hopes that the Trump administration will eliminate this rule with another stroke of the pen, that is a flawed strategy at best. All indications are that the ELD mandate will go forward, so if you are entering the US, you should already be looking into devices and starting to plan your roll-out.

It takes time to ensure you are sourcing a compliant device, from scheduling the installations, and training all your drivers and operations staff on how to use them. The US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is not certifying devices, by the way, it is simply allowing manufacturers to self-certify that they comply with the technical standard.

So, just because a device appears on the FMCSA’s website as being certified, does not necessarily mean it is so. If, down the road, the device is found to be non-compliant, the manufacturer of the device will have a very short time frame to bring it into compliance. If they can’t, you will be held responsible to have it replaced.

In light of this, ensure you do your homework and do some fact checking prior to purchasing a device. You can go to the FMCSA’s website for more information.

On March 27, the news media reported the federal Liberal government will announce legislation in April of this year, with the intention of having marijuana legalized by July 1, 2018. The legislation is expected to broadly follow the recommendations of a federally appointed task force that released a report in December, 2016.

Are you ready to deal with how this will affect your workplace? Do you have policies in place already to protect your workers and your workplace? Are they sufficient?

We will be covering policies and procedures related to the legalization of marijuana as part of our annual conference in Niagara Falls, Ont. in June. For more information on the event, or to contact the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada office with any questions, you can e-mail info@pmtc.ca, trucks@pmtc.ca, or call 905-827-0587.

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Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at trucks@pmtc.ca.

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We can’t attract more drivers while automating the profession

If we are going to attract young people to a career in the trucking industry, we need more than just a new marketing plan preaching a set of motherhood values based on past performance and the freedom of the open road.

When robots take bad jobs is the headline of an article written in The Atlantic and published online Feb. 27. It is worth a read. It highlights everything that is wrong with the trucking industry in the US from the perspective of a new hire.

Our employment standards here in Canada are not the same as they are for our neighbors to the south. Broadly speaking, we have more protections in place for individuals entering the industry but the push towards contractors over employees continues to bleed across the border. This article paints a picture of an industry that wouldn’t be a young person’s first career choice.

I recently read that Celadon now allows its lease-operators to haul for other carriers. Although the news was written from the perspective of enabling owner-operators and giving them more choice, it is not difficult to read between the lines and see how this is a first step towards combating the uberization of the freight market. It moves dispatching into the driver’s seat – a different twist on automation.

Over at Techcrunch.com on Feb. 28, there was a report on Starsky Robotics. This is a trucking company that is operating trucks remotely. Experienced drivers are operating trucks from the office. Capabilities are limited at present, but they have been in business for two years, have serious funding, and are expanding their operation. They have already done some driverless highway hauls and have plans to get drivers out of some trucks by the end of 2017. This is an example of using automation to have individual, experienced drivers control multiple trucks from a central location.

These three examples highlight the multitude of changes the trucking industry is embroiled in at the moment. We have a push from the top chasing after greater returns on investment through mergers and acquisitions, adoption of new technologies, and driving down employee costs. At the same time there is constant messaging about attracting new blood to the industry. So, we’re telling people how great this industry is to work in while we continue to undermine driver compensation and look for new ways to make a driver’s job redundant.

Is it really as bad as it looks on the surface? No, not from the perspective of drivers that work for progressive companies that recognize the value of the synergy between well-trained professional drivers and emerging technology.

This is where I pick up the drum I’ve been beating for the past several months. Training, certification, and a universal apprenticeship program. It’s time to realize the free market isn’t the be all and end all for solving the human resource problems that exist at the driver level.

The way to attract new blood into our industry is to market a clear career path to prospective drivers. That means bringing together government, training institutions, trucking companies, and equipment manufacturers under the same roof. That’s a big ask, but it has to be done and requires leadership from government to put forward legislation focused on long-term growth rather than short-term return on investment.

Technology is not going to replace drivers. It will reduce the number of drivers required. It will create specialized operators of heavy equipment on our roads that will require a higher level of training. The job of the driver is going to change. A universal method of training and certification is the only way to manage this change in a way that will minimize disruption across the trucking industry while defining the job of the truck operator in a rapidly changing market. That’s what we need to attract new blood.

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Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.