Owner Operators - The Grapevine
Computer driven trucks, Black Boxes, & Restricting Interlining
There has been some talk about computers taking humans' jobs. Long ago, computers
gutted newspapers and magazines once thought safe from the tides of automation but
now it is serious, they are reaching for the steering wheel
Trial and pilot experiments around the country and in Europe are moving closer and
closer to the driverless card and truck. It's is only a matter of time. We already have
pilotless drones to spy and drop bombs over Irag and Afghanistan. So a pilotless airliner
is going to come, it's just a question of when.
We have driverless cars registered in Nevada. Google has been operating autonomous
cars on California roads for a couple of years. So trucks could be next - maybe not
totally driverless, but connected in road trains where only the lead driver is actually
operating the wheel and other controls.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the University of Michgan is conducting a pilot project involving
2,800 cars and trucks that is testing a wireless communication system that enables the
parties to talk with each other electronically hand.
Putting two and two together, it's easy to see that sometime in the not-to-distant future,
we will see trucks connected, traveling at speeds at lot faster now. The potential
advantages of such connected "road trains" are enormous. The road train would be
connected wirelessly, other vehicles, follow closely their drivers reading, conversing with
passengers or texting on cellphones as signals from the lead vehicle keeps their cars
informed by a constant stream of data, so that the entire train can change lanes, leave
the expressway, speed up or slow down, with a minimum of human involvement, The
system would take human emotions out of delicate and dangerous maneuvers such as
changing lanes or merging, making driving safer.
Drivers would be less fatigued by the second-to-second demands of trucking Trucks
would be able to save on fuel. Freight would move safer in a very cost efficient manner.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed regulations last year
requiring auto manufacturers to include event data recorders - also known as Black
Boxes - in all new cars and light duty trucks beginning 9/1/14 But automakers have
been quietly tucking the devices, which automatically records the actions of the drivers
and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop, into most new cars
The idea is to gather information that can help investigators determine the causes of
accident and lead to safer vehicles. Data collected by the recorders is increasingly
showing up in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile cases.
In one high-profile example, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray initially said that he
wasn't speeding and that he was wearing his seat belt when he crashed a government
owned car in 2012. But the car's data recorder told a different story: it showed the car
was traveling more than 100 mph and that Murray was not belted in.
There is no opt-out. It is extremely difficult for car owners to disable the recorders.
Although some vehicle models have had recorders since the early 1990s, a federal
requirement that automakers disclose their existence didn't go into effect until lat year.
Privacy complaints have gone unheeded so far. The traffic safety administration says
it does not have the authority to impose limits on how the information can be used
and other privacy protections. About a dozen states have some law regarding data
recorders, but the rest do not.
MAP 21 and Motor Carrier Interlining
The current democratically controlled Congress will shortly curtail the ability of carriers
to hand off freight to other carriers through certain types of interline arrangements. MAP-
21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, signed by President Obama
on July 6, 2012, restricts the practice of convenient interlining in which one carrier hires
another to transport freight and does not play any active role in the actual shipment.
Interlining was once commonplace in trucking because the federal government restricted
carriers' operating authority to a specific areas and commodities. The Motor Carrier Act
of 1980 removed most of these restrictions, but the use of interlining continued primarily
as a way for local and regional less-than-truckload freight carriers to handle long haul
For example, back in the 1960s, I worked at Pacific Intermountain Express in
Commerce, CA. At that time, I was a union Teamster driver making around $3.25 per
hour. Because of the high wages that PIE paid it's drivers it was determined that it was
cheaper to give all inbound freight of 100 lbs or less to an interline carrier. We gave all
that freight to a non-union carrier who is still in business today.
Map-21 limits convenience interlining by requiring motor carriers to have broker authority
separate from its operating authority. Additionally, the carrier will have to inform the
customer if it is accepting transportation as a motor carrier, broker or forwarder.
For all practical purposes, this rule eliminates interlining of freight between two or more
carriers, unless the originating carrier physically participates in its transportation. Map-21
also imposes new bonding and registration requirements on freight brokerage firms and
Beginning in July, brokers and forwarders must post a $75,000 surety bond or trust
fund agreement to protect carriers and shippers against the nonpayment of freight
charges. The new law also requires officers of brokerage firms and freight forwarders
to have a minimum of three years of "relevant" experience or "provide the Secretary of
Transportation with satisfactory evidence of the individual's knowledge of related rules,
regulations and industry practices."
Such requirements will be "very difficult" to meet because our illustrious government has
not yet defined how it will test individuals or what would constitute adequate industry