Sunday, December 11, 2005

The French you will have always

A sampling of the deliciousness over at First Things. You really should read the whole thing, it's just delightful.

Be nice to the French, they feel so very misunderstood. That is kindly advice, and you should get started on it tomorrow. Meanwhile a friend sends a sampler of observations to be enjoyed before going on the wagon:

“France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes.”
—Mark Twain
“Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.”
—Norman Schwartzkopf
“Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada.”
—Ted Nugent

“The favorite bumper sticker in Washington now is one that says ‘First Iraq, then France.’”
—Tom Brokaw
“It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us.”
—Alan Kent
“Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day—the description was, ‘Never shot. Dropped once.’”
—Rep. Roy Blunt (MO)
The AP and UPI reported that the French government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney (AP)
Paris, March 5, 2003
The French government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.

Adding to Mr. Nugent's remarks, the only thing worse than a Quebecois is one driving a truck in the U.S.. When a reefer blows by me doing 20 over the limit, tailgating, and making lane changes apparently without mirror use it is almost always a member of the Oppressed French minority .


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (translated into English by Yermolai Solzhfnitsyn) Bring God back into Politics
Hat tip to Brothers Judd

It is up to us to stop seeing Progress (which cannot be stopped by anyone or anything) as a stream of unlimited blessings, and to view it rather as a gift from on high, sent down for an extremely intricate trial of our free will.

The gifts of the telephone and the television, for instance, when used without moderation, have fragmented the wholeness of our time, jerking us from the natural flow of our life. The gift of lengthened life expectancy has, as one of its consequences, made the elder generation into a burden for its children, while dooming the former to a lingering loneliness, to abandonment in old age by loved ones, and to an irreparable rift from the joy of passing on their experience to the young.

Horizontal ties between people are being severed as well. With all the seeming effervescence of political and social life, alienation and apathy toward others have grow stronger in human relations. Consumed in their pursuit of material interests, people find only an overwhelming loneliness. (It is this that gave rise to the howl of existentialism.) We must not simply lose ourselves in the mechanical flow of Progress, but strive to harness it in the interests of the human spirit; not to become the mere playthings of Progress, but rather to seek or expand ways of directing its might toward the perpetration of good.

Progress was understood to be a shining and unswerving vector, but it turned out to be a complex and twisted curve, which has once more brought us back to the very same eternal questions which had loomed in earlier times, except that then facing these questions was easier for a less distracted, less disconnected mankind.

The human soul , or if you prefer the human animal, is still vexed by the same torments in the 21st Century as the 17th, only we now have more ways to distract ourselves from reality. Of course a lifetime passes all too quickly in the the blaze of pixels and wall of sound we are immersed in every day. Perhaps our unwillingness or inability to face the reality of the human existence is why so little great writing graces our age. It is not just that our skill with words has succumbed to our Instant Message and eMail style of communication, it is that our connection to the deepest needs and failings of humanity is crowded out by the historically incredible lives we live today. We not only cannot write , more critically we have nothing to write [i}about[/i]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Good Deal

Atlanta Injury Law Blog:Court orders stronger training standards for commercial truck drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations governing minimum standards for entry-level truck driver training are inadequate based on the record developed during the rulemaking process, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The minimum requirements adopted last May by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration involve only classroom education and in only four areas: medical qualification and drug and alcohol testing; hours-of-service regulations; wellness; and whistleblower protection.

The court said: “The (FMCSR staff's) Adequacy Report determined that effective training for CMV drivers required practical, on-the-road instruction on how to operate a heavy vehicle. But FMCSA ignored this evidence and opted for a program that focuses on areas unrelated to the practical demands of operating a commercial motor vehicle.”

Most of the time Public Citizen and their ilk are just bozos when it comes to trucking, but this is a case where they are on the side of the angels. The FMCSA seems to have set a pattern of doing the very least possible, or less, and only after being sued into action. There has to be a happy medium between trying to put the industry under and giving it carte blanche. The industry is right that few folks want to be without income for a couple of months while they train, but that doesn't outweigh highway safety (and getting drivers fully trained might cut down on the number of new drivers who quit or fail because of accidents or needless tickets.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Don't roll, roll, roll your truck...

eTrucker: Wide single tires may lower rollover risk

One of the study leaders, H.E. "Bill" Knee, said researchers put a tractor-trailer with traditional duals, dynamic sensors and outriggers through a series of tests to emulate three events that lead to rollovers: evasive maneuvers, driving around curves with a constant radius, and running off the road. The same tractor-trailer was re-equipped with singles and a wider slider trailer suspension in various configurations and put through the same paces.

The result? In most cases, new generation single tires and slider suspensions reduced rollover propensity, at least in van operations. In evasive maneuvers, the new-generation combination decreased the maximum trailer roll angle per lateral acceleration ratio by 45 percent, a significant amount, Knee said.


Some anomalies need further investigation, Knee said. For example, a truck equipped with duals coupled to a trailer equipped with singles and a wider slider suspension performed best in the evasive maneuver test. That may have something to do with driver feel from having dual tires on the tractor, Knee said.

My theory would be that the tractor's suspension width did not change and so the wide based singles didn't have much of a positive effect. Now what would be real interesting would be to see a tractor custom built with wider rear suspension attachment points and Super Singles, my hunch is it would perform very well. Of course another theory could be that the tractor suspension/ tread width is a relatively unimportant rollover factor, since the typical turn rollover starts with the trailer tandems tipping and then the trailer pulls the truck over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

But do they know where the money comes from?

Univ. of Kansas Takes Up Creation Debate

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Creationism and intelligent design are going to be studied at the University of Kansas, but not in the way advocated by opponents of the theory of evolution.

A course being offered next semester by the university religious studies department is titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies."

"The KU faculty has had enough," said Paul Mirecki, department chairman.

"Creationism is mythology," Mirecki said. "Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."

Earlier this month, the state Board of Education adopted new science teaching standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory, defying the view of science groups.

The Universities go out of their way to belittle the folks who ultimately pay the bills and wonder why they can't get any traction in the funding debates. Talk about willful ignorance about how the world works.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

But the FMCSA said it was safe!

Risk Higher for Truckers in the 11th Hour

The crash risk for truck drivers in the last hour of a now legal 11-hour day behind the wheel is more than three times higher than during the first hour, a Penn State research team has found.
For 60 years, federal rules limited truckers to driving 10 consecutive hours. However, in January 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration raised the limit to 11 hours and reaffirmed the change in October this year.
Dr. Paul Jovanis, professor of civil engineering who led the Penn State study, says, "Our analysis of data from three national trucking companies during normal operations in 2004 shows that the crash risk is statistically similar for the first six hours of driving and then increases in significant steps thereafter. The 11th hour has a crash risk more than three times the first hour."
Jovanis notes, "Our findings, using data from 2004 and from the 1980s, establish a consistent pattern of increased crash risk with hours driving, particularly in the 9th, 10th and 11th hours."
In their most recent study, the researchers also found that multi-day driving schedules, over 7 days, were associated with significant crash risk increases similar in magnitude to extended driving time.
In addition, separate analyses of the records of drivers who operate trucks that have sleeping compartments with those that don't have sleeping compartments show that there is a strong association of crash risk and driving time for sleeper operations, especially in the 8th, 10th and 11th hours. Non-sleeper operations associate crash risk with multi-day driving somewhat more strongly than with driving time.
Jovanis says, "Considered as a whole, these results reveal important differences in crash risk associated with the two different types of trucking operations. One tentative conclusion is that the rigors of sleeper operations appear to result in a greater decline in performance at extended driving hours than for comparable non-sleeper operations."
The study was supported by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) but represents only the views of the authors.

Amazing that working more hours makes you more tired.....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Interesting tidbits from the Fuel Economy front

Transport News Network (UK): Happy Trucking

A further enhancement of the I-Shift box is Eco-roll. With cruise control selected, if the truck is maintaining the set speed under the effects of gravity, Eco-roll will disengage the drive to the rear bogie allowing the engine revs to drop to tick-over. If power is required, the drive instantly re-engages and revs zip back up. The same happens if the brakes are applied or the set retardation speed is exceeded. The system is designed to save fuel and reduce wear and tear.
The Scania P340 8x4 tested in August had a nine-speed manual box and although it was noticeably slower around our route it did return a route average of 9.21mpg.

The truck tested here, with its 12-speed I-shift box, returned 8.83mpg as an overall average, the lowest sectional figure being 6.98mpg recorded on the testing A339 rural route between Basingstoke and the A34 at Tothill. But 7mpg is not bad in the heavy going and was compensated for by a high of 9.42mpg on the motorway.

So on balance, driving as ever for economy, we achieved better fuel results from a slightly lower powered manual 32-tonner but paid the penalty in terms of journey time; so critical for most tipper operators. But if your drivers are heavy with the right boot, racing to get in that extra load, we believe the evidence is now overwhelmingly in favour of the auto. Recent reports that Summerfield has asked Volvo to lock out the manual override on its I-Shift-equipped trucks speak volumes. In fuel economy terms, this truck's performance at the pumps is among the best we have encountered from an automatic, which must make it a serious contender for consideration.

Just a word about Eco-roll. We had no way here of proving the benefits of this system, but in theory it saves fuel. It takes time to feel comfortable with it because we are all taught never to free wheel in a heavy goods vehicle. Well Eco-roll does not actually take the truck out of gear, it electronically disconnects the drive, allowing the engine revolutions to return to idle. During our test it activated numerous times on long gentle descents - where braking or retardation is required it will not function - so if it contributed to our average fuel consumption figure all well and good. But our jury is out, awaiting more evidence.

I have always daydreamed about replacing the Jake brake with a regen braking system (so the job of holding the truck back is spread over all the wheels rather than just the drive axle(s) and some of the "G-Force" can be recovered for climbing the next hill. Batteries and many other parts of the tech are not ready for prime time yet. But this system, obviously, can be implemented today and there are no energy losses from energy conversion and storage.

Daimler Chrysler: Sustainability

Predictive Cruise Control.
One particularly intelligent means of saving fuel is currently being tested by our researchers in the USA. Back in 2002, they began taking a closer look at the potential of existing cruise control systems in Freightliner’s heavy trucks and tractor vehicles, searching for ways to combine the comfort already provided by electronic systems with fuel-saving control programs. The outcome of their efforts is “Predictive Cruise Control” (PCC), a cruise control system that not only maintains a preset speed, but also regulates the engine by assessing driving conditions ahead and adjusting speed accordingly, delivering significant fuel savings. The benefits are clear on up- and downhill routes, for example. At the beginning of an upgrade, a conventional cruise control system would try to compensate for the truck’s deceleration by boosting engine output to the maximum. Then, on the downgrade the system would have to shift down drastically to prevent the truck from rolling too fast. PCC instead makes optimum use of the truck’s kinetic energy by allowing it to build up momentum before the hill and then, at the top, gearing down even further in anticipation of the truck’s rapid acceleration as it moves downhill. The PCC computer can do all this because it has been fed the topographical data for the route and, thanks to the GPS navigation system, also knows the truck’s precise position. Initial tests have confirmed the research engineers’ estimates: Depending on the specific route, PCC can bring fuel savings of two percent or more.

Hopefully this will come to fruition. of course while you are plotting all the topographical features, why not put speed limits in the system as well. It wouldn't be too much of a reach to do the state/province level even if one didn't go to a road by road system. Many downgrades have much lower speed limits for trucks, perhaps those could be hard coded in.

Fleet Owner:maximizing MPG

“Eight or nine years ago, the thermal efficiency of a heavy-truck diesel engine was around 54%. Now, with the introduction of EGR [exhaust gas recirculation] and Caterpillar's ACERT [advanced combustion emission reduction technology] systems, engine thermal efficiency is down to 40%,” he explains. “That all translates into reduced mpg for heavy trucks.”

According to Routbort, “The main goal of the MET [MorElectric Truck] program is energy security. Today we're importing 53% of our oil; and based on current trends, we'll be importing 68% by 2025. Of the current $540-billion U.S. trade deficit, 22% is for oil expenditures alone. That's a lot of capital going overseas to pay for oil,” he says.

Of the 22-million barrels of oil consumed in the U.S. every day, two-thirds of it, or 13-million barrels a day (b/d) is used for transportation, with trucks burning 8-million b/d in their fuel tanks. DOE trend lines indicate that by 2025, transportation demand for oil will top 18-million b/d, with trucking consuming 12-million b/d.

That's why Routbort is so enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the MET project. “From a global standpoint, the technologies developed in this project can help reduce our reliance on imported oil, contribute to emissions reduction, and from a trucking perspective, position the industry to remain competitive,” he says.

Launched in 2000, the MET program represents a joint effort between DOE and private industry to reduce parasitic loads on heavy truck engines. Caterpillar provided engine technology, mechanical design, electronics, controls and overall system integration; Kenworth supplied a T-2000 Class 8 truck; Emerson offered electric motor and power electronics knowledge; and Engineered Machined Products developed electrically-driven water and oil pumps According to Routbort, the key to the program is the use of electrical power to enable a variety of truck systems to operate independently of the engine. Specifically, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, brake air compressor, and oil and water pumps on the MET vehicle all operate on electricity. The accessories are powered by a generator inside the flywheel housing, which also serves as the starter motor, along with an auxiliary power unit (APU) and shore power plug-in capability.

Preliminary results indicate a 2% decrease in over-the-road fuel consumption for the MET test vehicle and 6% during engine idling. This means a saving of more than $2,000 annually per truck in fuel and engine maintenance costs.

So one could say, use a "smart" GPS integrated cruise control to anticipate which hills could be "coated" down, the electronic driveline disconnect kicks in at the top of the hills, and the engine cut off, while the Morelectric system keeps the power steering, cooling, HVAC, and air compressor running. Near the bottom of the hill or if the driver applies the brakes the engine is restarted and revved to the appropriate place to pull the next hill or take a downshift. There are a lot of good ideas out there, they just need to be put together into solutions for the industry and society.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Busloads of trouble

San Antonio Express-News:Fatal Bus Fire Raises Accountability Issues
Last month's bus fire that killed 23 elderly nursing home patients who were being evacuated from Houston to escape Hurricane Rita left plenty of blame to go around.
Global Limo Inc. was allowed to continue operations despite the fact that its drivers had been found in violation of federal safety regulations numerous times in the past two years. Gutierrez alone had been stopped by DPS troopers three times in the seven months before the accident, the Washington Post reported.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an arm of the U.S. Transportation Department, also failed in its job to protect the public from unsafe transportation companies.

It is inexcusable that federal agents would allow Global to maintain a satisfactory rating although, media reports revealed, its driver safety record was 97 on a 100-point scale — with 100 being the worst.

After the bus fire, a review of Global's fleet by federal inspectors found 168 violations of federal safety regulations, the majority relating to upkeep of its vehicles, according to the Washington Post. The review prompted federal regulators to shut down the company after it was deemed a hazard to the public.

The U of Wi (Eau Claire) Spectator

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the Oct. 16 bus crash that killed five and injured 30 found that two of the six brakes on the bus were out of adjustment.

Under these conditions, Lauren Peduzzi, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said the bus should not have been on the road because it violated the state's Department of Transportation regulations and raised safety issues.

"That would have been enough to place the bus out of service," Peduzzi said. "You never want a bus on the road (in those conditions)."

The NTSB also found the bus driver, Paul Rasmus, 78, of Chippewa Falls, was not wearing his eyeglasses during the crash, despite the requirement on his driver's license.

Even with these findings, however, Peduzzi said there still is not enough evidence to prove these factors could have prevented the crash.

"We have to figure out at what point was the (the truck) visible to the driver and, based on that, how much reaction time he would have had and how long it would have taken him to stop," she said.


It's just sad.

Global Limo had an unlicensed driver at the wheel of a very poorly maintained Bus.

A trucker with a Suspended License (granted it was suspended for a bad check, but the underlying offense 72 in a 55 [if in a commercial vehicle] is a suspension offense for a CDL driver in Indiana) runs off the road and runs along the shoulder for several hundred feet before jackknifing (and claims he wasn't asleep) and is struck by a bus with out of adjustment brakes driven by a guy who isn't wearing his glasses.

Brakes being out of adjustment is a common problem in Air Brakes. Late Model Air Brake Equipped Vehicles are equipped with automatic slack adjusters but those only work when there is a firm application of the brakes, if you are a cautious driver and do not do a lot of panic brake applications (and don't frequently do a "pump down" of the brake system) then they may not be in adjustment when you need them. There's lots of Safety Gear out there but it's only as good as it is maintained.

What happened to the Democrats

Commonweal:Goodbye Catholics

But nothing Dutton did was as influential and far-reaching as his work on a Democratic commission that ran from 1969 to 1972. Better known as the McGovern Commission, for its chairman, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, the twenty-eight-member panel became the vehicle by which a handful of antiwar liberals revolutionized the Democratic Party. Of this group, Dutton emerged as the chief designer and builder. His goal was nothing less than to end the New Deal coalition, the electoral alliance that had supported the party since 1932 around a broad working-class agenda. In its place, Dutton sought to build a “loose peace constituency,” a collection of groups opposed to the Vietnam War and more generally the military-industrial complex. To this end, Dutton recognized that Democrats would need to appeal to three new constituencies-young people, college-educated suburbanites, and feminists-while ceasing to woo two old ones-Catholics and working-class whites. As it turned out, the McGovern Commission became Dutton’s unlikely vehicle for renovating the party’s coalition. He used one proposal to engineer the emerging feminist movement into the Democratic fold. He used other measures to, in effect, help secular, educated elites wrest the party machinery from state and big-city bosses.
As Greenberg concluded about the 2004 election, “The reason for the defection of these more blue-collar Democrats is rooted in their conservative views on cultural issues. Culturally, the defectors differ from other Democrats on abortion, gay marriage, and especially the National Rifle Association, the second biggest area of difference.”

Dutton, though a supporter of his loose peace constituency and the McGovern Commission to the end, harbored few illusions about them. “It might not have been politically shrewd,” he acknowledged to me in two interviews. “What surprised me is that young people didn’t vote until they were thirty-five years old. And black leaders talked a good game [about delivering the black vote], but they didn’t walk a good game.” Dutton, for all his errors in judgment, maintained a refreshing and admirable intellectual honesty. He might have been the shortsighted designer and builder of the modern Democratic Party, but he was hardly one of the bumbling mechanics who run it today.

It'd be nice if someone would drop Thomas Frank a line. The Democrats have long ceased being interested in the plight of working people. When you are convinced that most working people are lazy racist slobs (witness the typical sitcom's male lead) you aren't very motivated to do anything to help them. Of course, with the decline of the middle class we're all going down the tubes eventually. Nobody makes a good living in a subsistence economy, even the rich get poorer eventually. It's just the working stiffs who are feeling the first effects.

Evening in America?

OpinionJournal-Peggy Noonan:A Separate Peace

I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."
And some--well, I will mention and end with America's elites. Our recent debate about elites has had to do with whether opposition to Harriet Miers is elitist, but I don't think that's our elites' problem.

This is. Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, "I got mine, you get yours."

You're a lobbyist or a senator or a cabinet chief, you're an editor at a paper or a green-room schmoozer, you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, and you're making your life a little fortress. That's what I think a lot of the elites are up to.

Our Friends the Chinese

Washington Times:Four Arrests linked to Spy Ring
Four persons arrested in Los Angeles are part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ring, federal investigators said, and the suspects caused serious compromises for 15 years to major U.S. weapons systems, including submarines and warships.
U.S. intelligence and security officials said the case remains under investigation but that it could prove to be among the most damaging spy cases since the 1985 one of John A. Walker Jr., who passed Navy communication codes to Moscow for 22 years.
The Los Angeles spy ring has operated since 1990 and has funneled technology and military secrets to China in the form of documents and computer disks, officials close to the case said.
The ring was led by Chi Mak and his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, along with Mr. Chi's brother, Tai Wang Mak, and his wife, Fuk Heung Li, officials said.
Key compromises uncovered so far include sensitive data on Aegis battle management systems that are the core of U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers.
China covertly obtained the Aegis technology and earlier this year deployed its first Aegis warship, code-named Magic Shield, intelligence officials have said.
The Chinese also obtained sensitive data on U.S. submarines, including classified details related to the new Virginia-class attack submarines.
Officials said based on a preliminary assessment, China now will be able to track U.S. submarines, a compromise that potentially could be devastating if the United States enters a conflict with China in defending Taiwan.
Mr. Chi, an electrical engineer, also had access to details on U.S. aircraft carriers and once was aboard the USS Stennis. A Pentagon report made public earlier this year said China's military is building up capabilities to attack U.S. aircraft carriers.

Hang 'em high
Nice to know we've blithely placed our economic future in China's ever lovin' hands.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Does the NY Times have a fact checker?

NY Times:Wal-Mart to seek Energy Savings

Embracing energy-conscious and environmentally conscious goals will help both the company's bottom line and its customers' needs, H. Lee Scott said in an interview Monday.
His goals, he said, are to invest $500 million in technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases from stores and distribution centers by 20 percent over the next seven years; increase the fuel efficiency of the truck fleet by 25 percent over the next three years and double it within 10 years, and design a new store within four years that is at least 25 percent more energy-efficient.
The trucks in Wal-Mart's fleet, the nation's largest, have a fuel efficiency of about 6.5 miles per gallon. "They can do at least 13," said Amory Lovins, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit organization that serves as a consultant to companies on energy efficiency and has performed work for Wal-Mart. "They are a big enough buyer to get truck suppliers' undivided attention."

Transport Topics News: Wal-Mart Reportedly Set to Improve Fleet Efficiency
Wal-Mart is ranked No. 2 on the Transport Topics 100 listing of private North American carriers. According to company data, it has about 6,750 trucks and 44,500 trailers.

The largest truckload for hire carrier (Schneider National) Operates about twice as many tractors (14,000) and a few thousand more trailers (48.000 trailers and containers). The largest private package carrier (United Parcel Service) operates more than 10,000 tractors and 80,000 trailers (plus over 60,000 smaller trucks). The largest Less than truckload carrier (Yellow Roadway) uses more than 17,000 tractors and 88,000 trailers. In 2005 over 200,000 Class 8 trucks will be sold in the United States. The top 100 for hire carriers according to Transport Topics operate over 350,000 trucks. There are over 20 million Commercial trucks in the US.

Wal Mart is a big fish, but in a giant pond. Fuel is the second largest cost to motor carriers after labor. If the market has not moved trucks to better fuel economy how is a Wal Mart going to move it with its control of less than 1% of the market?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

GM and the independent trucker

GM has been in the news a lot lately. GMs sales have been in the dumps for many years. Today they have to use incentives to move cars at a loss. Why do they keep making more cars than they can move at a profit? Because they have a lot of fixed costs that they can't get rid of. Under their contracts with the UAW they have to keep paying workers for the duration of the contract as well as the benefits and pensions for former workers have to be paid. So in order to keep the money flowing they have to move metal even if they lose money on the deal, sort of a slow motion Ponzi scheme. Your money for your new GM car is in part paying the costs for the cars GM sold years ago.

How does this tie into truckers? Independent Truckers have high fixed costs: truck payments (typically over $1k/month), insurance, plates and permits. The variable costs aren't cheap either (70-100 gallons of fuel a day at over $3 a pop), tolls (over $40 for a truck to get across Chicago), and an engine overhaul runs about what you'd pay for a decent used car. Yet they still run for less than their true costs. Why? the same reason GM does what it does. If they stop they will be steamrolled by their fixed costs. Freightliner doesn't care if you're making money, they just want their payment on the due date. The Independent doesn't want to lose their business that they have invested years in building so they just keep running faster on the treadmill. Of course sooner or later it will catch you, hence Delphi and the record truck repossessions the last two years.

That's Good

HURRICANE IMPACT: Truckload surprisingly good
Despite the massive economic shock of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which most notably led to a severe spike in diesel fuel prices, the initial spate of earnings reports from truckload carriers indicate the segment isn’t suffering financially in the third quarter.

The big fleets are collecting fuel surcharges that are keeping problems at bay for now. As shippers adapt to the new pricing environment freight flows will shift, taking many profitable loads off the market. Witness Intermodal reaching record levels even as rail traffic falls. The shift to shorter hauls (and thus lower utilization) and other realignments will pinch margins in the medium term. Of course small fleets and owner operators who do not have the leverage to pass on fuel costs will be leaving the industry involuntarily as the brutal economics of today's trucking industry catch up with them. Intermodal can't grow without more rail infrastructure and rail cannot generate sufficient ROI to attract capital. Long term the drop in competition will probably improve the profitability of the carriers left standing.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A real tragedy

Bus, Truck Crash kills five:AP
OSSEO, Wis. - A bus carrying high school students home from a band competition crashed into a tractor-trailer that had jackknifed on the interstate early Sunday, killing four adults and an 11-year-old girl, officials said.

Twenty-nine others were injured, some seriously, troopers said.

"It's a terrific tragedy and loss to our school and community," said Chippewa Falls schools superintendent Mike Schoch. "Our community is stunned by it."

The semi had gone off the shoulder of Interstate 94 and jackknifed, and was blocking the westbound lane, Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Douglas Notbohm said.

"I don't know how much opportunity there was for braking action," he said. The bus slammed into the overturned truck, but it didn't roll or catch fire, patrol spokesman Brent Pickard said.

It was the first of four buses carrying about 140 students and 15 to 20 adult chaperones, Schoch said.

Bus driver Paul Rasmus, 78, of Chippewa Falls, died in the crash. The identities of the other victims — two men, ages 48 and 24, a 51-year-old woman and the girl — were withheld pending notification of their families.

The semi driver, employed by Whole Foods Market Group of Munster, Ind., was en route from Indiana to Minnesota, Notbohm said. The driver was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Officials didn't know why the truck went off the shoulder and overturned. The driver told investigators he had not fallen asleep, Notbohm said, and Pickard said the road was dry at the time of the crash.

Two things, Bus Hours of Service standards have not been changed even though freight standards have been tightened (though not enough). A driver hauling toilet paper is required to take more time off between shifts and to work shorter days than a driver carrying 16 to 90 souls. Second, Technology to prevent run off road accidents and improve night vision is out there. The costs to install such systems surely are less than the liabilities the Grocery chain that owned the truck and charter bus firm will incur from this tragedy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Get Religion: Why is the Bush Burning?

Journalists must realize the leadership of the Republican Party knows that pro-life, traditional religious believers — Democrats, as well as Republicans — have nowhere to go in an era in which, to paraphrase Maureen Dowd, the Democratic Party’s only iron-clad value is the defense of Woodstock. So the Republican establishment can treat cultural conservatives the way the Democrats treat labor unions.

As Bush I learned to his sorrow eventually they get wise to it—for a while.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I'm game, are you?

Heavy Duty Trucking:August 2005 Will carriers and owner-operators heed the mandatory speed limiter call?
Jaws were dropping all across the land this past July when the Ontario Trucking Assn. – the largest trucking association in Canada and the third largest in North America – put out a call for mandatory speed-limiting devices on trucks.
Perhaps only slightly more surprising was OTA's call for continent-wide adoption of the policy.
In a statement, OTA indicated that while a North American-wide approach to mandating speed limiters would be optimal, it was prepared to "urge the Ontario government to ensure that at least all the trucks that operate into, out of, and within this province are speed limited."
OTA president David Bradley says this issue has been a topic of discussion around OTA boardroom for some time. It's nothing new, he notes, adding, "In addition to the specific issue of speeding, it is felt that speed is correlated with poor lane discipline, which we are also trying to begin to address."
Several members of the OTA board recently visited a number of European states including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and France on a fact-finding mission, concluding that speeding and lane discipline were not big issues over there.
"The use of mandatory speed limiters works. A speeding truck would stick out like a sore thumb in Europe," says Mark Seymour, CEO of Kriska Transportation in Prescott, Ont. "In the several hundred kilometers we drove over there, I never once saw a speeding truck. In my view, poor lane discipline is a by-product of speeding. In Europe, trucks stick to the inside lane for the most part. It was great to see."
Whether or not that policy can, or should, be adopted in North America is another issue. Critics of the OTA plan are quick to point out that trucks spec'd for efficient operation at higher speeds would take quite a hit being forced to operate at reduced speeds. Drivers, predictably, aren't very receptive to the idea, nor are owner-ops. That group is becoming quite vociferous in it's opposition.
..... but just what constitutes speeding? Ontario's major highways have speed limits of 100 km/h (62 mph). Secondary highways are posted at 80 km/h (50 mph). The provinces of Alberta and New Brunswick have posted limits of 110 km/h (66 mph) on main arteries, while Nevada, New Mexico and seven other states have limits of 75 mph. Trying to achieve consensus on this one would be a monumental task, to say the least.
Ontario's solution? Bradley says he is prepared to urge the Ontario government to go it alone.
That, Bradley says, would require speed limiters on all trucks operating in the province, including outside carriers servicing or transiting the province. That would require some verifiable means of establishing that trucks had an active speed limiter, and it was engaged. So, how would Ontario verify the presence of an active speed limiter on a truck?
"Actually, it does not appear to be all that difficult," Bradley asserts. "Handheld PDA's are already being used that can tell you immediately what speed a truck limiter is set at. There may have to be some modification in terms of who has access to which codes to avoid tampering, but this does not seem to be technically insurmountable."
While Bradley wasn't able to go into a lot more detail, one can see roadside inspections in the province including a speed-limiter verification where the enforcement officer would plug a PDA into the reader port to check the codes on the ECM.
"The direction of the board is clear – speeding trucks, and trucks that sit in passing lanes, should no longer be tolerated," says OTA Chairman Scott Smith, CEO of JD Smith & Sons, a Toronto-based local and regional hauler. "We'll talk to carriers, truck drivers, government, police and motorists to answer questions like what speed trucks should be limited to, how to avoid tampering, how to deal with the fact that there are 60 jurisdictions in North America. But we are of the strong view that mandatory speed limitation for trucks is overdue. The technology already exists on current electronic engines. It just needs to be turned on. We've got the ability, why not use it?"

The ideal would be for US to go to a 65 MPH limit and mandatory speed limiters on all late model trucks and all new vehicles. Given the oil supply issues we are facing, asking everyone to hold it to a mile a minute doesn't seem like much to ask. Speeding tickets are a lucrative business for the States and Municipalities, but I think safety would be better served by officers patrolling the highways than by hiding out staring at a radar gun. Speeding is a stupid problem to have when pretty much every engine is computer controlled and can be limited at almost no cost or complexity. I don't see when enforcement has to be complicated, once a phase in period has passed if a truck is going faster than 65 on flat land (or uphill!) it's in violation, the officer just has two tickets to write. Eventually GPS based "smart" limiters that would be able to match your location to the local speed limit will be available and proven but better to go with what we can safely implement today.

Most truckers' issue with the devices is that they are paid by the mile and so they are taking a pay cut by being limited to fewer miles in a day. Of course speeding increases the chances of career ending tickets and, if involved in accident, devastating liabilities. Driver Pay needs to go up, but letting everyone run at 75 is not the answer.

Why we need a 97K Weight Limit

(Note: I oppose the 51K Tridem/six axle tractor trailer usually associated with the "NAFTA 97K" proposal. A 44K tridem axle grouping weight limit would allow a 97K truck on 7 axles which would reduce pavement damage, increase braking, have a better fore/aft weight balance and still allow a productivity enhancement. Both would have added bridge costs.)

Trains newswire Sept 28 (not a direct link
Presently in Chicago, overweight containers must be unloaded at ports of entry and broken into smaller truckload-sized shipments to comply with federal and state regulations limiting the amount of weight that can legally be transported over public roadways. This leaves customers importing goods to the Midwest with two choices: Sending smaller shipments in containers (not capitalizing on the maximum container capacity), or unloading fully loaded containers at the port and shipping them to Chicago in smaller-sized shipments. Both alternatives are costly and result in additional handling and/or transportation expenses.

One of the inefficiencies in intermodal is the need to make a rubber tire movement to have the cargo split up so it can legally be taken to its destination (and for those that are not transloaded, running 90-97K on 5 axles increases road damage).

Fleet Owner September 05 Roads To Hell part 2
Petty argues that “going to 96,000 lb. GCW alone would add tremendous productivity. In fact, operators have shown that when running in Michigan, where heavier weights are allowed, they can deliver 20% more goods with fewer vehicles than in neighboring Illinois. [Note: Michigan's gross weight limits are much higher than 96K for trucks with enough axles]
“So to not allow heavier combinations makes no public policy sense at all,” he continues. “It's as if we have to reach a crisis in which products are not getting to market before we can force a change in these regulations.”
ATA's Roth points out that the rest of the industrialized world, including Canada and Mexico, have gone to a 96,000- to 97,000-lb. GCW tractor with tridem (three axles at rear) trailer. “By next year,” he notes “ATA plans to have solid recommendations to talk about.”
“The highway bill just passed is essentially a highway maintenance bill,” stresses ATA's Roth. “And the states will not make the kind of investments needed to increase road capacity.
“All this makes changes in size and weight attractive [as a means to increase freight-carrying capacity,” he continues. “And bear in mind that changes only need to be made to actual pavement if truck axle weights, not gross vehicle weights, are increased.
“Bridges are a little different,” Roth notes. “Depending on what vehicle weight and length is determined, some bridges may have to be strengthened or replaced to carry truck traffic. Most Interstate bridges would not have to be adjusted [to carry proposed 96,000-lb. GCW combination vehicles].”

Trucks are unfairly maligned as being subsidised by everyone else. The real story is the magic of deficit spending.
Fleet Owner August 05 Roads to Hell
Road damage caused by heavy trucks may be the most contentious part of the issue, as car drivers blame the big rigs for beating up roads and their owners not paying more money to fix them. The data belies this belief: Trucks and cars both pay about 80 to 90% of their total road costs. Although each group pays the same proportion, it is still short of the 100% each should be paying to keep roads in top condition.

New Toy

Heavy Duty Trucking: Test Ride in Peterbilt 386

We were alerted by Jim Park, our colleague on the Canadian HighwayStar Magazine that he had not achieved very good fuel mileage on his test drive. But he had taken the truck before the roof fairing had been fitted. With that fairing, plus some additional schooling in the optimum technique for driving the ACERT Cats, I did better. When we checked the fuel mileage we were astounded to find we had bettered Jim by 2 mpg, returning an overall of 6.88 mpg for our 346-mile round trip.

The trend seems to be on the new trucks that the RPMs have to be kept in a tight low range. Detroit wants 12-1500 for theirs. I don't know yet where the '07 engines are going to go on Drivability. MPG might have been boosted slightly by going to a direct setup (1:1 top gear and rear end ratio in the 2.6-2.9 range rather than the more traditional .7 top gear and 3.55 rears) and also wide base singles and extra trailer streamlining could make a small improvement. I hope Cat can move forward in MPG in '07 like Detroit and Cummins have indicated they will.

The 386 might be a decent compromise for fleets wanting to be able to convert the tractor to a daycab later on. The 379 is a nice piece of work (they've been building it for years so all the bugs are worked out) and is very popular with drivers. Being a traditional simple design the parts are cheap and easy to obtain (Windshield for Pete 379 is about $40, windshield for the Ultra Aero 387 is near $700 and requires the truck be Out of Service for 24 hours.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Matthew Simmons again

Matthew Simmons comments at Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's Energy Conference 2005

Turns out the SUV isn’t the problem. It’s large trucks moving goods thousands of miles, getting three to five miles per gallon and clogging up our highways.

It'd be nice if he'd do a little research. I'm disappointed in my new truck (2006 Freightliner FLC 120 w/ 445 14L Detroit) , it only gets 7.5 MPG. On the same run a 2000 Freightliner FLC 112 w/ 370 11L Cummins got 8.5, and a 2000 Volvo VL w/ 270 11L got 9.2. I run light loads but have to run about 16% idle (liftgate) and hilly terrain.
Back in the bad old days before electronic engine controls 3-5 MPG was common, but anything in the last 10 years spec'd and driven properly will beat that. Cats run in the high 5s to low 6s, Cummins 6s to high 7s, and Detroits 6s to low 8s. If speeds are lowered those numbers will improve.
And as to which type of vehicle burns the most fuel a picture (or in this case a graph) is worth a thousand words (keep in mind that Distillates used in transportation encompasses diesel for trains as well as trucks [and diesel pickups and passenger vehicles, but those are a small share)

Graphic from EIA report on demand

Monday, September 26, 2005


Detroit News: Patent Office Again Rejects Caterpillar Patent

A Georgia inventor has won the second round in his fight with the giant Caterpillar Corp. over rights to technology behind a new diesel engine that has brought the company billions of dollars in sales.

On Thursday, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiner declared for the second time that most of the claims for which Caterpillar was awarded a patent last year were not patentable because Clyde Bryant of Alpharetta, now 78, had already invented them.

At stake in the patent fight are the rights to an idea that Caterpillar has used to sell more than 200,000 of its award-winning "ACERT" diesel engines.

Bryant, a retired Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chemist, last October challenged a 2004 patent awarded to two Caterpillar engineers for a system of injecting a charge of cooled air into a diesel engine at a critical point in the combustion cycle. He claimed the patent was a restatement of a system that he patented in 2001.

Both Bryant's patent and the one awarded to two Caterpillar engineers last year claim the technique results in sharply improved engine efficiency, reducing both pollution and fuel use.

Hopefully they get it sorted out soon. The back royalties could get pretty large.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pet Peeve

Petroleum News:Interview with Matthew Simmons

To cope with the coming oil shock and much higher oil prices, Simmons told Financial Sense Newshour, the world, led by the United States, will have to become drastically energy efficient virtually overnight. A series of changes, including transporting all goods that currently travel by truck, by rail or water, could cut oil consumption 20-40 percent, he said.

“So by getting trucks off our highway system we have a major impact on removing traffic congestion. And traffic congestion is public enemy number 1 through 5 on passenger car fuel efficiency. So it’s a real win, win, win,” he observed.

Of course 98% of all Americans would rather Others rode mass transit (Satire)

But Seriously, the congestion benefits of intermodalism are overblown. A "normal" truckload shipment goes directly from shipper to consignee (most often, at least one is in a suburb of a major metro area). An intermodal shipment has to go from the shipper to a railyard and be loaded then at the other end be picked up from another railyard and taken to the consignee. So you have a truck at both ends going into a city (where congestion and its impacts are far worse) and of course if the rail hubs aren't in the same cities as the origin and destination the truck will be on surface streets in four cities.

The Ontario truck association writes: (PDF)

Expansion of intermodal operations for moving freight is another popular concept, almost a panacea for relieving congestion. Certainly intermodal shipping can have benefits for relieving overall congestion on the highway system. However, intermodal shipping will do little or nothing to relieve urban congestion as the freight must still begin and end its movement on a truck. It helps the provincial system but the impact of truck traffic on local roads is not reduced by intermodal shipping. Most intermodal facilities are located far outside urban areas. The freight is brought to the facility by rail but then trucks still have to take the freight to its final destination.

In fact, the recently completed Ontario Surface Freight Transportation study from Transport Canada, found that in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area], even if the railways were able to achieve their hoped for market share of intermodal traffic, the impact on highway capacity would be “pretty small.” The study concludes that “in the busiest stretches of Highway 401, (the passenger-car equivalent of shifting
trucks off the road) is less than 0.5% of the traffic volume.”

Also 80% of American communities only get freight by truck. I sure hope the other 20% don't mind all the freight moving through their towns.

Not to mention rail is more expensive for the most common freight moves. Intermodal Freight works best as large point to point unit trains for trips over 500 miles and the minimum size and length of haul requirements are going up, not down Ontario Truck Association: Truck/Rail Cooperation Trains Magazine:Europe’s hub-and-spoke intermodal services stumbles. . The Average length of haul for trucking was 485 miles in 2002 according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The FMCSA has a breakdown by commodity type available in another report..

And there is the small matter of how to convince shippers to use rail.
A 1990 study, commissioned by Transport Canada, from the Institute of Guided Ground Transport at Queen's University found that:

Based on average rail length of haul of 700 km [434 mi], the current level of highway user charges for trucks would virtually need to more than triple before any significant modal shift to the railways would occur for most commodities; and, Virtually all short-haul (under 500 km [310 mi]) freight traffic would stay with truck, regardless of the level of user charges. The study suggests that 70 per cent of truck traffic is short-haul. (In fact, about 90 per cent of all truck traffic moves less that 600 km [372 mi], and probably 95 per cent less than 700 km.)

Raising truck taxes is not a solution to the railway sector's problems.

-Ontario Truck Association: Truck/Rail Cooperation (link above).

One more detail, the rails are loaded heavily the same places trucks are. It would take several years of national effort to expand their capacity sufficiently to take a significant portion of truck freight. Short Sea shipping has promise as well as shipping more goods by sea from Asia to the East coast of the US.

Truck Traffic Flows (Volume)

Rail Traffic Flows (Tons)

Waterborne Freight Traffic Flows (Tons)

Peugeot chief: Gas hybrids don't make sense

PSA Chairman: Mainly Looking to Diesels and Diesel Hybrids for the Fuel-Efficient Future

Each time a gasoline engine is replaced by a diesel engine, consumption at equivalent performance is reduced by 20%.

I feel we should be clear that hybridization is interesting from a technological perspective, but it is and will remain very expensive, so its environmental benefits need to be studied closely.

If hybridization involves combining a gasoline and an electric engine, the benefits are comparable to those provided by substituting diesel engines for gasoline engines, except that one of these solutions is much less costly than the other. That’s why I believe there is no real advantage in developing hybrid gasoline engines in those parts of the world where diesel engines are well established. Only a hybrid diesel engine is attractive because it offers both benefits.

-Jean-Martin Folz, Chairman of PSA Peugeot Citro├źn

Gas hybrids have had very disappointing economy results (to be fair most of them have been tuned more to improve acceleration than to improve economy). Diesels are proven technology. Diesel Hybrids are are an ideal combination. Diesels love to run at a steady speed (such as in highway driving) and electrics are at their best in start and stop in town settings. The hybrid combination reduces NOx over a diesel (NOx emissions are at their worst during acceleration) and Carbon Dioxide over a standard Gas hybrid. Daimler Chrysler reported a $7500 Cost premium for their ESX3 Diesel Electric hybrid. How much are they paying per unit to move their SUVs?

Many hope to jump to the "Hydrogen Economy". Of course the only way to get Hydrogen is to split it from something else, which takes lots of energy and we have no infrastructure and its energy density is very low. We have a diesel Distribution network now. One more happy thought:

Combining the power of diesel engines with the efficiency of hybrid technologies can have terrific payoffs. Last year, MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment produced a study (PDF) comparing total lifecycle energy efficiency and greenhouse emissions (including use, production, fuel production, and eventual disposal) of idealized advanced internal combustion, hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles. Diesel hybrids turned out to be much better than gasoline/gasoline-hybrid cars, and highly competitive with the best hydrogen fuel cell systems (even assuming optimistic fuel cell vehicle development). But the best hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will require entirely new hydrogen production, storage, and fueling facilities; reformed-gasoline fuel cells (which are more likely to be used, as they would not require the wholesale replacement of fueling stations) fared much worse.

World Changing:Diesel Electric Hybrids Now

Conspiracy Nuts Dig in

Thomas Lifson: Misunderestimated Again: Bush and Recovery from Katrina

If Democrat-voting minorities do not return to New Orleans in massive numbers, there is every indication that Louisiana will become a GOP stronghold, just like its neighbors in the South. It is New Orleans votes that have sufficed to elect governors and senators of the Democrat persuasion, making Louisiana the anomalous Southern Democrat stronghold it has remained since the end of Reconstruction. An enhanced GOP majority in the Senate will be helpful in further re-population of the federal judiciary with those who believe the Constitution means what it says.

Did he even think about how that sounds? And I wouldn't hold my breath on Louisiana. There were/are a lot of mad non-minorities down there. The rest of America may forget, but they'll remember it for a good while. And (speaking of President Bush)"Enemies and allies alike are once again failing to understand that a highly-trained strategist is at work....". Um, take a look at his impressive business management resume and then we'll talk. I voted for him because he seems like a decent enough guy and the alternatives were a lot worse, not because he was a "Harvard trained strategist".

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And the Screw goes a little tighter

The Big Picture: The Disconnect and Economic Classes

"Median income fell most sharply in the Midwest, where it dropped 2.8% to $44,700, though it remains $300 higher than the national average. The drop -- accompanied by a rise in poverty in the Midwest -- partly reflects the disappearance of high-wage manufacturing jobs.

Across the country, the Census Bureau said, median earnings for full-time workers employed year-round dropped significantly last year. Men's earnings declined by 2.3% to $40,798 and women's 1.0% to $31,223. The data, which don't reflect employer-provided health benefits, measure pretax income.

The fraction of Americans living below the official poverty line -- $19,307 for a family of four last year -- rose for the fourth consecutive year to 12.7% in 2004 from 12.5% the year before, the bureau said. Last year, 37 million Americans were living in poverty, about 1 million more than the year before and 5.4 million more than in 2000 when poverty bottomed out as the economy peaked.

The poverty rate rose for non-Hispanic whites -- to 8.6% from 8.2% the year before -- while falling among Asians to 9.8% in 2003 from 11.8%. Among blacks and Hispanics, there wasn't any significant change, the Census Bureau said. The biggest increase was among people between the ages of 18 and 64, rising to 11.3% from 10.8%. Among those 65 and over, the poverty rate fell to 9.8% from 10.2%. The Census Bureau poverty data don't reflect noncash government benefits, such as health insurance or food stamps.

The Census Bureau also said that the percentage of Americans without health insurance remained stable at 15.7% in 2004. The number lacking insurance increased by 800,000 to 45.8 million while the number with public or private health insurance increased by two million to 245.3 million."

Union Weakness lets Firms seek big concessions(subscription)

Last week, an ATT Holding Co.'s Ames True Temper Inc. shovel-making factory in Parkersburg, W.Va., was padlocked after the union rejected a 58% cut in pay and benefits, which would take pay from $17 an hour to $6.22 an hour, and set a $10,000 deductible for family health insurance coverage.

via Bacon and Eggs

The hyper wealthy are doing well carving up the gains workers had made in the last century.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Oh the choices...

Bradford Plumer:Has Conservatism died?
This entire debate about whether or not "conservatism" has advanced or declined under big-spenders like George W. Bush and Tom DeLay seems muddled to me. Here's another possible way of looking at it, which may or may not be right. Bush-style "conservatism" over the past decade, I think, has basically taken up the same aims as DLC-style "liberalism" (or even, in a sense, Lyndon Johnson-style liberalism): you have technocratic elites commandeering the resources of the administrative state to enact their preferred social policies and to steer taxpayer money towards their favored constituents. Obviously, the two sides have somewhat different constituents: Bush favors the capitalist class, the DLC favors the educated professional class. Or whatever. But there you go.

So yes, we'll get Bush-style conservatism vs. DLC liberalism for eons to come, thanks to the sort of state Bush and DeLay have helped reify—though they hardly created it. Over the long haul, neither side will gain an absolute edge: the Republicans have a rural-state advantage in the Senate, while the Democrats have popular opinion on cultural and many policy issues on their side. Nevertheless, we're looking forward to two patronage parties, frozen in power until the next major economic crisis hits and knocks over the whole damn chessboard. Obviously I wouldn't equate the two sides: the Republicans are doing real damage and need to be kicked out as soon as possible, and the Democrats can still do a great deal of good, but I'm afraid "conservatism" isn't in any more of a crisis, fundamentally, than "liberalism." Limited government (along with a return to 1950s social conservatism) on the right and social democracy on the left have both been throttled. Whether that's okay with people or not is another question.

Basically the Left and the Right are stuck in their current awkward positions. But it's always fun to choose sides in the Battle between rich well connected Democrats and rich well connected Republicans.

Those who do not learn from the past....

Chavez Land Seizures Slammed
Ideology and corporate concerns do not enter the conversation of the campesinos sitting on overturned buckets shucking fresh corn to be ground in a hand-cranked mill and made into corn pancakes called "cachapas."
    For these families, ignored for generations by previous governments and pushed to the edge of survival, Mr. Chavez's revolutionary plans appear as their ticket to a new life. They reject the idea that they are squatters or that they have invaded someone else's land.
    "We are Venezuelans; we have the right to the soil. This is our earth, so we are not invaders," said Lisa Gramos, 55, before cooking the pancakes on a hot griddle in the one-room hut that serves as kitchen and bedroom for four adults and a number of small children.
    Much of the rancor comes from Venezuela's history of the wealthy few owning most of the land, and the failure of successive governments to bring the poor into national development.
    It is a situation that Mr. Branger, speaking over a long dinner in Caracas, recognizes.
    "We deserved it. We became a very complacent society, and we forgot our social responsibility, and we forgot the communities. We were not giving back to the communities. We deserved a bit of what is going on -- but unfortunately, we got a lot," he said.

Of course the state seizure of land is going to end badly. Outside corporations will stop investing, like Wal-Mart bailed on Russia after Yukos was seized. Other multinationals and folks who think they might be next will head for the exits. Those who stay will demand a premium for the extra risk to their investment. But the other point to be made is in a democracy, Oligarchy cannot be sustained. Sooner or later, if people feel they are getting a raw deal they will use the ballot box to strike back—no matter how many "Harry and Louise" spots you run. But thinking about that would require our beloved Robber Barons to think beyond the next quarter.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trucking Strikes

Caught a blog claiming a trucker's strike is afoot for the end of October. When I drove over the road you'd hear rumors every week or two that on such and such a date there would be a trucker's strike. A Border Crossing in Canada was slowed for several days this week in a labor action by drivers and Port of Miami drivers held a one day protest recently.

Why are there murmuring of a strike? Owner drivers are in an unprofitable Capital Intensive business. Refrigerated Transport: Driver Shortage limits carrier capacity

Another approach to reduce the driver shortage is to get more owner-operators. However, the number of owner-operators has been shrinking.

“I don't see anything that is going to change that,” Albrecht said. “The reason is simple economics. Owner-operators at fleets that pay per mile are generally making 88-91 cents per mile. The cost per mile for fleets is about $1.30. Even with fuel surcharges of 15-20 cents per mile, how can owner-operators make it at $1.10 per mile?

Diesel is at record levels (a 66% increase versus 53% for gas over the last 2 years) and the forecast is for Distillates (the group of fuels Diesel is part of, along with Heating Oil and Jet Fuel) to rise about 30% this Winter...assuming there are no more supply disruptionsEIA:Short Term Energy Outlook Sept 7, 2005 In addition the industry is hurting from a 3-10% loss in fuel economy due to the EPA regulations that took effect in October 2002.

I still do not believe we will see a massive strike (the vast majority of trucks in the market are owned by large nonunion carriers), but small work actions will be possible as the market gets tougher,

Even if truckers do not strike, the destruction of Truck Supply due to small operators failing may tighten the freight market further.
Truck Repossessions increased by 45% the first Quarter this year over the same period in 2004
And a 38% increase year over year in the 2nd Quarter this year.
And this is in an industry already shrunk by more than a decade of reduced margins followed by a record wave of bankruptcies in 2001-2002 link.

Sad but true

Firehouse: Louisiana Firefighters describe Mutual Aid efforts

Minden Firefighters

Just getting into New Orleans proved to be quite a feat for the team of Minden firefighters, including Benny Gray, Lonnie Gray and John Tucker. But due to Tucker’s quick thinking, the group was able to talk their way through four checkpoints to get into the city.

The firemen left out the night of Tuesday, August 30, and once south ran into a series of checkpoints.

“At the first, a deputy was turning all the boats around, saying it was too dangerous,” Tucker said. “They were all turning around, so I went right instead of left.”

At the next two checkpoints, Tucker had authorities believing the group was supposed to be a staging area in New Orleans.

“They said it was too dangerous, but we’re too ignorant for that,” Tucker said. “We were wanting to help, and I didn’t want to be turned around by some goof with a walkie talkie.”

To get through the last checkpoint, Tucker closely followed a bus that was on its way to pick up a load of prisoners.

“They weren’t letting anybody by, and we knew there were people there waiting on the roofs,” Tucker said. “We stayed with the prison bus, and once we were in New Orleans, we never saw any cops.”[emphasis added]


By day’s end, the group had rescued more than 200 people, including lots of children.

“These were good people. We should have gotten them out before,” Gray said. “It gave me a different outlook.”

Cotton Valley Fire Department


Capt. Hurley said his team worked most of the time without a security detachment.

“Our security detachment, unfortunately, left us and it was basically like running a gauntlet by the Super Dome,” said Capt. Hurley. “There were thousands of people lining the interstate, trying to take everything (supplies) out of the trucks.”

Capt. Hurley said the people who were being rescued had been told that once they got to the Super Dome or to higher ground, that there would be resources available. He said the most difficult part of the rescue operation was leaving the people on the interstate with no food, water or medical assistance.

“Basically, what the people were saying were, they had been told that once we pulled them out of the water, they would have resources to move them and hydrate them and feed them and those resources never showed up,” said Capt. Hurley. “We all have trained for years for, under the assumption that, the state would be there to do their job and FEMA would come in and do their job and unfortunately, that did not happen for whatever reason. It’s hard to go out and rescue people and not have the resources to take care of them.”

One of the memorable events of the firefighter’s trip was the night their crew helped feed evacuees.

“We had a lot of food left over - jambalaya,” said Stacie Hurley, who was the only female member of the task force. “We went down to the hotels, gas stations, parking lots to feed the people who came from New Orleans and had no food, nowhere to go. We handed out between 300 to 350 plates. That was a good feeling. They were thanking you, hugging you and crying. That was the first warm meal they had had since they left (New Orleans).”


Capt. Hurley said lack of communication posed the most difficulty in regards to rescue operations and procedures.

“There was no communications - radios or cell phones,” said Capt. Hurley. “A great emphasis had been placed, after 9-11, to standardize communications. We received 14 radios through a grant from Homeland Security as well as other departments in Webster Parish and those radios did not function - we could not talk back and forth between even the departments from Webster Parish on a simplex channel, which is radio to radio without a repeater.”

Sadly Law Enforcement and the Local, State, and Federal Governments were not up to the task


SF Gate: Police made their storm misery worse

"They told us that there would be no Superdomes in their city,'' the couple wrote. "These were code words that if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River -- and you weren't getting out of New Orleans.''

After the "law enforcement officers" are hopefully shipped to Gitmo for an indefinite stay, the next thing that needs to happen is Lake Gretna. We finally made a down payment on ending this crap in the South in the Sixties, and now would be a good time to pay a bit more of that debt down.

2 Quotes I love

Tech Central Station: The Anti Ideologues, what Bush and Rehnquist have in common

Conservatives have long believed that human nature disposes us to arrogance, that we're not as smart and not nearly as farsighted as we think we are. The world is a terribly complicated place. If I think I've figured it out, I'm bound to be wrong, maybe disastrously so.

A Geek For God: Being Poor Sucks

I suspect that John Scalzi and I differ widely in our political opinions on certain subjects. But I believe we agree on the goals, we just disagree on the best means to get there.

On that subject, I’m rapidly getting sick and tired of people accusing their political opponents of being evil. Both Democrats and Republicans tend to do it, although it seems to be more highly concentrated in whatever party is currently out of power. I just wish people would wake up and realize that those on the “other side” are also people of good will.

That's why I like to listen to as many sides as possible.

Is it Paranoia?

Up and Out: Chapter 7: How Did we Get here?
....Then after WWI, there was a sudden explosion of unmarried sex. That was the "Roaring Twenties." It was a lot like the explosion of the hippies and their sexual revolution in the 1960s, but with one big difference. The hippies continued their sexual revulotion into the present. But the Roaring Twenties, and its sexual revolution, were stopped cold in less than a decade, by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The Great Depression took the wind out of everyone's sails. Suddenly, in the great troubles of that time, the 'Twenties' generation rediscovered the bedrock values. Family and home gained a new respect and new meaning. A whole nation celebrated the joys of home and family. The huge change can easily be seen by comparing movies from the 20s with those of the 30s.

To most people, the 1930s was a period of severe poverty. That is true: it was. But it did not seem so to the children growing up then. Their parents may have missed what had been lost, but that did not affect the children much. Since almost everyone was poor, they were poor together, so it seemed normal.

Read this and I had one of those "grew up Pentecostal paranoia moments"TM, kind of like when I read that most of Europe will be majority Muslim at the same time that CERA says oil production will peak, was the Great Depression a divine warning shot against immorality? Of course, it could also be the discarding of sexual norms was one of many cavalier rule changes at the time, and some of the reckless decisions were made with nations and fortunes.

Just when you hoped it was dead

Brother's Judd:The Day the Sympathy Died

The Hurricane stopped being helpful to Democrats when they made it a racial issue. The more folks find out about New Orleans, its politics, and its people the less they care about what happened there--except for wanting it rebuilt enough that they stay there

They? I guess "they" aren't Americans like the rest of us. And this is in Reference to an article about sex offenders among evacuees to Massachusetts. Maybe they could title it instead: "Lock up your White women, the African-Americans are off the Reservation!" Race Baiting is disgusting whether it's in the 1950s or the 2000s.

Department of "Huh?"

Castaways and Cuts
There is, of course, more to fighting poverty than anti-poverty spending. Work and wages are crucial. And throughout four years of lousy labor-market performance, touted consistently by the right as some kind of boom, wages have stagnated and the poverty rate has risen in each and every year. Having attracted praise in 2000 for attacking congressional GOP efforts to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) -- a key program helping the working poor -- Bush proceeded to do the same thing by stealth. The IRS has redirected its efforts away from catching rich people who cheat on their taxes to denying on technicalities EITC benefits for poor workers who have trouble navigating the complicated thicket of paperwork the program requires.

I like to read Matthew Yglesias, yes he's full of vitriol but he has interesting things to say (too many of the Pundits on both sides have the former and not the later). I was reading this article when I hit this paragraph. Now I am resolutely boring (still married to the wife of my youth and all) but I have prepared my own taxes most years and have never had an issue with the EIC paperwork. Sadly, my first career as a starving college student meant we qualified every year until this one. The schedule for the EIC and directions fit one double sided 8 1/2x11 page. It's not that hard. Now I hope the IRS is catching rich scofflaws rather than giving semi-literate folks dutch rubs for poorly following instructions, but come on.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


CAFE Society

Myself I think CAFE is sort of a mixed bag. On the plus side, a lot more fuel efficient cars are made available at a low price to the market. If car makers were constrained only by the market demand on fuel economy there probably would not be nearly so many fuel efficient cars on the road. The auto makers have invested where the market was not in order to move high economy cars that would offset their profitable vehicles (in the PT Cruiser's case, trucks). They have added tech and features and cut prices to move the necessary number of economy cars. So many folks bought a smaller car than they would have had the automakers not been selling CAFE offset cars at a loss.

On the downside, this flood of cheap iron into the economy segment has associated small with cheap in the American mindset. Ford's will not bring their new Focus design to the US because it is too costly. Many European makers cannot sell their compact cars at a price the market will pay. Unfortunately the domestic iron has suffered terribly in quality as well. The Dodge Neon and Ford Focus were both very nicely designed cars with horrible quality issues at first. I think in part this is due to cost cutting (hard to justify spending more on a car you are going to lose money on).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Smart, Very Smart

At least one of the school busses was put to good use Bet most of em have automatics. There are some extra issues with Air Brakes, but nothing that would take more than a half hour chalkboard talk to cover adequately for a single road trip. Put one trusted driver and one cop on each one and form a convoy. It wouldn't have fixed everything, but the busses and the people on 'em would be in a lot better shape now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Us dumb 'mercians

American Prospect: Skills Setback

The other common response, like the one from Treasury Secretary John Snow, is to blame the victims -- the “less-educated people,” in his words -- whose lack of skills and smarts have blocked them from cashing in on an otherwise broad-based recovery. Opportunity abounds, according to this argument, if you’ve got the gumption and education to grasp the brass ring. Snow’s undersecretary, Randal Quarles, amplified the point. "If the country as a whole is going to undergo economic growth,” he said, “then the population has to be able to take advantage of opportunities.”

Sounds reasonable, given the constant drone by economists, policy-makers, and central bankers (e.g., Alan Greenspan) about the skills deficits of the U.S. workforce. But there are two fundamental problems with this view.

First, it’s not true. If it bothered to look at the actual trends in employment rates -- the share of a given population at work, and a proxy for that group’s job opportunities -- the skills crowd would learn that since the last economic peak, March of 2001, they’re up for one educational group (high-school dropouts) and down for everybody else, including college graduates.

This doesn’t mean we should all become dropouts. Obviously the more education you have, the better off you’ll be. But even with its recent uptick, job creation has been persistently weak in industries that hire lots of college graduates, like information technology. The Congressional Budget Office also made this point in its recent analysis of the problem.

Moreover, college-educated workers have not escaped the broad deterioration over the last few years in real wages. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, college graduates’ weekly earnings grew 0.9-percent less than inflation did in 2004.

Runaway globalization and destruction of Wages and Jobs have been possible politically because most voters thought they were profiting at someone else's expense. Once it becomes clear that most workers are getting screwed maybe that will change. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"

$4 a gallon gas coming soon?

OPIS tracks wholesale and retail oil prices and provides pricing information for AAA's daily reports on fuel prices.

Brockwell said with gasoline prices now exceeding $3 a gallon before even reaching the wholesale level, it "doesn't take a genius" to expect retail prices to hit $4 a gallon soon.

"Consumers haven't seen the worst of it yet," Brockwell said.

He expects consumers in the Southeast and Northeast to be pinched first, following the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast region.

As a truck driver who delivers auto parts I am worried. Of course, I don't think anybody's going to be feeling good after 6 months of $4 a gallon gas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Our Booming Economy

Delong: WOWCWHABPC - Jonathan Weisman

Today the Census Bureau reports:

Real median earnings of men age 15 and older who worked full-time, year-round declined 2.3 percent between 2003 and 2004, to $40,798. Women with similar work experience saw their earnings decline by 1.0 percent, to $31,223.... There were 37.0 million people in poverty (12.7 percent) in 2004, up from 35.9 million (12.5 percent) in 2003....

Maybe we'll close the income gap between men and women by differing rates of decline....

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Race all the way to the bottom, baby!

Union Labor under Attack

Membership is at its lowest in a century. Locally, teachers and auto workers are being pressured to take pay and benefit cuts. Mechanics for Northwest went on strike Saturday and watched helplessly as replacement workers took their place and members of other airline unions crossed picket lines.

Detroit, the cradle of the labor movement, is ground zero in a battle for the soul -- and survival -- of organized labor. Unions are losing pay, losing members, and even losing the sympathy of supporters like Roth to the corporations that employ them.

So tell me again how wonderful globalization is. We can all live in perpetual job insecurity, watching our real wages sink, and likely be unemployable in our 50s and 60s (while the retirement age soars upward) as we transition from "careers" to "casual employment". Of course most of the loony right is sure everything would get better if we just abolished the minimum wage and environmental laws and the loony left is glad that Americans (the bastards!) are getting their just desserts for being the source for all evil in the worldTM . And a lot of folks who are going to be hurt will cheer the approaching storm until it flattens their house.

Drug Reimportation

Mechanic's Tale: Will we end up with MediCar?

The column is about auto repair, but this is great stuff:

There is a similar analogy in the public discourse right now and it is called drug re-importation. Because of foolish treaties that our government signed, the patents on drugs are not protected in other nations. Any nation can declare an emergency and simply start making an American-patented drug. Since foreign nations know this, and the drug makers know this, the drug companies are likely to sign deals to make whatever minuscule amount they can, while making their real profits in the home market.

The public and Congress (who signed the stupid treaties in the name of humanity, assuming that something as vital as medicine is immune from ordinary supply and demand laws) see foreign countries getting our drugs much cheaper than we do and want to re-import drugs to save money. The drug companies (like the auto repair guys), instead of attacking the foolish treaties and insisting that our government vigorously defend their patents overseas, which would bring down our prices as the foreigners paid more, babble about quality and counterfeiting, which may or may not be real issues.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hey Ambulance Chasers

From the New Hours of Service Final Rule, Section H

FMCSA carried out a costhenefit analysis of a 10- and 1 1-hour driving limit and other
aspects of this final rule. The results are described hlly in section K.l and in the
Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) filed separately in the docket. Motor carrier
operations were modeled very elaborately. As discussed above, the Agency used a timeon-
task multiplier based on the TIFA data. The model assumed that the risk of the 1 lth
versus the 10th hour of driving increased, as based on the TIFA data. FMCSA estimated
that a 10-hour driving limit would save no more than 9.3 lives per year compared to an
1 1-hour limit, but at an annualized net cost of $526 million ($586 million in gross costs
minus $60 million in safety benefits), relative to an 1 1 -hour limit. In other words, a 10-
hour driving limit would cost more than $63 million per life saved.

I recall a few years ago a jury figured the damages in a case against GM based on how much the automaker saved by using a more dangerous design. The comparison breaks down a bit since this is the savings for society as a whole. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear this number thrown about in a wrongful death suit down the line.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"New" HOS rules are out

FMCSA's Sandberg presents new HOS

"The court vacated the [2003] rule based on driver health, and driver health only," FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg said. In developing the new rule, she said FMCSA "addressed driver health issue very extensively. We believe we had the science and the data [to support the 2003 rule] to begin with. That's what we said during the court case, and the court wanted us to provide it in a more thorough manner."

Looks like the FMCSA took the "Failure to use footnotes" interpretation of the court's decision, they also slipped in the "Wal-Mart" amendment (allowing a split break to include a 2 hr off duty period, thus extending the workday to 16 hours and only requiring 8 hours of sleeper time between shifts) and exempted some local drivers from using logbooks as well as allowing these drivers two 16 hour work days a week. CORRECTION: the rule does not allow split breaking to extend the 14 hour day

Here's a great quote from the final rule:
Today's rule also creates a new regulatory regime for drivers of CMVs that do not
require a CDL, provided they operate within a 150-mile radius of their work-reporting
location. These drivers are not required to keep logbooks, though their employers must
keep accurate time records, and the driver may use a 16-hour driving window twice a
week. Driving time may not exceed the normal 1 1 hours, but the longer operational
window twice a week enables short-haul carriers to meet unusual scheduling demands.
Short-haul drivers rarely drive anything close to 11 hours, and available statistics show
that they are greatly under-represented in fatigue-related accidents. On a per-mile basis,
long-haul trucks are almost 20 times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related crash.

One would think if you have one group of drivers that is 20x more likely than a second group have a crash because of fatigue, you'd work on lowering the risk of the more dangerous group rather than increasing the risk to the less dangerous group.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The China Syndrome

Human Events: China-Mart takes over
U.S. corporations decided that the way to get rich was to destroy their American consumer base by closing their American factories, throwing their U.S. employees out of work and hiring Chinese, instead. The Chinese work for less, you see, and free trade economists say lowering costs makes us better off.
What U.S. corporations and the free trade economists overlook is that giving Americans' jobs to foreigners raises foreign incomes and lowers American incomes. When credit cards and home equity lines are maxed out, there will be nothing to support the U.S. consumer market. The American corporations who moved their capital and technology to China will have to find new customers.
Maybe the Chinese government will let the relocated U.S. firms sell to Chinese customers, or maybe the Chinese government will let the U.S. firms go bankrupt. The latter favors China's strategic interest. Chinese businessmen will purchase the bankrupt firms, and Chinese businesses will sell to Chinese customers.

The fundamental issue here, is if the American consumer is broke he can't subsidize the dysfunctional economies of Mexico and China (both of which try to deal with a massive rural underclass by exports to the US (and in Mexico's case by directly "exporting" the rural underclass). Not to mention, US businesses will discover they do not have customers for their goods. Once China does not have to play nice to keep the US market open, the US companies will leave and their intellectual property will stay. We might try to retool, but we will be competing on the World market with "Smokestack warez" , Chinese goods identical in most ways to our best stuff but at a much lower price (when you don't have much in the way of R&D or labor costs, it's amazing what you can do).