Friday, August 28, 2015

The following is a letter sent to the Lafayette Journal & Courier from the President of our company.  It was published in the paper on August 27th.  Click here for the link to the paper's website:


This year, nearly all of us have seen the problems created when highways and bridges are not maintained properly.  Traveling from Indianapolis north has been especially difficult with portions of I-65, US 52, and US 421 being under construction.  Among the many affected by the current I-65 road closure are truckers across Indiana, including those operated by my company, who have lost thousands of hours of productivity waiting in long traffic lines and detours.

So, I take this opportunity to share 2 inequities regarding wear-and-tear on our highways and the payment of fuel taxes.

The first is permit fees for overweight loads.  Trucks hauling loads in sealed ocean-going containers are allowed, with special permits, to haul 95,000 pounds gross weight (The weight limit for other trucks 80,000 pounds).  The permit fee for this privilege is $850 per year, or less than $3 per day.

I believe Purdue’s highway engineers would agree this weight limit increases wear-and-tear on our bridges and highways, and that this permit fee is very small in comparison to the cost of highways.  The trucking industry is vital to our nation’s economy, but such favoritism for certain segments of our industry is inequitable. 


The solution?  Repeal this little-known law which favors the container haulers, a small segment of the industry.  If higher weights are required, then allow higher weight for all by increasing the number of axles on the trailers to evenly distribute the weight and reduce bridge and road damage.    

The second is the method of collecting fuel taxes from the transportation industry.  Our industry favors equitable treatment of all modes of transportation, and I believe a majority in the transportation industry support an increase in fuel taxes --- if equitable collection procedures are in place.  Currently, an 11 cents per gallon tax is collected via quarterly fuel tax reports filed by Motor Carriers. The fallacy of this process is that many companies either fail to file or falsify the quarterly fuel tax reports to avoid the tax.  Indiana is one of only two states which use the dual method to collect; that is, partial collection at the pump and partial collection by tax fillings.

The solution?  Collect the 11 cent tax at the pump. This would assure compliance with collection. The 11 cent add-on would then fairly represent the tax paid by the trucking industry, and the Indiana motoring public would be aware of the full amount of tax paid by the trucking industry.  It has been estimated this action would collect an additional $15 million per year from the non-payors as well as reduce enforcement costs.

If you agree with my thoughts, send this note to your State Representative and Senator and urge them to make these changes. Fair funding for roads is in everyone’s best interest, and is supported by the trucking industry.  Although these suggestions increase cost to the trucking industry, they are less expensive than the future costs to replace bridges and highways that are now maintained with inadequate care and insufficient funding.  

It is time to improve our Indiana highway system.

Thomas R. Schilli
Schilli Transportation Services
trschilli@schilli.com   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Safety Council Warns About July 4 Holiday Driving



The National Safety Council estimates 409 deaths and 49,500 injuries requiring medical attention will occur on U.S. roadways this Fourth of July holiday weekend -- the highest predicted numbers NSC has released for a three-day Independence Day holiday since 2008.

The holiday period this year falls on a weekend, and summer weekends are especially deadly, NSC said. The period in question starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 2, and extends through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 5.

Here are some NSC tips you can pass along to fleet drivers to help them remain safe this holiday weekend:

Buckle up. NSC estimates 155 lives will be saved during this period because seat belts are worn. An additional 99 lives could be saved if all buckled up.

Reduce your speed. More speeding-related fatalities occur during the summer months than any other time of year.

Refrain from using cell phones– hands-free or handheld – when driving. Drivers talking on cell phones are up to four times as likely to crash.

Place children in age-appropriate safety seats. Child restraints saved an estimated 284 lives in 2012 among children younger than 5.

Don't drink and drive. If you do drink, designate a nondrinking driver or take an alternative form of transportation.

Stay engaged with your teens' driving habits. An NSC survey found many parents are more inclined to loosen household driving rules during the summer.  

Click here to see the article from the Fleet Safety News website.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Takata Airbag Recall May Include Some Commercial Trucks

It is the largest recall in US history.  It is also the largest worldwide recall.

53 Million airbags are being recalled worldwide from Japanese supplier Takata.  34 million were sold to US companies and may be in some commercial trucks sold by Daimler Trucks.  They are still researching to see what, if any, models are affected.

The airbags are being recalled because they can spray shrapnel when they are deployed causing injury or fatality.  

I am surprised by the number of cars and trucks that have the recalled airbags in them.  Takata supplies US automakers with 20% of the airbags they use and, apparently, the defective components have been manufactured for several years. 

Click here to read the article in Heavy Duty Trucking about the airbag recall.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Freightliner Autonomous Truck First Licensed for U.S. Highways


“Thank you for looking at the impossible and finding a safe way to make it possible."

That's what Nevada Gov. Brian Sondoval said to Daimler Trucks North America officials when he officially granted the first license for an autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States. "Today we come together to celebrate innovation, safety and the future."

Reporters from around the world were shown the new license plate with great fanfare. However, they got only a glimpse of the new autonomous truck, dubbed the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, before it drove away at the event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Tuesday, its nose still camouflaged. A special event in the evening will bring more details.

"Never has there been such a truck on public roads until today," said DTNA President and CEO Martin Daum.

The truck left the Speedway with Gov. Sandoval as a passenger in the inaugural trip in autonomous mode, with Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Trucks & Buses, at the controls.

“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck," said Gov. Sandoval. "The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy.

"The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

Nevada was selected as the demonstration location because it is one of four states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws regulating autonomous vehicle operation. Nevada legislation passed in 2011 and 2013 regulates the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles. The legislation includes commercial trucks and sets standards specifying the number of miles an autonomous vehicle must have been tested in certain conditions before it can be granted a license to be driven in Nevada.

Daimler obtained a special permit from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to operate the Freightliner Inspiration Truck on public roads near Las Vegas after supplying state officials with detailed information on the safety systems in the truck and the training program for the drivers.

In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg.

Bernhard explained that the Inspiration Truck will allow the driver to take his feet off the pedals and his hands off the steering wheel, similar to an airplane. "Still the driver still monitors and is in charge of what happens," he said in response to a reporter's question. "The system is much easier for him, is much less fatiguing, and makes his life and his job much more attractive."

A step in the future, he said, would be to get the driver off his monitoring task and allow him to do other things, he said, but that's further out.

The only infrastructure needed for efficient operation of the autonomous Inspiration Truck, Bernhard said, are good stripes and lane markings so the truck's camera can see them.

Daum emphasized that this is "the very first step" and that there will be hundreds more steps before we see autonomous vehicles being mass-produced and driving coast to coast. For one thing, he said, before that can happen, "the liability question has to be addressed by regulators, and we will bring very good arguments" to that process, he said.

Click here for the full link to the article on Heavy Duty Trucking.