Friday, October 10, 2008

Programmable speed limiters for cars

Let’s face it, if there was technology out there to help encourage teens to be safer drivers, truckers would likely be among those in favor of it.

Ford Motor Co. has introduced new technology called MyKey that includes a speed limiter setting for the engine of certain models. MyKey can be programmed to limit the top road speed of the Focus model to a maximum of 80 mph.

They say it will curb road racing, but to be honest, I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen a Focus doing 80 mph. Oh well, it’s a start.

A practical application for the MyKey is that it can be programmed to sound warnings to the driver when the car reaches 45, 55 and 65 mph.

MyKey encourages seat-belt usage by chiming frequent reminders and by muting the vehicle’s stereo until the seat belt is engaged. That’s practical. It won’t let drivers play the stereo until they’re buckled up.

MyKey also limits the volume of the stereo to 44 percent of its total volume to encourage the driver to pay attention to the road instead of the latest CD from My Chemical Romance.

The programmable technology will come standard on 2010 and newer Ford Focus models and will soon be standard on other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, officials announced on Monday, Oct. 6.

About half the people surveyed during testing said they would allow their teens to use the family car more often if the vehicle were equipped with MyKey technology.

Initially, 67 percent of the teens surveyed didn’t like the idea of having this technology limit their driving habits, but that number dropped to 36 percent if using it meant they could borrow the car more often.

It’s a step in the right direction. What they really need is for technology – or at least a driver education course – that teaches teens more about sharing the road with large trucks.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sorting reality from pie-in-the-sky

Last week, HQ was buzzing like a beehive. From Oct. 1-4 the OOIDA Board of Directors convened, and it was nonstop meetings. I’ve always been a fly on the wall at these affairs, covering the whole enchilada for Land Line Magazine.

Last year, I was elected to serve as an alternate to our employee board member, so now I’m at the table. It’s a different perspective. I’ve been here for 21 years and I know how OOIDA works their plan. The part I really relish is watching the leadership of an organization of 160,000 members plan its work.

For instance, I am always fascinated with how the Association’s government affairs strategies are typically developed. The line of attack is a lot more than just blowing smoke, and it takes some sharp minds and experienced leaders with BS meters turned on high to turn talk into walk.

During the week – and way before – OOIDA’s DC crew gathers info and meets with insiders on The Hill to measure interest, viability. They wear out many pairs of shoes.

During the Board meetings, they meet with members of the Government Affairs Committee, and working subgroups are formed. After much discussion, reporting, refining and analysis, strategies are presented to the full board.

On Oct. 4, the working subgroups of the Government Affairs Committee presented concept plans that would be approved or disapproved by the board.

One of those was OOIDA’s “green” initiative, and I am going to use it as an example.

First, let me interject that I am amazed at the bad ideas that get pushed around in this industry in the name of safety and profit. I hear and read about them daily and am even more amazed that uninformed lawmakers and inept policymakers fall for it. OK, back to the green initiative.

In my opinion, OOIDA’s plan is nothing but impressive compared to the green initiatives of other industry stakeholders, such as ATA and the railroad association.

Board Member Howard Hart, Spokane, WA, chaired the green work group and presented its proposal for a “green” initiative for a cleaner, safer, more efficient trucking environment. The challenge is meeting EPA emission mandates for cleaner air. You do that by running better routes that use less fuel and idling less to conserve fuel and getting in and out of loading docks quickly, all saving millions of gallons of fuel.

“The railroad association has its plan for the future, and that’s to move freight from truck to rail. The cost, of course, to ramp up the rails is going to be huge,” said Howard. “ATA wants bigger, heavier trucks, which will put additional wear and tear on our roads and bridges and require substantial investment.”

The OOIDA plan will target operational efficiency, pushing for “greener” docks by streamlining logistics/shipping practices. Right now, it’s in the draft mode, but the Association plans to call it our “Always Green” initiative. There’s a lot more detail to this, of course, and strategies on how to accomplish results. I won’t get into that here, but I will share some more of the behind-closed-doors dialogue from the meeting.

“Our current system capacity is way underutilized,” said Howard. “Truckers work 24/7. But the places where we pick up and deliver have never worked on that schedule, so the industry is totally out of step. To make trucking a cleaner, more efficient, more profitable place, that boondoggle has to get better. It is our position to push for those changes.”

“These are significant strategies because they are achievable right now, not 10 years down the road. America needs fixes that can be realized as soon as possible,” said Board Member John Taylor. “Unlike solutions from other industry stakeholders, ours are realistic and affordable.”

The board voted to approve the initiative. So what’s next?

Now the DC crew will work on packaging the plan. You’ll be reading about it in Land Line and OOIDA will be sharing it with appropriate groups and lawmakers. Hopefully, truckers will be seeing a push for efficiency that will see expanded shipper hours at the docks and an atmosphere that will get trucks in and get them out. In our new economically challenged world, it’s the right plan at the right time.

FYI: The plans also includes fuel efficiency initiatives such as encouraging states to implement the EPA Model Idle Law, make the best use of the EPA grant for purchasing APUs, continue OOIDA’s APU loan program, support the purchase of aerodynamic equipment and more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

There really is ‘power in one’

Just how important are you? Odds are that a loved one would say you are mighty important. No argument here. There’s also no argument that your importance carries a great deal of significance for politicians and advocates/opponents of ballot initiatives./p>

While the statement on voting might seem to be a pie-in-the-sky notion, there have been countless occasions when it has proven to be true. A little research uncovers some dandies when a lone voter affected the outcome of an election.

In 1820, Thomas Hart Benton became one of the first U.S. senators for Missouri by a one-vote margin.

In 1839, Edward Everett lost his re-election bid for Massachusetts governor to Marcus Morton by one vote out of more than 100,000 ballots cast.

In 1911, Richard H. Koch received the only vote cast in the primaries for the Prohibition nomination to become the common pleas court judge in Schuylkill County, PA.

In August 2008, Angela Tuttle was elected constable of Hancock County, TN, when she submitted her name as a write-in candidate. The lone vote was enough to win because nobody else was vying for the position.

Other instances show how one more vote could have resulted in a different outcome of an election. In 1948, if Thomas Dewey had received one vote more per precinct in Ohio and California, he would have won the presidency from Harry S. Truman.

In 1960, one more vote per precinct in Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and Texas would have won the election for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy.

On other occasions the tallying of votes was unable to decide a victor. In 1986, Owen Smeby and Art Kunze finished in a tie to become the mayor of Long Lake, MN. Smeby eventually won the race on a coin toss.

In 1994, Randall Luthi and Larry Call tied for a seat in the Wyoming House. Luthi was declared the winner when a ping pong ball bearing his name was pulled from the cowboy hat of Gov. Mike Sullivan.

During these instances and others like them the importance of taking the time to cast a single ballot was vital to the outcome. Of course, an election doesn’t have to be a nail-biter to be worthy of your vote. It is your right. It is your voice.