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Trucking Companies Driver Scams Ripoffs Hiring Training Leasing

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Recent Trucking Scams News

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Includes Truck Driver Training Scams Dishonesty and Misrepresentation. Updated frequently to bring you the latest information and news on Truck Driver Training, Hiring and Truck Lease-Purchase Scams/Ripoffs as reported by the victims.

Most Popular Scams

Deceptive, Misleading Statements made by Trucking Company Recruiter's (professional sales people) designed to entice New (un-aware) Truck Drivers into signing loan documents for Truck Driver Training costs which are several times the reasonable amount for legitimate truck driver training such as found at Community Colleges.

They paint a pretty picture. The world is promised to you. Unscrupulous trucking companies and training schools run drivers through like cattle. This is called the "CDL Mill Scam". They prey upon those with poor credit and encourage co-signors. Those with Military educational benefits or Pell grants are especially at risk.

Drivers are then forced to quit after a short period of time. Their miles are cut or they are fired for the slightest infraction in order to make power units (trucks) available to new students. These dastardly actions keep the scam volume high.

Trucking Company Lease Purchase Programs

These programs are designed to screw the unsuspecting new truck driver. At $4.00 per Gallon for diesel, it costs approximately $1.35 per mile in total expenses to run a semi-truck. Keep this figure in mind before signing any owner/operator truck-leasing-purchase-agreement.

Speed Limiters Cap a Truck Drivers Income

Since most drivers are paid by the mile and NOT by the hour speed governors limit the total miles you can travel within your mandated driving hours. Truck Speed Limiters also cause undue stress and fatigue. Speed Limiters make drivers want to quit. Speed Limiters only benefit the trucking company's bottom line profits while endangering the truck driver and the motoring public.

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Tips: Avoid Truck Driver Training Scams

Look for truck driver training schools that have some form of accreditation, such as Community Colleges. Never Take the word of trucking company recruiters. Do your Homework and calculate your expenses carefully before making any financial commitments. "Never Expect What You Don't Inspect First"

This Trucking Company Scams News Blog is part of the Truckers News Feed Published by FasterTruck.com

01/26/22 - Federal judge sides with BNSF, orders unions not to strike

01/26/22 07:14:20pm -

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that union-affiliated employees at BNSF can’t go on strike over objections to BNSF’s new attendance program that goes into effect next Tuesday.

Members of the  Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART-TD) said on Jan. 13 that they were considering going on strike at BNSF over an attendance program that they called overly restrictive and hints of precision scheduled railroading, which union members have been skeptical of because of the headcount cuts that have taken place following the railroads’ adoption of the operational model.

BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) countered with a lawsuit aimed at preventing the unions from striking. In the suit, BNSF contends that it developed the “Hi Viz,” or high-visibility, program in response to employees saying that it was unclear under the existing attendance program when they would exceed the threshold that subjects them to progressive discipline.

While the suit, including the question of whether the issue is a minor or major dispute under the Railway Labor Act, is ongoing in federal court, Judge Mark T. Pittman agreed to BNSF’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing union workers from striking for now.

“The Court’s TRO enjoined Defendants from authorizing, encouraging, permitting, calling or otherwise engaging in any strikes, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts or other self-help against BNSF or its operating rail subsidiaries over any dispute relating to the Hi Viz attendance standards,” Pittman ruled Tuesday. Pittman is with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth. “The Court recognizes the importance of this case and desires to resolve the instant dispute in an expeditious manner.”

In a separate order, Pittman explained the rationale for his decision, saying that a strike, amid ongoing supply chain disruptions, would harm BNSF more than it would the unions.

“At this stage in the proceedings, the Court is not deciding whether this dispute is either major or minor as a matter of law,” Pittman said, adding that past court cases reflecting similar situations have shown that this one could be considered a minor dispute. That means the unions would be violating the Railway Labor Act if they went on strike.

Pittman continued: “Without a temporary restraining order barring an ‘illegal strike over a minor dispute,’ BNSF would suffer substantial, immediate, and irreparable harm. The Unions, however, will not suffer any harm as a result of a temporary restraining order that this Court, or an arbitrator, cannot remedy. The balance of harms therefore weighs in favor of injunctive relief. The record further establishes that a strike would exacerbate our current supply-chain crisis — harming the public at large, not just BNSF. A temporary restraining order will thus serve, rather than disserve, the public interest.”

In the footnotes of Tuesday’s order, Pittmann wrote: “In this Court’s experience, prolonged fights in federal court between unions and management only delay the inevitable negotiations between the parties. Frequently, such fights benefit no one, and the American consumer is left to bear the cost. … Throughout the remainder of these proceedings, the Parties are encouraged to remember the admonition of President John F. Kennedy: ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate.’”

In a separate ruling last Thursday, the venue for the court proceeding switched from Dallas to Fort Worth.

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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01/24/22 - Canadian truckers battle back against mandates

01/24/22 08:28:22pm -

On today’s episode Dooner and The Dude are talking about the Freedom Convoy protest over cross-border vaccine mandates. 

“Armchair Attorney” Matthew Leffler talks about 18-year-olds trucking across state lines, verdicts against drivers, vaccine mandate lawsuits and noncompetes.  

Daniel Theobald, founder and CIO at Vecna Robotics, joins the show to discuss five key themes for logistics robotics in ’22. 

Craig Leinauer, inland marine claim manager at Travelers, clears up misconceptions about liability and reefer freight. 

Plus, California’s governor is committed to prosecuting UP smash-and-grab cargo criminals; FMCSA plans to cut carrier highway safety fees by 27%; a logistics analyst makes the cubicle a mountain retreat; DHL saves lions; and more. 

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01/19/22 - Buttigieg’s DOT rejects hours-of-service court challenge claims

01/19/22 05:38:12pm -

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rejected assertions that hours-of-service revisions made in September 2020 will lead to more crashes despite claims made by safety advocates and labor.

Responding to a petition filed by the groups in December with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, FMCSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation argued that the petitioners’ anti-safety claims lack standing and should be rejected.

“Even if petitioners had established standing to challenge the final rule, FMCSA’s exercise of its expertise and discretion to modify existing hours-of-service rules was appropriate and reasonable, and the petition for review should be denied,” the government stated in its reply brief filed late Tuesday.

When questioned by lawmakers in early 2021 about his views on Trump-era trucking regulations affecting driver work rules, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg left open the possibility of revisiting those regulations to reassess the balance in the trucking industry between safety and increased productivity.

But the administration left no doubt where it stands on the hours-of-service changes, specifically the two provisions being challenged by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (and affiliated safety groups) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters: the short-haul exception and 30-minute rest break.

“FMCSA reasonably explained its conclusion that the modifications to the prerequisites for the short-haul exception promote greater flexibility without compromising driver health or safety,” the administration stated.

“The agency bolstered its safety determination by comparing crash data from before and after a similar change was made for a specific class of truck drivers. In response to this sound decision-making, petitioners raise studies that the agency already considered and addressed and fail to grapple with the limited nature of the modifications adopted by FMCSA.”

FMCSA said it also properly justified modifications to the 30-minute break requirement, noting that change does not alter the applicable driving limits and continues to require that truck drivers take a break from driving.

“Evidence supports the conclusion that it is the break from driving itself that counteracts negative effects from fatigue, and the agency did not observe an increase in crash risk after granting an exemption similar to the current rule in a related context. Petitioners’ arguments misunderstand the limited nature of the modification.”


Watch: Safety groups, Teamsters challenge hours-of-service rules (12/6/21)


The petitioners asserted in their lawsuit that the final rule issued by FMCSA in 2020 also does not adequately respond to a study showing a 383% heightened crash risk among drivers using the short-haul exception. It also does not explain why “expanding the work hours of short-haul drivers, who typically make many stops throughout the day, would not be expected to increase the incidence of occupational injuries among such drivers.”

FMCSA responded that although the study cited by the petitioners found that drivers operating in North Carolina under the short-haul exception had a 383% higher crash risk than those not using the exception and was statistically significant, a “very small sample size” meant the analysis was not strong.

The study’s authors pointed out that other factors that were not part of the study, such as the age or poor condition of the trucks, may also have led to the result, FMCSA asserted. It noted that the safety determination it made in the final rule “reflects a careful weighing of the entire evidentiary record.”

In a separate statement included in the petition, Lamont Byrd, director of the Teamsters’ safety and health department, contended that any new collective bargaining agreements that keep the original short-haul and rest-break rules in place will put the labor union’s members at a competitive disadvantage compared to independent contractors not covered by those provisions.

However, “any supposed competitive injury is self-inflicted,” FMCSA and DOT responded.

The fact that some employers might choose to continue to abide by previous limitations no longer in effect cannot be fairly traced to the final rule, they stated.

“And petitioners nowhere explain how the rule puts them or their members at a comparative disadvantage or ‘allow[s] increased competition against them,’ given that the rule does not permit drivers to drive for a longer time.”

Related articles:

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.



01/18/22 - Low-level participant in Louisiana staged accident scheme gets 10 months

01/18/22 07:13:46pm -

A participant in the Louisiana staged accident scheme has been sentenced to 10 months in jail. 

The court’s action is the first since the December sentencing of another participant in the staged accidents. That defendant, Genetta Isreal, was sentenced only to home incarceration, in contrast to sentences of three other participants who got time in jail.

In the latest sentencing Wednesday, Ryan Wheaten, 54, was sentenced to the 10-month term by U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk of the Eastern District of Louisiana. The U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of the state has been prosecuting the staged accident cases, the vast majority of which occured in the New Orleans area.

Wheaten also was sentenced to three years of supervised release after the 10 months is served. He was ordered to pay restitution of $10,000. The U.S. attorney’s office said Wheaten had made false insurance claims after the staged accident that resulted in insurers paying out about $11,000 for the nonexistent injuries to Wheaten and others. 

Prior sentences handed down by the courts were to Mario Solomon, who received 21 months one year ago, almost to the day, and the husband and wife team of Anthony Robinson and Audrey Harris, who were deeply involved in organizing the staged accidents. Each got four years.

All of the sentenced defendants pleaded guilty.

In the prepared statement released by the U.S. attorney’s office, Wheaten was said to have been involved in a staged accident along with Solomon and several other defendants who have pleaded guilty, including Damien Labeaud, whose name comes up frequently in recaps of the incidents. 

Labeaud was the first participant to plead guilty, in July 2020. He has not been sentenced.

Wheaten appears to have only been a passenger in the incident described in the statement regarding his sentencing. The incident he was involved in was in May 2017. Labeaud “purposely drove the vehicle into a tractor trailer and then fled the scene with Solomon,” according to the statement. Another passenger, Henry Randle, “falsely reported” to the New Orleans Police Department that he had been the driver of the car and that “the tractor-trailer was at fault.”

All of the guilty pleas and sentences have been on charges of mail fraud. Randle pleaded guilty in May as did J. Diggs, who also was involved in the staged accident that is sending Wheaten to jail.

Last week, the U.S. attorney’s office secured another guilty plea in the scam, this time from Donisesha Lee. 

That guilty plea was the 30th that the U.S. attorney’s office has secured in the scam, in which lawyers and others arranged with private individuals to be “slammers” and create an accident with a truck or in at least one case, a bus. 

The accidents were followed by claims of injuries to pull in insurance claims and in some cases went so far as to involve unnecessary surgeries.

Only one attorney has been indicted for involvement in the staged accident scheme: Danny Keating, who pleaded guilty in June. 

More articles by John Kingston

Public-sector efforts to boost truck parking face path filled with hurdles

Coal in the stocking: Truck transportation jobs up just slightly in December

Werner’s chairman gets big FTC penalty for not disclosing stock purchases



01/14/22 - BNSF wins over Oklahoma’s blocked crossing mandate

01/14/22 03:57:33pm -

A federal appeals court has sided with BNSF, agreeing that a local mandate by two Oklahoma cities penalizing freight railroads for blocking a highway rail grade crossing for more than 10 minutes goes against the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, Colorado, determined that the blocked crossing statute, mandated by the cities of Davis and Edmond and supported by officials with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, pertains to the operation of railroads at rail crossings, which the ICCTA subsequently preempts.

The Oklahoma parties had asked the appeals court to agree that the blocked crossing mandate falls under rail safety provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) and not the ICCTA. 

But the 10th circuit court said the FRSA pertains to the condition of the infrastructure, which is not what the mandate is about.

“The Blocked Crossing Statute does not seek to regulate the condition of grade crossings but the movement of trains through them. Its primary directive prohibits the time a train can block a grade crossing,” noted the Tuesday decision. 

BNSF first filed the lawsuit in August 2019, following a July 2019 state law that allows local law enforcement to levy a fine on a stalled freight train up to $1,000 for blocking a railroad crossing for more than 10 minutes.

Police officers with the cities of Davis and Edmond attempted to fine BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B), and BNSF sued the cities as well as three members of the Oklahoma Commerce Commission, the body that was responsible for enforcing the citations. BNSF originally argued that the blocked crossing statute violates the ICCTA and the FRSA.

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01/13/22 - Breaking news: Supreme Court blocks COVID vaccine mandate for large businesses

01/13/22 09:33:17pm -

With the trucking sector having in hand fresh guidance from the federal government that the Biden administration’s workplace vaccination/testing rules don’t apply to solo truck drivers, the rule for now is dead anyway.

The Supreme Court Thursday afternoon handed down a 6-3 decision that the rule promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cannot be enforced and is likely to be rejected in further court action. Some parts of the rule regarding mask wearing went into effect Monday, but a series of earlier court battles had left its status unclear before Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.

While solo drivers may not have been facing the mandate, the guidance handed down by OSHA in the past few days made clear that the rules would apply to team drivers. Now, they no longer need to be concerned about them.

The American Trucking Associations was one of the many plaintiffs in the case and celebrated the ruling.

“Today, ATA has won a tremendous victory on behalf of the trucking industry and workers and employers everywhere,” ATA CEO and President Chris Spear said in a statement. “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court validates our claim that OSHA far overstepped its authority in issuing an emergency temporary standard that would interfere with individuals’ private health care decisions. Trucking has been on the front lines throughout the pandemic — delivering PPE, medical supplies, food, clothing, fuel, and even the vaccines themselves. Thanks to this ruling, our industry will continue to deliver critical goods, as our nation recovers from the pandemic and we move our economy forward.”

Under the Biden administration proposal, made last November, the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) would have required COVID-19 vaccinations or a testing regime for employees of companies with 100 or more workers.

“Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that [the secretary of labor] lacked authority to impose the mandate,” the court said in its ruling. 

Legally, the case, if pursued by the Biden administration, goes back to the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, whose earlier ruling permitted the OSHA rule that is now stayed.

Legislation that created OSHA “typically speak[s] to hazards that employees face at work,” the unsigned opinion said. “No provision of the Act addresses public health more generally, which falls outside of OSHA’s sphere of expertise.”

“Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life — simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock — would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization,” the opinion adds.

A separate mandate requiring employees at certain health care facilities to be either tested or vaccinated was upheld by the court.

More articles by John Kingston

Will team drivers need to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19?

Truckload Carriers warn of vaccine mandates’ far-reaching implications

Drilling Deep: Trucking begins to push back against vaccine mandate



01/13/22 - OSHA clarifies: Solo truck drivers don’t fall under Biden vaccine mandate

01/13/22 05:28:51pm -

(Editor’s note: this article was published shortly before the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the OSHA rule. An article on that development can be found here.)

The Biden administration’s proposed so-called vaccination mandate in the workplace does not apply to solo truck drivers, according to new guidance handed down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

That formal declaration of what had been suggested at the time of the mandate’s rollout in November appeared in updated Frequently Asked Questions, published earlier this week. 

“There is no specific exemption from the standard’s requirements for truck drivers,” the OSHA FAQs state.

But OSHA goes on to say that the rule “provides that, even where the [mandate] applies to a particular employer, its requirements do not apply to employees ‘who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present’ or employees ‘who work exclusively outdoors.’

“Therefore, the requirements of the [mandate] do not apply to truck drivers who do not occupy vehicles with other individuals as part of their work duties.”

Nick Geale, the vice president for workforce policy at the American Trucking Associations, said in an email to the group’s membership that “the guidance released today does indeed acknowledge that most solo drivers are exempted from the vaccine-or-test mandate, so long as they encounter other individuals exclusively in outdoor environments or have only de minimis use of indoor spaces (such as using a multi-stall bathroom or entering an administrative office to drop off paperwork).”

But the exemption does not apply to team drivers. The FAQs say the “requirements of the [mandate] do not apply to truck drivers who do not occupy vehicles with other individuals as part of their work duties.”

It does apply to drivers “who work in teams (e.g., two people in a truck cab) or who must routinely enter buildings where other people are present,” the FAQs say.

What the FAQs refer to as “de minimis use” of facilities does not kick in the requirements of the law “as long as time spent indoors is brief, or occurs exclusively in the employee’s home (e.g., a lunch break at home).” 

“OSHA will look at cumulative time spent indoors to determine whether that time is de minimis,” according to the FAQs.

The Emergency Temporary Standard as it is formally called is generally seen as a vaccination mandate. However, there are pathways to stay within the rules without vaccination through regular testing. 

The trucking sector, since early November, has been operating under the assumption that solo drivers would not fall under the vaccination and testing rules of the mandate. Soon after the Biden administration released it, Marty Walsh, the secretary of labor, of which OSHA is a part, said in an interview on CNBC that truck drivers wouldn’t fall under the rule, though as OSHA reiterated in the FAQs, there is no specific “trucking exemption.”

At roughly the same time that Walsh said that in November, Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO, said in an email to his membership that the organization had received indications from Department of Labor officials that solo drivers, who don’t interact a significant amount with others, wouldn’t fall under the rule.

However, until the latest FAQs were published, there had been no further clarification from the department on how the proposed rules would hit trucking, particularly with regard to team drivers.

All of this will be moot should the U.S. Supreme Court shoot down the mandate.

The mandate technically went into effect Monday. But the actions of the Supreme Court remain the focus of the rule’s future. 

The mandate affects companies of 100 or more employees and would be administered under the authority of OSHA. Most court observers who listened just before Christmas to the justices’ questioning of Biden administration officials on the ability of the federal government to impose such a sweeping regulation believed the court was leaning toward blocking the implementation of the rule.

The Supreme Court took quick action on reviewing the mandate because lower court decisions are in conflict on the question of whether OSHA can implement the rule. But court-ordered stays allowed the mandate to go into effect Monday. 

ATA is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the mandate. In Geale’s letter, he expressed dissatisfaction with the guidance on team drivers. “Although we are pleased that our advocacy has resulted in an exemption for a large portion of our driver workforce, we believe this guidance is still too narrow and fails to fully address our concerns as it relates to team drivers and other segments of our workforce,” he wrote.

In a quick analysis of the OSHA FAQs. the trucking-focused law firm of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary said: “The guidance should prove helpful to many carriers faced with the logistical challenges of testing over-the-road drivers – and may suggest certain operational changes designed to ensure application of the exemption.”

More articles by John Kingston

Will team drivers need to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19?

Truckload Carriers warn of vaccine mandates’ far-reaching implications

Drilling Deep: trucking begins to push back against vaccine mandate



01/11/22 - Viewpoint: ‘As I See It’ from the Trucking Activist – 2022 trucker forecast

01/11/22 07:34:19pm -

Last month I gave my review of 2021. Quite honestly, I believe 2022 will have some of the same attributes and challenges, but with some hopeful changes. Here is my hit list trucking challenges going into 2022:

  1. Inflation and managing inflationary costs
    • Workforce – Wage increases, benefit increases, government interference, strong economic recovery, and infusing fun into the workplace.
    • Equipment – Known increased costs for equipment, parts and labor shortages in the support supply chain, increasing parts inventories, and scarcity of firm replacement cycles.
    • Insurance – Equipment and safety, still fighting Nuclear Lawsuits.
  2. Productivity and absorbing lower productivity into your business model
    • Lowering of driver productivity for miles and hours.
    • Utilization of equipment and on-road repair delay will aggravate the driver and the customer on time commitments.
    • Lower productivity of non-driver support folks due to higher pay, low unemployment, and remote work mandated by COVID.
  3. Pricing strategy to cover the above escalated costs
    • Integration of higher costs into carrier pricing models will be critical.
    • Accuracy of their above cost estimates that apply specifically to their business, and how do you implement and sell to your customer base.
    • All this in the face of continued capacity shortage.

I strongly believe we are sitting on a historical economic recovery that may rival the Roaring 20s that followed the Spanish Flu pandemic. We have historic stock market levels, record low unemployment, the highest wage increase in a compressed time, and huge personal savings rate. Once the U.S. economy turns the corner on COVID, and the experts and press start talking about “herd immunity,” the flood gates will open and trucking always leads the economic recovery. The challenges listed above will only be byproducts of a Roaring 20s type recovery.

Some needs for the recovery outside of the COVID conclusion would be first, that the government quits interfering into vaccine mandates and supply chain tweaking. The supply chain will recover and a few of the new indices already show that rectifying itself. The new wage increase for drivers, and the ability for free training, has gotten traction in the market and the driver shortage may start to subside. Equipment clarity will be critical for truckers to help fulfill their replacement strategies, and right now that can’t be more fluid that only adds costs to the truckers that are already buying the higher priced tools of their trade.

Thus, the moral of 2022 will be locked on “runaway inflation.” While trucking gets affected by inflationary costs, it will somewhat be the “canary in the coal mine.” The good news is inflation can be managed in a growth economy, and I’m sure growth is in the future, especially in 2022.

Jack Porter

Trucking Activist



01/10/22 - FreightWaves Classics/Infrastructure: I-35 serves the American heartland

01/10/22 10:09:23pm - I-35 was widened in Norman, Oklahoma in 2014. (Photo: Oklahoma Department of Transportation)

Interstate 35 (I-35) serves the central United States. As with most interstate highways that end in a “5,” it is a major cross-country, north-south route. I-35 runs from Laredo, Texas, near the Mexican border to Duluth, Minnesota, near the Canadian border.

I-35 was designated by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO; now AASHTO) on August 14, 1957, as an original interstate highway from Laredo north to Duluth.

A map of Interstate 35. (Image: I35highway.com)A map of Interstate 35. (Image: I35highway.com)

With a length of 1,568 miles, I-35 is the ninth-longest interstate highway, and the third-longest north-south interstate. Although it is generally considered to be a border-to-border highway, I-35 does not directly connect to either international border. I-35 also splits into I-35E and I-35W in the two states that are its two ends – in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas and in Minnesota’s twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In addition to the Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan areas, the major cities that I-35 also connects to include (from south to north) San Antonio and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Note: Throughout this article, I-35 will be discussed from south to north.

History of I-35

Interstate 35 was one of the highways designated in the original Interstate Highway System (IHS) plan in the early 1950s. 

As is the case with most of the original interstate highways, different sections of I-35 were built at different times in each state. Also, although construction may have been finished for the original interstate, most of the older interstate highways have been rebuilt (repaired, widened, rerouted slightly, overpasses and entrances/exits rebuilt, etc.).

This photo from 1960 shows construction on I-35 in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma.   (Photo: Oklahoma Department of Transportation)This photo from 1960 shows construction on I-35 in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma.
(Photo: Oklahoma Department of Transportation)

Texas

Within Texas, Interstate 35 was an original interstate highway, and it was approved by the Texas State Highway Commission in 1962 with a length of 492 miles (which includes both Interstate 35E and 35W). Later in 1962 the segment of I-35 through Austin was among the first parts of the highway to be completed.

I-35 northbound begins at an intersection with Business I-35-A in Laredo, just north of the Rio Grande River and the international border between Mexico and the U.S. It has a 17-mile concurrency with US 83. 

In San Antonio, I-35 is named the Pan Am Expressway. It has brief concurrencies with I-10/US 87 and I-410. I-37’s northern terminus is at a junction with I-35. 

In Austin, I-35 is the Interregional Highway and has a concurrency with US 290 through the city’s downtown. Since I-35 first opened in the city, elevated express lanes have been constructed on either side of the original freeway. South of the town of Temple, I-35 is the current eastern terminus of I-14. In Waco, I-35 starts its concurrency with US 77. The campuses of both the University of Texas at Austin and Baylor University are located adjacent to I-35.

Construction of I-35 in Austin in late August 1960. (Photo: KVUE)Construction of I-35 in Austin in late August 1960. (Photo: KVUE)

In Hillsboro, I-35 splits into I-35W and I-35E and for its run through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The official mile markers, along with the route of US 77, follow I-35E through Dallas. I-35W, which is 85 miles in length, carries its own mileage from Hillsboro to Denton, as though it were an I-35 loop. 

After passing through the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, I-35E and I-35W rejoin in Denton near the University of North Texas campus. The unified Interstate then continues north to Gainesville before crossing the Red River into Oklahoma.

I-35’s total mileage in Texas is now 504.15 miles. Within the state, the major cities served by I-35 include Laredo, Pearsall, San Antonio, Austin, Georgetown, Temple, Waco, Hillsboro, Waxahachie, Dallas, Denton and Gainesville.

Oklahoma

Within Oklahoma, the first section of I-35 to open to traffic was the four-mile connection from U.S. 177 north to the Kansas Turnpike (on April 22, 1958). This connection is considered to be the first portion of an interstate highway to cross state lines and connect to another state. By 1962, Interstate 35 was open to traffic from Purcell north to the Kansas Turnpike. This included an overlap with Interstate 40.

Certain portions of what became I-35 in Oklahoma City were built in 1953, before the IHS was created. Through Norman, I-35 opened in June 1959. In Moore, it opened in two parts: the northern half, which connects Moore to Oklahoma City, opened in January 1960. The southern half, which links Moore to Norman, opened to traffic in June 1967.

The original construction of I-35 was completed in Oklahoma in 1971, when parts of the highway running through Carter and Murray counties opened to traffic. The highway’s total length in Oklahoma is just under 236 miles.

I-35 in Oklahoma. (Photo: oklahoma.gov)I-35 in Oklahoma. (Photo: oklahoma.gov)

I-35 through Oklahoma largely parallels US 77. This is due to a large degree to efforts of the towns of Wynnewood, Paoli and Wayne, which fought to keep I-35 as close as possible to US 77. The towns’ effort was successful because then-Governor Henry Bellmon threatened to build a toll road rather than I-35, and legislation was passed that would have prevented state funds to be used for the construction of I-35 if it were more than one mile from the U.S. Route.

The interstate runs from the Red River at the Texas border to the Kansas state line near Braman. It passes through or adjacent to many of the state’s major cities. From south to north, these cities include Ardmore, Pauls Valley, Purcell, Norman, Moore, Oklahoma City and Edmond. I-35 has a major junction with I-40 in downtown Oklahoma City. There are also spurs into I-235 through the north central section of the city.

Kansas

Between the Oklahoma state line and Emporia, I-35 is part of the Kansas Turnpike. That section of I-35 that overlays the Kansas Turnpike was built in 1955 and 1956, and the entire turnpike opened to traffic on October 21, 1956.

US 24, US 40, US 69, US 75 and US 81 were considered as potential interstate routes by Kansas on June 5, 1945. The Kansas State Highway Commission submitted plans on May 22, 1946, that resulted in three primary routes to be considered by the federal government. Route 1 became I-70, Route 2 became I-35 and Route 3 became Kansas State Road 66.

On US 81 in Kansas, signs show entrances to the Kansas Turnpike and the interstate highways that share the same roadway. (Photo: interstate-guide.com)On US 81 in Kansas, signs show entrances to the Kansas Turnpike and the interstate highways that share the same roadway.
(Photo: interstate-guide.com)

Those sections of the Kansas Turnpike that carry I-35, I-70 and I-470 were approved as part of the IHS by the Federal Highway Administration in 1957. The remaining unnumbered section of the Kansas Turnpike was designated I-335 in 1987.

I-35 replaced U.S. 50 between Emporia and Olathe. At Emporia, I-35 leaves the Kansas Turnpike and has its own alignment. This free section of I-35 provides access to Ottawa before entering the Kansas City metropolitan area.

During the late 1960s, construction of most of the original I-35 in the state (from Ottawa to Kansas City, excluding the segment around Emporia) was finished and opened to traffic. The 10-mile section of the highway east from the Kansas Turnpike around Emporia opened to traffic in 1974, which was the end of construction of the original I-35 in Kansas. The total length of the highway in Kansas is 235.51 miles.

Missouri

I-35 enters Missouri just two miles southwest of Kansas City’s Central Business District. It  merges with Southwest Trafficway and Broadway, where it widens and continues north to downtown Kansas City. There, I-35 is the west and north legs of the downtown freeway loop. On the north edge of the loop, I-35 and I-70 merge. After the loop, I-29 begins and runs concurrently with I-35. 

The Christopher S. Bond Bridge carries I-35 and I-70 over the Missouri River. (Photo: Architect Magazine)The Christopher S. Bond Bridge carries I-35 and I-70 over the Missouri River. (Photo: Architect Magazine)

The two interstate highways cross the Missouri River together on the Christopher S. Bond Bridge and then split. I-35 heads north to Cameron, Missouri, and then continues northward to the Iowa state line.

Within the six states that I-35 runs through, its shortest distance is in Missouri (114.74 miles).

Iowa

When it was originally planned, I-35 was to follow the alignment of US 69 from Des Moines to the Minnesota border. Interstate 35 does run parallel to US 69 for much of its course through the southern part of Iowa. However, the segment of I-35 between Mason City and US 20 near Iowa Falls was delayed  by the business and political leadership of Mason City, which lobbied for the route of I-35 to be moved closer to the city. 

On September 1, 1965, the alignment was changed to parallel US 65 through northern Iowa, which brought I-35 much closer to Mason City. However, in doing so, the route created a long diagonal section; local farmers objected to their farms being bisected. The resulting lawsuits delayed I-35 for a number of years. 

I-35 near mile marker 100 in Iowa. (Photo: Iowarestareas.com)I-35 near mile marker 100 in Iowa. (Photo: Iowarestareas.com)

Because of the lawsuits, I-35 opened in Iowa in phases between 1958 and 1975; its total length in the state is 218.33 miles. The farmers’ lawsuits were rejected in a November 1972 ruling; the final segment of I-35 (as originally planned in the 1950s) to open was in north-central Iowa (the segment between Mason City and US 20 near Iowa Falls, which opened in 1975).

Minnesota

Minnesota is the northernmost state that I-35 runs through. The first section of I-35 to open in the state was between Owatonna and Medford in 1958. The last section of Interstate 35E through St. Paul opened to traffic on October 15, 1990.

In Duluth, I-35 ends after a series of “cut and cover tunnels” that were the largest public works projects in northeastern Minnesota. This section of the highway was proposed by the Federal Highway Administration in 1958. 

Traffic on I-35 near Lakeville, Minnesota. (Photo: patch.com)Traffic on I-35 near Lakeville, Minnesota. (Photo: patch.com)

Within Minnesota, I-35 runs for 259.69 miles and connects the cities of Albert Lea, Owatonna, Faribault, St. Paul and Duluth.

An overlap of I-35 and I-90 was originally proposed, but this was changed in 1964. The following year, I-35’s route was changed again, running south midway between US 65 and US 69, which  coincided with the changes in Iowa described above.

As in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, I-35 splits again into I-35W and I-35E in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. In both directions between MN 5 and I-94, trucks weighing more than 9,000 pounds are banned from I-35, and the speed limit drops to 45 mph. This section was not finished until the late 1980s (although the route had been cleared and graded earlier) due to opposition from a nearby historic neighborhood. The four-lane, “parkway” design was a political compromise. The truck bypass for this section is signed as I-494 and I-694 to the east of St. Paul.

I-35’s entire length in Minnesota (from the Iowa state line to its end in Duluth), is designated the Red Bull Highway, after the 34th Infantry (Red Bull) Division.

A recent FreightWaves Classics two-part article covered the collapse of the I-35W bridge on August 31, 2007, and other bridges in the United States. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of “Fix the bridges” by following the links.

The I-35W bridge collapse. (Photo: Chris Greenberg/White House Photo Office)The I-35W bridge collapse. (Photo: Chris Greenberg/White House Photo Office)



01/10/22 - Rail unions ‘disappointed’ by vaccine mandate ruling but will press on

01/10/22 04:03:39pm -

Efforts to prevent a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from being implemented on Chicago’s commuter rail system were thwarted last week when a federal judge ruled against two rail unions’ requests to stop it.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled against the preliminary injunction filed by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) asking the courts to stop Metra’s vaccine mandate. The court said the unions must settle with Metra on the vaccine instead of going on strike.

Although Thursday’s decision pertains to commuter rail, the decision is potentially significant because the unions are also involved in similar lawsuits against Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) and BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B). Those three legal proceedings are still open, although UP’s proceeding has paused as similar lawsuits involving COVID-19 vaccine mandates are before other federal courts.

“Needless to say we are disappointed in the outcome of this lawsuit, especially considering other federal judges blocked vaccine mandates,” BLET President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in a release. “We will continue to fight to protect the rights of our members during these historically difficult times.”

The unions had argued that Metra had no authority to unilaterally implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees without the required bargaining pursuant to the Railway Labor Act (RLA). 

They contended that as a result of not negotiating with the unions, Metra violated the status quo requirement per the RLA, which in turn qualifies the matter as a “major dispute.” A major dispute permits actions such as organizing a strike. 

But the court ruled that the matter could be construed as a “minor dispute,” per the RLA. The court also rejected the unions’ argument that the mandate should be put on hold as the Adjustment Board decides on the dispute, according to a Friday release from the unions. 

“The test is whether Metra has the authority to institute the vaccination mandate, not why it subjectively believed it had the authority to do that. If Metra’s basis for claiming authority to impose the mandate is not ‘obviously insubstantial or frivolous’ — as the court has found — then the dispute over the mandate is appropriately classified as a minor dispute under the RLA,” said the Thursday decision by District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly.

Kennelly continued, “The unions suggest in their briefs that unless Metra can show a past practice of unilaterally implementing vaccination mandates, [Metra’s] argument is ‘obviously insubstantial or frivolous.’ This raises the bar too high. Although vaccination may involve more intrusion and more claimed risk than other procedures Metra has mandated in the past, these are differences of degree, not of kind.”

Kennelly concluded that even without President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring all federal workers and federal contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the union’s dispute should be considered as a minor dispute under RLA and subject to mandatory arbitration under the RLA.

BLET, BMWED join Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO

BLET also announced Friday that it, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWED) and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades have joined the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO.

Their decision to join comes as the broader transportation industry is facing both opportunities and challenges, in the form of the federal infrastructure package and an unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic.

“2022 will be a year of tremendous challenges and opportunities,” said TTD President Greg Regan. “Our task will be made more difficult by a narrowly divided and increasingly partisan Congress and, of course, the midterm elections looming in November.”

BLET and BMWED are both divisions of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. 

“Our re-affiliation with TTD and its Rail Labor Division (RLD) once again unites all rail labor unions in one common organization. We look forward to working with all of TTD’s officers, staff and affiliated unions; we are always stronger, and our members are best represented, when we are working together,” said BLET President Pierce.

The three unions that just joined TTD bring its coalition membership to 36 affiliated unions. They join the American Train Dispatchers Association; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU; Transportation Communications Union/IAM; Transport Workers Union of America; and UNITE HERE.

Said BMWED President Freddie Simpson, “I am excited for the prospect of advancements for all railroad workers that could come through all of rail labor uniting under TTD. I look forward to working with TTD President Greg Regan, Secretary-Treasurer Shari Semelsberger and the very capable TTD staff. Rail labor is always strongest and prospers most when we stand united against the railroads, and TTD will certainly help with our fight.”

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01/07/22 - Truck Tech: Wish you were here edition

01/07/22 04:23:12pm -

Welcome back to Truck Tech for 2022.

This week: A COVID-impacted CES still managed to draw tens of thousands of attendees to Las Vegas; Nikola reaches a truce with Tesla and continues putting battery-electric truck orders on the board; and a couple of electric truck startups show that exclusivity is awfully rare in the startup business.

A CES like no other

The omicron variant of COVID knocked CES for a loop with dozens of companies bailing on live exhibits. Some even left partially constructed displays in place while moving to virtual reveals. But not everyone stayed home. Autonomous trucking leader TuSimple and a raft of lidar developers maintained their presence.

The West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center featured mostly typical trade show displays, complete with out-of-sight conference areas for dealmaking, also stunted by canceled meetings. But it was the gaps between exhibits — where major players like General Motors and Ford had turned CES into a sort of auto show in recent years — that were most remarkable.

The West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a shadow of previous CES events. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Of the Detroit 3 automakers, only Stellantis occupied its planned display. Korean automaker Hyundai showed up, as well as a raft of lidar companies, including China’s Hesai, which has business with autonomous trucking leader TuSimple and more recent startup Kodiak Robotics. 

Luminar, with its mechanical lidar used by several autonomous trucking companies, showed a lightly disguised Kenworth T680 with its Blade design that incorporates cameras and lidar in a smoother, more eye-appealing package. Ouster brought several partners demonstrating nonautomotive applications. Lidar point clouds seemed to be everywhere.

But the story of CES really was one of forced hybridization. Organizers proved in 2020 they  could pull off a digital trade show. It was the first of the majors to require proof of COVID vaccinations to attend, all the way back in August 2021. 

With the show dates coinciding with the rise of the omicron variant, companies began to vanish from the event that attracted about 170,000 people the last time it was held live in 2020. 

During a typical CES, there would be no room for this replica of the famous Las Vegas sign, which served as a cool backdrop for many wish-you-were-here selfies and photographs by attendees. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

One Lyft driver told me he had about eight times fewer fares than two years ago. Another said he looked forward to brisk activity when the Las Vegas Raiders host the Los Angeles Chargers for the final AFC playoff spot on Sunday evening. Both, however, appreciated the relative ease of driving on the usually traffic-choked Las Vegas Strip. 

The relative quiet of the casinos that would be crowded with recreational gamblers caused some lament. One longtime blackjack dealer at the Aria professed to not even know it was CES week. He remarked that New Year’s Eve business was so slow that what in earlier years would have required a $300 bet per hand at his table was priced at $25.


Nikola’s big week

Electric truck startup Nikola Corp. scraped another barnacle from its hull this week, dropping a $2 billion patent infringement lawsuit against rival Tesla. It may be the last vestige of indicted founder Trevor Milton’s stewardship of the company. While Nikola confirmed the action in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, it offered no other comment. 

It saved its words for two potentially substantial deals for its Class 8 battery-electric Tre daycab. Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA) announced two letters of intent, each for a best case of up to 100 orders with dedicated and less-than-truckload hauler USA Truck Inc. and LTL carrier Saia Inc., which is also testing Freightliner eM2 battery-electric box trucks from Daimler Truck.

Photo: Nikola Corp.

Like its earlier letter of intent with drayage hauler Total Transportation Services Inc., these are try-then-buy (or lease) arrangements. That is not unique to Nikola. Established OEMs are subject to the same prove-it-to-me hurdle before inking bigger deals.

Nikola is responsible only for building and delivering the trucks to Thompson Truck Centers, one of its sales and service dealership partners. Thompson provides a “fleet-as-a-service” model including maintenance and energy infrastructure.


And then there were 6

The number of states adopting California’s Advanced Clean Truck rule, essentially a sales quota for electric heavy-duty trucks that begins in 2024, now totals six including the Golden State.

New York and Massachusetts are the latest to sign on, joining New Jersey, Washington and Oregon. This puts serious pressure on truck manufacturers to have products to meet the quotas that start at 9% of new truck sales and rise to 75% in 2035. Kenworth and Navistar are both moving orders for electric trucks through the system markedly faster than diesel trucks. 

At 2 ½ to three times the acquisition price of a diesel, and potential added revenue from selling a charger like Paccar Parts offers, it makes sense to assign scarce microchips to trucks that regulations will require anyway.

There is even greater pressure on charging infrastructure, as I explored earlier this week.

Paccar Parts is happy to sell chargers for electric trucks along with the Kenworth and Peterbilt battery-electric models. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Manufacturing monogamy? Not so much

Lightning eMotors (NYSE: ZEV) has a new partnership that is a reminder that exclusivity is a rarity in the world of business startups. The Colorado-based maker of electric vehicles, mostly built on Ford Motor Co. chassis, is working with global chassis maker Metalsa to make a beefier version for Class 4 and 5 trucks capable of supporting an additional 1,500 pounds.

The greater payload is a nice option for top hats like shuttle buses, delivery or refrigerated trucks, or ambulances. They will be available as soon as the second quarter this year.

Joe El-Behairy, president of Monterrey, Mexico-based Metalsa’s e-mobility division, called Lightning eMotors “the perfect customer” to introduce his group’s new product. 

Metalsa was an early investor in Xos Trucks, another SPAC-backed startup, focusing on Class 5-8 electric chassis. Metalsa provided at least a portion of $20 million to Xos (NASDAQ: XOS) that made up the publicly announced sum of its capital until its reverse merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp. last August. 


Best of the rest

The upcoming Volta Zero commercial electric truck will use an integrated navigation system from Here Technologies Inc. that divides the world into tiny squares. The 3-meter squares give each square a unique three-word name, or what3words address, which Here claims is more precise than a street address.

TuSimple is deepening its partnership with Nvidia Corp. to use the company’s vehicle chips to design and build an advanced autonomous domain computer for its self-driving trucks. 

The ADC will be specifically engineered for TuSimple’s (NASDAQ: TSP) Level 4 high-autonomy trucks and will power sensor perception and vehicle operation. Controllers processing hundreds of trillions of bits of data per second allow centralized compute-intensive instruments such as cameras, radars and lidar sensors.

Nvidia’s (NASDAQ: NVDA) artificial intelligence expertise and Drive Orin hardware chip is specifically designed for autonomous driving and will be installed in ground-up driverless trucks TuSimple is developing with Traton SE’s Navistar Inc. targeting 2024 production.


Mack Trucks is playing coy about whether it has a role in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” due in theaters this June. But non-transforming Mack trucks made the credits in the blockbuster “Spider-Man: No Way Home” film that brought in the kind of billion-dollar box office bonanza unseen during the pandemic.

The trucks were on screen for mere seconds of the nearly 2 ½-hour film, more of a cameo than a starring role like the third movie in the cinematic franchise “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” But a credit is a credit.

A lot fewer people got to see the lidar-equipped autonomous version of the Mack Anthem on display in the Robotic Research (RR.AI) booth at CES. 

A Mack Anthem equipped by Robotic Research (RR.AI) for autonomous driving appears in military drab olive green at the 2022 CES in Las Vegas. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Subscribe here for delivery of Truck Tech to your email on Fridays.

Alan



01/06/22 - Nikola retira la demanda de 2.000 millones de dólares contra Tesla por infracción de patentes

01/06/22 06:16:35pm -

Nikola Corp. ha retirado su demanda de 2.000 millones de dólares por infracción de patentes contra Tesla Inc. después de meses de inactividad que llevaron a un juez federal a poner prácticamente fin al caso de casi 4 años de duración para las dos empresas.

Las empresas han acordado retirar todas las reclamaciones y contrademandas contra la otra, según una presentación conjunta el martes en el tribunal federal de San Francisco, confirmó el miércoles Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA).

El caso ya estaba en terreno movedizo, enfrentándose a una desestimación en el Tribunal de Distrito de EE.UU. en San Francisco porque las dos empresas dejaron de responder la demanda en la que Nikola acusaba a Tesla de infringir las patentes de su semi de hidrógeno Nikola One.

El Nikola One fue descontinuado silenciosamente a finales de 2020. Los elementos de diseño que Nikola afirmaba que habían sido robados pasaron a ser irrelevantes porque Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) rediseñó su tractor Semi de batería de preproducción.

El juez del Tribunal de Distrito de Estados Unidos James Donato escribió a finales de septiembre de 2021 que Nikola “ha dejado caer la pelota, y esta acción de 2018 languidece sin explicación o causa aparente.”

La demanda se estancó después de que los fiscales federales acusaran al fundador de Nikola, Trevor Milton, de fraude de valores, alegando que engañó a los inversionistas sobre las perspectivas de la compañía. Milton ha intentado que se desestimen los cargos. Está en libertad con una fianza de 100 millones de dólares a la espera del juicio previsto para abril en Nueva York.

El caso Nikola se ha comparado con el de Theranos. Su fundadora, Elizabeth Holmes, fue condenada por un jurado esta semana por tres cargos de fraude electrónico y un cargo de conspiración para cometer fraude electrónico por estafar cientos de millones de dólares a los inversionistas de la empresa de análisis de sangre.

USA Truck firma una carta de intenciones

Por separado, Nikola continuó mostrando progresos después de cortar los lazos con Milton, quien renunció a la compañía en septiembre de 2020.

Nikola anunció el miércoles su última carta de intención para vender 10 de sus tractores de cabina de clase 8 con batería Nikola Tre a USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) a través de su socio de ventas y servicios Thompson Truck Centers.  

Thompson proporcionará las ventas, el servicio, el mantenimiento y la infraestructura de energía necesarios para operar los camiones Nikola Tre BEV, cuya entrega está prevista para la primera mitad de 2022. El acuerdo incluye la opción de comprar otros 90 camiones Nikola de emisiones cero en los próximos dos años.

Nikola entregó sus primeras unidades Tre a Total Transportation Services Inc. en diciembre. TTSI realizó el primer pedido importante de Tre, una mezcla de modelos alimentados por batería y por pila de combustible de hidrógeno prevista para 2023.



01/06/22 - Commentary: A multimillion-dollar cautionary tale of diversity programs

01/06/22 03:16:59pm -

An employee filed a lawsuit against his employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging that he and seven other white male executives were fired as part of the employer’s “diversity” push.  A jury of his peers found that he was terminated based on his race and sex.  The jury awarded him $10 million in punitive damages, with a hearing set for a later date to determine back pay, front pay/reinstatement, attorneys’ fees, and other damages.

Background

The employee had been employed as the senior vice president of marketing and communications for nearly five years. The employee had received positive evaluations every year and was hitting his targets set by the employer. Despite his positive evaluations, the employee was terminated and replaced with a white female and a black female who shared his former duties.  The employee filed suit against the employer in federal court in North Carolina alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated and that his termination had been motivated by his race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Court decision

To prove his claims, the employee asserted that he could prove discrimination using a “mixed motive” approach and that evidence could be used to demonstrate that his race and gender were motivating factors in the employer’s decision to fire him. His evidence included an alleged pattern of white males being terminated from employment and the specifics of the employer’s new-founded Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) program. 

The employee pointed to evidence that the Diversity and Inclusion Executive Council, formed under the DE&I program, determined in 2018 that the employer was failing to meet its diversity targets, specifically within its leadership ranks. Relying on the employer’s “nine-box” performance ratings document from 2017 for all senior leaders, the employee was able to demonstrate that by 2019, every white male on the document had been terminated and every woman and minority on that same document had been promoted.  The employee also presented evidence that the employer’s diversity statistics from 2016-2019 showed a 5.9% decrease in white employees at or above the vice president level as well as contemporaneous increases in the numbers of women and minorities. The employee also pointed to the proximity between the council’s meeting regarding these targets and the discharge of the first white male member of leadership within the same month. Additionally, the employee presented evidence that when a recruitment firm contacted the employer to enquire about plaintiff’s employability following his termination, the employer specifically indicated that his performance was not the reason for his termination.

In attempting to defend its decision and the DE&I program, the employer presented evidence that the employee had admitted that he had never been subject to discrimination while employed. It also argued that the employee had been consistently underperforming and that, while his evaluations were strong generally, he was often described as lacking potential and failing to engage with his peers. The employer asserted that it expected its senior executives “to be exceptional, not just good,” and had a legitimate performance-based explanation for its discharge decision.

After a lengthy trial, the jury hand down a verdict in favor of the employee. The jury found that he proved that his race and sex were a motivating factor in the employer’s decision to terminate his employment and that the employer did not prove that it would have made the same decision to discharge the employee regardless of his race or sex. The jury awarded the employee $10 million in punitive damages and set a later hearing to determine back pay, front pay/reinstatement, and other damages.

Takeaway

This case serves as a reminder that if an employer decides to implement a diversity program, it should be created, administered, and implemented in a wholly non-discriminatory manner.  As this case illustrates, any classification of individuals in the workplace can be subject to alleged discrimination.  While diversity programs can and should be a positive vehicle for promoting diversity in the workplace, employers should take time to review any diversity programs and initiatives to ensure the clear communication and implementation of their programs, including avoiding any overly robust implementation strategies that may attempt to “increase diversity” through potential discrimination with respect to other classifications. 

R. Eddie Wayland is a partner with the law firm of King & Ballow.  You may reach Mr. Wayland at (615) 726-5430 or at rew@kingballow.com.  The foregoing materials, discussion and comments have been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice on specific situations or subjects.



01/05/22 - FreightWaves Classics/Infrastructure: Connecticut Turnpike turns 63 (Part 2)

01/05/22 07:07:33pm - An aerial view of the Connecticut Turnpike shortly after it opened. (Photo: todayincthistory.com)

(To read Part 1 of this article, follow this link.)

Before construction on the Connecticut Turnpike began in 1955, construction had already begun on what would become the non-toll section of I-95 between Waterford and Stonington. This section was originally intended as an improvement to US 1 and opened in 1943 as a 3.6-mile-long, four-lane section of roadway between Waterford and in Groton. Part of it was the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which was a toll bridge over the Thames River between New London and Groton. Tolls on this bridge were collected until 1963.

The Connecticut Turnpike shortly after it opened in 1958, at Exit 15 in Norwalk. The Route 7 Expressway has not yet been built   (Photo:  hometown.aol.com/conntpke/).The Connecticut Turnpike shortly after it opened in 1958, at Exit 15 in Norwalk. The Route 7 Expressway has not yet been built
(Photo: hometown.aol.com/conntpke/).

A parallel I-95 span over the Thames River was constructed between New London and Groton in the 1970s. After it opened, improvements were made to the original Gold Star Memorial Bridge, as well as to the approach interchanges west of the bridge.

Soon after the Connecticut Turnpike opened in 1958, a 3.5-mile-long section connecting it to the improved US 1 was completed. On December 12, 1964, the 16.6 miles of I-95 between Waterford and the Connecticut-Rhode Island border opened.

Deadly crash

On January 19, 1983, a traffic accident at the Stratford toll plaza led state officials to consider ending the tolls on the Connecticut Turnpike. A tractor-trailer and three cars collided at the toll plaza, killing seven people and injuring many others. 

Mianus River Bridge collapse

Only a few months after the toll plaza tragedy, a 100-foot section of the northbound Mianus River Bridge collapsed into the river early on the morning of June 28, 1983. Vehicles fell 70 feet into the river; three people died. Built in the 1950s, the bridge used the “pin-and-hanger” design, which was commonly used on highway spans at that time. Steel pins holding the bridge’s horizontal beams together failed, causing the span to drop into the river. The southbound section of the bridge was unharmed and remained open to traffic on its three lanes.

The northbound bridge was immediately closed; all local traffic was diverted to the Boston Post Road (US 1) and the Merritt Parkway. Through traffic between New York and New England was diverted onto I-84 and I-684. Less than a month later, a temporary bridge section was installed, which carried two lanes of northbound traffic. 

The Mianus River Bridge after the collapse.   (Photo: engineers-channel.blogspot.com)The Mianus River Bridge after the collapse.
(Photo: engineers-channel.blogspot.com)

In September 1983, the new permanent bridge over the Mianus River was opened to carry the approximately 90,000 vehicles that traveled on it daily.

After the toll plaza accident and the Mianus River Bridge collapse, Connecticut Governor William O’Neill began a $6.56 billion state program to “reconstruct and rehabilitate” Connecticut’s roads and bridges over a 10-year period. Funded by an increase in the state gasoline tax, the program led to barrier tolls being removed from the Connecticut Turnpike and from the state’s bridges. The turnpike’s tolls were removed on October 9, 1985; barrier tolls on all roads and bridges in the state were removed four years later. (However, to generate revenue lost from tolls, a controversial “highway fee” on trucks was proposed in 2018 and went into effect in 2021. To read more about it, follow this link.)

While poor design was the primary reason for the Mianus River Bridge failure, it was not the only one. National attention to the bridge’s collapse also drew attention to problems caused by deferred maintenance – particularly on bridges. Federal highway aid legislation had allocated funds for new highways and bridges since 1944; however, until 1976 no funds had been allocated for repair and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

The Mianus River Bridge, one day after the partial collapse. (Photo: mapio.net)The Mianus River Bridge, one day after the partial collapse. (Photo: mapio.net)

In addition, most states and cities had allocated very limited funds for repairs and/or improvements. When the Mianus River Bridge collapsed, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) employed only 12 engineers, who worked in two-man teams to inspect the state’s more than 3,400 bridges.

Since then, ConnDOT has rehabilitated and replaced a number of bridges along the turnpike. For example, the four-lane Connecticut River Bridge, which connected Old Saybrook and Old Lyme, was built in 1948. ConnDOT replaced it with a new eight-lane bridge in 1993.

(Bridges and other infrastructure are still not inspected, repaired or replaced as often as needed in many cases. To read more about that topic, please see the FreightWaves Classics article “Fix the Bridges” Part 1 and Part 2.)

2004 accident shuts down the Connecticut Turnpike in Bridgeport

Despite the actions taken during the 1980s-90s, accidents could not be eliminated. A tanker truck carrying 9,000 gallons of fuel oil swerved to avoid a car that cut it off and subsequently overturned, hit a concrete barrier and split open, emptying its cargo onto the bridge carrying I-95 over Howard Avenue in Bridgeport on the evening of March 25, 2004. The fire caused by the fuel oil caused the bridge’s southbound lanes to partially melt; the structure failed and it fell four feet. Luckily, damage to the northbound lanes was limited. ConnDOT was able to reopen the bridge’s northbound lanes within three days. Within a week a temporary bridge was carrying southbound lanes of I-95 over Howard Avenue.

An entrance to the Connecticut Turnpike (left) and US 6 (right). (Photo: alpsroads.net)An entrance to the Connecticut Turnpike (left) and US 6 (right). (Photo: alpsroads.net)

The Connecticut Turnpike today

As noted in Part 1 of this article, the Connecticut Turnpike was integrated into the Interstate Highway System (IHS), specifically Interstate 95 (I-95) and I-395. (The 19.1-mile-long, non-turnpike section of I-395 north of Killingly, originally built between 1964 and 1969, was re-designated I-395 in 1983.) 

Connecticut Turnpike shields are no longer posted along the highway. However, ConnDOT continues to maintain and contract out services along the 14 turnpike service areas on I-95 and I-395.

A print advertisement using the Connecticut Turnpike to promote The Asphalt Institute.A print ad from the late 1950s that used the Connecticut Turnpike to promote The Asphalt Institute.

Interestingly, the Connecticut Turnpike was designed and built in a different manner than other toll roads built prior to the IHS. Most toll roads in other states were/are operated under semi-autonomous, quasi-public toll road authorities. However, the Connecticut Turnpike was operated by the Connecticut Highway Department (later ConnDOT) from its inception. Also, in most other states, toll road revenues collected from motorists were kept by the toll road authority and utilized to finance the toll roads’ construction and upkeep. In Connecticut, during the period when tolls were collected along the Connecticut Turnpike, toll revenue went into the state’s general fund and was used for both highway and non-highway expenditures. 

Congestion

Connecticut’s population and traffic have grown considerably since the Connecticut Turnpike was opened in the late 1950s. Also, despite capital improvements and increased ridership on the Amtrak, Metro-North (New Haven) and Shore Line East rail lines that have helped divert drivers from the turnpike, congestion continues to be a major issue on the Connecticut Turnpike. Twenty-five years ago transportation officials stated that I-95 was at 180% of the rush hour capacity for which it was designed. In 1977 it had been at 80% rush hour capacity.

An unintended consequence that arose from the construction of the Connecticut Turnpike was that a mass migration of New York City residents began to southwest Connecticut. Over a period of years, this led to major residential and economic growth in Fairfield and New Haven counties. The Connecticut Turnpike, planned in large part as a through highway, became a primary commuter route to New York City. 

Congestion on the Connecticut Turnpike/I-95. (Photo: cbia.com)Congestion on the Connecticut Turnpike/I-95. (Photo: cbia.com)

The turnpike had been planned by the Connecticut Highway Department as a route to help residents of the state drive more efficiently. After being designated as part of the IHS, additional segments of I-95 opened in the 1960s that connected to Providence and Boston, and the turnpike became an integral part of the route to transport people and goods throughout the Northeast. The result was that much of the turnpike became functionally obsolete by 1965, when traffic exceeded the highway’s design capacity. The Connecticut Turnpike had been designed to carry 60,000 vehicles per day (VPD) on the four-lane sections and 90,000 VPD on the six-lane portion west of New Haven. In 2006, the turnpike carried 75,000-100,000 VPD east of New Haven, and 130,000-200,000 VPD between New Haven and the New York state line.

Several years ago, ConnDOT reported that I-95 carries approximately 130,000 vehicles per day through Fairfield County, approximately 150,000 vehicles daily through the New Haven area, approximately 70,000 vehicles per day through the Old Saybrook area, approximately 100,000 vehicles daily through the New London area, and approximately 25,000 vehicles per day just before the Connecticut-Rhode Island border.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Connecticut Turnpike. (Photo: dotdata.ct.gov)Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Connecticut Turnpike. (Photo: dotdata.ct.gov)

Because of the congestion on the turnpike, the speed limit is 65 MPH along I-95 from exit 53 in East Haven north to exit 74 in Niantic, and from exit 87 in Groton north to the Connecticut-Rhode Island border. Speed limits through more urbanized areas range from 40 to 55 MPH.

Although there have been dozens of plans discussed to alleviate traffic congestion and improve safety on the turnpike over the decades (including building a second level above the existing highway), most have languished due to political infighting and lawsuits brought by special-interest groups. 

Turnpike issues 

Although most of the Connecticut Turnpike is signed as I-95 or I-395, the highway was designed and built before the IHS was established. Therefore, sections of the turnpike do not meet all interstate highway standards. In particular, overpasses along the turnpike range from 13.5 to 15 feet; IHS standards require overpasses to provide 16 feet of vertical clearance. In addition, interchanges are spaced too closely; a number of ramps and acceleration-deceleration lanes need to be lengthened. In some places, median and shoulder widths and curve radii also do not meet IHS standards.

As noted in Part 1, Connecticut is one of the nation’s most densely populated states, which complicates efforts to upgrade the turnpike to interstate standards. As profiled in other FreightWaves Classics articles, other major turnpikes (the Pennsylvania Turnpike [Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3], the New York State Thruway and the Maine Turnpike for example) feature widely spaced interchanges and generally run along the outskirts of major urban centers. However, the Connecticut Turnpike was built through the middle of several large cities (Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven) and has over 90 interchanges along its length;   50 are along the 50-mile section between the New York state line and New Haven.

Another photo of congestion on the Connecticut Turnpike. (Photo: dotdata.ct.gov)Another photo of congestion on the Connecticut Turnpike. (Photo: dotdata.ct.gov)

In addition, Connecticut did not acquire enough right-of-way to accommodate future expansion when the turnpike was built during the 1950s. Therefore, adjacent land must be seized to upgrade the roadway, resulting in lengthy and costly eminent domain battles between the state and landowners that do not wish to sell their property. Moreover, the turnpike passes through areas with some of the highest property values in the U.S., making land acquisition to expand the highway extremely costly. 

Lastly, the turnpike was built through Long Island Sound’s environmentally sensitive ecosystems and wetlands (which was not a major issue in the 1950s). Therefore, most expansion projects entail lengthy environmental impact studies and litigation filed by environmental groups. Air pollution laws are also a problem, since Connecticut is in the federal statistical areas around New York City and it suffers from “consequences and special regulations applied to non-compliant air quality areas.” In 2000, a ConnDOT official commented during a public meeting, “If we had tried to build [the Connecticut Turnpike]/I-95 today, it would be impossible because of the sensitive ecosystems it passes through. It would never get approved.”

Improvements

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, ConnDOT developed a comprehensive plan to improve the turnpike through heavily populated Fairfield and New Haven counties. ConnDOT began a 25-year, multibillion-dollar program in 1993 to upgrade the turnpike from the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook to the New York state line at Greenwich. Among the projects were the “complete reconstruction of several turnpike segments, including replacing bridges, adding travel lanes, reconfiguring interchanges, upgrading lighting and signage, and implementing the intelligent transportation system with traffic cameras, a variety of embedded roadway sensors and variable-message signs.” Other projects included a six-mile section through Bridgeport that was completely rebuilt to interstate standards. A long-term $2 billion program was completed in 2015; it rebuilt 12 miles of the turnpike between West Haven and Branford, including a new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge over the Quinnipiac River and New Haven Harbor.

However, as is the case with many interstate highways built in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, it is very difficult to replace or improve them in areas where the population has grown so significantly that there is very little room for such improvements. Again, these issues are not confined to the Connecticut Turnpike.

A closure along the Connecticut Turnpike/I-95 for road work. (Photo: 1-95exitguide.com)A closure along the Connecticut Turnpike/I-95 for road work. (Photo: 1-95exitguide.com)

North-south numbering for an east-west highway

The Connecticut Turnpike is approximately 128 miles long and travels in a generally west-east direction. The turnpike was originally signed as an east-west route, even after the I-95 designation was added to it between Greenwich and Waterford in the early 1960s. It is numbered I-95 for 88 miles from the New York state border in Greenwich to East Lyme; I-395 for 36 miles from East Lyme to Plainfield; and State Road 695 for four miles from Plainfield to the Rhode Island state line. As explained in numerous FreightWaves Classics articles, interstate highways that end with odd numbers generally run north-south.

Signs indicating I-95/Connecticut Turnpike as an east-west route were located in a number of places until the early 1990s; at that time any remaining east-west signs were replaced by signs indicating that the turnpike was part of a north-south interstate.

Interstate 95 in Connecticut

Interstate 95 (concurrent with the Connecticut Turnpike) enters Connecticut in Greenwich at the New York state line. Therefore, the turnpike’s first 88 miles are signed as I-95. This portion of the Connecticut Turnpike/I-95 runs through the most heavily urbanized section of Connecticut (between Greenwich and New Haven, passing through the cities of Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport and New Haven). The turnpike intersects several major highways on its route. 

North (east) of its intersection with I-91, the turnpike continues along the Connecticut shoreline; however, traffic is generally lighter. The six-lane highway decreases to four lanes in Branford and continues until its interchange with I-395 near the East Lyme-Waterford line.

I-395 branches northeast at a wye interchange as Interstate 95 turns east to cross the Thames River between New London and Groton. (Photo: interstate-guide.com)I-395 branches northeast at a wye interchange as Interstate 95 turns east to cross the Thames River between New London and Groton. (Photo: interstate-guide.com)

Interstate 395

The turnpike leaves I-95 in East Lyme and continues as I-395 north toward Norwich, Jewett City and Plainfield until exit 35; there the turnpike and I-395 split. At the split, I-395 continues north toward Worcester, Massachusetts, ending at I-290 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Connecticut Turnpike terminates at US 6 in Killingly, which continues on towards Providence, Rhode Island. Unlike the portion of the turnpike that is signed I-95, the I-395 section has not changed a great deal over the years; it still has a grass median with a guardrail separating directions of travel.

US 1

An existing relocation of US 1 between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme was incorporated into the Connecticut Turnpike when it was built. This section of US 1 included the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge over the Connecticut River, which opened in 1948. When the turnpike opened in 1958, US 1 was co-signed with the turnpike between the two communities. 

Confused? (Photo: kurumi.com)Confused? (Photo: kurumi.com)

Route 2A

Route 2A was built to be a bypass around Norwich. It shares its roadbed with the Connecticut Turnpike from its northern end at Route 2 to exit 9 on I-395, where it turns east.  

SR 695

SR 695 is the 4.49-mile unsigned portion of the Connecticut Turnpike from I-395 in Plainfield to US 6 at the Rhode Island state line in Killingly. The road is not signed as SR 695; eastbound it is signed as “To US 6 East” and westbound as “To I-395 South.” SR 695 had been planned to become part of I-84 between Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island; however, that part of I-84 was not built.

Another image from years ago. (Photo: fabricscoutstudio.com)Another image from years ago. (Photo: fabricscoutstudio.com)

The turnpike in 2022

Connecticut continues to improve the Connecticut Turnpike; however, it is difficult because of the numerous factors described above. Connecticut is not alone; highway construction and improvement are issues shared by many states. Almost all interstates in urban areas need to be improved, but that task is very expensive and very difficult for many reasons. 

Moreover, as highway and bridge infrastructure continues to age, maintenance must be a greater priority for the nation and its states.

A postcard of the Connecticut Turnpike from a bygone era. The turnpike's issues are not unique; they are found on highways across the United States. (Image: cardcow.com)A postcard of the Connecticut Turnpike from a bygone era. The turnpike’s issues are not unique; they are found on highways across the United States. (Image: cardcow.com)

Author’s note: You can find all FreightWaves Classics articles in an archive. On the FreightWaves.com homepage, click on “RESOURCES” on the second bar across the top of the page. “FreightWaves Classics” can be found in that area. You can also subscribe to the FreightWaves Classics weekly newsletter by clicking on “NEWSLETTERS” in the same area as “RESOURCES”. Thank you!



01/05/22 - Nikola drops $2B patent infringement suit against Tesla

01/05/22 06:06:31pm -

Nikola Corp. has dropped its $2 billion patent infringement suit against Tesla Inc. after months of inactivity that led a federal judge to all but end the nearly 4-year-old case for the two companies.

The companies have agreed to withdraw all claims and counterclaims against each other, according to a joint filing Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA)  confirmed Wednesday.

The case was already on shaky ground, facing a dismissal in U.S. District Court in San Francisco because the two companies stopped responding to the suit in which Nikola accused Tesla of infringing on patents for its hydrogen-powered Nikola One semi.


Watch now: Where those Nikola electric trucks are coming from


The Nikola One was quietly discontinued in late 2020. The design elements that Nikola claimed were stolen became irrelevant because Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) redesigned its preproduction battery-powered Semi tractor.

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato wrote in late September 2021 that Nikola “has dropped the ball, and this 2018 action is languishing without explanation or apparent good cause.”

The lawsuit stalled after federal prosecutors charged Nikola founder Trevor Milton with securities fraud, alleging he misled investors about the company’s prospects. Milton has sought to have the charges dismissed. He is free on $100 million bail pending trial scheduled for April in New York.

The Nikola case has been compared to Theranos. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was convicted by a jury this week of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for scamming investors in the blood-testing startup out of hundreds of millions of dollars. 

USA Truck signs letter of intent

Separately, Nikola continued to show progress after severing ties with Milton, who resigned from the company in September 2020. 

Nikola announced Wednesday its latest letter of intent to sell 10 of its Nikola Tre battery-elected Class 8 cabover tractors to USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) through its sales and service partner Thompson Truck Centers.  

Thompson will provide sales, service, maintenance and energy infrastructure required to operate the Nikola Tre BEV trucks, expected to be delivered in the first half of 2022. The agreement includes the option to purchase an additional 90 Nikola zero-emission trucks over the next two years.

Nikola delivered its first Tre units to Total Transportation Services Inc. in December. TTSI placed the first significant order for Tre, a mix of battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell models slated for 2023.

Related articles:

Federal court shelves Nikola’s patent infringement lawsuit against Tesla

Nikola Motor claims Tesla infringed its truck patents, seeks $2B in damages 

The case against Nikola’s Trevor Milton: ‘Lied about nearly every aspect’

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.



01/05/22 - Nikola drops $2B patent infringement suit against Tesla

01/05/22 05:36:23pm -

Nikola Corp. has dropped its $2 billion patent infringement suit against Tesla Inc. after months of inactivity that led a federal judge to all but end the nearly 4-year-old case for the two companies.

The companies have agreed to withdraw all claims and counterclaims against each other, according to a joint filing Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA)  confirmed Wednesday.

The case was already on shaky ground, facing a dismissal in U.S. District Court in San Francisco because the two companies stopped responding to the suit in which Nikola accused Tesla of infringing on patents for its hydrogen-powered Nikola One semi.


Watch now: Where those Nikola electric trucks are coming from


The Nikola One was quietly discontinued in late 2020. The design elements that Nikola claimed were stolen became irrelevant because Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) redesigned its preproduction battery-powered Semi tractor.

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato wrote in late September 2021 that Nikola “has dropped the ball, and this 2018 action is languishing without explanation or apparent good cause.”

The lawsuit stalled after federal prosecutors charged Nikola founder Trevor Milton with securities fraud, alleging he misled investors about the company’s prospects. Milton has sought to have the charges dismissed. He is free on $100 million bail pending trial scheduled for April in New York.

The Nikola case has been compared to Theranos. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was convicted by a jury this week of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for scamming investors in the blood-testing startup out of hundreds of millions of dollars. 

USA Truck signs letter of intent

Separately, Nikola continued to show progress after severing ties with Milton, who resigned from the company in September 2020. 

Nikola announced Wednesday its latest letter of intent to sell 10 of its Nikola Tre battery-elected Class 8 cabover tractors to USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) through its sales and service partner Thompson Truck Centers.  

Thompson will provide sales, service, maintenance and energy infrastructure required to operate the Nikola Tre BEV trucks, expected to be delivered in the first half of 2022. The agreement includes the option to purchase an additional 90 Nikola zero-emission trucks over the next two years.

Nikola delivered its first Tre units to Total Transportation Services Inc. in December. TTSI placed the first significant order for Tre, a mix of battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell models slated for 2023.

Related articles:

Federal court shelves Nikola’s patent infringement lawsuit against Tesla

Nikola Motor claims Tesla infringed its truck patents, seeks $2B in damages 

The case against Nikola’s Trevor Milton: ‘Lied about nearly every aspect’

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.



01/05/22 - California challenges San Bernardino air cargo facility used by Amazon

01/05/22 12:00:43am - A white plane with pale blue Amazon lettering at a cargo terminal.

The state of California on Monday petitioned a federal appeals court to rehear its lawsuit challenging a new air cargo facility at San Bernardino International Airport that is home to a major package hub in Amazon’s air network. Attorney General Rob Bonta said the original decision conflicts with existing environmental law and puts the local community at risk from harmful diesel truck and jet emissions.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the $200 million Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center in 2019, over the objection of California and community groups, and in the summer of 2020 a divided panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit allowed the project to move forward. The attorney general’s office argues the FAA conducted a cursory environmental analysis and understated air pollution impacts from increased truck traffic.

The cargo center includes a 658,500-square-foot warehouse plus ground support buildings and parking spots for 14 all-cargo aircraft. 

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) began operating the aircraft ramp and sortation center last April. Online shipments arriving by truck and air are grouped and redistributed by outbound aircraft. State officials say dozens of additional flights and hundreds of truck trips will be generated every day by the middle of the decade, along with at least 1 ton of toxic air pollutants. Amazon currently operates about nine flights per day, according to the airport.

San Bernardino, located about 60 miles east of the Interstate 5 corridor in Los Angeles, is in the heart of the sprawling warehouse region known as the Inland Empire.

Public health advocates and the state say particulate matter and harmful gases in industrial areas disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. 

The original lawsuit filed by former Attorney General Xavier Becerra, now secretary of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration, sought to halt construction of the privately financed air cargo terminal until the FAA completed a comprehensive environmental impact statement that fully accounts for the harm to local communities.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have. You can’t cut corners when the health and well-being of our communities is at stake,” said Attorney General Bonta in a news release. “As the People’s Attorney, I’m committed to lifting up the voices of communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. The fact is: communities like the one impacted by this project in San Bernardino are all too often overburdened and under-resourced. These communities, who are already experiencing health harms from pollution, deserve to be protected to the fullest extent of the law, and through our Bureau of Environmental Justice, we’re committed to seeing this fight through.”

According to the California Air Resources Board, residents of San Bernardino are among the top 5% of Californians for the prevalence of asthma-related hospital visits, and among the top 3% for emergency room visits due to heart attacks. 

Petitions from the attorney general and advocacy group Earth Justice argue the court’s decision should be reconsidered for several reasons. It said the creation of a new burden of proof for petitioners to challenge FAA decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is inconsistent with 9th Circuit precedent, which holds that the burden of identifying and analyzing environmental impacts rests with the agency. The panel also allowed the FAA to base the project’s approval on a flawed environmental analysis of uncertain impacts in contravention of 9th Circuit and Supreme Court precedents. The petition finally asserts that the case is of exceptional importance because of the number of people affected and worth the court’s time, especially since the FAA’s lack of data transparency prevented the state and the public from documenting harmful impacts from the Eastgate project. 

The panel that decided the case “erroneously allowed the FAA to rest its approval of the project on the incomplete and inaccurate analysis in the environmental assessment,” the California Department of Justice said in the petition.

If the court agrees to rehear the case, 11 judges will be selected to participate. The initial panel had three judges.

FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and UPS (NYSE: UPS) are also tenants at the San Bernardino airport. 

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.

RELATED NEWS:

California sues to stop big cargo expansion at San Bernardino airport

Amazon Air picks San Bernardino airport for western hub



01/04/22 - Same ship, different day

01/04/22 11:51:32pm -

Happy New Year and welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter presented by Parade. In this issue, Q1 outlook for inland and ocean; stranded on I-95; why The Rock is tweeting about supply chain; and more.

New year, same look

Twitter

Getting used to it — While most of us may have entered ’21 with a hint of optimism, we exited the year getting crushed by a 40-foot container filled with realism. With yet another COVID variant raging, spot rates up 31% in ’21 and contract rates pushing further upwards, getting a load pulled this quarter may cost you as much as ever. Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Labored labor — With vaccine mandates looming and truckers threatening to quit like Antonio Brown in the middle of a game, large fleets hope a special session by the Supreme Court this Friday will shed some light on the issue. Mandates aren’t the only concern in trucking labor this year. As FreightWaves’ John Kingston points out, “The biggest development in the issue of worker classification in 2022 may get pushed to 2023. If it doesn’t, it will have enormous ramifications.”

Twitter

Capacity for capacity — The cavalry is coming but not anytime soon. The current backlog for new class 8 semis is 13 months. If you bought yourself a new truck for Christmas, don’t expect to see it until February of next year! It isn’t just a chip issue, it’s an “everything shortage” as Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, told FreightWaves’ Alan Adler. That means that current fleets have to push off maintenance and deal with longer and more expensive repair cycles due to a lack of everything from tires to critical components.

Same ship, different day

Twitter

Pass it on Stop me if you’ve heard this one: The SoCal ports have delayed the container dwell fee for the umpteenth (or in this case, umptenth) time. But have the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach improved at all? Not according to Vespucci Maritime CEO Lars Jensen who says, “The status right now is essentially no different from the situation in late November.”  

No relief — While inland trucking may have its issues, the global shipping crisis that captivated the world in ’21 is still in full effect. According to Judah Levine, head of research at Freightos, “There is no strong expectation of significant improvements [for cargo shippers] until underlying demand wanes. That doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.” Read FreightWaves’ Greg Miller’s bull and bear cases for ocean shipping in ’22.

Omicron conundrum — Don’t look now but the Beilun district of Ningbo recorded it’s first COVID case of ’22. The Ningbo Zhoushan port complex is the world’s third-biggest port, and with China’s zero-COVID policy, importers are on edge regarding further lockdowns. Fortunately, Seatrade Maritime News reports, “During the period of 1 January-3 January, daily container throughput at Ningbo-Zhoushan port was more than 97,000 teu, the volume was 108.5% of the same period of last year.” This will continue to be a situation to watch across all ports in Asia.

Stranded in Virginia

Twitter

On ice — On Monday a blizzard that dumped 11 inches on Virginia left drivers stranded on a 50-mile stretch of I-95 well into Tuesday afternoon. All told, many drivers spent over 20 hours stuck on the interstate. To put that in perspective, my family and I drove from Chattanooga to Cape Cod over the holidays … that only took 19 hours (fortunately we avoided any major incidents.) NBC News’ Josh Lederman and his dog counted themselves among the drivers who were trapped. He tweeted, “The interstate is absolutely littered with disabled vehicles. Not just cars. Semis, everything. Nobody can move. People are running out of gas or abandoning vehicles.” Frustrated motorists took to Twitter to plead for help and air their concerns as many ran low on gas, food and patience.

Twitter

Goodwill — In crisis comes strength, and some of the best stories from this incident were the simple gestures of good people. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who spent over 19 hours in gridlock, tweeted, “A CT family returning in a packed car from Florida walked by in the middle of the night handing out oranges as we were stopped for hours on I-95. Bless them!” Long-hauler Emily Slaughter who was also stuck advised those in crisis to count on a trucker. CBS’ Jim DeFede, who spent over 20 hours in that mess, took a pragmatic approach to the delay, tweeting, “I’m not sure but I think I now qualify for Virginia residency.”

Lightning strikes thrice

Twitter

Charging ahead — Ford CEO Jim Farley announced Tuesday that the company plans to produce 150,000 Ford Lightnings annually. Here’s the catch: That number is a moving target and isn’t expected to be hit until mid-2023. While the truck starts at around $40,000 MSRP, consumers are seeing dealer markups of $30,000 on top of the sticker price. Those markups may even have The Rock tapping out as he plans to get one after the supply chain sorts itself out.

Twitter
imgflip

Tesla delivers — While Ford may have some lofty goals for the Lightning, Tesla is continuing its dominance of the space. Although some thought a recall of nearly a half-million vehicles could finally slow Musk down, Wall Street quickly rebounded. Barron’s reports, “[Tesla shares] gained 13.5% on Monday after the company reported that it delivered more than 308,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter, roughly 15% more than the roughly 267,000 Wall Street expected.”

Trucker saves dog’s day, dog saves trucker’s year

Jonathan Bolanos

Do you know Updog? Trucker Jonathan Bolanos of Team Bolanos Trucking made a dog’s day during his last load of the year. Last Thursday on the Jersey Turnpike the veteran driver was stopped in traffic when it came to his attention that a dog was not only loose on the roadway but had sought refuge between his tires. Bolanos and a number of other motorists attempted to coax the dog free and after an hour of calming the dog down, state troopers were able to recover him. Bolanos sees it as a good omen, telling MyCentralNewJersey, “I am very happy that I can do something so positive and end the year feeling like I did something good. I knew he was in safe hands with me — I love and respect animals. Now, I feel like this is going to be a great year.”

WTT this week

Wednesday — It’s the first WTT in ’22 and on the show we’re looking ahead to the future of biofuels, simplifying how drivers get paid, using AI to get ahead of fleet maintenance, the state of dwell times and more. With special guests Fabricio Bezerra, market development manager, Renewable Road Transportation at Neste US; Anna Enns, chief product officer at Gig Wage; Braden Pastalaniec, VP of transportation and logistics at Uptake; and Greg Braun, chief revenue officer at C3 Solutions Inc.

Friday — Getting drivers physically fit in ’22 and fleets in shape for new trucking regulations. With special guests Steve Kane, president and creator of Rolling Strong; Vipul Shah, chief technology officer at NEXT Trucking; and Julie Dillon, health and wellness manager at St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund.

Catch new shows live at noon ET Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on FreightWavesTV, FreightWaves LinkedIn and Facebook or on demand by looking up WHAT THE TRUCK?!? on your favorite podcast player. 

Now on demand

A Very WHAT THE TRUCK?!? Christmas

Disruption conniption live from Domestic Supply Chain Summit

Key for ’22

Bend don’t break — Supply chain managers who hoped things would return to normal in ’21 got crushed last  year. We asked project44’s Adam Compain about why a focus on resiliency will be key in ’22. Here’s what he had to say.


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One love,

Dooner



01/03/22 - Fearless supply chain predictions: Here’s what will happen in 2022

01/03/22 12:50:23pm -

Goodbye, 2021. Hello, 2022. What do you have in store for us? More supply chain issues? More port congestion? More driver issues? More topsy-turvy developments? 

Probably a little bit of everything, according to FreightWaves writers. We asked our people on the front lines to look into the 2022 crystal ball and offer up predictions on their respective beats. It promises to again be a newsworthy year in the freight industry, which took center stage on many of the nightly newscasts in 2021.

TRUCKS by Alan Adler

Electric trucks will become a bigger part of manufacturing in 2022, but the semiconductor shortage that has hampered automotive and commercial vehicle production for months will remain. For how long is the question.

Autonomous trucks will stay top of mind as the first on-highway driverless pilots are examined and replicated and increased high-definition mapping expands the territory autonomous trucks can cover with safety drivers on board.


DRIVERS by John Kingston

The biggest development in the issue of worker classification in 2022 may get pushed to 2023. If it doesn’t, it will have enormous ramifications.

What the ever-changing legal landscape for worker classification is waiting on is a resolution to the question of whether California’s AB5 independent contractor law can be applied to trucking. How AB5 would affect trucking in the Golden State is the subject of much debate, but the mere fact that some observers think it would just about kill the IC model in the state indicates its importance.

For two years now, an injunction handed down at the start of 2020 has blocked its implementation because a lower federal court judge concluded AB5 conflicted with a 1990s federal law known as the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. That lower court ruling was reversed by an appellate court in April but the injunction stayed in place while the California Trucking Association, which brought the original lawsuit, pursued an appeal that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS then asked the U.S. solicitor general to weigh in.

There’s no deadline on when the solicitor general needs to respond to the court. And there’s no deadline on when SCOTUS needs to hand down its rule. One scenario has the ruling not coming until after the court session begins in October, meaning resolution may wait for another year.

If the appellate court decision is overturned, and AB5’s definition of independent contractors becomes law for the trucking sector, the changes in business models in the state could be sweeping. Exactly what companies will do remains uncertain. But the status quo could not hold.

Two other significant developments regarding the status of independent contractors — like truck owner-operators — are on the horizon for 2022. 

One is expected to be the Biden administration’s proposal for a new federal rule defining independent contractors. A Trump administration rule implemented just before President Biden was sworn into office was withdrawn. Whatever rule is implemented, it will impact policies at the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

Another key development on the question of independent contractor definition will appear on the ballot in Massachusetts in November. That state will vote on whether to implement its version of the California referendum, Prop 22, that sought to keep gig drivers such as those who work for Uber as independent contractors. Prop 22 in California was in direct reaction to AB5. But even in California, a state court has ruled that Prop 22 was unconstitutional, throwing that guideline into doubt as well.


FINANCE by Todd Maiden

Truckload carriers will likely see a continuation of current trends through the first half of 2022. Volumes will be up against tough comps, but historically low inventories remain supportive of demand, at least in the first quarter or two. 

However, the strength of the consumer will be tested without the aid of government stimulus. Rates will move higher again as driver demographics and extended tractor delivery schedules remain a headwind to capacity. The early consensus call is for spot rates to cool in the second or third quarter, with contractual rates up by a high-single-digit percentage for the full year.

Rate increases are expected to more than offset cost inflation, driving modest margin improvement. The improvements appear to be built into 2022 earnings expectations, which are higher again. 

How the year shakes out will ultimately depend on when the cycle starts to decline and will most likely be directly correlated with a softening in consumer spending. The end of this trucking cycle will not be tied to an influx of capacity, which has ended many cycles in the past. Many analysts are pointing to the second half for a cycle downturn, which is also the period that contains the most formidable comps to 2021.

Deal flow in the trucking space was robust in 2021 and indications point to more of the same. Carriers have been using record profits and cash generation to add drivers/equipment and new transportation offerings through M&A. Several transformative deals were inked last year and it will be interesting to see who acquires what in 2022.


REGULATIONS and LEGISLATION by John Gallagher

Part two of the biggest infrastructure story coming out of Washington in years — the signing into law of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — will begin to be told in 2022, which is whether the billions of dollars included in the law can be disbursed fast enough to help unclog current bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Also in 2022, look for the most attention from the government in years applied to the issue of driver retention, starting with the rollout of President Biden’s Action Plan. And industry players along the waterfront will be keeping close tabs on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which passed the House in December. If it gains traction in the Senate and ultimately signed into law, it will impose new restrictions and oversight on international ocean carriers — with potential cost implications for shippers as well.


FINAL MILE by Mark Solomon

The calendar is changing, and for parcel shippers that may be the only thing that does.

E-commerce volumes will continue to rise, and with it demand for parcel fulfillment and delivery services. Carriers will again control the pricing narrative. UPS — and to a lesser extent FedEx — won’t think twice about kicking big shippers to the curb should they fail to toe their pricing lines. Capacity will expand, but with volumes growing at a faster clip, the higher productivity levels that accompany infrastructure enhancements will not translate into price reductions for shippers.

Enterprise shippers with big volumes again won’t have many options. Regional delivery carriers are at or near maximum capacity and may be reluctant to onboard new business for fear of compromising their service reliability. Amazon.com Inc. could move the needle by launching a delivery service aimed at businesses not using its retail or fulfillment services. However, Amazon has a lot on its plate just meeting the logistics demands of its existing customers. 

The U.S. Postal Service will bring a stronger parcel-delivery presence to the table in 2022. The question is whether big shippers have enough confidence in the Postal Service to rely on it heavily outside of the holiday peak.

Maybe the biggest story of the new year will be whether FedEx Ground, FedEx Corp.’s U.S. ground-delivery unit, can regain its mojo. The unit had a difficult calendar 2021 as staffing shortages led to higher costs, delivery disruptions and shrinking operating margins. FedEx said the ship will be righted during the first half of calendar 2022 as staffing levels increase. A lot of folks are holding the company to that pledge.


WATCH: What happens next in the supply chain chaos?


MARITIME by Greg Miller

COVID will remain a central variable for ocean shipping in 2022. The longer the pandemic lasts, the longer ocean supply chains will be disrupted and the longer freight rates will stay exceptionally high. The near-term risk for U.S. importers is more about goods availability than cost: If China sticks to its “zero COVID” policy and omicron spreads, Chinese exports are in danger.

Other key issues to watch: how the U.S. changes its regulation of ocean carriers and what unintended consequences emerge; how the retail inventory-to-sales ratio evolves; how geopolitical tensions play out with Russia, China and Iran; and what happens with international regulation of shipping emissions. 

Will new emissions rules actually have any teeth? If so, it could push freight rates even higher.


AIR CARGO by Eric Kulisch

The growth trajectory for air cargo is likely to continue in 2022. Demand growth may dip from 9% in 2021 (compared to 2019), but it will be a seller’s market again. 

The global economy is rapidly growing, inventory levels are still relatively low and international capacity for passenger airlines will not fully recover, especially with the omicron variant holding back flight schedules. Demand should be very strong leading up to Chinese New Year with a modest decline before soaring again for the fall peak season.  

Freight forwarders will continue to control more capacity by entering more charter arrangements with carriers. There is a permanent threat to cargo capacity developing as airlines operate fewer frequencies with single-aisle planes. It is one reason, along with the trade growth and the surge in e-commerce, that demand for converted and new freighters will continue to boom in 2022.


RAILROADS by Joanna Marsh

For the rails, the Surface Transportation Board, which is the federal regulatory body governing rail-related economic regulations, will be looking at a number of hot-button issues in 2022. Some of these issues are about whether big railroad companies should merge and what that merged company would look like for shippers, competing railroads, employees and the local communities served. Other issues have been brought forth by shippers asking the board to define service or data parameters.

The STB is a five-member board. The newest member is a Democrat nominee replacing a Republican. Democrats now represent three members of the board, and so it will be interesting to see if and/or how this change will influence or affect the board’s actions in 2022. 


FREIGHTTECH by Grace Sharkey

In 2020, supply chain innovation brought new ways to get goods without having to risk our families’ health and safety. As life became more normal in 2021, consumers ran with those innovations, which brought better visibility into where goods come from and even enabled drones to deliver goods to doorsteps. 

In 2022, new technology — including livestream shopping experiences, influencer-driven marketplaces and deeper investment in local microfulfillment centers — will completely change the way consumers interact with retailers.


WATCH: 10 CPG Trends to Watch in 2022


MEXICO-US BORDER by Noi Mahoney

If 2021 has taught the United States-Mexico trade community anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Global semiconductor shortages hampered the U.S.-Mexico automotive supply chain, causing delays and work stoppages in auto factories on both sides of the border all year long. Some predict Mexico’s automotive industry won’t return to pre-pandemic production levels until the end of 2023.

As the global economy continues to recover from COVID-19, more companies continue to look to move their operations from Asia to nearer shores such as Mexico for manufacturing and distribution. Global investments in Mexico’s manufacturing sector will likely continue through 2022, with more companies nearshoring operations south of the border.

Another key development in cross-border trade is the Mexican government’s new regulations for shippers, carriers and third-party logistics providers known as the carta porte. The regulations from the Mexican Tax Authority are aimed at reducing cargo theft across the country. It was set to go into effect Saturday but was recently extended to March 31. Some have criticized the new requirements, saying it will add unnecessary paperwork and more costs to cross-border shipments.


CANADA-US BORDER by Nate Tabak

The Canadian freight market — inextricably linked to $700 billion in annual cross-border trade with the U.S. — is poised for a year marked by higher pricing. As Murray Mullen, the CEO of Alberta-based trucking giant Mullen Group, told analysts in October, “Prices must rise.” 

Despite tight capacity and strong volumes, particularly in consumer products, base freight rates in 2021 have moved up only marginally, according to Nulogx’s Canadian General Freight Index. So what’s going to move pricing? 

Everything is getting more expensive, including labor. Meanwhile, the federal government has phased out major pandemic support programs, including a wage subsidy. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate coming in January likely will take drivers out of cross-border operations — by some projections more than 20%. 

While some industry insiders think the real number will be significantly lower, the existing capacity constraints mean that even a small reduction will put upward pressure on rates. 

Another driver: Canada’s ELD mandate. Once enforcement begins — currently slated for June — busy domestic lanes including Toronto-Montreal likely will get more expensive as exceeding hours of service rules becomes more difficult.


SUSTAINABILITY by Alyssa Sporrer

It will be exciting to see how supply chain players advance sustainability trends in 2022. The COP26 climate conference in November spurred governments and companies to take action against climate change. Which companies will lead the way? Which sustainable fuels will gain market share in each mode of transport in 2022?

Aviation, maritime, rail and trucking each have different mixes of low- and zero-carbon fuels emerging. Environmental groups will continue to stress the importance of using life cycle analyses from well to wheel to evaluate the sustainability and emissions of alternative fuels such as green hydrogen, ammonia, renewable diesel, battery-electric, renewable natural gas and methanol.


WEATHER by Nick Austin

So far this season, above normal snowfall has slammed areas of the West, especially in the Sierra Nevada. However, based on the mid-December outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, precipitation is likely to return to normal levels for the January through March time period. 

During the same time period, waves of supply chain delays will be possible in the Northwest and Midwest, where above normal precipitation is likely. The Midwest could be quite wet and warm at times during the spring and summer while the Northwest dries out.

Temperatures could remain largely above normal in parts of the West and Southwest through summer, leading to another potentially devastating wildfire year. Areas of the South and East may also experience many periods of unseasonable warmth, while most of the cold weather is confined to portions of the West and Northwest.


CRIMES and COURTS by Clarissa Hawes

It’s hard to predict what will happen on the crime and courts beat in 2022, but expect more trucking company failures, including drayage carriers, if the supply chain crisis continues. 

The ports and terminal operators must find ways to improve efficiency and allow drayage companies to pull customers’ containers and return the empties. Drayage truckers claim their financial situations are becoming dire and it will get worse in 2022 if port congestion isn’t cleared out during the Lunar New Year in February.


WATCH: Where are spot rates headed in 2022?



01/02/22 - 6 lessons learned about cybersecurity and freight in 2021

01/02/22 05:45:31pm - An illustration of a hacker holding a laptop with a tractor trailer to the right.

It was once again another rough year for cybersecurity and freight. The main reason: ransomware attacks, in which criminals encrypt data and demand payment, sometimes in the millions of dollars, in exchange for unlocking it. Even though the U.S. government has been taking an increasingly aggressive approach to fighting ransomware, the attacks have continued. They hit companies across the supply chain, including trucking, logistics, freight factoring, freight forwarding — and even fuel bunkering. Here’s what we learned along the way

1 Big carriers are still in the crosshairs: The cyberattack on Wisconsin-based Marten Transport in October showed yet again that major carriers continue to be vulnerable. Marten never officially described the incident as a ransomware attack. But the company’s description of it in an SEC filing and the appearance of stolen data on a ransomware gang’s leak site suggest one may have occurred. Sources told FreightWaves that the attack brought down the company’s operations system — something Marten disputes. Regardless of what befell Marten, the incident marked the single largest publicly known cyberattack on a major carrier in 2021.

A graphic illustration of two trucks being unloaded and screen displaying "files encrypted' to illustrate an ransomware attack on a trucking company.Ransomware attacks can cripple operations at trucking and logistics companies by encrypting the data of vital systems. Increasingly, hackers are stealing data, too. (Emily Ricks/FreightWaves)

2 Ransomware remains the No. 1 threat, regardless of how small you are: Ransomware attacks remain the single biggest cyber threat to transportation and logistics companies. While high-profile incidents like the attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods grabbed headlines and the attention of the U.S. government, hackers go after companies of all sizes. In February, the manager of a small carrier with 25 trucks shared his harrowing experience of an attack. The hackers also accessed the carrier’s transportation management system, sending screenshots of it — showing the potential for sabotaging trucking operations. “It was very alarming,” the manager said. “They could have cost that side of the business altogether. It’s scary to think about that.” That level of access isn’t unusual in successful ransomware attacks.


Watch now: Why hackers see cold storage as ‘prime target’


3 Technology is a double-edged sword: The digital renaissance that has swept across transportation and logistics companies has been a good thing for the supply chain. Improvements in connectivity and visibility allow freight to move efficiently and reliability. But companies can end up introducing vulnerabilities if they aren’t careful. “There’s still so much happening in transportation, around digital transformation and introduction of different types of digital communications between companies,” GlobalTranz Chief Operating Officer Russ Felker told FreightWaves. “Every digital transformation a company puts in place is a potential security incident.” 

A lock displayed on a virtual circuit board to represent cybersecurity along the hood of a truck;The threat environment for transportation and logistics companies demands a serious approach to cybersecurity. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

4 A ransomware attack doesn’t have to be catastrophic: When ransomware attacks are successful, they can bring down a company’s entire IT infrastructure. That downtime can be extremely costly for trucking and logistics providers, so much so that some firms find it cheaper to pay the criminals. According to cybersecurity experts, these kinds of catastrophic attacks aren’t an inevitability. “Many attacks can be prevented or at least minimized by implementing security best practices,” Jérôme Segura, director of threat intelligence at Malwarebytes, told FreightWaves in May. “But the day-to-day reality is that many organizations are not prepared and are not doing enough,” Segura said. Hackers frequently exploit known vulnerabilities in unpatched systems or take advantage of malware delivered through a phishing email. But given the vast and complicated nature of networks, companies also need to go beyond trying to close off all the doors and training personnel to identify phishing. They need multilayered defenses, which can ensure that an entire network isn’t brought down.

A illustration of a man in a burglar outfit running across 1s and 0s to illustrate data theft during a ransomware attack.Hackers frequently steal data before activating a ransomware attack. (Illustration: TarikVision/Shutterstock)

5 Get hacked? Call a lawyer: Cybercriminals also commonly access and steal data from their victims to gain additional leverage in ransomware attacks. As a result, companies face a minefield of state data disclosure laws and the risk of costly litigation. That’s why companies or their insurers waste little time to call lawyers who specialize in cyber incident responses. In July, South Carolina lawyer Carrie Palmer explained how she helped guide a trucking company through the aftermath of an attack. One of the dilemmas facing the carrier: whether to pay the ransom. “The decision was made to not engage in a … ‘we-don’t-negotiate-with-terrorists’ kind of thing,” Palmer said.   

An illustration of a bulgar wearing a striped shirt using a vacuum to pull data from a computer, illustrating an article about cyberthieves who steal data.The operators of the Marketo leak site claim to have stolen data from heavy truck manufacturer Navistar. (Illustration: solar22/Shutterstock)

6 Cybercriminals with values? After truck maker Navistar fell victim to a cyberattack, stolen data from the company appeared on a dark web marketplace called Marketo. In an interview with FreightWaves, the operators of the site sought to distinguish themselves from the cybercriminals who engage in ransomware attacks. “We do not encrypt any data,” Marketo said. “We do not block the work of networks and do not seek to cause damage and shut down the company.” Such attacks, the group said, are “against our moral principles.” Marketo’s claims are suspect since the group has posted data stolen during ransomware attacks. But even if Marketo is telling the truth, mere data theft can be incredibly costly. Navistar is itself facing a lawsuit in connection with the data breach that Marketo took credit for.

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