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Cliff Abbott

Cliff Abbott
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.
Jeremy Ward with his truck

With a nearly life-long desire to drive a truck, Jeremy Ward is now ‘living...

GLADWIN, Mich. — The phrase “living the dream” is usually spoken as a whimsical answer to the question, “How are you?” In the case of one Michigan trucker, however, the statement rings true. “I knew, when I was in 6th grade, that I wanted to drive a truck,” said owner-operator Jeremy Ward. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.” Ward lives in Gladwin, Michigan, about 80 miles north of Lansing, with his wife, two daughters and a stepson. When he’s not spending time with the family, he’s driving his 1995 Peterbilt 379, which is equipped with a Caterpillar 3406E engine and...
Debra LaBree

WIT’s July member of the month offers encouragement to fellow drivers, women interested in...

JOPLIN, Mo. — “We live in a beautiful country, and trucking is a great way to see it.” Those words might sound like a recruiting pitch to some, and in a way, they are. They’re the heartfelt advice of Debra LaBree, a professional driver and business owner, and Women in Trucking’s (WIT’s) July member of the month. LaBree and husband Del own Castle Transport LLC, based in the Joplin, Missouri, area, and drive as a team, partnered with Landstar. LaBree’s trucking career has seen her behind the wheel for 1.4 million safe miles, and she has received multiple awards from...
Carla Brown in front of her bright green truck

Hakuna matata: U.S. Army veteran, owner-operator has ‘no worries’ attitude, dedicates her truck to...

When a graphic artist decides to buy her own tractor, you’d expect the paint job to be interesting. That’s certainly true of Carla Brown’s lime green 2019 Freightliner Cascadia. She designed the graphics herself including the ladybug motif down the center of the hood. “My truck is dedicated to my sister; she loved lady bugs,” Brown told The Trucker. “She was a truck driver, too.” Tragically, Brown’s sister, Carolyn, lost her life when she was struck by a pickup truck while spotting for another truck driver. Carolyn’s photograph is a part of the design, prominently displayed on the side of Brown’s...
New Class 8 Trucks

June sees rise in Class 8 truck production, but sales still lag behind

June U.S. sales of new Class 8 trucks rose 42.7% over dismal May sales figures but didn’t come close to matching June 2019 numbers. According to ACT Research, 13,567 Class 8 trucks were sold on the U.S. market in June, far behind (43.2%) the 23,900 sold in June 2019. Kenny Vieth, ACT Research’s president and senior analyst, credits the increase to production levels. “April, with only 2,504 trucks built, was the lowest production month since we started keeping records in 1979,” he told The Trucker. That number represents trucks built throughout North America, not just in the U.S. Manufacturing closures and slowdowns,...
US Congress

House subcommittee approves huge 2021 budget increase for FMCSA, other agencies

WASHINGTON — The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee passed its version of the U.S. budget for 2021 on July 8. The proposal calls for $881 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an increase of $202 million over fiscal year 2020 levels. President Donald Trump had requested an increase of $23 million, far less than the committee proposal. For the U.S. government, fiscal year 2021 starts Oct. 1, 2020. The process of approving a budget before the new fiscal year begins can be lengthy, and it is especially so this year due...
TJ and his family

Family tradition: TJ Kounkel is a third-generation trucker with award-winning Peterbilt

MERRILL, Iowa — Farming and trucking are two professions that often run in families. TJ Kounkel’s family has a tradition of both. In addition to farming 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in northwest Iowa, his family operates a livestock-hauling business. Driving farm equipment and even trucks on the farm were just part of growing up for Kounkel. “I started driving at 18, driving intrastate. I know every road in Iowa,” he told The Trucker, adding that talking about himself isn’t easy for him. “I’m kind of boring,” he said. “When I’m not trucking, I stay busy with the farm. There’s always...
Calculator and logbook

Factoring can keep owner-operators’ cash flowing in uncertain times

One of the most difficult things about owning and operating a small trucking business is cash flow. Company drivers and owner-operators who are leased to carriers benefit from a regular settlement check. Whether the cash comes weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or on some other schedule, it arrives somewhat regularly. Owner-operators who have their own customers don’t get that benefit. They often wait 30, 60, 90 days or more for payment to arrive from their customers. While they wait, the bills keep coming, the fuel tank needs filling and the other expenses of operating a trucking business continue unabated. That’s where factoring can...
Truck at warehouse

Freight volumes, rates climbing back up, but progress is moving slowly

As expected, May freight level reports were mixed, with some showing improvement over April and some remaining near April’s dismal levels. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) For-Hire-Trucking Index actually fell a percentage point in May, following a 10.3% drop in April. The May Index was 106.1. The ATA calculates its index using data from 2015 as a baseline. A score of 106.1 means freight levels reported by ATA members were 6.1% higher than the 2015 average. While that would appear to be a good thing, it’s important to note that the May index for 2020 was 9.6% lower than what was...
United States and Mexico

Mexico-based carriers can still operate in United States under USMCA

For years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, the trucking industry in the U.S. worried about one particular provision. The agreement called for the lifting of restrictions prohibiting Mexican carriers to operate in the U.S. Canadian carriers were already allowed to deliver loads originating in Canada to points within the U.S and pick up loads returning to Canada. Mexican carriers, on the other hand, were allowed to operate in clearly defined “commercial zones” near U.S.-Mexico border crossings. Freight from Mexico that was bound for destinations outside of the commercial zones had...
trucks line Constitution Avenue

Mayday, mayday! A tale of two sides of a dispute over spot rates

Frustration over spot freight rates bottoming out due to the COVID-19 pandemic drew more than 100 small-business owner-operators to Washington, D.C., for a “May Day” protest that lasted for three weeks. The protest group, comprised mostly of members of various Facebook groups, began the protest without a clear objective, other than to draw attention to low freight rates. Proposed solutions to the problem ranged from investigating brokers for price gouging to permanent suspension of hours of service rules, elimination of the requirement for electronic logging devices, and even the abolishment of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). As the...
Elaine Chao

Finally flexible: Carriers, drivers applaud HOS revisions

Long-awaited revisions to the hours of service (HOS) regulations were released on May 14 to mixed reviews. The changes, published in the Federal Register on June 1, will become effective on Sept. 29. The 120-day period before the ruling becomes effective allows time for training of enforcement agencies and updating of ELD equipment. In announcing the ruling, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said: “The Department of Transportation and the Trump administration listened directly to the concerns of truckers seeking rules that are safer and have more flexibility—and we have acted. These updated hours of service...
Capitol Hill

Latest amendment to INVEST Act would strip $2 million liability insurance requirement

Those interested in repairing our country’s infrastructure were dismayed to learn that an amendment to the INVEST in America Act being considered in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure would increase minimum financial responsibility levels from $750,000 to $2 million. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Illinois) and passed the committee by a vote of 37-27 on June 17. The amendment prompted the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), to pull its support of the bill, saying the amendment was a “poison pill” for its membership. At the same time, American Trucking Associations (ATA), an organization...
julie mills june mom

Julie Mills achieves success with safety and education skills

If life had turned out differently, Julie Mills might be happily teaching third graders in Cumberland County, New Jersey. As many truck drivers can attest, however, our lives don’t always follow the path we plan. Mills is still using the knowledge and skills she acquired while studying for a teaching career, but instead of teaching school, she’s using those skills to keep drivers safe. Mills serves as the director of safety at Camden, New Jersey-based NFI Transportation. She’s also Women in Trucking’s June Member of the Month. Mills came to trucking like many others do. She graduated with a Master of...
Judge with gavel and files

Verdicts against trucking companies show dramatic increase of 51.7% annually, study shows

In the nine-year period between 2010 and 2018, jury verdict awards against trucking companies grew at a rate of 51.7% per year. That’s a lot, especially when compared to an annual standard inflation-rate growth of 1.7%. That’s just one of the findings in a recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released on June 23. Using data collected from a trucking-litigation database, ATRI studied detailed information about 600 cases between 2006 and 2019. In the first five years of the study, 2006-2010, there were 26 cases in which jury awards totaled over $1 million. In the most recent five...
Closeup of semi

Watch for expiration dates, quality when buying DEF, says API

The list of ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted trucking is a long one, but there’s one impact in particular that drivers should be aware of, according to a release from the American Petroleum Institute (API). The group is advising truck owners to use caution when purchasing and storing diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). The group is reminding DEF users that the product has a useful life that can be shortened by adverse conditions, such as heat. Even under good conditions, the shelf life of DEF is about 12 months, maybe a little longer if storage conditions are optimum....
David McKinney's truck, Part Time

At the Truck Stop: Quality, integrity are bywords of McKinney family’s 14-truck business

LEXINGTON, Ala. — David McKinney’s 2016 Peterbilt Pride and Class 389, affectionately named “Part Time,” was a white Fitzgerald Glider kit when purchased. “It looked like a company truck,” McKinney said, “but we’ve completely redone it. He added accent stripes and accents inside and out and teamed the tractor with a Reitnouer “Big Bubba” aluminum trailer with matching accents. Choosing Peterbilt was easy for McKinney. “I have driven Peterbilts since I was 21,” he said, “but this was my first brand-new truck.” Getting into trucking was an easy choice, too. “In the area where I live, if you didn’t know somebody,...

A peek into the future: Autonomous trucks are coming, but drivers will still be...

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, we’re in Level 3, almost to Level 4. That’s according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) “J3016 Levels of Driving Automation” table, which defines the steps going from total human control (Level 0) to total machine control (Level 5). Back in the 1990s, when trucks first came out with automated features such as blind-spot warnings, the driver was required to react. All the “system” could do was beep, vibrate or light up a warning light (or all of the above). That was Level 0. At Level 3, drivers have access to devices that steer,...
capitol building

INVEST in America Act amendment to increase minimum carrier insurance passes House committee

WASHINGTON — Truckers who applauded the long-overdue infrastructure bill now making its way through Congress were blindsided by a proposed amendment that would increase their costs of doing business. On June 18, Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Illinois) submitted a proposed amendment to the bill that would increase the minimum level of financial responsibility for most carriers from the current $750,000 to $2 million. Haulers of hazardous materials are currently required to carry minimum liability insurance of $1 million to $5 million, depending on quantity and hazard class. Some carriers who have ceased operations in the past year cited the high cost...
CEO Robert Voltmann and Doug Clark

TIA CEO Robert Voltmann out as of Sept. 30; Doug Clark takes lead as...

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Personnel changes are taking place at Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) as long-term president and CEO Robert Voltmann announces he is leaving the organization effective Sept. 30. Douglas G. Clark, current chair of TIA’s Legacy Committee and former chair of the board of directors, took the reigns as interim CEO, effective June 10. Voltmann joined TIA as CEO in June 1997. During his 23-year tenure, the organization’s annual budget multiplied by more than 10 times and now stands at $7.5 million. Membership in TIA more than tripled, and the organization now claims to represent nearly 80% of the broker...
Truck driver on cb

FMCSA extends CDL, CLP, medical certification waiver through Sept. 30

In another action related to the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump on March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended a temporary waiver of enforcement of regulations that deal with expired CDLs and medical certifications. Under the waiver, holders of commercial Driver’s licenses (CDLs), commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) and other operators of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce with expiration dates after March 1, 2020, may continue to operate without renewing their licenses until Sept. 30. Further, drivers with DOT medical certifications of at least 90 days that expire after March 1, 2020, may continue to operate...