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Minnesota House backs hands-free cellphone rule for driving

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Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. (FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota motorists would be required to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving under a bill that passed the state House on Monday night, after sponsors said the measure will cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

The House approved the bill 106-21 with bipartisan support, though a few critics said it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include tougher penalties for texting while driving, which is already illegal in Minnesota.

“There’s clear evidence from other states that these types of laws save lives,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We’ve heard so many heart-wrenching stories from Minnesotans about family members they’ve lost because people are on their smartphones instead of focusing on the road.”

A similar bill working its way through the Senate exempts the manual use of GPS navigation systems. The House bill would limit GPS use while moving to one-touch, voice-activated apps such as Google Maps. The bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Frank Hornstein, said he’s confident the differences will get worked out in conference committee, adding that Gov. Tim Walz has indicated that will sign the bill.

Drivers would not need vehicles with built-in Bluetooth wireless systems, Hornstein said. For older cars, he said, hands-free mounts that comply are available online for as little as $9.

The Department of Public Safety says that at least 27 of Minnesota’s approximately 380 traffic deaths last year were related to distractions of all kinds. Experts testified during committee hearings that cellphone use is the fastest-growing distraction, causing a rising number of deaths and injuries.

Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. A separate bill to toughen the state’s existing penalties for texting while driving is working its way through the committee process in the Senate. Hornstein said that bill may get heard in the House later.

Hornstein, a Minneapolis Democrat who chairs the House transportation committee, acknowledged that hands-free does not make phoning while driving completely distraction-free. But he said it would be a “major step forward.”

He sponsored a similar hands-free bill last year, but Hortman said Republican leaders who controlled the House back then would not allow a floor vote because it didn’t have enough GOP support. Democrats won control of the House with the November elections and Hortman became speaker in January.

Karin Ilg, of New Prague, recalled to reporters how her husband, Phil Ilg, was killed when he was struck on his bicycle from behind by a 16-year-old driver who was focused more on her phone than on the road. Ilg said she has been cutting up his bike and handing out small pieces — like one that she held up — to every 16-year-old she can “as a reminder not to text and drive. … The time is now for us to get this going and to have this as law.”

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Pilot Flying J’s new mobile app hits the road

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The new Pilot Flying J app provides professional truck drivers with improved location listings. (Courtesy: PILOT FLYING J)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J has launched its new mobile app.

With features specifically geared toward the professional driver as well as the auto traveler and RV customer, the app is designed to make travel easier for everyone on the road, according to Mike Rodgers, senior vice president and chief strategy and information officer.

Developed with drivers in mind, Rodgers said the new Pilot Flying J app saves users time and money with a more personalized experience tailored to drivers’ type of travel, location, preferences and needs.

“By focusing on the moments that matter most to our guests, we designed our new mobile app to meet the needs of the driver, whoever and wherever they are on their journey,” Rodgers said. “We know drivers are always looking for convenient and reliable platforms that make their lives easier while on the road. Delivering an intelligent interface with expanded capabilities, our new app allows us to personalize, simplify and improve the guest experience while navigating the highways.”

The updated Pilot Flying J app features a streamlined onboarding that allows users to self-select their driver profile, such as professional driver, auto traveler or RVer.

Based on that selection, the home screen and features are then customized to meet the drivers’ needs based upon geographic location, preferred stops and amenities.

Rodgers said these features include:

  • Pros of the road. While on the road, professional drivers can call Pilot Flying J Truck Care at the push of a button, easily plan their routes with improved location listings and saved preferences and also reduce time searching for parking with Prime Parking reservations. Recognizing when professional drivers arrive on property, the modified home screen delivers time-saving features like mobile fueling, shower reservations and viewing saved offers. Additionally, the new message inbox and transaction history simplifies doing business from the road.
  • Auto travelers. The enhanced trip planner makes planning a road trip easy, helping to find and receive directions to Pilot and Flying J locations, view amenities, fuel prices and more. Guests can also save money with the app, including a 3-cent gas or auto diesel discount and exclusive offers on favorite food items and drinks when the app is used at the time of purchase.
  • RVers. Finding locations with RV amenities is a breeze with the new RV home screen that provides recommended stops with RV fueling lanes, dump stations and propane refills. Good Sam Club members receive exclusive promotions and deals to save on fuel, dumping fees, propane and more. To learn more about RV services, visit https://pilotflyingj.com/rv-services/.

Pilot Flying J is celebrating its new app with free drink deals every day in April.

The app can be downloaded here.

 

 

 

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Nikola CEO Trevor Milton unveils zero-emission vehicle future

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Nikola Motor CEO and Founder Trevor Milton reveals the Nikola Two, a hydrogen-electric class 8 zero-emission commercial truck, at Nikola World 2019. (Courtesy: NIKOLA)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nikola CEO Trevor Milton gave thousands of attendees at a Nikola World event here Monday the first peek into a global zero-emission future.

As is often the case at a Nikola event, there was glitz and glamour.

Milton arrived on stage with the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, representing the company’s iconic client, Anheuser-Busch, that has ordered 800 Class 8 zero-emission trucks from Nikola as part of its sustainability strategy.

“We want to transform everything about the transportation industry,” Milton said. “With Nikola’s vision, the world will be cleaner, safer and healthier.”

The first product unveiled was the autonomous-capable Nikola Reckless, the military all-terrain vehicle that was driven on stage via remote control.

“With virtually no sound and no heat signature, the Reckless provides new meaning to stealth and is defying all standards,” said Andrew Christian, Nikola Powersports vice president of business development and defense.  “We believe all military vehicles will transform to battery electric and hydrogen fuel cells in the future.”

As part of the evening, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey discussed Nikola’s contribution to Arizona’s growing economy, adding 2,000 new jobs at their Phoenix headquarters, planned manufacturing plant and hydrogen and fuel cell R&D center.

Milton and Nikola Powersports President Michael Erickson highlighted how Nikola is transforming zero-emission recreational vehicles on land and water.

“The technology and platforms we are developing are mutually beneficial helping us leverage speed to market and scale,” Erickson said. “With our powersports products, you have an experience that is safer with precise control and a near silent ride that heightens your senses.”

Milton and Erickson then introduced the redesigned NZT.  Attendees at the event will be able to ride in the NZT Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) on a closed course track at WestWorld on Day Two of Nikola World on April 17.

Then, for the first time, Nikola World attendees saw the Nikola Water Adventure Vehicle (WAV) concept which has been teased for some time and is now a reality.  Jordan Darling, vice president of Nikola Powersports and an industry pioneer in the electrification of personal watercraft, said “We at Nikola are creating the world’s first “wakeboard” architecture, which enables us to push the limits in design and propulsion.”

“Nikola is bringing zero-emission sustainability and technology to the water,” Milton said.  “With WAV, you can feel the rush of power and acceleration in your chest, with the sound of the water and breeze in your ears. It’s zero impact and pure fun,” Darling added.

Nikola’s Executive Vice President of Hydrogen Jesse Schneider discussed Nikola’s hydrogen fuel cell vision, which vision consists of the world’s first purpose-built fuel cell Class 8 truck, enabling more hydrogen storage, optimized placement of the powertrain, and a robust 70MPa hydrogen fueling network.

“We recently opened our first hydrogen station at our Phoenix headquarters,” he said. “We are leading the way and working with industry and other OEMs to develop hydrogen standards to enable fueling in less than 15 minutes. The goal is safety and interoperability, so that anyone can fuel at our station. This is a big deal.”

At the conclusion of the night, Milton reflected on the small, but mighty, team that started Nikola five years ago in his basement with an idea.

“We now have five products in development that will change transportation for the better,” he said.

He then unveiled “the most advanced commercial truck the world has ever seen, the Nikola Two.” The Nikola Two will be driven on the demonstration track on the second day of Nikola World.

There are currently more than 13,000 Nikola trucks on order.  The Nikola trucks feature up to 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft-lbs of torque.  Nikola recently announced a battery-electric vehicle option for the urban, short haul trucking market.

 

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Driver input needed on truck parking information systems

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ATRI’s research findings will provide states and private sector entities providing truck parking information with the driver-preferred data formats and methods of information delivery. (Courtesy: ATRI)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Transportation Research Institute has launched an online survey to solicit professional driver input on preferences for data formats and delivery mechanisms of truck parking availability information. This data collection is part of ATRI’s 2019 top priority research topic to standardize truck parking information systems based on driver preferences.

ATRI initially surveyed drivers on this topic at the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky,last month where over 300 drivers completed surveys. The online survey launched today will provide drivers who were not able to attend MATS the opportunity to provide input on this topic. The lack of available truck parking continues to rank as a top industry issue in ATRI’s annual industry survey and in 2018 was the number two issue for drivers after the Hours-of-Service rules.

ATRI’s research findings will provide states and private sector entities providing truck parking information with the driver-preferred data formats and methods of information delivery.

Drivers can provide confidential input on truck parking information systems by clicking here. ATRI will collect driver responses on the truck parking survey through the end of May.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

 

 

 

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