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Trucking loses staunch safety advocate with loss of RJ

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RJ Taylor received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America in 2005. (The Trucker file photo)

A recent e-mail brought the sad news that RJ Taylor passed away at the age of 75.

In 1986, RJ founded Ol’ Blue, USA (the USA stood for United Safety Alliance).

Ol Blue, USA was a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) public charity dedicated to educating the nation on highway safety and improving relations between law enforcement, commercial drivers and the motoring public.

RJ went on many a National Safety Tour with “’Ol’ Blue, a 1951 Kenworth working truck pulling a 53-foot “rolling billboard” trailer featuring his sponsors’ logos and those of the California Highway Patrol, Nevada Highway Patrol and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RJ conducted simulated truck inspections at trade shows and truck stops and also took various programs to community events and public schools in efforts to teach safety around all large vehicles.

RJ and his close friend Monty Dial — who has retired from the Texas Highway Patrol but still knows more about trucking regulations than many active commercial vehicle enforcement officers — often appeared on what was then called Midnight Trucking Radio Network, now known as Red Eye Radio.

(Although Red Eye Radio has the same hosts as Midnight Trucking Radio Network — Eric Harley and Gary McNamara — and has expanded its topical agenda far beyond trucking, it appears that many of its listeners are still truckers.)

Everyone has — or should have — a passion for highway safety.

RJ’s passion extended beyond most others.

He lived, breathed and died thinking safety, safety, safety.

We first met RJ in either 2005 or 2006 when he stopped in Little Rock en route to an appearance at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

His big rig lumbered to a stop in the parking lot and out bailed RJ with his signature white hair and gruff voice, his external appearance just the opposite of his heart of gold.

As we were preparing to take RJ to a local elementary school, he opened the door of his trailer to reveal a complete apartment where he slept during his safety tours.

At the school, the students swarmed RJ and his truck, and he loved every minute of it.

There’ll always be a passion for safety in this industry, but there will never be another RJ.

Rest in peace, friend.

*                                  *                                  *

Rob Penner is chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association.

He is also president and CEO of Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Bison Transport has won the TCA safe fleets award for so many years in a row there are not enough fingers.

In his column in Truckload Authority, the TCA’s bi-monthly magazine, we asked Rob to weigh in on the fact that in the recent American Transportation Research Institute’s trucking concerns survey, drivers listed trucking parking as No. 2 while carrier executives ranked it No. 9.

Here’s Rob’s take:

“This speaks to the problem above. We can’t find drivers and the ones we have are subjected to ridiculous infrastructure challenges. We haven’t kept up with our investment requirements and as a result we have drivers sleeping on the sides of our highways and byways and we think nothing of it.  And this problem is amplified with HOS and ELD regulations. Truck stops and rest areas are filled to overflowing by 6 p.m. It’s crazy. Our drivers deserve safe haven and the basic amenities afforded us all. I dare say, if every one of our politicians, business owners or shippers had to live like our drivers do while on the road this issue would get the attention it deserves. We have all sorts of infrastructure problems in North America and the problem is we lump them all together and it seems we get overwhelmed to the point where no one does anything. I would like to think that it is something industry really can get together on and start making a difference. We need to wrap our arms around this quickly.”

Every trucker in America would agree.

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Augmented reality game designed to attract next generation of techs

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The TMCSuperTech game will be created based on actual tasks inspired by TMCSuperTech events. (Courtesy: DESIGN INTERACTIVE)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Design Interactive, providers of augmented and virtual reality-based fleet maintenance training solutions for the transportation industry, says it is providing a mobile augmented reality game of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) National Technician Skills Competition. TMC is a technical council of the American Trucking Associations.

The game is called TMCSuperTech.

“We made the decision to create this game with Design Interactive for two primary reasons,” said Robert Braswell TMC executive director. “To promote awareness of the vocation among middle and high school students who make up the next generation of vehicle maintenance personnel and to help technicians prepare for the TMCSuperTech competition by providing a hands-on training experience for the skills challenges.”

Available on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, Design Interactive’s gamified TMCSuperTech skills challenge uses AR technology to project a fictional city with a fleet of moving trucks. As the vehicles require service, they are brought into a virtual garage where the game will ask users playing the role of a technician to execute tasks inspired by TMCSuperTech events. Points are awarded for the time trucks are repaired and for the longer they remain in service.

“Augmented reality has already had a significant impact in other industries compared to traditional training methods,” said Matt Johnston, division head of commercial solutions for Design Interactive “For fleets, this technology helps lower labor and parts costs, increase vehicle uptime and shop productivity, and makes it easier to attract new technicians.”

Behind Design Interactive’s TMCSuperTech game experience is its Augmentor transportation focused training solution, which uses augmented reality to more effectively train technicians in the environment where service and repair tasks are performed. Augmentor sources content from fleet experts and ensures training consistency by bringing the best solutions onto the shop floor and enabling access to updated content for all technicians.

“With Augmentor, especially as new technologies continue increasing the complexity of the repairs, tools and skills needed by technicians, fleets can reduce classroom time and training costs,” continued Johnston. “It provides technicians with knowledge in a manner that is effective and productive and leads to higher quality and shorter times for vehicle diagnosis and repair processes.”

TMC is seeking sponsors to help support the adoption of its next-generation-workforce-focused product —TMCSuperTech: The Game. There are four levels of sponsorships available. TMCSuperTech is an annual two-day event organized by TMC’s Professional Technician Development Committee. The premier skills competition for professional commercial vehicle technicians from all segments of the trucking industry will be held September 15-19, 2019, at the Raleigh Convention Center in conjunction with TMC’s Fall Meeting.

For more information on sponsorships email rbraswel@trucking.org

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North American Commercial Vehicle Show 2019 opens online registration

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The NACV Show 2019 will showcase leading truck and trailer manufacturers and commercial vehicle parts and components suppliers and emerging technologies. (Courtesy: NACV)

ATLANTA — The North American Commercial Vehicle Show, a biennial B2B trucking industry event focusing on the needs of fleet owners, managers and decision makers, said Wednesday that online registration is open for the 2019 trade show.

The NACV Show 2019 will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center from October 28-31. NACV Show 2019 exhibition space is predicted to exceed NACV Show 2017 event space by 60 percent.

Fleet industry professionals can register to attend online at https://nacvshow.com/registration/. Accredited media are eligible for complimentary registration.

“The NACV Show 2019 will showcase leading truck and trailer manufacturers and commercial vehicle parts and components suppliers and emerging technologies, including electric trucks and new innovations in safety, mileage and fleet maintenance,” said Carmen Diaz, show manager for the NACV Show. “Our team has worked tirelessly in developing content, both for the show floor and classroom, as well as interactive experiences to allow us to more than double our 2017 attendance.”

This year’s trade show features many new and enhanced attendee experiences targeting managers of both large and mid-size fleets, Diaz said. New on-floor experiences include a connectivity zone for demonstrating the latest technologies such as telematics, an “Ask the Expert” workshop where industry professionals will share their knowledge and educational programming theater free to all trade show attendees. New fee-based conference programs, featuring industry visionaries, will be held off the trade show floor immediately prior to the opening of NACV Show 2019.

The last day of the trade show will feature fleet operational bench-marking workshops, with more details released closer to the event.

The event’s organizers will publish the entire trade show floor plan and list of exhibitors online in early April.

For more information about exhibiting, contact Bill Fox at bfox@hfusa.com or Dawn-Marie Copin at dmcopin@hfusa.com. For more information about attending, contact Ashley Olian at aolian@hfusa.com.

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NTI, WIT urge fleets to participate in WIT index data collection

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Throughout NTI’s work on the WIT Index for 2019, NIT officials have emphasized that, as in past years, confidentiality is guaranteed for those carriers participating in the survey. (Courtesy: NIT/WIT)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The National Transportation Institute (NTI) and Women In Trucking (WIT) are again partnering to facilitate the data collection and analysis of the WIT Index.

This annual survey of trucking companies studies the percentage of women working as professional drivers and in management positions within the trucking industry.

With the deadline fast approaching, NTI and WIT together issued a call to action for all fleets to participate in the survey.

“Our collaboration with Women In Trucking on the WIT Index has become a passion project for me and the members of our team at NTI,” said Leah Shaver, chief operating officer of NTI. “We launched the 2019 survey earlier this year, and I would strongly encourage every company that employs truck drivers in our industry to participate in the WIT Index. Opportunities are expanding for women across the industry, and one of the key long-term solutions to the driver shortage will be the further expansion of the employment of women at motor carriers. The response by carriers to the brief list of survey questions is the critical first step in the process of our work with the WIT Index. The data NTI collects from carriers will allow us to measure progress, identify best practices and continue to benchmark standards in our industry.”

NTI began working with the WIT Index in 2016 when Shaver joined the WIT board of directors. Ellen Voie, the President and CEO of WIT, sought to obtain the most detailed and accurate data available in the examination of employment trends for women found in the trucking industry. During each of the years that NTI has managed the survey and analysis aspects of the WIT Index, the participation among companies has grown and the results have shown continued increases in the percentage of women behind the wheel and in trucking management positions.

“We have seen firsthand the increased participation of women in all areas of trucking throughout the 12 years that the Women In Trucking Association has been in existence. Quantifying the growth of women within the workforce of the trucking industry is one of the most important tasks that we have as an association,’’ Voie said. “We are very grateful to be able to call upon the expertise of the National Transportation Institute for the 2019 update to the WIT Index. Once again, this year, NTI is donating its time and services to facilitate the survey, tabulate the results and provide WIT with the kind of trend analysis that helps our association in planning some of our key initiatives. The pro bono work that NTI performs on the WIT Index is a very important and generous contribution to our association and to the industry.”

Shaver is again overseeing all aspects of the data collection and analysis of the WIT Index. Throughout NTI’s work on the WIT Index for 2019, Shaver has emphasized that, as in past years, confidentiality is guaranteed for those carriers participating in the survey.

“The WIT Index allows us to accurately track progress and identify trends and best practices by fleets nationwide. The top issue plaguing every trucking company today is enough people. We’re operating at a historical low unemployment in the U.S., and there are more jobs than workers to fill them,” Shaver said. “There is so much opportunity to gain from recruiting and retaining more women, highlighted by the 2018 WIT Index results which revealed that fewer than eight percent of drivers were women. The 2019 results can be used by participating carriers in efforts to further address the driver shortage and their own strategy. NTI always does a deep dive into the data generated by the WIT Index survey, and that allows us to provide WIT and the participating fleets with the kind of analysis that can promote further growth of opportunities for women within our industry. Women are key to long-term solutions to our workforce shortage, and best practices to recruit and retain are likewise key to carrier success.”

“The WIT Index is a great opportunity for every fleet in our industry to contribute to the story of the continued growth taking place for women working in trucking,” Voie said. “I really look forward to this process. It’s an opportunity to accurately measure where the number of women involved in our industry stands. I see this time of year as an important call to action, and I would like to see every carrier in the nation participate in the WIT Index.”

The 2019 WIT Index Survey will run through April 8, 2019. The survey can be accessed through the following link: https://www.driverwages.com/wit-index/

The National Transportation Institute was founded in 1995 with a goal of providing accurate and authoritative mission-critical benchmarks to truckload carriers on company driver and owner-operator compensation history and changes.

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