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Autonomous Trucking Arrives in Texas

Autonomous Trucking Arrives in Texas

Talk of autonomous trucks transforming the trucking industry has been going on for seemingly ever. Nevertheless, it’s definitely picked up even more steam lately, though were not seeing them out on the road. That could soon change.

Kodiak Robotics recently announced that it launched a Dallas, TX office to oversee an entire trucking route. First of all, Texas is a state that offers more open roads than any other in the country. In fact, it boasts over 300,000 miles of public roads. In second place is California which has 169,703 miles. That certainly pales to Texas’ total.

But the real reason Kodiak chose Texas is because in California it’s still illegal for companies to operate autonomous vehicles. And this new route the company will oversee is unique because trucks will go 400 miles to and from Houston. And, yes, this will be autonomous trucking.

But hold up… If you’re driving on the highway you will not witness an empty truck cruising down the highway. Instead the company will equip each autonomous truck with a ‘safety driver’ at the wheel just as a precaution. Furthermore, the ‘safety driver’ will be in command of much of the driving on and off highways, when arriving at distribution terminals, and any other more delicate situations.

Kodiak isn’t the lone pioneer in the autonomous truck space in Texas. Loadsmart and Starsky have already successfully managed trips. Together they were able to automatically send out an autonomous truck to deliver a load of cargo.

Impact on the Industry

Ultimately, this is just a small step. The goal is that once it’s done to scale, the trucking industry could become way more efficient. Plus, it would be faster and reduce labor costs. Of course, the downside is that it will put a bunch of people, a couple million, out of work and on the unemployment line.

What do you all think about this ‘Brave New World’ in trucking?

Truck Drivers, Keep Your Cool

Truck Drivers, Keep Your Cool

Summer is in full swing and so is the temperature. These months are often unbearable for truck drivers who spend most of the time on the road.

Unfortunately, truckers do not have the luxury of central air or hanging by the beach all day. The long hauls are met with time constraints and extreme weather conditions. As the temperatures soar, so does the frustration of many drivers who spend their days inside of a truck.

So, we’ve put together an eco-friendly trick that will help keep you cool and won’t waste your gas during the hottest time of the year.

Despite what you may think, there is a better alternative to turning on the air conditioner. AC can wear out your battery and not to mention, cause damage to the environment. If you must crank the AC, then use it only when needed.   

But there’s another way to cool down that doesn’t require AC. In order to beat the heat, the idea is to keep cool air in and hot air out. If you need to take a nap, block out as much sunlight as you can. Use sun visors. Try to stay away from blankets as they absorb heat.

Next, cool down your truck with fresh cold air. Here is where you can turn on the AC if you’re short on time. However, the old ice and fan method will work too. Just sit a small battery-operated fan behind an ice pack and cool air will circulate. Keep a cooler of ice packs and frozen water bottles!

Take breaks. But most importantly, water, water, water! We cannot stress this enough. Stay hydrated. Your body will thank you immediately.

What are some of your driver tips and tricks that help maintain your cool during the hot summer months? Comment below.

Truckers Embrace Digital Technology

Truckers Embrace Digital Technology

Just like it does with everything nowadays, digitization and AI are making life easier for trucking. And this is definitely a good thing.

Trucking, logistics, and supply chain operators are now employing digital tools that simplify repetitive office tasks. They are utilizing them in the cabs of long haul trucks. In fact, Hub Group which governs a fleet of over 4,000 trucks, just last month revealed a set of artificial-intelligence centered capabilities. These new tools will help ensure more accurate delivery times.

According to Hub Group, the new capabilities can leverage over 10 million data points. Most are produced by interconnected sensors and other technology that Hub Group has been building into its trucks over the last two years.

Vava Dimond, the company’s Chief Information Officer says the overall goal is to utilize as much data as possible. This way deliveries can be more efficient. She believes this, in turn, will juice the company’s productivity level. Additionally, incorporating this technology will make the jobs of truckers simpler.

Dimond says, “For truck drivers, the cab of the vehicle is their office. And that office isn’t conducive to things like paperwork, when it’s raining or the wind is blowing.” 

However, with Hub Group’s app, it can track and automatically fill out paperwork. This includes logs along their routes, receipt of delivery notices, as well as other forms. More impressive still, the company created these tools in-house.

Trucking’s Antiquated Systems

What Hub Group has done is in many ways, conscious or not, a response to a Boston Consulting Group report that highlighted the freight industry as being particularly ruled by “manual processes.” They also claimed the industry was overdue for change.

This report mentioned that companies are feeling the heat to update their systems due to disruptive nature of digital shipping startups. Those companies have been gifted with more than 3.3 billion in venture-capital funding since 2012.

It’s clear these more modern, technologically advanced startups are out to snare a piece of the pie of this extremely fragmented market where old school paper and phone systems still rule the day.

So what do you all think? Should more legacy companies like Hub Group innovate in the face of startup competition?

Border Delays Negatively Impacting U.S. Businesses

Border Delays Negatively Impacting U.S. Businesses

Many of us predicted this but it’s really starting to take a foothold. President Trump’s border policies are starting to impact American companies and factories. More and more cargo from Mexico headed to the U.S. is being delayed at the border. Consequently, these extended delays are causing companies to dampen their economic outlook for the year.

Analysts are currently predicting that the effects of the border policies will dim second quarter non-residential investment growth. In fact, it already produced a two-year low in factory gauge in April. Ultimately, the slower trade between the countries because of Federal Agents being charged with dealing with the migrant situation at the border, has led to additional shipping costs.

According to economist Stephen Juneau, “the delays generate a meaningful direct cost for businesses.” Furthermore, these delays may really have a large impact on the movement of goods as more than 86% of imports from Mexico enter by land.

The Situation is Impacting Everyone

Even worse, analysts are predicting that this slowdown is here to stay for a while. With the border delays comes a dip in the production of goods. This is not a good thing for the American consumer or an economy that otherwise is generally thriving. Everybody’s watching the situation closely because all businesses, as well as the consumer, are impacted. For instance, many businesses are receiving supplies far later than when they need them.

Plus, these delays are messing with company logistics. And it’s not just in Texas but supply chains are being affected in the Southwest and the Midwest. On top of this headache, the ultimate cost to U.S. businesses per truckload is about $40 to $80 per day. This isn’t good for cost conscious companies with previous sunny profit projections.

Surely this unplanned for cost by companies is hurting not just their bottom line but their ability to invest and hire.

What do you all think? Are these border policies worth it?

Closing US/Mexico Border Would Badly Harm Trucking

Closing US/Mexico Border Would Badly Harm Trucking

*Read our newest post here.

Due to the incredible volume of trade that happens between the U.S. and Mexico on a daily basis, Bob Costello, the American Trucking Associations chief economist and senior vice president of international trade policy and border crossing operations, said he hoped President Donald Trump would reconsider the idea of closing the border. According to Costello, if it did happen it would be best to exclude trucks.

Costello went on to make a statement emphasizing how trucks haul more than $1.1 billion worth of goods back and forth from the Mexico border every single day. According to Costello, this equals more than 25,000 truck crossings in either direction on a daily basis. Let’s face it, that’s an incredible amount of trade activity.

Costello broke down the dynamics of all this trade even more. “Last year, just to haul freight to and from Mexico, the American trucking industry employed over 31,000 U.S. truck drivers and nearly 47,000 total workers to support this truck-transported trade.”

Furthermore, this aggregate business produced more than $6.6 billion in revenue last year alone. Also, U.S. truck drivers were compensated something close to $2 billion in wages to haul all this cargo.

Worst Case Scenarios

It goes without saying that free and open trade is crucial to the vitality of the U.S. economy and even more vital to the trucking world. If this flow of trade is disrupted then it would have a seismic impact. That impact could total up to $18 million a day. Plus, there’d be even further consequences. If trade at the border shut down for up to four days, several U.S. factories will shut down. This would create even more economic headaches.

Costello goes on to theorize that the shut-down would stimulate an even greater slippery slope. He imagines that ultimately a recession would come into play. With all that being said, it would be wise to keep the borders open for business.

What do you guys think? Is Trump’s threats of border closing a disaster waiting to happen?

Fast Food Prices Going Up from the Trucker Shortage??

Fast Food Prices Going Up from the Trucker Shortage??

The trucker shortage seems like its impacting everyone now. What’s the latest? Even fast food companies, like McDonald’s Corp., Jack in the Box Inc., and more might see a rise in prices. The country just doesn’t have enough truck drivers anymore. It is impossible to deliver everything that people want to buy in a timely fashion. As such… companies are feeling the effects, which means consumers are likely to as well.

Michael Norwich, owner of fourteen Jack in the Box restaurants in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico, is nervous. He doesn’t know if they can keep the longstanding advertised $4.99 combo meal price any longer. The shortage is impacting the costs of distribution. Soon, our convenient fast food and product prices might start crawling up. And when will it stop?

In fact, even Procter & Gamble Co., Hasbro Inc., and Church & Dwight Co. may be upping prices. Their freight is costing extra, so we soon might be paying more for everyday things. Crest toothpaste… Arm & Hammer cat litter and more. Even My Little Pony figurines may be increasing in price.

How can we fix the problem?

This is simply because there are not enough drivers to do the work. And this becomes a long-term issue which will likely get worse. Some of this information comes from Lee Klaskow, an analyst from Bloomberg Intelligence.

Although legislators are attempting to lower the minimum age to 18 for long-haul drivers, it might not help the problem. Since insurance is higher for younger drivers, many of the younger drivers likely would avoid the job entirely. In addition, the industry has been trying to recruit more women to up the numbers.

The shortage impacts the trucking industry throughout the nation. Now, it’s becoming the consumer’s problem too. What do you think about the rise in prices due to the trucker shortage??

Safer Streets in Austin! The Goal for No More Traffic Deaths

Safer Streets in Austin! The Goal for No More Traffic Deaths

Texas streets are growing more and more dangerous by the year, especially in the big cities. But, luckily for Austin residents – our streets may be getting safer!

The Pedestrian Advisory Council gathered some data recently. The results? Traffic deaths and serious injuries in San Antonio and Dallas are climbing over the last decade. Houston is also going up, but at a bit of a slower rate. So, what’s the deal with Austin?

Somehow, Austin traffic deaths have decreased since 2015. In fact, this past year, in 2018, there were seventy-four vehicular fatalities, according to the Austin Police Department. While the number is still high given the Austin population, it is better than previously – two less than the year before. This means that the streets are about as safe as they were back in 2004.  

The Goal

Perhaps the reason is that Austin’s goal under Vision Zero is to eliminate all traffic deaths by the year 2025. Austin City Council members approved this Action Plan about three years ago now. Since then, there have been less fatalities each year. But, more needs to happen to get the number down to zero.

Essentially, safety needs to be the top priority. Apparently, in the traffic fatalities last year, most occurred on roads that are owned by the Texas Department of Transportation. And, 26% of traffic deaths throughout the city happened on Interstate 35. Additionally, over last year, pedestrians accounted for 42% of the deaths. This number went up since the previous year.

Jay Blazek Crossley, the executive director for Farm & City, the nonprofit that pushes for safer transit in Texas, discussed this. He said that street design, as well as speed of cars, attributes to these deaths. Maybe, officials will begin looking at these streets with excess pedestrian deaths, and modify them accordingly.

What do you think about the streets of Austin? Can the city really bring the fatality number to zero?

Why Are Austin Locals Mad at Truckers?

Why Are Austin Locals Mad at Truckers?

Lately, East Austin locals are upset with the number of truckers illegally driving through neighborhood streets. The issue has been both causing both damage and traffic in residential streets.

Residents claim that local neighborhood streets cannot handle the weight of these oversized vehicles. Also, many of the neighborhoods are lined with trees that hang over the streets. More often than not, large vehicles will knock down branches from these beautiful trees.

Recent construction on major streets caused this issue. Sadly, truckers frequenting these streets have become more accustomed to using these streets.

Many of the locals do not blame the truckers, for they know they’re just trying to get their job done. Although, a lot of people do blame the construction and development agencies. Concerned residents have been inviting these businesses to neighborhood association meetings and have been trying to alert individuals of the problem. The association has claimed that they have attempted to notify these companies which streets are legal, but to no avail.

If the problem persists, locals are urging for speed bumps on certain streets. The request has been sent to the City of Austin’s Transportation Department, but it is still pending.

One company that has been noticed driving through the no-truck-zones is Texas Concrete.  The company claims that they’ll remind drivers which roads are okay to use. The Austin Police Department has received many complaints about this issue.

Police advise that if trucks are going to a construction site within the neighborhood, it is fine to travel through it. If not, it’s best to avoid residential streets to also avoid a citation!

Attorney General VS. Immigrant Advocates

Attorney General VS. Immigrant Advocates

As of last summer, the U.S Department of Justice established that those who enter the country illegally or  “undocumented immigrants” are now referred to as “illegal aliens.” This rule caused a backlash from the community when acting attorney general came to visit in Austin, Texas.

While giving a speech to the U.S. attorney’s in Austin, Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, came off as somewhat abrasive. Whitaker used the term, illegal aliens, over ten times and once stated “over 100,000 illegals” were residing in the city.

Many outraged immigrant advocates called attention to the conference.
When applied to people, the term “illegal” looks degrading. This title establishes a negative connotation. A person cannot be illegal and this title takes away a person’s individuality. Many people automatically assume that the person did something wrong. Although technically the title is true, they are not committing any illegal acts.

Clearly, Whitaker has a side on the issue. Although he never publicly pushed for Trump’s wall, he has criticized efforts that slow down the obstruction of immigration. Whitaker also brought up only a few extreme cases in which undocumented immigrants have broken the law. One specific example, Juan Lopez, acquired a sentence for 49 years in prison. Deported after conviction for homicide, Lopez returned to the country. Shortly after, he returned illegally to sexually assault a woman as her child watched. This is a specific example and one of, as Whitaker says, 100,000 undocumented people in the city.

Whitaker declined all questions after his conference. The remainder of his time in office is short, and he seems to know that.

So, is Whitaker’s justified? Is his use of the term correct?  How does it look that the attorney general won’t respond to the media? 

Rising property taxes in Texas: Will Gov. Abbott’s plan lower them?

Rising property taxes in Texas: Will Gov. Abbott’s plan lower them?

The Property Tax Problem

Are your property taxes sky-high? The effects of property taxes and homeowner’s association fees has been devastating for many Texas families! According to Republican Gov. Greg Abott’s ex-spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, “Texas homeowners are suffering under the burden of skyrocketing property taxes.”

In the upcoming legislative session in January, conservative Texas lawmakers are promising to work on this. Will lawmakers come to a solution that makes everyone happy? It is unclear. But what is clear is Abbott’s promise to Texans during his re-election campaign.

texas property taxesAbbott said he would make creating a new property tax relief plan a top priority. He claims he doesn’t want to see rising bills forcing more people from their homes. Matthews also stated: “[Abbott] looks forward to working with the Legislature to identify strategies that end runaway property taxes, while dedicating more funding for public education to ensure students receive the best education possible.”

 

What’s Abbott going to do?

Abbot’s proposed plan seems more conservative than the two plans rejected by Legislature last year. Those plans would have cut off city and county property tax increases at 4 or 6 percent a year. Abbott’s plan offers a 2.5 percent cap. It also uses school taxing districts – which may make it difficult for voters to avoid the increases.

Abbott’s plan works like this: if property values increase by 6 percent each year, the taxing district will have to decrease the tax rate to collect only 2.5 percent more in revenue than the year prior. While the rate will be smaller, the tax bill will rise.

Criticism

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings chimed in: “[Abbott’s plan] would limit our ability to provide sufficient pay raises for city employees or to properly fund public safety. The plan also seems to ignore the fact that overhead costs, such as energy, are rising.”

Bennett Sandlin, Texas Municipal League executive director, said: “It’s bad for cities, and cities are the biggest providers of public safety.” Basically, the cap would cause cities to have to make budget cuts. The cuts would impact public safety the most.

What about schools?

On the surface, Abbott’s plan is positive for schools. Under the 2.5 percent cap, school districts would lose money. He wants to use state revenue to in exchange for that lost money. This is an effort to lower schools’ dependence on local money.

But, critics say that the proposal doesn’t outline how the state would replace these missing funds. What happens if the state under-funds schools, and they are left worse off?

One thing is sure – Abbott’s plan will be under scrutiny once officially proposed. Texans won’t know the fate of property taxes, or public schools’ funding, until the upcoming legislative session.

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