Author: Vitaliy Dadalyan

18 Jul by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Autonomous vehicles: The pushback begins

Has Tesla screwed the pooch, or are some recent—and high profile—accidents involving the brand's self-driving vehicle technology a to-be-expected part of the learning curve? Certainly, the latter is true, but just how much political damage has been done—and what it will mean to truck makers moving forward with autonomous vehicles—remains to be seen. But the honeymoon, between over-promising vehicle manufacturers and safety-focused policymakers who've been surprisingly supportive, is over.

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16 Jul by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Keeping Ice Cream Cold’s Very Important Today

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Delightful choices await customers at Cold Stone Creamery in Westerville, Ohio. Photo: Tom Berg


Delightful choices await customers at Cold Stone Creamery in Westerville, Ohio. Photo: Tom Berg


Wake up! If you like ice cream, today, July 17, is special! It's been so since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July. So his time in office is known for more than just spending the Soviet Union out of business and ending the, er, Cold War.

Anyway, you have to act soon to get special deals on everyone's favorite dessert. Ice cream is a happy food, but only if it stays properly cold at all stages of its manufacture, storage and transit.

That reminds me of a story related about 25 years ago by a driver for Ralphs Grocery in the Los Angeles Basin. Barry (his real name) said he backed a reefer trailer into a dock at a cold storage warehouse, where he was picking up a load of ice cream.

“I carry a thermometer to stick loads like that,” he said. “Most other drivers don't, but I do. So before I let the forklift driver start loading my trailer, I stuck the load on a pallet” -- probed between boxes, I think he meant – “and it came up too warm. I stuck some others, and the same thing. So I rejected the load.”

I don't recall the numbers, but I think ice cream is supposed to leave a warehouse at minus 10 to minus 20 degrees or so. This load was closer to zero, and a trailer's reefer unit is not designed to pull down temperatures in the deep-freeze range. And Barry wasn't about to take any heat if it was turned away by a receiving clerk at a Ralphs store.

At the warehouse, “The guy moaned, but I told him, ‘Now, you know and I know what you're gonna do with this load,'” he said. “'You're gonna move it to the coldest place in the freezer, and it's gonna cool down and in maybe eight hours, you'll bring it out and ship it. But I can't take it as it is now.'”

pFor many years, Ralphs rigs have carried all manner of foodstuffs to the chain's stores throughout southern California. It's now owned by Kroger. Imageem: Ralphs Grocery Co. /em/p

Thanks to drivers like Barry and workers all along the “cold chain,” there have been very few instances of food spoilage, say people in that business. Contamination, yes, but those cases are usually traced to tainted processing equipment or farm workers' soiled hands. But thanks to vigilance and modern equipment, food safety during transport has a very good record.

It's likely to stay that way because the federal government has promulgated a long list of new requirements for handling and monitoring food while it's in transit, and some have already gone into effect.

So when you go to your favorite store for a package of ice cream, or to your favorite shop for an ice cream cone or cup of the delicious stuff, you can be assured that it's healthy in condition, and never mind the calories.

And you'll want to make that visit today because, like I said, it's National Ice Cream Day. Many shops and restaurants are offering free or discounted deals on helpings of ice cream and other sweets. I went on-line and found this list.

If today's out of the question, don't fret, because President Reagan also designated July as National Ice Cream Month. Many of the same deals will be good for a couple of more weeks. Get your treats while they're… properly cold.

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15 Jul by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Truck Ramming Again Recognized as Terrorist Threat

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Truck used to kill pedestrians in Nice, France on July 14, shown after the driver was killed by police gunfire. Image via Twitter


Truck used to kill pedestrians in Nice, France on July 14, shown after the driver was killed by police gunfire. Image via Twitter


The massacre by truck that killed at least 84 persons, including two Americans, and wounded over 200 others in Nice, France on July 14 raises anew the question of what can be done to prevent low-tech but devastating truck-ramming assaults of people gathered along or near a roadway.

The attack came out of nowhere as revelers were gathered along the seaside Promenade des Anglais in the famed resort city to view Bastille Day fireworks. The medium-duty cabover had been rented by the perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year old Tunisian immigrant. several days before.

At about 10:45 pm on July 14, Bouhlel drove the truck onto the pedestrian thoroughfare and began plowing through the crowd. He kept driving into people for over a mile and began firing on police officers from the cab. The police returned fire, killing Bouhlel while he was still behind the wheel. Found in the cab was a small arsenal, including an automatic pistol, a cartridge clip, several cartridges, and a Kalashnikov and an M­16 rifle.

On this side of the Atlantic, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, was quick to react, issuing a statement early the next day that outlined immediate steps that were being taken to guard against any such assault, especially in New York City.

Cuomo ordered state law enforcement officials to “step up security at high-profile locations” around the state, including airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems.

“The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Office of Emergency Management Watch Center will be on heightened alert, monitoring world events,” the governor said in a statement. “DHSES regional staff have all been notified to maintain a heightened state of awareness at mass gathering events.”

He added that the New York State Police and the Joint Task Force Empire Shield have deployed additional troops in the New York metropolitan region.

New York City is no stranger to attack by weaponized trucks. The first attempt by terrorists to destroy the World Trade Center, back in 1983, also used a rented truck. In it was placed a homemade 1,500-pound urea-nitrate bomb. The truck was parked in an underground garage and when the bomb exploded, it blew a hole five stories deep and half-a-football field wide. Six persons were killed and another thousand were injured by the blast.

The other infamous truck bombings perpetuated against Americans were the assault on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that left 168 persons dead.

However, explosives in vehicles can be detected and vehicular proximity to buildings can be controlled. But preventing a truck, or a car, for that matter, from being unleashed as a lethal battering ram anywhere people are gathered is a far more difficult feat. Indeed, the thought of it imparts new, and more ghastly, meaning to the words “soft target.”

Yet the threat of vehicular ramming is not new. The Department of Homeland Security addressed it as far back as 2010 in a public document released to law enforcement and first-responder personnel.

“Terrorists overseas have suggested conducting vehicle ramming attacks— using modified or unmodified vehicles— against crowds, buildings, and other vehicles,” advised DHS. “Such attacks could be used to target locations where large numbers of people congregate, including sporting events, entertainment venues, or shopping centers.”

Chillingly prescient, the agency went on to say that “Vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a Homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience.”

The document details several examples of vehicle-ramming incidents, not all of which were deemed acts of terrorism. The most severe one cited was a front-loader launched against a crowd of people in Israel that killed several and wounded dozens more in 2008.

DHS also discussed “indicators” to be aware of that might point to an imminent vehicle-ramming attack. “Although a single indicator may not be suspicious, one or more might indicate a ramming attack is being developed, based on the specific facts or circumstances.” The agency soberly noted that “a ramming attack can be conducted with little to no warning.”

Here are the indicators cited by DHS:

  • Unusual modifications to commercial motor vehicles, heavy equipment, passenger cars, and sports utility vehicles (SUVs), such as homemade attempts to reinforce the front of the vehicle with metal plates
  • The purchase, rental, or theft of large or heavy-duty vehicles or equipment, such as SUVs, trucks, or commercial motor vehicles, if accompanied by typical indicators such as nervousness during the purchase, paying in cash, or lack of familiarity with the vehicle's operations
  • Commercial motor vehicles or heavy equipment being operated erratically, at unusual times, or in unusual locations, particularly in heavy pedestrian areas
  • Attempts to infiltrate closed areas where traffic usually moves, but where crowds are gathered, such as for street festivals or farmers' markets
  • A vehicle operator's apparent unfamiliarity with commercial motor vehicle or heavy equipment operation (unable to back up; trouble with shifting; poor lane tracking; unfamiliarity with basic vehicle mechanics such as air brake operations, slack adjusters, fifth wheel operations, Jake brakes, engine type, or location of fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment)

Clearly, the attack at Nice has signaled that everyone from police officers to motorists to pedestrians must keep foremost in mind that the next “lone wolf” terrorist attack may well come from behind the wheel of the nearest vehicle-- and the means of preventing such as an assault are extremely limited.

"Absent intelligence, the same way you can't stop someone from shooting into a crowd, there isn't a magic way to stop someone from driving into a crowd," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, per a New York Daily News report. "What we seek to do is minimize that threat in pedestrian malls like Times Square, where you have the largest crowds."

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15 Jul by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Commentary: Devil’s in the Details of California Emissions Dream

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Deborah Lockridge

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Deborah Lockridge

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Trucks are going to have to get cleaner and cleaner — just as the modern automobile has gotten cleaner and cleaner. … Now it is the trucking industry's turn.”

This comment, part of a contributed piece that ran on, sent me straight up a tree.

The topic was California's recent announcement that it is planning to crack down further on emissions from diesel trucks as it struggles to meet federal air quality limits in some parts of the state.

I don't disagree with the overall message of the Forbes column, that trucking should “engage regulators” instead of just saying “no.” In fact, that's exactly what trucking has been doing at the federal level. Truck and engine makers and the American Trucking Associations and other groups worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on developing federal greenhouse gas/fuel efficiency regulations, Phase 2 of which is near final publication.

I don't need to tell most of you about how excruciating it was getting through the decade of federal nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions changes in the aughts. Equipment got more expensive, fuel economy suffered, maintenance costs went up, and heavy aftertreatment equipment got added that we're still trying to figure out how best to maintain.

Yes, it's a worthy goal to improve the environment and public health by reducing emissions. But truck emissions have in fact come a long way. It's quite likely that the air in some parts of California is now actually cleaner coming out the exhaust side of a new diesel truck than it is going in.

But it was an expensive, painful process to get there, both for the makers of the engines and for the fleets that bought them. Caterpillar got out of the business altogether, and Navistar is still working to recover from its failed emissions strategy.

So you can't blame trucking for looking at proposals to further cut NOx with a good bit of trepidation.

The California Air Resources Board in May proposed a low-NOx engine standard to be developed for heavy trucks, which would go into effect starting in 2023 (NOx is a major component of the smog that plagues the LA basin.) It also plans to push the EPA for a nationwide low-NOx standard.

But truck and engine makers have said in the past that striving for low NOx in diesels is at odds with federal GHG goals for increasing fuel economy.

I spoke with Mike Tunnell, director of energy and environmental affairs for the American Trucking Associations, a couple weeks after the CARB announcement. He pointed out there's a lot going on here, as truck emissions are just one small piece of a wide-sweeping effort with intersecting plans from different agencies.

One of the concerns is the lack of detail, he said, which make it “difficult to gauge how the impacts are going forward.”

Trucking has had very little time to digest all this (again making it difficult for the industry to really “engage” CARB, as the Forbes article suggests), with comments due July 1 in advance of a September hearing on the plan.

Making it more difficult is that the federal Phase 2 GHG regs are still being finalized.

“I think the uncertainty over the GHG standards will have to be resolved,” Tunnell said. “If they're viewed as really stringent and trying to push out all the fuel economy/GHG reductions that you can get out of an engine, that doesn't leave you much room to go back and get NOx [reductions].”

California is the only state that's allowed to write its own emissions regulations. But if it makes these decisions in a vacuum and doesn't take into account how its goals intersect with federal GHG regs, I'm afraid we could see a repeat of the aughts.

Related: Mack Testing Hybrid Drayage Truck at SoCal Ports

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15 Jul by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Air-Weigh Scale Can Improve Safety for Work Trucks

Air-Weigh has released the LoadMaxx Work Truck Scale, an onboard scale designed specifically for work trucks.

The onboard axle scale is designed to improve safety and make trucks more efficient. The LoadMaxx Work Truck Scale warns the driver when a vehicle's weight approaches its safety threshold, allowing operators to load trucks safely.

Overloading is a leading cause of crane and hoist accidents on work trucks, according to Air-Weight, saying that one vehicle overturns for every 10,000 hours of crane use and 80% of these incidents are related to excess weight.

Air-Weighs weighing technology reduces the threat of overloading without disrupting a fleet's efficiency and can eliminate overweight fines as well.

Air-Weigh is a provider of on-board weighing solutions, building scales for commercial and refuse vehicles.

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