What Happens When Autonomous Technology Goes Wrong?

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August 22, 2019 • by Staff 

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Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving.
 - Photo courtesy of MTI.

Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving.

Photo courtesy of MTI.

As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace and automakers invest millions into the development of such technologies, consumers and researchers alike are left to ponder the implications of such technology failing during operation.

The Mineta Transportation Institute published a new report, Analysis of Disengagements in Semi-Autonomous Vehicles: Drivers’ Takeover Performance and Operational Implications, which explores this case scenario.

The study looks at how humans interact with AV’s if it loses control while on the road. It measured how quickly and deliberately the car alerted drivers and how efficiently the driver could effectively react and take control.

The study tested 40 individuals starting at 18 years old to 55 years plus. Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving. The test measured response times and vehicle drift from a centerline under several different scenarios.

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers.
 - Photo courtesy of MTI. 

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers.

Photo courtesy of MTI. 

Key results showed that between two different speed settings (high speed of 65 mph and a low speed of 55 mph), the lower speed yielded better performance. Out of all the three different age groups tested, the older participants performed better in overall driving and driving after autonomous technology failure.

Researchers also found that individuals tended to increase their speed and steer after taking control of the vehicles, as opposed to braking. About half of the drivers also reported not seeing the visual warning on the central console but did hear the auditory warnings.

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers. It gives suggestions on what mobility and infrastructure changes may need to be implemented to ensure safety while operating autonomous technologies

Increased Detention Times Blamed Mainly on Shippers/Receivers

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September 4, 2019 • by HDT Staff 

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Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years and fleets increasingly feel that shippers and receivers don't care enough about the problem to fix it.
 - Photo via U.S. DOT

Photo via U.S. DOT

Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years costing fleets and drivers time and productivity, according to recent analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The ATRI analysis was based on over 1,900 truck driver and carrier surveys conducted between 2014 and 2018.

Responses indicate the detention problem is only getting worse and more frustrating with fleets and drivers feeling that shippers and receivers are either not aware of the impact the delays are causing or are simply unwilling to address it. Also, with the transition from paper logs to electronic logging devices now mandated, drivers are feeling extra pressure to remain productive despite the delays.

The delays were also found to have a cascading effect, impacting subsequent pickups and deliveries, according to ATRI.

Over the course of ATRI’s four-year study, drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays lasting six or more hours. Likewise, delays of 2 to 4 hours and 4 to 6 hours increased from 2014 to 2018.

In terms of frequency, drivers reported an increasing percentage of deliveries that included an excessive delay, which ATRI defines as any detention time over 2 hours.

While some delays could not be blamed on customers, such as those due to traffic, weather or accidents, ATRI found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention, such as facilities not increasing labor and dock capacity to match increased freight movement and truck activity.

Anecdotally, surveyed fleets and drivers described dock workers as some facilities as lazy, slow, apathetic or taking too many breaks in addition to facilities being chronically understaffed. One in five drivers said that preloaded trucks weren’t ready by the time of their appointment or that products weren’t ready or were still being manufactured. Delays were also attributed to shippers and receivers that overbooked appointments, booked more trucks than they had space to accommodate or simply didn’t have enough equipment to load and unload trucks.

These reasons remained consistent from 2014 to 2018, which ATRI said indicates that customers’ facilities haven’t made any real improvements to address these issues.

Some fleets and drivers told ATRI that shippers and receivers may not care about HOS constraints on drivers or don’t understand them and are not held accountable for their delays, which further exacerbates the problem of detention.

When asked about potential solutions, survey respondents said that customers who were well organized, used technology, maintained and adhered to scheduled and appointments or had as-needed extended business hours, greatly reduced delays.

The impact that detention have on driver’s available on-duty hours was a key point of examination for ATRI in its study. Facility delays were the top factor identified by carriers as impacting driver’s ability to comply with hours of service regulations. The majority of drivers reported to ATRI that they had run out of available hours while being delayed at a customer facility.

Digging into demographics, women were found to be 83.3% more likely to be delayed by six or more hours than men and were 7.7% more likely to be delayed any length of time. When searching for possible reasons for the disparity, ATRI reached out to female drivers for answers.

Most of the women ATRI interviewed were surprised that there was any difference at all and told ATRI that they didn’t believe the difference was the result of a preference toward male drivers. Some offered that women were perhaps less likely than men to express their discontentment over delays.

Another possible determinant was that women were more likely to drive refrigerated loads than men, 36.5% compared to 23.6% .Refrigerated trailers were far and away the most likely segment to experience delays of over 4 hours compared to bulk, tanker, dry van or flatbeds.

To combat this issue a majority of fleets surveyed reported they are charging shippers and receivers some sort of detention fee for excessive delays over two hours with a portion of the collected fees being paid out to drivers. Detention fees ranged from $10 to $100 per hour, averaging out to $63.71. This is still below what ATRI estimates is the $66.65 average marginal hourly cost for fleets to operate.

Transflo Offers Solar-Powered Trailer Tracking Solution

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August 28, 2019 • Transflo 

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Transflo Trailer Tracking is a solar-powered device that integrates into the Transflo Mobile+ platform to give fleet managers near real-time communications and GPS-based tracking of trailers, containers and other assets.
 - Photo courtesy Transflo

Photo courtesy Transflo

Transflo Trailer Tracking is a solar-powered device that integrates into the Transflo Mobile+ platform to give fleet managers near real-time communications and GPS-based tracking of trailers, containers and other assets.

The TT600-sereis telematics device is manufactured by Flex and is designed to be compact, rugged and simple to install. The device has a solar cell and a back-up battery that lasts up to four months with no solar charge.

The trailer tracking solution can help fleets track metrics such as utilization, dwell time and movements of critical assets. The telematics unit uses little space and attaches to the trailer or other asset with just four rivets, screws or bolts. The solar cell and large backup battery can provide virtually uninterrupted untethered power.

“Adding asset tracking to the industry’s most powerful cloud-based business management and telematics platform lets Transflo Mobile+ users know precisely when and how their equipment is performing at any time, even when it’s not connected to a tractor or power source,” said Doug Schrier, vice president of product and innovation. “Simply install it, turn it on, and the device begins working automatically.”

The TT600-series device has a 4G LTE chipset with 2G backup for always-on two-way cellular communications. It produces one GPS fix per minute when in motion and the optional RS232/CAN connector allows advanced data capture from trailer sensors, including vehicle health and status, theft and tampering alerts and remote reefer-unit control and temperature monitoring.

When Is a Truck Driver an Employee or a Contractor?

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July 25, 2019 • by Joel M. Van Parys, Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP

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The law regarding independent contractors in California has drastically changed over the past year, potentially creating a substantial amount of monetary risk for trucking companies.
 - Photo via Virginia Tech
Photo via Virginia Tech

The law regarding independent contractors in California has drastically changed over the past year, potentially creating a substantial amount of monetary risk for trucking companiP

The law regarding independent contractors in California has drastically changed over the past year, potentially creating a substantial amount of monetary risk for trucking companies.

It is critical for trucking companies that use contractors for work in California, whether through direct contracts with drivers or leasing arrangements, to understand how the changing law affects their business, the risks of inaction, and how they can minimize the risk to protect their business.

Current California law

On April 30, 2018 the California Supreme Court issued a decision in Dynamex v. Superior Court that created an entirely new standard for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the California Wage Orders. 

Before Dynamex, determining whether a worker was an employee for the purposes of California’s wage and hour regulations involved a flexible, multi-factor test that focused largely on the extent to which a company controlled the manner and means of a person’s work.

However, the new test, dubbed the “ABC test,” presumes a worker is an employee and places the burden on the company to establish each of the following three factors:

  1. That the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  2. That the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. That the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

Since the Dynamex decision, courts have ruled that “prong C” of the test is only satisfied if a company can prove that a worker does in fact provide services for other entities or otherwise has an established business independent of the relationship with the company.

While this is a difficult standard to meet, it does not apply to all types of claims. Currently, the ABC test applies to worker claims under the Wage Orders or Labor Code.  As a result, the new test applies to claims for unpaid wages, overtime, and missed meal and rest breaks, for example, but not to claims for workers’ compensation or wrongful termination.

Impact on Business Models

These legal developments directly impact companies that use contractors as drivers. In order to pass “prong B” of the Dynamex test, a company must show that a worker is performing work outside of the usual course of the company’s business.  If a company’s business is trucking, transportation or logistics, then it will be very difficult for truck drivers to pass this part of the test. In addition, the drivers would have to have independently established businesses or provide trucking services to other companies. 

Some companies use business models in which they lease a truck to a driver. These models may be able to pass the new test depending on the unique circumstances in each situation.  However, a court may still rule that the leasing company’s real business is trucking or transportation and therefore that the drivers are performing work within that line of business.

The risks of misclassifying a worker are substantial. The government has been aggressive in seeking unpaid taxes and penalties. The driver may also bring a claim for unpaid wages, including overtime, benefits, and penalties. The potential risk for a single claim from a driver may be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Minimize Risk and Stay Alert

If your company uses independent contractors, it should immediately assess how the changes in the law impact your contractor relationships. There may be changes that allow the contractor relationship to continue.

For example, in a leasing context, the contract and performance expectations between the company and contractor may be modified to fit the new legal standard. In other cases, however, a company may have to decide whether it will make more significant changes to its business model. 

Companies should stay alert for continuing changes. In response to the Dynamex decision, the California Legislature has drafted Assembly Bill 5. The bill would expand the scope of the Dynamex ABC test from Labor Code and related regulatory issues to possibly all areas of the law, including workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits.

That bill is progressing through the California Legislature now and may be signed into law soon. In fact, there has recently been discussion that legitimate trucking owner-operators may be exempt from the change in the law. The discussion and lobbying efforts behind that change are ongoing. In addition, there may soon be guidance from the California Supreme Court about whether the Dynamex decision and test apply retroactively. 

With the law ever changing, companies are encouraged to stay alert on the issue and contact their counsel if they have questions about how the changing law applies to their specific situation.


EKA announces roll-out of MPlace®

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EKA Solutions, Inc., announces that it has expanded the capabilities of its unified EKA Omni-TMS ® platform to extend SaaS freight Eco-System solutions to complement the existing systems for the largest shippers, brokers and carriers.

The EKA MPlace® enables shippers and brokers to create private marketplaces where they can trade with their trusted providers in a more precise, automated and real-time manner.  The solution is easily configured to resolve the many instances where traditional route guides don’t meet market needs for speed and price flexibility. “Utilizing the EKA MPlace® customers reduce direct labor, transportation spend and contracting risk while providing end-to-end visibility, audit and analysis,” said JJ Singh, Founder, Investor & CEO of EKA Solutions, Inc.

About EKA Solutions, Inc.

EKA solutions, Inc., provides the Smart, Unified Platform EKA Omni- TMS® for – Virtually – Everyone. EKA Omni-TMS ® is the cloud-based SaaS freight Eco-System designed to transform the $800-billion transportation and logistics industry.  It empowers small and medium size broker, carrier and shipper businesses to operate from quote-to-cash with affordable and best-in-class digital tools, enabling the higher performance demanded in tomorrow’s supply chain.  With real-time information, EKA Omni-TMS® enables brokers, carriers and shippers to provide visibility and appropriate transparency, as they fluidly trade across an expanding and verified network with key, trusted partners including support vendors in their safe, secure business neighborhood. Take your business to the next level by visiting our website www.go-eka.com and requesting a product demo and a consult with an experienced EKA sales person.