Otto

Otto? Friendly German bar keep? Burly coal miner in Ohio?

No, Otto is the first self driving commercial truck that just delivered its first load. What??

Yes, on October 18, 2016, Otto loaded beer in Fort Collins, Colorado and delivered to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a 120 mile trip. Well, Otto did have help. A commercial driver was along monitoring the drive. The driver takes over when the truck has to exit the freeway. I have driven through the Denver traffic and have to give props to the technology that can do that and not flip off the driver in the next lane.

Otto has been tested before on closed tracks as well as highways, this was the first time freight was carried in the truck.

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Uber recently purchased Otto for $700 million so they are certainly ready for a return on their investment. The inventors of the system are all former Google people and worked on the self-driving car. They thought there was more of a market for freight to move about the country, and they are correct. We have been hearing of a driver shortage in the trucking industry since the 1980’s.

Currently there are 3.5 million truck drivers working in the United States and good part of them are nearing retirement age. This could be an answer to driver shortage. The automation drives the truck on the freeways and the driver takes over at the exit to drive local streets to either pick-up, deliver or fuel the truck. While on the freeway, the driver can nap or do whatever he/she needs to do, then take over at the exit.

A big question is how is FMCSA going to handle this. The regulations for logging time for commercial drivers is cut and dried. They do not do things quickly so I hope that the Department of Transportation is at least thinking about this issue.

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Vision Zero

Have you heard the term ‘Vision Zero’ ?

Started in Sweden in 1997 and now spread world wide, Vision Zero is a process of eliminating ALL traffic fatalities. Many countries have adopted the plan as a country, while the United States has not until now. Read the Wikipedia explanation here. Vision Zero even has a Facebook page.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided we need 30 years to reach the goal of zero traffic deaths.  Zero

Do you believe that is realistic? Of course its a wonderful goal, to eliminate every traffic death everywhere. But even the autonomous vehicles are having a tough time staying out of accidents. Read the New York Times account of the first fatal accident in a self driving Tesla.

So first we would need to eliminate every vehicle with a mechanical issue. Everything from a low tire to an engine ready to blow.

Who’s left? Oh, eliminate the teenager texting. Remove everyone that is driving distracted. That means the guy drinking coffee and the woman late for work putting on her make-up. Now who is left?

Eliminate the sleepy, the mad, the daydreamers. Had a fight with your significant other? No driving for you today. Did the cat wake you in the night? You will have to stay home today. So now who is left?

I think those two crying toddlers in the back seat are distracting you. Stay home. Seems to me like a slippery slope.

Since we can’t seem to do this now, what makes the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)  believe that it can be done in 30 years? Can you imagine the policing that we would need. Checkpoints every few miles to decide who is too sleepy, mad or high to drive on.

Vision Zero? Just tell me how your going to regulate this!

Vision Zero

 

 

Heroin

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Aren’t those flowers lovely? NOPE!  They are opium poppies. Refined into morphine then chemically modified to heroin…not lovely. And 95 % of the worlds opium poppies products are from Afghanistan. Hmmmm, lets not get it to the politics of that hot potato.

Heroin is a growing issue in the small town I live in as it is all over. A local park was recently cleaned by a group of concerned citizens and they retrieved a 55 gallon trash bag filled with needles.

Well our neighbors to the north have a new idea. Canadian doctors can now legally prescribe diacetylmorphine, or pharmaceutical-grade heroin to their patients. Read CNN’s article here. The idea is that it gets the addicted person off the street, not stealing to maintain their habit and not exposed to disease thus saving the state money in law enforcement and social services.

You probably saw the story on the grandmother in the car, with her 4 year old grandson, passed out on heroin. Read that here

What do you think is the answer? Is it up to the government to fix it? And what is the bigger issue…why? Why do so many of our citizens try to fill the empty part of their soul with heroin?

Maybe we can wait and see what happens in Canada.

California Proposition 64

Update: October 28, 2016

The November 2016 election has an unprecedented number of marijuana initiatives on ballots across the United States. In Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, voters decide on medical marijuana. In Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, voters decide on recreational use. Polls of voters seem to indicate they might all pass.

Original Story: August 30, 2016

This election, November 2016, has big headlines with Mr. Trump running. But in the background, California Proposition 64 could be a game-changer. Read Ballotpedia’s breakdown of the proposition here.

California Proposition 64 is the recreational marijuana measure. California voters passed the medical marijuana legislation in 1996 that established the “215” card, a prescription for marijuana. Some employers were ok with it, while most continued to see marijuana use as a problem. In fact, Federal law ( Controlled Substances Act)  still considers marijuana a Class I drug. While public opinion of marijuana is changing, the government hasn’t kept up.

So what a mess. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia (yes, Washington, DC) have recreational marijuana laws in place. But they are all a little different, as to how much etc. What they all have in common is law enforcement is trying to catch up with the legislation. How do you tell if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana?

California Proposition 64

Colorado is using blood testing to determine impairment. While not perfect it is one way. Kern county in California is in a pilot program to find DUI’s by using saliva swabs. But what should an employer do?

If your employees are regulated by Federal Law, such as truck drivers or train engineers, nothing changes. If your business is not regulated, how do you decide what your drug testing program will look like. Since the courts are upholding the right of the employer to have a drug free workplace, then its up to you. But employers need to have a policy in place the spells out what the testing will be, in what form and for what drugs. Also needed in the company policy is the penalty for failing a drug test. Does the employee get fired right then, do they get a second chance or do they have an opportunity to get counseling? And who pays for that?

Does your drug and alcohol policy for employees need a tune-up? Or do you need a starting point? We can do that. Give us a call at 530-241-2099.