ILLINOIS PHOTO RADAR

I received the following information from my friend Justin Seyl at US Legal Services. If you run in Illinois, please be aware of this:

"Illinois will begin using photo radar in freeway work zones in July. One mile per hour over the speed limit and the machine will send you a nice $375 ticket in the mail. Beginning July 1st, the State of Illinois will begin using speed cameras in areas designated as "Work Zones" on major freeways. Anyone caught by these devices will be mailed a $375 ticket for the FIRST offense. The SECOND offense will cost $1,000 and comes with a 90-day suspension. Drivers will also receive demerit points against their license, which allows insurance companies to raise insurance rates.

"This is the harshest penalty structure ever set for a govermental unit involving PHOTO speed enforcement. The state already has two camera vans on line issuing tickets 24/7 in work zones with speed limits lowered to 45 MPH. Photos of both the Driver's face and License plate are taken."

This is serious stuff, folks. Don't forget, if they photograph your Mercer Illinois baseplate and send it to us, we are legally obligated to identify the driver.  Justin doesn't seem to think there is much chance of beating these things in court even though his firm is generally pretty good at doing that. When I drove across Illinois last week,  I set it 5MPH under the posted, turned up the XM, and enjoyed the boring scenery. I strongly suggest that everyone do the same.


ACCIDENT RATIO

I think today is a good day to brag on everyone. In the latest issue of "Road King" there is a pretty good article about UPS' so-called "driver boot camp." It's a good read if you get the time. What caught my eye was the section on accident ratios on p21. It says that UPS has an accident ratio of 0.5 accidents per million miles driven. The industry average is 2.5 accidents per million miles driven. Obviously, the UPS number is outstanding and a 0.5 ratio is a major deal.

Here's the punch line, boys and girls.......Mercer's 2008 accident frequency ratio was 0.43, down from 0.53 in 2007. I can't force safety on anyone. It has to be part of your own personal value system. It is, and records like this show it. Nice job, folks.


NORTH CAROLINA SCALE BYPASS PROGRAM

Well, here we go again. North Carolina has come up with their own scale bypass program (with their own charge, go figure). Here's how it works:
First, you must have (purchase) a Norpass transponder, will not work with Prepass. Then you must pay the FEE, which is $56 for one year, $112 for two years and the third year is free if you pay for two years up front. Mercer must submit the plate number, vin number, unit number, contractor name, Norpass transponder serial number and driver info. Mercer must also submit a clear picture of the right side of the truck to go into the NC database. The contractor must sign a contract with the state of North Carolina and a payment form. Mercer will have these forms available and they can be faxed. If you have any questions about enrollment, call Chasity at ext 3343. She also handles Norpass. And she did an excellent job in finding out just what was going on in North Carolina when all of our transponders started going red.

Another fee for operating a safe fleet. First Alabama with their little coil certification (fee) and now North Carolina upping the bypass expense for the carriers that cause the least amount of problems. Good thing we're not in a recession or anything like that. These folks are taking the term "Safety Pays" to a whole new level.


CALIFORNIA NO-IDLE LAW

CARB's smoke police are at it again (or, still). They popped another Mercer driver for idling for more than five minutes this morning at one of the Fontana TA's. Eight minutes, three minutes over, three hundred dollar fine, or one hundred dollars a minute. Expensive lesson. At three dollars a gallon, that's 100 gallons of fuel he gave away. At five miles per gallon, that's enough for 500 miles. That's a lot to make up. Private property in California is fair game for the Smog Police. Beware.


ACCIDENT COSTS

Every three months I sit down with our insurance company loss control representative and review Mercer accident expenses. Besides settlement amounts, we look at types of accidents, frequency of accidents, severity of accidents and which drivers are having them. Overall, the ladies and gentlemen who drive Mercer-leased vehicles do a great job keeping the highways safe. We can do better.

Of all the preventable accidents we have, there are basically two types that are the most frequent (60%) and account for the majority (51%) of all settlement dollars. These are lane change accidents and rear end collisions. The most expensive type of accident to settle is a rear end collision. It is also the most difficult to defend.

Lane management, space management and speed management are three essential skills that every professional driver must possess and utilize every day. Drivers who have lane change or rear end accidents exhibit non-mastery of these basic skills. Carriers, drivers and their insurance companies are forced to pay dearly for these kinds of mistakes because they generally cause great harm and are difficult to defend.

For 2009, we are looking to reduce these types of accidents by 50%, and so far we are on track to achieve that. However, each driver must be aware of these situations at all times to make this a reality. I urge everyone to watch their speed, maintain at least a four second following distance, scan mirrors multiple times and use turn signals when executing lane changes and anticipate situations ahead. "Good" isn't good enough. We need to be better.


LKY FIELD INSPECTIONS JUNE AND JULY

On Wednesday, June 17 I will be doing LKY inspections in the CHV office (Chattanooga, TN) all day from 8:00am until 5:30pm.

On Monday, June 22 (all day) and Tuesday, June 23 (1/2 day am) I will be at the WKS office (Wichita, KS) doing LKY inspections.

Due to the current economic conditions, and the closing of our Fontana, CA yard, my California LKY inspections will only be in Stockton this year. I will be at Carl's Restaurant on Monday, July 20 and Tuesday, July 21 from 7:30am until as late as I need to stay both days.

I will have HM 232 materials with me at all locations and can do hazmat recertifications as needed.

Future field LKY inspections this year will be at MSU in September, HIA and Newberry, SC in October, and TPA in November. Exact dates of these trips has not yet been determined.

Remember that today, tomorrow and Thursday are the CVSA blitz days. We need clean inspections. OOS items hurt Mercer's safety rating and make it tough on everyone. Our "brand" is safe operation, top quality equipment, and drivers who are the best of the best. That's who we are. Be safe.


CANADIAN SPEED LIMITER ENFORCEMENT SET TO BEGIN JUNE 1

Enforcement of the Ontario and Quebec speed limiter laws is set to begin in both provinces on June 1. This follows the six-month "soft enforcement educational phase which began January 1. The law requires commercial trucks operating in those provinces to have speed limiters which restrict the truck's speed to no more than 105 kilometers per hour (approx 65 1/2 mph). Drivers must carry documentation in the truck proving the restriction has been flashed into the unit. Officers have the ability to plug a tester into the unit's data port in the cab to verify the restriction.

Mechanical (non-electronic) engines are exempt but if you get a ticket for speeding in a mechanical engine truck, you will also get a ticket for having no speed limiter. Repeat offenses can result in the unit and the motor carrier being banned from operating in those provinces.

Anyone running Ontario and/or Quebec with an electronic engine should get it reflashed now, or don't go there. Those who receive either speeding or speed limiter violations in either of these two provinces will be not be allowed to return. Mercer will not tolerate anyone jeopardizing our ability to operate in either Ontario or Quebec. We expect all US carriers to be closely monitored for compliance with these laws.


FREEDOM ISN'T FREE

As everyone prepares for the long Memorial Day weekend, it is important to take some time to remember and honor the meaning of Memorial Day. This time was set aside to honor the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made, throughout every generation, to defend and protect the American way of life that we all enjoy. Mercer has drivers and employees who have served in the various branches of the military in Korea, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Grenada, Panama, Germany and throughout the Middle East. Each of these individuals is a hero to which we should all be grateful.

Nearly every year I ride to the Wall in Washington DC to remember the sacrifice that members of my generation made. No, I didn't have to go.....I was in ROTC at Murray State when Nixon ended the draft (and shut down ROTC).  A number of my friends did go, and every year I touch some of their names on the Wall. They were real people who didn't get to continue on life's journey: Didn't get to marry, or have kids, or grandkids, or anything else.  Doing that is the least I can do to honor and remember what they did. It was called "duty"......a lot of folks don't have much understanding of that word today, it seems. The word "honor" doesn't seem to mean much to people anymore, either.

Drivers, if you served in the military, and especially during Nam, thankyou.  This country may not be in real great shape today, but it would be in far worse shape had you not stood your watch protecting our freedom. Because, as you know, more than anybody else, it's not free.


TCA Owner-Operator of the Year Wayne Lowe

If you have seen the May issue of Overdrive you may have seen the story about Wayne Lowe, who was named 2009 Owner-Operator of the year by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). The annual TCA Safety and Security conference was held in Louisville this year, and yesterday morning I had the privilege of listening to Mr Lowe's thoughts concerning our industry at breakfast.

Mr Lowe is a remarkable individual.  He has been leased to FFE for 42 years and has over four million miles of accident-free driving.  He's not politically correct and calls it like he sees it. He's been married and divorced three times ("cost me a half million dollars") and believes in electronic logs (thinks "all RV's and motorhomes should have them").  When asked what he liked best about FFE, he said, in front of his safety director, that he appreciated them leaving him alone and letting him run his business. Matter-of-fact kind of guy, not arrogant, not flashy, listens more than he talks, but a man who has worked hard all his life for what he has and is genuinely humbled by the recognition he has received.

He was asked why he has done nothing but truck his entire career. His answer was a simple one, but so profound that it no doubt applies to every driver out there: "It's in the blood, it's in the heart." That's the kind of business trucking is. That is the type of passion that has allowed trucking to come through all previous recessions and will get us through this one, as well. It's all we know how to do. Well said, Wayne, well said.