Cause of death revealed for Iowa trucker found after missing for 5 months

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, July 2, 2024:

Iowa officials conclude investigation into missing trucker’s death

The Sac County, Iowa, Attorney announced June 21 the conclusion of the investigation into the death of David Schultz, a truck driver whose body was found in a field five months after his abandoned truck was discovered in the middle of Highway 71, not pulled over, with a full load of hogs in his trailer.

According to Sac County Attorney Ben Smith, the medical examiner determined the cause of Schultz’s death was “hypothermia in the setting of acute drug (methamphetamine) intoxication,” and the manner of death was “accidental.”

Smith added that following the discovery of Schultz’s body, law enforcement’s investigation “yielded no signs of foul play.”

“The investigation uncovered that Schultz had been trucking for nearly 30 consecutive hours with little to no rest, motivated to support his business and young family,” a press release from Smith’s office said. “The combination of severe sleep deprivation and methamphetamine use is believed to have induced a medical emergency, causing Schultz to abandon his truck and ultimately succumb to the elements in the field where he was later found.”

[Related: Missing Iowa trucker's body found after 5 months]

Two large marijuana busts at border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently announced two drug busts at the U.S.-Mexico border involving tractor-trailers.

On June 17, CBP officers at the Pharr International Bridge in Texas intercepted 1,455 pounds of alleged marijuana concealed within a tractor-trailer. The truck, inbound from Mexico, was selected for inspection, which included utilization of non-intrusive inspection equipment and a canine team.

After physically inspecting the shipment, officers extracted 1,267 packages of alleged marijuana weighing 1,455 pounds concealed within the shipment. This alleged marijuana had a street value of more than $291,000.

CBP seized the narcotics and vehicle. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents initiated a criminal investigation.

About a week later, on June 23 at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas, CBP officers seized marijuana that totaled more than $5 million in street value.

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A 38-year-old Mexican citizen driving a 2009 International tractor hauling a commercial shipment was referred by an officer for secondary inspection. The driver was accompanied by a 33-year-old Mexican citizen.

Following a canine and non-intrusive inspection system examination, CBP officers discovered 98 packages containing a total of 2,323.67 pounds of alleged marijuana within the trailer. The street value was pegged at $5,198,328.

CBP seized the narcotics and both the tractor and trailer. Both subjects were arrested. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are investigating the seizure.

[Related: Drivers among 10 arrested, 19 charged international drug-smuggling case]

Shippers’ conditions improving, but deterioration expected in coming months

Market conditions for shippers in April improved from March, according to FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index.

The SCI for April improved to a reading of 3.0, with freight rates being the principal factor in better market conditions for shippers.

[Related: Spot reefer rates in 'abysmal territory,' though may showed positives

FTR said that while conditions may remain strong for a few more months, FTR is forecasting some deterioration soon with the SCI falling to more neutral readings in the months ahead.

“Freight rates in April were as favorable for shippers as they have been over the past year, but that climate likely will deteriorate modestly soon as capacity utilization has already begun to tighten a bit,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking. “However, aside from unpredictable swings in fuel costs, we do not forecast negative SCI readings over the next couple of years that come close to matching the scope of positive readings recorded from mid-2022 through the end of 2023. Much can happen to change the situation, of course, but the freight market is shaping up to be much more balanced between shippers and carriers in 2025.”

[Related: Operational costs for carriers rose in 2023 despite lower fuel costs]

15 drivers up for Relay Payments’ Haul of Fame

Relay Payments has narrowed down nominations for its second annual Haul of Fame contest to just 15 finalists. The contest honors inspiring truck drivers and their contributions to the trucking industry.

Public voting is now open for the 15 drivers. Voting will remain open through July 31. When voting concludes, the top five vote-getters will be evaluated by a celebrity judging panel with the task of selecting the two winners.

The two winners will receive an array of prizes, including a trip to the NASCAR Race Weekend in Atlanta Sept. 6-8, ahead of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Relay Payments serves as a primary sponsor of NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team.

[Related: Eyes on the big climb: Careful prep the name of the game for Trucker of the Month Greg Labosky]

Overall, more than 160 truck drivers were nominated for the program, doubling the number of nominations from last year. Nominees were recognized for their commitment to safety, willingness to help and mentor others, and for going above and beyond for customers.

Collectively, the 15 Haul of Fame finalists account for 394 years of truck driving experience, with millions of miles of service and countless goods delivered to every area of the country.

The 2024 Haul of Fame finalists:

  • Cholonda Allen, 5 years of driving
  • David Blankenship, 40 years of driving
  • Bruce Bryant, 38 years of driving
  • Fidel Herrera, 24 years of driving
  • Nic Hurtado, 5 years of driving
  • Deb Labree, 18 years of driving
  • Bobby Land, 24 years of driving
  • Roger Mackbach, 24 years of driving
  • Dario Morton, 24 years of driving
  • Jason Neymeiyer, 20 years of driving
  • Kirk Phillips, 43 years of driving
  • Michael Smith, 35 years of driving
  • Sydney Thomas, 4 years of driving
  • Joe Unverzagt, 30 years of driving
  • Kevin Worley, 50 years of driving

[Related: Fuel-payments providers boost theft protections amid explosion of card skimming]

The 2024 celebrity judges include:

  • NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and current vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports
  • Timothy Dooner, host of the What the Truck?!? podcast
  • Clarissa Rankin, one of the most well-known female truck drivers, CDL school owner and TikTok influencer with 1.8 million followers who advocates for women in trucking
  • Ryan Droege, CEO and co-founder of Relay Payments

[Related: 'Trucker Josh' Giesbrecht: New Howes Hall of Fame member]

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