OOIDA wants Biden's Labor Secretary pick rescinded

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, June 23, 2023:

OOIDA calls on Biden to rescind Labor Secretary nomination

Confirmation for President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Department of Labor (DOL) seems unlikely, so much so that one trucking organization has called for the administration to rescind her nomination.

Julie Su's nomination remains stalled in the Senate, where presumably she doesn't have enough votes for confirmation. Her nomination has been unpopular among trucking stakeholders, mostly due to her role in passing California's AB 5 independent contractor legislation as California's labor commissioner, then as secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Thursday, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote a letter to President Biden, asking him to "withdraw the nomination of Ms. Julie Su to lead the U.S. Department of Labor."

Said OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer, "We believe the time has come to select a new nominee whose record demonstrates not only a commitment to improving working conditions for employee drivers, but also an appreciation for the benefits independent contractor status has provided owner-operators over many decades."

[Related: DOL nominee Su not calling for AB 5 on national level]

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) each have voiced similar concerns pointed at Su's involvement in AB 5, yet to-date have not called on the administration to rescind her nomination. 

"Since her nomination [in February], Ms. Su has failed to acknowledge any problems exist with AB 5, despite the dramatic impact the policy has had on our members operating in California and beyond," Spencer continued. "She has also failed to adequately answer questions about her interest in pursuing similar policies on the federal level as Secretary. While we felt Ms. Su’s record in California should have prevented Senators from ever supporting her nomination, we believe her inability to answer direct questions involving the consequences of her work in California or intentions as Secretary are the reason she does not have the necessary support to be confirmed."

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Su in testimony earlier this month said she sees the role of DOL Secretary -- and her current role as Acting Secretary -- as one of a rules enforcer, not a rule-maker, and said she was not calling for contractor approaches similar to AB 5 at the federal level. 

Rather than allowing Su’s nomination to languish in the Senate, OOIDA and Spencer called on President Biden to "find a more suitable candidate to lead the Department -- one with a record of improving working conditions for employees and respecting industry-specific classifications that benefit and protect American workers, like owner-operators and employee drivers. To effectively lead the Department, your next nominee must not only be capable of earning labor and industry backing, but also substantial bipartisan support among Senators." --Jason Cannon

[Related: Opposition to Biden's new Labor Secretary pick builds]

DAT adds Profit Estimator to load board

DAT Freight & Analytics launched what it calls a "Profit Estimator" tool, designed to help carriers on the DAT One marketplace determine how profitable a load can be based on their own operating costs and goals.

Included with the DAT One app, the Profit Estimator considers each carrier’s unique and essential operating costs -- insurance, fuel, truck payments, mileage and revenue targets -- and the broker’s offer rate. It then calculates a baseline profit or loss for each load.

“We understand that quoting freight rates can be confusing, and we designed our DAT Profit Estimator to simplify this process,” said Sarita Benjamin, DAT’s Head of Product for Freight Match. “It helps carriers work out their daily operating costs in a matter of minutes, which in turn will enable them to make more informed decisions and ultimately become more profitable.”

To use the Profit Estimator:

  • Run a load search in the DAT One app, tap one of the results and scroll down to the Profit Estimator section
  • Enter your fixed and variable costs, the number of miles you plan to drive per week, the amount of revenue you plan to earn each week, and the type of equipment you have
  • Click the “calculate” button for an approximate profit for hauling that load.

DAT One users only need to set up the calculation once for the tool to automatically provide a baseline profit or loss for every load detail shown. DAT, the company said, will never share specific carriers’ operating costs from the Profit Estimator with any other parties.

[Related: Understanding cost/profit in relation to time for better load evaluations]

Calstart launches program to help Calif. fleets transition to electric trucks

Calstart has announced the launch of the Cal Fleet Advisor (CFA) program, which will inform medium- and heavy-duty fleets of the ins and outs of transitioning to "zero-emission vehicles," or ZEVs. It hopes to make the process easier for fleets to meet California’s ambitious requirements aimed at reducing the sales and use of internal combustion engines.

CFA will serve as a personal, interactive alternative to traditional formats such as websites, workshops and mailers, the company said.

Developed in partnership with the California Air Resources Board, CFA aims to address confusion experienced by fleet operators as they begin to look into the numerous resources, options, and requirements involved in making the transition to ZEVs, mostly battery-electric trucks today.

CFA will serve as a single point of contact for helping identify, finance, obtain, and deploy new trucks for businesses. CFA will also provide tracking and document-collection and -filing assistance to fleets, answer questions and offer advice, Calstart said.

[Related: CARB playing hardball: Board votes to ban diesel sales in California in 2036]

Although available to all California fleets, CFA is primarily focused on assisting smaller businesses and independent owner-operators, especially underrepresented populations and those domiciled in disadvantaged communities, the organization added. The resource could be particularly useful for the drayage community, which faces more stringent decarbonization timelines than other California transportation sectors. CARB’s latest approved regulation begins taking effect for drayage operators as soon as next year, with a ZEV requirement for new drayage trucks to register with CARB.

“It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start,” said Clare Bachman, fleet technical assistance project manager at Calstart. “By adding a human element to information sharing around zero-emission vehicles and funding, we will be able to help fleets determine exactly what they need to do, rather than have them take time out of their busy schedule to do it alone.”

[Related: Cutting through the heavy-duty e-trucks hype]

Loadsmith equipping 800 trucks with Kodiak Driver for new freight network

Autonomous trucking firm Kodiak Robotics announced that digital load board Loadsmith will equip 800 trucks with Kodiak’s self-driving technology, the Kodiak Driver. The Kodiak-equipped autonomous trucks will serve as the foundation for a new Loadsmith Freight Network (LFN), which the companied said would be the first-ever freight transportation company built specifically for self-driving trucks.

Kodiak will begin delivering the Kodiak Driver-powered self-driving trucks in the second half of 2025.

The Kodiak trucks on the LFN will transport goods autonomously on the interstate portions of highway routes. Loadsmith’s fleet of trucks equipped with the Kodiak Driver will complete the long-haul portions of Loadsmith’s deliveries, while human-driven trucks, booked on Loadsmith’s platform, will do local pickups and deliveries. The companies believe the network's approach would move freight more efficiently, reliably, and safely. 

Said Don Burnette, Founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, “Loadsmith’s Founder Brett Suma is one of trucking’s true visionaries, and now he is using his deep and unique experience to rethink logistics for the autonomous era.”

Loadsmith’s platform will strategically deploy 6,000 trailers on the LFN to maximize the utilization of the Kodiak-powered trucks there. By pairing self-driving trucks and local manual trucks on the same network, Loadsmith hoped to be able to "rapidly scale" autonomous deliveries and convert significant amounts of freight volume from traditional trucking methods to a more flexible and on-demand service, the companies said.

New Samsara features, some aimed directly at truck operators

Yesterday, at its user conference in Austin, Texas, fleet telematics and electronic logging device provider Samsara announced several new features in its portfolio that are aimed at "reshaping the worker experience and driving results," the company said, many aimed directly at truck operators and others in the field. 

  • Mobile Experience Management (MEM): This is a software solution that simplifies mobile-device management and customized support for operators in the field, including remote training and live troubleshooting, straight through their mobile devices.
  • Virtual Coach: Aimed at helping operators improve their own safety, the Virtual Coach delivers insights directly to drivers through Samsara's Driver App, based in part on diving events recorded by the platform. Operators can thus "self-coach" directly anywhere, anytime, through their own behavioral analysis. 
  • Smart Trailer and Asset Tracking solutions: Utilization metrics, temperature, location -- these data points can be hard to act upon when they live in siloed systems, Samsara noted. New Asset Gateways can connect and extend visibility. The new Find My Asset feature allows managers to quickly find lost or stolen high-value, unpowered assets. A new two-way cloud integration with Thermo King’s TracKing telematics makes it possible for customers to not only monitor, but remotely control, Thermo King reefers from the Samsara dashboard.
  • Data Connectors: New data connectors including with Fivetran, Kafka, and Power BI integrate third-party data into the Samsara workflow. 

MEM is now available for purchase in early access for customers across the U.S. and Canada. Virtual Coach is available in beta for global customers.