North Carolina motor carriers are being slapped with a 14.61% surcharge on their liability insurance policies to plug a $96 million shortfall in the state’s insurance risk pool.
The North Carolina Reinsurance Facility said the surcharge will go into effect on Oct. 1 for all new and renewal commercial policies and continue through Sept. 30, 2019. It will be incorporated into carriers’ policy premiums to recoup the organization’s massive losses that have been building over the past four years, in part due to it charging rates too low and in some cases insuring ineligible motor carriers.
The surcharge will not be applied to a motor carrier’s policy for collision or comprehensive coverage, according to officials at the North Carolina Reinsurance Facility.
The last surcharge issued by the risk pool was in the mid-1980s and lasted more than three years, according to the North Carolina Trucking Association.
NCTA President Crystal Collins said her association, none too happy with the surcharge, has initiated discussions with the reinsurance facility and state Department of Insurance to “reform the operations of the reinsurance facility in an effort to ensure that the current surcharge is a one-time event.”
“We have also been in contact with elected officials, including leadership within the North Carolina General Assembly, to educate elected officials on the surcharge issues and to open channels of communication in order to facilitate future change,” Crystal Collins told Transport Topics in an e-mail statement.
The reinsurance facility, created by the state’s 1973 Motor Vehicle Reinsurance Facility Act, is a statewide partnership of insurers intended to establish a viable reinsurance market to ensure that the state’s high-risk commercial vehicle operators unable to obtain liability insurance elsewhere can still meet the state’s mandatory liability law. In short, it’s an entity that insures insurance companies.
By law, the facility is supposed to only allow liability insurance for state-domiciled motor carriers with valid driver licenses that have been refused liability insurance from an insurance company.
“You can think of us as the market of last resort,” said Terry Collins, chief operating officer of the facility.
Ray Evans, general manager of the facility, said that at least since 2014 the commercial vehicle insurance business in North Carolina and nationwide has not been healthy. “Insurance companies have essentially been losing money, and we’re no different,” Evans told TT.
Evans said several factors have created losses at the facility, ranging from a reduction in the price of fuel to distracted driving crashes.
In the past few years, the state’s insurance premiums have been “pretty low,” he added.
“What we found was that trucking companies have re-domiciled in North Carolina to take advantage of having their headquarters here, taking advantage of lower rates, which has exacerbated the situation,” Evans said.
Because some companies have used “Post Office box” addresses for their headquarters, Evans said state insurance officials and legislators have been attempting to block some of those companies from taking advantage of the lower facility rates.
“What we have found is that by getting a license to do business from the Secretary of State, which costs about $100, get a P.O. box, and have a truck and register it in this state, you could conduct your trucking operations in North Carolina wherever they are located,” Evans said. “We concluded there were some taking advantage.”
“The reinsurance facility is doing what the statutes tell them to do,” said Rob Moseley, a Greenville, S.C.-based attorney who said he has several clients affected by the surcharge.
Moseley, who has been working with the trucking association to mitigate the facility’s future problems, said that overall insurance markets are rising, but the risk pool has continued to keep its rates too low.
“Their underwriting data is two years behind, or probably even further behind than that,” Moseley told TT. “Today they’re still in competition with the standard market. I think that folks who are in this pool should be paying a higher rate than the market.”
But Terry Collins said that in recent years insurance companies have been losing money and “shedding business” because they didn’t think they could get back the rates for the risk.
“When companies start saying we don’t want to insure you any more because you’re too risky, they send them to the facility,” Terry Collins said. “We’re kind of at the end of the tail of what happens in the marketplace.”
Evans said facility officials have “gotten some pushback from certain directions.”
“We have heard from agents, truckers, associations and companies because it is a different process,” Evan said. “Many companies have had to begin reprogramming parts of their operating systems to accommodate the surcharge.”
General Electric Co. is moving toward a deal to sell an industrial gas-engine business as Cummins Inc. and CVC Capital Partners weigh initial bids that could value the operation at more than $3 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Buyout firms EQT Partners and KKR & Co. also are considering submitting offers this week for GE’s Jenbacher unit, said the people, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. GE is working with Citigroup Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG on the sale process, which is still at an early stage and may not lead to a deal, they said.
A sale of Jenbacher, which makes engines that generate power and heat for industrial facilities, is poised to be GE’s biggest to date in CEO John Flannery’s plan to reshape the company and arrest one of the deepest slides in its 126-year history. After taking the helm last year, he pledged to sell at least $20 billion of assets, strengthen cash flows and overhaul management. GE also is weighing more dramatic changes, including a possible breakup
Cummins, which makes engines and generators, said it would continue to evaluate “a range of opportunities inside and outside the company” while keeping its primary focus on strengthening the core business. Representatives for GE, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, KKR and EQT declined to comment. CVC couldn’t be reached.
Jenbacher, named for the Austrian town Jenbach, was founded in 1959 and bought by GE in 2003. It is part of GE’s distributed power business, alongside the Waukesha operations.
GE’s deal activity is picking up, with the company agreeing earlier this month to sell a piece of its health-care business for $1.05 billion. That was the largest transaction since September, when the Boston-based manufacturer sold its industrial-solutions division for $2.6 billion to ABB Ltd.
Daimler Trucks North America is recalling 7,128 heavy-duty trucks because of an electrical system defect that could spark a fire.
The recall includes certain Western Star 4700, 4900, 5700 and 6900 trucks, model years 2017 through 2019.
In affected vehicles, the power cable between the stud and bulkhead – the metal structure located at the back of the cab that protects the driver against shifting cargo in the event of a collision – could make contact, resulting in an electrical arc.
“Arching of a power cable between the stud and bulkhead could increase the risk of a fire,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Affected truck owners are expected to be notified on May 21. Repairs will be performed by Daimler-authorized service facilities if a defect is found.
Philadelphia started the night with a big 128-108 win over the Heat and it came with the help of a reinforcement.
Joel Embiid returned to the lineup and promptly scored 23 points while adding seven rebounds and four assists. While he had to play the game with a mask to protect his face after a recent orbital fracture, Embiid looked like he hadn't missed much time at all. His presence spells danger for the entire Eastern Conference.
"I was excited," the 2018 All-Star told reporters after the game. "Worked really hard for it. Promised the city that and made it happen. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t play in that first at home because we have a special connection. But I’m glad, came back today and we got a win."
The Pelicans were never scared by the Trail Blazers as they dominated Portland 119-102. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still struggling to figure things out as they combined for minus-43 when they were on the floor.
Golden State is far from intimidated despite playing without Stephen Curry. They dropped the Spurs 110-97 in San Antonio Thursday giving them 18 straight wins in the Western Conference playoffs.
Studs of the NightPelicans forward Nikola Mirotic had a career playoff-high 30 points along with eight rebounds. He actually outscored Anthony Davis who had 28.
Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists and was a perfect 7 for 7 from the free-throw line.
Duds of the NightDwyane Wade had eight points and was just 2-for-10 shooting with four turnovers and his Heat teammate Hassan Whiteside scored five points in 13 injury-plagued minutes.
The world’s most famous Apple insider is at it again. And now we know why Apple is about to cancel all three of its flagship iPhones…
In a new report attained by MacRumors, KGI Securities’ acclaimed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reveals Apple has been able to do something so remarkable with its exciting new iPhone that the company can soon cancel the iPhone X and any plans for the iPhone 9 and iPhone 9 Plus.
Forbes’ Jay McGregor dived into the design ramifications of Kuo’s report, but the real shocker for me is what Kuo reveals Apple has been able to achieve with pricing. Whereas all previous leaks claimed Apple would launch an iPhone X-inspired entry-level model at $799, Kuo states Apple has been able to produce it for just $550.
This would be a stunning breakthrough. The new model in question not only carries the same core design as the iPhone X, but increases the screen size to 6.1-inches and features Face ID facial recognition.
The only cost-saving measures are said to be an LCD rather than OLED panel, a single rear camera and an aluminium chassis rather than stainless steel which is used in the iPhone X.
With Apple also slashing the price of a second generation iPhone X and releasing a new top-of-the-range iPhone X Plus at the original’s $999 price point, this explains why there is no longer room for Apple to continue to iPhone X for a second year - as it has done so successfully with past iPhone models.
The three new models also show why an iPhone 9 and iPhone 9 Plus with their ageing iPhone 6-inspired designs are no longer necessary.
Needless to say, before everyone gets too excited, Kuo could be wrong. What makes this such significant news, however, is Kuo’s track record has successfully exposed Apple’s iPhone plans (in detail) for the last four generations. Meanwhile, he has been promising Apple would cancel the original iPhone X since January.
With Apple under increasing pressure from Chinese manufacturers delivering high spec, premium smartphone designs at midrange prices, it appears there is suddenly an iPhone to match them. And, if Kuo is right yet again, that’s the most exciting breakthrough Apple has made in years…
America's fast-growing marijuana industry appears poised for supercharged growth after winning what cannabis entrepreneurs see as approval from the Trump administration to forge ahead.
The legal marijuana market was already growing exponentially despite fears of a federal crackdown under Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but Trump’s signal that he'll respect state legalization may swing open the floodgates by reassuring traditional investors, entrepreneurs and local lawmakers that it’s OK to jump in.
Across the nation, risk-takers have poured billions of dollars into the industry while knowing they could be arrested by federal agents at any moment.
They’ve built — largely unseen — a powerful network of businesses poised to take advantage of a more favorable federal climate. That industry has already woven itself into the fabric of the states where pot is legal, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in new tax revenues.
Experts say those numbers are now likely to rise rapidly thanks to Trump’s promised hands-off approach and support of some sort of federal solution.
"Every day we wake up and build this industry. And every day we do that, it’s a little harder to shut it down," said Daniel Yi, a spokesman for the California-based marijuana powerhouse MedMen.
There's no denying America’s love affair with marijuana is accelerating across the nation as voters loosen laws and grow increasingly comfortable with a drug that has been forbidden for generations. Today, more than 60% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, double its popularity in 2000, according to a January 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center. That comes against a backdrop of contrasting studies that have offered little insight into how legalization is impacting youth use, stoned driving and border-state black markets.
But Trump's acceptance of popular state legalization reflects the reality and power of this increasingly important industry. Across the country, cannabis legalization is transforming communities in ways big and small, winning many converts among skeptical cops and local politicians as new tax dollars pour into schools and scholarships, pay for road paving and drug treatment, and, if advocates have their way, lift up minority communities devastated by the War on Drugs.
“It’s really fun to see people’s minds change,” Jen Lujan of California-based marijuana firm Eaze said.
Marijuana’s economic impact in particular has helped keep the focus on the positives of legalization. While most supporters agree that marijuana taxes haven’t been the boon many expected, the industry’s economic power is undeniable.
At least 121,000 people are already working directly in the nation’s home-grown marijuana industry, tending plants, trimming leaves and selling cannabis products to eager consumers, according to BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research. For comparison, there are fewer than 50,000 coal miners, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Potcast, a USA TODAY Network podcast, tells the story of America’s shifting attitude toward legalizing pot:
Nine states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, along with Washington D.C., — have legalized recreational pot use, although not all of them permit and tax sales. Those states selling pot have collected more than $1.6 billion in taxes since their legalization programs began, and California’s launch of legal sales earlier this year is expected to supercharge that number.
Medical and recreational cannabis sales will hit $11.7 billion this year, predicts cannabis analytics firm New Frontier Data, increase by 25% in 2019 and hit $25 billion in seven years. For comparison, wine sales in the United States were worth $60 billion last year, according to the Beverage Information and Insights Group. For risk-taking entrepreneurs, cannabis holds the promise of a vast new industry that's entirely homegrown.
How the federal government acts could change that dramatically. President Obama's administration had promised it would leave well-run state marijuana programs alone, but Sessions rescinded that promise in January, throwing the industry into chaos. Many traditional investors have shied away from pouring their capital into the industry over fears they'd be treated like drug traffickers, and a strong sign of support from Trump over Congressional action might provide the reassurance they're seeking.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Cory Garder said Trump promised him he'd respect states' rights when it comes to legal pot and would support a federal-level change to bring consistency. Several members of Congress have introduced bills to either legalize cannabis entirely or at least remove it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
"By supporting this law, President Trump has arguably done more to advance the growth of the regulated cannabis industry than any other president," said Isaac Dietrich, CEO of marijuana services firm MassRoots.
Because legalization has happened almost entirely at state ballot boxes, the United States has so far avoided having a national conversation about the broader implications of increased use and availability. That troubles legalization opponents such as Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the nation’s leading anti-cannabis organization. SAM has been fighting a state-by-state battle against legalization on the grounds that increased access will lead to increased use. SAM supports increased access to drug treatment and a reduction or elimination of criminal penalties for minor marijuana consumption but opposes broad legalization.
"This reckless plan will not go unanswered," Sabet said.
Whether there really is a plan remains uncertain, and many marijuana industry experts say they'll believe Trump only once there's a law in place. In dealing with a president who sets policy via Twitter, they want to see actual legislation.
"This is another head-spinning moment," said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat and leading voice for federal legalization. "We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted. Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way."
A USA TODAY survey in January found hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing from the cannabis industry into campaign finance accounts of both lawmakers and political action committees, with emphasis this year on Congressional Republicans who control the agenda. Democrats typically have been the largest recipients of marijuana campaign money in the past, but Republicans are now taking the lead in accepting those donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed contributions at the request of USA TODAY. Experts say the recent shift is largely attributable to the belief by marijuana businesses that Republicans who support states' rights are their best allies today.
But in the industry's increasing clout, legalization critics see echoes of a time when Big Tobacco called the shots. Critics see worrying similarities in how the marijuana industry makes broad health claims about its products while simultaneously touting its economic impact. Cigarette manufacturers made similar claims, and the health costs of tobacco use, including lung cancer, are widely acknowledged to dwarf the industry's benefits.
"Tobacco Road also hired a lot of people and kept a lot of people employed," said Deni Carise, an addiction expert and chief scientific officer at Recovery Centers of America. "I think (marijuana legalization) is going to cost our country a lot of money.”
Adds Sabet: “It’s one thing to let someone grow a little pot at home. It’s another entirely to get Madison Avenue involved. This isn’t something that Cheech and Chong would have ever envisioned. The people in suits have taken over.”
A cloud of marijuana smoke hangs over the annual 4/20 rally April 20, 2017, in Denver. Experts say they have no clear answers on how widespread marijuana legalization will affect our society. (Photo: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY)
Legalization supporters brush off those concerns, arguing that the War on Drugs for too long has demonized a plant widely used by humans for thousands of years. They say it's about time national politicians recognize that marijuana legalization is the right thing to do. And they say if the nation's economy can benefit, all the better.
“Now, finally seeing that momentum, seeing that shift, it’s pretty amazing. And it’s happening quickly, quicker than maybe even the regulators are ready for. I don’t think anybody realized how big this industry really is," said Dennis Hunter, founder of California-based premium marijuana supplier CannaCraft. "Everybody’s aware of it right now, but it’s getting normalized, and in a couple years we’ll all just accept it.”
Blockchain has been busy lately. It’s revolutionized digital currency, real estate, smart contracts, charitable giving, and now trucking.
Yes, trucking. The supply industry. While those of us eagerly await for blockchain to become more mainstream, a company called Fr8 Network has the potential to greatly expedite its rise and proclaim to the world just how many purposes blockchain really has.
First, a History LessonTrains used to be the sole source responsible for moving goods from one place to another. They could hold a high amount of cargo and were easily trackable thanks to the fact that railroads are fixed. But that’s the thing—you can only build so many stationary railroads.
The creation of the interstate highway system changed everything. Trucks have smaller capacities, true, but you can have more of them on the roads at any given time. However, this also allows for much more disorganization. Trucks can leave and arrive at much more frequent rates than trains, but how do you oversee such a massive network? This also made room for more individual truck owners and operators. 90% of the modern United States’ carrier market now consists of companies that possess less than six trucks.
Thus was born the freight broker. They became necessary for managing the carrier system, connecting, “What is now 15-million trucks to 250,000 manufacturers and 300,000 distributors across the country,” according to Fr8’s white paper.
Freight brokerage, however, is a business with high margins and has become very centralized. Brokers are encouraged to book as many shipments as possible and have become increasingly opaque, which means that some truckers drive empty or near-empty vehicles more than 28-billion miles every year. 80% of all overland cargo is transported via trucks, but isn’t it frustrating to know that the massive trucks you see at the gas station on a road trip may be empty?
Jon Fox is among those frustrated. As someone in the food industry, his income relied on delivery efficiency. How could he sell food if the food didn’t arrive on time, or was lost? Instead of doing it himself, Jon sought to tackle the root of the inefficiency problem and make the supply industry more reliable for everyone by founding Fr8 Network.
What Does Fr8 Network Do?Think of Fr8 Network like a ride-sharing service. When you need a ride, you use an app to summon the nearest driver, and when you are at your destination, that driver can pick up a new person in the new area. Fr8’s platform allows truckers to search for driving jobs, and when they have dropped off a load, other people looking to ship products can hire them to take said products back to drivers’ original locations.
It sounds like this eliminates the need for brokers, right? Not exactly—they will still be necessary to act as representatives for carriers and shippers. But when it comes to actually scheduling shipments, they have their work cut out for them.
Fr8 Network does far more than just connect drivers to jobs. It’s a completely transparent platform because it uses blockchain technology, so every transaction and change is recorded on it. It’s designed for, “Shippers, carriers, and brokers to place and track orders, compare prices, assess performance, buy insurance, and set payment and credit. Add decentralized apps, blockchain encryption, and a new utility token, you can wipe out billions in unnecessary costs. Broker fees now at up to 30% of shipping costs fall to less than 5%.”
So it’s a platform where everyone who uses it—which will hopefully soon include everyone in the trucking industry—can see, well, everything.
The Future of TruckingCan you imagine the implications of this kind of transparency? Prices will have less opportunity for manipulation. There will be less room for fraud—“fictitious pickup” is a thing. Brokers will have less chance to be greedy. Drivers and suppliers alike will be incentivised to remain honest and reputable or face the consequences of losing business. It can also decrease negative impact on the environment, too, because trucks won’t be driving around needlessly empty.
Fr8 Network created Fr8 Token, which is used to access the Fr8 Board. The token is ERC20 compliant and generated on the Ethereum blockchain. Tokens are necessary because, for example, “The fee-to-use Fr8 Board is paid in Fr8 token. All users must also have Fr8 tokens to put up as stake against the successful completion of their contract obligations.” Not meeting obligations may result in penalties, which motivates all involved parties to follow the system’s rules and keep the trucking industry decentralized. That is, after all, one of the best things about blockchain. If it has the potential to improve real-world systems, why not let it?
Succeeding in trucking isn’t only what your credit rating is or what your company’s Dunn & Bradstreet Report looks like. It has to do with what you know, how much revenue your company produces against your costs, and what your accounts receivable look like.
Trucking is a risky business. Those who know this better than anyone are the owners of micro-trucking companies. Equipment is expensive to acquire and maintain; revenue is elusive (here one day; gone to a cheaper hauler the next); and the liability risk is astronomical, with drivers constantly one vehicle away from a lawsuit eleven hours a day. Plus, anyone with a CDL and a few thousand dollars can be hauling freight in just a few weeks regardless of their knowledge of the business of trucking. So what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls when it comes to succeeding in trucking?
Succeeding in trucking isn’t only what your credit rating is or what your company’s Dunn & Bradstreet Report looks like. It has to do with what you know, how much revenue your company produces against your costs, and what your accounts receivable look like. Also, the quality and diversity of your customers must be carefully managed in ratios of large to small size, time-critical or more flexible delivery dates, start-ups or ‘old reliables.’
Being successful is not robbing Peter to pay Paul, but having a plan when managing your assets, i.e., cash, equipment, property, those accounts receivable again, customers, employees and contractors. This plan must include being prepared for the lean times, equipment breakdowns and/or replacement, and covering the daily cost of operations while waiting for customers to pay. This strategy must not let growth out-pace capacity, and above all, there needs to be a vision of building the company’s net worth.
1. Know where your profit beginsThe worst mistake owners of many smaller trucking companies make is allowing others to determine their hauling rates. Allowing your competition or your customers to tell you what you should be charging is the first step to business failure. Have you ever been asked by anyone at a truck repair shop what you’d like to pay to have your truck fixed? Don’t do the one thing that causes more failures in trucking than any other—letting someone else set your hauling rates. And the only way to set profitable rates is by knowing your break-even points.
2. Be willing to listen.Top trucking company managers have an ear ‘to the road.’ They are always looking for new and innovative cost saving ideas. They thrive on the input of their drivers, dispatchers, safety and salespeople. If you’re wearing all of these hats, keep searching for other experts, the ‘been there, done that’ crowd, for information to help you become a leaner, tighter, more efficient hauling organization. Look for information outside the hauling side of the industry and stay on top of the trends and news from your shipper’s perspective.
3. Know your customersBesides knowing what services are needed and wanted, you need to know the risk customers represent to your revenue-producing capacity. What’s their credit rating? How’s their paying history? What are their projections for growth? What are their weaknesses? Are there problems on the horizon for this company or their industry? Any labor troubles, foreign competition, recalls, product or patent lawsuits?
In other words, look for anything that could interrupt your customer’s ability to provide you with loads. The old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” applies here. A single customer shouldn’t represent any more than 25% of your total revenue or accounts receivable. Shipping customers are the vital core of your business, so it’s prudent to be continually finding new business. Constantly develop relationships with companies, brokers and individuals who can provide you with new hauling opportunities.
4. Give credit only where credit is due Operations people tend to be quick on the issuing-credit trigger because their objective is to load the trucks and keep them rolling. Whenever you allow a shipper to pay on credit, you become a lender. If it is done with limits and controls, issuing credit can be an effective revenue enhancer. Done haphazardly, it can lead to a cash flow nightmare and you risk business failure.
People in the commercial lending industry look at what is called days sales outstanding (DSO). This is how many days from when a shipment was dispatched or delivered to when the hauling invoice is paid in full. If you receive final payment on a delivered shipment that exceeds 50 days from dispatch or 40 days from delivery, you have a problem.
The more accounts which fit this description, the bigger the crisis. You must be like a banker; if you’re going to issue credit, make sure your shippers and brokers have the ability to pay—and to pay in a timely manner.
5. Do you own a company or does the company own you?A large majority of small trucking company owners, particularly single-truck owner-operators, earn less as company owners than they would as company drivers. The average owner-operator with his own authority today will either be driving as a lease driver or be in deep financial trouble within 14 months. The reason? Lack of investment in the company.
What these owners do is unknowingly take the cash from their trucking operation for their personal uses. They’ve failed to include all their costs in determining their break-even point, and hence into developing their hauling rates—or they don’t know their break-even point and are allowing others to determine their hauling rates.
Either way, these trucking company owners are taking out of their business much more cash than their operation’s performance and conditions will allow. This is a sure route to disaster.
6. Think like a banker If you are going to establish a creditable relationship (pun intended) with a banker, you must approach your business from their point of view. Bankers don’t lend money without doing their homework. They’ll have articles from trucking industry publications and from banking resources like Journal of Commercial Lending or industry-specific studies from the Risk Management Association that will be in your file alongside your balance sheet, credit report, financial statement, profit & loss statement, and your business plan. You need to acquire the same information so you’re up to speed on what’s going on in your industry. Do your homework.
Knowing your break-even point will help determine your daily and weekly cash flow needs. Knowing your DSO and your customers’ credit worthiness will help you determine when to issue or withhold credit. Listening and researching how to improve your operation will increase efficiency, and investing in your company by leaving enough cash in the coffers will make the worst of times your best of times. Becoming bankable will help you to achieve self-capitalization—and self-capitalization is what leads to sustainable growth and success.
Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.
Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff's Office said two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen's family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.
Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.
There’s plenty of debate within trucking over the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate these days. Do the devices truly represent a cost savings due to less manual paperwork, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims ($1 billion a year in savings)? Will ELDs force drivers to push themselves when tired? And why are so many industry sectors and specific motor carriers getting exemptions to the rule?
Yet there is one issue only now slowly coming to the fore where ELDs are concerned and that is how the data they collect and maintain will be used in court cases.
Some attorneys fear ELDs could make it easier for plaintiff lawyers to win over juries and obtain large (and some would say unfair) monetary awards. But some of those plaintiff lawyers also think ELDs could, in some respects, act as “litigation stoppers” and could also reduce the need for expert witnesses as the data the devices gather “can speak for itself.”
In any event, the introduction of ELD data into the courtroom has the potential to create some long-lasting change where lawsuits involving truck drivers and motor carriers are concerned.
The Defense Attorney ViewSome attorneys who defend drivers and motor carriers fear that ELDs could make it easier for plaintiff lawyers to use what they call “powerful ‘reptile’ tactics” in order to win over juries and obtain unfairly large awards.
“’Reptile’ tactics try to instill an idea or feeling of danger in the minds of the jury. The reaction that they’re hoping for is that the jurors feel danger to their community and will, instead of giving a verdict to compensate for the actual injuries received, vote based on ‘what do we need to do to protect our community,’” explained Melody Kiella, senior associate of Drew Eckl & Farnham, a law firm based in Atlanta and Brunswick, GA. “This produces high verdicts to punish a company or person so that they don’t do this again.”
“What’s fascinating about reptile theory is that it appeals to the subconscious,” added Jennifer E. Parrott, law firm partner and colleague of Kiella. “It’s not something that the jurors recognize as being appealed to, so they think that they’re following the court’s instructions on how to reach a verdict and how to interpret the evidence. But there is scientific backup on what’s being appealed to within their brains that affect their decision-making and in particular the numbers that they put up if they have a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. Plaintiff’s lawyers will use phrases like ‘You, the jury, are the conscience of this community. You can change the future.’ It triggers your subconscious to say, ‘Hey, I need to do this to protect myself and my family from this happening to us.’”
Kiella and Parrott co-authored an article titled, “The ELD Mandate: Feeding the Reptile with Voluminous Electronic Data” in DRI, the newsletter of the Trucking Law Committee, in which they expounded how the information offered by ELDs can change litigation tactics.
“Our thinking was that they [plaintiff’s lawyers] are going to take all of this ELD information available at one location as opposed to having to go to a bunch of different third parties to request it, and they’re going to be able to use things, such as prior violations of the regulations by this driver and other drivers in the fleet,” Kiella noted. “Then they can take that information to the safety director’s deposition and ask them questions like, ‘Okay, so you received this notification of this violation by this driver on this day. What, if anything, was done to reprimand that driver for the violation or to train him regarding the violation?’”
She stressed that’s how a plaintiff’s lawyer can “trap” a safety director. “That’s how they get them to say, ‘Well, nothing was done after that.’ That can be used in front of the jury to say, ‘This motor carrier is a bad company, and this driver is a bad driver. When they violate these regulations, they don’t punish, or they don’t provide additional training.’ That’s an example of one way it could be used,” Kiella added.
Both attorneys suggest that ELD data used in court cases may hurt smaller trucking firms more than larger ones.
Parrott explained: “We’ve dealt with quite a few of what I’ll call mom-and-pop operations, and sometimes they’re not as good with compliance issues [as larger carriers]. A lot of times it’s because they’re short staffed and not because they’re incompetent. That’s where it’s a little frightening that ELDs are going to give a lot of information to plaintiff lawyers that they can aggregate and potentially find the flaws and problems with these mom-and-pops. Before they would have to scour through hundreds of pages of documents dealing with paper logs, and they weren’t always easy to find.”
But will ELDs cause attorneys to file more lawsuits against drivers and motor carriers?
“I don’t know that it will increase the number of lawsuits as much as it could increase the potential risk to trucking companies that are involved in lawsuits. If they [carriers] have problems, it’s going to be easier for attorneys to take that data and easily manipulate it,” Kiella said.
As for what steps drivers and motor carriers can take to protect themselves from being unfairly exploited by big data from ELDs, both say that records need to be kept for longer than the mandated six months.
“A lot of times [carriers] just think, ‘Well, no one’s filed anything yet; I haven’t gotten a claim. I’m going to go ahead and allow the logs to be destroyed after six months.’ Those things need to be saved, period,” Kiella contended. As for drivers, “like companies, they need to follow the rules and do what they’re supposed to do and leave it up to us on how to deal with tamping down the ways that plaintiff lawyers might try to abuse the information that comes out of the ELD.”
And while ELD data may also help exonerate innocent defendants who follow the rules and maintain and store their records, she is more concerned about its negative aspects. “Right now, we’re looking at this ELD mandate and trying to tear it apart to figure out the ways that it can bite us,” Kiella stressed.
The Plaintiff Lawyer ViewAlthough defense lawyers are concerned about how ELDs could negatively affect drivers and trucking companies, one plaintiff’s lawyer suggests the devices could halt some unwarranted lawsuits in their early stages, lessen the jury-confusing banter of expert witnesses, and ultimately protect motor carriers and drivers who are “safety conscious.”
By checking data from ELDs, plaintiffs’ attorneys may know more quickly if a lawsuit has merit, noted Joseph Fried, trial attorney at Atlanta, GA-based Fried Rogers Goldberg LLC. In most cases, a lawyer will first file for discovery from a carrier to decide if a lawsuit is worthy of additional time and effort—and ELDs could shorten that discovery time period and perhaps indicate sooner that a lawsuit is not worth pursuing.
“There have been many cases that I would have filed in order to do the discovery, but I chose not to file because I looked at the information on the front end, and it didn’t support my case,” Fried said. “I’ve done my investigation, and I can go back to the grieving family who I’ve typically promised, ‘I’m going to get to the truth, or at least I’m going to try.’ If I have that [ELD] information, I can go back to them [more quickly]. That does not mean they may not go find somebody else to file the lawsuit. “
Fried not only teaches plaintiff lawyers but also has appeared at conferences for defense attorneys, too. “I teach lawyers all over the country, specifically about trucking litigation, and I tell them that you want to be the kind of lawyer who has credibility [so you can ask for ELD data up front],” he explained. “If you’re going to live a life of credibility, that means not bringing [shoddy] lawsuits. If you approach somebody [a carrier’s lawyer] and you ask for something and they say ‘no,’ then you probably have a pretty good lawsuit. Go file it. In my experience, if they have supporting material that helps them, they’re very happy to show it to me on the front end. To that degree, I think [ELDs] can be a litigation stopper.”
Fried also believes that ELD data can put a damper on the ‘he-said, she-said’ battle of expert witnesses and hiring of special auditors because the data often can speak for itself. He notes that ELD providers want to provide the most accurate, unbiased and trustworthy data to bolster their own trustworthiness in the industry.
To accomplish that, they will not “back up the industry at any cost,” he said. “I still think you have to be able to understand the data, and you have to put it into context. And there’s going to be some plaintiff lawyers who want to take it out of context and try to make it say something that it’s not really saying, and there are going to be some defense lawyers that do the same. But I’ve got another source to go get the information from, namely the ELD provider, and they’re most interested in maintaining their reputation for voracity of their ELD product.”
Fried also noted that he no longer must hire experts to try to decipher logs and do costly audits because the ELD company can provide that information. “In the old days, if I had to do my own log audit, I had to rely on a company to provide me with all kinds of stuff—stuff that they’re supposed to be maintaining for compliance anyway,” he pointed out. “But in litigation somehow, it becomes overly burdensome to produce. Most plaintiff lawyers then have to go and hire a $300-an-hour expert to do a log audit. If you’re doing that for a period of a couple of months, that’s a costly proposition. So I do think it [ELDs] will make the data more readily available and more easily understood. I think you still need to correlate it, but less so. It’s an easier log audit, because there’s so much corroborating stuff built into it if it’s really tied into the ECM [engine control module]. There’s some gamesmanship that’s still possible with ELDs, but it’s harder.”
Fried added that ELDs can also eliminate or cut down on the need to hire accident reconstruction specialists. “Accident reconstruction becomes simpler, because I can look at data and I can see five seconds, 10 seconds, a minute and 45 seconds, depending on the carrier and the ECM, and I can see what really was going on,” he explained.
“I can see when the brakes were applied, for example, whereas before each side would hire a reconstructionist, and they would sometimes wave their hands in the air and say, ‘This is what happened.’ The role of the expert is changing. ELD changes it, because there’s less work for them to do on audits. Proving an hours-of-service case, for instance, is a very different process under ELD.”
Fried, who was a police officer in Atlanta before becoming a lawyer, noted that highway safety has “always been in his blood” and that being a lawyer is a continuance of his interest in safety.
“What I do now I kind of view as a continuation of my law enforcement career,” he said. “I just have better resources than I ever had in law enforcement. I’m spending about 40% of my professional life doing things I don’t get paid for [like speaking engagements and teaching], so I guess that’s either good or bad, depending on who you ask.”
When it comes to ELDs, the bottom line for Fried is how they can positively affect driver and carrier behavior.
“The data is there,” he stressed. “Trucking companies that are doing what they’re supposed to be doing in terms of monitoring and supervising their drivers are going to be rewarded. Companies that are not will have a new reason to change their ways—because they’re going to get bitten by this data and their lack of responsiveness to the data if they’re not.”