Embark partners with Texas police as part of autonomous truck development

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Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, June 2, 2022:

Embark partners with Texas police to aid in autonomous truck development

Autonomous truck developer Embark Trucks announced it is partnering with the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop an emergency vehicle interaction capability for Embark-powered autonomous trucks to identify, stop for and interface with law enforcement vehicles.

Embark is working closely with Texas DPS to train Embark-powered trucks to identify law enforcement vehicles in situations such as traffic stops, and to develop communication protocols and standard operating procedures between autonomous trucks and law enforcement officers. Embark plans to publicly demonstrate the emergency vehicle interaction capability later this summer.

Emergency vehicle interaction is the next capability Embark has identified in its technical capabilities roadmap, which details the 16 technology achievements required to deploy autonomous technology in the U.S. Sunbelt, the region stretching across the southeastern and southwestern U.S. Embark has already achieved 11 of these milestones, the company said, and the emergency vehicle interaction capability represents the next step toward commercial deployment of its technology.

“Our technical roadmap represents a measurable path to commercialization of autonomous trucks, and making sure law enforcement can safely and intuitively interact with autonomous trucks is a ‘must’ for deployment,” said Emily Warren, Head of Public Policy at Embark. “Our work with Texas DPS prioritizes safety as we achieve this key technical milestone and enables us to create a scalable emergency vehicle interaction model that can work across Texas and the U.S. Sunbelt.”

The emergency vehicle interaction capability is an engineering breakthrough with two key components.

First, Embark’s engineering team is building the technical functionality for the capability, training Embark-powered trucks to identify emergency vehicle lights and other cues to slow down and pull over safely onto highway shoulders in accordance with law enforcement requests.

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Second, Embark is developing an interaction procedure with input from law enforcement that can enable any law enforcement officer to safely stop, approach and receive information from an autonomous truck intuitively and without any additional equipment.

This could include outfitting Embark trucks with clear visual cues and information to signal to law enforcement personnel that an Embark-powered truck is an autonomous vehicle and has come to a safe stop with no risk of restarting unexpectedly.

Embark also plans to outfit trucks with a lockbox accessible to law enforcement containing vehicle and load information, such as registration and bills of lading, as well as contact information so that law enforcement officers can reach an Embark Guardian operator to verify documentation.

Together, these features represent a comprehensive process for Embark-powered trucks to comply with law enforcement requests and, in the unlikely event of a traffic stop, pull over onto the highway shoulder so officers can safely interact with the truck or a Guardian operator.

J.J. Keller opens nominations for Safety Professional of the Year awards

J. J. Keller & Associates is now accepting applications for the 20th Annual J. J. Keller Safety Professional of the Year (SPOTY) Awards.

The SPOTY Awards recognize workplace safety professionals who go above and beyond their daily duties to build a culture and vision for safety and achieve excellence in safety for their companies. Applications will remain open here through July 31, at 5 p.m. Central.

The winning safety professionals will be chosen by a panel from J. J. Keller’s staff of 75-plus safety consultants and experts. The winners will be announced in September.

The first-place J. J. Keller Safety Professional of the Year will receive a range of items totaling more than $20,000 in value:

  • $2,500 to be donated by J. J. Keller to the winner’s nonprofit 501(c)3 organization of choice
  • A free one-year subscription to the J. J. Keller Safety Management Suite for the winner and their staff (up to 10 users)
  • $1,200 in free online training from J. J. Keller
  • $200 toward J. J. Keller SafeGear PPE
  • A commemorative plaque

Second place will receive a $500 donation to the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization of their choice, a free one-year subscription to the J. J. Keller Safety Management Suite, $200 toward J. J. Keller SafeGear PPE and a commemorative plaque.

Third place will receive a $50 donation to the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization of their choice, a free one-year subscription to the J. J. Keller Safety Management Suite, $200 toward J. J. Keller SafeGear PPE and a commemorative plaque.

In addition, the winners and their companies will be featured in a webcast by J. J. Keller in October.

“The SPOTY Awards differ from many other awards in the industry because they focus on the personal commitment and influence of the safety professionals who are on the ground doing the hard work of keeping people safe every day,” said Rustin Keller, president and CEO of J. J. Keller. “In serving more than 90% of Fortune 1000 companies, we see and advise on safety practices that are head-and-shoulders above the others. We look forward to honoring those who have implemented forward-thinking approaches.”

USA Truck enhances owner-op program

USA Truck (CCJ Top 250, No. 68) this week announced enhancements for its owner-operators that the company says will increase their earning power and put bonus money in their hands faster, among other features.

One of the big changes USA Truck has made in the program is a fast payout in its sign-on bonus. For owner-operators who join the company now, they will receive a $10,000 sign-on bonus paid in two installments of $5,000 at first dispatch and another $5,000 at 90 days on the job.

"We also have 100% pass through on fuel surcharge on every load plus we have increased our fuel discount by 60% to meet the demand of record high fuel prices,” says Blair Ewell, USA Truck's Senior Vice President of Truckload. “Through our self-dispatch platform, our owner-operators pick where they want to run and how they want to run.”

Ewell adds that the company's program offers operators the freedom to choose between spot quoted freight and contracted loads when the market fluctuates. "These features ensure they have the independence and professional balance they're looking for," he says

In addition to the sign-on bonus payout and 100% fuel surcharge, highlights of USA Truck's owner-operator program include revenue potential of up to $225,000 or more per year with earnings of $4,500 per week or higher. The company also has increased its monthly safety performance bonus by 2% and offers a $4,000 referral bonus.

USA Truck helps those starting out with plates, permits and orientation pay covered up front and no trailer fees or hidden expenses.  

Great Dane recalling some flatbeds for missing certification plates

Great Dane Trailers is recalling approximately 72 model year 2019 Freedom flatbed trailers, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

The recall says the trailers may have been produced without a rear impact guard (RIG) certification plate. As such, the trailers don’t comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard numbers 223, "Rear Impact Guards", and 224, "Rear Impact Protection."

Dealers will provide new RIG certification plates stamped with the trailer date of manufacture, free of charge. Owners can contact Great Dane's customer service at 1-877-369-3493. NHTSA’s recall number is 22V-328.