My Writing: Aging Infrastructure and dangerous motorcycling (August 7 to 13)

Town of HempsteadFresh Life for Long Island’s Aging Infrastructure describes how communities, such as New York State’s town of Hempstead, which boomed over 50 years ago and now suffer from aging infrastructure problems, are using GPS technology to do more with less.

 

ICBCAutoInsuranceClaimsLawyermotorcycleBC’s Most Beautiful and Dangerous Motorcycle Roads is a quick survey of the most frequently mapped BC roads are in the province’s interior and north regions, describing where in the province most motorcycle accidents occur.

 

Fresh Life for Long Island’s Aging Infrastructure

InterFleet Hempstead, New YorkWith a population over 750,000, Long Island’s town of Hempstead prides itself as ‘the largest township in America’. Due to its proximity to New York City’s Borough of Queens, Hempstead was one of the first post-war communities to be suburbanized and now, with aging infrastructure, Hempstead must balance its many assets with diverse new 21st Century challenges.

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “In a country as vast as the U.S., with such great geographical, historical and political diversity, one challenge seems sadly universal: the infrastructure we rely on to live and thrive is rapidly coming unraveled. Roads, bridges, public transit, airports, water and sewage systems—most are failing to keep pace with the expanding needs of a burgeoning population, and some are virtually on the brink of collapse.” The ASCE, which also annually releases a state-by-state infrastructure report card, New York’s current top-three infrastructure concerns are roads, bridges, and mass transit.

While Hempstead is no exception, the Town has been able to breathe fresh life into its road maintenance fleet using an InterFleet GPS/AVL solution from Webtech Wireless. Describing that solution, Deputy Commissioner of Highways, Craig Mollo says, “It’s fantastic. We love it! We had 35 units installed into sweepers and 30 installed in snowplows (about one third of our fleet), and within a year, we were able to re-organize our entire mapping system. As a result, we found that we could reduce our equipment and drivers by five, redeploying them where they could be used most effectively.”

For communities, such as Hempstead, that boomed over 50 years ago and now suffer from aging infrastructure problems, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of federal funding. Last week, Washington’s Transportation Secretary, LaHood, announced $787 million to “repair and modernize the nation’s aging transit infrastructure”. With improvements coming to mass transit, road maintenance cannot be far behind.

Even so, Hemptead has found that, with the success of a GPS/AVL for its sweepers and snowplows, the Town plans further InterFleet deployments for its payloaders, pickup trucks, and other vehicles used for highway maintenance, sanitation, and traffic control—eventually 400 pieces of equipment. “With public safety and wellbeing of residents a priority for us, we also plan to install safety buttons to send emergency alerts,” says Mollo.

My Writing: Habits, Racing, and Oil (July 30 to August 6)

I’m constantly confounded by the extent to which subject/verb and noun/pronoun errors cause mayhem to the English language. Consider the following:

Ottawa’s attempts to fast track Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline are just one example.

I am in agreement with the choice of “are” over “is”, because the subject of the sentence “attempts” is clearly plural. Where it gets crazy is in the choice to end the sentence, “just one example”. What could be more singular than that? For what it’s worth, here are my solutions:

Ottawa’s attempts to fast track Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline are just examples of…(content needed from writer)

Ottawa’s attempt to fast track Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline is just one example.

As for this week’s writings, here are just one example…

5 Dangerous Driving Habits to Avoid this Long Weekend points the blame at mom and dad (and other middle aged drivers) to smarten up. If the ICBC statisticians are to be believed, the dangerous drivers are the older ones.

 

Pedal to the Metal describes the strange case of the overturned ICBC claim against a fellow racing (and smashing) his corvette in a speedway. In the eyes of the judge, the difference between a motor “racing” event and “training” event is all in the timing.

 

How to Reduce Dependence on Offshore Oil describes our efforts to lessen ourselves of offshore oil dependence. One way is to rejig our entire fleet of vehicle to use natural gas; another, is to lessen our consumption through GPS/AVL technology. This time, what costs less is also easy on the environment.

How to Reduce Dependence on Offshore Oil

How to Reduce Dependence on Offshore OilThere is much controversy about the remaining oil available to run our fleets of cars, trucks, trains, planes, and all else, but what’s certain is natural gas is plentiful, cheaper, and easier on our environment. Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting of methane and other hydrocarbons, which provides heating and electricity to buildings, but is increasingly being considered as a fuel for vehicles.

The American business magnate and financier, T. Boone Pickens, is advocating that Americans work closely with Canada and Mexico to create North American energy alliance to reduce dependence on OPEC oil. Pickens asserts that the United States alone has three times more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil.

“These countries [Canada and Mexico] are extremely important to us [United States] and we’re extremely important to them. Tie up with them, have a NA energy alliance and it would make our country much, much more secure.” — T. Boone Pickens

Recently Pickens spoke out in the USA Today against an editorial that advocated for exporting American natural gas, as he sees natural gas as the ticket to energy independence. His Pickens Plan advocates using America’s abundant natural gas reserves to break the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

The investment magazine, Street Authority, gives a clear picture of Pickens’ vision: “Clean Energy Fuels, which is backed by T. Boone Pickens, has taken a different approach. The company has built a network of natural gas re-fueling stations that could see rising traffic as more natural gas-powered vehicles are on the road. Yet, the real focus for the company has thus far been on corporate and government fleets, many of which have already made the move to natural gas. An expanding network of stations is expected to boost sales roughly 50% in 2011 to around $300 million, finally enabling the company to break even. Congressional legislation would help to ignite this business model, and expansion plans could take sales to $500 million within a few years.”

Beyond the type of fuel a fleet uses, study after study has shown that improved driver behavior, (such as reduced idling and decreased speeding), also produces significant fuel savings. In addition, improved route optimization through automated vehicle location technology (seeing your vehicles on a map so you can deploy them most effectively), is at the core of why our solutions produce a quick return on investment. A GPS/AVL fleet management solution allows you to see where your vehicles are in real time, and this real-time knowledge enables you to allocate resources where they’re most needed.

You may be caught in the cross hairs of greening your fleet AND lowering costs. The good news for you is this: a leaner fleet is also a greener fleet. By making your fleet more cost effective you also make it more environmentally friendly too.

My Writing: Being Highly Effective (July 23 – 30)

Webtech WirelessThis week’s writing includes my first contribution to Webtech Wireless’ weekly email campaign. Previous to this, I would copy edit but this time I own it. It goes out to about 16,000 recipients. Every week, we gain a few and lose a few.

 

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Fleets to honour the passing of Stephen Covey and be true to the intent of the Webtech Wireless blog, I revised his The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People through the eyes of the fleet management solutions Webtech Wireless offers.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Fleets

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Fleets

Sad news last week with the passing of author Stephen Covey. Around the world, people in decision-making positions have taken cues from his writings and seminars to increase their productivity, happiness, and of course, success of their companies. To honor Mr. Covey, and be true to the intent of this blog (keep our finger on the pulse of AVL/GPS technologies for fleet management), we’d like to revisit his The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People through the eyes of well-deployed fleet management solutions.

1. Be Proactive—Take risks and accept new challenges to achieve goals.

Steve Troyer of Troyer Ventures, an oil and gas service provider, recognized early on the need for a comprehensive solution to solve the paper jam—from dispatch to journey management. Even while many companies remained reluctant to adapt and change, Steve had a vision to lead in technology integration and set a standard for the industry.

“Our ability to provide efficient services allows us to continue to grow the industry in our community, and that means more jobs. When the company is strong we can grow. That just makes sense” —Steve Troyer, Owner, Troyer Ventures

2. Begin with the End in Mind—Bring projects to completion and unite teams and organizations under a shared vision, mission, and purpose.

Thousands of customers benefit from our solutions. In each case, a customer starts with a specific goal in mind—reducing fuel economy, improving vehicles and driver performance, or mitigating risks—each implementation has specific organizational or business goals that our customers want to achieve.

“By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”
—Mayor Larry O’Brien, City of Ottawa

3. Put First Things First—Getting the most important things done first encourages direct effectiveness

Each telematics deployment comes with unique challenges. Our proven pilot process has demonstrated time and again that getting all the pieces of the puzzle in place before a major roll out is the first step in getting to the end goal of solving your challenges with an automated GPS/AVL solution.

“The training was very comprehensive and the Webtech team has really put together a program for all levels of a corporate structure. I definitely would recommend the Webtech training program.”
—Tim Margetts (M. Ed), Director of Safety Canadian Freightways

4. Think Win/Win—Seeking mutual benefit increases group momentum

Reducing salt usage is good for the environment and fits well with municipal, provincial, and state cost saving efforts. The City of Ottawa implemented the Webtech Wireless winter operations solution for government fleets. By gaining the ability to identify excess salt usage by its contractors, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

“We cannot keep trading short-term cost for long-term cost.”
—City of Ottawa

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood—Listening first helps you understand problems, resulting in targeted solutions.

In order to be fair to all drivers, management at Tennessee-based Dement Construction mounted a large TV screen in the office. Running our Quadrant Manager and refreshed once a minute, vehicles show up in real-time on the monitor in a highly public space.

“Trucks get there and back a lot faster. Everyone knows that they are visible on the map and every person is equally accountable for where they are.”
—Drew Newmon, Office Manager, Dement Construction

6. Synergize—Leverage the diversity of individuals to increase levels of success.

Webtech Wireless has the most experienced people in the telematics business. We started in 1999 and are pioneers in developing, deploying, and supporting telematics technology. Every time we work with an existing or new customer, we seek ways to collaborate with your teams to create a solution that will work for you in your environment with your vehicles and drivers.

“Webtech Wireless brings a sense of partnership and flexibility to handling multiple challenges.”
—Steve Gaston, Information Services Manager, Sierra Pacific Industries

7. Sharpen the Saw—Implement continuous improvements and safeguards against “burnout” and subsequent non-productivity.

For Sierra Pacific Industries, information services manager, Steve Gaston estimates that their drivers were wasting twenty minutes of overtime a day filling out paperwork. With a Webtech Wireless solution, they saved $300,000 per year (based on 225 drivers working 200 days per year) in overtime. Individually for the drivers, there was an unseen benefit to the changes too:

“Our drivers get to go home [earlier] and see their spouses and kids.” –Steve Gaston

Mr. Covey was injured in a bicycle accident in April of this year, and last week succumbed to his injuries. He will be missed, yet his legacy lives on.

In memoriam, Stephen Covey, 1932 – 2012

My Writing: What’s the most common grammar error? – (July 9 – 23)

It’s been a couple of weeks without an update, but the writing goes on (along with lots of copy editing of others’ works not mentioned here). This gives me an excuse to use a unit of measure almost unknown in North American English: the fortnight, British English for two weeks (fourteen days).

I recently heard that English doesn’t suffer from a lack of a clear second person plural, but in fact from a lack of second person singular. The classic greasy-diner waitress who asks, “Okay, what do yous guys want?” is not inventing a second person plural to distinguish from its identical singular form, but is in fact doubling an already second person plural form. “You” is plural; the singular form is “thou”. So, next time you’re dining alone, an informed waitress could ask you, “What dost thou want?” Or, maybe not.

Below are my corporate blog post for the last two weeks:

What Do Lawyers Cost? is overview of what you need to know before you decide to hire a lawyer to represent your claim. You want one who acts solely in your best interests, advises you to protect your rights, positions your claim to obtain a fair settlement from your perspective, and decides what compensation you deserve for your case.

 

Disabled, “Yes”; Unemployable, “No” describes the Government of Canada’s 2012 Economic Action Plan. By investing an additional $30 million over three years into the Opportunities Fund,  more Canadians with disabilities have the opportunity to become gainfully employed.

 

ICBC and Drunk Drivingdescribes ICBC’s aims in preventing drunk driving, which includes convincing drivers (demographically young men) that making excuses and rationales for why it’s “okay” to have a few before getting behind the wheel is part of the problem of drunk driving itself.

My Writing: Getting published and corporate blogging (July 1 to 8)

There must be some form of critical mass that, when reached in corporate writing at any rate, causes others to start publishing your work even without you knowing it (not that I mind). On opening the June issue of BC Tech Magazine (page 60), what confronted me was, well, myself. I could also see that a new and unseen hand had left his or her mark on my work, particularly around stylistic sensibilities such as changing our corporate branding (I would never do that). On the use of verbs, though, it still carries my thumb print. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to using verbs for maximum punch, and to that end have classed some as ‘weak’ or ‘vague’ while others as ‘strong’ or ‘descriptive’. I was pleased to see them unmolested by the phantom new editor.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. That was the case for me this week as I discovered my article based on an interview with Troyer Ventures for a Webtech Wireless award application has appeared (in print) in the BC Tech magazine. How did I not know that?

 

Distracted Driving: Legislate or Implement? reveals the connection between the recent settlement by Coca-Cola to a Texas woman injured when struck by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was on the phone while driving. I created a new image for this because we agreed that, on a scale of one to ten for suitability, my “Telematics: It’s the Real-Time Thing” probably rated a nine.

 

Is Your Favourite Summer Sport Covered? advises you to, before undertaking a dangerous summer sport, consider whether or not your extended coverage includes extreme sports.

 

Summer Driving Tips describes some tips provided by ICBC to help keep the roads safer this summer for both drivers and cyclists. It’s a good news story.

 

Distracted Driving: Legislate or Implement?

Distracted drivers cost Coca-cola dearly

Faulted for its inadequate cell phone driving policy, Coca-Cola has been held responsible to the tune of $21 million by a Texas jury. Coca-Cola’s driving troubles began in 2010 when a 37-year-old woman was badly injured in Corpis Christi by a Coca-Cola driver who was using a cell phone at the time of the accident. Injury attorney, Thomas J. Henry, commented, “From the time I took the Coca-Cola driver’s testimony and obtained the company’s inadequate cell phone driving policy, I knew we had a corporate giant with a huge safety problem on [its] hands”. The news doesn’t say whether the call was personal or work related, and presumably from the standpoint of litigation, that’s irrelevant.

“We have accepted responsibility for the accident. We understand that this verdict is a response to a plea from plaintiff’s counsel to the jury to ban all cell phone use while driving.”
—Statement released by Coca-Cola after the verdict

Coca-Cola has two big problems: lost revenue and a damaged public reputation—its bright red trucks are as ubiquitous on the streets as the famous beverage is at meals. The broader implications mean that corporations will be racing to shore up liability risks by drafting tougher policies on company cell phone use. As it is, governments too are under pressure to legislate against driver cell phone and texting.

But where does this leave fleet managers who need real-time communication with their drivers during the working day? There are an estimated 1.2 million trucking companies in the U.S.—the majority of companies with 20 or fewer trucks. In Canada, over 227,000 Canadian truck drivers make trucking one of the top occupations in that country. With so many trucking companies and drivers, how can any kind of safety policy really be effective? A substantive shift is needed in which cell phones no longer play any part in fleet communications.

To enhance corporate no-cell-phone policies and government regulations, a fleet manager stands the best chance of maintaining a good safety record—and staying out of court—with an in-cab solution such as our Quadrant mobile data terminal (MDT).   The MDT includes a touch screen display with a smart on-screen keypad for easy navigation, and the added benefit of restricting usage while the vehicle is in motion.

While preventing distracted driving is more important to service fleets, this solution—also known as EOBR (electronic onboard recorder)—is perfect for long-haul operators as it supports regulatory compliance requirements such as HOS (Hours of Serve). With a Quadrant EOBR solution, you get a handle on fatigued driving as well as distracted driving.

Such dedicated solutions also transmit a wealth of data—from driving behavior to CO2 emissions and to job completion. These data can be used strategically by company decision makers to improve company-wide operations. While vehicle data gathered electronically has been admitted in court to dispute false liability claims after the fact, the most important reason to considering a telematics solution is to ensure driver and public safety by preventing unnecessary and costly accidents in the first place.

A Week of Writing, June 24 to 30

There have been some interestingly overlapping stories this week, which made me wonder which client I’m writing for. Take for example, the news of disability claims denied causing a near 30% increase in complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office. Along with that, the story mentioned a man suing the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for contamination to his water supply due to excess road salt usage. Wait a second. That’s a good story for my Webtech Wireless/InterFleet client. This must be what multi-tasking looks like.

Below are my blog posts for this week:

Ontario Ombudsman Sees 30% Increase In Complaints describes the increase of complaints including denied disability claims. With Ombudsman, André Marin and his staff beseiged, getting resolution may prove more difficult than usual.

 

Know Your Insurance Policy describes an interview with Adam Etchart, insurance policy agent at Talbot Insurance Services on the Sunshine Coast. He described the various horrific and unnecessary scenarios people can create for themselves by not understanding what auto insurance they’re buying, or worse, misrepresenting their needs when buying it.

 

Leaner, Greener Operations Saves Costs for Fleets is a collection of snapshots of how different companies are saving both the environment around them and fuel wastage using AVL and telematics solutions for their trucking fleets. It doesn’t green wash trucking; it just states some greener practices that are emerging.