Moving: The Cat’s Meow

When you help me downsize my house, a hungry kitten gets fed.

 

That’s right, I’m aligning with the BC SPCA (Vancouver) to ensure the contents of my house are sold and I can move to a smaller living space. In the process, I’m donating a portion of the sale proceeds to the SPCA.

 

There’s a showing at my house this Sunday afternoon (Dec. 9) from 2 to 5 pm.
See what’s for sale.

 

What’s in it for me? I get to share in the spirit of Christmas.

Moving: When a raven is like a writing desk

Moving house is always mad, mad, and more mad. And this move is the maddest of all. This is the big downsize move in which I turn a three-story house into a one-bedroom condo.

Downsizing

To that end, I have a vast number of things to divest myself of (ranging from appliances and antiques to curios and gardening tools). With Christmas just around the corner, I’d like to view this more as an opportunity to make some important changes in my life in a way that benefits others. So, instead of a personal liquidation sale, it’s my way to lighten my load—a bourgeois potlatch, so to speak. Some items I’m selling, some I’m asking you to donate to a local charity, and some I’m giving away.

 

 

C.G.Koens, Implementation Specialist & Editor, Weaving Influence

Ottawa-noel“You all are really going above and beyond on the blog posts! Jason, really enjoyed your post today about Ottawa and I LOVED the picture. In my experience, people are more apt to click through a link with a fun picture – so well done. Thanks for making my job easier (and more fun)!”
—C.G.Koens, Implementation Specialist & Editor, Weaving Influence

Winter Fleets—Let’s Celebrate!

This winter, thousands of locals and visitors alike will don their skates and glide effortlessly along the Rideau Canal Skateway, a highlight of winter in Ottawa and the world’s longest skating rink. At 7.8 kilometres long, the Rideau Canal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s best known as a winter wonderland as it wends its way from the steps of Canada’s majestic parliament buildings through the heart of downtown Ottawa and finally winds up at Dows Lake skating rink.

Unlike many cities, Ottawa comes to life in the winter when the frozen canal becomes the focus of winter festivities such as its Christmas Lights across Canada, featuring over 300,000 multi-coloured lights, and its popular Winterlude, held in February, make Ottawa a winter destination. For most city Public Works departments, winter is the time to prevent streets from becoming the world’s longest skating rink. But Ottawa’s got that handled too.

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the Webtech Wireless InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets, because it supports an extensive array of sensor integrations (road temperature sensors, spreader controllers, plow sensors) and boasts ten-second reporting and turn-by-turn navigation. With InterFleet, it gained visibility into how much salt its third-party contractors were using and with that came the ability to identify excess salt. Not surprisingly, by reducing excess salt usage, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

“Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

Due to its negative impact on the environment, particularly drinking water supplies, the City of Ottawa actively encourages residents and snow removal contractors to reduce the rock salt they use. Ottawa’s Public Works Department is always looking for innovative means to reduce salt usage and it found GPS technology linked to its electronic salt spreader controllers to be one of the most effective ways to track salt usage. It actively promotes the Smart About Salt Council to increase awareness about eliminating rock salt and using resources more effectively.

Ten-second real-time reporting provides supervisors with the information they need to handle winter effectively. No matter where they are—the office, home, or vehicle—supervisors can respond immediately to events as they unfold, confident that the information they are looking at in their InterFleet solution is completely accurate and up to date.

So, when the temperature drops this winter, it’s time to celebrate!

Check the skating conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Find out more great ideas about things to see and do when you visit Ottawa and Gatineau this winter at Canada’s Capital Region!

Photos courtesy of National Capital Commission

How Transportation is Recovering from Sandy

When parts of New York’s subway system sank beneath the waves, and lower Manhattan’s Wall Street district became awash, and when the most reliable solution for getting basic supplies like fuel and food to city dwellers was cargo bicycle, and when the city’s airports inundated up to the aircraft loading bridges, it became deeply apparent how important a great city is dependent on one thing for its survival—the transportation routes feeding it.

Webtech Wireless brings your trucks in from the storm

Airports

Most major airlines repositioned their planes away from the storm’s wrath well in advance and even after the storm Associated Press reported that airlines “are carrying extra fuel when they fly into the New York region in order to ensure they have enough to leave the area without filling up”. Moving all these planes was a good idea, although it meant 20,000 flights were canceled, because it saved the planes even as the airports themselves all but disappeared beneath the waves.

Highways

As Sandy bared down on the East Coast of North America, the traffic ban amplified the already crowded truck stops—particularly those from New Jersey to Massachusetts. And with Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts already considered by many truckers to be “the least friendly states to the trucking industry because they don’t provide enough truck stops and parking”, the crowding was amplified.

According to one lucky driver, on route from Florida with 23,000 pounds of refrigerated goods, who got through, “If I was here when they shut down the roads, I would have been screwed. Those winds would have knocked me all over the place.”

Hours before Hurricane Sandy arrived, many truck stops were already full and with the travel ban affecting commercial trucks, drivers started filling up parking spots normally reserved for cars and even the bays used for diesel fill ups. Storm conditions at various truck stops lit up the Twitter waves with storm-related tweets, such as Travel Center of America’s “TA Lamar, PA #068 does not have hot water due to weather issues“.

Fuel Supplies

While Sandy hasn’t affected diesel prices adversely, The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it would ensure efficient movement of fuel to the region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. According to the DOT, “The team will serve as a single point of contact for states, the trucking industry, and other agencies to assist in the removal of barriers to the quick delivery of fuel.”

DOT Waivers

The DOT has set up a hotline (800 832-5660), and is using an innovative strategy of providing waivers to a number of transportation regulations for the most impacted regions, including the following waivers:

  • Driver Hours of Service
  • IFTA Fuel Tax Waiver
  • IRP (International Registration Plan) Vehicle Registration Waiver
  • Low Sulfur Diesel Waivers
  • Oversize and Overweight
  • Toll Waivers

Ten-Top Trucking Topics of 2012

Since the release of last year’s Annual Trucking Industry Survey (in early October 2011) researched by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the average price of a gallon of diesel has climbed 33.7 cents to $4.086. Yet fuel prices rank only fifth on ATRI’s ranking and even the economy lagged behind two critical issues for 2012. The two biggest issues for this past year both revolve around regulatory compliance: CSA and HOS.

Some accounting for the ranking pre-ambled the results. For example, the high elevation of HOS was thought to result from “a final rule on federal Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations…issued at the close of 2011 and the degree to which the changes will impact the industry has yet to be fully understood.” Similarly, CSA’s rise to first place is thought to be the result of “uncertainty and dissatisfaction with the impacts of CSA” throughout the industry.

The ATRI survey is distributed to a large sample of more than 4,000 trucking industry stakeholders from both the U.S. and Canada (including motor carriers, commercial drivers and other industry stakeholders) to measure the importance of each issue. As with previous surveys, respondents are asked to rank a list of ten issues. This year, a record 943 respondents completed the survey.

2012 Results

2012-Trucking-Critical-Issues

What this means for you

As with our assessment of the 2011 ATRI survey, many of the issues most concerning to trucking fleets are in the domain of solutions Webtech Wireless provides:

#1 CSA – Two years after first debuting on the top-ten list, CSA has reached the number one position for the first time. Our customers report how their Webtech Wireless solution helps them meet CSA regulatory compliance in three key areas: unsafe driving, fatigued driving, and vehicle maintenance.

#2 HOS – Our Quadrant solution specifically targets both the US Department of Transportation and Transport Canada’s Hours of Service regulations. Quadrant’s Driver Log feature provides instant access to driver information enabling transportation companies to meet regulatory requirements, maximize driver efficiency, and eliminate manual errors.

#5 Fuel Prices – Our customers tell us how their Webtech Wireless solution significantly improved their fuel economy through reduced idling, decreased speeding, and route optimization.

#6 EOBR – By automating log books, telematics and EOBR solutions ensure drivers aren’t out of hours at the wheel. The evidence from our customers is overwhelming: their managers sleep soundly at night. With the increase in no-cell-phone laws, our customers are also happy that their EOBR solution eliminates the need for cell phones. This ensures drivers are neither fatigued nor distracted at the wheel.

#7 Driver Retention – A telematics solution levels the playing field for all drivers. Rather than bad drivers getting away with things they shouldn’t, all drivers are held equally accountable. Good drivers are more likely to stay and an in cab communications and EOBR device attracts young drivers, while reducing the number of times vehicles are stopped for inspections. That makes both drivers and management happy.

The complete results were released at the 2012 Management Conference and Exhibition of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) meeting in Las Vegas, NV, the nation’s largest gathering of motor carrier executives, which David Greer attended and shared in last week’s blog post.

“ATRI’s primary mission is to conduct transportation research with an emphasis on the trucking industry’s essential role in a safe, efficient, and viable transportation system.”
atri-online.org

Drawing Intelligence from Data

Huckabee addresses the TMW Transforum 2012

For anyone who saw the irreverent film, Freakonomics (“the hidden side of everything”), knows that we’re now collecting data on a vast scale. The stories that are emerging from all this data are remarkable. Who knew that, with this accumulation of data, we could prove Sumo wrestlers were cheating or that the reasons politicians cited for falling crime rates were wrong?

At the TMW 2012 Transforum this week in Orlando (attended by 1,700 vendors and customers), a key theme was, “how do we draw intelligence from data?” According to TMW Senior Project Manager, Michael Malecha in his session on business improvement, “We have 86% more data than even just two years ago, but how do we draw meaning from it?” He also stated that 93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data.

Since all data sets contain noise, the secret is in discerning the noise from the signal. The signal, of course, refers to meaningful trends.

His cautionary message is simple:

  • If we treat noise as a signal, we spin our wheels;
  • If we treat signal as noise, we miss opportunities.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (speaking neither as politician nor as pastor and pictured above) decried the state of personal accountability when he said, “We’ve created a monster”. Sometimes, the gathering of data can be seen as a monster—Big Brother tracking our every move. But business intelligence (knowing how to draw meaningful conclusions from information), serves the needs of small to medium companies just as it does large—if they know what to do with it.

In order to optimize fleet operations and enhance financial performance, fleet managers often turn to automation. Initially, the desire is for dot-on-a-map visibility of their vehicles. Using GPS/AVL technology, they collect location and sometimes diagnostic data in real-time. As the data accumulates, managers may want to report on it, such as exception reporting to filter out only data that doesn’t conform to expected norms. Data then starts to fulfill a more complex need: analyzing trends to facilitate better cost projections (such as optimizing fuel usage), and route planning. Finally, with data streaming in from multiple third-party sources, they can integrate information to discover complex relationships between external events and internal actions.  This is the essence of business intelligence.

TMW CEO, David Wangler, in the general session keynote speech emphasized this point when he said, “It’s no longer the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow”. In other words, becoming leaner and more efficient enables us to outmanoeuver the competition. Your GPS/AVL fleet tracking solution is sending you real-time data that not only provides you with visibility here and now, but down the road, will enable you to see trends and anticipate opportunities.

Perhaps as a fitting representation of the need to draw intelligence from data, the TMW awards gala was warmed up by Jean Francois, the Quebec-based visual artists who drew fantastical pictures for everyone while dinner was served. Accompanied by pulsing rock music, the images appeared abstract and confusing at first until he ceremoniously turned them over (new right-side up) and delighted everyone with images of the Statue of Liberty and a long-haul truck.

Jean-Francois-TMW-WEW

Death by Powerpoint – My Writing: September 18 to 24

This week, I attended the TMW Transforum to find out all I could about fleet management in North America. The scale of this event is staggering as are the numbers in trucking—2 million long haul trucks in the US. While here, I attended a talk on agile software development and found myself staring down that old barrel—death by PowerPoint.

Microsoft needs to include in its software something that prevents slides with long bulleted lists to fade from view while the presenter is speaking. It’s impossible to follow both at once. To make matters worse, the presenter had trouble pronouncing some words in the presentation leading me to suspect that the presentation wasn’t his own.

Going Down the Road with Terry Fox actually tells the back story of the Trans Canada Highway (the highway Terry Fox ran), that transportation route so vital to Canada’s economy. Incidentally, Webtech Wireless—the company that produces GPS/AVL solutions for transportation—had several runners in the 32nd annual Terry Fox Run.

Is Your Doctor Putting Your Disability Claim at Risk? asks if procrastination on the part of doctors can affect the speed and success of a disability claim. Your disability claim.

5 Autumn Driving Tips to Keep You Safe provides some tips to remind you to drive safely as fall brings a different set of driving risks. Watch for Bridges, Shadows, and Intersections, or a pile of wet leaves near a neighbourhood intersection.

 

 

Going Down the Road with Terry Fox

Webtech Wireless Remembers Terry FoxIn 1912, when Thomas Wilby set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia in his four-cylinder REO Special bound for Canada’s distant west coast, he knew his arrival in Victoria, British Columbia would mark the first time anyone successfully crossed Canada by automobile. It took two months. Last week, across Canada (and around the world), runners laced up and prepared to pay respect for another great Canadian, Terry Fox. Webtech Wireless employees also took part in the Terry Fox Run, a run that in some ways also commemorates transportation in Canada. This is the story of a Canadian hero and legend who joined a nation in his Marathon of Hope—to find a cure cancer.

Owing to its geographical size (second only to Russia), Canada has historically been challenged to provide a high level of communications to a relatively small population spread across a vast land. This is the reason highways were so important to Canada’s emergence as a leader in the post-war period.  Like the Federal-Aid Highway Act in the United States, Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway Act paved the way to build the transportation infrastructure needed to move the bounty of natural resources to waiting ports and to move people—including new immigrants—around a continent untouched by war.

But unlike the United States, Canada has always been a one-highway nation and that highway is the Trans-Canada Highway stretching 7,821 kilometres (4,859 miles) from St. John’s, Newfoundland in the east to Victoria, British Columbia in the west. It is this highway that 22-year-old Terry Fox set out to conquer and set the stage for conquering cancer too. In 1980 with little initial fanfare, he aimed west with his skip-hop-run that would later became his signature (he’d already lost his right leg to cancer) he began his long journey. Sometimes, it’s said that his journey was cut short by a return of the cancer that eventually killed him, but when he was forced to stop near Thunder Bay, Ontario, he had completed 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) of his journey. That’s almost two Tour de Frances or 1½ times across Australia.

Webtech-Wireless-Teams Terry Fox run 2012

With a total of 17 runners, the two Canadian Webtech Wireless offices (Webtrekkers) ran in Toronto’s High Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park to raise a total $5,496.62 for the Terry Fox Foundation. Congratulations to all.

When is “is” a Poor Verb Choice? (My writing: Sept 10 to 17)

Like so many ineffective charitable organizations trying to come to a mutual decision, the “to be” verb can wring its hands and drain the life out of your writing.

Consider this example:

Our goal is to pave the way for sales to create and land opportunities. We will be delivering content for the next platform.

These two sentences have been robbed of their power by an overuse of the verb “to be”. Along with its only slightly more energetic mate, “to have”, “to be” is very passive.

As in life, sometimes “being” is perfectly acceptable. Other times, action is required. Being is important and is therefore important in writing, but only where appropriate. To improve passive writing, I check the vicinity to find other more powerful verbs stymied by the “to be” verb. In the example above, I found “pave”, “create”, “land”, and “deliver”—all excellent verbs that when set free, will transform your writing.

Here’s my revision:

Our goal paves the way for sales to create and land opportunities. We will deliver content for the next platform.

Read my latest posts:

Webtech-Wireless-Temperature-MonitoringCargo Temperature Monitoring Helps Reduce Hunger draws an interesting line between food security, food wastage, and the trailer temperature monitoring solutions Webtech Wireless provides in the transport of food.

 

http://www.disabilityclaimdenied.caAging and Accessibility Go Hand-In-Hand describes baby boomers create demand for universal design. September 23 to 29 is Active Aging Week, and Canada’s aging boomers are smoothing the path for people living with disabilities.

 

 

http://www.disabilityclaimdenied.ca4 Healthy Ways to Reduce Engine Idle showcase idling and its affects on health. As parents idle in front of the school, important lessons are being learned—and lost. Why not introduce your family to a few new habits and skills?