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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Jason Lee has been a truck driver for almost 30 years. He wouldn't think of doing anything else.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tow truck drivers work around the clock, and often end up helping people on the side of a highway. Two years ago, one of them was hit and killed while helping a stranded motorist.
Wednesday night, dozens of drivers gathered at Berkley Riverfront Park to pay tribute to Blake Gresham and raise awareness.
Gresham was 18 years old. He was on the Kit Bond Bridge helping a stranded motorist when a truck fatally sideswiped him. Wednesday night, driver after driver from competing tow companies pulled into a lot in the park.
The show of unity served two purposes. They wanted to support the Gresham family, but also encourage people to move over when they see a tow truck with its lights on.
They are included in the “move over” laws, which cover emergency and highway workers.
Many of them say they’ve been clipped by mirrors or had their feet run over because drivers don’t pay attention. Just after sunset, every driver had their truck pointed at a huge American flag, underneath was the truck Gresham was driving when he was killed.
The drivers turned on their emergency lights and flashers as a sign of respect, but also to serve as a reminder to drivers: When you see flashing lights, slow down or move over.
The Gresham family settled a civil lawsuit with the driver who hit their son, but the man was never criminally charged. They’ve said many times before that they’d give back the money in a second to see justice for Blake.
Winning the Mike O'Connell Memorial Trucking's Top Rookie award is still sinking for Julie Matulle of Oshkosh, 48, who won the accolade Friday at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
This week it's back on the road for Matulle, who spoke with Oshkosh Northwestern Media about her win while her truck was being loaded in Okolona, Mississippi on Tuesday morning. Matulle drives truck for H.O. Wolding in Amherst, Wisconsin.
She said it was "absolutely amazing" to be recognized. Matulle won the award over 55 other nominees and nine other finalists.
"I am so the luckiest girl in the world," Matulle said, adding she was in complete shock upon hearing the announcement. "I had to look over at the screen to see my picture before it really sunk in."
Matulle is the first woman to win the award, which is in its fourth year. The rookie trucker took home $10,000, a custom plaque and numerous other driving-related prizes.
But the biggest prize of all, she said, was having Fox Valley Technical College Truck Driving Department Chairman Rob Behnke fly down to share the moment with her. Matulle graduated from FVTC in June 2013.
"The older you get you realize people's time is like the most important thing to give away," she said. "And he flew in for the day just for me. So it was pretty amazing; bless his heart."
Behnke, who knew ahead of time that Matulle had won, said he was at a loss for words when he learned she did.
"It was just a perfect scenario," he said. "Perfect driver, perfect company ... couldn't have been a better ending."
He said he's thankful an award like Top Rookie was created for the industry, as it gives entry-level drivers something to shoot for.
Matulle expressed her thanks to the community, H.O. Wolding and FVTC for support, adding that numerous people have shared her story with others. She also asked other drivers to give truck drivers on the road a break.
Her win was the cherry on top to four days of sightseeing at the biggest trucking show in North America, a private party put on by Randall Reilly at the House of Blues and sleeping in the same bed for four days in a row — something she said she hasn't done in more than a year.
She said she will put her prizes to use by catching up on bills and taking her mother, Joyce Buehring, to the Redwood National and State Parks in California next year — the last thing on a bucket list her father, Donald Buehring, didn't get to do before his passing nine years ago.
"We'll get a convertible and Thelma and Louise our way through the Redwoods," she said.
The state of Oklahoma will spend $100 million to improve and modernize railroad crossings, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Tuesday, Aug. 26.
Courtesy of Landline Magazine
The Federal Highway Administration has only implemented half of the congressionally mandated recommendations to improve oversight and safety mechanisms for the nation’s bridge programs, an audit by the U.S. DOT Office of Inspector General has revealed.
Courtesy of Landline Magazine
Voters in at least three Florida counties are set to cast ballots this fall on transportation issues.
Courtesy of Landline Magazine
ONTARIO, Ore. -- A truck driver was seriously injured after being stabbed along Interstate 84 outside of Ontario.
A commercial truck pulling two milk tanker trailers was traveling eastbound on Interstate 84 when, unprovoked, a Buick Lacrosse with Washington license plates began ramming the truck's diesel tanks.
Charles Vanzante of Jerome, Idaho, pulled the truck and trailers to the side of the road, about 15 miles west of Ontario. The Buick's driver stopped the car against the side of the truck, got out and entered the truck where he stabbed Vanzante multiple times.
The suspect, who has not been positively identified, fled up a hill south of the scene and then returned back to the truck where he briefly engaged in a second struggle with Vanzante.
Several citizens surrounded him outside the truck and convinced him to stay as Oregon State Police troopers arrived at the scene. They took the suspect into custody at gunpoint.
An OSP lieutenant and trooper began emergency medical care on Vanzante until relieved by medical responders. He was transported by air ambulance to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. His injuries were determined to be non-life threatening.
The suspect has been held in the Malheur County Jail for first degree attempted murder and first degree assault. Additional charges are pending. The vehicle was confirmed stolen out of Pasco, Washington.
OSP Criminal Investigations Division detectives are continuing the investigation and working to positively identify the suspect.
Lt. Gregg Hasting of OSP declined to provide other details, including a motive for the stabbing, how it happened or whether the two men knew each other.
Malheur County Sheriff's Office, Baker County Sheriff's Office, Oregon Department of Transportation, Treasure Valley paramedics and Huntington ambulance are assisting OSP and Malheur County District Attorney's Office.
An attorney for plaintiffs in the suit said, “This ruling will have seismic impact on this industry and the lives of FedEx Ground drivers in California.” (The Trucker file photo)
FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., said today that a decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed previous rulings by the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in three class-action cases involving mostly former independent contractors for FedEx Ground.
The court held that those independent contractors operating in California from 2000 to 2007 and in Oregon from 1999 to 2009 were employees according to the panel’s interpretation of state laws, MSN Money reported.
The model that the court reviewed is no longer in use. Since 2011, FedEx Ground has only contracted with incorporated businesses, which treat their drivers as their employees. FedEx Ground will seek review of these decisions, including review by the entire Ninth Circuit, the report stated.
“We fundamentally disagree with these rulings, which run counter to more than 100 state and federal findings — including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — upholding our contractual relationships with thousands of independent businesses,” said FedEx Ground Senior Vice President and General Counsel Cary Blancett. “The operating agreement on which these rulings are based has been significantly strengthened in recent years, and we look forward to continuing to work with service providers across our network to provide customers the industry’s most reliable service.”
“In light of legal and regulatory developments in several states, FedEx Ground has taken a number of steps in recent years to enhance its operating agreements with the independent businesses that contract with the company to provide transportation services. As the latest step in this ongoing effort, FedEx Ground said it will transition to new independent service provider agreements in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada,” the company said.
Currently, FedEx Ground contracts with more than 550 businesses that provide pickup and delivery service in California. Those businesses averaged nearly $500,000 in revenue last year, with nearly 50 of them topping $1 million or more in earnings. In Oregon, more than 100 independent businesses provide services for FedEx Ground.
“Small businesses are the foundation and growth engine of the U.S. economy, and we are proud of our long-standing contractual relationship with these service providers — each of which agrees to treat their personnel as employees and to comply with all applicable federal and state laws,” said FedEx Ground Vice President of Contractor Relations Sean O’Connor. “We remain committed to maintaining a business model that has been proven successful for our customers, service providers, and shareowners.”
The Leonard Carder labor law firm, which represents the plaintiffs, said a class of 2,300 individuals working for FedEx Ground was misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees and that FedEx may owe its workforce of drivers “hundreds of millions of dollars for … shifting to them the costs of such things as the FedEx branded trucks, FedEx branded uniforms, and FedEx scanners, as well as missed meal and rest period pay, overtime compensation, and penalties.”
The ruling can be found on the Leonard Carder website at leonardcarder.com.
The majority opinion stated that: “We hold that plaintiffs are employees as a matter of law under California’s right-to-control test.”
According to the law firm, the court’s finding “ … could influence the outcome in over two dozen cases nationwide in which FedEx Ground drivers are challenging the legality of their independent contractor classification. …”
“FedEx Ground built its business on the backs of individuals it labeled as independent contractors, promising them the entrepreneurial American Dream,” said Leonard Carder Attorney Beth A. Ross. “However, as Judge Trott said in his concurring opinion, not all that glitters is gold.”
“The Alexander decision calls into question FedEx’s strategy of making plaintiffs the middle men between the secondary workforce of drivers and FedEx,” Ross said.
Ross added, “This ruling will have seismic impact on this industry and the lives of FedEx Ground drivers in California.”
The semi truck rolled onto its side in the median embankment. (Photo by Dan Uhm)
SEATTLE - Five lanes of Interstate 5 were closed for much of Wednesday through South Seattle after a crash involving a rolled-over semi truck and a passenger car, officials said.
All lanes of the freeway opened just before 3 p.m.
Four people sustained minor injuries in the crash, including a 1-year-old baby.
Some professional truck drivers say the State of New York’s Workers’ Compensation Board has serious “trust issues,” after they received bills in July stating they are on the hook for thousands of dollars.
Courtesy of Landline Magazine
An effort is nearing passage at the California statehouse to thwart wayward federal surveillance programs.
Courtesy of Landline Magazine
Truck driver David Fredericksen and his co-driver, Walter Letterman, were making their weekly run from Lake Wales, Florida, to California, on Aug. 11 when a fiery accident involving an automobile and an 18-wheeler unfolded in front of them.
Fredericksen jumped out of his cab, used a fire extinguisher to calm the flames, then pulled a 1-year-old girl from the back seat of the burning car while others came to the aid of her grandmother in the front seat.
Now Fredericksen is being hailed as the “hero truck driver” who stepped up before anyone else did and may have helped save the lives of one or both of the accident victims.
“We thought the people were dead,” said Fredericksen, who stopped his truck in the middle of Interstate 10 just north of Gulfport, Mississippi, when a Lincoln Town Car spun out of control as it tried to merge onto the highway, striking the 18-wheeler and bursting into flames. “I was just praying that they were alive. I figured if they were dead, I could at least put the fire out.”
In fact, they escaped relatively unharmed, according to Gulfport police, as did the driver of the 18-wheeler. Fredericksen, 45 and a father of four, first pulled open the passenger side door of the automobile, but then spotted the child in the back seat, and tended to her first. “Her eyes were big; she was in shock,” Fredericksen said.
His efforts might have garnered little attention, were it not for the Internet.
A video of the accident, the fireball and the rescue effort has gone viral on the Web, with more than 1.3 million views on YouTube as of Aug. 21.
That video was recorded by Fredericksen’s “dash cam,” which he happened to activate that day when he took the wheel from co-driver Letterman just minutes earlier in Biloxi.
The video sat in his camera for an entire week before he mentioned it to his son Logan, 26, who uploaded it to YouTube. The video has a faulty date time stamp, making it appear as though the accident occurred in 2013.
The video became the focus of stories on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” and other news outlets. But Fredericksen deflects the “hero” accolades and says most people would have done the same thing he did – that he’s getting attention mostly because it was caught on video.
“I don’t feel like a hero; I feel like a Good Samaritan,” he said by phone Aug. 19, while he and Letterman (who was driving) were making another Florida-to-California run for Oakley Transport. They drive orange juice out to California and typically bring lemon juice back in a 48-hour, 2,700-mile journey. “I was praying that the people were all right."
He did acknowledge that it was nice to come home from that trip and have his kids call him a hero. Fredericksen lives in Palm Coast, Florida, with wife Jinny, and is the father of four boys between the ages of 6 and 26.
And Fredericksen, a truck driver for five years, is happy for any positive light the incident might shine on truck drivers.
“We’re often the first responders,” he said of their presence on the highways. “We get out of the truck with the fire extinguishers and the first-aid kits and try to help people until the police and firemen get there.”
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