Driver flees deadly crash involving Uber driver in West Town

The Uber driver and a passenger were treated on scene for minor injuries. The 42-year-old driver told police he had the green light. A traffic camera on …
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CHICAGO —Police are investigating a deadly hit-and-run crash in West Town.

Around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, a woman was driving a Pontiac minivan southbound on Halsted when she ran a red light at Madison Street, and was hit by an Uber driver in a Toyota Camry.

The woman who caused the crash jumped out of he minivan and fled the scene.

A 28-year-old man, who was a passenger in the minivan, was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Three women who were also in the minivan were injured, and transported to the hospital in stable condition.

The Uber driver and a passenger were treated on scene for minor injuries. The 42-year-old driver told police he had the green light.

A traffic camera on the intersection should have footage of exactly what happened.

Detectives appeared to be processing evidence from inside the van.

Police have not released a description of woman who fled the scene.

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Colorado truck driver shortage a challenge for the industry, but an opportunity for immigrants

Also looming over the industry is the coming of advanced technology like artificial intelligence. While there is concern that one day driverless trucks …

The U.S. and Colorado are facing a truck driver shortage, a daunting economic prospect as the vast majority of goods in the country are transported over the road.

The number of drivers has steadily declined across the state, especially in the long haul sector, according to data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

But even as the pool for licensed commercial drivers is drying up, wages have steadily increased. Companies have upped both pay and benefits as a way to entice workers into the industry with varying degrees of success. The income increase has helped drivers but could lead to price bumps for many everyday consumer goods.

“Businesses really have to be creative to entice people who really haven’t been in trucking before,” Ryan Gedney, senior economist at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said.

Mike Euglow, the CEO and owner of Commercial Vehicle Training Center in Watkins, said there are rewards for those willing to put in the hours and the work. But that’s not always an attractive sale for the average Joe.

RELATED:Bustang popularity continues to climb in Colorado as driver shortage intensifies

“It is a hard life,” Euglow said. “You really can’t get a lot of Americans to drive long haul anymore.”

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Michael Euglow, owner of Commercial Vehicle Training Center, teaches new drivers the skills to get their CDL license on March 7, 2019, in Watkins. Immigrants, refugees and other people who are outside the old truck driver stereotypes are finding good work as the industry goes through a period of intense change.

Stepping into that void now are more immigrants and refugees. Many of the students at Euglow’s training center, which is east of Denver on Interstate 70, are East African and Afghan.

Take Mohamud Ahmed, for example.

When he first arrived in the U.S. in 1996, he was just happy to be alive. Ahmed came to the U.S. as a refugee fleeing a bloody conflict and civil unrest in Somalia. As that country crumbled under the weight of unrest, the U.S. offered a safe haven and truck driving offered a successful career path.

He bounced across the country, living in nine different states before settling in Colorado. He loved the ocean in Southern California, the beauty of the Southwest and the flat expanse of Kansas, but the mountain landscape has been home for the past two decades.

“You don’t have an ocean, but you can’t have everything,” Ahmed said about Colorado.

He encourages fellow members of the refugee community to give trucking a try. For him, it has allowed him to get paid to travel and feel a strong sense of purpose. When driving a route to a grocery store, he thinks about the communities he is servicing.

“If you know what you are doing, it is a lot of fun,” he said.

He now works four days a week as an instructor at the Commercial Vehicle Training Center with Euglow, but has dreams of possibly having his own school one day. He offers experience as both a driver and fluency in English and Somali, important skills in the changing industry.

“It helps a lot to have people who speak the same language,” he said.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Instructor Alma Luna sits in the cab as she teaches a group comprised of mostly recent immigrants at Commercial Vehicle Training Center on March 7, 2019 in Watkins.

The way Euglow and Ahmed have attracted students is by being inclusive.

“We accept everyone, we don’t discriminate,” Euglow said. With new drivers coming from many different places, Euglow has made an effort to have training schedules be flexible for students’ needs and to have instructors like Ahmed who can offer a cultural bridge.

The result has been weeks-long waiting lists for enrollment and driving tests. Euglow’s long lines for training is unique in some ways, but for other states with different commercial-driving regulations, long wait times is part of the problem trying to attract new drivers.

In Colorado, new drivers can take their driving test through a third-party tester. But not all states have such “sensible” laws, said Don Lefeve, president and CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association. In states that require tests be administered through a state agency, the wait times can be a big hurdle to filling empty driver seats.

Another problem is inconsistent regulations across states. To carry goods that are going to travel across state lines, a driver needs to be 21, according to federal regulation. In states that allow commercial driving at 18, like Colorado, they are limited only to goods made in the state and that will stay in the state, a sliver of the total amount of goods that the U.S. economy moves each year.

The shortage has hit consumers in the pocket.

Procter & Gamble, maker of common consumer products like Tide detergent and Pampers diapers, is having to raise prices on some products due to increased transportation costs, according to Bloomberg. The company recently saw a 25 percent jump in trucking costs.

Also looming over the industry is the coming of advanced technology like artificial intelligence. While there is concern that one day driverless trucks will take over highways from human drivers, those in the industry are pragmatic about their prospects.

“Given all the complexity, you really are going to need humans through 2040-50,” said Lefeve.

Artificial intelligence has several hurdles from technological development, government regulation and security from hackers before wide-spread implementation could become a reality. While companies and the government work to develop artificial intelligence, human drivers will remain an integral part of the trucking industry, Lefeve said.

Eyob Sekuar, a recent immigrant from ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Eyob Sekuar, a recent immigrant from Eritrea, Africa, learns how to drive an 18-wheeler at Commercial Vehicle Training Center on March 7, 2019, in Watkins.

At the driving school in Watkins, instructors are already looking to the future and starting to research how to train drivers to be test pilots.

The length of time needed to develop AI it will give the industry time to adjust. But, even in best-case-scenario projections, some drivers will be pushed out by ones and zeros, Gedney said.

In Colorado, about 53 percent of drivers are 45 or older — in all other industries that age group represents 42 percent of the workforce. About 66 percent of truck drivers have a high school degree or less, according to data from Gedney. The combination of an older workforce with less education will make the challenge of retraining even more daunting.

“There is a real concern about how do you retrain these individuals,” Gedney said.

Several studies have shown little impact of job retraining programs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the industry is facing challenges in the present and future, many of those have carved a path for new drivers to make a stake for themselves, Euglow said.

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AI: Your fleet’s next ‘smart assistant’

And that’s a major focus of companies that use artificial intelligence, or AI, with fleet and asset tracking and management systems. “How can we …

The bigger they are, the harder fleets are to manage. That’s only logical as more trucks mean more routes, drivers, loads, transactions, problems, documents, and work. At some point, new ways to slice the data and optimize fleet operations will be useful only if you can take some action and get positive results without the business itself having to put in additional labor to make that happen.

And that’s a major focus of companies that use artificial intelligence, or AI, with fleet and asset tracking and management systems. “How can we remove manual steps from the process? How can we reduce that manual workload for fleets and automate things as much as possible?” noted Rushil Goel, vice president of product at Samsara, one such company.

Related:How AI tech is protecting fleet equipment

Samsara has been investing heavily in AI as part of its connected fleet/business operations platform. “AI is a big part of our strategy around how we can help the information be really actionable and customers be proactive with the data they’re getting from their fleet,” Goel told Fleet Owner, “whether it’s through cameras, vehicle gateways, or fleet or asset tracking.”

Some sort of advanced processing such as AI can enable becomes more and more necessary as you add more trucks to a fleet, he contended. As a baseline, Samsara has found that each of a fleet’s trucks typically will see around one harsh driving event or “event of interest” per day.

Related:AI and vehicle health: Less downtime, maintenance

Photo: Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner

AI can help free up fleet managers from getting bogged down trying to manage and take action on truck data.

“Then if you’ve got tens of thousands of vehicles, that’s just hours upon hours of footage you’ve have to review if you were doing things manually,” Goel pointed out. “We’ve seen customers getting so overwhelmed with the data they’re presented with, especially at large organizations, and this is where a lot of the new advances we’re seeing in AI allow us to streamline and simplify things.”

If the question is how to make fleet customers’ data actionable, ironically, a good answer is to remove or reduce the fleet’s need to take any manual action on it. “AI can be that ‘smart assistant’ that’s helping you along the way,” Goel noted. “It’s helping you understand which of your drivers need attention most, which incidents need attention most, which vehicles are most likely to have breakdowns and issues.”

“AI also becomes the tool that assists to make the jobs of those in the field easier,” he said. “It can make sure they’re prioritizing their time with the right things while making sure the fleet is operating at high levels of efficiency.”

Samsara had been in the IoT (Internet of Things) sensor business before it got focused on how to use those sensors in the company’s larger platform for fleet operations. Among its recent products, Samsara’s AG24/AG45 asset-monitoring gateways are installed on powered and unpowered assets and can work with various wireless sensors — temperature, door securement, and cargo sensors being several examples — to gather millions of data points.

AI comes into play with those products for the moment in the form of reporting and alerts that can help manage the data, but the company sees “huge” potential to apply it in more ways going forward. Even now, fleet customers can get alerts for things like equipment being in a wrong location and possibly stolen or a trailer door open while in some location it shouldn’t be.

“We believe that artificial intelligence, when used alongside our suite of connected sensors, is critical to helping fleet managers make sense or the huge volume of information they’re collecting,” a Samsara spokesperson said. The company has focused advanced AI efforts on its camera products.

Samsara’s video system looks for signs of driver fatigue and distraction using a cab-facing camera and can watch for vehicles and traffic signs/signals with another facing forward. “We can automatically detect when drivers are following too closely such as tailgating another vehicle, when they may be drifting, when they may be getting distracted, etc.,” Goel noted.

Such events can be tagged and filtered automatically as they’re prioritized for the fleet, he explained, and “it helps us focus the conversation and provide more actionable steps.”

It’s also why Samsara sees AI as a major part of its products’ business proposition, now and expanding in the future.

“We’ve seen this [AI] have a material impact on driver safety, reducing accidents on the road, reducing claim rates—those are dollars saved in fleets’ pockets,” Goel said. “AI really augments the direct business impact our customers see by making [information] more actionable, more focused so that fleets can spend their time on what’s most important.”

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Trucking goes high-tech

Not a new technology, pre-crash systems with autonomous braking are, however gaining popularity in the trucking industry and other new technology …

A semi-truck is bearing down on your lane and you get that eerie feeling as you wonder if they can see you. Imagine that truck braking to avoid a collision regardless of what the driver is aware of.

Halvor Lines in Superior is currently testing the functionality of collision mitigation braking systems on some of their trucks. Not a new technology, pre-crash systems with autonomous braking are, however gaining popularity in the trucking industry and other new technology is already being implemented as well.

A transport services company with more than 400 tractors, Halvor has recently outfitted its fleet with Driveria vision-based driver recognition safety program by Netradyne. “Driver eye” technology records high-definition video from forward and side-facing cameras.

Halvor ran a pilot program using two camera systems last spring with Netradyne’s system coming out on top.

“We noticed Netradyne’s clarity of picture and the fact that it’s a smart camera with artificial intelligence that identifies speed limit signs, stop signs, and stop lamps with amazing accuracy,” said Adam Lang, Halvor’s chief risk officer.

Recent experience spurred Halvor to take action with the pilot following an incident early in 2018 where one of its trucks had a collision with another vehicle. Had that truck not had a driver-owned dash cam on board the results would have been very different.

“Multiple people got hurt and there was a lot of property damage with the other driver uninsured, but the camera showed the liability was clearly on the other driver,” Lang said.

That incident, he noted, is similar to many in the industry that end up being a major problem when blame is incorrectly placed on the commercial operator.

“That kind of large claim can have an impact on the life of a driver that could end his career, so these cameras help protect drivers and the company,” Lang stated.

Lang said since Netradyne cameras have been installed in the company’s rigs drivers have been exonerated from any fault in six accidents with no liability. In addition to liability protection, he said it also had an impact on vehicle insurance premiums.

Previously using inertia-based event recorders, sensors picked up hard braking and rapid acceleration. Halvor’s office would receive an email of such an event and they would contact the driver who would explain the situation.

“This is so much better, (because) we can see the event and talk about what really happened to improve safety and performance,” Lang said.

Choosing not to use audio recordings for the Netradyne system, Halvor has also capped a fourth rear-facing camera for driver privacy.

Training is an area the trucking industry grapples with to keep drivers safe, equipment intact and insurance rates down. With a traveling workforce training is often notoriously difficult. That’s why Lang is enthusiastic about CarriersEdge, software implemented two years ago at Halvor allowing efficient training while on the move.

“CarriersEdge has completely changed the way we look at training our mobile workforce, it’s productive and impactful,” he said.

Drivers access CarriersEdge through any electronic device via a mobile app for training modules aimed at a spectrum of proficiencies in the trucking industry. Not just a click-through, CarriersEdge requires interaction ensuring quality training on new equipment, safety training and state requirements.

With legislation now requiring electronic logging to monitor drive/rest time for drivers, Kivi Brothers Trucking, headquartered in Duluth, just added e-logs in the last year with the addition of PeopleNet fleet management software and computer screens in each of its 400 cabs.

“Some drivers don’t like the switch from paper log books to e-logs, with the biggest complaint being when the allowed 14 hours of service hits you have to shut down for 11 hours, even if you are almost at your destination,” said John Russell, Kivi’s recruiting manager.

While overall safety and avoidance of fatigued driving is the goal, Russell says the new system pressures some drivers to push too hard to beat the clock running out.

His opinion about the future of self-driving tractor-trailers? Not in his lifetime.

“I don’t think self-driving is going to happen with trucks, computers can malfunction and you have got to have a human being behind the wheel to make sure accidents don’t happen,” he said.

According to Russell, any hesitancy by Kivi drivers to adopt the technology of e-logs has little to do with age or low-tech flip-phone lovers, and more to do with a system that doesn’t mesh with driver expectations.

“The e-log is pretty easy to navigate, it’s mostly the change and the hours of service when you hit that 14 hours, legally you have to shut down,” Russell stated

With most of their drivers already opting to install personal dash cams on their trucks, Kivi has no plans to add more cameras to the fleet. However, Russell admits the prevalence of dash cams is helpful to the company.

“I hired a guy recently with an accident on his license because he was able to show me a dash cam video of the accident where it was clear the other driver had cut in front of him too suddenly,” Russell said.

Bonnie Ramsay, Halvor’s chief information officer, has been immersed in the tech side of trucking for the last 24 years and has seen a lot of change in that time, with sensors now on virtually every trucks and trailer.

While some emerging technologies fall under what Ramsay calls the “gadgety” category, she noted the industry is constantly assessing the economic benefits of new tech.

“Some new things come into the industry for six months and go away, but we are always trying to find those things bubbling to the surface that will move information electronically,” she said.

That also translates into hanging on to technology that works, such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), a system that has been around since the 1960s.

“Some people turn their noses up at EDI, but it is tried and true with most customers not willing to be a trading partner unless you use EDI and for now hasn’t been replaced with anything better,” Ramsay said.

EDI accounts for about 65 percent of Halvor’s business, allowing computer-to-computer communication of load information between offices and in-cab that would otherwise be conducted via telephone.

However, that hasn’t stopped Halvor from upgrading to state-of-the-art technology like the Transflo app in 2017. Now transitioned into half of its fleet, Transflo is an answer to the DOT requirement for an in-cab electronic logging device (ELD).

An electronic logging device reads what the truck is doing, whether the driver is wearing their seatbelt and a plethora of other operating information, including drive/stop time and much more.

Using an electronic tablet in-cab, or their own personal devices, Halvor drivers can now receive their load information electronically using a Transflo app. This has replaced paper maps with an e-map system, and enabled the ability to scan documents anywhere through a tablet.

“We were cutting edge with this ELD, and are one of the few trucking companies in the states using the app to this extent with it interfaced to other systems and giving us all sorts of statistics that increase efficiencies like miles per gallon and idle times,” Ramsay said.

Collaborating on developing customized software is an area ntegral to Halvor’s success, she noted.

“CAT Scales Company has been wonderful in coming up with a process we developed together, and now they are taking it out to other trucking companies,” Ramsay said.

Allowing drivers to save about 15 minutes at weigh stations, the CAT Scales app works by having drivers key in codes at scale stops, avoiding the need to go into the building to pay.

“The drivers absolutely love it, and the scale ticket is sent to our document management system where it is automatically indexed to create efficiencies,” said Ramsay.

Anticipating next year’s mandate that the DOT accept electronic copies of trucking permits, Transflo is another tool that drivers can use to for compliance. Beyond ELD, Halvor is optimizing its Transflo software by integrating it into other parts of its systems, including transportation management.

“At first Transflo didn’t have integration into our transportation management system, so we built that together to create access to a page that gives the driver information on their load,” Ramsay said.

Using Transflo information across programs gives drivers grades on performance, including accidents and safety, and the ever important fuel solutions. Fleet compliance with fuel solutions is at 94 percent, a remarkable number that Ramsey credits Transflo with helping to achieve. Every four hours a data-feed from fueling determines the best location to fuel that day depending on price and location.

“Fuel is our second largest spend, and we spend millions of dollars a month on fuel. For a penny a gallon we save $100,000 in a month,” Ramsay noted.

With an average driver age of 51 years old in Halvor’s workforce she cited some struggles with the adoption of new technologies, but she said given time, almost all drivers become convinced that tech improves their jobs.

“It’s stressful for some drivers who are older and may not have adapted to technology, but our oldest driver in his 80s recently came in after getting a new phone for help uploading one of the apps, and he was upset he hadn’t had it for two weeks,” said Ramsay.

Blockchain Can Improve Driver Pay and Recruit the Best Truckers

Enter blockchain. This new technology allows drivers to collect and control nuanced data about their driving and then present it to employers in a …

Written by John Monarch, chief executive at ShipChain. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

Shippers are cold-calling regional carriers, carriers are poaching drivers, and drivers are negotiating from a position of unprecedented power.

It’s a seller’s market for everyone involved in freight and logistics – except shippers, of course – and that’s precisely why we need to convert this momentum into tangible improvements to the trucking industry. One great way would be to use blockchain to reward good drivers and empower carriers to make smart hiring decisions.

The labor market is too distorted by the current supply/demand mismatch for the information currently found on driving records to sufficiently inform hiring decisions. Too much of the hiring process is based on gut intuition. We need better insight and visibility into performance.

John Monarch, chief executive officer and co-founder of ShipChain.

Enter blockchain. This new technology allows drivers to collect and control nuanced data about their driving and then present it to employers in a provable format. Instead of consulting a sheet of paper, hiring managers can examine an incorruptible record of a candidate’s driving history that is stored on, and accessible through, the public blockchain. If candidates are good drivers, they should be able to advertise that fact. If there are red flags, carriers deserve to know.

Let’s use this opportunity to enact better hiring practices and give the most qualified truckers a reason to work for the best carriers, while giving the best carriers access to the most qualified truckers.

How it could work

Here’s the scenario: Two drivers with objectively stellar records apply for the same job opening. Only one of them has consistently made on-time deliveries, avoided hard braking events while driving, made more fuel-efficient decisions and maintained electronic log compliance.

Blockchain provides a way to distinguish between these two drivers and hire the one with better performance.

Using a blockchain-based platform, sensors on the truck can securely feed complex data into a central database that the driver – and only other privileged parties – can access and use to show that he’s got a great on-time record, that he’s not causing delays and that he’s driving safely. A driver’s ability to demonstrate his value commands a premium during hiring negotiations. An employer can justify paying a better salary because the driver’s strong performance will ensure that customers get their deliveries in expected conditions and on time.

Blockchain empowers managers to pay drivers what they are really worth. It creates a mutually trusted record that incentivizes better performance and eliminates gaps in data that allow bad drivers to slip through the cracks.

Let’s drill down a little and see how that could work on a decentralized blockchain platform. Most trucks have a variety of sensors that log speed, waypoints and route tracking, braking and fuel efficiency, hours of operation, and much more. Data from these sensors are currently sent to third-party vendors that analyze the information and feed it to carriers. A blockchain-based platform can compile these disparate data streams into one secure database that drivers, or anyone else with permission, can access. Collecting and encrypting this data on a blockchain platform lets drivers take ownership of their own information.

By linking with their telematics and history on a platform, drivers can show their log compliance and record of safe driving, no hard braking and no sudden lane changes. Employers look for these indicators, but they aren’t found on driving records.

It’s easier than it looks

This might sound like a hard sell. Truckers are notoriously private. But it’s a matter of what data is shared and who controls it. If a driver controls his own data, it becomes more relevant to drivers and their employers. It functions as an additional indicator of good performance, like a high customer rating at a restaurant.

Blockchain technology also allows drivers to keep their data hidden from non-permissioned parties. They can control who sees it, which addresses any privacy concerns they might have. Billions of dollars in transactions later, nobody has successfully hacked blockchain. That means drivers’ records are secure. If this important fact is effectively communicated, it should be obvious that there’s no risk in signing up for something that gives good drivers such a clear advantage. And because most drivers are skilled professionals who would love nothing more than to communicate their value to the market, the demand should be clear.

The tendency to pad resumes works against job seekers as much as it hurts employers by making it harder to negotiate in good faith. The only people who win in these cases are those who fudge the books. But with billions of dollars of goods in transit and the safety of drivers and other passengers on the line, the industry has an obligation to embrace technology to promote and reward safe and reliable driving. The first people to benefit will be the drivers themselves.

With driver salaries rising by more than 10 percent annually, truckers who work for a private fleet are commanding a median annual salary of $73,000, according to the American Trucking Associations. The resulting labor shortage is attracting a wave of unqualified drivers to the workforce. Seasoned drivers are increasingly looking for ways to distinguish their skills. And while other professions can point to resumes that show specific accomplishments, drivers don’t have this luxury.

Blockchain can help them demonstrate their value like never before, allowing them to point to optimal turnaround times and driving records.

Editor’s note:John Monarch is chief executive and co-founder of ShipChain, a blockchain startup focused on the freight and logistics industry. He is a serial entrepreneur with multiple previous ventures and has a background in physics and computer science.

Read Next: Blockchain in Transport Alliance Gains Members, Traction

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