don't count GPS out yet
After reading the article "getting a read on congestion" (August 2007), I'd like to let you know of a recent development in the global positioning system (GPS) world. Our firm has developed a near-real-time (several seconds lag) GPSbased capability designed to ensure that a vehicle will always be visible and can always be tracked to within 10 to 20 meters of its exact location regardless of the harshness of the signal environment. This system has been demonstrated in several cities—including the streets of Singapore, a city known to be GPS-unfriendly—to full success. We will be in multi-vehicle trials and then pilots over the coming months. And this system's total cost of ownership is lower than that of RFID.
While our problem is congestion pricing and your problem is "Where is my truck?" the two are ridiculously easy to merge. I think we will soon see a renewal of asset management technology to rival the first GPS device placed in a truck.
Bern Grush, Skymeter Corp.
a question of equity
Re: "missing the boat," Outbound (August 2007)
Mitch Mac Donald's column urging better maintenance and use of the inland waterways hits the nail on the head. The waterway system is infrastructure, and the United States has none to spare.
He does miss, however, the fact that most of the system was built at taxpayer expense, which allows waterway operators to compete with railroads that build and maintain their infrastructure at stockholder expense, and with truckers who pay for much of their infrastructure through user fees and taxes. This country will not have a comprehensive national transportation policy until such competitive inequities are recognized and dealt with.
Larry Kaufman, retired
Editor's note: Kaufman, who writes a column on intermodal transportation for The Journal of Commerce, spent his career in transportation as a journalist, and railroad executive and consultant. He is a former assistant to the assistant secretary of transportation for policy and international affairs.
the case for rail
Re: "trucks are bad, until you don't have them," Outbound (June 2007)
There is no doubt that without trucks on the highways there would be definite "supply" issues across the country. I also understand that there's a growing need for services that move commodities from manufacturer to consumer. But I wish manufacturers and shipping companies would take a look at using the rail system we have in place across the country.
I live in one of the most dangerous regions of the I-81 corridor in Virginia. The number of trucks in this region gets overwhelming at times. Driving styles and speeds, of motorists and truckers, vary so much that the flow of traffic is erratic. As with other states, budget cuts have led to a shortage of law enforcement officers, making it hard to keep the highways safe for motorists and truckers alike. The rail system would help reduce the number of trucks on the highways and still provide a safe and secure method to ship goods.
Mark Shay, Optical Cable Corp.
safety in numbers?
Re: "¿que pasa?" FastLane (June 2007)
In my opinion, this column presented only one side of the debate over allowing Mexican truckers to operate on U.S. roads. The concern that I have (but that was not addressed in the column) is the fact that if the pilot program [allowing a limited number of Mexican truckers to travel on U.S. highways] proceeds, only three sets of eyes (the shipper's, the driver's, and the consignee's) will see the freight instead of the five or more parties (the shipper, the freight forwarder, the Mexican driver, the U.S. driver, and the consignee) who now see it. It seems to me that transporting contraband, illegal aliens, and possibly terrorists would be immeasurably easier if trans-border freight were not taken off the truck and reloaded every time it crosses the border as it is now. The more people who are in on a secret, the less likely it is that the secret will be kept.
As for the statement "I'm not a foreign relations expert, but you don't need to be one to understand that we should treat both of our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, equally," I could agree if the partners were indeed equal. What I see is that, while all three countries have their problems, Canada tries to solve its problems through a partnership with us. Mexico, on the other hand, tries to solve its problems by handing them off to us.
Christopher Kruse, truck owner-operator
cutting the cord
Re: "have you got the guts?" Outbound (July 2007)
I don't think that giving up [on e-mail] takes guts. What the CEO and venture capitalist have in common is position and power (should one of the CEO's underlings cut the e-mail-ical cord, that person might find himself or herself on the street). Of course, these alpha dogs could do everything by paper, but that becomes cumbersome and the lack of any kind of search tool requires a pretty good filing system, plus a clerk. One possibility is that much of what these "leaders" receive are CCs (CYAs), and what they haven't had the guts to do is train and empower their direct reports to take care of business.
Bruce H. Anderson, McLane Co.
Dear Mitch: After reading your editorial, I too will take the pledge! Oh, by the way, sorry about this e-mail.
Ken Mac Donald, M&G Materials Handling Co.