Monthly Archives: June 2017

ELDs: What is there to fear?

We are now less six months from the official start of the electronic-logging era.

The rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been years in the making, including a redo following a successful court challenge earlier in the decade. While that temporarily halted the rule, it did not slow innovation. After years of advancements made in fuel efficiency and communications, newer technologies like onboard diagnostics, pre­dictive cruise control, and crash avoidance systems are slowly becoming indispensible safety options.

In my 16 years covering this industry, I’ve been fortunate to get a first-hand look at so many new vehicles. These aren’t just pieces of equipment;  they are high-speed computers simultaneously sending data to drivers, dispatchers, and shippers, all while reading traffic and road terrain ahead. It is with these images in mind that I’m left wondering how anyone is thinking a pencil and paper is truly the right option for logging hours of service (HOS) heading into 2018.

During a conference call in late April, I was surprised to hear executives with Landstar System say that 24 percent, or 2,200, of the owner-operators the company uses have not yet switched over yet. They downplayed the likelihood of a significant capacity crunch, instead suggesting most are just waiting until the deadline, or hoping the Supreme Court would take up a legal challenge from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn.

After Landstar’s conference call, I spoke to Rob Moseley, an attorney in Greenville, SC. He seized first on the numbers game, even before the case itself. “Of the 7,000 or so petitions for review, [the Supreme Court] only decides 80 or so cases a year. So regardless of the merits of the case, the numbers are against them,” Moseley said.

Waiting till the last minute goes against the advice of many, who suggest training is needed. Some of the waiting game is fueled by the perception electronic logs result in lower productivity, forced upon truckers by regulators sitting behind a desk.

I sympathize with truckers who have spent decades operating safely with logbooks and do not want to add additional costs and what they consider complexities by going electronic. And there likely will be some short-term hiccups after the mandate kicks in. However, I’ve long felt this is outweighed by the public image and safety benefits that will come from taking this modern leap.

I’ve also believed many of the concerns about the technology would actually turn out to be positives. This has been a reoccurring theme during my reporting for a number of stories during my two months thus far with Fleet Owner.

For example, one consultant told me truckers will make more money with electronic logs. With paper logs built around 15-minute increments, truckers can lose an hour of driving time changing their duty status. Transitioning to 1-minute increments with electronic logs provides an opportunity to add about 50 mi. a day, or potentially $10,000 over a year.

For truckers, there remain worries of running short on hours, with no way to stretch the truth to deliver a load or make it home.  And that is where the ultimate benefit could come from—using data culled from all these electronic logs to seek regulatory reforms and to push for more investment in truck parking.

That is what we just saw transpire with the restart controversy. Once research showed the safety benefits were not clear-cut, the government listened to the pleas from the industry.

With e-logs, using real safety data and science, it can be far easier to make the case that changes are needed—be it mandatory rest breaks or more flexibility built into the rule itself. That is something likely to be easier to accomplish during the Trump administration.

For years, trucking has lamented its image problem, and how the public does not appreciate the industry’s safety record. Electronic logs offer a remedy. Rather than whispering about how much HOS cheating may be going on, the computer will tell the tale.

Story by Neil Abt in The Open Road


Fourth of July avocado consumption expected to top 100 million pounds

Spring and summer are key times for California avocado availability and the California Avocado Commission is offering back-to-back programs in support. The commission kicked off its programming in April with season opening activities followed by its American Summer Holidays program in May, California Avocado Month activities in June and programs for the Fourth of July.CAC-Mass-Fried-Oysters

CAC’s June California Avocado Month activities this year included a sponsorship of the venerated Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. The food hall, in the heart of the city, turns 100 years old this year, and is a popular spot for foodies and tourists alike with more than 90,000 visitors each month. For the entire month of June, 11 market vendors featured California avocado dishes at their restaurants. CAC hosted a media preview at the venue in late May. Bloggers and other media shared information about the event and California Avocado Month, including outreach by LAist, DineLA and FoodBeast.

“Magic can happen when you get bloggers and the media to try the California avocado dishes created by talented chefs,” Jan DeLyser, vice president marketing of the California Avocado Commission, said in a press release. “We have been blown away by the media coverage of CAC’s Grand Central Market sponsorship, which has exceeded 82 million impressions so far.”

The commission’s California Avocado Month advertising incorporated print and in-store radio as well as Pandora audio targeted to where California Avocados are in distribution. It was supported by social media that has generated 8.2 million impressions to date. Retail support for California Avocado Month has run the gamut with one chain featuring store-wide programs involving multiple departments, a display and sales contest, a featured recipe in their service deli and Father’s Day activities. Another retailer created a BBQ theme event supporting California avocados that included an online social media recipe contest and a team member wellness challenge.CAC-Maine-Lobster-Roll-FB

On the heels of its June marketing support, CAC supports a push for Fourth of July. “After five years of promoting California avocados for Fourth of July, the holiday has become one of the biggest avocado consumption events of the year,” DeLyser said in the press release. “This year the commission is continuing to market California avocados and California avocado recipes for the American Summer Holidays, from barbecue to salads to baking.”

CAC’s United Plates of America promotion, which launched prior to Memorial Day, features recipes that combine California avocados with American regional specialties. For the Fourth of July, the commission partnered with Chef Ryan (Peaches) Lamon, the executive chef and co-owner of Peaches’ Smokehouse and Southern Kitchen, who is perhaps best known as the winner of the Cooking Channel’s “Food Truck Race Off” in 2014. Chef Lamon created and promoted new recipes that highlight how easily California avocados can elevate one of America’s favorite regional cuisines — Southern barbecue.

Extending the United Plates of America program, CAC’s social media will feature a Route 66 theme, including a blog post, a carousel on Facebook and supporting Twitter polls about select Route 66 stops. Print advertising continues in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, along with in-store radio and Pandora audio.

Digital advertising has played a big role in California avocado marketing this year, and CAC’s American Summer Holidays creative will be running on Food52, Tasting Table, Nativo and PureWow. Nativo also will feature two custom articles: Four Ways to Celebrate Fourth of July with California Avocado and 5 All-American Ways to Celebrate With California Avocado.

Additionally, customized retail support — including demos, point-of-sale materials and display bins — will run in support of the United Plates of America program. Retailers are using CAC’s United Plates of America recipe booklet showcasing 18 recipes and tips pairing California avocados with “plates” from the U.S., particularly California and the West.

The avocado industry forecasts that avocado consumption for Fourth of July festivities will be 100.8 million pounds, which is about on par with Fourth of July 2016.

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Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses


When’s $13.7 billion bid to buy Whole Foods was announced, John Mackey, the grocer’s CEO, addressed employees, gushing about Amazon’s technological innovation.

“We will be joining a company that’s visionary,” Mackey said, according to a transcript of the meeting. “I think we’re gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we’re gonna see a lot of technology. I think you’re gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds.”

In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods’ distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Amazon, through a spokesman, declined to comment, as did Whole Foods.

Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe — for now.

“The easiest place for Amazon to bring its expertise to bear is in the warehouses, because that’s where Amazon really excels,” Hawkins said. “If they can reduce costs, they can show that on the store shelves and move Whole Foods away from the Whole Paycheck image.”

Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Whole Foods has 11 distribution centers specializing in perishable foods that serve its stores. It also has seafood processing plants, kitchens and bakeries that supply prepared food to each location. Those are the places where Amazon could initially focus, according to experts.

Amazon has not had the fresh food sales volume to justify big investment in refrigerated warehouses. Whole Foods gives them an incentive to reinvent how groceries get to your store and doorstep.

Brittain Ladd, a supply chain consultant who spent two years working on Amazon’s grocery push, said Amazon may be considering building a network of automated warehouses designed for the grocery business. These would likely be 1 million square feet — large enough to serve Whole Foods and Amazon’s various other grocery initiatives like Amazon Fresh and Prime Pantry — and would utilize robots and automation to reduce labor costs, he said.

“The goal will be to create as advanced a distribution capability as possible to provide customers with exceptional service and the freshest of fresh produce, vegetables, and meat,” Ladd said.

“Amazon will win the battle against Wal-Mart by winning with fresh food. A big challenge for Amazon will be applying its logistics know-how regarding durable, long-lasting products like books, toys and tablets to delicate perishables like strawberries and steaks that have to be handled gingerly, stored at different temperatures and inspected frequently for signs of spoiling.

After automating warehouses, Amazon may bring the robots to the stores. But don’t expect them to replace cashiers immediately. The first ones will likely navigate aisles to check inventory and alert employees when items run low, said Austin Bohlig, an adviser at Loup Ventures, which invests in robotics startups. “These robots can operate alongside people inside a store, but Amazon will want to make absolutely sure they are safe,” he said.

“These robots can operate alongside people inside a store, but Amazon will want to make absolutely sure they are safe,” he said.

Amazon is experimenting with a smaller urban convenience store concept in Seattle called AmazonGo that lets shoppers check in with smartphones, grab what they want and leave without going to a cash register. They are billed automatically based on what they pluck from shelves.

Amazon said it has no plans to introduce that technology to Whole Foods, though a person familiar with the matter said the company is considering eliminating cashiers as part of its long-term grocery strategy. The person asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on private matters.

Amazon has good reason to move slowly with automating tasks now done by people. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, whose 1.3 million members mostly work in supermarkets, has had its eye on Whole Foods for years, said David Pryzbylski, an employment lawyer with Barnes & Thornburg, who has represented supermarkets in union-related cases. Whole Foods has kept unions at bay by paying good wages and avoiding mass layoffs, he said.

“If there’s an environment of uncertainty, like layoffs due to automation, unions can play on that fear,” Pryzbylski said, and make inroads in unionizing the workforce.

Story by Spender Soper and Alex Sherman at Bloomberg News

From Aldi to Publix to Whole Foods, here’s how Tampa Bay’s grocery market share breaks down

With’s purchase of Whole Foods Market Inc., the online giant will control 1.2 percent of the grocery market in the Tampa Bay region.

That was Whole Foods’ market share in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Pasco counties in 2016, according to Chain Store Guide. Whole Foods has three stores here, with two in Tampa and one in Clearwater.

Amazon is planning to buy the specialty grocer for $13.7 billion, but the implications of the deal go far beyond the more than 400 Whole Foods stores it will own. It will mean a new level of competition for Publix Super Markets Inc., which is based in Lakeland. Publix employs more than 36,000 people in the Bay area, including corporate workers at the Lakeland headquarters.

Publix, the hometown grocer, controls 39.3 percent of the grocery market with 117 stores here, according to Chain Store Guide. Use the interactive graphic below to see grocers’ market share versus number of stores.

Tampa Bay grocery market share

Winn-Dixie and Winn-Dixie Marketplace, which are owned by Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers, has nearly as many stores in that same area — 100, according to Chain Store Guide. But it controls only 16.1 percent of the market. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. controls 16.4 percent of the market with just 32 stores. (That figure doesn’t include Walmart Neighborhood Markets, which account for 3.2 percent of the market with 17 stores.)

The market share numbers will likely look different in the coming years. Amazon’s digital savvy has the potential to increase Whole Foods’ market share, and there are new competitors to consider. Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. is just entering the Florida market, with three stores open so far this year (in Carrollwood, South Tampa and Sarasota).

German discount grocer Aldi, which controls 1 percent of the market with 15 stores, recently announced it will ramp up its U.S. expansion plans. Lidl, another German discount grocer, appears to be laying the groundwork to enter Florida in the coming years.

Market share versus number of stores


Story by Ashley Gurbal Kritzer at the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Supreme Court Wants Quick Response On Citrus Veto

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday gave Gov. Rick Scott’s administration until noon Monday to respond to a lawsuit challenging the governor’s veto of $37.4 million intended to go to residents whose healthy citrus trees were cut down as the state tried to eradicate citrus-canker disease.

The Supreme Court set the deadline after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of homeowners in Broward and Lee counties and their attorneys. Lawmakers included the money in the 2017-2018 budget after years of litigation about the state’s removal of trees in those counties and other parts of the state.

The money would satisfy judgments against the state, which destroyed healthy trees from 2000 to 2006 as officials fought citrus canker.

The filing Tuesday at the Supreme Court contended that Scott’s veto of the money was unconstitutional and asked justices to address the issue before the July 1 start of the fiscal year. In vetoing the money June 2, Scott cited “ongoing litigation” as the reason.

Story by Health News Florida.

Uber’s CEO is out: Here’s everything that went wrong with Uber this year

As of early this morning, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is out.

It’s the latest chapter in what has become perhaps the most enticing tech story of the year that, many might argue, begins with the bombshell blog by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler that reveals systemic sexism at Uber.

Things started to sour earlier this year, however. Here’s how it all went down:

Kalanick a lightning rod for Trump criticism

  • December 14: Reports reveal Kalanick is joining Trump’s business advisory board.

If that was a spark, what followed was a forest fire

  • February 19: Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler posts her now-famous blog post detailing sexism within the company.
  • February 20: Uber calls for an internal investigation, known as the “Holder investigation” after former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s leading it.
  • February 23: Alphabet’s Waymo unit files a lawsuit against Uber claiming that a former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole secrets related to autonomous vehicle technology.
  • February 27: Uber SVP of engineering Amit Singhal leaves the company after it was revealed that he had left Google a year earlier due to a “credible” sexual harassment complaint.
  • February 28: Travis Kalanick apologizes after he’s caught on film arguing with an Uber driver, Fawzi Kamel, about Uber’s new plans to lower fares. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s—. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck,” Kalanick told his driver.
  • March 3: The New York Times reveals that Uber has been using a feature named “Greyball” that showed people it suspected to be government officials a fake version of the app that would deny them a ride. This was used by Uber to operate in areas where its service was deemed illegal without being caught.

Exodus followed by more scandal

  • March 3: On the same day, Charlie Miller, Uber vice president of product and growth and self-driving senior engineer, leaves the company.
  • March 8: Artificial intelligence labs director Gary Marcus leaves the company.
  • March 16: Self-driving director Raffi Krikorian leaves.
  • March 19: Uber president Jeff Jones departs the company.
  • March 20: Uber’s vice president of maps and business platforms, Brian McClendon, leaves.
  • March 24: Gabi Holzwarth, who dated Kalanick for several years, revealed to The Information that she, Kalanick, and five Uber executives who had traveled to Seoul in 2014 visited an escort bar while there. A female marketing executive who was in the group told Holzwarth later that she felt Uber tried to silence her complaints.
  • May 15: Judge blocks Levandowski from working on any technology related to LIDAR, which is key to the development of Uber’s autonomous vehicles.
  • May 30: Uber fires Levandowski, stating that he didn’t fully cooperate with the court or with helping Uber to prove its case.
  • June 8: Bombshell letter reveals the type of boss Kalanick was. In the letter, dated 2013, Kalanick discusses a company trip to Miami and lays out ground rules for consensual employee sex practices. “Have a great f–king time,” he says.
  • June 1: Uber board meets to begin discussing the findings of the Holder report before it is released to the company. During the meeting, David Bonderman makes sexist remarks about women.

The Holder Investigation report is released

  • June 6: Uber says more than 20 staff members have been fired as part of the internal investigation.
  • June 13: The Holder report is released, and it makes 47 recommendations to help Uber improve its values and workplace environment. Kalanick, who recently lost his mother, decides to step away from the company temporarily. Uber says his duties will be replaced by an independent chair.
  • June 14: The Federal Trade Commission begins looking into Uber’s privacy practices, possibly digging deeper into the company’s “god view” tool and other concerns, according to Recode.
  • June 15: A rape victim filed a lawsuit against Uber after she found out that executives had taken her medical records. The 26-year-old woman was raped by an Uber driver in India in 2014, and the driver was convicted of the crime.

Travis Kalanick resigns

  • June 21: Founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick resigns. “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Kalanick said in a statement obtained by The New York Times.

Story by : Todd Haselton at