23rd August 2018 Nearing the end of my Churchill Fellowship Trip.

Goodaye all, I did get to visit the American Trucking Association National Truck Driving and Step Van Championships in Columbus for a few hours, attended the breakfast and met with the head of the FMCSA and others, quickly handing out a few business cards, then watched some of the drivers going through the tests, but they had already done their knowledge, pre-trip and media tests.

With up to a dozen trucks and trailers idling round in a hall, grandstands and displays etc, you can imagine how big the hall is. I then left for my 12 hour drive to Eau Claire in Wisconsin for the truck show and that went well, but after only my second real rain of the trip and it was bad enough to nearly keep me awake in the car, I did come upon my first crash, a Mack semi and car off the road together, but only saw the after effects on traffic etc. There was some flooding according to the news not far away during the night and I arrived Friday in time to set up for the show opening at 3PM.

A small convoy arrived here, having raised funds for a local child and this is what started this show off years ago, much like another surprise birthday truckshow just further south for Bubba, that has got plenty of media attention here. The monster trucks drew a good crowd and the trucks and vendors had a good start to the show. The Army tank carrier, battery powered little jet of the Air Force that travelled around and some magnificent show trucks were highlights.

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I spoke with many drivers and filmed interviews with some, took more photos and asked my trip question. Many answer cell (Mobile to us) phones and or, distraction, saying the number of people they see on phones is growing and it seems it may be an epidemic that is getting away from us all. I was given a small marque to put my stands up in, but spent most of my time roaming and talking to drivers.

The views do vary, but the themes remain, car drivers the biggest problem, some concerned with a small percentage of truck drivers as well, lack of rest areas and even here in this smaller town, there were about 8 companies with stands wanting drivers and some others for training them. Wisconsin Kenworth had a stand and trucks and I gave them a couple of the Aussie Kenworth brochures I had left over and they were so impressed, they were to give me some goodies, but I missed them closing up Sunday morning.

Overall a good turn out, the public seemed happy with the trucks and entertainment and the truckies I spoke with, were as always so far on the trip, welcoming and friendly and keen to chat. Thanks to all I spoke with or interviewed and to the organisers for the stand, invite and hospitality.

I did get to do a chat with Luke in Australia on the Nightshift show and am to ring him from GATS as well. I also had some calls from Aussie radio stations during the week re the dangerous nature of our industry and all were surprised to find me driving in a car and on a somewhat different highway from normal. This led to chats about the Churchill Fellowship trip an then the Monash report.

I did the return trip and did a tour of the Cummins Centre in Columbus, but was unable to do the extra bit and their museum was also closed for renovations as well, but it was interesting and valuable and I did learn and play with something, that may be very helpful for the future, we shall see.

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I travelled on to the Iowa 80 Truckstop, the biggest in the world with over 900 truck parking spaces, an enormous shop and food complex and a museum with some magnificent old trucks. A bit of shopping, drooling over some bits I can’t afford or to carry home anyway, then on to Joplin and eventually to Dallas. Coming in to Dallas I got onto to TRUCK Dog radio program on the Sirius Satellite network and explained my trip and was invited to stay and chat and take calls for an hour.

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I have just returned to the motel in Dallas after my first day at the Great American Truck show. I am told the Dallas convention centre is one of the largest, and I have still not seen all of it. I hope to attend the concert tomorrow night and listen in on the proposed possible rule changes for their Hours of Service session to be held here tomorrow.

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They are asking for some flexibility in their hours since the introduction of mandatory Electronic Logging Devices in December last year and the serious start to policing of them since April. This has caused a number of things to change, mostly for the worse. Drivers pushing to find somewhere to legally park for 10 hours for their required break, some drivers leaving and I heard one add on the radio program here, offering a $30,000 sign on bonus for team (two-up) drivers.

Another add said they were at the critical level needing drivers and I am sure I could have had ten job offers if I was staying. A few Aussies dropped in to say hello and many ask, where are you from with that accent and love to hear and ask about Australia. Off to bed now and plan to file another blog before leaving on Sunday. Cheers and Safe Travelling to all, Rod Hannifey.

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