Biodiesel: Where Did This Go?

Biodiesel: Where Did This Go?

Biodiesel had a huge social impact about a decade ago. If you ran a diesel engine, then there was a decent chance you could save money on gas. Utilizing biodiesel was a significant herald for the alternative fuel craze. With its impact on how we viewed fuel, where did it go?

Late 1800’s and the Invention of Biodiesel

Rudolf Diesel invented the world’s first biodiesel engine in 1893. Based on a component of Peanut Oil and diesel fuel, the engine ran appropriately with the standards Diesel had put in place. Thus, this was the first time the world ran on a fully reusable fuel. Because of this, August 10th is also remembered as “International Biodiesel Day”. That’s right, the same guy who invented the engine that is commonly used today and is controlled by price-gauging oil empires is the one responsible for creating the alternative energy craze.

1970’s Oil Embargo’s, California Emissions Standards, and Emerging Japanese Market.

During the 1970’s America was in a bit of a pinch when it came to fossil fuels. With less oil being brought into the states, the industry changed its focus to smaller fuel-effective vehicles. Gone were the days of the (totally awesome) muscle car race, and the inclusion of the Japanese Automotive industry meant an increase in smaller, foreign cars that acted as a great entry point for the Asian automotive industry.

Another issue stemming from this time was the incursion of tighter Californian emissions standards. The Green Party was gaining momentum in the US at the time with many political leaders looking forward to shifting gears away from America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

During this time the counter culture (hippies) were strongly fighting the system by traveling in droves and following their favorite bands across the country. As to how this helped anything, we’re still unsure, but it indirectly changed the game. This pseudo pioneer of “off-grid” living became a foundation for experimentation. Now, by experimentation, we mean that some of those old deadheads were chemists (this isn’t helping us) and that they figured their VW Bus could (with some minor and cheap tweaks) be converted to burn biofuels.

Early 2000’s – People Search For Alternative Fuels

The Post 9/11 world and our incursions into the Middle East brought a substantial backlash in terms of our budgets. Gas prices started to soar, and with the now fully established SUV market that was developed in the ’90s, many were taking a pretty big hit. For others, their older (diesel) car had the opportunity for a significant comeback.

How Could Diesel Engines Handle Alternate Fuels?

For starters, older diesel engines had the tolerance levels that could go much higher than standard petroleum engines. With head gaskets made of iron vs aluminum, the strength of the engine provides enough toughness to handle anything you can throw in it. Thus, these were the perfect engines to test out alternative fuels. Any sort of bio-oil can serve as a producer of energy if the mixture is right.

Components of Biodiesel

In order for one to utilize the benefits of biodiesel, a well-distributed mixture of vegetable, peanut, or another plant-based oil needs to be mixed with equal parts of actual diesel. This helps to obtain the appropriate combustion rate for your engine to run through effectively. Yes- you still need some diesel fuel, but not nearly as much. Mixing the two components can be a time-consuming task, but the value for yourself and the environment is far greater than you can imagine. Some of the best oils to use are Soy, Canola, Peanut, and Olive.

Trucking, Shipping and Public Transportation Switch To Biodiesel

Many high emissions industries have made the switch to alternative energy consumption. The trucking industry has made an effective impact on the popularity of utilizing Biodiesel. Many European public transportation systems in places like France, Germany, and England have also switched. This has made drastic changes to their public transportation systems to include some form of biodiesel.

US Market and Future of Biodiesel

Industries have arisen to improve and perfect the usage of biofuels across the US. Many businesses utilize the use of biofuels and an emerging (yet still niche) industry over the production of such fuels has emerged. These often focus on larger operations rather than for public use. These methods have walked (somewhat) hand in hand with other alternative fuel solutions.

Why Hasn’t Biodiesel Replaced Fossil Fuels?

Although this alternative has caught the eyes of thousands across the world, many individuals simply do not own older diesel engines. On top of that, while diesel engines may improve emissions, they don’t improve your car. Studies have shown that the performance rates for cars that utilize an alternative fuel source receive about 5-8% less gas mileage. This coincides with the 5-8% loss in power for vehicles that use it. You have to step on the gas harder, which means more fuel is used. Another factor is the wear on the engine. Where non-equal mixes can occur, this can lead to your engine locking up and the many components becoming stuck. Many users of biodiesel are often mixing their own fuel in their garage or basement. This will often lead to imperfections in the combination process.

Electric Cars

With the invention of solar and electric cars now drastically emerging in the US market, many have ditched the classic DIY approach to fueling their cars. This is in order to move onto a better and more fuel effective range. With Tesla’s Model S, Model 3, and now their “Cybertruck”, the benefits of electric far outweigh the benefits of utilizing an oil-based energy platform.

Food Prices Will Surge.

Another major factor in why biofuels haven’t necessarily taken off is the price. A lot of the US relies on corn and peanuts for food additives. Once Americans start using these oils for their cars, the demand will skyrocket. Food prices will become astronomical and the benefits wouldn’t be worth it.

Overall Implications of Biodiesel

Colder temperature areas such as Boston or anywhere in the Northeast will cause the oils to separate and gunk up. The climate needs to be generally unmoving (which was where Southern Californians hopped on this immediately). Although it remains an awesome alternative, many aren’t willing to put the time into converting their engine. For those that have it already installed, the idea of stealing oil from Mcdonalds and other fast food eateries is also a turn-off.

Relax, You’re Just Driving In Boston

Relax, You’re Just Driving In Boston

Boston Driving is an experience. You got your Dunks in one hand, and a terribly smashed iPhone 4 in the other. You pass by the Bunker Hill Memorial and you yell out your window “Yeah ‘F the redcoats!” Insert something about the Patriots and Tom Brady, something about “takin’ ya mah out fuh some labstah dinnah”, and last but not least, say “wicked” 6-7 times during your ride. Congrats, you’re driving in Boston. These are all stereotypes, although almost all of them have some form of truth, the biggest truth is that driving through Boston can be a hassle, but so can literally any other city. If you feel so inclined to complain about it, you’re obviously not from here, which you should either very quickly get used to it, stop driving, or leave.

You Have No Idea Where You are Going/ Its Not That Hard To Figure it Out

Listen, I grew up in New Hampshire. You know, the place where rich people move to avoid Mass tax? The place where Robert Frost was like ” Yo, I’m out” then proceeded to write sad-boy poetry in the woods? The “Live Free or Die” state. Yeah, we’re just to the north. The layout of the city is hard, but not that hard. I mean, c’mon, the majority of 93 is under it. Everyone not from there is like “It’s all farm roads that have no direction” and I’m sitting here, from a land of, like, maybe one road in his town going “so?”. Relax, take your time, ignore the guy flipping out cause he obviously knows that you don’t know where you’re going but is incessant on you getting out of the way. If you can’t, we understand, we just want you to not know where you’re going faster.

Boston Driving: Drivers are Rude/ Except They Aren’t

Listen, we can be crass. We can have a sharpness to us. It makes us, you know, us. Historically, how many people from Los Angeles defeated the British during the American Revolution? None. Those guys can’t win anything. Or at least nothing that important. We, on the other hand, do. It’s also cold. There’s a reason for everything, but if you’re from out of the area, you might feel that sharpness in our drivers. It’s okay, you can relax. Even if someone is giving you a hard time, there are more instances where you can give them a hard time back. We almost like it. It’s okay to make a rude gesture at a New England driver and have them do the same and move on with your lives. Unlike LA where if you did that, they’ll either cry or try to murder you.

The Roads Are Bad/ Yeah…They’re Actually Kinda Bad

Yeah, we get it. As soon as you cross the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border, you’re instantly met with roads of lesser quality. There’s an actual line on the border where 93 becomes significantly worse. You’d think that with the amount of taxes the state collects, they’d be able to fix them accordingly, but still, here we are, swerving potholes and dodging slightly raised manhole covers.

Overall your experience in Boston should be an enjoyable one. If you don’t know where you’re going that’s fine. If you have a hard time dealing with traffic, that’s fine too, these issues happen with every city and if you’re from out of the area, it’ll take time for you to get used to as well. There are must worse places to drive…like Chicago. That place actually sucks to drive in.

Ginsu Guardrail: Big Dig Blunder

Ginsu Guardrail: Big Dig Blunder

The “Ginsu Guardrail” made every Bostonian feel like they were driving in an 80’s post-apocalyptic movie. Ever watch escape from New York or Mad Max? Yeah, everything was spiked, and The Big Dig was is no exception. The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US outside of the development of the highway structure post WW2.

What made the “Ginsu Guardrail” So Dangerous?

Most cities have utilized more effective and safer methods to stop motor vehicles from smashing into one another. Unfortunately, Boston never got that memo. The issue with the rails was that they were square-lipped. If you were a motorcyclist and you got bumped from behind, there was a significantly large chance that you would end up in the guard rail at anywhere between 45-70 mph. Now, that on its own spells certain death, but there was an extra factor that made things a little more gruesome: Square Lipped rails.

The Nickname

The nickname comes from the old “Ginsu” knives that were sold during the ’70s-’80s in the US. They were the “sharpest most affordable knives on the market”. Often shown cutting through everything from soup cans to metal pipes. Do you know the scissors that can cut a penny? Yeah, thank those guys. The nickname is a staple of Boston highways due to the safety issue for drivers. If a driver, more specifically, a motorcyclist were to somehow hit one, they would slide down the rail until they hit the square-lipped post and would have the unfortunate issue of being torn up.

Current Petitions For Increased Safety

As of now, there have been 8 deaths related to the sharp posts. Each one is as gruesome and devastating than the last. Many Bostonians have petitioned for an increase in the safety standards of the rails citing they do more harm than good. While the city is still underway with repairs for the Big Dig, this has been a focal point for many. With other deaths regarding improper safety protocols, these rails have been a big focal point for many residents who don’t feel like they are driving on safe roads.

Holiday Driving: Boston

Holiday Driving: Boston

Holiday driving presents some of the worst conditions for getting from point A to point B. In Boston, this is increasingly so. Due to the road structure of New England, many out-of-staters might find different and more challenging traffic patterns than most other places.

Holiday Driving: Boston’s Farm Roads

The structural make-up of Boston’s roadways can be traced back to the first settling of the country. Where major cities like New York, or Los Angeles run on a simple “grid system”, Boston merely paved over pre-existing farm roads. For someone new to Boston, missing your exit may mean driving a great distance to get back to where you want to go.

The Holiday Snow

Snow is a big factor in Boston. During the winter, many residents have to fight for parking spaces. Due to plows pushing snow into on-street parking, this means many have to dig themselves out. The variable of snow will make it increasingly more difficult to drive. The snow has nowhere to go except the sides of the road, and in a lot of cases, will make the already narrow roads smaller. These add to parking troubles as well.

Boston Parking

Since the foundation for Boston streets is built off of farm roads, the chances of finding parking are relatively narrow. Adding the snow means this will be increasingly more difficult. If you are from out of state, be cautious when searching for a spot. Poorly plowed roads mean you can park in front of a fire hydrant and not even know it. You might think you have found a perfectly good spot, but you might find yourself with a pretty expensive ticket if you don’t check the road signs and your surroundings. Other drivers stake their claim as well. Where parking is so scarce to begin with, the winter holiday brings more people in. Many Bostonians prepare for this and stake their claim on the side of the road. You might see lawn chairs, parking cones, or anything out of the ordinary used to mark a resident’s spot. This is not legal, though, and many would rather face the parking ticket than to give up their spot. Good luck arguing with someone who is ready to pay the price!

Boston Drivers

The above conditions, even in the summer, can create some pretty assertive drivers. Boston is famously known for its traffic, and being alert at all times (albeit a basic function of a good driver) will only get you so far. If you don’t take your chance to turn, you might be stuck waiting for a break in traffic for a long time. The goal is is to not drive aggressively, but also assertively. Being an assertive driver will help you get to where you need to be effective and without issue.

Don’t Get Angry

As a native New Englander, the worst thing to be is angry. Let’s say you misjudged a break in traffic, and now you are stuck at a stop sign with a line of cars behind you. Boston drivers can be a bit more vocal than other areas and you may bear witness to some loud honking. The best thing is to ignore it. If a driver is looking for a reaction from you, do not give them that satisfaction. Just blast the music and do not respond. At some point, you ill get to where you need to go and they will be long gone.

The Holidays Are Stressful For Everyone

Nobody likes driving during the holidays. Its a pain, and can sometimes ruin your traveling experience. Understanding that everyone else is in the same boat as you, is a key factor. If someone is trying to merge, let them in. If someone in front of you is trying to switch lanes, then let them switch. Do not speed, or be troublesome for these factors cause accidents or disruptions. The best thing you can be is understanding.

Be Safe for the Holiday

The best method for driving in Boston during the holiday season is to be alert. Be alert of the road conditions, what traffic you will deal with, where to find parking and how long you will be staying. As an out-of-stater, you can be an easy target from a native Bostonian. By following proper etiquette on the road, you will save yourself and your family the trouble of any repercussions. The holidays are meant to be a joyous experience and being negligent takes that away from most people. Be smart this holiday season but most importantly have fun.

$50 Billion Needed To Improve MBTA

$50 Billion Needed To Improve MBTA

Boston’s transportation system is not that bad. However, given that the whole system is getting older and worn-out, it is very probable that the state will need to improve the whole MBTA system in the next couple of decades.

Better City, an organization focused on economic growth projects, just released this morning a transportation financial plan. In it, Better City explained how the state would need to spend at least $50 billion in renovations by 2040.

The group called that amount of money “conservative”, noting that it could considerably go higher than that. They cited the Transportation Climate initiative as one of the main sources to ger revenue, 20% of it to be exact. They also said the state could count with a rough 15% revenue to be gathered from gas taxes.

The goal would be to provide Massachusetts with a more efficient and reliable transit system. A focus on safety is also very important, as well as a reduction of the emissions that would benefit the environment.

In order to achieve this goal, Better City broke down the $50 billion budget in three different categories.

To begin with, $10 billion should go to repair roads, highways, tunnels, and bridges. This should be accomplished by 2030, to be on schedule.

Another $10 billion is needed, also throughout the next decade, to increase the capacity of transit and roadways all across Massachusetts. This is important to connect smaller and more remote areas of the state.

Finally, the remaining $30 billion must be used to specifically address the MBTA system nationwide. This outstanding amount of money should be invested in modernizing and transforming the whole transit system by 2040.

It is also very important that a big part of those $30 billion go toward electrifying most parts of the public transportation system. This way, Massachusetts would become a greener state.

The Better City plan is not that far from becoming a reality. Just last week, the Rail Vision Advisory Committee issued its support to a $28.9 billion plan that would electrify the state’s rail system and provide trains every 15 minutes.

What do you think of this budget and measures? Do you agree with the Better City plan or do you think that money could be better placed somewhere else? Are you an MBTA user? Let us know all your thoughts in the comment section!

Big Truck Companies Vs. Small Carriers

Big Truck Companies Vs. Small Carriers

Whether you decide to work for big truck companies, or the small ones, it’s your choice. However, there are significant differences between the two. Deciding on which carrier to work for is a matter of preference. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of advantages and a few disadvantages.

Advantages of Big Truck Companies

#1. Range. When you work for a large carrier, there is potential for more work. The reason being, big truck companies typically run an assortment of freight lines in addition to having multiple divisions.   

#2. Stability. Moreover, big carriers with good reputations are much more stable than unknown small truck companies.

#3. More Equipment. Additionally, large trucking companies are outfitted with lots of equipment, from trucks to trailers, and the likes. So, there’s never really an excuse to miss a run.

#4. Convenience. Furthermore, larger carriers may have their own amenities, such as repair shops, or company accounts with repair shops, hotel perks for drivers, and truck stop incentives, just to name a few.

#5. Benefits. Lastly, the health benefit packages are also a plus.

Disadvantages of Big Truck Companies

#1. Nameless. On the other hand, working for a larger company also means you’re one among many. In most cases, no one knows your name.

#2. Lack of Appreciation. Additionally, when you’re just a number, it’s even harder to be recognized for the hard work you put in, such as great service and on-time deliveries.

Advantages of Small Truck Companies

#1. Owner Accessibility. Moreover, with smaller truck companies, if any problems arise, the owner is likely available to you. Conversely, if you’re doing a great job, the owner will most likely know as well.  

#2. Fewer Expenses. Furthermore, smaller carriers often have lower overhead costs. Therefore, they can distribute more money to their drivers.

#3. Local smaller carriers. Additionally, driving for a small local carrier that ships all over the US and/or Canada will in turn profit your local community.

#4. Better Trucks. Lastly, smaller carriers often run a fleet of trucks that are better quality than those carried by larger companies.  

Ultimately, the decision is up to you! What are some other advantages and disadvantages between the two? Comment below.

UPS Gets in on Autonomous Trucking Wave

UPS Gets in on Autonomous Trucking Wave

It looks like UPS is joining the autonomous trucking wave. Yep, the recent wave of noise coming from the autonomous vehicle world now includes the long-time delivery company. UPS recently revealed that the venture capital wing of the company UPS Ventures is now investing in autonomous driving company TuSimple. They are getting self-driving tractor-trailers.

In fact, the testing of self-driving trucks began in early May on a route that went from Phoenix to Tucson. The tests included a driver and engineer in the vehicle during the completion of the route. In a Thursday news release, the company suggested that its goal was to have a better comprehension for autonomous driving within its network and to get a feel for where the “vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control at all times, eliminating manual intervention.”

TuSimple, a company started in 2015, strives to produce the first self-driving truck for the marketplace with technology for shipping businesses to run self-driving tractor-trailers.

Autonomous Trucking to Help During Peak Shipping Season

UPS pointed out that it does business with third-party trucking companies to deal with the overwhelming influx of cargo shipments during the peak holiday season. TuSimple theorizes it can trim the costs of that part of the business by 30%.

“UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently,” UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said. “While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering.”

The budding prospect of autonomous vehicles was at the center of negotiations for a UPS- Teamsters labor contract for drivers and other folks work with small packages.

As it stands the deal they arrived at mandates the company reviews technological changes with the union six months prior to invoking any changes. This would include changes like the deployment of delivery drones, driverless vehicles and other cutting-edge developments.

What do you guys think this driverless revolution will do to trucking and how will it really affect companies like UPS?

Loosening Drive Time Rules is a Mistake

Loosening Drive Time Rules is a Mistake

Loose drive time rules a number of devastating fatal car accidents this summer involving large carrier trucks. One that occurred near Glens Falls occurred just past a Welcome Center where the driver could’ve pulled over to nap or grab a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t make this choice and it produced fatal consequences.

Drive Time Rules are There for a Reason

It’s not yet known if in this particular accident the driver defied the rules of truck driver drive time and was required to pull over. However, his own words suggest that, in fact, he may have exceeded the hours he can be on the road.

This is just one incident but it illustrates how huge a problem fatigued driving is in this country. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board has called it a ‘pervasive problem.’ It emphasizes the point by noting that 13 percent of deadly crashes include drivers who’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel.

Just look at 2017 by itself. In that year, there were 4,700 crashes involving large trucks. Of those incidents, 60 included “asleep or fatigued” drivers. This statistic from the NTSB often goes underreported to the authorities.

Goal of De-Regulation

With all this conclusive evidence illustrating the depth of the problem, it’s no time for the federal government to loosen the rules on how much time truck drivers can spend on the road. Nevertheless, this is precisely the tact that the Trump Administration is taking. It’s all part of their desire to deregulate. Plus, the trucking industry has been lobbying vigorously for fewer restrictions pertaining to long-distance trucking.

The Trump administration has already gotten ridden of roughly a dozen current or suggested truck safety rules. This fact was recently reported by PBS.

Essentially, the government is dismissing the safety board’s aim to trim fatigued driving incidents. They are currently considering changing the long-haul service rules that limit drivers to 11 hours of driving over a 14-hour period. This is after being off for 10 straight hours.

The trucking industry desperately wants the 14-hour period to be extended to 17 full hours, while also accounting for a three-hour break for bad weather, traffic delays, or issues with loading cargo. Furthermore, truckers want the compulsory half-hour break removed.

By allowing any of these changes, truckers would be granted more time to drive without properly resting. Safety advocates say this would make them more likely to fall asleep at the wheel and then potentially kill somebody in an accident. More to the point, regulators believe there’s no telling if drivers will actually stop for three hours. Even worse, they believe removing the mandatory break would result in more fatigued drivers.

So, what do you guys think? This push by the Trump administration to loosen the rules is a bad idea?

Experts Argue Against Idea of Driver Shortage

Experts Argue Against Idea of Driver Shortage

It’s true. Truck drivers are largely responsible for delivering all the things you see around you on a daily basis. All the inanimate objects in your life at one time probably traveled on a truck. After all, truck drivers deliver education materials to schools, food to grocery stores, clothes to retail stores and on and on. Basically, trucks are the major link between people and businesses throughout the country.

“The value of trucking in our economy cannot be overstated,” said John McKenna, vice president of operations at the trucking company BSP Transportation, Inc. “Without truck drivers, manufacturers wouldn’t get parts, builders wouldn’t get materials and hospitals wouldn’t get medical supplies.”

McKenna is one of the voices in the trucking world who are predicting there’ll be a huge shortage of drivers down the road. This refrain has been echoed by many leading industry experts. They imagine a world where the lack of drivers could bring the economy to an abrupt halt.

Interestingly, a new chorus is starting to sound about this issue, and it comes from labor economists. These experts are saying it’s not going to happen, they’ll be no shortage.

“As a whole, the market for truck drivers appears to work as well as any other blue collar labor market,” according to some data published in the Monthly Labor Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in March.

Despite the difference of opinion on this matter, both sides of the argument agree the demand for truckers is increasing. Currently, the industry is trying to figure out what its human-based workforce is going to look like, titans of the tech industry, including Uber, Tesla, Volvo and even General Motors are racing toward the creation of autonomous trucks.

In fact, just last year, Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, predicted automation could replace around 249,000 jobs. That’s definitely no small amount. Also, the driverless trucks would replace the best long-distance driving jobs. Essentially, that would leave low-paying gigs for truckers.

The reason autonomous trucks are better suited for long-distance driving is because it involves less intricate city driving.

Driver Shortage Not Accurate

Despite industry experts saying there’s a shortage of drivers, or bound to be, this new group is saying drivers will enter the trucking industry at the same rate as ever as long as the pay is good. They are basically calling truck leaders alarmists. Nevertheless, both agree the demand for drivers is increasing because of the Amazon effect in society.

For McKenna, however, the most important factor in all of this discussion about driver shortage, is making a point to convince young people that truck driving is a worthwhile career.

What do you all think? Is this driver shortage talk a lot of nonsense?

Uber to Get Boost with Independent Contractor Ruling

Uber to Get Boost with Independent Contractor Ruling

Good news for the ride-sharing community. On Tuesday Uber got a gigantic boost after its IPO valuation launched below expectations. In what is being called an “advice memorandum” from the Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) addressed to one of its regional directors, the agency decided that Uber’s control over UberX and Uber Black drivers “by minimally impacting economic and entrepreneurial opportunity” suggests the proper designation for drivers is independent contractor.

The NLRB arrived at this decision by studying its determination on “SuperShuttle.” Here they ruled that drivers are also not employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The agency stated, “Indeed, UberX drivers had more entrepreneurial opportunity than the drivers in {the SuperShuttle case}, who could control their earnings by selecting specific trips based on profitability, because UberX drivers could base decisions about where and when to log in on time-limited earnings opportunities like ‘surge’ fares and their total freedom to work for competitors.”

Ultimately, this ruling was based on the study of cases between 2015 and 2016 from drivers in three markets: St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; and Brooklyn, New York.

Positive Developments for Gig Economy

Interestingly enough, this suggestion is the second such one to happen lately regarding the gig-economy. Another one occurred on April 29 by the US Department of Labor.

Achieving a worker classification designation is crucial to Uber. In fact, the company made a point to note the cost of lawsuits as a reason for its lower than expected IPO valuation. If this current ruling would have favored a worker designation, this would have proved costly to the company. Consequently, for the ride-sharing world this was positive news.

What do you guys think?

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