Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shortage of drivers looms for the American trucking industry

Truck transportation is the most widely used method of hauling freight within the United States.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. transportation network hauled more than 13 billion tons of goods worth nearly $12 trillion in 2007. Trucks transported almost 9 billion tons of freight valued at more than $8 trillion for that same period. [Transportation Statistics Annual Report ][1]

Shortages of truck drivers are delaying some deliveries of products and raw materials across the USA and raising freight costs. The crunch is defying a tepid recovery and near-10% jobless rate that should supply a vast pool of unemployed construction and manufacturing workers. Experts say that the shortages are likely to worsen when the economy heats up and new rules kick in later this year that will make it tougher to hire truck drivers with poor safety records and could limit the number of hours drivers can work.

For the many unemployed truck drivers across the US, it may be surprising to learn that there is currently a nationwide shortage of qualified and experienced truck drivers. According to [USA Today][2] “Shortages of trucks and drivers are delaying some deliveries of products and raw materials across the USA and raising freight costs.” In the context of an almost 10% general unemployment rate in the U.S., such a shortage seems unlikely and out of step with the experience of the wider economy. The USA Today report uses examples from companies such as Con-Way truckload freight company, who had to offer $10,000 bonuses to entice the 70 new drivers they required this summer. [USA Today][2]

According to the [U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecast][3], done a few years ago (2004 to be specific), “the truck transportation industry in the U.S. is experiencing a national shortage of truck drivers that has become a limiting factor in the operations of many companies. This study takes a systematic look at the long-term structural problem of the availability of truck drivers relative to the future requirements for drivers that will be created by retirements of an aging driver workforce and by economic growth”. The principal findings of the analysis of the potential future supply of long-haul heavy duty truck drivers were:

• Although that there have been some positive developments in demographic trends affecting the growth of the truck driver workforce over the past ten years (1994 to 2004), the demographic trends will turn against the industry over the next 10 years. The size of the white male population of ages 35-54 – a demographic group that currently provides over half of all truck drivers – will decline by over 3 million persons between 2004 and 2014.

• A major problem for the trucking industry and the U.S. economy as a whole is that the annual rate of growth of the overall labor force will slow sharply, from 1.4% currently to only 0.5% by 2012.

• If the trucking industry is to attract the higher share of workers that it needs to achieve the growth projected over the next 10 years, earnings in the industry must, at a minimum, return to the relative position that prevailed during the 1990s. [U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecast][3].

According to Office of Publications & Special Studies [4], the employment in trucking generally follows the larger business cycle. Consequently when the demand for goods is stifled, the call for freight services is likewise sluggish.

A dramatic slowdown in consumer demand has been crippling the Nation's trucking firms, making job losses during the current recession worse than at any time since the series began in 1990. (Below Chart - Chart # 1)

According to a Bloomberg Report [5], U.S. trucking companies may face a 30 percent surge in wage bills by 2014 as rising demand for freight shipments threatens to push the industry’s driver shortage to the longest on record. The current shortfall will double in a year to about 300,000 full-time positions, or 10 percent of the workforce, said Noel Perry, managing director at consultant FTR Associates in Nashville, Indiana. A three-year deficiency would top the 300,000 vacancies lasting for about a year in 2004, he said. [5]

Increase in Spending

Saia Inc. (SAIA) said this month it would increase wages by 2.5 percent for drivers and many other employees. The added cost will be $10 million, according to the Johns Creek, Georgia-based company. That is about 1.1 percent of 2010 operating expenses. At Con-way’s truckload unit, some routes are being limited to only four to five states so drivers can be home once a week. A new “lifestyle” program allows drivers to alternate between two weeks of driving and time off.

Possible Solutions

What amazes me is that the cost to ship freight is higher not because of anything else, but in most cases it is the simple demand and supply rule. In other words, if a customer wants to move their freight to an area that does not have any other freight identified, they obviously raise the cost of shipping. Obviously, the trucking industry does not function like a taxi stand, as the overheads are very high. It includes fuel, driver wages, logbook time, and the time taken to transport a load and more. It is just that the operating costs are far more expensive. This is particular evident for independent owners and operators. They are the ones who have to worry about getting decent freight costs, cost of repairs, fuel costs, high insurance costs, taxes among other overheads. They work close to 10 hours a day and virtually live in a truck. It just is not a nine-to-five job as it is completely a different lifestyle.

Most of the independent operators are not surprised about the low pay rates. Besides, as the job gets more dangerous day by day, it's not surprising that they are not getting drivers to work under the salary/ pay that is being offered. How many would be prepared to be gone from their home for over four to six weeks on a stretch and living and sleeping in areas where they have no idea about. Besides, how can they manage to lead a happy family life.Given the current conditions, to become a trucker they must be prepared to sacrifice. Therefore, it is not shocking that the freight industry is faced with a shortage of drivers and it is fast losing even more.

Given the above reasons, the primary reasons that people still accept a driver’s job is money and thanks to the recession, it is the only commodity, which is in short supply. Perhaps with increase in pay and better terms, America can reverse this situation in a couple of years.

References :

[1] - Transportation Statistics Annual Report

[2] - USA Today

[3] - U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecast

[4] - Office of Publications & Special Studies

[5] - Bloomberg Report

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Web Vandalism and its threat on global IT security

Web vandalism is becoming rampant thus highlighting the poor state of global IT Security.

Recently, the owner of a popular site says that his site has had over 400 separate attacks per day and to over 1000 per day during weekends. This is a worrying trend and IT Security Managers should make note of this, mainly because if crackers (also known as malicious hackers) get access to a web server, there is all the likelihood of them controlling the entire network.

It is also known that the pentagon has spent over 100 million dollars in a period of 6 months, just to counter web vandalism and cyber attacks on their multiple systems.

In the last few years, there has been the gradual rise of a new wave of hackers (otherwise known as crackers) who have been attracted to the underground movement and its politics, which are indications that more defacements and web server attacks would be forthcoming. Some of these “crackers” have very little or no knowledge of computer programming and are popularly known as neophytes or script kiddies or n00bs. Their objective is to cross viruses with vandalism and create a simple easy to use self duplicating website defacement tool.

They thrive on posting obscene and nude images on popular websites or sending their girlfriends notes through federal government website pages. In short, they want to get noticed and the easiest way to do it is through web vandalism. The more expert crackers have gone a step further by developing a virus type program to automatically spread defacements across the net. Hence, it is certain that we would be seeing more technologically advanced worms that could be devastating in terms of web vandalism the future.

However, the script kiddies are usually malicious teenagers with very little skill in programming whose sole objective is to disrupt net traffic. They do this by setting their customized worms on the loose thereby affecting a whole lot of web servers with their personal messages and spreading defacements. Some of the script kiddie messages go like this - "Hi, ma name is Yuri and I am from Russia. I have 10 years and i want ot bo a hacker, because i vey like it much and i need someone to tch me. Some of them could be politically oriented as they like to break into government sites and leave their calling card which could be a tirade against that government.

Recently a group calling themselves PHC broke into the Indian Government’s nuclear plant network site and supposedly stole plans for India’s atomic energy consumption rates for the next couple of years. They then claimed that they passed this information on to the Al Qaeda Alliance which it is believed has since been officially disbanded. The group consisted of a group of hackers, many of whom who were pro-Palestinian and pro-Al Qaeda.

Some time defacements could be a little more than web vandalism with hard messages or the crackers political agenda. Sometime in the past the RIAA, otherwise known as the Recording Industry Association of America was the attack of a high profile defacement, which also drew a lot of public attention.

The new tool in the script kiddie bag to hit Linux based servers recently is a variation of the Ramen worm. The worm tapped in to holes in the Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.0 operating systems and replaced website pages displaying a message stating hackers love noodles. This worm has gone ahead and hit a lot of sites, some of them which included websites run by the NASA and Texas A&M. According to global research firms, Red Hat is a free operating system and is widely recognized as the most popular variant of Linux and is used on 30 percent of the world’s public servers.

It is said that Ramen identifies the three known weaknesses in a server, which is in the printer software, file sharing package and the other in the FTP file server. Although Ramen comes forth as a piece of sophisticated software that clubs together several existing cracking tools, it is now freely available for any amateur vandal to change the graphics and the hackers love noodles text to his own message.

Generally, vandals who intend to deface sites, do not use their own machines, but instead use a zombie computer or try and locate vulnerable computers to do so. However, as the Ramen worm is self duplicating, and the infected machine searches for another machine to vandalize and then closes the hole once it does so. This makes the web vandals very difficult to trace, and enforcement agencies would have to depend on script kiddies who brag about their skills in chat rooms.

Although Ramen is known to affect only Linux systems, virus writers would love to distribute their ware in consumer windows systems as well. This would mean system security managers must keep their security systems up to date or they could face a similar problem that Yahoo and Facebook faced sometime last year, where the automatic tools where used for denial of service attacks.

Bottom line is that the IT Security Managers need to wake up on the threat of web vandalism and find out first hand how much of a problem, it really is.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Syracuse China

Brief History and Description

William H. Farrar, set up Syracuse China in 1841. It was initially known as Farrar Pottery and its warehouses were located in West Syracuse, New York. Its main line of business was the manufacturing of salt-glazed stoneware. Farrar Pottery changed its name to Empire Crockery Manufacturing Company in 1868 and later to Onondaga Pottery Company in 1871. In June 1966, it was further renamed to Syracuse China Corporation. Today, Libbey Inc., owns the Syracuse China Corporation, whose shares they purchased in 1995. These changes really did not affect the product as it carried the Syracuse China logo from 1895.

Farrar Pottery's initial product line-up were reproductions of Englishware. The Onondaga Pottery Company’s main product line was vitrified china, which was in great demand with restaurants, hotels, and railroad dining cars. They rapidly expanded their wares to include consumer chinaware and white earthenware for table and toilet use. Their product line up also included a variety of ceramic wares that consisted of storage containers, serving vessels, bedpans, planters, and table accessories.

Pass and Salisbury were the two Syracuse families that owned the company since 1871. After four generations, the 138 year old factory finally shut down its U.S operations in 2009 due to tough competition from low cost Asian manufacturers. Libbey Inc., however, continues to sell Syracuse China dinnerware, by importing these products from factories based in Asian countries and marketing them under the Syracuse China brand name.

Guide for Collectors

The number of collectors and enthusiasts of Syracuse china have increased over the last few years, mainly because the scarcity of the product has increased its value. The Onondaga Historical Association has a huge collection of Syracuse China. The society has catalogued over 30,000 pieces of collectibles that are displayed at the museum. The display includes a wide variety of pieces and is an important source for a collector of Syracuse China.

Notable Auction Sales

A set of thirteen navy blue presidential dinner plates manufactured by Syracuse China and used by President Kennedy on 18th November, 1963 was auctioned off for $6,000 at Bonham’s, New York on 16th November, 2011. These plates were used in JFK's last official dinner with the Inter American Press Association at the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour, Miami Beach. This was just before his fatal Texas trip later that week.

A 20th century Syracuse China part dinner service was auctioned off for $720 at Christie's, New York on 1st March 2005.

A Syracuse China plate from the 1st class service on board the S.S. Leviathan was auctioned off at the Ocean Liner Furnishings and Art Sale for $660 at Christie's, New York on 23rd June 2005.

A Syracuse China Porcelain Bowl was auctioned off at the 20th Century Decorative Arts, Crafts & Architectural Designs Sale for $483 at Christie's, New York on 13th June 1994.

A Syracuse Old Ivory China tableware was auctioned off at the SoMa Estate Auction for $390 at Bonham’s, San Francisco on 19th August, 2007.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tips To Sell Your Car

One of the many reasons that you would want to sell your car is to probably get its newer model. However, most of you may be clueless in going about it and would often find yourself asking the question "What is the best way to sell my car?".

You can sell your car using some of the tips mentioned below.

Always ensure that your car is in good condition. Should your car be in bad shape, you would often find buyers highlighting the things that are in bad shape and would obviously ask for a lower price. To avoid this, always keep your car in good shape.

When advertising in newspaper classifieds, do not limit yourself to the "I want to sell my Car" page or location. You may put a heading "I want to sell my Audi" or "I want to sell my car" and post it on several popular websites or magazines where it may get sufficient exposure. You could also pass it through the word of mouth and tell your colleagues about it.

Next is pricing. You can value your Audi and then do a small market research on the web to get the best estimate. This is because overpricing or under-pricing your car is one the biggest evils while selling your car.

You could also put a “for sale" on the hood of your car and park it in a busy street corner where it gets lots of exposure.

You may be aware that the value of your car largely depends on the market and its demand could vary according to location. You must also understand that most people buy cars based on emotion and hence buying prices will vary from person to person.

Before you decide to sell your car, do your homework and find out it's exact worth. If your vehicle has any extras, it could get a better valuation.

If your car has a good mileage you can definitely expect a higher price given the current fuel costs.

Should your odometer display lower readings, it will definitely boost your car’s resale value. Furthermore if the vehicle is still covered by the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty, it will give a whole new aspect to the trade-in, as the warranty can be transferred to the new owner.

If your vehicle does not have add-on features such as power windows, ABS braking system, sun-roof, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, then it is likely that your car could get a rather low valuation.

Colour also lends an aspect to the value, as cars with colours such as coral pink don’t have many buyers. The popular colours are still black, white and silver.

Lastly, extreme modifications to the body of the car could also be a negative factor.

Ultimately, the most important aspect is the model, the year it was made, its popularity and ofcourse its condition of the car.

Like any other financial transaction, it is of paramount importance to weigh the pros and cons prior to selling your car.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What Is NFC And When Will It Take Off

Although people may still be doubtful about NFC and the risks associated with it, NFC technology is already a hit in Japan, where over 47 million residents adopted the tap-and-go mobile payment technology within three years, according to an IDTechEx, Dec 2010 report. It is already available in most Japanese shops, taxis, vending machines, metro / train tickets, and even on domestic flights. The fact that Japan has a comparatively low theft rate may be one of the reasons why NFC payment schemes have taken off there. According to the report, NFC has become one of the fastest electronic device product rollouts ever. The report also estimates about 800 million Chinese acquiring contactless national ID cards by 2014. [Source - IDTechEx, Dec 2010 report ]

You will have to care about NFC technology simply because “if you’re in any face-to-face environment, like retail, or services, you’re going to see a gradual trend towards people paying by tapping their phones,” says Todd Ablowitz, a mobile-payment consultant and president of Double Diamond Group in Centennial, Colorado. Besides, “major credit-card companies have already ensured NFC technology will be backward compatible with contactless card systems currently in the market.”

"The number of NFC-enabled mobile handset shipments is projected to increase from 40 million in 2011 to over 700 million in 2016," says Don Tait, an analyst from IMS Research.

In 2008, Nokia (NOK) revealed one of the first NFC integrated mobile phone (Nokia 6212), but the market in 2008 was just not ready to accept that kind of technology. In fact, Nokia also has the Nokia 360 Play (a NFC compatible Speaker) that plays multimedia files. All it needs it a gentle tap and it is time to rock and roll.

However, things have changed now. One cannot hide the fact that NFC technology is round the corner and the public should start caring about it by the end of 2012. Within 2016, we could see it being actually adopted by most services in the U.S, thereby relegating credit cards to history. Basically, NFC is old technology that has been waiting for the right moment to become a major part of our lives. Apple and Google are simply looking for a way to cash in on the wave of conversions before that time comes. Qualcomm is already preparing its critical move from credit cards to NFC devices with a PayPal type sign-up and cash dispersal. However, the biggest bottleneck is the costs involved in upgrading the entire credit card network. It is hoped that the current Citibank Blink RFID (Radio Frequency Identification tag) payment system will support future NFC standards.

It is unlikely that NFC technology will take off by 2012. However, many mobile phones that carry the NFC-technology that ought to be launched. A definitive list of NFC phones that are being launched and that are proposed to be launched in 2012 can be found at [ ]

What are the possible pitfalls in the NFC technology?

NFC excels in the two pitfalls that likely kills a new technology - lack of consumer demand, and a poor business rationale. It is unlikely that a consumer will buy a mobile phone just because it has NFC. They would probably buy it for its camera resolution, or for its looks or because it has a pink or violet exterior. Even if NFC is inbuilt in to the mobile phones that people are buying, you cannot expect most of them to use it. There will however be a few techno-geeks, journalists, and mostly fraudsters who would likely use it. The criminals and fraudsters are likely to jump on it if there is a slightest sign of a security loophole. Hence, NFC needs to be extensively tested and monitored prior to a full-scale launch.

Although it may appear a bit gimmicky initially, the consumer needs to be educated so as to understand more. As it will standardize payments and personal information into one single entity, I just am not sure how that will help people to safeguard their stuff, among all its other advantages. If someone wants to steal your stuff, getting your phone seems to be the ultimate key to ownership of everything you have. Your credit cards details, your information, entrance into your hotel room, house and eventually steal your belongings. To top it all, if you by chance happen to drop your NFC mobile phone and break it, you are likely to be homeless until someone can recreate all your accounts.

Why is that the Near Field Communication technology so important?

NFC or Near Field Communication is old technology that has been waiting for the right moment to become a major part of our lives.

·         A mobile phone with NFC technology can not only read credit cards, but can also provide a serial number, like an UPC or barcode. This will convert your mobile phone to a contactless credit card and enable you to sell to anyone with a contactless credit card. In simpler terms, a NFC device cannot only dispense money but can also make buy items.
·         NFC supported mobile phones just need to touch each other so as to exchange reader-to-reader information over the Near Field Communication interface. That is to say, a NFC device can eventually replace your wallet that contains digital money. However, it would take some time before this happens, as market standards needs to be developed, and NFC devices must be freely available before any innovation takes place.
·         It is the banking industry that would greatly profit from the NFC technology. Banks would rather opt for internet banking or ATMs as these facilities reduce banking overhead costs considerably. Banks would love if you use your mobile phone to withdraw money from your bank account and move it into your NFC-mobile wallet. Therefore, it is natural that Banks would want NFC, as it would reduce their costs massively.

What is the future of NFC?

The future for NFC technology is certainly bright! This has been further fuelled by some optimistic-sounding predictions by analysts;
·         Global NFC m-payment transactions will be almost US $50 billion worldwide by 2014 (Juniper Research, June 2011).
·         Almost 300 million or 1 in 5 or smartphones worldwide will be NFC-enabled by 2014 (Juniper Research, April 2011).
·         NFC will be 32.8 percent of global m-payments transactions – estimated at US $1.13 trillion – in 2014. Volume shipments of NFC phones are expected in Western Europe and North America in 2011 ( IE Market Research, July 2010).
·         There will be 169 million users of mobile contactless payment in China in 2013. Total number of m-payment users will be 410 million, making China the largest m-payments market in the world (Celent, Nov 2010).
·         NFC Chip Makers predict there will be at least 40-50 million NFC mobile phones on the market by 2011, based on orders for NFC chip sets (NFC Times, Oct, 2010).


Much as we are aware of NFC, it must be remembered that credit cards took nearly 30 years to take off. Hence, a new technology like NFC needs about five to seven years to establish itself. SMS was launched by Orange sometime 1994, but it took nearly four years before it really took off. Likewise, mobile email, Bluetooth and others hung around for a few years before the public accepted it. It may not be the technology that is keeping people off the NFC technology, but it seems to be the fear of compromising all their personal information and the likelihood of theft.

As of now, except for Japan, NFC is still an uncertain business technology. Perhaps with over a period of time, say over five to seven years, NFC might turn out good someday, but not until they find a better way to secure the data and make it convenient to use.

 Ref. Sources: