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Are Steroids, PEDs, Back In Baseball? – Crave Online

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Anyone who remembers baseball in the late 90s remembers the great home run chase of 98. That was the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered Major League Baseballs all-time single season home run record.

It was also the summer when half the league was jacked.

Many, like McGwire and Sosa, stood in the box looking more like cartoonish body-builders than real baseball players. Hell, it was just a few years later in 2001 when Bonds broke the record again with a ridiculous 73 home runs. It was the now infamous steroid era, or long ball era, and more home runs were hit between 1994 and 2005 than at any other point in MLB history until now.

Here are some fun-filled facts to make your head explode:

During the steroid era, 11.8 percent of hits left the yard. In 2017, 14.2 percent of all hits are home runs, an all-time high.

In 1994, 32 players hit 20 or more home runs. By 1999, that number was 103 players. This year, at least 125 players are on pace to hit at least 20 knockers.

In May 2017, hitters belted 1,060 home runs, the second-most in any month in MLB history.

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger just became the first rookie to hit 10 HRs in 10 games.

Aaron Judge is a Yankees rookie on pace to hit 60 home runs.

Six players have already hit three home runs in a game this season. Reds utility man Scooter Gennett, who had only hit 38 taters over 5 years, came out of nowhere and belted four in one game earlier this year.

Whats more incredible is that this magical jump in home runs has happened over just the last three years. 2014 saw a 20-year low for home runs hit (4,186). Now baseball is on pace to shatter the all-time season record of 5,693 set in 2000.

So what in the hell is going on?

Some blame the giant rise in home runs to science. The Chicago Tribune notes that Statcast has given scouts and players access to detailed data used to make the physics of hitting much more clear than ever before.

Some believe the balls are juiced. The Ringer sent balls to a lab and allegedly concluded that balls manufactured more recently had more of a bounce to them.

Some believe steroids may be back in baseball.

Whats the most likely scenario? Performance enhancing drugs never completely left the game and the science of baseball has never been so well understood.

Although increasingly more rare, probably because of the stricter penalties instituted by MLB, players continue to be suspended for PEDs. However, not all forms of PEDs, such as HGH (human growth hormone), can be detected. There are scientists coming up with new forms of HGH every day, and each form needs its own test. In no way can MLB keep up.

On the other hand, technology continues to improve exponentially, helping batters better understand which angle to swing and where to stand in the batters box. There are even virtual reality hitting simulators that allows batters to see hundreds of pitches from their next opponent before they see them head-to-head at the ballpark in real life.

Although conspiracy theories are juicy, the reason for the home run surge is most likely a mix of both of the latter. However, I truly hope PEDs continue to be flushed out of the sport and that the most recent jumps in technology are most responsible. Because while chicks dig the long ball, us dudes like them, too.

Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports.

Photo: Getty

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Golf: McIlroy backs PGA Tour drug testing reforms – Reuters

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has voiced support for the PGA Tour’s drug-testing reforms that introduce blood screening and revise the list of banned substances to match the World Anti-Doping Agency’s directory for the 2017-18 season.

Last July, the 28-year-old Briton expressed concern over the lack of regular drug testing in golf compared with other Olympic sports and advocated the introduction of blood testing.

The PGA tour said on Tuesday that urine tests would still make up a bulk of examinations but blood screening would be introduced to detect human growth hormone.

Policies regarding player suspensions for illegal drugs use will also be made more transparent.

“If we’re not blood testing we’re not doing all we can to make sure that golf is a clean sport, so I obviously welcome the news,” McIlroy was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph ahead of Thursday’s first round of the Travelers Championship.

“If golf wants to be a sport in the Olympics, it needs to get on board with everything that all the other sports do as well.

“I really don’t think anyone should be fearful as I don’t think that golf has any sort of drug problem at all. You have to be so careful about what you take, but that’s part and parcel about being an athlete.”

McIlroy, who has battled a recurring rib injury since January, has not won a tournament this year and missed the cut at the U.S. Open earlier this month, but hopes he can still finish the season on a strong note.

“I always felt 2017 was going to be a bit of a transitional year…,” he added. “It’s still got two majors (left) and I’d like to finish it well.

“But if I look back over my first 10 years as a pro, am I happy with where my career’s at? I would say, ‘yes, I guess’. But I definitely feel like in the next 10 years, that I can do better.”

(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru)

(The Sports Xchange) – Former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will have a street named in his honor in Beantown.

Teams will be reduced from nine riders to eight for next year’s three Grand Tours while the 2018 Tour de France will start a week later to avoid clashing with the soccer World Cup.

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TTFB – Clinical: Testosterone, Total, Bioavailable, and Free …

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Second- or third-order test for evaluating testosterone status (eg, when abnormalities of sex hormone-binding globulin are present)

Testosterone is the major androgenic hormone. It is responsible for the development of the male external genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics. In females, its main role is as an estrogen precursor. In both genders, it also exerts anabolic effects and influences behavior.

In men, testosterone is secreted by the testicular Leydig cells and, to a minor extent, by the adrenal cortex. In premenopausal women, the ovaries are the main source of testosterone with minor contributions by the adrenals and peripheral tissues. After menopause, ovarian testosterone production is significantly diminished. Testosterone production in testes and ovaries is regulated via pituitary-gonadal feedback involving luteinizing hormone (LH) and, to a lesser degree, inhibins and activins.

Most circulating testosterone is bound to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which in men also is called testosterone-binding globulin. A lesser fraction is albumin bound and a small proportion exists as free hormone. Historically, only the free testosterone was thought to be the biologically active component. However, testosterone is weakly bound to serum albumin and dissociates freely in the capillary bed, thereby becoming readily available for tissue uptake. All non-SHBG-bound testosterone is therefore considered bioavailable.

During childhood, excessive production of testosterone induces premature puberty in boys and masculinization in girls. In adult women, excess testosterone production results in varying degrees of virilization, including hirsutism, acne, oligo-amenorrhea, or infertility. Mild-to-moderate testosterone elevations are usually asymptomatic in males, but can cause distressing symptoms in females. The exact causes for mild-to-moderate elevations in testosterone often remain obscure. Common causes of pronounced elevations of testosterone include genetic conditions (eg, congenital adrenal hyperplasia); adrenal, testicular, and ovarian tumors; and abuse of testosterone or gonadotrophins by athletes.

Decreased testosterone in females causes subtle symptoms. These may include some decline in libido and nonspecific mood changes. In males, it results in partial or complete degrees of hypogonadism. This is characterized by changes in male secondary sexual characteristics and reproductive function. The cause is either primary or secondary/tertiary (pituitary/hypothalamic) testicular failure. In adult men, there also is a gradual modest, but progressive, decline in testosterone production starting between the fourth and sixth decades of life. Since this is associated with a simultaneous increase of SHBG levels, bioavailable testosterone may decline more significantly than apparent total testosterone, causing nonspecific symptoms similar to those observed in testosterone deficient females. However, severe hypogonadism, consequent to aging alone, is rare.

Measurement of total testosterone (TTST / Testosterone, Total, Serum) is often sufficient for diagnosis, particularly if it is combined with measurements of LH and follicle-stimulation hormone (FSH) (LH / Luteinizing Hormone [LH], Serum and FSH / Follicle-Stimulating Hormone [FSH], Serum). However, these tests may be insufficient for diagnosis of mild abnormalities of testosterone homeostasis, particularly if abnormalities in SHBG (SHBG / Sex Hormone Binding Globulin [SHBG], Serum) function or levels are present. Additional measurements of free testosterone or bioavailable testosterone are recommended in this situation; bioavailable testosterone (see TTBS / Testosterone, Total and Bioavailable, Serum) is the preferred assay.

TESTOSTERONE, TOTAL

Males

0-5 months: 75-400 ng/dL

6 months-9 years:

10-11 years:

12-13 years:

14 years:

15-16 years: 100-1,200 ng/dL

17-18 years: 300-1,200 ng/dL

> or =19 years: 240-950 ng/dL

Tanner Stages*

I (prepubertal):

II: 8-66

III: 26-800

IV: 85-1,200

V (young adult): 300-950

Females

0-5 months: 20-80 ng/dL

6 months-9 years:

10-11 years:

12-16 years:

17-18 years: 20-75 ng/dL

> or =19 years: 8-60 ng/dL

Tanner Stages*

I (prepubertal):

II:

III: 17-75

IV: 20-75

V (young adult): 12-60

*Puberty onset (transition from Tanner stage I to Tanner stage II) occurs for boys at a median age of 11.5 (+/-2) years and for girls at a median age of 10.5 (+/-2) years. There is evidence that it may occur up to 1 year earlier in obese girls and in African American girls. For boys, there is no definite proven relationship between puberty onset and body weight or ethnic origin. Progression through Tanner stages is variable. Tanner stage V (young adult) should be reached by age 18.

TESTOSTERONE, FREE

Males (adult):

20 –

25 –

30 –

35 –

40 –

45 –

50 –

55 –

60 –

65 –

70 –

75 –

80 –

85 –

90 –

95-100+ years: 2.29-7.91 ng/dL

Males (children):

1 to 15 days: 0.20-3.10 ng/dL*

16 days to 1 year: Values decrease gradually from newborn (0.20-3.10 ng/dL) to prepubertal levels

*Citation: J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1973;36(6):1132-1142

1-8 years:

9 years:

10 years:

11 years:

12 years:

13 years:

14 years: 0.48-15.3 ng/dL

15 years: 1.62-17.7 ng/dL

16 years: 2.93-19.5 ng/dL

17 years: 4.28-20.9 ng/dL

18 years: 5.40-21.8 ng/dL

19 years: 5.36-21.2 ng/dL

Females (adult):

20 –

25 –

30 –

35 –

40 –

45 –

50 –

55 –

60 –

65 –

70 –

75 –

80 –

85 –

90 –

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2 Bellwethers Selected Against Lilly In Testosterone MDL – Law360 (subscription)

Jun 22nd, 2017
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By Jessica Corso

U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly chose for trial Tracy Garner’s and John DeBroka Jr.s cases alleging that Eli Lillys Axiron caused them to suffer from a heart attack and deep vein thrombosis respectively.

A schedule filed on the docket in October indicates that the cases will be heard in January and March 2018, though…

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Just One Corn Dog for Me. I’m Dieting. – New York Times

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Woman not dressed entirely in black in the back of the room: I know youre new, but here at Weight Watchers we stand and snap to attention when I say, On Program.

Now, lets talk about vacation challenges. Who has something coming up thats got you worried? Not worried like youd eat the entire bread basket without noticing really worried.

A luxury 10-day river cruise devoted to the wine and cheese of France? Lets hear suggestions.

Cut out the cheese.

Thats a good beginning.

Bring your own cheese, perhaps some low-fat Weight Watchers string cheese, which could double as a woven rope belt. The belt would also remind you of how much weight youve lost.

I like that. And since Weight Watchers string cheese is a neutral, you can wear it with anything.

Drink a big glass of water before a meal.

Thats always a good idea. You could also sip a glass filled with your own tears. I garnish mine with a paper parasol. Why? Let me hear it. Thats right. Because eating right is fun.

What other vacation challenges do we have coming up? A three-day birthday on Fire Island and there are no real grocery stores on Fire Island where you can get vegetables. Like anybody in this room cares about vegetables.

Sorry, that was judgmental. We are not judgmental at Weight Watchers, although I must tell you, whoever told you that cropped top looked good on you is not a friend. Friends do not let friends shop drunk.

Where was I? Coping with an extravagant out-of-town party. Can we get suggestions from the room?

Make some low-fat oatmeal banana muffins and take them with you. The great thing about them is they taste just like cold oatmeal.

Very good. Im going to give you a bravo for that.

Pack some baggies with carrots and seaweed chips and wear them around your neck. That way theyre always close at hand.

Excellent! I also like Weight Watchers kimchi flavored cardboard pellets. Just $118 for a two-ounce pack. I carry these around with me and whenever I get hungry or resentful and really, is there any difference? I just eat a handful. And as you know, cardboard is loaded with fiber.

I see someone in the third row has something to say.

But its supposed to be a vacation. Who wants to watch what you eat on vacation?

Could you say that again without whining?

Thats better. Of course its a vacation. But the beauty of Weight Watchers is that there are no forbidden foods. You want barbecued ribs? No problem. Eat them and enjoy them. Then, in five years, eat them again. Believe me, they wont taste that different; cows dont change. Let me give you a trick: If you find yourself aching for ribs, just take a moment and savor the memory of what ribs taste like. Thats what prisoners of war used to do, and when they were released they could fit into any size pants they wanted.

Remember, Weight Watchers is not about deprivation. Its about choice.

Do I want this Brillat-Savarin triple crme cheese that is so good I want to get on the plate with it, or do I want to look hot in white pants?

Do I want to look great naked, or do I want to go to a dumb summer movie and get a big bucket of popcorn and toss in some M&Ms? Its called movie salad. My niece Freyja turned me on to it in the Red Hook movie theater upstate. Then you go to Rhinebeck to a restaurant in a former church and have the barbecued duck quesadilla. Duck and cheese, baby: fat, fat, fat! I like it with a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.

Or go to Rhinecliff, where there is a restaurant overlooking the Hudson River that features frozen sake margaritas. One of these babies and you do not care about going up a pants size. You hang out with your friends, you look at the sun setting, you see that fat former cheerleader and you think, A big girl in bright, horizontally striped clothing good for her!

Enjoy your summer vacation.

I Was Misinformed is a humor column about survival in New York City. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is your own fault. Email: misinformed@nytimes.com

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Metabolism: Why dieting fails – Malaya

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Metabolism: Why dieting fails
Malaya
Metabolism: Why dieting fails. By Dahli Aspillera. June 23, 2017. AFTER two weeks of no weight loss, I called the doc to complain that lifting a gallon pail daily did not do any good for my metabolism. He said the gallon pail must be full of water

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Jonah Hill cut this ONE thing from his diet to lose weight – Daily Star

Jun 22nd, 2017
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GETTY

Jonah Hill, famous actor, has lost a considerable amount of weight over the past few years.

When Jonah first burst onto our screens in Superbad in 2007 he was noticeably bigger than he is now.

While his weight has fluctuated over the years, the star has stepped out looking trimmer than ever.

GETTY

And he credits the weight loss to cutting out one simple thing from his diet.

The 33-year-old said his weight loss journey began in 2011 when he was filming Moneybag with Brad Pitt.

He said at the time: It was mostly diet. I wish there was some crazy thing that I did, like a pill or a genie or something, but I went to see a nutritionist, and he told me what to eat and to change my habits and stuff.

I found that Japanese food was very helpful to me.

Amazingly, these reality TV stars have lost more than 40st between them… all thanks to healthy eating and exercise

1 / 14

Scarlett Moffatt shows off her weight loss

However, he also admitted that cutting out beer from his diet was one of the main things that helped him to lose weight.

The 21 Jump Street actor revealed: I went to a nutritionist and I said, Ill lose weight, Ill eat healthier and whatever, but figure out how I can drink beer.

Its so annoying because when I dont drink beer, I get really really thin, Then when I drink beer, I get a little bigger.

Yet, 2015 saw Jonah put weight back on for his film War Dogs with Channing Tatum.

Two years later, and Jonah is back sporting a svelte figure achieved with the help of a personal trainer.

This is something he thanks Channing for: “I gained weight for this movie War Dogs, and then I wanted to get in better shape, so I called Channing Tatum, and said, ‘Hey, if I eat less and go to a trainer, will I get in better shape?

“And he said, ‘Yes, you dumb motherf*****, of course you will, it’s the simplest thing in the entire world.”

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This UFC Fighter Lost 36 Pounds Using This TechniqueHere’s Why You Shouldn’t Do It – Men’s Health

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Men’s Health
This UFC Fighter Lost 36 Pounds Using This TechniqueHere's Why You Shouldn't Do It
Men’s Health
The Four-Pack Revolution: How You Can Aim Lower, Cheat on Your Diet, and Still Lose Weight & Keep It Off, written by famed MMA fighter Chael Sonnen and MMA sports performance expert Ryan Parsons, uses the latest science and motivational exercises …

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Yes, That’s Acne On Your Vagina. Here’s How To Treat It. – Prevention.com

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Prevention.com
Yes, That's Acne On Your Vagina. Here's How To Treat It.
Prevention.com
No matter how diligent you are about keeping your skin squeaky clean and your pores clear, acne has a way of showing up at the worst possible timesand sometimes, in the worst possible places. Like on your vagina. Don't freak out, though: Vaginal acne

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These Truckers Work Alongside the Coders Trying to Eliminate Their Jobs – Bloomberg

Jun 22nd, 2017
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Just before Stefan Seltz-Axmacher offers a job to an engineer at Starsky Robotics Inc., a driverless trucking startup in San Francisco, he gives them the talk.

This is a company that employs truck drivers, is how the talk begins. The coders are sometimes taken abackthis differs from the usual change-the-world spiel deployed in hiring meetings. Truckers have very different ideas and different experiences from people like you, Seltz-Axmacher continues. Statistically speaking, many of them are Trump voters. They will say things that you may find startling. Not in a malicious way, but because people from, say, rural West Virginia talk differently than people from San Francisco. Can you handle that?

Not everybody can, Seltz-Axmacher says over beers in Fort Lauderdale, where Starsky does some of its testing. And thats OK.

Most driverless vehicle operations, including those at Ford Motor Co. and Alphabet Inc.s Waymo, are focused on developing cars or trucks that operate with no human oversight at all, or level 4 autonomy. The idea is that a passenger could safely take a nap, send a text, or tie one on while the software worries about the road, but that kind of freedom could be decades away. Seltz-Axmacher, Starskys co-founder and chief executive officer, whos featured in this weeks Decrypted podcast, is attempting something thats both more modest and, potentially, more disruptive to U.S. employment. His company has designed an artificial intelligence system for big-rig trucks that makes them mostly self-sufficient on highways, and then, when its time to exit onto local roads, allows them to be taken over and driven from a remote operations center. The plan is to eventually employ dozens of drivers, each of whom will keep an eye on a few trucks at once, sitting before arrays of monitors livestreaming views of windshields and mirrors. The companys name is a reference to a CB radio slang term for when drivers work in teamsthat is, like the title characters of the 1970s TV series Starsky & Hutch.

Most of Starskys AI rivals are focusing exclusively on research, logging as many miles and as much performance data as possible. Seltz-Axmachers trucks are still in beta, toobut theyre already earning revenue, carrying containers full of goods along U.S. highways. While the remote-control system develops, two Starsky employees ride in each cab: a software engineer in the passenger seat, keeping an eye on the algorithms, and a truck driver behind the wheel. This proximity is why theres a second talk.

Mixing blue-collar workers with people who have postdocs is hard

We hire truckers, Seltz-Axmacher tells prospective drivers right before offering them a job. But we also have a lot of engineers in Silicon Valley. Everything youve heard about San Franciscoits all basically true. There is something called raw denim, and in San Francisco people wear it, which means that some of your colleagues will pay up to $300 for a pair of blue jeans. They sometimes drink $7 lattes, too. Many of your co-workers will not be from the U.S. They will have accents. Can you handle that?

The drivers all say yes, but really, not everyone can. Since Starskys founding in 2015, Seltz-Axmacher has parted ways with two of the eight drivers hes hired. One used an anti-gay slur to refer to a fellow driver, which worried Seltz-Axmacher because Starsky headquarters is on Folsom Streethome to the Folsom Street Fair, the famous leather festival held every September. His first day was Wednesday, and his last day was Thursday, Seltz-Axmacher says. Mixing blue-collar workers with people who have postdocs is hard.

Jeff Runions, head driver for Starsky Robotics.

Photographer: Damien Maloney for Bloomberg Businessweek

Economically speakingthat is, in the most brutal termstruckers are disposable. Almost anyone can become a professional driver with a month or so of training, and most dont stick around for long; median pay is about $40,000 per year, and the work is often unhealthy, painful, and lonely. Software engineers, on the other hand, are some of the best-paid, hardest-to-hire employees in the modern economy. The variety that Seltz-Axmacher employsspecialists in AI and machine learningare even better paid and even harder to hire. Google has been known to pay its self-driving car engineers millions or even tens of millions. Starskys coders dont make that much, but the point remains: In its cabs, side by side, are representatives of some of the most and least promising careers in America.

Starskys offices have high ceilings and two dozen open-plan desks. Its not fancythe furniture is cheap, the carpets look old, and the coffee comes out of plastic podsbut the companys engineers come from some of the worlds top research universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley. Of the six truckers on staff, one or two are usually in San Francisco, and the rest are on the highway. We basically have people from two worlds, neither of which has ever talked to each other, says Seltz-Axmacher, who grew up in suburban Maryland. Thats kind of whats wrong with this country. His hope is that Starsky, by employing truckers who oversee trucks from offices and work alongside engineers, can help bridge the divide.

Of course, Starsky is a for-profit business, not a truth and reconciliation commission. Its one of a handful of companies trying to seize a piece of the trucking industrys $700 billion in annual revenue. Starsky has raised $5 million in seed capital from, among others, Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley venture fund and incubator. Its competitors include Embark, which is also backed by Y Combinator, and Otto, a startup that raised no outside capital and had fewer than 100 employees when Uber Technologies Inc. acquired it for $700 million. (Otto is the subject of a lawsuit that claims its co-founder stole technology from Alphabet, Googles parent.) A fourth company, Peloton Technology, has raised $78 million to pursue adding some autonomous capabilities to conventional trucks. There are also self-driving big-rig programs inside Alphabet, Tesla, Volvo, and Daimler. All of these companies want to avoid alarming truckers, their employers, and regulators. But if any of them succeed, they will drastically reshape the labor market in one of the countrys most important industries.

Three and a half million Americans drive trucks for a living, making it one of the most common jobs in America. The larger trucking economyincluding cargo brokers, truck manufacturers, truck stop waitresses, and so onaccounts for an additional 4 million jobs, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a trade group. A huge proportion of them are threatened by a decade of driverless research coming out of universities and Silicon Valley companies.

Marie Porter, a member of Starskys small driver crew.

Photographer: Damien Maloney for Bloomberg Businessweek

A truck traveling hundreds of miles to make a delivery represents an almost ideal application for the latest autonomous driving technologies. Long-haul truckers spend much of their time on interstate highways, where curves are gentle, lanes are well-defined, and pedestrians and bicyclesthe bane of any AI vehicle engineerare prohibited. Trucks are big and heavy, so theyre easier to outfit with special sensors needed to control them. All of this has caused trucking to be seen by automation experts, and in the popular press, as a test case for the impact of AI on employment. If a lot of long-haul truckers lose their jobs, then maybe lawyers and accountantswhose work is often repetitiveshould be worried, too. But a major difference between trucking and those fields is that its a job few Americans seem to actually want to do.

Truck tonnagethe weight of freight carriedis up by more than 30 percent in the U.S. since 2009, according to the ATA, while the industrys labor force has grown by about 10 percent. The trade group has estimated there are 48,000 open jobs, a figure thats expected to more than triple over the next decade. Its just more and more demand on the industry, and fewer people coming into it to drive the trucks, says Chris Spear, the ATAs CEO.

Theres a shortage, in part, because the industry wants it

Federal law limits truckers to 70 driving hours over eight consecutive days. But because drivers are paid by the mile rather than the hour, many fudge their time sheets to drive more hours. On a good day, an entry-level driver might make about $15 an hour. On a bad dayone spent in traffic or sitting in a port waiting for paperworkhe might make just a few dollars an hour. Drivers generally spend several weeks on the road at a time, sleeping in their cabs at rest areas. They gain weight and get lonely. The annualized turnover rate among drivers at large truckload fleets is 71 percent, the ATA says. Most people who try it out decide, given the pay and the conditions, its not a very good job, says Stephen Burks, an economist at the University of Minnesota at Morris and a former trucker himself. People are voting with their feet.

Photographers (clockwise from top left): Damien Maloney, Laurel Golio, Lucas Foglia, and Carlos Saavedra, all for Bloomberg Businessweek

Many of us, when we think of trucking, dont see the industry this way. We think of freedom and the open road. We think of Convoy, the novelty country song that made it to No.1 on the Billboard pop chart in 1976, or of Smokey and the Bandit, which would have been the nations highest-grossing film of 1977 if not for Star Wars. We think of a job thats necessary and steeped in Americana.

Whatever truth these ideas once possessed has faded. The union-friendly rules that once helped make trucking a well-paid blue-collar job were dismantled by a series of reforms, culminating when Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act and deregulated the industry in 1980. Membership in the mighty Teamsters union plummeted, and the short, regular routes that allowed truckers to go home most nights were replaced by a system in which truckers are treated a lot like Uber drivers. The amount that theyre getting paid per mile is really a small fraction of what they were getting, says Michael Belzer, an economist at Wayne State University and a former driver who wrote a book on the industry called Sweatshops on Wheels. Its not an exaggeration at this point to suggest that its half the pay.

Thanks in part to the advent of mundane technologies, such as automatic transmissions, that make driving easier to learn, the industry has moved away from employing career truckers and toward a model of paying little more than minimum wage and constantly replacing the drivers the industry churns out. Commercial licensing schools charge about $5,000 for a five-week course, but trucking companies will advance applicants the fees and then deduct the tuition from the new hires salary. Theres a shortage, in part, because the industry wants it, says Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the industry. Its cheaper and easier to manage the problem through high turnover.

This has turned trucking into a kind of economic safety valvework you do when youre out of options. The industry puts a more positive spin on this. Theres a lot of pride that goes into moving the nations freight, says Spear. But in a 2015 video produced by the ATA, the groups chief economist Bob Costello suggested lowering the interstate truck driving age, currently 21, as a way to better compete for young people who would otherwise choose military service. Often its a job of last resort, he acknowledged. In other words, its pretty much the opposite of being a coder.

View from the drivers seat of the remote driving console.

Photographer: Damien Maloney for Bloomberg Businessweek

Ready?

Jeff Runions, a Starsky truck driver, is sitting in the front seat of Buster, a late-model Freightliner Cascadia that Starsky leases and has modded out with cameras and sensors. He glances at Kevin Keogh, an Irish-born AI specialist who previously worked at Jaguar Land Rover and whos been tapping out a few last-minute adjustments to the Starsky code while Runions does the driving.

Good when you are.

Runions flips a blue switch on a little panel bolted onto the center console. All right, he says. Shes hot. Runions cautiously takes his hands off the wheel and slides his foot off the accelerator. We are just west of Fort Lauderdale, cruising up Floridas Highway 27 on a windy morning in late May, with the Everglades stretching out on either side. Runions says were near a stretch of road truckers call Alligator Alley, and sure enough we soon see an enormous dead gator on the shoulder.

Starsky is testing in other states, but Florida is an attractive proving ground, because its especially relaxed about driverless vehicles. Unlike Nevada and California, for example, Florida doesnt require a special permit to conduct tests on public roads, or any additional insurance, or even a human being behind the wheel, as long as a licensed driver is operating the vehicle by remote control. Nevada laws are written so the state could allow remote-control driving in the future; in Florida, any licensed driver can do it today without asking permission, which is exactly what Starsky intends to do later this year.

In the meantime, there are still lots of problems to solvelike wind. Not long into our drive, a gust hits our left side, and the truck lurches toward the shoulder; the wheel turns left, overcorrecting and sending us drifting into the next lane. The experience is terrifying, although Runions and Keogh seem unfazed.

Its got to adjust, thats all, Runions says, explaining that the combination of wind and weighttodays load is 20 tons, more than in other testsrepresents a novel challenge. He keeps his hand on the blue switch and his eyes on his side mirror to make sure we dont cut off anyone. He looks tense, but the truck finds the right lane after a few seconds.

Keogh says everything is normal. Starskys software is written to determine how hard the wind is blowing, he says, and then to steer against the wind and stay in the lane. But early on in a session, the computer isnt fully calibrated yet. Runions offers a comparison: You know how you are in the morning before you have your coffee?

A few minutes later, he and Keogh seem comfortable, cracking jokes about the size of the alligators near the farm where Keogh grew up in Ireland. At another point, Keogh says, I think weve zoned in on the correct control parameters.

Have you, now? Runions shoots back, and then adds, Im learning to speak Irish.

Remote driving console at Starskys San Francisco office.

Photographer: Damien Maloney for Bloomberg Businessweek

The two men have a good rapport, but they couldnt be more different. Keogh is 27, graduated from Dublins prestigious Trinity College, and got a masters degree studying robotics. Runions, who has a shaved head and a salt-and-pepper goatee, is 58 and didnt graduate high school. When asked how he got into long-haul trucking, he responds instantly. White Line Fever, he says, without taking his eyes off the road. Watch that movie. In the film, Carrol Jo CJ Hummer leads a strike against an abusive transportation conglomerate, Glass House, that culminates when CJ drives a bullet-riddled truck straight into corporate headquarters, a literal glass house, and is shot in the face.

Runions had a rough childhood. He grew up in the foster care system in Wrigleyville, in Chicago, back when it was a bad neighborhood. He partied a lot, got into trouble, and then, at 16, got kicked out of the house. Ive been on my own since then, he says. He took a job doing construction work in Savannah, Ga., and eventually found his way to a job at Great Dane, the trailer manufacturer.

Runions started driving full time in 1979 and eventually married a truck driverhe and his wife, Marlene, met at a truck stop in Atlantain 1999and has had pretty much every job you can have in the business. It sucks, he says about life on the road. I was gone 21 days a month. If you stayed here for a couple days, youd know what Im talking about. He barely saw Marlene and put on 75 pounds.

Starsky pays its truckers about $55,000 per year and gives them benefits and stock. Runions, as the companys top driver, earns more and has fairly sane hours. He sleeps in his own bed, in a small house outside of Jacksonville, most nights. Some people are really negative about driverless trucks, says Runions, who read about Starskys technology and applied for the job online. Then you tell them theyre going to have 40 hours a week instead of being gone all the time. People think youre taking their jobs, but youre not.

Seltz-Axmacher, who is watching us from the back of the cab, nods in agreement. He envisions climate-controlled driver centers, in towns like Jacksonville, where people like Runions will work regular shifts in front of computers, without the greasy food or loneliness that has traditionally gone along with being a trucker. Starsky, he believes, has the ability to make 3.5 million peoples lives a lot better.

Not everyone agrees, of course. In May, drivers for Airgas Inc., which distributes industrial gases, went on strike in part because of a proposed contract provision that could allow the company, a subsidiary of the Paris-based Air Liquide, to use autonomous trucks. And in New York City, the union-backed group New York Communities for Change is mounting a campaign to urge the federal Department of Transportation to cease all funding for autonomous vehicle research until a plan is put in place to protect any displaced drivers.

If Silicon Valley companies arent forced to consider what happens to todays drivers, we will all lose our jobs, says Rolando Perdono, one of the activists. We wont have anything to hold on to. Perdono, 45, was born in the Dominican Republic. His English isnt great, he didnt make it through high school, and he has five kids to support. Hes been behind a wheel since he came to the U.S. 16 years ago and currently works as a local delivery driver for a cleaning-supply company. Perdono doesnt love what he does for a living and would be game to be trained for a job working with driverless trucks. But in the meantime he argues that his current job is worth defending. Being a driver is what I know, he says. Thats what I like about it.

One of Starskys semi-autonomous trucks.

Photographer: Damien Maloney for Bloomberg Businessweek

There are three schools of thought about the long-term effects of AI on employment. The first argues that advances in robotics will lead to improvements in productivity similar to those that occurred after other inventionssuch as sewing machines, combine tractors, and washing machines, which freed up workers to do less repetitive (and better-paid) labor. The second school worries that the same technologies will require so few jobs that theyll create a permanent underclass. The third school argues that its all hype and the advances are decades away.

Most people in Silicon Valley subscribe to either the first or second school. Much of the rest of the country, including many truckers, favor the third. I can tell the difference between a dead porcupine and a dead raccoon, and I know I can hit a raccoon, but if I hit a porcupine, Im going to lose all the tires on the truck on that side, says Tom George, a veteran driver who now trains other Teamsters for the unions Washington-Idaho AGC Training Trust. It will take a long time and a lot of software to program that competence into a computer.

The raccoon-porcupine divide is one of many in which computers may not work particularly well. But that doesnt mean a system couldnt be designed that would allow trucks to drive themselves most of the time. Viscelli, the University of Pennsylvania expert, says self-driving trucks will hit the road in a matter of single-digit years, and believes that theyll allow the industry to eventually shed a few hundred thousand jobs.

Seltz-Axmacher acknowledges that companies such as his could ultimately make traditional trucking jobs a thing of the past, and hes not sure what he or anyone else should do about it, beyond trying to be decent to the workers he employs now. Hes been reading about universal basic incomethe idea, popular in techie circles, of simply paying everyone enough to live on.

But ultimately, Seltz-Axmacher believes, the tools hes developing will be good for truckers. He cites a new book by Garry Kasparov, Deep Thinking, in which the chess great observes that middling chess players who play with the help of a standard computer are reliably better than either grandmasters or supercomputers by themselves. I think humans and technology working together are always going to be better than either one alone, Seltz-Axmacher says. But maybe thats just because I like humans.

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These Truckers Work Alongside the Coders Trying to Eliminate Their Jobs – Bloomberg

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